Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Launch (Queen of Caradale)

Today I'm going to talk about book launches. Not because I am an expert on the subject but because I am doing one right now (which you can find here: Queen of Caradale Book Launch )

Despite the fact that I am about to publish my seventh novel, I have never done an official book launch for any of my books. I'm about to change that.

I've decided to do a "real" book launch--as in, gathering people to tell them about the book and get them excited. I've launched my books in the sense that I publish them...therefore, by default, I've had a book "launch". This time, however, I'm doing something more official. Queen of Caradale is going to be published in March and so I have decided to try something new, come out of my comfort zone a little, and do a book launch.

There are multiple ways to do a book launch, so let's look at those for a moment.

First of all, you can have an in-person book launch where you invite a bunch of people over (to your house, to a chosen venue, etc.). People gather, maybe you eat some snacks, you talk about your book, hopefully sell a few copies...maybe sign them if that's what people want. Because this type of book launch involves interaction with people, this is not what I chose to do. I know it's rather silly of me, but human interaction is something I find uncomfortable. So instead, I chose to do the second type of book launch: virtual.

I am doing my book launch on Facebook. I have invited lots of people to this event, I'm posting games and fun things for them to do to participate and get excited about the book. And then, on the official publication date, I'll let everyone know Queen of Caradale is available and hopefully some of them will choose to buy it.

As I said previously, doing a book launch is a new experience for me. I'm learning a lot, mostly from trial and error as I make mistake after mistake. There's been a lot of laughter involved as I have pulled various family members into the creative process and we make this thing happen. I am enjoying learning how to do book launches, and I'm also enjoying the fun and laughter of doing this with my family.

I've been publishing my books for a number of years, but I am still learning new things about the industry and new ways to market my books, and I am loving it. :) Even though it's a bit uncomfortable to do new things and step outside of my usual routine, I'm glad that I am. This experience, doing the book launch, has certainly been different--but I'm loving it. And now I'll be more confident when my next book is published. :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: True Devotion

Today's book review is of a book by Dee Henderson called True Devotion. This is the first book in a series called Uncommon Heroes which follows the stories of various military men and women.

So what is this particular military novel about?

Kelly Jacobs has already paid the ultimate price of loving a warrior; she has the folded flag and grateful thanks of a nation to prove it. Navy SEAL Joe "Bear" Baker can't ask her to accept that risk again--even though he loves her. But the man responsible for her husband's death is back; closer than either of them realize. Kelly is in danger, and Joe may not get there in time.

First impressions? I liked it.

As with every Dee Henderson novel I have read, the characters leap off of the page in a vibrant way that I've rarely seen before. They are all very real, relatable, likable people.

Another of Dee Henderson's strengths is how she effortlessly and tactfully weaves the characters' faith throughout the story. Every one of her novels has demonstrated this, and True Devotion was no different. Each of her characters goes through their own journey, fighting questions about resurrection, trust, mercy, and various other inquiries about God that have them struggling. Each character goes through their own spiritual transformation throughout their respective books, and it's quite fascinating to read. It also makes her readers ask questions in their own lives and develop a deeper understanding of Jesus.

Dee Henderson's ability to tug the reader along on a suspenseful journey trying to uncover the truth before time runs out didn't falter on this novel. She is incredibly talented in that regard. I will say this though; this first of her military novels was not nearly as suspenseful or page-turning as all the crime novels of hers that I have read. Had I read this one first, I might have enjoyed it more, but because I'd read the "I can't put this down" crime novels first, I was a little disappointed by this one. Not enough that I didn't enjoy it immensely, but enough that I could definitely tell which novels I enjoyed more. This story focused more on the love-story than the previous books of hers that I have read, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, I don't read Dee Henderson for a purely Romance novel, I read them because they're Romantic Suspense, and her mysteries are killer. That probably also added to my slight disappointment in this book as a whole. It was more Romance than Suspense. But again, that's a purely personal preference.

Would I read this book again? Absolutely. I really did enjoy it quite a lot.

Would I recommend this book to others? 100% YES. It's Dee Henderson. You can't go wrong with a Dee Henderson novel (even if it isn't my favorite).

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Book Review: Inheritance

My book review today is of the novel Inheritance, the fourth and final book in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle.

So what is this book about?

Not so very long ago, Eragon--Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider--was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chance.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaesia? And if so, at what cost?

My first impressions? It was an enjoyable read. I had fun, and towards the end I reached a point where I couldn't put the book down. So yes, an enjoyable read.

It wasn't the bore that Eragon was, which is a relief. I didn't expect it to be, because Brisingr was one that I actually enjoyed very much so I expected to like Inheritance as well. It was still nice not to be proven wrong.

The characters are all interesting, and I actually cared what happened to them this time around. Paolini even managed to bring me to tears at one point, which pleasantly surprised me. I don't necessarily like crying, but the fact that I cared enough about these characters to cry during an emotional scene was a refreshing change to the way I've been viewing this series previously.

I loved this book, I won't lie. The story was interesting and and kept me turning pages, the characters were vibrant, the book as a whole was well paced. I was never bored, that's for sure. Paolini also managed to surprise me in a specific plot twist (which I won't go into detail about because of spoilery reasons...). The previous three books have felt rather predictable, and though most of this book was as well, there was a major point that took me by surprise and I appreciated that. The story has come a long way from Eragon, and being surprised by a plot twist was just one more example of that.

I will say that Paolini's descriptions and convoluted prose still isn't my thing. The writing certainly isn't as stiff as Eragon was, but I'm not a huge fan of his prose. Also, his choice of words when describing things often takes me out of story for a moment while I do a double-take, so that can be distracting and put a damper on the experience as a whole. One such instance was during a one-on-one fight scene where he described the two men wrestling each other, trying to kill one another, in this way: "their embrace as intimate as any lovers" lovers usually try to kill each other? I wouldn't personally know, but I imagine not. Or maybe fighting is more romantic than I assumed? I don't believe the answer to either of those questions is yes, so why he described that fight in such a manner, I don't know.

One other complaint I have is a simple one of continuity. Fair warning, I'm about to rant. Now, for any avid readers of the Inheritance Cycle, please correct me if I am wrong. I want to be corrected. I want there to be an explanation to this, because right now it just drives me crazy. I hate things that don't make sense.

Here's what I'm talking about, in a nutshell: (I suppose I should put a SPOILERS warning here...skip this paragraph if you're concerned about me spoiling things for you...)

Roran goes to the city Aroughs in Chapter 12. He arrives in Chapter 16. At the very end of Chapter 17 we learn that Murtagh and Thorn are at Dras-Leona with the Varden. We spend Chapters 18-22 with Roran and his company sacking Aroughs...and then in Chapter 22 when Roran gives his report to Nasuada--all of which we see--he says "I'm not about to stay here, injuries or no injuries, while my wife and unborn child sit camped less than a mile away from Murtagh and his dragon!" How in the name of anything did Roran know about Murtagh and Thorn? He wasn't with the Varden when they discovered that bit of information. It is possible Nasuada mentioned them, except that there is no part of the conversation between Roran and Nasuada that we don't see. The only part that isn't written out word for word is when Roran faints, but he couldn't have learned of Murtagh and Thorn then because he was WHEN ON EARTH DID HE LEARN ABOUT THEM? How does he know they are there? He has had no communication with Nasuada or Eragon since he set out for Aroughs and they didn't run into Murtagh and Thorn until after his departure...ugh. I hate inconsistencies. Can you tell?

Aside from that one apparent error that drove me crazy early on in the book, and my dislike of Paolini's descriptions and prose, I don't have a lot of complaints about this book. And for the latter complaint, it really wasn't as much of a bother with this book as previous ones. So all in all--aside from my rant--I have little negativity to offer. I loved this book.

I loved the story, I loved the characters. It was good book.

Would I read this book again? Undoubtedly.

Would I recommend this book to others? Definitely.

I've come to a point where I've decided recommending Eragon and Eldest to people is a necessity that cannot be avoided, because I whole-heartedly want people to enjoy Brisingr and especially Inheritance. You can't do that unless you know the full now I'm changing my tune a bit and saying, yes, I might very well recommend Eragon and Brisingr. But only as a whole series. On their own, I still say no, not worth the read.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Book Review: Father Brown

Today I am reviewing short stories by G.K. Chesterton, specifically a collection of works called Favorite Father Brown Stories.

So what is this story/these stories all about?

Father Brown is a Roman Catholic Priest and amateur detective who solves mysteries and crimes using his intuition and keen understanding of human nature.

First impressions? I love these stories.

The writing is what I would describe as delightfully quaint. It puts me in mind of simple English countrysides with gentle rolling hills dotted with sheep or something along those lines. That is literally the image that the style of writing puts in my head.

These are mysteries, requiring Father Brown, the police, and the reader to catch a criminal or unravel the secrets of unexplainable events before the end. The stories are sweetly simplistic and yet still manage to be enthralling at the same time. It isn't the same sort of page-turning suspense as a Dee Henderson crime novel, but it is uniquely fascinating.

The characters are all rather simplistic in that there isn't a lot of backstory or character development, but this rather adds to the delightfulness of the story rather than hindering it. They are well-rounded enough for a short story, and if there was more backstory or character development it would rather clutter up the story than add substance.

The writing style is, as I've said, delightful in it's simplicity. This perhaps sticks out to me because I am currently reading Paolini's Inheritance Cycle where nothing is allowed to be stated plainly so the uncluttered, straightforward prose of G.K. Chesterton was a refreshing change. Another thing I enjoyed immensely was the very British-ly dry humor. I love a good dry wit, and I find it most readily among the English. It made me quite happy to read it, but I suppose that's merely a personal preference.

I also love the way that Chesterton describes things. It's never the obvious description and it often makes me chuckle. He really is quite the delightful writer.

Father Brown is a bit like Sherlock Holmes and Father Gilbert all rolled into one, both of whom I love so of course I couldn't help but love him too.

If I have any complaints about these stories it is simply this: There aren't enough of them. I definitely wanted to keep reading when I came to the end of the book.

Would I read this book again? Absolutely.

Would I recommend this book to others? Definitely.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: Full Disclosure

I'm back with another book review! Today I'm reviewing Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson.

I loved this book, unequivocally.

So what is this book even about?

Ann Silver is a cop's cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region's most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI's top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn't expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former vice president. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is....

First impressions: I enjoyed this book immensely. It was definitely a page-turner.

I started reading Dee Henderson's books roughly a year ago and I haven't been able to stop. They're amazing. This is just one more example of just how incredible she is.

Dee Henderson's characters are all well-rounded and very real, down to the last side-character with only one scene. She brings every person to life in a remarkable way that, as an author myself, I envy greatly. Her characters don't just jump off of the page. They live.

Her descriptions of people, places, and objects create a delightful world for these incredibly real characters to live in. It's grounded, it is realistic, it is funny and dark and beautiful and very much a picture of the real world. Obviously I love Dee Henderson and could get very fan-girly in my review, so I'm going to move on to another subject before I lose my dignity.

It is a suspense novel, and boy does Dee Henderson master the art of keeping a reader on the edge of their seat. She's done this with every book of hers that I've read so far, so I wasn't surprised when I couldn't put the book down. Her murder mysteries always tend to surprise me. I think I know where it is headed and then out of nowhere she hits me over the head with a plot twist that leaves me reeling.

Another thing I loved about this book is that I could relate to one of the characters on a very unique level, in a way that I never have before when reading books.

Ann Silver, one of the two protagonists, is an author. I have read other stories before about authors and only partially understood them, but Ann Silver...Ann Silver is me. Every description of her actions, her personality, the way she talks and thinks and lives...aside from the fact that she is a murder cop, which I am definitely not, I felt like I was reading a story about myself.

There were several passages in particular that seemed to not be describing the main character but rather be describing me. One such example is this passage from Chapter 9,

"'One piece of good advice about Ann. When it's silent and you make a remark and she looks startled that you interrupted her, just repeat the remark or question and don't take offense. She's busy in her mind. The quieter she is, the more likely she's listening to dialog, or watching a scene unfold, or having an internal conversation. She goes somewhere else as easily as I breathe. Bothers people who don't know her well. She's just listening to a few things the rest of us don't hear, sometimes misses the first of what you say . . . There are days there is nothing in particular on her mind, and others where she is so busy creating she can't write it down fast enough. You can tell with just a bit of noticing what kind of day it is. When she goes to get a drink and stands with her hand on the soda can for a minute or two before she remembers to open it, you can bet someone you can't see interrupted her'"

The vivid characters, the suspense of the murder mysteries, the plot twists, all that and more coupled with the fact I related to the main character more than I have with any other book I've ever read...ever...made this book a definite favorite.

I don't have any complaints about this book. The writing was great, the suspenseful plot was everything I would have wanted it to be, the characters definitely came off the page, and I related to the MC more than I ever have before. It was practically perfection.

Would I read it again? Most definitely.

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Book Review: The Alchemist

Okay, so this one technically isn't a book. It is a single short story that is a small part of a larger collection of stories by H.P. Lovecraft. I haven't read the whole collection, however, so I'm only reviewing the one story that I did read.

To begin with, this was my first introduction to H.P. Lovecraft. I have never read anything of his before, and until this past Christmas when my sister was given the collection of his works, I didn't even know he existed.

So what is this story about?

The story is recounted by the protagonist, Count Antoine de C-, in the first person. Hundreds of years ago, Antoine's noble ancestor was responsible for the death of a dark wizard, Michel Mauvais. The wizard's son, Charles le Sorcier, swore revenge on not only him but all his descendants, cursing them to die on reaching the age of 32.

First impressions: I loved this story! I'm very glad my sister showed it to me, because I really enjoyed it.

It is a short story, so obviously it doesn't go very in-depth with either character development or setting, background, etc. However, Lovecraft does a brilliant job of bringing the small world to life despite the limited number of words. His characters do not feel underdeveloped in the slightest, and his descriptions are vivid and memorable.

Lovecraft's style of writing is delightfully witty yet dark, and I found it very reminiscent of Charlotte Bronte. Considering Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite novels, it is little wonder I enjoyed this story so much.

Would I read this story again? Absolutely!

Would I recommend this short story to someone? Definitely.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Choosing a Pen Name

I'm taking a quick break from book reviews so you don't get too tired of my brazen today I'll be talking about the process of choosing a pen name.

As an author, how do you choose the perfect name to write under?

The first thing you have to decide is whether or not you are going to be using your own name. If you are using your own name, then you get to play around with it and have some fun. Do you want to use your first and last name (Amanda Hutchinson), your first and middle name (Amanda Grace), initials (A.G. Hutchinson) or some other combination? Have some fun with it until you come up with the perfect name that you love.

If you are not going to use your own name, there are two things to consider. First of all, do you already have a name in mind? If so, great. If not, my second question is this: How do you name your characters in stories? My advice would be to use the same method you use to create names for your characters to come up with a name for yourself. Everyone tends to have their own process of naming their characters, so I can't say "do this" or "do that." My process for naming characters involves learning what makes the character tick, what their identity is, how they would label themselves. And then I find names with meanings that correspond to that. So, for a pen name, I would think about what makes me uniquely me and then find names that have meanings that encompass whatever that is. And for surnames I just love to look at lists of surnames and match first names up with several different surnames until one sounds great.

Obviously I didn't use that second method for choosing my own pen name because I used my own name.

After you have chosen the perfect name, either your own or one you've made up, there is one final step: Google it.

You want to be unique and to stand out from other authors. That isn't going to happen if there are fifty other people writing under the same name that you are. So google it and see if there are other authors writing under that same name. If the first thing that pops up is a book written by someone else, go back to the drawing board and come up with a new name. 

I didn't do that last step when I first started writing so I was unaware that there are a dozen or more authors who write under the name Amanda Grace. Trust me, you don't want to be one of the crowd. You want to be unique. So make sure whatever name you are hoping to write under isn't already being used.

Happy Writing, everybody!