Saturday, 19 January 2019

Done! And a #RealmMakers kickstarter!

(Now on to finalise that essay.)

But I am also secondarily here to say SUPPORT THIS KICKSTARTER! Even better, ask everyone you know to support this kickstarter so that we can get to the stretch goals! 
Because more money = more stories, and more stories = opportunities to submit! To quote:
Above, I also mentioned that we would have the ability to add more stories to the anthology if we raise funds beyond our initial goal. For every additional $500 we raise, we'll add another author to the book.
Well, ain't that cool :p (scuttles off to plan a hero story)

Full press release below the line!


Friday, 18 January 2019

The Painted Hall Collection has a video review!

Just realised I never posted about this. HA!

Check out The Painted Hall Collection on Amazon. More retailers here!

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Rethinking my approach to #bookreviews and star ratings

I blogged about blogging more and then dropped off the grid. haha.

Well, Tuesday I did blog, but over at Teaspoon Publishing. And then classes started again yesterday. I was still hoping to finish my review of New Suns by then, but we hung out after class, and then I dropped by the department's New Year thing, and then I procrastinated dinner, and by the time I actually finished reading the book, it was almost midnight and I was falling asleep. I'm not usually that last minute in reviewing books, though. I was originally planning to review another book this week, but when I finished it, I hated it, and after much thinking, I decided I was not going to expend any more energy on it by writing a review.

I've been thinking about book reviews and star ratings ever since the last SRFC. Someone mentioned something along the lines of how authors shouldn't give a book anything less than 5/5 stars because doing that is pulling their ratings down and being mean to our colleagues. This reminds me now of the stupid kerfuffle that stopped us doing readings at The Constant Gardener (yes, there was a reason we moved), but my immediate reaction was actually well, in Corporate, we rate our colleagues ALL THE TIME. That's why we have 360-degree reviews (we review our juniors, peers AND managers). But thinking it over, we don't rate them in public and no one else knows what we wrote except us and HR, and whatever HR releases (anonymously) to the reviewee. So yeah, maybe there is a difference.

Sidetrack about performance reviews: I used to be super stressed about how to rate people's work, especially those looking for job confirmation, until one of my managers simplified it for me. She asked (I'm paraphrasing, I don't have perfect recall), "well, would you like this person assigned to your team for your next job (project)? If your answer is an immediate no... then you know what to do." Because if it's a matter of personality clash, you're more likely to go ah, well, maybe, we'll see but if it's a matter of that person is so incompetent you just want to stab him/her, it'll be an automatic omg noooo go awayyyy *throws garlic, salt, holy water, whatever is on hand*. That's me anyway.

But back to book reviews, this person's rationale was that as an author yourself, you would have a following who would probably put more weight on your rating and review than they would on others. Which makes sense.

On the other hand, this fallacy in thinking that only a 5-star book is a good book is... silly. The real world doesn't work that way. A 4-star review is still a good review. Heck, a 1-star review with a carefully thought out reason could also end up being good endorsement for a book because hate reads are a thing. Everyone who reviews and reads reviews knows that no one can 5-star everything. That either means that you're overly generous, you don't want to hurt/offend people, or you're not really a good judge of what you're reviewing.

As a reader, the thing that interests me first is the story description anyway, and I'll only turn down a book based on star ratings if it's less than 2.5... kind of like the passing GPA. LOL. That's usually also a budget thing. Because I buy too many books.

So I dunno. I'm rethinking the way I review and rate books. The big review sites usually have a starred review (Fellowship of Fantasy does a "knighted" review) for the really really good books but no star ratings for anything else, and I might swing that way. The stats on Goodreads would look really weird, though. I usually have a range throughout the year, with most falling between 3 - 5 stars. The ones I don't end up rating are usually the ones I'm too conflicted about to even guess at a star.

What do you think? Maintain the star ratings? Ditch them? Stop reviewing?


(I mean yes, a poor review about my books would make me sad but but it's your opinion and you're entitled to it. Does it make any difference if the review is from a writer or a non-writer because we're all in the business of talking about books anyway?)

I'm probably overthinking it by now so I'm going to go back to actually finish writing my review. HA. But please, settle my doubts.

Monday, 14 January 2019

#musicmonday: Heroes | Amanda Cook

I will trust
Here in the mystery
I will trust
In you completely

Awake my soul to sing
With your breath in me
I will worship
You taught my feet to dance
Upon disappointment
and I
I will worship


I've been rethinking my approach to this blog and what I want it to be. I've been blogging for roughly 17 years now, which is like half my life (I DID NOT JUST SAY THAT), starting at the now-defunct tabulas (ah, good times) and then switching over here to blogger sometime in 2011 (I maintained dual blogs for different things for a while). 

That said, I'll probably not be continuing #musicmonday on a regular basis, mostly because I find myself listening to the same songs over and over so there's nothing really new to post. I keep going "hey, I really like this song" and then find that I've already posted it. 

I will, however, try to actually blog more regularly with updates about my life and my writing process, and the weird things I think about. 

One of the things I miss is doing my weekly #fireplace posts, though that's not something I really plan to resurrect. That was supposed to be replaced with the narratives tag, but that didn't work out either, because I didn't have a schedule to hold myself to. As much as I am a free-wheeling creative type, I need deadlines and schedules to get things done. Honestly!

All this blathering just to say that I'll try to blog more this year, and we'll see how long that lasts. I'm also tempted to do #teatuesdays which is this random thing I thought up over breakfast because I was like, eh, I have new tea I haven't talked about yet and I like the alliteration. (AAAAANNNND twitter search tells me it's a thing! hahaha)

And I should get back to my assignment that's due next week. HAH.
(Which I'm procrastinating by writing this blog, formatting the last three NutMags for ebook and planning for next year's NutMag 5th anniversary special. Also I finished watching season 1 of American Gods, which is like the first series I've watched in... years.)

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

#bookreview: Blackberry and Wild Rose | Sonia Velton

Blackberry and Wild RoseBlackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Spitalfields riots, Blackberry and Wild Rose tells the stories of an unhappy Huguenot wife, trying to both support her husband and live her dreams, and her English maid, trying to make something of herself.

It's a study in contrasts; rich against poor, churched against the unchurched, pious wife against former prostitute, noble worker against discontent firebrand, masters against journeymen. The two main female protagonists speak in their own voices, telling their story, their motivations and perspective on things. The classism is obvious, but subtle. The snobbery is downplayed, yet prominent. Neither Sara nor Esther can understand the other, but it's all too clear to the reader.

Esther Thorel falls in love with a noble journeyman weaver, Lambert, because he teaches her to weave; Sara Kemp falls in love with his rebellious colleague, Barnstaple, because there is fire in his eyes and his speech. Throughout the warp of love and honour, Velton weaves in the weft of discontent, jealousy, and malice. With each word, each line, each pass of the shuttle, you're drawn to its inevitable end. You know what's going to happen, there's no other way this story can go. Not with what you know of Esther and Sara, of Lambert and Barnstaple, of the way Elias Thorel sees the world.

All you can do is read on as the world crumbles.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Quercus Books via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Wednesday, 2 January 2019

#bookreview: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two by John Tiffany
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slightly conflicted about this. The beginning feels very disjointed, as if they're trying to squeeze in too much backstory. It skips through the years fairly quickly--skims, rather. It's really rather hit or miss. And then it somehow settles into the meat of the story midway through and gets better.

The Cursed Child supposedly centres on Albus Severus Potter, Harry Potter's middle child. He's trying to live up to his father's reputation, to the ease with which his older brother James is gliding through Hogwarts, whilst he is struggling with magic and with the shame of being a Potter in Slytherin. His only friend is Draco Malfoy's only son, Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius initially feels mostly like comic relief, but midway through, the play switches up and he carries the story instead.

These two boys, both failing to live up to their family names, try to change the course of personal history but instead find themselves facing choices that may very well destroy the whole wizarding world, undoing everything Harry Potter had done in the original series. This time though, it's not so much a story of the expectations that lie on the shoulders of one boy because of prophecy than it is an exploration of friendship and loyalty and how that changes people.

Reading the first bit of it a second time and working out the staging in my head made it fit together better though, so maybe by the time I finish the second read, it'll start working in my head. (Or maybe I should just go try to see the show.)

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Wednesday, 26 December 2018

#bookreview: To Best the Boys | Mary Weber

To Best the BoysTo Best the Boys by Mary Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All Rhen Tellur wants is to find a cure for her dying mother. But two things stand in her way: first, she's a Lower so no one is going to take her seriously as a scientist and second, she's a girl so no one's going to take her seriously as a scientist. There's only one way to get into university--to best the boys in Holm's annual scholarship competition, and then somehow convince the university to let her take the entrance exams.

To Best the Boys has shades of The Hunger Games in it--to win the full scholarship, the boys enter a labyrinth where they must defeat the levels, and each other, to emerge the winner. It's hinted that boys have died before, though only because they didn't play by the rules.

In some ways, the world feels briefly sketched--you don't get a full picture of Caldon, but you know that it's a dangerous place. Sirens and ghouls are bloodthirsty; it's best not to be out in the dark when the mist is about. There's magic in this world, but Weber never really tells us what it is or how it works. Does Holm perform real magic? Or are they just illusions? What truly happens in the Labyrinth? It's masks and illusions, rather like V for Vendetta: what's real and what's not?

Yet at the same time, you also feel that you don't need it fully sketched out--the problems they face seem too real, too much like the real world. There's a stark divide between the Uppers and the Lowers, where the ruling elite make decisions for the working poor without understanding the full impact of what they do. The anger the men of Pinsbury Port feel is all too real--the unthinking anger that fills us when we feel trapped by our circumstances, by the things that those entrusted with our welfare betray us.

Weber is at her best when she's tapping into Rhen's emotions; the awkwardness of youth and young love, anger at the injustice of life and societal expectations, the passion that informs her rash decisions and the strength she gains from true friends. As smart as Rhen is, she has her blind spots, especially when it comes to Lute Wilkes and Victor King.

The Labyrinth reveals the characters of the youth of Caldon, even as it forges them in the fire of its trials. And Holm stands in judgement of their worth.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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