Tyler: the real-life hero vs. the storybook one

As I mentioned in my blog a few days back, today, I want to talk a bit about Tyler.

If you don’t know him, this is Tyler.

Tyler

Tyler is my brother. More importantly, Tyler is a hero, battling a cancerous brain tumour.

Much like my book, (if you’ve been reading along) it’s a little unclear at the moment how everything is panning out. We don’t know right now how successful the radiation and chemotherapy have been/are.

One thing that is clear is the response from the doctors, nurses and other hospital workers: that Tyler is the healthiest, most energetic and upbeat cancer patient they’ve had. If anyone’s got a chance of surviving this, he has.

Now, even though my protagonist, Tyler, is not that much like my brother, Tyler, thematically they are the same.

They’ve both had something of a “challenging adventure” thrust upon them, and have heroically, with the help of their friends, taken a stand. They’ve grown through adversity and are changed for the better.

And, of course, we don’t yet know exactly how it ends. But we have hope.

When Brandon Sanderson was trying to get published, most of the fantasy genre was almost entirely publishing stories of morally grey “more down to earth” characters, and I believe he got feedback from a number of editors/agents about making his characters more morally grey. He considered it deeply for a while, but ultimately decided to ignore all that advice because he wanted to tell stories about heroes, and it seems to paying off for him admirably.

I bring this up because I see myself much the same. I don’t want to just tell stories. I want to tell stories about heroes. Human heroes, but heroes all the same.

Tyler is one of those heroes. That may be in question right now if you are reading the book, because he’s a kind of an every man character, but ultimately, he is the hero of the story. He was always the hero of the story.

When I first dreamed up the story as a seven-thousand-word piece of short fiction, it was Tyler’s willingness to jump into action, even if he didn’t have a plan or know exactly how everything would turn out, that made him the hero. And that I think may be the defining trait that makes my protagonist Tyler based upon my brother Tyler. His daring.

It’s not recklessness, he’s usually pretty savvy about the risks involved, but nine-times-out-of-ten, he’ll take them without a blink of hesitation. That’s bravery. And that’s the stuff heroes are made of.

Even if I may be a bumbling first-time author, my story, at its core, is built upon bravery and willingness to act despite the odds, which will always be worth writing about.

In case you weren’t quite aware, or somehow missed the fact, all the proceeds for every book in this story, will not go to me personally, but to Tyler, to help pay for all his medical stuff. (Brain cancer is a tricky and expensive business.)

So please share the books; they’re cheap to make them quick and easy to enjoy and so you have literally no reasons to not recommend them to your friends.

With the recent release of Part Three: The QuestPart One: The Secret and Part Two: The Mystery are both now down to only 99c (US) on Amazon Kindle. Why not grab them today?

 

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The Descension of Disbelief: more about christopher nolan’s interstellar

Millennia of anything reveals change. Whether that particular change aids in technological development or is aided by it, change occurs nonetheless. Over the ages, the art of storytelling has transcended forms, adapted to modern mediums, and inspired, informed and interacted with audiences, illustrating one truth, perhaps seldom considered:

We, as a society, are more skeptical, incredulous, and disbelieving than ever before.

Jesus and Superheroes

Oh, we want to believe. If the success of Marvel and DC’s current superhero film war tells us nothing else, it’s that society is desperate for something to believe in. But as global church-attendance and religious observance dwindles, mankind looks less to a higher power and more to science, and therefore science-fiction, for hope.

We live in an information age. If we can’t instantly find the definitive answer to a question online, at least we’ve still got a dozen opinions and possibilities. As such though, we are skeptical, trusting less of any one source of information in favour of the most popular opinion. We can’t suspend our disbelief like we could as children. We want evidence and testimony and we want lots of it. Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are fun romps, but Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick, Arthur C Clarke, the fantasies of these men are backed by real science!

And this is where I reach the conundrum that is Interstellar (2015).

https://youtu.be/042z9RAAkAw?t=21s

Interstellar was globally well-received, but among nerds everywhere presented a classification problem. The first two-thirds of the film were good ole’ hard science-fiction; the science is central to the plot and is used by the protagonist and other characters to overcome challenges and obstacles that arise. It sheds light upon the current trend of societal disbelief of which I have spoken. The clip above helps set the scene for the film and shows a somewhat dystopian future where governmental and global priorities have shifted and not necessarily for the better. Case in point- “The Apollo missions were a brilliant piece of propaganda to bankrupt the Soviets… If we don’t want a repeat of the excess and wastefulness of the twentieth century, then we need to teach our kids about this planet, not leaving it.”

The final third of the film, while still scientific, takes us so far beyond the familiar into what’s purely theoretical that many have rejected the ending as incongruous with the rest of the film. The real problem, however, was continuity of foreshadowing and narrative delivery more than concept. The concept is just as solid as anything else in the film. We just lack the childlike suspension of disbelief to properly embrace it.

-Taken from a blog I did for a University class on Science and Science Fiction. To see my actual Interstellar review, click here.

Also, don’t forget that due to the release of The Arthur Lien Abductions, Part Three: The QuestPart One: The Secret and Part Two: The Mystery are now down to only 99c (US) on Amazon/Kindle.

Part Three: The Quest is out now!!!!!

The Arthur Liens AbductionsThe Quest

That’s right, Part Three: The Quest is out and you are no April Fool.

Tyler and Jill are back in the next instalment of The Arthur Lien Abductions, and who knows what’s going to happen next?!

Well, you will. If you read the book and find out, that is.

You know, It’s a really amazing process, this whole writing thing.

I understand that that statement makes me seem super unprofessional, and yes, I don’t have a professional publishing deal or anything yet, but hey, do bands suck just because they don’t have a professional recording deal?

Certainly not!

Especially when it’s one of your favourite bands; you look back and you’re like, wow, it’s them but they’re so down-to-earth, there’s such a raw quality to it.

I think of my writing now much in the same way.

Besides the great philanthropic cause fuelling me here, (more about that next time) this is me working towards my dream career. This is me playing in backwater pubs for a free meal while I slowly develop a following.

And you… this is your chance to be all, oh yeah, him? I was reading his books before he got famous. 

That may come off cocky or something – and honestly, I don’t seek for fame, I just want to do what I love and feed my family – but it all boils down to the genuine improvement I see in my writing with every story, every book, every instalment.

Honestly, I read back over it before publishing it, forgetting half of what I’d written a week before, and surprise myself every time. It just gets better and better. If I can maintain my current trajectory, I have no doubt that I will get somewhere with all this.

I don’t like to give spoilers, arguably because I don’t like to be on the receiving end. (Unless of course, it’s just one or two fascinatingly cool plot-points or ideas in the next epically long book of the series I’m already invested in.)

Either way, I don’t think my books right now merit any such interesting spoilers. They need as much as they can give en-read to make it an awesomely worthwhile experience for the reader.

That said, you really, really should definitely get my book. There’s mystery. Intrigue. Romance. Humour. Perhaps even a little bit of horror. And something fantastical underneath it all.

Of course, we’re only up to Part Three so far. Each section has its own smaller arc, but a larger role within the overarching plot. So some parts are more romance, or more mystery, or more horror. It gives some nice variety to the bigger picture.

The first two instalments were driven more by their own smaller arcs, whereas this one I think really functions more as an integral part of the larger story.

It still has its own arc, yes, but this is the midpoint of the story, it’s about finally getting somewhere, understanding more about what type of story is being told and where we’re going from here.

It gives some much needed backstory into both my two central characters, and really throws things into motion by the end.

Of course, if you haven’t read Part One: The Secret or Part Two: The Mystery yet, you really ought to read those first, so you have some idea of where you are and what’s going on up to this point. Plus with the release of Part Three: The Quest, the former two are both now down to only 99c (US), so you don’t have any excuses.

And of course, in case there was any doubt, you can get Part Three: The Quest here for Amazon Kindle.

QOTB: Do you ever find that there are certain times and/or situations where you’re actually wanting spoilers?

Dune: villain sub-plots and tension time-bombs

Dune

So this is a book I finished over a month ago. I’ve been so busy with life, the universe and everything, though, (plus finished another half-dozen books in that time) that I hadn’t written a review of it yet.

It’s amazing how much multi-tasking reading time I get with audiobooks. I honestly didn’t think I would get any time to read books when the year began.

So this book had been on my to-read list since before I got it for Christmas 2014, in large part because it’s one of Brandon Sanderson’s favourites. More than that though, it’s the book he said opened up his mind to the potential of other fantasy worlds.

Dune can neither be labelled as clearly SciFi or distinctly Fantasy. It is somewhere in between. Fantasy Science Fiction, perhaps?

In that sense, it opened up his mind in the same way that his novels have opened mine. It makes me wonder whether I will ever write something that opens up someone else’s mind in a similar way.

Anyway, I suppose I should talk more about Dune. It was an interesting read. Perhaps a tad slow to get going. But that might be because it was written forty or fifty years ago. Perhaps back then it was incredibly fast-paced.

The third-person omniscient voice was a very peculiar effect; I don’t think I’ve read any other book in that viewpoint; it actually changed the way I interacted with the novel. And it made me think about something interesting in regards to villains that I’ve since picked up in Brandon’s work.

I guess it can be summed up as something once said by Hitchcock, to the effect of: suspense is created by showing the audience a room full of people, and then showing a live bomb ticking down under the table.

The idea is showing the audience something our hero/protagonist doesn’t know about, something that is happening beneath their awareness, to create suspense.

Now obviously, there might be times when you want your audience to experience/discover the plot-twists at the same time as the protagonist, but I think if you can do both, there’s a chance for greater things.

For instance, how much more will a reader fail to foresee your awesome twist ending if you give them the other ninety-percent of the lesser plot-twists ahead of the protagonist, through a secondary POV villain character or something?

In one sense, I’m playing with something similar myself in The Arthur Lien Abductions, because each new part each month swaps back-and-forth between Tyler and Jill as the POV character.

I did it mainly because I thought their relationship subplot would be more effective, realistic and open to understandable conflict if the reader could get into both of their heads. Writing it though, I realised I could also have one character lie or hide things from the other. Automatic tension-builder.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but that’s exactly what having a villain protagonist does. It’s a tension time-bomb for the reader. It’s not doable in a single-viewpoint first-person or third-limited narrative. But anything with multiple viewpoints…. Go for your life.

Now, back to Dune.

Honestly, it wasn’t as good for me as anything of Brandon’s, but it was a lesson in something done well, from which I could see what I liked and wanted to emulate, or didn’t and therefore wanted to avoid in my own work.

It is a classic. I can see that. And I do recommend it as a lesson in thorough world-building, third-person omniscient viewpoints and effective Sci-Fi/Fantasy mixing.

I’m going to give it three-and-a-half crysknives out of five. Until next time…

QOTB: What’s the best genre-mixing book you’ve read?

And don’t forget, due to the release of The Arthur Lien Abductions, Part Two: The Mystery, Part One: The Secret is down to only 99c (US). Get it today!

Mistborn Rereads:the hero of ages

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So I was able to marathon my way through the last quarter of The Hero Of Ages on Audiobook over the last two days, despite how busy my weekend was. Thank you cooking and cleaning!

Even though I’m getting much better at spotting narrative techniques and plot devices and the like, it still just blew me away how good this book is. It builds and builds and takes you further than you would have expected and gah!

I can’t believe how little I remembered of the entire book. It was shocking. And also amazing, because that meant that it was mostly like experiencing the whole thing for the first time.

It was like watching a great movie with a great twist that your friend spoiled for you. You’re still like, this movie was mind-blowingly awesome, you just saw it coming the way most people don’t until their second or third viewing.

I honestly don’t even know what I can talk about with this book. I’m still just in awe.

I can now definitely confirm that it’s even better than Calamity, though. So if you’ve read the Reckoners series and not Mistborn, this needs to be your next Sanderson series. Or if you’re wanting something of equivalent size, Warbreaker on its own is your next step cause it’s amazingly awesome and will build you up for the longer awesomeness that is Mistborn.

I honestly don’t want to say anything specific about this book for risk of ruining it. It does start slower than I expected, only really remembering how it ended, but it’s not dull. There’s intrigue and so much detail.

You watch the characters continually searching for knowledge and understanding about the world that Sanderson’s already got in his head. And sometimes they’re wrong and sometimes they’re right. Either way, it’s constantly progressing. And even though things are going more wrong than you thought they could, they’re also continually progressing. I mean, it’s a work of genius!

I don’t know exactly how I can write such a huge interconnected web of awesomeness, and Sanderson has given clues in his lectures and podcasts, but either way, I am paying close attention. If I can make anyone reading my work feel the same way I felt this morning finishing the book, well, I won’t be able to help considering myself a successful author.

I guess that’s the goal.

I had something else in mind, but I’m blanking on it so I’m going to leave this one short.

I’m giving both The Hero Of Ages and the series as a whole five kandra out of five. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out.

QOTB: In your opinion, what book/movie has the best ending of them all?

Also, don’t forget that with the release of The Arthur Lien Abduction, Part Two: The Mystery on Kindle, Part One: The Secret is down to only 99c (US).

Mistborn Rereads: the well of ascension

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As I mentioned in my review of Calamity, I’ve been doing rereads of the whole Mistborn series.

The biggest reason for this is that the new Mistborn books. Alloy Of Law came out shortly after I finished the original trilogy, but now it’s been a couple of years since I’d read any of the books, and I didn’t want to start Shadows Of Self or Bands Of Mourning before getting myself thoroughly entrenched back in the world.

And it’s been wondrous.

I don’t know if this will (or perhaps already has) come to fruition, but one thing I learned that I believe could be pertinent in The Final Empire was that the atium mine was destroyed to the point where none was expected to re-emerge for at least 300 years.

A suspiciously coincidental time-frame, given that the Wax and Wayne subseries occurs approximately 300 years later, wouldn’t you agree?

Of course, as far as I know, there would be no feasible need or use for it, as there are no more fully-fledged mistborn anymore, but, in my opinion at least, it’s high time one reappeared. Why else continue to call them all part of the Mistborn series if not to bring them back in cool and iconic ways.

Anyway, this is all really preamble to my review of The Well Of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson.

I’m going to be really vague, but if you don’t like knowing where to expect plot twists before you read this, well, maybe don’t read ahead, just trust me that the series is awesome and builds to bigger and better things each time. *SPOILERS BELOW*

Rereading this series has been a remarkably different experience now that I’m something of a student of Brandon’s (through every resource the internet has to offer). I now analyse plot, character, worldbuilding, narrative development, foreshadowing, the unfolding of information, plot-twists, etc. as I read.

Luckily for me, there’s so much in the books themselves, that I’d completely forgotten most of the finer details, (only remembering the most general details and ending) making so much of the story new again as I go along.

This book (the second in the series) takes place a year after the first. It begins rather slowly, playing more on the what would happen next curiosity of the readership than anything else, and introduces a few new problems for the characters, some of whom are now new POV characters too.

The plot continues to build and unfold, the main characters make headway and then things get worse for them. This continues to happen throughout the story. A plan is devised to save the day, the characters build towards this plan, and then, it fails. There’s some fighting and struggling, people die, but the good guys eventually find a way to save what’s left of the day.

Then, a bigger deal, that the whole novel had spent building towards, came to fruition. And everything was executed just as it needed to be. Then something went wrong. It didn’t work how it was supposed to. Everything that they’d thought they’d known was a lie and a trick and even though there is a new glimmer of hope, the whole world is pretty much going to end.

If you’ve read my blog on sequels, you’d know I referenced Firefight as an example of doing things right in terms of setting the tone for series. Actually, I’m not even sure Calamity lived up to the amount of hope I felt at the end of Firefight (thought it was still awesomfe and you should read the series).

But what Brandon did at the end of The Well Of Ascension was a little different. It was slightly more akin to Robin Hobb did at the end Royal Assassin, which may have been because this was a series for adults, instead of teenagers, but still, it did the job better than Hobb.

While Firefight gave us a surprising terrible twist, in terms of Oh no, everything has gone to the dogs and is terrible, it also, like I just said, gave us awesome and awe-inspiring hope for kicking that terror in the face.

The Mistborn series on the other hand, gives us good and terrible twists, in a foreshadowed you have no idea what to expect from this series, and while the hope it gives us is hopeful, but comparatively, much less exciting. Which then lets the third book continue to build on it’s shoulders instead of having to backtrack to create more problems like other series seem to.

The point of all this, is that the original Mistborn trilogy is brilliant in terms of its consistent build towards overarching climax. Among giants in the genre, it is a towering colossus (pun intended).

While the general plot of this book is much more political than the awesome let’s learn a cool new magic system of the first, it is not a disappointment for those who are willing to give it a go.

I give it four-and-a-half Koloss out of five. It’s definitely worth your time.

QOTB: What’s your favourite sequel in any series, book or film?

Also, don’t forget that with the release of The Arthur Lien Abductions, Part Two: The Mystery on Amazon this week, that Part One: The Secret is now down to only 99c (US).

Calamity! a book review!

calamity

In honour of World Book Day, I’ve decided to do a few book reviews this month.

Now, if you read my blog with any regularity, or have read almost any of my blogs before, you probably know I’m a huge Fanderson; I seem to find one way or another to bring him up almost every time.

Perhaps it’s because I love his books. Perhaps because I’ve seen all his lectures online. Perhaps because I consider myself his student, and him my writing mentor. Or perhaps because he’s LDS too.

Whatever the reason, I follow his writing career very closely. And as those of you actually reading this probably know, Calamity just came out!

If you haven’t read it yet, perfect! Let me tell you why you should.

Firstly: It’s the third book in a trilogy.

One of the biggest factors affecting readership in almost all genres is the continuation of a story. People don’t like stand-alone novels. They want characters and a world they can fall in love with. They don’t want it to be over after one story.

This is perfect, as this story builds over three books; Steelheart, Firefight, and Calamity.

But it’s the last book. Doesn’t that mean there’ll be no more?

Well, yes, it is the last book. But if you’ve read Brandon’s Mistborn series (I’m currently doing rereads, link to my blog about The Final Empire here) you’ll know that he does a wonderful job of building each book bigger than the one previous.

Secondly, it’s YA dystopian future, which is one of the biggest selling YA genres, and where tonnes of cool action-adventure films and television shows are coming from. That makes it like your Hunger Games, or Divergent, or Maze Runner series.

So even though several of the Branderson’s books have been optioned, this is the series most likely to be turned into movies anytime soon. So in that way at least, there’s more coming.

Thirdly, it’s a Brandon Sanderson novel. Besides perhaps Patrick Rothfuss, Sanderson’s easily the biggest name is Fantasy right now. And he comes out with a couple new books every year.

If you’ve never read a Sanderson book, this is a great series to begin with, because it’s a lot less commitment than some of his bigger masterpieces.

Plus, as a YA book there’s much more frequent humour than many of his more grown-up books.

Plus, he does really cool, different things with the cities each of these books are focussed around.

Plus, it’s an awesome spin on mutants and superpowers and things.

If that hasn’t been enough to convince you to read it, well, perhaps I haven’t talked about how it made me feel yet.

This book wrapped up the series in a wonderful way. There was plenty of surprising yet inevitable twists. It hit me with all the feels. And felt beautifully satisfying.

I didn’t feel as overwhelmed with awesome as I did finishing Warbreaker or The Hero Of Ages, but I think that was partly because a) I didn’t read the first two books again in preparation for this one, so it’s been almost a year since I read them, meaning the buildup to climax was really only one book long for me and therefore less powerful, and b) I listened to it on Audible, because I’m really too busy to actually sit down and read books anymore, so I was always cooking, or cleaning, or commuting while experiencing the story.

I do believe that this book would probably have been equally as powerful had I had the leisure time to just sit down and read them back to back.

As it is though, I’m going to give it four-and-a-half Epics out of five, which is also my review of the series as a whole. Of course, my four-and-a-half is a poor man’s five. I have very high expectations.

So if you’re at all interested in superpowers or YA dystopian future books or weird, cool cities that do unheard of and unexpected things, or just an awesome story told by a quirky protagonist, this book and this series is for you!

QOTB: What’s the best YA dystopian series you’ve read lately?

P.S. If you’re into YA fantasy suspense and romance….

Quick reminder: The Arthur Lien Abductions – Part Two: The Mystery is out now on Amazon for only $1.99 (US), and with it Part One: The Secret is down to only 99c (US)