Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 3)

It’s Done!

I know. I know. I was supposed to be back a couple of days ago with a review of the iPad Pro and more blogging. I got waylaid, first by the injured knee and then by writing. I’ll admit I worried that the injury would bring most, if not all, of my writing to a standstill. I can’t sit at the desk right now to work. I can’t sit in the recliner or on the sofa with the knee elevated and work on the laptop. It is too much weight and pressure on the knee. But, to my surprise, the iPad Pro turned out to be a better solution than I’d dare hope and, as a result, the final draft of the re-imagined Light Magic.

I picked up the iPad Pro about two weeks ago. It was on a whim a and I got a really good deal on it. Part of the reason for getting it is because I am trying to migrate all my writing and editing to my MacBook Pro and having an iPad to take with me when I’m away from the house would let me keep with the “Apple means writing” mindset. Part of it was less selfish. My mother has been using a second gen iPad I gave her years ago. To say it is on its last legs is being kind. I’ve been looking for a replacement, one she wouldn’t have to learn a new OS on. So i wanted to know what the real differences were between the iPad and the iPad Pro and if the differences were something she would need or want.

I did my research. I decided not to spend the additional money for the newest version of the iPad Pro, choosing instead to go with a refurbed 9.7” version. I got a great deal on it and, using the money I saved, bought an Apple Pencil to go along with it. They came in and I started working with them. Then I injured the knee and knew I needed to find a way to write or I’d be blowing not just one deadline but at least three if the damage to the knee was as bad as I feared.

I’d bought one of the most recommended Bluetooth keyboards and cases for the iPad Pro but it suffered the same problems so many of its kind do. There was a lag between typing a word and that word showing up on the screen. That lag got worse the lower the keyboard’s power. You had to carry the charge cord with you or find yourself suddenly unable to use the keyboard while out and about.

But it was the lag or the drag or whatever you want to call it that bothered me the most and made it almost impossible to use if I was going to do any serious writing on the iPad. I bit the bullet, trolled various sites and found the Apple keyboard for the iPad Pro at a really good price. (Mind you, I’m cheap and did not pay retail or close to it for any of this).

Oh. My. Goodness.

The keyboard is totally awesome. It doesn’t rely on Bluetooth or wireless connections. There is a connector on the iPad it hooks into magnetically. That is how it communicates with the tablet and where it gets its power. The one real drawback, other than the fact it isn’t a full-sized keyboard — is that the keyboard isn’t back lit. But the feel of the keys is much better than I’d expected and I like the sound of them. Better yet, the keyboard keeps up with me and I don’t have to wait for it to catch up. Huzzah!

the Apple Pencil is wonderful for making notes or for annotating a manuscript. The batter life on both it and the iPad Pro are much better than I’d dared hope. I can work most of the day, pausing only for a short time to give the iPad a quick charge. Then I plug it in overnight.

To give you an idea of how much I have written on the iPad Pro since getting it, in this past week, I have managed close to 40k words on it. I have the work saved on the iPad and have emailed it to myself. I can save it to Dropbox or any of the other major cloud storage sites. In fact, I have been writing this blog post on the iPad Pro using the Apple keyboard.

it isn’t for everyone and I certainly don’t want to do all my writing all the time on it. I also can’t do my conversion on it because the program I use — Vellum — isn’t available on iOS. But for something that is portable and able to do what I want and need when writing and stand up to my writing schedule (at least so far), I highly recommend the iPad Pro.

 

A Wonderful Nocturnal Rebellion Review

(Like so many of you, I’m still processing what happened in Las Vegas last night. Once I have, and once I know more facts, I’ll probably blog about it. In the meantime, I have to share this wonderful review of Nocturnal Rebellion. The reviewer is Pat Patterson and you can find his blog here.)

Nocturnal Rebellion, by Amanda S Green

For those of you who come here in order to read my latest philosophical or theological struggles,  I warn in advance: this is a book review about a police detective who is also a reserve Marine officer who can shape-shift into a jaguar. Don’t anticipate passion and depth, beyond that found in story dealing with the line-of-duty loss of fellow police officers.

This book was released on August 15, 2017, and with great anticipation, I obtained my copy through the Kindle Unlimited program on August 17. I hear you mutter, ‘but this is OCTOBER 2! What happened?’

Well what happened was a trip to the hospital for a small bowel obstruction, which resolved well. That was followed by multiple trips to the dentist, for major dental surgery, and a few major family health issues, and, well, just LOTS of things. My output of reviews and blog posts suffered. It’s aggravating.

As for the book: There are two different groupings of shape-shifters. One group inherits, and can pass on, the ability to transform; the other has to get bitten, first. The first group, the Pures, tend to be more powerful and they are in a role somewhat resembling that of aristocracy. The second group, the lycans, tend to be less controlled and are generally more likely to prey upon humans.

There is a question debated among Pures: when shall we reveal ourselves to the world at large, if ever?  And there is also a faction that wants to reveal themselves so that they may finally exert control over the mundanes, or exterminate them.

While appearing to work within the system of government of the Pures, the Conclave, there is a rogue element that seeks covert control, and it really seems to amount for a desire for personal power more than a desire to influence policy. At least, their actions seem to be of the ‘burn it all down’ nature.

Now, it’s one thing to write about secret operatives exposing plans to bring down civilization by introducing an Ebola variant into spray containers at trade shows across the USA. As it happens, I’ve read and enjoyed those stories as well; at least, I’ve enjoyed the stories where the good guys win and the bad guys lose.

It’s another thing entirely to present the tragedy in such a way that we can feel and empathize with the loss experienced by the hero. And that’s what sets apart this book; Mac, and others, had a deep relationship of trust and loyalty to the group of officers who were killed in an ambush, and yet, they MUST shut up, suit up, and show up if there is to be any justice done.

It’s really very well executed.

It does not bring the dead back to life. That loss must somehow be endured, which is precisely the treatment that makes the fantastic tale of shape-shifters something that we can relate to. Without kryptonite, we cannot care for Superman, because he is untouchable. It’s the weakness of the heroes, not their strengths, that makes them real and allows us to care for them.

And Amanda S Green does it AT LEAST as well as anyone in the field.

Get the book; you won’t regret it!

Review: Dishonored – Death of the Outsider

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is an add-on game, for lack of a better term, to the Dishonored franchise. More than DLC and less than a full game, it is still an excellent addition to the Dishonored family.

Death of the Outsider takes place several months after the conclusion of Dishonored 2. Because it can be viewed as a standalone, it doesn’t require you to have played either of the previous games. Nor do you need a game save to cue certain events/background for the game. It assumes certain things happened in Dishonored 2 and you go from there.

Unlike the first two games where you played as Corvo (or possibly as Emily in D2), your playable character in Death of the Outsider is Billie Lurk (Meaghan from D2). Also returning as an NPC is Daud. The events of the first two games have sent Billie on a mission, not necessarily of redemption but of finding closure. Part of that means finding Daud, whom she betrayed earlier, and making peace (or something). Once she does find him, he gives her one last mission — to kill the “black eyed bastard” he holds responsible for all the bad that’s happened: the Outsider.

Gameplay in Death of the Outsider is different in some ways from the previous two games. Billie isn’t given the Outsider’s mark. That means she doesn’t have any of the powers we’re familiar with from playing as Corvo or Emily. Billie can listen to the rats, which allows you to gather information that might help in the completion of missions. Her “displace” power is similar to “blink”. Her final power is “foresight” which stops time for a moment and allows her to check the surrounding area. It’s a bit more complicated than that but you get the general idea. She also gets later in the game Void Strike. That’s it. You have basically the same “arrows” or “darts” as well as a variation on the pistol.

The one real change from the previous games is you no longer have to look for elixirs to replenish your mana. Use a power and wait for the mana to recharge. That can change your gameplay some. Something else that’s changed is there is no longer a chaos system in play. So you can go charging through, killing everyone in sight or take a more stealthy approach without fear of how it will impact the overall game. The game feels more open than the previous games and you will recognize some of the settings. The final change is that you have bounty missions you can take on to earn more money.

As with Dishonored 2, there is replay value with the game because of the Game + mode. Death of the Outsider’s game + mode lets you play with several of the powers from D2. What is different, however, is you don’t get to stack these powers with the powers from the original play through. Instead, they substitute for the powers you just played with. It does let you change your playing style and your strategy.

I hope this isn’t the final title in the Dishonored universe. It is, however, an excellent end to the current story arc. If you enjoy stealth games or if you like causing havoc by running and stabbing and being a general bad ass, I recommend you give Dishonored: Death of the Outsider a try. You don’t have to have played the first two games but doing so will make a lot of the plot more understandable.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is published by Bethesda Games and is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Disappointed but not surprised

I’ve never made a secret of the fact I game to relax. I started out as a console gamer but have moved more and more to the laptop for my gaming needs. Like so many others, I’m a big fan of the Mass Effect trilogy. Also like so many fans, I’ve watched with a jaundiced eye as EA took over Origin and “little things” like customer support seemed to falter.

When Bioware and EA announced, finally, the latest installment in the Mass Effect universe, I was hopeful. The ending of ME3 left me a bit skeptical but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I even pre-ordered the game and played the first 10 hours under Origin Access, there were glitches but, overall, the game was satisfactory, especially since I assumed there would be updates before release.

Let’s face it, there is no excuse for the poor facial animations or the return to character animations that often looked like they had been done 10 years ago. Bioware did listen to the critiques and has tried to correct at least some of it. That continued with the latest patch yesterday. Of course, there is still that ghostly white shine in character’s mouths — although it does seem a bit less than before. But it is too little too late and, apparently, even Bioware admits it.

More on that in a minute.

While Andromeda suffers from some “WTF were they thinking” problems, not only with the facial animations but with dialog that often has you wanting to slam your fist through the screen — and let’s not discuss some of the bad delivery of those lines — the combat is fun and engaging. If you can zone out on the rest of it, there’s a game there worth playing.

Now, back to Bioware.

When it was announced that Bioware’s Montreal studio would be developing Andromeda, a number of us wondered if the powers-that-be had lost their minds. The Montreal studio had not developed a game on its own (at least not that I can remember). Sure, it had worked to develop DLC for ME3 but that’s a far cry from developing a full game, especially one of the studio’s cornerstone games.

Then there were the concerns voiced after Dragon Age: Inquisitions came out. Again, a decent game but not really up to what we’d come to expect from Bioware. There have been other missteps as well, enough to wonder what is going on in the company.

Now, on the heels of the release of the latest patch for Andromeda comes word that Bioware has put any further games in the Mass Effect franchise on hold. There’s no official cancellation but there are no plans to begin working on the next game in the series. Worse, at least for those of us who have purchased Andromeda, there is no sign that Bioware is working on story driven DLC for the game.

At least, if it happens, it is doubtful it will come from the Montreal studio as most of the gave devs there who had worked on Andromeda have been shuffled off to other projects.

And that, my friends, makes me wonder again wtf is going on. If you have a game that is so widely anticipated as Andromeda and then is released with as many problems, why in the hell are you rewarding the team responsible and by keeping them on and moving them to other key projects is rewarding them.

Does this spell the end of Mass Effect in any of its iterations? I don’t know. It sure doesn’t look good right now. Worse, Bioware and EA have breached their trust with their customers with this game. There is a level of expectation they have built with us through the previous Mass Effect games and that has not been met. Even with Inquisition, again not nearly as good as the previous games in that series, we got story driven DLC. The studio didn’t abandon the game or its fans — and that’s what it looks like they are doing now.

Considering the fact I’ve been trying to work with Origin tech support all week and finding them just about as helpful as the tree in my backyard, to say I’m leery of buying anything from them in the future is putting it mildly. And that’s a shame since EA and Bioware have been home for several of my favorite gamin franchises.

Here’s hoping Bioware pulls its head out of its ass before it screws up another franchise — in other words, Star Wars Battlefront II fans, beware. Some of those devs from Andromeda are being moved to your game.

Some weekend thoughts

Yay! It’s the weekend. That means time to do more remodeling and writing and editing and . . . wait, that sounds like what the week has been like. I thought weekends were for putting your feet up and relaxing. Hmmm. Maybe I’m doing this weekend thing wrong.

Or not. You see, I enjoy the remodeling stuff and the writing. The editing, not so much. At least not when I’m editing my own work. But that’s the life of a writer. You do what you have to do. The way I make it work is breaking the tedium of editing up with things I like to do — like painting and ripping out cabinets, etc.

Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t have some real fun this weekend. Hopefully, you guys are as well.

One of the things I do is play video games. Anyone who’s followed this blog for long knows I’m a fan of the Mass Effect series. Bioware pushed the genre forward wit the original trilogy. Yes, they screwed the pooch with the original ending of the ME3 and the extended ending didn’t do much to correct the problem. But it was still one of the best game series I’ve ever played.

So, when Bioware announce Mass Effect: Andromeda, I greeted the announcement with both pleasure and trepidation. I was pleased because I loved the original trilogy so much. I worried because of how they mucked up the ending. When you spend three games making choices and being told those choices will have an impact on the ending of the game only to find out they don’t, not really, well, you lose some trust in the game designers.

The initial reviews of the game did nothing to reassure me, even though I’d played the first 10 hours pre-release as part of the Origin Access program. Yes, the facial animations were wonky. Yes, some of the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. But there were strong points that countered those negatives. As long as you weren’t looking at the faces, or at least not focusing on them, the game looked gorgeous. The battle system is a lot of fun. I like being able to switch between profiles and change combat styles in the middle of battle. I don’t like being limited to only 3 powers but you get around that with your favorite profile builds.

But, having now played through the game and spending a few hours back with ME2 and ME3, I know what I’ve been missing with Andromeda. I miss the connection with the main character and the sense of urgency you have in the original trilogy. In it, you know you are fighting for the survival of not only Earth but the entire Sol System. The Reapers want you dead and yours dead. It is a fight for the survival of your species and that urgency isn’t ever forgotten.

Yes, Andromeda is a fight for survival as well but that sense of urgency isn’t there, not yet at any rate. It might show up in the next game. I hope so.

Ryder, whether you play as male or female, isn’t the kick-ass hero that Commander Shepherd was. That’s played up and, in a way, I like seeing Ryder grow from someone who was basically supposed to fill a support role to being the Pathfinder. But there are so many questions left unanswered, questions I hope the game devs answer in the upcoming DLC and sequel. If not, Bioware has well and truly screwed their fans.

All that said, Andromeda is a fun game, especially if you can set aside your experience with the original trilogy and just play the game for what it is.

Now, in case you would rather read this weekend than game, here are a couple of books that have come with recommendations from friends. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet but I trust those who recommended them.

The first is Division One: A Small Medium at Large, by Stephanie Osborn.

What if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was right all along, and Harry Houdini really DID do his illusions, not through sleight of hand, but via noncorporeal means? More, what if he could do this because…he wasn’t human?

Ari Ho’d’ni, Glu’g’ik son of the Special Steward of the Royal House of Va’du’sha’ā, better known to modern humans as an alien Gray from the ninth planet of Zeta Reticuli A, fled his homeworld with the rest of his family during a time of impending global civil war. With them, they brought a unique device which, in its absence, ultimately caused the failure of the uprisings and the collapse of the imperial regime. Consequently Va’du’sha’ā has been at peace for more than a century. What is the F’al, and why has a rebel faction sent a special agent to Earth to retrieve it?

It falls to the premier team in the Pan-Galactic Law Enforcement and Immigration Administration, Division One — the Alpha One team, known to their friends as Agents Echo and Omega — to find out…or die trying.

Next up is Tanager’s Fledglings by Cedar Sanderson.

When the starship’s captain died midway through a run with a cargo of exotic animals, the owner gave first mate Jem one chance, and one choice. The chance: if he successfully runs the trade route solo, he’ll become the new captain. If he fails, he’ll lose the only home he’s ever known.

And the choice? He’s now raising an old earth animal called a basset hound. Between station officials, housebreaking, pirates, and drool, Jem’s got his hands full!

Finally, because what sort of author would I be without promoting one of my own titles, we have Witchfire Burning.

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

 

A Review and a Few Thoughts

First of all, apologies for not getting back to the blog yesterday — and for whatever the heck happened to the theme selection. Somehow, even though I pressed the “activate” button, it didn’t happen and instead of the blog reverting to the current theme, it stayed with a theme I was considering, one that does NOT accept the header size it tells you it needs. So, for close to a day, I had a really, really odd looking site and didn’t know it because I’d gone off-line.

Now, as to why I didn’t get back to the blog. Between the hot water fiasco Monday and several other things that happened, I had to step back from the internet and social media. Of course, the fact I also had the newly released copy of Cold Reign by Faith Hunter might have had a little something to do with it and that’s where the review comes in.

If you enjoy Urban Fantasy and you haven’t yet read the Jane Yellowrock series, do so. Cold Reign is the 11th book in the series and while it could be read without reading the others, there’s a great deal you would miss. I can’t say that about a lot of series, just as I can’t say I stay with many this long. That makes the series, and this book, something special.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Jane Yellowrock is a Cherokee skinwalker. For the most part, the series takes place in New Orleans. There are vampires — who most definitely do NOT sparkle. There are weres. There are witches. There are other supernats as well, Onorios, of which we are only just beginning to learn some of what they can do.

Unlike so many books/series that claim to be UF but are really, at best, paranormal romance, this is true UF. That’s not to say Jane doesn’t have a “honeybunch”, as she calls her lover. But that doesn’t define her and the book most definitely is not a series of sex scenes tied together with a flimsy plot. In actuality, the fact Jane can trust enough to allow someone into her life is something she’s had to work on from the beginning of the series.

And that is why I like the series so much. Yes, the plots of the various books have been good. Some have been better than others, but that’s something you always get in a series, any series. But the strength of the series, to me, is in the character development, not just with Jane but with other characters as well. That is especially true in Cold Reign where we see Alex, aka “the kid”, growing up and coming into his own.

Okay, to the book. A number of plot threads that have been woven throughout the series begin to be tied up in Cold Reign. Leo, the Master of the City (and a pretty good chunk of the rest of the United States) is a master manipulator and, as with any old vampire, his plans have plans and they, too, have plans. The European vamps, who would really like to reclaim Leo’s territory because of all the “cattle” (humans), also have plans within plans and those plans include deceit and betrayal. In the middle are Jane and her expanding “family”.

Writing a review about the book without giving spoilers is next to impossible. Let’s just say that I had already guessed the identity of one of Leo’s betrayers. The identity of another caught me by surprise. I’ll be honest, I think that could have been handled better. There was a feeling of lacking with that particular sub-plot because we never really saw it happening on-screen, nor did we see the reveal when Leo finally discovered the betrayal. All we saw was the after-effects and that was third-hand.

As with most of the series, this book starts off with a bang. If you read some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see some folks don’t like the lull that follows. Don’t let that mislead you. That lull is necessary. Not only for the resolution of the story but because it gives us more insight into Eli, Alex’s brother and another of Jane’s “family”.

I’ll admit, I sometimes tired of reading how Jane stepped into the ankle deep, or higher water. But that, too, was part of the story. New Orleans was getting pounded by rain that is later revealed to be part of a magical attack on the city (and I’ll say no more about that).

It is clear the series may be ramping up toward the big finale and, while I will be sad to see it end, I’d rather that happen than for it to become one of those where it should have ended books earlier. So, this is very much a book I’d recommend. Great action, a plot that will keep you guessing, the return of a couple of characters we haven’t seen for awhile and some closure for Jane with one of them. Even better, it left me wanting more and wishing it wouldn’t be at least a year before the next book comes out. (assuming normal traditional publishing schedules).

So, if you enjoy UF, get this book and set aside several hours to read it. I promise it is well worth the time and the money. (and, fyi, it is reasonably priced not only for traditionally published e-book but for a new release at $7.99)

When the writer brain is tired

Over the weekend, I spent some time painting part of the inside of the house as well as doing other “chores”. Very little writing was done because, to be honest, the writer brain was tired. I’d spent the week before doing prep work for the next several projects, as well as updating my promotions plan and more. So, because I didn’t have the brain power to read or write, I watched movies. To be specific, I watched some really bad movies. The lesson learned was I really do need to pay attention when my friends tell me a movie is so bad you don’t even want to watch it when it’s free on TV.

The first was a short, perhaps part of a series. I’m not sure and not interested enough to find out. The premise wasn’t unique by a long shot. The world is coming to an end soon and it is up to one martial artist to prove himself worthy and to save us all. We’ve seen it a million times. The difference this time was that the martial artist was an African-American government agent of some sort. The plot itself wasn’t bad but the fight scenes were so poorly choreographed as to be laughable. Anyone knowing anything about fighting, much less martial arts, would be able to spot the problems with what they were doing. Because of the way these sequences were filmed, the tension of the fights, the excitement that comes with a well-done fight scene was lacking. If the short had been anything longer than half an hour, I would not have kept watching.

The second was the first of several movies I watched — or tried to watch. It was the new version of Ghostbusters. Now, I loved the original. It was fun and didn’t take itself seriously. This new one, nope. I didn’t think it possible to make a movie with effects worse now than they were 30 years ago but you can. And they did. The writing was anything but inspired and it was not funny. Sure, I may have smiled, slightly, in a couple of places but it was nothing close to the original.

There were some talented actors (male and female) in the movie and that is what makes it such a crime. I blame Hollyweird for not being creative. It is easier to take something that was a hit years ago and remake it or rebrand it ot whatever. The problem is, that rarely works. We’ve decades of examples the bean counters should have looked at but didn’t. All they saw was that the original worked so surely this would.

Nope and nope and nope. The best thing about the movie was knowing it was over and I had the option of deleting it from my DVR. Which I did.

The biggest disappointment was another movie I’d heard was a disappointment but I had to see for myself.

Independence Day: Resurgence had the potential of being awesome. The original, despite screwing the science up so badly, was a fun flick that I have watched more than once. Part of that was the “we can and will prevail or die trying” attitude of the main characters. Part was the relationship between some of the characters. Then there was the comic relief of Randy Quaid. There was enough fun in the movie as well as explosions and evil aliens, etc.

This new installment. Nope and nope and nope again. If I had paid to see it in the theater, I’d have asked for my money back. The acting was, on the whole, second and third rate. The plot, which could have been great, was predictable and, there’s not way around it, If they explained what happened to some of the characters from the earlier movie, I missed it. (I think I dozed during part of the film. Either that or my mind shut down out of self-protection,)

It comes down to this, if you are going to do a sequel to a much-loved movie — and it doesn’t matter how cheesy the movie is — you need to do the original justice. You can’t simply slowly stroll through the plot and hope folks will stay with you just because they expect aliens and explosions at some point. For example, the original ID4 opened with that great sequence of something passing by the moon. You saw the footprints on the surface and the flag and then it was darkened as something very big and ominous passed by. That immediately signaled something big was about to happen and it might not be a good thing. In the newest installment, you don’t have that. There is no hook, nothing to keep you — or at least me — interested.

So, in a way, I guess the weekend viewing was a lesson for me to remember as a writer. Hook the reader right out of the gate. On that happy note, it is time to get to work. Later!

Readin’ and Writin’

Five or so years ago, I wandered into an online discussion where a wannabe writer was doing a perfect imitation of a stubborn two-year-old. You could see this person stomping his foot, arms folded across his chest and all but threatening to hold his breath until he turned blue. The reason wasn’t because he’d gotten a bad critique. It was much more basic. This wanna be was pitching a fit because he didn’t understand why others were telling him it was important to read.

Yes, a writer didn’t understand why it was important to read.

But it gets better. This writer, and I use that term loosely, didn’t understand that it’s important to read the genre you want to write. Now, on the surface, the excuse might seem reasonable. According to this person, they were afraid their “unique” voice would be contaminated by anything they might read. We tried explaining that the voice wouldn’t be, not if it was solidly entrenched in the writer’s mind. We explained how a writer needed to know what current trends and tropes were. There was more and none of it got through to this wanna be. He kicked and he stomped and he pitched a fit before gathering up his toys and going home, figuratively. What he did was leave the group and not return.

It isn’t the only time I’ve encountered writers who truly believe they don’t need to read in the genre they write. When asked, some give similar answers to the writer above. Others will say they don’t like reading that genre. That last answer always throws me. How can you write a genre you don’t like to read? I guess some folks can but not me.

And I do read. Mind you, I don’t always read the genre I’m writing WHILE I’m writing. That’s one of the nice things about writing in several different genres. While writing sf, I can read mysteries. While writing mysteries, I can read sf. You get the picture.

It is rare to find me without reading material close at hand. I love e-books for that reason. I can read on my phone, my tablet or my laptop. Six or eight months ago, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader. I had always loved my e-ink Kindles but they had the drawback of not being lit. It meant I had to have an external light source at night or in ill-lit areas. Friends had suggested a Paperwhite and, when it went on sale, I splurged.

I’ll be honest, I loved the lit screen. What I had problems with was the touchscreen. I missed the page turn buttons and it wasn’t always easy to get the control bar to come up. It was me, not the device. But it kept me from using it as much as I would have. So I continued reading more often than not on my tablet — and getting the accompanying eye strain. (More on that later)

Earlier this week, I was wandering through Amazon and saw they had the Kindle Oasis E-reader with Leather Charging Cover for sale where you could pay it out over several months. I hesitated. The price of the Oasis was still much more than I wanted to pay for a dedicated e-book reader. I could buy a cheap Chromebook or a decent tablet for it. But, the pull to buy it was there. It was the reader in me. I wanted to read a book — and, yes, and e-book is a book — without the distractions offered by tablets or laptops or phones.

So I did some research and talked to some friends who already owned the Oasis. Finally, after a couple of days of back-and-forth, I ordered it. I knew I could return it if I decided I didn’t like it. So I waited for the delivery to arrive, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

All I can say is, “WOW!”

Even though the screen is the same size as the Paperwhite — or near enough to make no difference — the actual footprint of the Oasis is much smaller. With the leather charging case, included in the cost of the reader, it feels more like a “real” reading experience. Better yet, the case has navigation buttons. Actual buttons.

But there is more to set it apart from the Paperwhite. Like its predecessor, the Oasis has screen lights. What makes it better is the number of lights on the Oasis number more than on the Paperwhite. Coupled with the glass screen instead of paper, it helps make the text appear sharper. The overall lighting of the entire screen seems to be more uniform than on the Paperwhite. Better yet, because of the smaller size and weight, I find myself taking the Oasis with me everywhere and I am reading more than I had been.

And that brings me back to my previous comment about eye strain. Like most writers — heck, like most anyone who works in an office — my days is spent looking at computer screens. A couple of years ago, my mother’s retinologist talked with her about how the flickering of screens (admittedly much better now than in years past) as well as reflection off of a computer or tablet screen, is a prime cause of eye strain and headaches. He preferred she read using an e-ink display. He preferred e-ink over print as well.

While working on my last book, I realized something. I wasn’t reading as much after I finished writing for the day. It didn’t take long to realize a big part of it was eye strain. After hours at the laptop, my eyes hurt and my head hurt. Changing the lighting or where I worked helped a little but the source of the problem was still there — the screen.

Since getting the Oasis, I’m back to reading. So I’m keeping the Oasis and going to give the Paperwhite to my mother. And I highly recommend for anyone who finds themselves not wanting to read e-books after a long day at the computer to consider one of the e-ink readers. Amazon has a line of them as do other merchants. Besides not having the reflection problem tablets have they have the added benefit of no distraction. No email. No games. No internet. You simply get lost in your book.

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

Series ends

No, not mine. This post actually came about because I read a book last night that represented the end of a series. Usually, if I’ve stuck with a series all the way, I feel regret to see it end. In this case, not so much. The reasons why are things I hope I can keep in mind as I work on my own series and bring them to an end.

I’m going to start by noting that this series is one of several from a best selling and traditionally published author. I started reading this particular series from her by accident. How, you ask, did that happen? Easy. I wasn’t careful when checking her Amazon author page and wound up buying one of the books in the series when I was actually looking for a book in another series.

That’s problem number one. The series titles (two different series) were close enough to cause confusion, at least to a sleep addled, pre-coffee brain. But, that’s okay. I enjoyed the book. Not as much as others she’d written but not every book can be hit out of the park.

Anyway.

What I came to wonder as I read the books in this particular series is simple. The series was set in the same town as another series. The characters from that series made appearances in the new series. Some of the characters in the second series were related to characters in the first.

Okay, that’s fine. I’ve seen it happen before and it has been done well in some cases and not so much in others. This series, unfortunately, would have done better (in my opinion) by completely removing it from the first series. There were simply too many similarities between characters and plot points. Add in the same basic setting and, by the end of the series, it felt as if the author was just phoning it in.

I get falling in love with your characters or setting but you can’t do it at the expense of putting out new and interesting material.

There were two other issues I had with not only this series but the other one. When you write a book, or books, where your lead female character is initially a strong, independent woman, don’t turn her into someone who no longer is capable to looking after herself just because a man has now come into her life. Sure, having a partner, male or female, will change a person’s life and how they think about things. After all, you are no longer the only person you have to think about when planning a course of action. But going from independent to dependent without cause is one of the surest ways to drive readers away.

I will admit, the author didn’t do it as much in this second series as she did in the first. For one, the women in this second series were more flawed than in the first. However, that made it all the more glaring when she did it in the last couple of books with the most independent of her female characters. Especially in the last book. Suddenly, the one woman who had been the rock turned to anything but, at least for the first half of the book. The foreshadowing of the earlier books in the series led to one secret, but it was minor. There had been nothing to prepare the reader for the real “weakness” in the character. Considering the relationship between her and the other characters in the series, this threw me out of the book.

I guess this is all a way of reminding myself of what not to do when I start wrapping up my different series. The last book needs to be as satisfying — if not more so — than the first. Otherwise, the reader will hesitate to buy anything else from that author. I know that, after two series endings that were disappointments because of the way the characters were developed and the plots were rolled out, I will hesitate to buy anything else from this particular author. Sort of the old “fool me one, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” adage. I hope none of my readers ever feel that way.

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If you have ever wondered what an author most wants, it’s reviews. So give an author a gift today. Write a review and post it to Amazon and, if you are so inclined, on your blog or Facebook. It really does help.

Awesome Review

I rarely link to or post  a review from Amazon but I couldn’t pass up this one. Pat Patterson is one of those reviewers who always tells it like it is. He also, when the mood strikes, can give you a review that is so full of humor and snark that you smile even as you wait for the shoe to drop. Needless to say, I always look forward to him reviewing my work and hold my breath until I see what he thinks. That’s especially true with Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2).

So, you can imagine my excitement this morning when I saw this comment in one of the Facebook groups we’re both in.

“I have to make this note, and then GO TO BED! “Dagger of Elanna” by Amanda S. Green is so richly written, its a feast. GREAT things are afoot!”

I hoped that meant he would like the rest of the book but, paranoid writer that I am, I still held my breath until I saw his review go live on Amazon.

I  obtained this book through the Kindle Unlimited program.

I was hooked from the first scene. Actually, I suppose I was hooked BEFORE the first scene, since I read the first book in the series, ‘Sword of Arelion,” and loved it. But here’s what hooked me:

The book opens in a winter-soaked woodland. Through the biting cold and snow trudges a poor, pathetic man, who wonders if he will be able to reach a place where he can get warm before he freezes to death. He worries about his horse.

A sympathetic character, right?

WRONG!! He’s an evil murderous creator of monsters, sent on a mission to spy and assassinate. He’s NOT a nice guy!

Well, he has a family, and he’s afraid for them as well, but still: it’s a great curve ball. I was all set up to be sad at the poor dude, and was somewhat shocked to find such a soft intro brought me face to face with such a bad guy.

NICELY DONE!

More than what it tells us of this particular person is what it tells us about the nature of the deep, secret Bad Guy: he is inclined to use blackmail and threats to loved ones to motivate people he finds in his grasp.

On the other hand, we have Cait. She is the actual hero, no fooling, of the book: a paladin of sorts, with the divine marks of power and favor on her. She has been made third in command of the Order, based on the clear approval of the Lord and Lady, who are the ethereal Good Guys.

At the end of the last book, Cait was still without memory of her origins. Her first recollection was waking up in a slaver’s tent. However, she gets it all back in this episode. Not going to reveal what it is that she learns about herself, because I don’t want to spoil things.

In one well-written scene after another, bad guys get vanquished; people of weak-will get to find their courage; assassins of various good guys are foiled, and good people discover the eternal truth that if you do well, your reward is a tougher job.

The book is HUGE; 591 pages, I think. It drags not at all, though. It has a great storyline, and the characters have enough depth to make them real.

Reviews like this are part of why I write. I love knowing I’ve taken a reader on a journey he enjoyed. So, Pat, thanks so much for the awesome review.

You can find Pat’s blog here.

 

 

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