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Friday, September 23, 2016

SPFBO II Semi-Finalists Update (by Mihir Wanchoo)


This post has been delayed for quite a while and for that I apologize to all the authors in my lot. With an infant, my wife and I have been truly strapped for time. It’s not an excuse but just the sole reason why I haven’t had much time to blog and do mini-reviews for all the books in my list. Previously I had selected the first semi-finalist over in my first update.

I’ve though selected six potential books from my lot and I hope to interview the authors as well do a proper review for the finalist I choose among the six semi-finalists:
 - Powers of the Six by Kristal Shaff 
 - Storm Without End by R.J. Blain 
 - Hondus Pointe by R. D. Henderson 
 - The Moonlight War by S.K.S Perry
 - The Dungeoneers by Jeffrey Russell
 - Nolander by Becca Mills

I would also like to point out 2 books which narrowly missed out on making the cut: The Tree of Souls by Katrina Archer & Vacui Magia by L. S. Johnson. They were both intriguing however I had to choose only 6 titles. I will try my best to review them and interview the authors as well.


Congratulations to the six FBC semifinalists and my commiserations to the remaining authors. These books were chosen because they all delivered interesting characters, a terrific story, humor (in some cases), romance in others & had just the right tinge of darkness as well. Overall they held my attention throughout and I wanted to read all the way to see how the story ended.

That was a crucial point for me and so these six titles made themselves shine above everyone else. Keep in mind though that this is just my opinion and some other reviewers might like other books than the ones which I’ve selected. I would like to wish the remaining 24 authors all best of luck for their writing career and future books and now on to the semi-finalists. Thank you for your patience with me and congratulations once again. I’ll be contacting you all soon with interview questions.

Monday, September 19, 2016

GIVEAWAY: The Bloodbound Trilogy by Erin Lindsey


Official Author Website
Read "Five Things I've Learned About War" by Erin Lindsey (guest post)
Read "Epic Fantasy: Dinosaur or dynamo? by Erin Lindsey (guest post)

The Bloodbound trilogy by Erin Lindsey has been a series that's has drawn great reviews while breaking a few tropes and embracing many to give us a story that has been entertaining and exciting. Erin Lindsey & Fantasy Book Critic are excited to be giving away one set of The Bloodbound trilogy to One Lucky Winner!!!

To enter, please send an email to fbcgiveaway@gmail.com with your Name, Mailing Address, and the subject: BLOOD. Giveaway will end on 26th September, 12:01 PM and is open to participants in USA & Canada only!

Thank you for entering and Good Luck!

GIVEAWAY RULES:
 1) Open To participants in USA & Canada only
 2) Only One Entry Per Household (Multiple Entries Will Be Disqualified)
 3) Must Enter Valid Email Address, Mailing Address + Name
 4) No Purchase Necessary
 5) Giveaway will end on 26th September, 12:01 PM
 6) Winner Will Be Randomly Selected and Notified By Email
 7) Personal Information Will Only Be Used In Mailing Out the Books To The Winner

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Paper and Fire: The Great Library Book 2" by Rachel Caine (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)



 Read FBC's Review of Ink and Bone Here
Visit Rachel Caine's Website Here 


OVERVIEW:
Let the world burn.

With an iron fist, the Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion and, in the name of the greater good, forbidding the personal ownership of books.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower, doomed to a life apart from everything she knows.

After embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, and the Library, which is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control

FORMAT: Paper and Fire is the second novel in The Great Library Series. In order to best enjoy it, it is essential to read Ink and Bone first.

Paper and Fire is a YA fantasy/alternative historical fiction/dystopia/steampunk novel. It stands at 357 pages and was published July 5, 2016 by New American Library.

ANALYSIS: Rachel Caine's book Ink and Bone was another huge favorite of mine. It was a novel that had a very Harry Potter-ish feel to it, but it still had a unique feel. Everything from the concept and loveable character, to the world building was captivating. I was so in love with the book that I honestly could not wait for the second book, Paper and Fire to come out.

Considering how high my expectations were, the immediate question you should ask yourself is "Does Paper and Fire live up to the hype and expectations placed on it from the first book?". My answer would be "Sort of".

Paper and Fire is the ultimate definition of a middle book. The first novel, Ink and Bone, was so unique and surprising that it was a pure delight to read. It made readers want to love it. Paper and Fire, while a wonderful novel, doesn't have that sparkle and shine that comes with a first book in a series.

The biggest issue with Paper and Fire is its plot progression and speed. There is a lot of action going on during Paper and Fire. The characters are arranging rescue missions, running from enemies, and trying to stay ahead of The Library. Unfortunately, there is this feel of too much action.

The characters are always running around doing something or exploring a new place or looking for some clue. While this might seem like plot progression, there is very stagnant feel to the book. It is almost like all the characters did was run around and not a whole lot was accomplished. In fact, I ended the book and my first thought was 'We didn't really get much done'.

The entire second book is basically one giant rescue mission. There are some tidbits here and there that further a character's development or progress the plot a little, but not enough. It really had a feel of a lot of running around and not a lot of progression.

I will say the last few chapters opened up a whole new possibility for the next book and a lot happened in the end, but there were still a lot of missed opportunities throughout the book. Let's just say that there is a cliffhanger at the end and it will definitely leave fans of the series waiting in anticipation for book three.

Even though it was a rushed book and basically one giant rescue mission, it doesn't mean the book was bad. It just didn't have the appeal the first book did. There are still a lot of things I loved about the book – the idea of who controls what when it comes to knowledge and books, the whole portrayal that reading physical books is better than a screen on a tablet, and the whole idea that using technology to store information could result in some very important information being wiped away if the higher ups don't agree with it.

Overall, Paper and Fire was a fun read. It didn't have the wowing power the first book did in the series, but it wasn't bad. There is a lot to look forward to with this series and I honestly cannot wait until book three.  
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ibenus by Seth Skorkowsky (reviewed by C.T. Phipps)


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Dämoren
Read The Bookie Monster review of Hounacier
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Seth Skorkowsky
Read Building The Perfect Revolver by Seth Skorkowsky (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Raised in the swamps and pine forests of East Texas, Seth Skorkowsky gravitated to the darker sides of fantasy, preferring horror and pulp heroes over knights in shining armor. His debut novel, Dämoren , was published in 2014 as book #1 in the Valducan series; it was followed by Hounacier in 2015. Seth has also released two sword-and-sorcery rogue collections with his Tales of the Black Raven series. When not writing, Seth enjoys cheesy movies, tabletop role-playing games, and traveling the world with his wife.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search for answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an internet group intent on exposing them.

Victoria, who belongs to this group, must desperately play both sides to not only protect herself, but Allan, whom she has begun to love. Ibenus, however, has other plans. Ibenus is the third book in the Valducan series, for which Skorkowsky was shortlisted as "Best Debut Author" in the 2014 Reddit Stabby Awards.

FORMAT/INFO: Ibenus is an alternating persona novel with 410 pages. It is the third volume in the Valducan series but capable of being read on its own. It was released on September 13th 2016 in paperback and e-book format by Ragnarok Publications.

ANALYSIS: I'm a self-admitted fan of the Valducan series so I pre-ordered my copy and devoured it within the first day. The series is about a world full of monsters, demons, and other horrors which cannot be killed unless by a series of sentient holy weapons. Each book chronicles a different weapon and wielder's adventures.

This time around, we have the titular khopesh, a wielder, and his student. There's Allan Havlock, a seasoned demon hunter, and disgraced police officer Victoria Martin who have a relationship disrupted by the fact Allan is training her. Victoria dislikes the hold Ibenus has on her mentor while also disliking the secrecy of the Valducan organization.

Ibenus benefits from a more morally ambiguous conflict than the typical humans versus demons. A hacktivist named Tommy D has devoted himself to exposing the existence of monsters to the world with Victoria initially on his side. Actually, despite the author giving an argument against it, I'm 100% on Tommy D's side. Unfortunately, the novel takes for granted the audience will on the Valducan's side and portrays Tommy D in a much harsher light than I think the narrative really deserves.

Despite this, I very much enjoyed this novel as the questioning of the lead's practices is a ballsy move for an author. I also enjoyed the insight into how the Valducan organization recruits and trains their operative. I also liked the depiction of one of the trainees getting in over his head and meeting a fate which reminds us how dangerous their cause is. As the narrative lampshades, the Valducan group sounds very much like a cult when you describe a bunch of secretive demon-hunters working behind the scenes to save the world.

There's a few flaws in the narrative like fact Allan and Victoria's relationship seems ridiculously fast. It’s even commented on as such in the text. This is due to the supernatural effect of the holy weapons having an effect on their mind but, justified in text or not, seems like a narrative cheat. Likewise, I felt the ending was a bit darker than the author intended with the heroine's triumph feeling more like her corruption.

Allan and Victoria are both likable characters with decent chemistry. So, while their relationship progressed too quickly, I actually wanted to see them together. I also liked the guest appearance of Matt Hollis from the original Dämoren novel. I hope he'll get a second novel showcasing him and his magical gun but his bit here was quite entertaining. I really enjoyed Tommy D as well. While dangerous in his actions, he also felt like a man trying desperately to do the right thing and I tend to side with his reasoning over the heroes' own.

CONCLUSION: Like all previous Valducan novels, the action is great and the world-building is excellent. This is a series for those who enjoy. There's excellent character-buildng as well with a really intriguing moral conflict at the base. It may be a messy moral conflict I don't feel is properly resolved but it's one that has me chomping to buy the next book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

GUEST POST: The 2 Most Important Questions In Science Fiction & Fantasy by Dianna Sanchez


As a child, I never asked questions. Questions were a sign of weakness. If you had to ask, you didn’t already know, so you were at the very least ignorant. At worst, it would turn out to be a stupid question, and then you were mercilessly ridiculed. It was always safer just to pretend you knew what the hell was going on.

So when I was nine years old and the children’s librarian at the Ernie Pyle branch of the Albuquerque Public Library took me by the hand, led me into the adult SF section, and placed a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in my hand, it never occurred to me to ask who J.R.R. Tolkien was or which grand literary tradition he was drawing from. And when I began devouring the entire section in alphabetical order – Asimov, Beagle, Bradbury, Clarke – I never questioned the fact that all the names on those spines were Anglo names. I just assumed that science fiction and fantasy were Anglo territory, like so much else in my life.

It wasn’t until I went off to college at MIT that I learned the value, the utter necessity of asking questions. At about the same time I began, painfully, to speak up in calculus, I discovered black science fiction – Butler, Delany, Ellison. Someone pressed Love in the Time of Cholera into my hands, and I discovered that Hispanics write beautiful, mystical, mind-bending novels, but for some reason these were called magic realism rather than fantasy or science fiction.


I began to ask the obvious questions I should have been asking all along: "where are the Hispanic SF writers? Why are there no Hispanic characters in SF?" In the late 80s, I finally found Diane Duane’s So You Want to Be a Wizard with its Hispanic protagonist, Kit Rodriguez. His partner in magic, while not Hispanic, had a Hispanic name, Juanita. Delighted, I thought, Oh, good. Now we’ll start seeing more Hispanic representation in speculative fiction. Well, not so much. It wasn’t until Junot Díaz won the Pulitzer in 2008 for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that other Hispanics began to establish a presence in genre fiction. Now Daniel José Older and Carmen Maria Machado and a small horde of other Latin@ writers are gaining recognition, along with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. I applaud and support their efforts.

The name on my driver’s license is Jenise Aminoff. It would be easy to just use that name. As some of my Clarion classmates have pointed out, it’s a great name for an SF author. It’s got “amino” in it, and it would get shelved right next to Asimov. But I’ve chosen to publish my first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, using my middle name, Dianna, and my mother’s maiden name, Sanchez. Dianna Sanchez is as much me as Jenise Aminoff. Moreover, it’s a side of me that most people would never guess, unless they asked.

When I attended in Clarion in 1995, I really wanted to establish myself as a Hispanic SF writer. One of my admission stories was called “A Recipe for Martian Enchiladas” about Hispanic farmers on Mars. The story I have in the 2017 Young Explorers’ Adventure Guide, “Weeds,” can trace its convoluted ancestry to that admission story. In it, twelve-year-old Lupe, who was born on Mars, visits her family in New Mexico, where persistent drought destroyed all farming practice and where Lupe feels like an alien within her own family and culture. That was my own experience; Hispanic women aren’t supposed to study physics or write science fiction.

I have two daughters, and I want them to walk into the library and see Hispanic names on the shelves. I want them to find Hispanic characters in the books they read. I want that for all children, especially the ones who don’t ask questions, so that they’ll know that science fiction and fantasy is written by all kinds of people, anyone who dreams, anyone who asks those very important questions: “What if?” and “Why not?”


The 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide is an anthology of 24 science fiction short stories for middle grade readers. It’s currently on Kickstarter - you can back it here!  Find more information about Dianna’s debut novel, A Witch’s Kitchen at Dreaming Robot Press.


Official Author Website

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Dianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop and Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, and former editor at New Myths magazine. Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two daughters.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"The Long Game: Fixer Series 2" by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)






Read FBC's Review of The Fixer Here 
Visit Jinnfer Lynn Barnes website Here 
 
OVERVIEW: The Kendricks help make the problems of the Washington elite disappear…but some secrets won’t stay buried.

For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington, D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate’s campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets.

Meanwhile, Tess’s guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can—and cannot—be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she's about to discover firsthand that power always comes with a price.

FORMAT: The Long Game is the sequel to The Fixer. It is a contemporary YA political thriller. It stands at 360 pages and was published June 7, 2016 by Bloomsbury US Childrens.

ANALYSIS: Last year, The Fixer was a surprise find. It was thrilling, exciting, fast-paced and left me totally speechless. In fact, it was one of my favorite novels of 2015 even though it was technically a political thriller and not a genre I tend to gravitate towards. The Long Game is the long awaited sequel to The Fixer and it doesn't disappoint.

The Long Game starts with Tess being asked to help one of her fellow students run for student body president. This seemingly normal task is further complicated when an inappropriate photo appears of the candidate and Tess is left to sort out who took the photo, how it came to light, and whether or not it is real or a setup to get rid of the individual running for student body president.

While Tess is trying to lead a seemingly normal life as a teenager, other more complex issues start to arise. An attempted terrorist attack occurs at the local hospital and it appears as if Tess's guardian is in the midst of the scandal. Tess tries to stay out of it, but she gets dragged further and further into the complex world of politics when it appears as if her guardian is investigating a dangerous terrorist organization. What follows is a tale of political intrigue, mystery, and intense action.

The Long Game is very similar to The Fixer. The writing style of Jennifer Lynn Barnes makes it extremely easy to just jump into the novel and feel totally immersed. Even though it had been over a year since the first novel was published, it didn't feel like things missed a beat. It was really easy to catch up on past event (just enough info is provided to refresh your memory but not drag down the story) while also instantly connecting with the characters.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes does an amazing job – again – of creating a detailed political thriller. It wasn't so complex that readers got confused, but it wasn't overly predictable. There were plenty of times where I wasn't 100% certain where the story was going and just went along for the ride. After reading close to 200 books a year, it is hard to find books that are unpredictable, this one was.

One of the things that I liked about The Long Game was the opportunity to explore the relationship between Tess and her guardian. The Fixer introduced a lot of elements that complicated the relationship, but it wasn't really explored. The Long Game allowed readers to explore the relationship a little closer and get a better understanding of how Tess and her guardian interact, where things stand, and how they feel for each other.

I loved The Long Game. Things are a bit uncertain at the moment whether there will be a third book in the series, but I truly believe there is room for one. I would welcome a third book.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, action packed, well-thought out political thriller, The Long Game is the book for you. It is, in many ways, even better than the first novel – The Fixer.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"The Gilded Cage" by Lucinda Gray (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)





OVERVIEW: After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can't accept that her brother's death was an accident.

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There's a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother's killer claim her life, too?

FORMAT: The Gilded Cage is a standalone YA gothic historical fiction novel. It takes place in 1820s England.

The Gilded Cage stands at 245 pages and was published by Henry Hold and CO. (BYR) on August 2, 2016.

ANALYSIS: While sci-fi/fantasy is my go-to genre, I enjoy a good historical fiction novel every now and then. The Gilded Cage caught my attention with a mysterious gothic cover and a plot summary that seemed unique and intriguing. Unfortunately, looks – at least when it comes to the cover – can be deceiving.

There isn't anything particularly wrong with The Gilded Cage, but there isn't anything particularly spectacular either. Everything from the entire story and how it unfolded to the world-building and characters are just 'alright'. There isn't one thing in this novel that makes it stand out from other historical novels.

When I read books, especially historical fiction, I want to feel as if I am transported back in time. I want to feel like I am walking alongside the characters, experiencing their experiences. That didn't happen in The Gilded Cage.

Let's start with the characters. Our main character, Katherine, is a feisty 16 year old American who finds herself suddenly uprooted and living in 1820s England. She was forced to move from her farm in America after her and her brother inherited an entire estate in England a huge fortune.

There is a lot of potential with how Katherine could be portrayed, but she fell flat. This could be because the novel is written with a quick pace in mind, so there wasn't much time to develop our main character. Unfortunately, I just felt like Katherine was a vessel for the story and there wasn't enough time to form a connection.

Of course, main characters are sometimes only as good as their secondary character or sidekicks. There were a lot of secondary characters throughout The Gilded Cage, but they were one dimensional. If it had been a play, the characters would have run on stage, said a line or two, and walked off.

Most of the interactions with Katherine, our main character, and the secondary characters occurred 'off book'. For example, Katherine becomes really good friends – the 1820s – version of BFFs with a girl named Jane. There was one scene with Jane at a party, which was the first time they met, then all of a sudden they are BFFs and Jane is lending moral support and they are connected to each other.

Another example, Jane and Katherine have a huge fight that actually results in violence. Katherine leaves in a huff and Jane is totally upset. A few chapters later, Jane is back and supporting Katherine because they kissed and made up, only it never was shown to the reader at all. It was just 'well we made up, accept it and it happened off page'.

It was the use of these off scene interactions that made the book feel flat. It gave me the feeling as if I was an outsider who wasn't allowed to see the good parts of the show or something.

There is a romantic angle brought into Gilded Cage, but the lack of character development made it difficult to buy into the romance. Katherine practically insta-loves almost any man in the story. There is a farm boy in America, a handyman of sorts, a lawyer, and that is all in a 250 page book. The final romance came out of nowhere. There wasn't any sign that it was developing and before you know it, two characters who had a total of 4 interactions the entire story are proclaiming they love each other until the end of time.

Another topic that needs to be discussed is the plot. The entire story was predictable. I knew who did it, what they did, and why they did it about 20% to 30% into the novel. There was one tiny 'twist' about 80% into the novel, but it wasn't all that surprising. The only reason I was caught off guard by it was because I didn't think the novel would tackle such a thing so close to the end of the novel. (Note: Sorry for being vague, I don't want to give details because it is perhaps one of the one different aspects of the novel).

The final question to ask is 'was Gilded Cage bad'. No. Gilded Cage isn't a bad novel. It is, however, one that I would say is easily forgettable. There wasn't one thing that made it stand out from other novels. A little more character development and little more world building would have probably elevated this novel and made it more enjoyable.

Overall, Gilded Cage is a fast paced, standalone YA historical novel. If it seems interesting to you and you have some time to spare, I would say go for it and try it out. The writing is decent, it just doesn't have that it power to stand out from so many other amazing novels out there.
Thursday, September 8, 2016

Interview with Rachel Aaron (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website  
Order “No Good Dragon Goes UnpunishedHERE
Read the first two chapters HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic and thank you for taking the time. How does it feel to be more than halfway through your first self-published series? 

RA: Very good. I am a chronic planner/project starter, and while I love my dragons to death, I already have a million other ideas rattling around in my head I want to get to. I’ll be very happy when I can finish making Julius’s life hell and move on to tormenting another poor character :). 

Q] When you first made the decision to self-publish the Heartstrikers you must have had some apprehension about the whole endeavor. But now looking back at the spectacular reception the books have received as well as the hard work you’ve put into making these books as fine a product as traditionally published work. What do you think are some of the highlights in your achievements? 

RA: The fact that my fans see these books as equal, or even superior to my trad published work. This was my primary goal when I embarked on this self publishing adventure. I wanted to prove to my fans that the quality in my work came from me, not from the publisher (not that the editing I received from Orbit didn’t help me a lot, it absolutely did, but it’s my blood on the page at the end of the day, yanno?). I was very aware of the “self published books are crap” stigma that we’re all still laboring under, and I was determined to do every single thing I could to show people that just because I was doing everything myself did not mean these books were any less my books than my previous series.

… And considering Heartstrikers is my best reviewed, best selling, and my most award winning series, I’d say I succeeded! But it just goes to prove that quality in writing starts with the author. If we aren’t dedicated to producing the absolute best books possible, no amount of editing, polish, or money from outside sources can fix it. We’ve all seen amazingly slick, beautifully published books that just fall apart once you start reading them. Likewise, we’ve all had that one book that didn’t look like anything special, but turned out to be live changing!

Of course, my goal was to look good and be amazing to read, which is why I busted my butt getting great covers, but you get the idea. Quality comes from the author, not from anywhere else, and it’s why great books can blossom anywhere.

Q] Your blog has had a lot of very informative posts from you and Travis about the writing aspect, the business aspect and a whole bunch more. Where do you guys get the energy and inspiration for these? Also what has been the feedback on some of these posts?

RA:
Don’t tell anyone, but we’re both giant publishing and story nerds (Spoiler, right?). The posts you see are the same stuff we’ve been talking about, researching, and doing at home for the last ten years, just cleaned up and organized so other people can read them.

For example, Travis has been doing publishing math since the very start of my career. It’s how we figured out when I could safely quit my day job and how we made the decision to take the plunge and self-publish. (Note, if you’re interested in the money math of publishing, we have a whole series about it called Let’s Talk Numbers for you to nerd away on!)

Trav and I have always found these sort of information heavy, super specific posts really useful when we read them on other people’s sites, so it was just really a matter of getting enough experience before we started posting them on our own. We initially put our numbers and business stuff up on the blog as a way of paying it forward in thanks for all the authors who shared their numbers and gave us the information we needed to make our own vital career decisions, but the posts were really popular, so we just kept making them.

On that note, I’ve also been posting writing advice posts since pretty much forever, though I didn’t actually get serious about it until my “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day” went super viral. Between that post and our numbers posts, the whole thing just kind of fed on itself, and that’s how we got to where we are!

All that said, I really am much more of a fiction writer than a blogger. Stories give me energy, but writing nonfic stresses me out even when I’m excited about what I’m writing. Thankfully, Trav’s the opposite, and being the awesome dude that he is, he stepped up to help me out. This has really been good for the blog since it’s no longer subject to my whims. Frankly, though, we’re still kind of amazed people take the time to read all of our mathy posts. Thank you all so much, and we’re super glad you’re enjoying the content! Let’s nerd out together!


Q] Let’s talk about NGDGU, this book set up some pretty intriguing things while also delivering on the sub-plots that had been set into motion within the previous two titles. Considering this book is the middle volume of the series, how important was it to develop it properly?

RA: This was a much quieter book than the first two. This isn’t to stay it doesn’t have it’s share of action--they’re still dragons after all--but I had a lot of character ground to cover to get to where I wanted to be for the end of the series, and this book felt like a good place to do it. As the third in a five book series, it’s bridge between the survival-based, “OMG look at this crazy world while trying not to die!” action of the first two and the even bigger “OMG how do we solve all of these huge thorny problems?” meta-plot action that will be the series’ climax. I knew this going in, and so I decided to really focus on Julius’s family drama and getting all the characters well into their final arcs so that they would be the people I needed them to be to face the challenges ahead, which is all just a fancy way of saying Julius needed to grow up :)

Ultimately speaking, I am very happy with where everyone fell out, especially the insane drama of the last three chapters. Let’s just say that those are events I’ve been planning for a long time now, and it was a delightful, cruel pleasure to finally roll them out! I’ve also been extremely happy to see so much reader love for Chelsie after this book. She is one of my absolute favorite characters in this series, but because she was so secretive, it was a real challenge for me to get it out there for readers. Honestly, a huge part of this book was finding ways to make Chelsie talk. Fortunately, Julius is good at that, and I’m quite pleased with how everything ended up.

Q] With the second book OGDDA, you had mentioned as to how much re-writes were involved and how you had to drastically restructure the plot. What was your experience with the writing for NGDGU, were there a lot of re-writes as well or did you stick to your original outline for this book?

RA:
Thankfully, this book went pretty much to plan. It’s a hugely complicated book, so it was still longer than I liked, but other than there being a lot of them, all the pieces fell into place more or less as planned. This is partially because I worked out a new plotting method that I used to great success (and that I’ll be detailing on the blog once I figure out how to explain it to other people), and partially because I solved most of the series’ major problem back in the hair pulling over book 2. Always good to know where you’re going!

Now I just have to pull it off again for book 4. Knock on wood, things are going smoothly so far. Everyone’s story is falling into place, and I’ve got three books under my belt with these characters, so I know them very well. That said, you never know when you’re going to get kicked off the rails, so I’m just going to shut up now before I jinx myself.

Q] Talking about NGDGU, Marci’s plotline goes onto a whole new level (literally and figuratively). What lead you to do what you did? What are your thoughts on the reader’s feedback (so far) after they read the climax?

RA: Ooooh boy, that ending. I spent a lot of nights fretting over how I’d decided to end this book. From a story perspective, I knew it was the right choice, but reader feedback was…dramatic. I guess it’s the good kind of dramatic since everyone desperately wanted to read the next book the moment they finished, but this is by far the hardest ending I’ve ever done. I’m a nice person, I don’t like being mean to my characters. At the same time, though, drama’s what we’re here for.

I actually wrote an entire blog post about how being an author pretty much requires you to be a bit of a sadist. I don’t take actual joy in my reader’s suffering (I’m not a monster), but I still love getting these kind of reactions because it means I made you feel something. If I’m going back and forth between two potential endings, I will always choose the most exciting, dramatic, gut wrenching path. Sometimes that means ending things in ways that make readers write you profanity laced, emotional roller coaster emails at 4am, but those are the emails that warm the cockles of my heart the most. Not because I enjoy seeing readers suffer, but because making someone legitimately care enough to shed real tears over fake people is one of the highest pinnacles we can achieve as writers, and we don’t get there by pulling our punches.


Speaking of Marci’s plot in particular, I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say it needed to happen. Despite being hyper confident, Marci’s spent this entire series punching up against enemies who are powers of ten above her. For her to legitimately and believably hold her own in the fights to come, she had to level up, and great power cannot be earned without great sacrifice.

Also, from a narrative perspective, Marci is my vehicle for the story of human magic. In a world of dragons and spirits, she has always been my “hell yeah, human ingenuity!” character. No matter how much power she gains, that is never going to change. She is always going to be in over her head because that’s the mortal’s lot in a world of immortals. Everything that’s happened is just my way of giving her more tools, and for a clever girl like Marci, that’s all she needs. ‘Cause let’s be honest, she’s the best dragon in the series!

Q] This book is also about Chelsie and we get a spectacular look at her past and how Bethesda roped her in. Will we see further clarifications about her actions in China? Will we get to know more about the Chinese dragons and their way of life?

RA: Oh yeah, Chelsie is most definitely NOT out of the woods. She still has a giant wall to climb to reach her happy ending. Let’s just say there’s going to be a lot of Chinese dragons in book 4!

Q] You have previously mentioned about Julius and his need to stick to his ideals. In NGDGU he faces some horrific backlash because of his morality and his ideals. How hard is to write such a character and what particular issues did you face when writing about Julius in this book?

RA: Julius is one of the most frustrating characters I have ever written. I love him to pieces, but my own personality is a lot closer to Devi Morris from my Paradox trilogy than it is to Mr. Nice Dragon. My instinct for problems is to blast right through them to my goal, but Julius has all these things he won’t do. He won’t kill, he won’t be cruel, he won’t be ruthless, and he has to take the moral high ground every damn time! And while those things are all core to his character and the reasons I wrote him the way I did in the first place (because I do believe you don’t have to be cruel to get ahead and that being kind is always better in the end than stomping on people), sometimes I really wish I could just have him shoot someone and get on with the plot.

But the biggest challenge of having a pacifist character isn’t just that won’t shoot annoying characters for the sake of plot, it’s that you can never make anything easy. The ultimate story of Julius in these books is reform. He’s trying to change his family and ultimately all of dragon culture away from this hyper aggressive, “the strong eat, the weak are meat” mentality so that no one else has to suffer the abuse he did. That’s an incredibly noble goal, but when you have a character who won’t kill to get what he wants, everything becomes 1000000000x harder. After all, if there was an easy peaceful solution that made everyone happy, someone would have done it ages ago and we wouldn’t have these problems.

Julius’s main power in the series is his ability to think outside the dragon box and come up with new solutions to old problems. But like any reformer, he’s constantly butting heads with the entrenched old guard who found hard for their positions at the top of the heap and don’t want change. In a normal novel with a normal main character, we’d just fight this out, overthrow the old kings with a bloody revolution, and establish a new order. But Julius can’t do that, so I have to find other ways for him to win without compromising his ideals, and if he’s going to do that with integrity and without losing the reader’s respect, then he has to be willing to put everything on the line for his ideals over and over again. He has to be willing to take that dagger through the heart and still keep going because his dream of a better future is worth dying for.

Conviction is one of the most respectable and lovable traits you can give a character. That’s extra vital for a dragon like Julius whose only real weapons are conviction and cleverness. He’s just so dang good, it would be so easy for him to become a nice guy Marty Stu and lose the reader’s respect, which is why the plot has to punish him for it over and over again. We respect people for trying, not winning, and no one tries harder than Julius, which is why, despite being a very atypical hero, he’s one of the most popular main characters I’ve ever written.

Or at least that’s my theory.

All that said, the Julius we see at the end of this book is a very different dragon from one we started with. He grows up a lot in this novel, and not always in the healthiest ways. Again, no spoilers, but he’s carrying a lot of emotional baggage into book four, and he’s going to have to find a way to deal with that before he can become the dragon he needs to be to win in the way he wants to.

But watching beloved characters grow and change and suffer and break and put themselves back together is the entire point of a series, right? And this is me, so I promise there’s a happy ending. I don’t do tragedies, though I can’t promise things won’t get perilously close before the final book. Gotta keep you on the edge of your seat ;)

Q] So far Bob has been the character doing the most in the least visible way. Will we get to see a book focusing on him?

RA: Oh yes. One of the themes running through the series is that this isn’t actually Julius’s story. It’s Bob’s. He’s the dragon behind the curtain, and you’d better believe he’s got an end goal all his own. We already saw him put things into motion in a very serious way at the end of this book, and that will only continue through books 4 and 5. In fact, the fifth book is the only one in the whole series that’s always had a title. I’m calling it Last Dragon Standing, and Bob’s going to be the one on the cover. Make of that what you will :D



Q] What is your series plan now? At the start of the series you had mentioned it was going to be 5 books but then a few months ago you amended it to 4. Is that still the case?

RA: Nope, I was wrong. It really looked at the end of book 3 like I was only going to have enough meta plot for one more novel, but now that I’m actually writing book 4, I’ve realized that there’s absolutely no way I can cover all this ground. Not if I don’t want the thing to be 300,000 words, anyway. So I’ve gone back to 5, which is my preferred series length anyway. Four books just feels awkward to me!

With any luck, book 4 (which doesn’t actually have a title yet since I didn’t think I’d be writing it) will hopefully be out at the beginning of 2017 with book 5 also coming out that summer. I am determined to wrap this series up with a giant bang and on time so you guys can read and I can move on to all the other books I want to write!

Q] What might be the next book about? Will we get to see the fallout from this one? Can you tell us what might be the potential title for it?

RA: The next book will most definitely be all about the fallout from this one while also creating fallout of its own. We’re in the meta level climax now, and things are rolling. Algonquin’s on the war path, the world’s being shaken in all directions, the Chinese dragons are coming to deal with Bethesda’s mess, and it’s going to be great! You thought things were bad before? I have not yet begun to bring down the hammer!

(Pause for evil author cackling.)

Moving on. As I mentioned above, I don’t have a title for book 4 yet, but if anyone here has any good dragon idioms they’d like to share, I’m all ears. Seriously, someone think of something clever for me! Please?

Q] So far every series you have written has been in a different genre and a new world/universe. What are your plans for this world once this series is done? Will you be starting on a new series or will you be writing a sequel to those which you have finished?

RA: I’d love to say I have a solid plan, but the answer to this question changes pretty much every week. I have a lot of great ideas kicking around including a High Fantasy YA, a new SciFi series that my Paradox readers will LOVE (seriously, it’s awesome), a really unique Historical Fantasy quasi-Romantic Mystery thing that I’m obsessed with (and might have already written 40k on, Bad author!). I even have a new series set in the DFZ after the end of Heartstrikers, just in case you were still hungry for more dragons and spirits!

Which of these ultimately gets chosen will depend on where my career is when Heartstrikers is over and which stories actually work once I start writing them. (Never a guarantee. Best plans of mice and men and all that.) Whatever I write, though, it will be genre, it will be fun, and it’ll most likely be self-published.

Beyond that, though, who knows! I pick my writing projects based off what I think is my best story at the time. It’s not always the smartest business decision—a far better plan would be to pick one genre and stick to it--but I’ve never been someone who can write to market. No matter how business focused I am in every other aspect of publishing, when it comes down to the actual writing, I have to follow my inspiration. I have to love it with all my heart, or else I just can’t do it.

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions, any parting thoughts for your multitude of fans worldwide especially about when we can look forward to book 4?

RA: If I keep the pace I’m at now, we should see book 4 in early 2017! It’ll hopefully be slightly shorter than No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, because 170,000 words is ridiculous, but it’s me, so no promises. And for everyone who was devastated by the end of book 3, don’t despair! Book 4 is going to make you a lot happier…and then maybe more upset, but at least happier to start. Also, if you’re an audio book fan, the Audible edition of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished comes out September 13 and will be available for Whispersync! Yay!

Thank you so so so much for having me! These were wonderful questions, and I had (as always) the best time answering them. If you haven’t tried my books, you can find all of them at my website, which is also where you can find a link to my blog, posters of my beautiful dragon covers, and my contact form if you want to yell at me about the ending of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. It’s okay, I’m here for you. We’ll get through this together!

Thank you again for letting me take over your blog and for reading my stuff. I’m so so so glad you’ve enjoyed it! I hope you like the final two books just as much!

❤ Rachel

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