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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Most of the books on this list are part of series. I read mostly fiction, and lots of weird stuff. For the books on the list that I previously wrote a review of, I have supplied links to the reviews below, in case you’re curious.

Also, the first four books on this list are self-published fiction by new or first-time authors. I tried to branch out with my reading this year, and I’m very glad I did. Don’t believe everything you hear about self-published books: there’s more than enough quality out there if you take time to sort through the incredible number of titles available.

Titles that are preceded by an asterisk (*) were not new releases in 2014, but I read them this year, so I’m putting them on the list.

Necromancer Awakening: Book One of The Mukhtaar Chronicles by Nat Russo

Nat Russo is one of my favorite new authors.  After reading the first book of his Mukhtaar Chronicles, I immediately added his other title, The Road To Dar Rodon, to my TBR list. Necromancer Awakening tells the story of Nicholas, an archeologist from a modern-day Earth, who gets sucked out of his apartment and transported to a realm of magic and fantastical beings, where he discovers that he’s the scion of an empire and learns to channel the force known as Necropotency.

Russo’s skill as a writer and worldbuilder is evident, and I was impressed by the ways that he brought a fresh feel to some of the most familiar elements of the fantasy genre. He tells a very well-known kind of story, but his characters, setting, and the language he uses all combine to make for a very refreshing read.

Necromancer Awakening is proof that self-published works can be equal to, or in this case above, the quality of traditionally-published books. This novel was better than many of the fantasy novels I have found being sold in bookstores. Great characters, exciting magic and lots of promise for future entries in this series. I might have to go back and give this one a full review soon, because there’s a lot to be said about it.

The Soul and the Seed by Arie Farnam

You can read my review of The Soul and the Seed here.

The short version: I loved this book. I’ve read the first two of this series, and I will be diving into the third soon.

Whatever you want to call it, Urban/Modern Fantasy or Dystopia, the story pulled me in and repeatedly impressed me with its refusal to use cliches or get stuck in genre tropes. The focus here is on characters, and each one enriched my experience of the novel. It’s packed with emotion and some very important musings on the nature of our world, hidden in between the lines of Arie Farnam’s haunting vision of a world where no one can be trusted.

*The Beam by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

You can read my review of The Beam here.

This one has a little bit of everything, and it’s crazy fun. Known for releasing their stories in serialized form, authors Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant write their stuff the way they want to, and the results are great. I couldn’t do the plot justice here if I tried, but here’s the basics: a super-internet, known as The Beam, has become the foundation of the North American Union, and it controls every aspect of life. Every citizen is given a Beam ID, a unique signature that is part of their body, and every six years there is a period known as Shift, when people are given the choice to choose which party they’ll be a member of for the next six years. Choose Directorate and have all of your needs taken care of by the NAU, whether you work or not. Choose Enterprise and you’re own your own, but there’s no limit to the wealth and power you can attain. It’s a dark, timely vision of what the future might look like, and it’s got a great cast of characters with a little something for everyone.

The one caveat here: the authors have chosen to write this series in the form of “seasons.” The first volume is not entirely self-contained, but instead an introduction to a much larger world.

Vacationland by Greg Letellier

Vacationland is not a very long read, but the short stories in this collection are full of the things that make up dense fiction, the kind of prose that asks to be taken in slowly. Unlike most of the books on this list, Vacationland isn’t full of action or fantastic settings. No, the power of these stories lies in their explorations of the mundane and everyday, and in the ways that they delve into their characters’ average but profound experiences. A promising start from a debut author.

*NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

If you haven’t heard of Joe Hill yet, I’m guessing you’re not a fan of horror. NOS4A2 is Hill’s most ambitious novel to date, and I enjoyed every word of it. Trust me, you’ve never read a vampire story like this one before.

*The Gazetteer Writer’s Manual by Deborah Teramis Christian and Bruce A. Heard

This one will probably only appeal to my fellow writers, especially those that work in the science-fiction and fantasy genres. The Gazetteer Writer’s Manual is a book for authors and gamers that takes you through the process of creating a fully-fleshed out gazetteer, or guide, to a fictional setting. Some of the advice inside is tailored specifically for those designing RPG settings and other gaming materials, but the vast majority of it is useful to any author that’s looking for questions and exercises to help develop their fictional settings. Rather than attempt to tell you exactly how to create a setting, the book centers around an extensive series of questions and prompts that will allow you to stretch your fiction-muscles and put together a resource that can be kept as an author’s aid or turned into a companion piece that will help introduce readers to a fictional world.

It’s stuffed full of material, almost to a ridiculous point, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate that. A lot of what’s in it might seem like common sense if you’ve spent any significant amount of time creating settings for tabletop games like D&D, but even still, I’d argue that it’s worth the price for the sheer amount of solid advice inside. I read a variety of different books on the subject of worldbuilding this year, and this was the best of the bunch by far.

Next up here on the blog, I’ll be telling everyone about my resolutions for 2015 and giving some updates about what I’ve been working on lately.

The year is almost over, and I’ve been slacking when it comes to updating this blog, so I wanted to take time to reflect on it. I’m also going to address what I want to accomplish in the coming year and set some concrete goals. If you’re part of the TL;DR-crowd, this post will likely be too rambling for you. Short version is, I had a good year, hit a milestone, learned some things about myself/my writing, and from December 23rd to the 27th, I’m running a promotion for my short story so that everyone can have another chance to get it for free.

2014 all runs together in my memories. There’s always more work to be done, and the past year was full of work. My job kept me busier than ever. I spent a lot of time mowing lawns and cleaning up peoples’ yards. I have the aches to prove it. But don’t think I’m complaining: everything that hurts is a reminder of the progress I’ve made, both as an individual and as a part of a team. Even though I spent so much time working, I was able to achieve a writing milestone that’s evaded me for some time.

I was never really into the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions, but in 2014 I made a resolution and made it a reality. My resolution was to be published for the first time, and I’m happy to say that I accomplished that goal.

I entered a short story into a competition done by the wonderful folks over at Here Booky Booky, and I was fortunate enough to be selected as the winner. Thanks to the expertise and hard work put in by the Bookies, I was able to self-publish my first story. “Specimen 25” was unlike anything I’d ever written, but I worked hard to turn my inspiration into a solid story that I was proud to have my name on. What was originally a simple “what if…” idea for a short story turned into something else entirely, and all because I happened to bend down at work one day and find a discarded latex glove in the parking lot of a 7-11.

Life is weird.

Of course, there’s much more to it than that. The writing, editing, and everything that went into making that story: I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of Catherine. She pushed me to make the story better, and she helped me pour over the text to get it right. If not for her, I probably wouldn’t have submitted the story to the contest. I had so many doubts, but she kept insisting that the story was good. She was right, as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s a good story.

Starting tomorrow (December 23), “Specimen 25” will be free to download until the 27th. A little Christmas sale, with the hope that if you haven’t had a chance to get it yet, this will be the nudge you needed. If you have read it, maybe take a minute to let others know it’s available? I recommend it to anyone that enjoys some weird.

As some of you might be aware, I joined in on National Novel Writing Month this year. I’d intended to throw myself into my new project headlong and spend the month of November furiously bashing out that first draft. If getting the 50,000 words minimum is the only criteria for success, then, technically, I failed. Here’s the thing, though. In spite of the fact that I didn’t emerge from November with a completed draft, I don’t consider my NaNoWriMo experience a failure. I learned a lot about myself as a writer and my writing process, and there’s nothing stopping me from continuing to write that draft.

I learned that having an outline isn’t a substitute for being inspired, but I also learned that determination plays a bigger role in inspiration than I’d ever realized. I discovered that setting goals and having quantifiable ways to measure progress can be a great way to spawn productivity, but only if I’m being honest with myself about what I want and what it’s going to take to get it. I realized that I can only read about others’ success stories and experiences to inform my view of what else is out there, and that comparison is doomed to lead to disappointment. I learned that fear reinforces all of the other negative emotions that can build and become a barrier to achievement. And I learned that, sometimes, there’s such a thing as thinking too small.

I’m working hard to shut up that voice in my head saying, “Yeah, but you should have learned all of these things a long time ago.” That voice never really helps me, anyway.

I haven’t given up on my novel, but I have refocused my expectations. My new goal is to finish the first draft by the end of 2015. I think it’s much more realistic than trying to churn out a full-length book in 30 days. I have a chunk of the beginning written, but I don’t know if any of it will ever be part of the finished novel. I’ve stopped putting so much emphasis on the word count, the finished product, or what my book should or shouldn’t be when it’s complete. The book will be whatever it will be, and that was the truth all along. All that’s changed is my outlook, and I’m pretty sure it’s changed for the better.

That being said, I would still like to publish again in the coming year. I have several short stories I’ve been working on, and my goal is to have at least one more published in 2015. I hope to do more than that, but, keeping with my new outlook, I am not going to consider the number of stories I put out there the only factor which determines my relative success in the future. There’s a lot of other stuff I can do to keep improving, and some starts with this blog. I had a bunch of ideas for what I wanted to use this platform for this year, and most of them never materialized. The good news is that I can take this as an opportunity to assess where I am and what I can do in the near future. With some more work, and an increased level of commitment, I know that I can make this site something worth visiting.

I will come out of this year with a ton of new experiences behind me, having learned a great deal about what it means to be a writer and what it’s going to take for me to keep improving. There’s value in everything I’ve learned in 2014, even the multitude of new questions that I am faced with as I continue to answer some of the ones that have been nagging me for so long.

My thanks go out to everyone that continues to offer their support to me, helping me along my ever-twisting, many-forked path. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people that know how strange I am, and still haven’t run away screaming. There’s still time for that, of course, but I think I’ve managed to convince everyone that I’m human…ish.

There’s not much left of the year now, but hopefully I’ll have a few more posts up here before we dive into 2015. Be on the lookout for a list of my favorite books I read this year, and perhaps a couple of other interesting bits for everyone to read as we close out the year. Just in case I don’t get on here again in the next week and a half, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, and I hope that we can all look forward to making 2015 a success in our own way.