Reven Archer Black: Author of Fantasy & Speculative Fiction

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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Review: “Rage of Augustus” by Andrew P. Weston

The Cambion Journals, Book 1: Rage of Augustus,
by Andrew P. Weston

 

Straight out of the box, this is an interesting, action-packed paranormal offering from Weston. I haven’t read much in the way of Incubae/Succubae fiction, so it caught my attention. In many ways, it reminded me of the television show, “Lost Girl”, and a little bit of the novel, Her Majesty’s Wizard, where I first learned of Succubae.

The book falls into a category I appreciate: dark, but humourous. Active, but also sensual. I liked a little of everything in a book and Weston definitely threw in more than enough to keep things rolling. The most interesting parts were those from Augustus’ POV (1st person), which had the most life and charisma. I found myself wanting to skip over the scenes not from his POV because Augustus’ character had so many things to say, pulling the reader in. He has an established personality and is very “now”, despite his origins. Makes me wonder how he amassed all that wealth…

Other highlights: there was plenty of description and the international aspect was a unique touch, which reminded me of the game, “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” Weston also gets points for the sensuality, intimacy, and humour. The Augustus-Colleen situation was a great ride, having whetted the mind with mystery. And certainly points to Augustus for his relationship to his mother and what he does with all of it. He shows great strength of character. Around him, there’s seduction, plenty of action and movement, as well as plenty of story and context.

Why this isn’t a 5-star rating: while the story was certainly there and the storytelling had plenty to it, there was still room for growth. I found the non-Augustus scenes (told in 3rd person) slowed the story down, particularly in the first half where it felt like some of the scenes could have been assembled into their own focused chapters so as to let Augustus’ story flow freely. Also, at times I felt like I was reading a travel brochure or non-fiction book/encyclopedia. And while one of the fantastic things about this story is the description, sometimes I was tripped up by the sheer amount of it, requiring me to reread passages quite a few times before really grasping the whole image. However, other readers may find these blessings, giving the story a real, genuine touch to the world as experienced by Augustus.

But all of this is subjective. Overall, the book contains interesting twists and turns, and as a reader, I got pulled into the game (remember: Carmen Sandiego. I wasn’t kidding.) I read this in two sittings, but only due to scheduling. After the first sitting, I found myself trying to sneak in just one more chapter, just one more… then in the second half, I wasn’t too sure where it would end up, though I was pleasantly surprised, unfortunately sorrowed, and curious as to what happens next in Augustus’ story.

 

Rage of Augustus on Goodreads

Rage of Augustus on Amazon (available as eBook and in print… like the copy sitting right beside me, over there <—)

 

Andrew’s blog

Andrew on Twitter

Andrew  on Facebook

Andrew’s Amazon Author Page

Poem: Words, words, WORDS.

Words, words, WORDS.

Gnawing, hacking
Slicing
Tap, tap, tap
and the author wields a sword
Delete, backspace
Replace
Unwanted words must disappear

 

And I dub thee “editing poetry”.

I wrote this poem in September 2014, while I was buried under the mountain of edits. I needed a break and ended up writing a spot of poetry to break up the lengthy narratives in my head. I wouldn’t be surprised if more of this appeared in the future.

I also have to thank William Shakespeare for the title. They capture what it was like being in my head at the time, and pretty much every time I edit.

I Haz Newsletter Now! (and It Reminds Me of Being A Kid Again)

Long story short: this author now has a newsletter, where anyone who’s interested can receive the latest info in their mailbox rather than just popping on by or scanning their RSS feed.

Really. I’m going to give it a go.

I’d say it was the “old college try” but the last time I did this, I was 9. Maybe 10. I don’t remember details exactly other than I was assembling information into a newsletter for my public school. Somehow I thought the goings-on in the classrooms made for good fodder. And bless the teachers, they encouraged it. I didn’t up a journalist, though, but hey, start ’em young, right?

And we’re not even going to talk about the high school paper.

But hey! This is fiction. That’s where the fun really happens.

 

So interested in getting tidbits of news in your mailbox? You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/bedCPP.

 

Warning: yes, by signing up, you’ll enlist yourself to receive things meant exclusively for subscribers. Like poems and excerpts no one’s seen yet. And random videos or things that might just make you smile. And the occasional “enter to win a copy of this cool book or gift money” sort of deal… especially as release dates come banging on the door. And there’s a couple of those this year.

So if you’re game, I’d love you to give it a go with me.

And no, that’s not a pick-up line… much.

A Necessary Heartbreak: Rewrites

I’ll shed a tear now and say a fond farewell to the words on the page as they once were. This is the moment of silence, the time of memories. Ah, sweet words, how lovely ’twas to know you.

Alas, I’m kicking your arse out the windae. Why? That’s right.

Rewrites.

*shudder*

 

Back to the Drawing Board, Kinda, Sorta

Last week I was fighting a messed up wrist (my writing hand, naturally) and not getting very good sleep. I was working on getting one of my current WIPs finished, trying to stick to my plan to get it done within the next week. So, of course, my brain thought it was the PERFECT time to smack me over the head with the outline for Descent.

I denied it once.

It came back with a cast-iron frying pan.

I denied it twice.

It came back with a sledgehammer.

I thought of denying it thrice, but was reminded that I had enough physical malfunctions to deal with. So I gave in. Originally the plan was to wait until I got a couple projects done – one romance, one YA fantasy – but it’s just as well. I’d like to turn the novel around before the year’s end so starting now is opportune. For a few months, I’ve known what I have to do to get Descent going. It exists as a first draft currently, but it needs love. I knew it needed rewrites in order to make it match its predecessor, Ascension. I figured I’d just go back over all the scenes and extra tidbits I had stored and whip up a simple outline, then zoom through the rewrites and edits.

Oh. My. God. NOPE. Nope, nope, nope.

Cue the next tear.

In going over everything, I’ve realized just how much the manuscript needs rewrites. And when I say rewrites, I mean writing nearly every single scene from scratch. The overall ideas will remain but practically all the words are going to be turned over and changed around. That’s about 100,000 words gone. Why? Three words.

Perspective and style.

And to get really succinct, I can cut it down to just one: consistency.

 

Lessons In Being a Writer: Yielding to the Necessary Evils

I’ve been overcoming bad writing habits. I don’t know where they first developed, especially since my writing in high school wasn’t half bad. But somewhere along the way, during the time when I was focused on post-secondary education, I developed terrible habits. Then they made their way into Ascension. After that, they made their way into the first drafts for the rest of the series because I started working on the future bits at the same time as the first installment.

Then I committed myself to relearning the writing craft and discovered my grievous errors, the most prominent of which has been head-hopping. Or, if you prefer, shifting POVs in the same scene.

All of which has to go.

Thankfully I managed to fix all of that in Ascension, but now I have to set my sights on the rest of the series. And that’s fine. I accept that. That’s not as much as problem as it could be. I knew that’s what I’d have to do during rewrites. I’m cool with that.

It’s the change in style that’s now killing me.

That’s what I learned during one night of analyzing scenes to create the outline for book #2. I had written the scenes at a time when I was still “finding myself”, and my style hadn’t been pinned down quite like it is now. Book 1 went through editing round after editing round, where I was cutting the crap out and really just getting to things. Book 2 hasn’t received that attention yet.

And so it comes down to this: to make the second book match the first, everything’s being torn down to build it up.

Oh, consistency. How we love thee.

But there’s the lesson to be had here. Working on a series is awesome. It can be exhilarating, fun, and a hilarious ride. But let’s not forget to get real: things change. We change. Sometimes we have to learn to accept – as begrudgingly as we may – that the best job we can do is go back to the beginning and do it all over. So while I may be bitching and moaning over waving most of the current 100k goodbye, the reality is I’ll be sucking it up and just doing it. All authors should strive to put out work that’s at at the top level. Clean, consistent, clear. As much as we’d love to zip through a manuscript and throw it out there, we need to step back and be critical of our work, then push it further towards a 100% hater-proof version. We may never get that 100%, but 99% is better than nothing.

So, to all the members of my literary family: if you’ve ever found yourself in the same position, my sympathies. And to all those who have persevered despite the little twisting knife in your heart: good on you. I hate the saying “pain is gain”, but in this case, sometimes it really is… assuming we’re cutting out the bad and keeping the good. That’s where beta readers and editors are as precious as gold, for Indie writers and Big 5 alike… a totally different story for a rather different day.

But I’m interested in hearing your stories of heartache and flirting with the necessary evils in the literary craft. So go on, lay them out. Tell me more, tell me more!

Poem: Of Thee I Ask, Peripheral

Of Thee I Ask, Peripheral

Fie, thou accursed mouse wheel,
for whose permission didst thou
obtain to run errant?

In such simplicity was thy task,
to guide the wayward arrow
up towards the heavens
and down towards the roots
tangled in the frozen earth.

The curious hands I dare pull back
desire to undo thee,
hinge by hinge
until thou art naught but fragments
displaying openly what thou art made of.

And yet, methinks craftily in my demise,
I shall let ye dwell
per chance the whispers of a dalliance
with another whets thy jealousy.

Other terms I cannot fathom
for they will not so acutely state
the inner turmoil I have for thee,
yet these last etchings
from my fingers slip:
Get yourself together and start scrolling, or I’m throwing you out and buying a new one.

 


 

So a couple weeks ago, my computer mouse upped and partially went on strike in the middle of the day. More specifically, the scrolling function died. No warning. No nothing. I did (almost) everything I could think of. Restarted the computer. Fiddled with the mouse settings. Uninstalled then reinstalled it. Being a plug-and-play optical mouse, there’s only so much left to do. I considered tearing the thing apart, which lasted for about a minute. Figured that I’d probably end up breaking it apart completely and then I’d have no mouse.

So what’s a writer to do?

Write about it.

Naturally.

Somewhere between very tired and too awake to go back to sleep, this came to me. Don’t know why it came out more along the Shakespearean line. I haven’t written anything like this since high school. A little rusty but otherwise just some cheeky fun.

Kind of like technology as a whole.

One step at a time

“So many people want instantaneous gratification. They give up after one rejection letter. Or worse, they give up on themselves, not just their writing.”

Ain’t that the truth? It’s sad, but a reality. And that’s why my immediate thought was to share this post from Rosa: we need the pep talks, the reminders, the shoulders to cry on, the pats on the back, and a touch of cheerleading. It’s not a long post, but just long enough to remind us all that we don’t build our empires in a day. It takes work. It takes time. And sometimes, it’s that time that’s really important. We learn, we grow, we wise-up. I’ve got my own pile of rejection letters from publishers and agents, but that’s okay. That’s how it works. We stumble, we might fall, but if we get back up and try walking again, we might just get somewhere.

Onwards and upwards!
– RAB

Rosa Sophia

palmfrond_Fotor

I found my first acceptance letters when I was going through my old writing folders.

“Your writing is just what we’re looking for.”

And…

“Your story has been accepted.”

These letters were from the very beginning of my writing career, years ago. Now, I have several books out, and more coming in the future. Even so, I sometimes feel as if I have accomplished very little. Looking back at these old letters reminds me of how long I’ve been working at it, and how much farther I have to go.

We are our own worst critics. But the worst thing you can do is give up. 

So many people want instantaneous gratification. They give up after one rejection letter. Or worse, they give up on themselves, not just their writing.

Think of a ladder. You don’t climb it in one giant step, do you? No. You take it one rung…

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Hear Ye, Hear Ye: “Ascension” Has Been Picked Up! Bring On the Epic Fantasy.

Lise_save tagline

Huzzah! Years worth of effort is finally paying off.

Ascension is under contract.

My dark, epic fantasy finally has a home.

 

Labour of Love

For years, I’ve been toiling with this series, especially since it spans a “few” books <insert giggle and a snort here>. I started writing the first installment while I was studying at university, except it didn’t get too far. Science degrees don’t necessarily allow for much “free time”, and what little time I did have went to working part-time, volunteering with a science club, and family.

After I graduated, I managed to do some writing. I even mustered up the courage to join a group on Facebook dedicated to Fantasy Writers, especially since the group’s focus is providing feedback to authors. With a grimace and some humility, I posted an excerpt from the very first scene. I didn’t know what to expect.

Rewrites, that’s what.

It wasn’t a terrible experience. I didn’t have the proverbial tomato thrown at me. Rather, a couple of generous authors (including Ascension‘s literary Godmother, Dianne Lynn Gardner) made kind suggestions that led to a full rewrite of everything I’d managed up until then. And it’s just as well because it was like cardboard: flat, stiff, and not very tasty. So I sucked it up and did it.

After that, the rest of the manuscript started to flow. I finished the whole first draft and started to realize it needed to be cut in half. So I did, and that’s where Ascension was born with its sisters, Descent and, eventually, Fragment. Then I started editing and haven’t stopped since.

Though I finally stopped editing enough to give it a shot in September 2014. After trying out literary agents for several months – going so far as being short-listed at one agency (SWEET!!!) – I made the decision to try the small press route. It’s not to say I’d never consider an agent again – because I would. It wasn’t a lightly-made decision. I thought about it for months. But after spending so many years on the story, I felt it was time to reveal it to the world sooner rather than later. I fully accepted the reality that I could spend years trying for an agent and never get one, or sign with a big publishing house.

I also worried that I might have to compromise some bits (mostly certain relationships a few characters get into) just to cater to the comfort levels of agents or publishers. I aspire to be an equal-opportunity author in all senses of the term, reaching well beyond the expected “one-boy-hooks-up-with-one-girl” norm, as well as other stereotypes. I don’t want to give those ideas of diversity up, meaning I needed a publisher that understands and respects that.

So, after careful consideration, I chose to submit to a publisher I’ve already worked with on other projects: Pagan Writers Press.

I submitted Ascension on September 26, 2014.

The contract was signed November 10, 2014.

 

So Now What?

I wait. Well, for the manuscript to get to an editor and be put through the wringer. In the meantime, I’ve been mucking around with promotional stuff, as seen from previous blog posts. The series website has begun and will be built over the course of the year, with the final reveal closer to the release date (TBD). The map has been hand-drawn by fantasy cartographer, John Renehan, and it looks beautiful. I’ve finally settled on what I’d like to see on the cover. And I’m making a list of further edits I’ve found since handing the manuscript over… some of which make me a little embarrassed to admit they got through. Thankfully, that’s what extra sets of eyes are good for!

 

Without Further Ado… About the Novel: Ascension

I’ve posted a temporary, more professional sounding blurb here, but for this post, I’d rather just kick back a little and be casual. So what’s it about?

A boy who said no.

A boy who said (figuratively) “I’ve had it with your crap”.

A boy who ran.

While the series is written from the POV of multiple characters, the books still revolve around one central character: Quji, a man who grew up in a violent home in a military state but found his way out. He wants a peaceful life, a productive life. One he can be proud of. He wants to be himself. He wants to be free and do good. And his courage is often rewarded in ways he never could have imagined.

Except that doesn’t mean his life is any easier. Far from. One choice after another drags him through a rather screwed up world. He’s a young man at a turbulent time when nations are on the verge of war. Resources. Power. Control. It’s the same old reasons our real world has dealt with for millennia. And while Quji doesn’t want any part of it, he soon finds out that what he wants isn’t how things work. He’s thrown in the middle and expected to deal.

Not only does it rob him of everything he was hoping for, but it will damn near kill him.

And that’s how a hero is born.

Ascension is book 1 in the Blood & Heritage series and takes the reader to where the story really begins for Quji. The series then follows him and his family through their trials and triumphs, weaving in and out of the world issues they have to deal with just to survive.

It’s an epic (high) fantasy set in a secondary world, but it’s dark. I mean, DARK. To compare it to other works people know, my best description is: Terry Goodkind meets George R.R. Martin meets Marion Zimmer Bradley meets Sherrilyn Kenyon. The book touches on a few sensitive issues, particularly domestic abuse and rape, and the effect they have on individuals and families – and the effort it takes to break the cycle. Add a touch of trafficking, extortion, and crime, and it’s full of dramatic situations.

So audience discretion is advised. To say there’s a trigger warning is fair. This is an adult epic fantasy just like the TV show, “Game of Thrones”.

On the other hand, there’s also lighter stuff to balance out the dark. Epic fantasy should be a mix of a lot of things and this isn’t an exception. Humour, the beauty of innocence, and romance (with some *cough, cough* explicit scenes *cough, cough*). I’d like to think there’s a bit of everything so every reader can find something to enjoy.

And just because I can’t wait to share… a teensy excerpt to whet the appetite:

 

***

If he tried–if he was good enough–he could bring them back. This could not be their end. Not here. Not like this.

The words came to him quickly, his inner voice screeching spells. His hands grew hot, and he pressed his fingers deeper. Magic pulsed, spiraling out from his core, sending waves and threads of energy through him to Eliina and Gilin. While he could not feel their life energies flowing back, he willed the magic further. With each push, he took a deep breath. He could not breathe enough.

His chest hurt. First a dull discomfort, then a stabbing pain.

Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t–

The pain blazed through his head, raced through his chest, and shot through his stomach into his legs.

Yelling, he fell backwards. Wiping his face on his sleeve, he realized he was crying.

He pawed at Eliina’s face, splotched with dried blood from the gaping wound at her hairline and streaks of blood from his hands. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I never meant for this to happen. Please come back. Please,” he begged, taking her hand in his. Her fingers sat wrong in his palm. Someone had crushed them and bent them until they broke.

It was not enough to kill the first people to take a chance on him. They had been tortured, too.

He could guess why.

***

 

Sound like something you might be interested in reading? Keep tabs on the story’s progress by following my blog or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Goodreads! I’ll be posting things as they come up.

And to specifically follow along with the story’s progress, and its parent series, use these hashtags: #AscensionEpic and #BloodandHeritage. I’ll be tagging updates, release information, website links, launch parties, and any giveaway events! *Hint hint* There might just be a few of those… *whistles and walks away*

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