Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Viper and the Urchin by Celine Jeanjean

I think I've mentioned this before, but I hate writing reviews. I'm terrible at it. There is an art to writing a good review, a certain ability to critically analyze a work and formulate clear, concise opinions. It's a skill that I simply do not possess in my repertoire. Maybe I'll spend some points on it the next time I level up.

However, I do like to tell people about stuff I like, so I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about a great new book called "The Viper and the Urchin" I just read that I think you should check out, too.

A month ago Ms Jeanjean asked me read her new book (which just dropped this week, you can buy it here) and review it if I felt comfortable doing so. I was hesitant simply because I knew I had several trips this month and was going to be busy, but I gave it a shot. I was really glad I did.

First, here's the blurb:

Being Damsport's most elegant assassin is hard work. There's tailoring to consider, devilish poisons to concoct, secret identities to maintain... But most importantly, Longinus has to keep his fear of blood hidden or his reputation will be ruined. So, when a scrawny urchin girl threatens to expose his phobia unless he teaches her swordsmanship, he has no choice but to comply. 
It doesn't take long for Rory to realise that her new trainer has more eccentricities than she has fleas. But she'll put up with anything, no matter how frustrating, to become a swordswoman like her childhood hero.
What she's not prepared for is a copycat assassin who seeks to replace Longinus, and who hires Rory's old partner in crime to do away with her, as well. Rory and Longinus must set their differences aside and try to work together if they're to stop the copycat. But darker forces than they realise are at play, and with time running out, the unlikely duo find themselves the last line of defence against a powerful enemy who seeks to bring Damsport to its knees.
Sounds pretty cool, right? On Amazon the book is categorized as Young Adult/Fantasy/Steampunk, which is technically true, but if I had only heard of this book based on it's category I may not have picked it up. I wouldn't have thought it was my cup of tea. But the categorization only tells part of the story: At its heart The Viper and the Urchin is a fast-paced and enjoyable character-driven mystery/thriller, and that's a wonderful thing.

Too many genre books focus too much on background and world building and not enough on the plot and characters, but The Viper and the Urchin avoids this trap with an entertaining duo of characters that you care about and would be interesting in any setting. The background is just that - a back drop to the action, which is a quickly-moving thriller with stakes important to the characters. There is just enough back story to set the scene instead of providing an encyclopedic history of the world. The writing overall is clean and polished. It's detailed and evocative without being overly or unnecessarily flowery, which lends well to its fast-paced readability.

The two protagonists, the surly, rough-around-the-edges "Urchin" and the foppish, well-to-do "Viper" (an assassin who's more concerned that his shoes match his belt than actual assassination) are a weird mix of unusual characters. They're so much fun to read and play off each other amazingly well. They may be a bit one-dimensional but that's a small trade-off for the constant antagonistic, witty banter between them. The dialogue is tight and well-written.

To the point: this is a fun, quick read that's genuinely enjoyable and entertaining. It's well worth picking up and I'm looking forward to future releases from Ms Jeanjean.

Go check out The Viper and the Urchin! And make sure to drop by Celine's website while you're at it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We're going to the Zoo... how about you?

Actually, we just got back from the zoo. You missed it. Sorry.

This past weekend the wife and I packed up the kids and traveled to our old stomping grounds of Toronto to visit friends and check out the Toronto Zoo. I love the zoo and haven't been in many years, so it was great to go back and revisit old favourites like the polar bears and tigers, as well as check out the new additions like the giant pandas. I don't think the 4-month old really appreciated it, but the 3 and a half year old really enjoyed certain parts. The jelly fish tank was a big hit, as was the camel ride.

I think his favourite part of the whole weekend was the elevator in the hotel, though. He's 3 and a half, what are you going to do?

Here's a few pictures. I wish I had more but it's tough to juggle a camera and a toddler.

I love tigers. The zoo has 2 that they keep in cages on opposite sides of the walking trail. The first time I went many years ago the female was in heat and the male was trying to get at her through the cage. It was both awesome and terrifying.
Look! We're riding a camel. For reference, camels are way more uncomfortable than horses.
I have no idea how someone can spend weeks crossing a desert on one of these things.
This one's my favourite. Credit goes to my good friend (and photographer extraordinaire) Jason Salvatori.
Random zookeeper with an owl. She told us not to come too close or it would bite us.
And they let these things deliver letters to children???

Panda sighting! I actually have a better picture but I can't find it, must be on my wife's phone.
Anyway, pandas are the laziest f***ing creatures on the face of the planet. They just look like fat guys in furry costumes sitting around eating all day.

This is from the hotel room. My son has decided he likes Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering.
He mostly just dumps the cards and dice into piles, but it's a start!
So how about you? Have you been to a zoo recently?

Monday, July 27, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Gabriel by Patricia Josephine

Today we welcome the lovely Patricia Josephine to the blog to tell us all about her new novel, the final chapter in her Path of Angels series. Take it away, Patricia!

The End of a Series

Well, this is it. The last book in the Path of Angels series. It seems like only yesterday I was getting Michael’s cover. Time really has flown. I’m surprised and proud of myself for keeping up with the schedule I set. I had to push Jophiel back a little because of my editor’s schedule, but I found it worked in my favor, so I pushed Gabriel’s release date back a little too.

It feels weird leaving my angels boys’ lives. I have other stories to work on, but I’ve been immersed in archangels, nephilims, and fallen angels for so long. I’m a little lost.

Which story do I work on next?

I’ll figure it out eventually. If I get an idea to being back into PoA’s world, I will totally go back. There’s little scenes and stories that I think would be fun to write. Maybe delving into Charlie’s past to show why she doesn’t speak, or write about Michael and Lake after Michael left his brothers. What about the book Zephyr wrote? Who was the angels in it? I could bring other archangels down to Earth too. Have new plots. There are lots of possibilities for exploring the world. For now, I’m going to celebrate the series ending. I did it! After a bad 2014, I am rocking 2015.

About The Book!

The end is in sight.

To stop Uriel from freeing Lucifer, Gabriel and his brothers must fall and go to Hell. It is a sacrifice Gabriel is not entirely ready to make. Will he fight alongside his brothers or forge his own path? There is only one choice.

Alexander doesn’t want to help Uriel nor does he trust him, but the angel has promised him a better life. He swore to protect Charlie, and he’ll do whatever it takes. When he meets the archangels and learns the depth of Uriel’s lies, he understands the true meaning of sacrifice. If there’s any hope of stopping Lucifer from being freed, Alexander, Charlie, Zephyr and Lake will have to get to Hell and help Gabriel and his brothers in the fight against Uriel.

The path is finally ending, but the price may be too high.

Amazon Link:
Goodreads Link:

About the Author!

Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it and she hasn't regretted a moment. She writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow, and an obsession with Doctor Who.


Path of Angels:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why All the Hate for the Lady Ghostbusters?

I don't get it.

So many old franchises are being rebooted or given unnecessary sequels. Why is this one drawing some much ire?

I think I know, but I really don't want to say it.

In the comment section of every article I've read about the film, you will find no end to the derisive comments. "Melissa McCarthy isn't funny." "Ghostbusters is a perfect film, it shouldn't be messed with." "Paul Feig is a hack." Those are the most pervasive arguments, but there are plenty more, most unfortunately directed at the attractiveness, age and talent of the female cast. The blow-back from fans was so bad that Sony had to announce a second reboot featuring a male group led by Channing Tatum to try and appease them.

Seriously? Isn't this 2015? The US will elect a black president and legalize gay marriage, but heaven forbid we get a female cast of Ghostbusters.

(On a side note, I don't like Hillary Clinton's odds for next year).

Politics and silly arguments aside, I'm personally pretty excited for this Ghostbusters remake. I love Feig and McCarthy's movies, and I'm not the only one. Bridesmaids made $288 million worldwide. The Heat (One of my favourite comedies of the last several years) made $229 million. Spy made $220 millions and counting (all figures courtesy Box Office Mojo). Feig and McCarthy make successful movies together (and Kristen Wiig is pretty friggin' hilarious, too). Like it or not, Melissa McCarthy is a viable comic movie star. Hell, even Mike & Molly, McCarthy's star vehicle sit-com, gets consistent ratings and has garnered McCarthy numerous award nominations and even an Emmy win.

There's a tiny heart on the radiation symbol on the proton pack.
I hope there's a joke somewhere in there about that.
The argument against mining old content for new movies is fair enough, but completely pointless. That's all big studios make these days. The cool thing about the new Ghostbusters is that they're actually doing something different with an old idea. It is still an old idea, but at least they're shaking it up - and with talented people no less. Kudos to Sony for trying it. I hope it makes a billion dollars just to shut people up.

Would you prefer mini-skirts and crop tops?

So how about you? Are you looking forward to the new Ghostbusters? Do you think it will be successful?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Five Facts About Me

About two weeks ago I was tagged by Liesel K. Hill in another one of these blog challenges, but then I went on vacation and forgot about it. But today I finally got around to finish it.

So here you go: Here are 5 random facts about me!

1. I married my high school sweetheart. Who says there's no such thing as true love? We've been together almost 18 years and have been married for 11, still going strong. Not sure if this will colour the relationships of characters in my writing, but I'm not going to complain about having a happy home life. :-)

2. I studied to be a theatre professional. I went to school to be an actor, but the fine folks at York University in Toronto beat that out of me. I am still a ham and love to perform, but I didn't want to be an "Actor" in the way that they taught. I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts, but specializing instead in technical theatre, stagecraft and design. I was going to be a stage manager or a technical director, but when I graduated I felt I needed more supervisory experience and a regular paycheque, which leads me to...

3. I worked at Kinko's for 7.5 years. It was still "Kinko's" when I started. I was there for the FedEx buy-out and the transition to "FedEx Kinko's" and ultimately "FedEx Office." For those of you outside the USA, Kinko's was the ubiquitous copy shop on every street corner through the 90s and into the early 2000s. Any time you see a character in a movie or TV show go to a copy shop, it's a Kinko's or a parody of it. It's like the McDonalds of copy shops. The best thing about working there is that I have SO MANY stories about weird and interesting customers and experiences that I will have fodder for books for many years to come.

Also, in case you're wondering, I never went back to theatre.

4. I'm a big table-top gaming nerd. This should be obvious to anyone who has poked around my site (or especially my other site), but I love role-playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons) and board games (like this or this - Monopoly is not a game, it's an exercise in futility). I just need to clarify that "table-top" games are exactly that - games you play around a table with friends using pen-and-paper and game boards and dice. I'm not a video-gamer - I've hardly played video games in years.

I love and am fascinated by the design and structure of table-top games. How and why the rules work, how the interact with each other, the probability of die rolls and card draws. In another life I probably should have been a statistician or actuary, though honestly it would probably have only used my skills to be better at games.

5. Most people are surprised to discover I'm from Newfoundland. Newfoundland is the Eastern-most Canadian province and has a long and storied history. It was first visited by Europeans (the Vikings) some 500 years before Columbus, and was the site of some of the earliest "official" European exploration and settlement. My family lived there for many generations and I was born and raised there until I was 18.

The reason people are surprised to hear of my background is because I really don't fit the typical stereotype of a Newfoundlander. We "Newfies" come from a long line of hard-drinking fishermen with colourful accents. My family tree is full of them, on both my mother and father's side. Me? I hate fishing and boats, barely drink, and my accent is pretty non-existent (it's there, but quite faint). Why am I so different than the rest of my family? Who knows, but I'm still proud of my heritage and its history and would love to tell you some stories sometime.

* * *

So that's 5 things you may or may not have known about me. I'm probably supposed to tag someone else on this but I'm not going to bug anyone right now. They're probably on vacation, too!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

IWSG July: Plugging Away

Another month, another update. How are we doing?

I think I've returned to the "insecure" part of the group's title.

Sales of my first book Ten Thousand Days tanked after the first month. I ran out of friends, family members and acquaintances to convince to buy it, and after a half-dozen guest blogs and interviews, my marketing campaign kind of fizzled out as I didn't have the time to keep on the hustle every day. I would rather spend what available time I do have working on the next book.

I haven't completely given up on Days, though. I'm in the middle of a promotion right now for Canada Day (and the Fourth of July): To help stock up on your summer reading, Ten Thousand Days is on sale for just $0.99. It's actually less than 99 cents on - the Canadian prince is $0.99 so they adjusted it accordingly. I actually even put a few bucks in Facebook marketing to see if it helps get the word out there. So far the ad hasn't generated any sales, but it has reached thousands of new eyes that wouldn't have seen it previously. I will give a full breakdown and detail on how the promotion went after it's done, for those who are interested.

Here's the link to the ad, by the way. Like my Facebook page while you're over there. ;-)

The real insecurity (discouragement?) this month has been my new book, my WIP that I have been dutifully plugging away at these last few months. I've set certain targets and goals for myself of when I wanted to have each step of writing completed, but at the rate I'm going there's no way I'm going to hit any of my deadlines.

I mentioned before that I wrote the first draft entirely long hand whilst riding on the bus. Now I'm trying to type up and revise that draft, also on the bus, and it's not going well for a number of reasons:

1. I'm writing on a fucking bus.

2. For various perfectly reasonable reasons beyond my control, I haven't been taking the bus every day. Usually that's a good thing, but when my commute is my only writing time, not commuting = not writing.

3. It's a different kind of story that I'm not used to writing, so I'm having trouble keeping everything together. As I revise and change/add things, it's messing up other things and the whole manuscript just feels wonky and sloppy right now. When I do finish this draft it's going to take a major, major revision to put everything back in order, whereas I was hoping that this second draft was going to at least be at a point that I could hand it to a few people to get their feedback.

If I handed you a copy of my manuscript right now, it would basically read like this.
I had set myself a deadline of today to have finished this draft (or at least been within spitting distance) and I'm only about 2/3 of the way through (not including the inevitable 3rd draft to fix all the issues I created by revising the 2nd draft). Today is also the start of my vacation, so while I will enjoy my week off to spend with my family, I won't get any writing done.

So yeah, it's disappointing that I'm not where I wanted to be with my current manuscript, and that it's also not coming out quite the way I wanted it to. I'm not quite at the "am I wasting my time?" point yet, but I fear that day may be coming. I've never had this much trouble putting a book together before. I don't know if that means it will ultimately be a more satisfying experience, or I will eventually give up and just throw the whole thing in the trash. We'll see how it goes.

I'll let you know again how it's going in a month. Maybe I'll have a writing surge sometime in July and come back rejuvenated and excited.

I'm keeping my expectations low, though, just in case.

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