Junior Inquisitor

Junior Inquisitor

Monday, April 27, 2015

My review of R.L. King's STONE AND A HARD PLACE

Let me start off by saying this was a damn fine book, I enjoyed reading it, and it was worth the 2.99 I plunked down for it. I will be waiting for the next one in the series.

Anyone who's met me knows I am a reader. On any given week, I plow through 4 books. Sometimes much more if I have free time, and rarely less. As a result I have over the years accumulated hundreds of books and have amassed a decent sized library with everything from history, to philosophy, to cheesy pulp fantasy complete with politically incorrect cover. My wife, tired of me trying to find a place for my latest acquisition bought me a Kindle, which is currently holding about 500 books. When that is full the Paper White Kindle I won from Jess Alter will be my new repository for reading.

There was a time when if I started a book, I finished it. I could count on one hand the number of books I picked up and didn't complete. Now, I am always pressed for time, so if a book turns dull, or gets weak, or drags, I toss it; making no apologies for doing so.

In the last year I have been given several dozen books for review. Most of them sucked. Being kind of nice, I discretely contact the author, let them know why I didn't enjoy their book and let it go. Negative reviews are to be expected, but they do sting. I see no need in wounding someone further by posting a negative review on Amazon or the like.

Now, having praised the book, let me get into the areas I though it was weak.

Alistair Stone is a wizard. He is asked to temporarily take on an apprentice, which he does so reluctantly. There is some confusion, several times Alistair is referred to as an “excellent teacher,” but it also seems that he had never taught an apprentice before.

Most of the world is very well fleshed out, but magic itself appeared to be glossed over. Where does it come from specifically? Is the ability to do magic solely genetic or is there some other method of learning it? Is magic a specific color, or smell, or does that vary person to person or maybe by the type and intent of the spell?

For me the biggest hole was the blasé way Alistair explained the difference between white and black magic to his apprentice. White magic is powered by the person making the spell, black magic drains others for power. Take to much from someone and they become a corpse.

Black magic is seductive, addictive, and generally used for nefarious purposes, by people that could easily be categorized as “evil,” or at least bereft of most normal morality.

Given all of this Alistair glosses over in just a page or three the difference between white and black magic, and completely leaves off warning the kid about why to avoid people who use black magic.

There is an addictive source of power that is available to a young and new to the magical world apprentice, favored by dangerous people. These magicians, who enjoy hurting and manipulating others, who do not even see mundanes as “people,” but as batteries to be used as they see fit, use black magic, Despite this, Alistair, does not bother to very clearly and specifically explain why it would be bad for his apprentice to go hang with them?

Why not just toss him overboard after the chum has hit the water and the sharks have arrived explaining, “You'll learn to swim faster this way.”

 I did not connect with Alistair as well as I could have, he came across as someone who was superficial, pretending to care, but really self-absorbed at his core. He “cared,” but not enough to really do work. He is driven more by curiosity to solve the main dilemma, rather than altruistic reasons. Perhaps this is deliberate, Alistair is an interesting, but not really very nice person, and we've all known a few of those. Problem is, after awhile, these kinds of people become less interesting and end up becoming some one that you used to know.

Like I said good book. I enjoyed the depth of the characters, the pace, and their dilemmas. 4 stars, worth the 2.99 price and I will be ready to read the next one when it is ready.

You can find Stone and a Hard Place here -
Lastly, if Alistair ran into Brother Sebastian and the Inquisitors, the fight would be short, and not in favor of the Brit.
Now if you want to meet some truly destructive, power-mad witches, their minions, and the men who hunt them, when not running for cover -
Available here -
Smashwords - http://goo.gl/XsGgAC
Google Play - http://goo.gl/g2kNPa

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fast action requires short sentences

I have, at various times in my life, been an technical writer. When I do that I have to make sure that sentences are short and succinct. The idea is to educate in small digestible pieces. The goal is to inform, not entertain. I'm usually pretty good at that. Most of the time the subject is dry anyway.

Where I run into problems is when I am writing for pleasure, I tend to get florid, writing paragraph long sentences filled with action, movements, and even dialog. When this happens, my editor, the esteemed Danielle Fine, breaks out into hives and the page turns red.

The other issue with long florid writing is the tendency to either beat a subject to death, or even worse, slip into an unnecessary tangent. I do that quite often, perhaps it is that I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head while I write. Maybe it is Calvin the Helper dog interrupting me to let me know there are squirrels about, perhaps...but I digress.

It's always a struggle for me, I like the long turn of phrase, but I see her point. I do not, as of yet, have the writing chops to pull off a Dickensian length phrase, but one day, if I keep at it, victory shall be mine.

For me the sentence is there to paint a picture, not to bog down the plot, It should drive the action along, not to go full on Edward Bulwar-Lytton.

Further, as there is a lot of action in my stories, and I do like a fast paced novel, short sentences rule. I'm trying to pare my sentences down so that only two or three things occur in each one.

He continued to stride to the locked door, but turned his head back at me.

That is up to you,” he said as he reached it.”

I kept my pistol up and ready to fire as I eased down the hall, taking short, choppy steps.”

Most of my readers, so far have found my book gripping, it is so fast paced, the excess is stripped away to a bare story, they end up reading the whole thing in one sitting, unable and unwilling to break away. That is a huge compliment as far as I'm concerned, and if it means more rewrites to get the story just so, I am happy to do it.
If you like to be thrilled; enjoy a great dark novel, and wonder what it would be like fight witches and their minions, give my book a try. Almost guaranteed enjoyment.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My lack of perfection

So it turns out I'm not perfect. While that was something I had already known, and have been reminded of this deficiency many, many times by my parents, teachers, drill sergeants, professors, employers, other officers and my lovely wife, when it came to the subject of my book, Junior Inquisitor, there was still a chance, a small but not zero, possibility that it was perfect. After all, everything is perfect before it is open to scrutiny. Before my book was on sale, when it was just a completed project, it was perfect.

When people were reading author copies, I received lots of positive feedback. People vowed to write many 5 star reviews. My ego swelled, and I was glad. Finally the day came, the book was out for mass distribution, and reviews came in. All 5 stars. Twenty eventually rolled in within a weekend. And then Rick Gualtieri gave me a 4 star rating. Not perfection, but still a very good rating, and from an author whom I respect and have read most of his books. And it was just one 4 star, with strong points of why Junior Inquisitor wasn't a 5 star in his estimation. I found myself in agreement with his points, and vowed to make my second book even better. More people read my book, more 5 star ratings came in, and then----a 2 star.

"Bought this because I have found very few books in this genre that are worth a read and this one came highly recommended. That being said this book is short on detail and lacks character development. Not a bad read but wouldn't buy any others in this series."

I have to admit I was disappointed. What did I do wrong? Why does this reviewer dislike my book so much? She, making the assumption based on the name given that the reviewer is a she, states “this book is short on detail and lacks character development.”

Short on detail

My writing is set at a very fast pace, avoiding what I call “over-describing.” Excessive detail slows the pace down, not something you want in an action story. I could write,

Brother Sebastian drew his heavily modified, Glock model 17 from the tactical holster. Fitted to his hand by the Monastery's Weapons Master, Brother Ralph, it fit his hand and his hand alone to perfection. Leaning forward a few inches he began getting into his 'shooting stance' shoulders forward, knees bent, arms in a straight line, parallel to the ground and making a triangle. His left hand snaked down to meet his shooting hand, wrapped both hands around the butt of the gun. He punched the pistol up and forward into his shooting stance, as he peered down the specially blackened slide to the modified ghost ring front sight. The ghost ring was fuzzy and indistinct as it was supposed to be as the target, the Screwface snapped into view. The purple-black nimbus of magic flickered and flared as she prepared to launch another spell at him.

Bit long winded and with what I think is excessive detail. My editor would be screaming and trying to get me to cut everywhere. Perhaps a better version might be

Brother Sebastian drew his pistol. In one smooth motion, he shifted into his 'shooter's stance' peering down the slide past the indistinct and fuzzy front sight, as the Screwface snapped into view. The purple-black nimbus of magic flickered and flared as she prepared to launch another spell at him.

Admittedly, in the second version the reader is doing some work, filling in details, like which type of front does Brother Sebastian have, or his body position in a shooting stance, or the modifications made to his pistol and what type and model it is, but the action is there, and most can follow along with out issue.

lacks character development”

A similar issue, I can describe every event that lead up to Brother Sebastian becoming an Inquisitor, all the people he interacted with, and so on. The same can be done for the other characters as well, but I can't do that and keep the story moving along. I want the reader's experience to be a screaming de-orbit from space, not the plod of a flock of racing turtles.

What it comes down to is while many like the rapid pace of my stories, that does not mean everyone does. Some will not enjoy my stories. Part of me know that what I wrote was not for everyone; some do not like a roller coaster ride when they read. And now I have proof.

I will keep writing in my style to the best of my ability. My 2 star rating will be there as a reminder that even when I do my best, not everyone will like it, and that's okay.
If you like fast paced adventure you can get my book here -

                   Amazon - http://goo.gl/D6KrbX

                   Smashwords - http://goo.gl/XsGgAC

                   Nook - http://goo.gl/MVLXia

                   Google Play - http://goo.gl/g2kNPa


Friday, April 3, 2015

My thoughts on what makes a book "good"

I had an interesting discussion about what makes a book “good.” The person I was talking with felt that a “good” book was one that reflected diversity, had strong women in it, or other minorities, either as the main character, or a serious, significant role, central to the story.

That saddened me a bit. What she wanted was a story that mimicked her world view, that reinforced her thoughts on how the world should be. She wanted a reflection of herself, not entertainment.

For me, I want to be sucked into the story, I want to fly in unknown vistas, travel to new worlds and cultures, meet the fantastic or usual. I want to be absorbed into the action and care about the outcome.

I don't care if the main character is a little boy who grows into a wizard, or a young woman stuck in a strange place using her mind to figure out how to survive, or a non-human Starship Captain far from home surrounded by hostile aliens, and a mutinous human crew.

I want to be entertained, enraptured by what I read.

One of the best series I've read is Tales of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, by Nathan Lowell. There are no epic space battles, few explosions, a dearth of villains twirling black mustaches, but it is good. The stories are so well written I find myself completely absorbed by what is happening, by the actions of the characters, their lives and dreams, that I've read and re-read the series multiple times. That is what I expect when I put down my money for a book, entertainment, and for me that is a gripping, compelling story that keeps me reading until the last page.
I want to be enthralled, not lectured or read a sermon. That's what I try to do with my books, entertain the reader, make it so when they start they put off everything else until they hit the end. From the reviews I've gotten for Junior Inquisitor, it seems as though I was successful. I'm working on making sure the next one, The Soulless Monk, is the same.

You can find Junior Inquisitor at

Smashwords - http://goo.gl/XsGgAC

Google Play - http://goo.gl/g2kNPa