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Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Fallen Hero Rises - My Second Novel is Ready for Beta Reading

Today I finished the "last" of my revisions on my second novel,  A Fallen Hero Rises. Last is in quotations because I know there's lots of work ahead but there's nothing else I can do to improve it.

What it needs now is fresh eyes. So it's off to beta readers. After that, more revisions. After those revisions are made, it's off to an editor and a proofreader (two very different things).

This is the second book I've completed in less than a year. And I'm well on my way with my third book (the sequel to Council of Peacocks). My writing process is getting much faster, more efficient. There is no better way to improve your creativity than to keep creating.

I also have to work on the synopsis of A Fallen Hero Rises. In some ways, that's the most annoying part of the writing process. Trying to summarize an entire books in a few paragraphs does not come naturally to me.So, what you'll see below is my first attempt. I'm sure it will be updated.


Tadgh Dooley wakes up on the planet Maghe Sihre with no memory of how he got there. He’s wounded, near death, in the care of a monastic group called the Brotherhood of Tyche. But he has more than that to worry about. The way he came to Maghe Sihre created a crack in an interdimensional prison called the Void. And something fell out of the Void: a powerful artifact called The Sword of Kassandra.

Tadgh is also more powerful than he suspects. He is Fod Sel-Onde, born with the ability to warp the fabric of reality.  Every time he uses his ability, the Void cracks open further.  If it cracks too much, the prisoners will slip out.  The results could be catastrophic.

Can Tadgh gain control over his power before it's too late? And what does the appearance of the Sword of Kassandra mean for the people of Maghe Sihre?

A Fallen Hero Rises is written for high school age and above. Tadgh is gay. I mention that only because I know some people have issues. This is not a gay novel. It's a fantasy novel in which one of the characters just so happens to be gay.

Why did I include a gay character? My first thought is: that's a stupid question. Gay people exist in the real world. Why shouldn't they exist in fiction. Then I calm down and say he needs to be gay because it's important for the story I need to tell.

To quote one of my heroes, Jane Espenson:

Click here to pick up my first book, Council of Peacocks on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Deadly Election by Arthur Crandon is a Strong, Believable Novel

Deadly ElectionDeadly Election by Arthur Crandon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a perfect example of how a good rewrite can greatly improve a book.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. The first time through, however, I noticed very significant grammar errors and weaknesses in the plot. I informed the author of my concerns. To his credit, he said he'd heard similar critiques from others. He let me know he was in contact with an editor and would be reworking the novel.I told him I would reserve my review until after reading the new edition.

I'm glad I did.


Three young and innocent youths awake one day in their remote village in the Northern Philippines. They could not know that the events of the day would change their lives, more than that - it would end their lives.

The day started well – breakfast, preparing for a fishing trip, the anticipation of an exciting day out – maybe with a good meal at the end of it. Along the way, they find a fortune - enough to keep them all in riches for many lifetimes.  Their naive misjudgments bring about their downfall – and start a chain of events that will change the course of history for the small South East Asian nation.

Within days, more lives will be lost and fortunes will change hands. A chain of consequences has been started which will spread like a spiders web and end in tragedy for many and triumph for a few


Deadly Election, in its current form, is a strong novel. It is based on real events and reads like non-fiction. That means it is very believable.

In the rewrite, the character of Chloe was greatly enhanced. She gives us a very human and relatively untainted view of this crime-filled, seedy world.

A word of caution: this is a very adult novel. There are graphic depictions of violence and violations.


I feel very privileged to have seen the novel in both iterations. If Arthur Crandon continues to grow like this, we can expect very good things from him in the future.

View all my reviews

Arthur Crandon on Twitter
Buy Deadly Election on Amazon

Review Black Hull - How to Completely Ruin a Book with Bad Dialogue

Black HullBlack Hull by Joseph A. Turkot
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like it. The cover was amazing. The book blurb about a man stuck on a ship being sucked into a black hole was fascinating.

Unfortunately, the book has almost nothing to do with the book blurb. That interesting lead in takes up less than a chapter before the book unravels in a random series of encounters that lead nowhere.


My main critique of Black Hull is how it deals with dialogue. Many chapters have large, extended sections without a line of exposition, description, or dialogue markers. They are all dialogue. Not even a “he said”. This makes it very difficult for the reader to follow who is saying what. It also left me very unattached to the characters because it was difficult to create a visual image of them or the action.

For example:

Chapter 17
“At the T-Jump?”
“How long?”
“Couple of days.”
“And how long after until you’ll reach Utopia?”
“I don’t know. Could be a month. I’ve got to stop off to do dad’s transfer.”
“Who’ll do that?”
“Cheapest? A droid on the West Rail Sector.”

This section goes on like this for several pages. What it’s missing is something to help the reader get a clear visual of who is saying what and what are they doing as they say it. Writers need to create a mental movie in the mind of the reader. This book fails to do that.

On a formatting note, there was no table of contents. This is a very helpful feature in ebooks and is an easy fix the author should consider.


I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, it would need a massive rewrite before I could give it anything but a one star.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ramping Up Tension - What I Learned from The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown


I love thrillers. In preparing for a rewrite on my upcoming novel Beyond the Black Sea I'm surrounding myself with action-packed mysteries. I've watched the first 2 seasons of Homeland and the first 6 seasons of 24. Most recently, I finished reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I want to learn the best (and the worst) ways to increase the "page turner" aspect of fiction.


The entire first act is wonderful. One of the easiest ways to increase tension is by creating deadlines. Dan Brown does in books what 24 does on television: everything happens in one day. There's also a real sense that there will be dire consequences if the hero doesn't move quickly enough. Reader feels like they are racing against the clock

This is very different than the sprawling epic fantasies of Tolkien, Jordan and Sanderson. Those stories take place over several weeks or months in dozens of different locations. Thrillers limit time and location.

Another easy way to ramp up tension is careful placement of your pauses. Breaking your chapters in the middle of action forces readers to move on to the next chapter. Make the end of each chapter a mini-cliffhanger to push the reader forward. Be cautious, however. Do this too often and you will exhaust your audience. Everyone needs a break once in a while.

Another thing that works is the character of Robert Langdon. He is instantly likable. There are easy ways to make the reader relate to your character. One is making them very good at their job. Another is making them the victim of undeserved persecution. Dan Brown does both with Langdon. The CIA character Sato is completely unreasonable and out to get Langdon. This makes us hate her and cheer on Langdon. We want him to get away from her but Dan Brown doesn't make it easy.

The same thing happens in 24. Jack Bauer is likable because he has the worst luck on the planet. The poor guy just can't catch a break. He's the best there is at what he does but the universe seems out to get him. 
Jack Bauer from 24


A few weeks ago I did one of those online surveys to determine which famous writer my prose is most like. It said I wrote like Dan Brown. I loved his first two books but never got around to the last two. I decided to check them out.

When I did, I realized I really DID write like Dan Brown. That includes all the things my editors and beta readers disliked. The Lost Symbol switches POVs constantly, sometimes in the middle of a scene. It reads like a novelization of a movie focusing more on the "scene" than characters. It helped me realize the downside of constantly changing POVs. I really didn't care about any of the characters. We never spend enough time with them to become interested. The only important thing is the story...which is a big no-no. I want to write character-driven stories. 

The ending was also a little flat. The big "reveal" of Mal'akh was a yawn. It was too obvious 1/2 way through the book who he was. If you want a believable, tense mystery you can't beat people over the head with sledgehammer-like clues. Even worse, when I learned the "secret" Mal'akh has been searching for, I wanted to throw my book. It was a complete let down after a very strong start.


To ramp up the tension, use carefully placed breaks in the action. End chapters on small cliffhangers to push the reader forward.

Limit your scope. Keep time, location, and POVs limited to increase the sense of claustrophobia and intensity. Make your characters likable by making them good at what they do. Then put them in a situation in which they are unfairly treated, persecuted, or surround them with ever-increasing danger.


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