Book Review – Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher

Well. Here I am. Writing a book review for the first time in months. Huh.

Gotta say, this is weird. But it feels damn good. If you’re keeping up on my Goodreads page, then you know that I’ve been reading up a storm the last few days. I don’t plan on slowing down, either.

Also, I had a bit of a breakthrough on the fanfic while I was in the shower today (of course), so I should make some serious progress on it over the next week or so.

My aunts have been staying with us this whole week, camped out in my writing room, so things have been a bit out of sorts for me. Even now  I’m typing this from the kitchen table, listening to Incubus in my headphones while Trevor plays his video games in his office. I didn’t realize how used to my routine I’d become, but man, this week has put it into perspective.

I started a new short story, and it’s really rough right now. I’m not sure if it’ll ever turn into more than some weird little tale, but I had a really great time writing it, so that seems good enough for now. I’ve also been doing a bit of research on the requirements for membership with the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association) which then spiraled out into all kinds of interesting searches about publishers, agents, and magazines with open submissions.

So, long story short, my brain is kicking back into writing mode, and I couldn’t be happier.

Now that you’ve got the short version of my thoughts these last few days, have a book review! This is the part where I tell you that there are spoilers below…

Dead_Beat
This book took me entirely too long to read. I started it as a digital audiobook on loan from the library back at the beginning of April. I was in the height of my Mass Effect playing then, so the poor recording was left neglected except for when I had a migraine. The digital loans aren’t renewable, and of course there were a bunch of holds on it, so I couldn’t get the audiobook again. I told myself that, since I owned the paperback, I’d just commit to finishing it the old-fashioned way.

Four months later I finally cracked it open and finished it in a couple of days. Because it was good! I know there’s no point in being upset with myself or trying to feel guilty about my sabbatical, but damn. I could have been so much farther in the series by now!

In this installment, Dresden is tasked with fighting off the Disciples of Kemmler, a notoriously evil necromancer whose acolytes are all vying for Godhood on a particularly stormy  Halloween. To make matters worse, Mavra, of the Black Court Vampires, also wants the “Word of Kemmler”, the necromancer’s book that all the Disciples are after. Within the book lies a ritual for calling forth the Erlking, lord of the Wild Hunt, and unlocks power that would bequeath enough power to make one a God.

So, a typical Thursday night for Harry.

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Cover art for Wizard at Large, an omnibus of Blood Rites and Dead Beat, by Dan dos Santos.

 

But, shit gets pretty intense, pretty freaking fast. There’s necromancy galore, with zombies and spirits and ghouls running rampant. Butters, the coroner, tags along with Harry the whole time, and Thomas and Mouse are large players as well; a full cast of my favorite people.

Murphy is conveniently elsewhere for the duration of the novel, and I’m excited to see how her Hawaiian vacation with Kincaid went. It was obvious in the beginning of the novel that she wanted Harry to be jealous or to try and stop her, but he’s Dresden. He didn’t do any of that even though he really wanted to. He respects Murph way too much to audibly question her romantic entanglements.

Which… come on! Just kiss already!

Anyway, nothing is ever easy for Harry, and this book in particular put the wizard through the wringer. The Red Court did some dirty fighting to deliver a crippling blow to the White Council, almost completely decimating the Wardens. It was really cool to see the Wardens in action, and one in particular, Ramirez, was a new favorite character. Of course, that means his life is in immediate danger, because I like him way more than I should. Sorry, Ramirez.

Also, Butters gets ragged on by Thomas the whole book for being a coward, and then does some insanely badass shit in order to save Harry, including riding on the back of a resurrected Tyrannosaurus Rex whilst using his one-man polka suit to keep a drum beat.

 

Because Polka will never die.

And behind all of this is the longer arc of the war between the White Council and the Red Court, and the even longer arc of Dresden and Lasciel, the fallen angel he thought he’d locked away beneath two feet of cement in his basement. Yeah, she makes an appearance or three, and it’s some weird shit.

Anyway, I feel really rusty at this whole book review thing, but I needed to do this before  I got too deep into the next  Dresden book and couldn’t keep the details separate. Despite how long it took for me to finish this book, I really loved it. If you’ve made it this far through Dresden, are you really gonna give up on it now?

A sincere thanks to all of you that continued to visit the blog, even though I was gone for so long. I knew it’d be a while,but I didn’t think it’d be almost five months… But, I’m back now, and looking forward to balancing projects and getting back into my more productive routines.

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Me, twirling through my TBR list.

I’m reading about five things right now, so I have no idea what the next book review will be. Probably The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl #7) by Eoin Colfer, because I just finished it. I’m also listening to Alan Cumming’s autobiography, Not My Father’s Son, which is phenomenal so far. I’m also listening to Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Patton Oswalt’s first book, and enjoying myself. And I’m reading Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman.

Good gravy. I really am trying to make up for lost time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. So, stick around for more blog posts as my reading and writing reestablishes a working rhythm.

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

I’m Back?

I think. It feels like it. I’m reading again, which is reflected on Goodreads and on my “What I’m  Reading” page.  I wrote the majority of an original short story the other day, and I’m still plugging away at my fanfiction. I’m ready to bring the plot points together and wrap it up.

I think.

There’s still a lot do for that story, but I feel good about it. Plus, my brain actually wants to start working on other projects again, so I need to finish this one.

Several books I’ve been waiting for come out in the coming months, and I can’t wait to read them all!  I’ll post book reviews when relevant.

So, don’t expect me to post with quite the frequency I did before, but suspect that I will be around. Hopefully I’ll finish Dead Beat this week, and can have a book review up for it some time next week!

Thank you to everyone that still reads this blog, even though I went AWOL for four months. I appreciate you.

Talk at you all soon!

 

BZ

Wait… I Wrote How Much?

Hi guys!

I just wanted to stop by and share something pretty incredible with you.

So, remember when I said I was reading and writing a ton of fanfiction? Well, that trend continued through the month of April. I’m pretty sure I just wrote more words in a month than I ever have before.

As of 4/30/17, I wrote a total of 31,113 words. Of fanfiction. Jesus Christ. That is a TON of writing, the most I’ve ever done in so short a time. I’m simultaneously impressed and disgusted/disappointed. Why haven’t I pumped out so many words for my own original content?

Granted, fanfic is “easier” since there’s very little world-building or slogging through early character development. That’s mostly done by the time you get your hands on the content.  I mean, you should still have those things, but the amount of discovering and fleshing out are considerably less. Which is the vast majority of work I’ve been doing on From the Quorum.

So, in a way, this has been a nice exercise. One that  I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. I’ve got another 3 chapters (at least) to write for this particular story, a oneshot (i.e. short story) outlined, and then another full fic planned after that.

But, if I can keep up this pace, that means I should be able to fall back into my own original works once Mass Effect lets me go. Right? That’s what I’m telling myself, anyways.

Saturday was the release party for the third issue of The Audient Void, and it was awesome. There is some really great fiction and poetry in this issue, and the artwork is fantastic as always. The event coincided with Independent Bookstore Day, which meant there were a lot of people there who might not have attended otherwise, and there were snacks and extra special merchandise on hand.

Oh! There was also a cool marionette show, with an original play by Adam Bolivar, that was really quite entertaining!Jack o lantern

But, my favorite part of the event (aside from the customary after party) was that I thought up a new story while I was there. Just a short story, and I won’t go into details about it here, but I hope to write it this year and submit it to the A.V.

We’ll see where I’m at in a few months. If I’m still writing at the pace I am now, I have no doubt I’ll get everything done that I set out to this year, even with this detour. Remember, I planned to fall off the face of the Earth for about two months after  Andromeda came out, so I’m still on schedule.

Anyway, just wanted to share with you all that I am a writing machine these days, even if it’s just fanfic.

See you around,

 

BZ

Goals Summary wk 11

Hi all,

Gonna keep this brief. I think. I wanted to let you know that  I’ve been using the Windows laptop exclusively now for about a month. I like it. I’m acclimating, and in general it’s much more reliable than my poor, ancient Macbook. It was the right decision to transfer over.

Last week’s goals were extremely straightforward. Publish two blog posts, and write the Mass Effect Fanfic.

Well,  I didn’t publish two posts, but I wrote over 3,000 words of fic. Plus another 1500 tonight. So that’s going well. I’ve had a few views, multiple follows, and one review so far, which feels really good for only two chapters.

I just posted chapter 3 tonight, so we’ll see how that goes. If you’re interested here’s a link. However, keep in mind that this is fanfiction. It’s barely edited, and not very indicative of my original work. I own nothing in it, it is purely my imagination running wild in a world I love. It’s how I’ve coped with the waiting for Andromeda.

Which is here TOMORROW!!!!! So long world, I’ll see you again in a few weeks/months, depending on how obsessed I become with it. Therefore, I will not be setting any goals for next week, unless you count “not leaving the house until Sunday”.

Until then Blogland,

BZ

Goals Summary Wk 9

Hi All,

I’m gonna keep this brief because my mind is anywhere but here. Tomorrow is the two week mark for the Mass Effect Andromeda release. I am an anxious, impatient, salivating mess. All I can seem to to do is re-watch videos I already have memorized, listen to soundtracks and songs that are reminiscent of space, and my attention span for anything else is just non-existent.

Mass_Effect_Andromeda_cover

Even the cover has me itching to play!

It’s going to be a rough month here at the blog. Probably a rough April too.

So, last week I wanted to:

  • Write chapter 13 of From the  Quorum
    • Done! Finished it up Monday night with 2,992 word sprint.
  • Read The Six-Gun Tarot
    • Not even close. Haven’t even broken 100 pages yet, which is a shame because it’s actually REALLY good so far. Again, no attention span at all.
  • Publish 2 blog posts
    • Done! Last weeks goals post, a general “How’s the Blog Doing?” post, and the book review for The Paper Magician.
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits
    • Done! I’m either on chapter 16 or 17 now, so this area of my life is going very well.

So, last week could have been much worse, and I’m proud of the work I managed to get done.

This week I’m going to be a bit more realistic, because I know myself, and I’m hyper-focusing really hard on gaming, and Mass Effect in particular.

  • Write 1,000 words of From the Quorum
  • Read 200 pages of The Six-Gun Tarot
  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Continue The Steal  Armada edits

I’m still doubtful that I’ll read that much, but I don’t want to abandon the book. It really is good. But, in my desperation for wonderful, immersive gameplay,  I’ve finished my millionth play through of the original Mass Effect Trilogy, and have picked up The Witcher III just so I can have something to do.

Because I am suffocating without Andromeda. Suffocating. Drowning in lack of gameplay. Like, yes, I love the Dragon Age series, and I’ve played the ever-loving shit out of those games. But, not like I’ve played Mass Effect. I have Mass Effect tattoos. I’ve played the original trilogy five times. I have Mass Effect jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets. Hell, I even have Mass Effect socks, and I’m wearing them right now! I have multiple figurines and comics and novels. I’m an avid reader of terrible Mass Effect fan fiction (Dragon Age fics too, for that matter).

This is my all time favorite gaming franchise, and today marks the 5 year anniversary of Mass Effect 3‘s release. I’ve been waiting five years for Andromeda, and now that it’s so close, I’m physically suffering without it.

So, just be prepared for my presence here to dwindle, if not die off completely in the coming months. I swear I will try my damnedest to hold myself accountable and post, but don’t be surprised if I vanish for awhile.

Until Thursday, Blogland.

 

BZ

Book Review – The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Good evening Blogland!

Sorry this is so late, but I procrastinated by talking with out of town family for hours today. Then I helped walk Trevor through some stretches before he got into his workout today. So, here I am ready to talk all about our book club meeting and The Paper Magician.

Last night the book club congregated at Taproot, our favorite local bar with healthy eats and a very laid-back atmosphere. Towards the back of thetaproot building there’s a nook I refer to as the Book  Nook, where the owner (who also was the Officiant at my wedding) put up a ton of shelves with old hardback books from library rummage sales. Coupled with the worn, comfortable couches and custom wood coffee and end tables, it’s the perfect spot to meet.

And everyone showed up! Those of you following along these last couple years know that it’s a rare meeting when everyone’s in attendance and everyone read the book. I was really excited last night.

But, I’m even more excited because everyone was really thrilled with The Paper Magician.

This is the part where  I tell you that there are spoilers ahead. You were warned.

The book is set in the late 1800s, just outside of London. Ceony Twill has just graduated from The Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, in half the time, only to have her hopes crushed. She wanted to be a Smelter, a magician who deals in metal, but instead will be a Folder- a magician bonded to Paper. Print

It’s important to note that once a magician has bonded with their element, all other forms of magic are unavailable to them

While Ceony never really reveals why she wanted to desperately to be a Smelter, she is crushed when she’s delivered to the home of Mg. Emery Thane, who is to be her mentor for the next 2-6 years.

And though he’s younger than she imagined, and attractive in a thin, nerdy way, she’s an absolute brat her first day with him. He knew that Folding was not what she wanted, and he did his damnedest to show her the wonders of Folding, all prepared before her arrival. Paper snowflakes, cut and painstakingly Folded, and then imbued with a chill all of their own. An entire garden of paper tulips, blooming in the wind. Paper birds flitting about the house, and Jonto, a paper skeleton capable of simple butler-esque tasks.

Oh! And, on the second day, after seeing her stroking a small dog collar mournfully, Thane stayed up all night to fold her a small paper dog, who she names Fennel. He’s the size of a terrier, and has all the anatomy of a dog, Folded in complicated patterns and links. That gesture made me cry pretty good.

And so Ceony starts her studies. But, just as she’s coming around to her lot in life, prepping meals and memorizing her Folds, Emery’s ex-wife shows up and rips his heart of his chest. Literally. She’s what’s known as an Excisioner, a magician who manipulates human flesh. It’s a forbidden practice, and one Ceony knows nothing pretty much nothing about.

Ceony’s quick thinking saves the Magician, but only temporarily. A paper heart, no matter how well Folded (her’s wasn’t) can only last so long. So she sets out, against the Magician Councils orders, to retrieve Emery’s heart and save his life.

Using some advanced magic left behind by Thane, Ceony is able to track Lira (the ex-wife) to a secluded cave on the coast, and there she has the  Magician’s heart in a ceremonial bowl of his own blood.

Unsure of how else to get the heart back, Ceony uses her small pistol on the woman, only to find that the Excisioner was able to manipulate her flesh into spitting the bullet out.

This woman means business. But so does Ceony, because she was starting to fall for Emery. And she refused to go home without his heart.

Lira worked some dark magic that sends Ceony into Emery Thane’s heart, and there she’s on the run, fleeing through the chambers of his still beating heart to try and escape the evil woman, as well as find a way out.

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Fanart entered in a competition, Pages of Adventure by Jynette Tigner

Ceony learns a lot about Thane as she travels through his heart. Each chamber has a different theme to the memories. Good memories, bad memories, hopes, and fears are all presented, and Ceony must maneuver through them to find a way out.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I really liked this portion of the book. What a crazy cool way to develop a character, by literally taking a stroll through his heart!

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much, especially since it’s so short, only 213 pages. The world building is thin, and the clubbers had some questions in that regard, same as I did. Are Magicians a public fact? How much do magicians earn? How many are there? These kinds of things. We wanted more!

But, ultimately, this story is about Ceony and Emery, and establishing the magic, which is all done very well. The book club agreed, all of them eager to read on to the next books. I already have the rest of the trilogy on the Library Book table, waiting for me to finish up with The Six-Gun Tarot.

So, I very much recommend this book. It’s whimsical, romantic, and cute, but also has some darkness to it that keeps it from being too sappy. You can tell it’s Holmberg’s first novel, but I have every confidence that things get ironed out as she continues to tell Ceony’s story. As it is, I did enjoy the dialogue and the prose very much, and I will admit that I would read aloud to myself in British accents, because I’m a nerd like that.

Don’t worry, only my dog was subjected to it. I was otherwise very much alone.

Anyway, I hope you all give The Paper Magician a shot. It was a ton of fun, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Until next time, Blogland.

 

BZ

Recap and Stats

Hi Blogland,

I had some things I wanted to talk about, but tomorrow’s book review just isn’t the place.

First, I wanted to share some stats with everyone, mainly because I’m proud of them, and by talking about them I hope to keep the momentum going.

February was a record month for the blog. Over 300 views in one month is unheard of here, and I am blown away by it. So thank you, everyone who stopped in to read what I had to say. You’re awesome! Also, the blog has surpassed 400 followers, which is unfathomable to me. I hope you all enjoy what I write here, and I promise I’ll keep coming back, sharing my life story by story with you all as I take my own steps on the “writing journey”.

In January I started my writing journey anew. Now, if you haven’t been following me since the beginning, let me throw some history at you. I started this blog in September of 2011 after a professional writer visited my Planning and Structuring the Novel class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Per his advice, I started my social media presence with a blog, followed by a dedicated Facebook page and twitter account.

I didn’t know the first thing about blogging. I probably still don’t, since my views don’t typically number in the thousands. But, I knew it needed to focus on writing and my experiences working toward fiction as a career. That’s all this has really ever been: a place for me to get the buzzing thoughts out in a constructive way, and to share these thoughts with like-minded folk.

Here we are in 2017 and the blog has become an inseparable part of me. I list everything I read, review books, as well as track my personal writing goals and learning experiences as I go through the steps of writing, editing, rewriting, and polishing manuscripts, as well as the editing and submission process for short fiction.

So, thanks again for following this page and hearing me out. It’s been amazing.

Another thing I wanted to mention was that I’m keeping much closer tabs on my word count accomplishments. I was tracking them weekly, and then including them in my weekly Goal Summary post, and I’m still going to do that, but now I will be tracking it monthly and setting monthly word counts.

So, how’ve I done so far?

January was my first month back in full writing mode. I used to write almost 9k words a week, back when I wrote five days a week.Before school and the the second job. Back when it was just me and Starbucks in a new town. I really want to get back to that, and I set a lofty goal for January because of it. I wanted to write 12k words, but came in at 5,134 instead.

For the first month back on a (somewhat) dedicated schedule, that’s not too bad. In fact, I feel pretty damn good about it. 5k words is more than I wrote in the six months prior to that, so I’m calling it a win.

Now, for February the plan was to start editing The Steel Armada, plus it’s a short month, so I knocked my goal down to 8k words. Honestly, still pretty intense seeing as I’m still working this writing muscle into shape.

But, I just tallied it all up, and I finished February with a total word count of 8,700!

That is insane to me. I can’t really believe it. I wrote 2.5 chapters this month, and outlined the manuscript through to the end. And I’m well on my way through the read through/initial edits of The Steel Armada. February was just a really great month for me, all around.

I’m hoping to keep the momentum going through March, but have dropped my word count goal again. Mass Effect Andromeda releases in less than three weeks, and once it’s in my hands I am at its mercy until who knows when. So, I’m shooting for 6k words this month and continuing edits. Also, if I can get the next book club title finished before the game releases, that’d be great.

So, that’s where I am here on March 1st. Things are going really well, and I’m making use of all this unwanted free time while I work part-time.

Also, if anyone is wondering, I’m getting used to this new laptop. I got a small wireless mouse, and disabled the touchpad, which helps tremendously. I no longer accidentally scroll the wrong way, or magnify or shrink things for no apparent reason. Plus, I wrote this blog, listened to music, opened multiple webpages, Scrivener, and  OneNote (and drew a stupid whale scene like the ones I did back in grade school) without the computer freezing and panicking and generally being a twit. Plus, being able to move windows with my fingers is pretty cool. Makes me feel like Iron Man.

I’m keeping it.

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to chat about. And I wanted to spend more time typing on this computer in preparation for tomorrow. Thursdays are always my big writing days, what with book reviews, fiction, and edits. I didn’t want to sit down tomorrow and feel intimidated or uncomfortable, so any excuse to get typing is a good one.

Thanks for getting this far, Blogland. I’ll see you all tomorrow when I finally get to talk about The Paper Magician!

 

BZ