Archive for the ‘On Authors’ Category

Last night, I saw that Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords is today’s Kindle Daily Deal, on sale for $1.99.  I wrote up a personal story about it over at reddit/r/fantasy:

I rarely read physical books anymore, but one year ago our Barnes and Noble in Prescott, AZ closed down for good. Michael’s novel had just come out, and I really wanted to own a physical copy, for more than one reason. Not to toot me ‘umble horn, but I knew this guy was destined for great things back in 2010 when he was one of the very first fantasy authors to have tremendous success as a self-published author. So I interviewed him on my blog in August of 2010, and then again for our Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast in early 2011.

Of course I was bummed about our B&N closing. I stayed in the store until the end, on the last night of the year in 2011. I hung around and asked if I could buy the final book ever sold at the store. I chose Theft of Swords, because I thought that would be a well-deserved honor for Michael. It’s hard to see the story from this pic, but I didn’t have a camera with me so I asked a guy to take a picture of the book just before the B&N folks kicked me out for good. And there it is through the glass:

I wanted to support Michael by buying his book, but this paperback also symbolizes something for me. It’s proof that in this new age of digital publishing, a hardworking independent author can succeed in a really big way—even if you write good old traditional fantasy books.

As for his book, it’s a lot of fun. His series builds in complexity from one book to the next, but IMO it’s always compulsive reading. He’s not trying to be grittier than Martin, more epic than Erikson, to write better prose than Rothfuss, or to build a more magical world than Sanderson. He just tells you one hell of a story full of outstanding twists and turns, and he writes for anyone who can still enjoy a classic fantasy tale.

If you’ve got a couple of bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I say treat yourself for the holidays and vote with your wallet to support a fantastic new voice in fantasy.

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22
Dec

Scriber, by Ben S. Dobson (My Review)

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III Tags: , ,

I don’t write many book reviews. As a reader, I’m pretty tough to please (which sucks, believe me). But I recently found a pretty fantastic little fantasy novel by an independent author named Ben S. Dobson. As an ebook it’s usually priced between 99 cents and $1.99 in the kindle store (sometimes as much as $3.99). By the way, I have my own novel on a temporary 99 cent ebook sale right now, too.

Here’s my review of Scriber, which you can also find at Amazon and Goodreads:

Scriber by Ben S. Dobson

Scriber by Ben S. Dobson

Scriber might be the best fantasy book I’ve read, or at least it might be my favorite. It’s not dense like Erikson or Martin, but it has the two things I always look for and rarely find together: great writing with great storytelling.

The best thing about Scriber is the telling of the tale through the voice of the incredibly flawed scholar Dennon Lark. This is first person epic fantasy, and first person is not easy to pull off, even harder when the lead character is a self-hating wimp. But it works. Brilliantly. One reason it works is because it makes sense that Dennon would be telling you a story since he is a historian–first person often feels artificial, but not this time–and because Dennon’s humility helps us root for him. And if you’re not sure at first, keep reading. You might find the author stumbling a little bit here and there (or not at all), but if you do, don’t worry and just keep reading.

Scriber isn’t “high fantasy.” No dragons (though the characters sometimes curse by saying “Damn it to the Dragon!”), no elves, no magical swords. There are wonderful fantastic elements, though, mostly related to a mysterious semi-undead enemy and nature spirits. The story is unconventional in many ways, but it also sticks to some tried and true fantasy tropes (big heroine, big stakes)–in just the right balance of being both different and familiar. The setting feels medieval and the author writes that flavor well. And it’s a true standalone story and a fast read (in the good way).

The story features the scriber and a large band of female soldiers. One of the few issues I had with the book was the abundance of characters in that troop. The women were referred to by first name only and, especially early on, I sometimes had a hard time telling them apart and remembering who was who. Another reviewer recently wrote that this wasn’t a problem for him, so that could just be me. I have to say that Sylla was my least favorite; she was believable enough but still a bit one-dimensional, but at least she played a good role. Also, I have to say this: Orya for the win. I loved Orya.

The book has two major characters, Dennon Lark and Bryndine Errynson, the leader of the company of female soldiers. No one else gets fleshed out as much as these two. The one limitation I wish hadn’t been in the book is that we never got deep into Bryn’s head–because the book was written in first person from Dennon’s point of view. Bryndine is a memorable, noble character and so easy to root for. I started playing a paladin in a D&D campaign recently and I had to resist the urge to name the character Bryndine (she’s really inspiring). On the flip side, though she was very human, she also had few flaws and she never felt quite as real to me as Dennon did. But that’s mostly understandable considering the first person pov. Still, I can’t help wondering how great it would’ve been to be able to take a peek inside the mind of Bryndine.

One of my favorite scenes in the book was a meeting between Bryn and Dennon when they first opened up to each other about their vulnerabilities and soon laughed at them–just a beautiful scene full of believable humanity. This is where I think the author’s gift for characterization really shone through.

The story is heavy on dialogue, maybe a little too much for my taste, but at least the dialogue was great. The plot sometimes moves forward in ways that are a little too convenient, but I never cared to nitpick because I was having too much fun. The pacing was excellent, although somewhere around the three-quarters point I though it sped up a little too much (after the big return)–this was the only part of the book that felt out of place with the rest, in my opinion. I thought the fight scenes were good, not great, but this isn’t a book about fight scenes.

This is a book about a man struggling against the shame of his past and trying to uncover lost truths about his world’s history. It’s a book about a colorful band of women warriors. It’s a book about a heroine as noble as any you’ve read. It’s full of great worldbuilding, heaps of mystery, and mature, skillful writing. And it finishes with a great crescendo.

As a horribly picky reader, I almost never find books that come this close to being perfect for me. That’s one of the reasons why I became a writer myself, because I wanted to at least try to take readers on the kind of journey that I want authors to guide me through, the kind of ride Ben Dobson just led me on. I’ve talked to Ben some since I started reading his book, but I didn’t know him before I picked up Scriber for free in the kindle store.

I just want to be clear in saying that although Ben and I are both independent authors writing in the same genre, and although I only write reviews for the rare books that I love, this review has nothing to do with a prior relationship with the author (we had none, even though he had already read my book and I didn’t know it) and everything to do with me loving this outstanding book and wanting to recommend this book to everyone. So this is just a guy named Moses, telling it on the mountain:

I’ve never found a free or cheap ebook as good as this one. It’s fantastic, and I’m so glad to have found a new favorite author. Ben, thanks for a great story told well. And sorry to be selfish, but I really hope you write more books as great as this one.

Here’s Scriber on Amazon.
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I knew I had to record a little bit of history when I saw this in my World Fantasy Convention 2011 program:

Founders of Steampunk - Saturday, 1:00 pm

Steampunk was first defined in a letter over 20 years ago. The writer of that letter, and two of the authors whose work helped define the subgenre, talk about their inspirations and look at where steampunk literature has gone.

John Berlyne (M), James Blaylock, K. W. Jeter, Tim Powers

The panel was fascinating, and a lot of fun too. K.W. Jeter (the man who coined the term ‘steampunk’) was hilarious. You can find his novels at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When I talked to him, he was especially enthusiastic about his new Kim Oh books.

If you like the video, please share it with someone else who might enjoy it.

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The Black God's War (Novel)The Black God’s War has arrived, to my sincere surprise, with some very kind reviews from three outstanding book reviewers.

GraceKrispy from MotherLode is a well-respected reviewer who rarely gives out 5 stars (so far, only four other 5-star reviews on her popular blog this year), but she had this to say at the end of her review of The Black God’s War:

If you follow my reviews regularly, you know I don’t give many 5 star reviews. In my way of thinking, there are almost always things I would have changed about a story. Although I’ve listed a few things I’d change about this story (clarify chapter headings and characters’ thoughts), I find that (hours later), I can’t stop thinking about the characters and their journeys. I find myself contemplating the messages that were delivered (whether overtly or veiled). Overall, I find I really can’t stop thinking about this story. Unforgettable story, intriguing characters, compelling journey with unexpected twists- in short, a very satisfying and engaging read. Isn’t that why we read for pleasure?

Then today a review came in from Derek Prior at IndieFantasyReview. Derek wrote a rather critical review of my previously released novella and he’s not the type to blow sunshine, so this was nice to hear:

The Black God’s War is, to date, the finest example of quality independent fantasy I’ve seen. This is undoubtedly due to Siregar’s willingness to write and rewrite until each chapter feels just right to him … As a reader, I was left with absolute confidence that this writer knows his world and characters inside out …

He’s also no slacker when it comes to presentation of his material either. This book has been professionally and extensively edited, proofed, and formatted. There is a remarkable map and a great cover.

This is what indie publishing is all about and I have no qualms about recommending this great novel.

A third professional review also arrived just today. It’s from Robert Duperre at the Journal of Always. Robert wrote the sort of deep, thoughtful, and thorough review that every author dreams of receiving. Here’s an excerpt from his 4.5 star review:

“… there is a rather brilliant climax that left me grinning from ear to ear …

In conclusion, The Black God’s War is a unique experience. The plot is intricate, the characters even more so, and the message is one of beauty. By the time you flip to the last few pages, I hope you have the shivers just as I did, which is how I know that Moses Siregar is going to be around a long time, and his voice, one of unity, passion, and loving sensibilities, is important – in the world at large as well as literature.

So bravo, Mr. Siregar. You wrote a damn good book. You should be very proud.”

Goodreads:

The Black God's War [A Stand-Alone Novel] (Splendor and Ruin, Book I)


Use the arrow in the bottom-right to turn the page:

Goodreads.com

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Some of you already know that I’m a co-host at the Adventures In SciFi Publishing podcast. Last week, in honor of the release of my novel, my friends Shaun and Brent interviewed, well, me. We discussed my early background, how I got into writing fantasy fiction, my influences, The Black God’s War, and the state of publishing today.

Here’s episode 130 of AISFP. Thanks for listening!

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A really cool thing happened to me last week. John Mierau (one heck of a good interviewer) talked with me about The Black God’s War, my process, and indie publishing. Here’s the interview.

I’ve conducted a lot of interviews with best-selling science fiction and fantasy authors over the last year. So it was terrifying interesting to be on the other end of the Skype connection.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the new map for my novel, here it is. I’ll probably blog about it soon.
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If you want to succeed, hang out with unsuccessful people. Er, am I remembering that right?

If you want to get somewhere, don’t ask for directions. Wait, that’s not how it goes.

If you want to master something, don’t learn from the mistakes of the masters. Hm. That just sounds wrong.

Because I don’t subscribe to the above philosophies, I’ve attended two of the Superstars Writing Seminars. I went there to hang out with some bestselling science fiction and fantasy authors to soak up their best advice about the business of writing. These events last three full days, and they’re chock full of great information.

I could never do justice to everything there is to learn from these seminars in one blog post, but here’s one thing I learned.

Successful writers don’t just write, they write their ____ off.

Brandon Sanderson writes a few books a year, making time to squeeze Wheel of Time tomes into his schedule. Kevin J. Anderson dictates his stories into a digital recorder while hiking the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He also rents hotel rooms to get away from everyone (p.s. if my wife is reading this, I love you, Honey!) and write his ____ off. Eric Flint writes in binges that last for weeks and during those times, he is dead to the outside world.

Kevin J. Anderson says something obvious, but powerful: The top professionals in any respected field (medicine, law, you name it) WORK real, disciplined, long hours at their jobs, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor. When you have a ‘real job,’ you keep a schedule and you punch that clock. Serious writers shouldn’t expect to do any less. Kevin recently talked to the Writing Excuses guys about this very thing.

David Farland (Dave Wolverton) is also a Superstars’ presenter. In addition to hanging out with Dave at two Superstars seminars, I also attended his “Writer’s Death Camp” last November. What I’ve learned from Dave is hard to summarize in a flashy bullet point. I’ve learned from him so many fine points on the craft and business of writing, little things that can make all the difference. If you subscribe to his free Daily Kick emails, you’ll see what I mean.

A funny thing happened in one of Dave’s Daily Kick emails last week. Out of the blue, he said some exceedingly kind things about me and my work in his Daily Kick about “The Dangers of Self-Publishing.” Yep, this was a nice surprise. Now the following quote lives at the top of my ebook’s Amazon page:

“Moses is a fine writer and is deserving of success, and I think that it will follow … maybe his project will turn him into the next Amanda Hocking. Personally, I really enjoyed Moses’s work.”
–David Farland, NYT Bestselling author of The Runelords

Though this came as a surprise to me, this quote would’ve never happened had I not made a decision to hang out with some successful authors, to appreciate what they had to share with me (p.s. thanks, Dave), and to just be myself around them.

Here’s another cool thing I lucked into. At the end of the first Superstars seminar, I was hanging around the nearly empty conference room when I saw Brandon Sanderson reading the first few pages of someone’s manuscript. So I walked over to listen to the advice Brandon had for (someone who is now my friend) Joshua Essoe. Brandon asked if I had something he could read.

Uh. Yeah?

So he did. He gave me some great feedback on my first chapter, told me the story was strong enough that he’d continue reading if he was an editor, and then helped me with a technical issue I was struggling with at the time. I can’t tell you how how helpful his comments were.

Then at the second Superstars seminar, I got to sit and have dinner with Brandon and a handful of other seminar attendees. I got to pick his brain about which editors might be a good or a bad fit for me at different publishing houses, and again I learned a lot (thanks again, Brandon).

I also interviewed Brandon, Howard, and Dan from Writing Excuses at the recent conference, as well as Sherrilyn Kenyon (that interview will be up any day now at Adventures In SciFi Publishing), and I got to film a couple episodes of Writing Excuses (thanks, guys) that featured Mary Robinette Kowal and David Farland.

If there’s a takeaway from my ramblings, maybe it’s to spend time with writers you emulate, whether it’s at workshops, seminars, conferences, blogs, or even on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t do it with the mindset of getting anything from them, other than an education. Be yourself, be positive and grateful, and something–hopefully whatever you need most–will definitely rub off on you.

Oh yeah. And if you want to be a writer, write your ____ off.

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If you don’t subscribe to David Farland’s Daily Kick, a free email service that shares outstanding advice about the business and craft of writing, what are you waiting for? (look for the sign-up box on the right, through that link.)

Here’s today’s installment. I decided to mention it because, well, you’ll see. He mentioned me. This will give you an example of a wonderful free service Dave offers. I may write a blog post later this week to add to some of the points Dave made.

Everything below the following line is from David Farland’s Daily Kick, 2/14/11 (and not written by me):

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David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—The Dangers of Self-Publishing

Friday I wrote about Amanda Hocking’s tremendous rise to becoming a bestseller through self-publishing her e-books. I’ve heard from a lot of fans lately who want to give that a try, and by all means, if you think that you’ve got the chops, give it a try.

But let me warn you of the danger first. Unfortunately, you are not your own best critic. Nor is your spouse or your mother or your neighbor your best critic. As a result, when you think that you’re ready to publish, in most cases you’re not.

Time and time again, I find writers who are almost delusional. They’re like the singers that tried out in Hollywood last week on American Idol. They were by far the worst that the country had seen. For some reason, Hollywood attracts delusional people.

Because writers aren’t their own best critics, we often hear stories like the one told by Raymond Feist recently. He got a knock on his door, and when he answered, the fellow at the door said, “I’ll be you’ve never talked to a real author before!” Ray, who has sold millions and millions of books, just laughed and said, “Buddy, I think you’ve got the wrong house.” But the fellow persisted and showed Ray his two self-published novels. They were printed to a high quality, which showed that the fellow had some taste, and so Raymond bought them and the fellow went off to schlep his works door-to-door. Raymond then read the first few pages of one and said that it was one of the worst novels that he’d ever seen.

I’ve done that same experience on more than one occasion, picked up a self-published novel only to see a dozen horrible mistakes—everything from typos to misspellings and just genuinely terrible prose—all within two pages.

So I’m worried that in the rush of self-published authors this year, we’re going to see a lot of people embarrass themselves. More importantly, you might actually hurt your career.

Let’s say that you put up a book that isn’t quite ready, and it gets twenty reviews on line, and most of them pan your book. How easy do you think it will be to sell your next book, or the one after that? Those negative reviews will never go away, and they’ll dog you. Indeed, they’ll destroy the name that you’re trying to create for yourself.

So don’t rush to publish in e-book format.

Please be aware that I’m not saying “Don’t publish.” I’m just urging you to be careful.

Last year I won the Whitney Award for Best Novel of the Year with a book that I self-published. When I won the award, Howard Tayler, the self-published author of the famous Schlock Mercenary cartoons, said, “You know, Dave, you’ve just done a world of damage. You self-published for all of the wrong reasons: your mother begged you to do it. You didn’t want to take your regular publisher’s advice. Then to top it off, you sold all of your stock, got great reviews, and won a major award. I keep telling people not to self-publish, even though I’m making my own living at it, and now you come along and just reinforce the wrong message.”

Howard is right of course. Both of us were publishing to small market shares, where self-publishing made a little more sense, and we both succeeded, just as Amanda Hocking is succeeding, and some of you are succeeding.

One of my friends and past students, Moses Siregar, I just found out, is at the top of Amazon’s sales charts with his epic fantasy THE BLACK GOD’S WAR. Moses is a fine writer and is deserving of success, and I think that it will follow. But Moses also knows the risks. I recently heard some other New York Times bestselling writers tell him, “Moses, don’t self-publish!” They pointed out the risks. I then told him, “You know, Moses, I hate to say this, but I think you’ll do it. You’re savvy enough to know what you need to do in order to self-publish well, and I think that you should go ahead.” Now, four weeks later, he’s doing great. So go check out his book at:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Gods-War-Introducing-ebook/dp/B003Z0D2HK

It will only cost a dollar, and if Moses gets the velocity he needs, maybe his project will turn him into the next Amanda Hocking. Personally, I really enjoyed Moses’s work.

Oh, and don’t self-publish! For every one who succeeds, there will be hundreds who will destroy a potential career. Recognize that when you self-publish, you might just be gambling with your career.

Announcing:

Ken Scholes will be speaking to us next on the Farland’s Author’s Advisory Confernce Calls and you are invited to attend at no charge, as always. Mark your calendar, the date is Thursday, February 24th, 9:00 p.m. EST.

Ken is the author of LAMENTATION, and the topic will be “Self-Awareness: an author’s first best tool.”

To get on the call, dial 1-218-862-7200. When the line picks up, dial the calling code, which is 245657. The call is free, long distance charges apply.

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David Farland

David Farland

I attended David Farland’s “Writers’ Death Camp” last month and enjoyed a rip-roarin’ conversation with him about:

  • Dave’s Midas Touch
  • Stephanie Meyer
  • Working with Blizzard on Starcraft
  • The Superstars Writing Seminar
  • Publishing Trends
  • Changes in the Market
  • Ebooks
  • Self-Publishing
  • The good commercial potential for Young Adult
  • Writers with million-dollar houses in Rumania that they don’t know about.

Wanna hear it? Here it go.
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Interview with Guy Gavriel Kay, author of Under HeavenAt the World Fantasy Convention 2010, I interviewed Guy Gavriel Kay for the Adventures In SciFi Publishing podcast, a site featuring over 100 interviews with some of the biggest names in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, plus news and book reviews (I am also the News Manager there).

The interview lasted about 45 minutes, covering a wide range of topics from Tolkien to handling criticism to his latest novel Under Heaven to writing with themes in mind (and many more …).

Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay should especially enjoy it, as well as anyone interested in learning from one of the literary giants in the field of Fantasy literature.

To hear the interview on the podcast, click here: Guy Gavriel Kay Interview.

Thanks very much for the interview, Guy!
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