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The third book of the Demon Cycle — more sex and violence than plot.


The Daylight War

Random House, 2013, 639 pages



A continuation of his epic Demon Cycle series, The Daylight War features Inevera, the wife of Jadir, who took center stage in Book 2, The Desert Spear. In this heart-stopping installment, humanity continues to struggle against the demon plague - even as survivors hold out hope that the Deliverer will save them all. On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men, both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.


The secret origins of a 12th Level Sex-Ninja.Collapse )

Also by Peter Brett: My reviews of The Warded Man and The Desert Spear.




My complete list of book reviews.

AQATWA: Poser

I know I said I probably wouldn't bother doing chapter illustrations this time around, but I finally dusted off my old Poser software (actually, I went and upgraded it to the newest version), and pretty soon found myself fiddling with dials and morphs again. It's kind of addictive once you get started.

I've been using Poser since I first created that horrible cover for Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle. I have assembled an extensive library of figures, but I hadn't touched the Alexandra model in years. So I had to age her up a bit. This isn't quite the same figure as the one I used for AQATTC - I think I changed the base model sometime around book three, and now I fiddle with a few settings to make her a little older with each book. I'm always switching hair out - hair is a PITA in the Poser. Better artists just paint hair and clothes in Photoshop, but I can't do that.

I said before that no piece of art ever exactly matches the pictures I have in my head, and this is equally true of the images I create myself. But I admit I've been influenced by years of creating Poser images, so the "Alexandra" who is represented by a collection of props, settings, and morphs injected into a Victoria 3 base comes about as close as I can get.

Anyway, I should probably wait until I'm done editing my manuscript before I start trying to do digital art again. In the meantime, I have a bunch of new commissions done which makes me very happy. Some of them I may share before I start posting the story, and some would be, heh, spoilery.

I am working on Chapter 46 now. This is where a lot of stuff starts to happen. Not that nothing happens in the preceding 46 chapters... but it's building to the climax, while at the same time, a new setting and a ton of new characters are all introduced. And this is where I kind of just plunged ahead to get the first draft finished, and now need to unravel a bunch of silliness and plot holes and numbers and locations that change from one chapter to the next.

Optimistically, I would like to say my target is to get this done by the end of the month. That is not a hard and fast deadline, and I'm taking a vacation at the end of the month, during which not much writing will happen. But it is my hope (not a promise, but right now it looks doable) that I will be able to inflict the next draft on my beta-readers before the end of March.

In the meantime, here's Alexandra, age 15, with a little bit of an Uncanny Valley look because I did no Photoshop postwork.

Alexandra
I'm going to try to do regular updates, so you know work is still progressing.

The good news is, I have been keeping at it and spending much of my free time (re)writing. AQATWA is getting done. I've even started roughly outlining book six.

The bad news is, I've hit the hard part. Until now most of my rewriting was relatively minor, nothing that required major revisions in the story. But then I realized I had to make some significant changes which rippled backwards across many chapters, and then I had an idea, which resulted in more changes. Meanwhile, I have hit a plot hole resulting from my reread of the previous books, and that's going to require a major rewrite of at least one chapter and maybe more. I'll figure out a solution eventually, but today I spent a lot of time staring at my screen grinding my teeth, trying to figure out which of my babies to kill.

My last update fostered debate and discussion! I don't have anything as thought-provoking to share this time around, but I do want to share some fan art. This is some of my favorite fan art of Alex ever:

Alex 11-15 by Amnevitah

Alex 11-15 by Amnevitah on DeviantArt



The way Amnevita (who also did this wonderful Thorn family lineup a few years ago) ages Alexandra each year and captures her changing moods is just wonderful. (Alex really is rather dour more often than not, isn't she?)

A lot of people have drawn Alexandra and her friends over the years, and I collect and save every piece I find. (Most people tell me when they've drawn something for me, or they post it where they know I will see it, but now and then I've stumbled upon something on DeviantArt or Tumblr and said "Wow! I had no idea this existed!" So hey — if you draw some Alexandra Quick fan art, please tell me!)

Some pictures come very close to the image I have in my head of my characters, but none are ever quite perfect. This is particularly a challenge when I commission artwork — in that case, I am paying someone to draw exactly what I want, and while I give as much detail as possible, it's simply impossible to transmit an image directly from my head to someone else's, so while I've generally been very happy with the results, I've had to accept that it will always be the artist's interpretation of what I described for them. Of course if I could draw myself, I might get closer to what I want, but I long ago gave up on improving my own drawing ability. The Poser images I created for previous books did manage to get close to my mental image with some of the characters, but are still no more perfect than illustrations done by others.

I know J.K. Rowling has said that the same thing is true for her characters — she liked the actors who played them, and she liked Mary GrandPré's illustrations in the books, but none of them exactly matched the pictures she had in her head of Harry and Hermione and Ron.

But if the writer could put the exact image in his or head on a screen, that wouldn't leave much room for creative interpretation, or for others to imagine the character differently, would it? Which is why I am always delighted to see fan art, even when the interpretation is quite different from what I imagined, because the character is still always recognizable, and I get a little glimpse of what sort of picture my words created in someone else's head.

AQATWA, reddit, and canon-compliance

AQATWA Progress


I'm currently on Chapter 40 in my revisions. 16 chapters to go!


So far, there is not as much wholesale cutting as I expected. I have not actually deleted or moved any chapters in their entirety. I have cut a lot of extraneous text, and changed some other things, but some of those changes have involved actually adding material. So my total word count has only decreased to 277,905. This is still gonna be a long book. (Scarily long. Published books typically average about 250 words per page, which would make AQATWA over 1000 pages!)


I have about half a dozen scenes and three or four major plot points that are still bothering me. I've worked out some of the problems I had, but I always worry about consistency and believability (yes, believability in a YA novel about a secret wizarding world where teenagers carry reality-bending weapons). Like, theoretically any plot problem could be solved with "Just invent a spell for that," right? But actually, no. I am not Brandon Sanderson (who writes meticulously engineering magic systems with very precise rules), but I try to more or less follow Rowling's rules (more on that below), and of course, I can't just have Alexandra dramatically "level up" and start casting spells she never could before without a reasonable explanation.


I do actually maintain a list of all the magic Alexandra has done, so I don't accidentally have her "relearn" a spell she has already used, or conversely, just start assuming she knows how to Apparate when I never described her learning how. Nonetheless, I just know some of my gimlet-eyed readers will catch errors at some point.


r/AlexandraQuick


I'm not a big redditor, but I do browse it sometimes. I only recently discovered that there is an AlexandraQuick subreddit. Apparently it's been around for a few years. Wow.


I will probably not be posting there (sorry, folks). My reddit account is linked to my real name, and I don't create throwaways. But I did read the threads. I liked Alexandra as a D&D 5E character, even though I don't like D&D 5E. (I don't think I'd rate her Intelligence quite that high — Alex is smart, but not a super-genius — but otherwise it looks like a reasonable job given the limitations of representing non-D&D characters using D&D rules.)


I also really enjoyed jackbethimble's prediction brackets for AQATWA, and the speculations it spawned. Hee hee. (I have to admit, some of the things that won't be happening made me think, 'Hey, that's not a bad idea...')


Rowling's American Wizarding World


I have a confession to make: I have not really paid much attention to anything Potteresque since the end of the series. I have not read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I have not yet seen either of the Fantastic Beasts movies (though I've read enough reviews and spoilers to think they sound... dumb), and I only recently started poking around on Pottermore and catching up on some of the "canon" that Rowling has apparently been dropping via Tweet.


The only thing worse than an author making up canon on Twitter is a president making up national policy on Twitter. Ahem.


Like, I did a real headdesk when she blithely declared that Hogwarts was a "safe space" — of course.


Dear J.K. Rowling:


Okay, look lady, when you declared Dumbledore gay after the fact, I was willing to buy that you actually envisioned him as gay all along and just never mentioned it in the books because it wasn't relevant in the story. A lot of people were pissed off at you, but I wasn't. I get why others were cynical and suspected you of retconning that for Social Justice cred, but okay, sure, you kinda sorta dropped hints with the Grindelwald relationship, and I'll take you at your word that this was something you always "knew."


But... Hogwarts was a "safe space"? Really? Yeah, "safe" unless you count the allegorical wizard-Nazis who wanted to purge the wizarding world of Mudbloods. But sure, even Slytherins were totally LGBT friendly, right? Are you kidding? I don't buy that this was ever in your head until current year made it an issue.


But whatever. Maybe contemporary Hogwarts is in fact a "safe space." I just feel that Rowling has rather reached the limits of her worldbuilding talents, and just makes up shit that sounds good now.


Case in point:  Rowling's American Wizarding World.


I finally read what she posted on Pottermore about the American wizarding world. And it's... not good.


I don't just mean the ridiculous and cavalier way she treated Native Americans. Other people have shredded her plenty for that. Her believing that apparently all Indians were part of one big tribe with homogeneous beliefs and traditions was just symptomatic of her treating America as a cartoon. At best, it's a cheap imitation of England; at worst, it's a silly hodge-podge of whatever Rowling could Wikipedia about early America.


So, the official "canon" American wizarding school is Ilvermorny. Which is basically a Hogwarts knock-off, complete with four schools and a sorting ceremony, and it serves the entire North American continent.


If I started writing Alexandra Quick today, I'd probably have set the story in Ilvermorny, and I'd have incorporated "No-Majs" and "MACUSA" into the setting. But I started writing Alexandra Quick in 2007, when Rowling hadn't said anything at all about the American wizarding world, and pretty much told her fans that if they wanted stories about American wizards, someone else would have to make them up. So I did.


Needless to say, I am not about to go back and rewrite the entire AQ series. As of the end of Deathly Hallows, and for a few years after that, I maintained that AQ was "canon-compliant" — meaning that while I might have made up a lot of stuff Rowling never mentioned, I didn't think anything I wrote actually contradicted her canon. In theory, Alexandra Quick could have coexisted in the "official" Harry Potter universe.


Clearly, that is no longer the case. There is no Ilvermorny in Alexandra's world. American wizards in AQ do not call Muggles "No-Majs," and the Confederation has a Wizard Congress, but not a "MACUSA." Oh, and when European wizards arrived, they did not all just get along with Indian wizards...


Rowling has never been good at expanding Harry Potter beyond its origins as a children's book. Things that don't have to make sense or be deeply thought out when the target audience is 10 begin to break down when the target audience is teens and adults. The wizarding world, of course, does not "make sense" in any way, but it's ridiculous to try to incorporate actual history into it but then pretend that none of this changes its essential nature as a fantastic magical world completely removed from the real one.


Alexandra Quick, like Harry Potter, has "grown up" a bit with each book, but it's always been a bit darker and more serious. This trend will continue in AQATWA — inasmuch as you can suspend your disbelief enough to accept a wizarding world in the first place, AQ is what I fancy a wizarding world might actually look like, though I admit I still take some farcical liberties for humor value.


But AQ is definitely not-canon compliant anymore.


Anyway, besides revising my manuscript, I have also been commissioning some artwork like I did for the last book.


Here's a sneak peak at one piece.


Warning: Slightly spoilery, so don't look if you don't want to know anything about characters who will appear in AQATWA.




Guess who's back, back again...Collapse )


Book Review: Agincourt, by Bernard Cornwell

The original Band of Brothers kills some Frogs.


Agincourt

HarperCollins, 2008, 451 pages



Bernard Cornwell tackles his richest, most thrilling subject: the heroic tale of Agincourt.

Young Nicholas Hook is dogged by a curse, haunted by what he has failed to do and banished for what he has done. A wanted man in England, he is driven to fight as a mercenary archer in France, where he finds two things he can love: his instincts as a fighting man, and a girl in trouble. Together they survive the notorious massacre at Soissons, an event that shocks all Christendom. With no options left, Hook heads home to England, where his capture means certain death.

Instead he is discovered by the young King of England, Henry V himself, and by royal command he takes up the longbow again and dons the cross of Saint George. Hook returns to France as part of the superb army Henry leads in his quest to claim the French crown. But after the English campaign suffers devastating early losses, it becomes clear that Hook and his fellow archers are their king's last resort in a desperate fight against an enemy more daunting than they could ever have imagined.

One of the most dramatic victories in British history, the battle of Agincourt, immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry V, pitted undermanned and overwhelmed English forces against a French army determined to keep their crown out of Henry's hands. Here Bernard Cornwell resurrects the legend of the battle and the "band of brothers" who fought it on October 25, 1415.

An epic of redemption, Agincourt follows a commoner, a king, and a nation's entire army on an improbable mission to test the will of God and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. From the disasters at the siege of Harfleur to the horrors of the field of Agincourt, this exhilarating story of survival and slaughter is at once a brilliant work of history and a triumph of imagination Bernard Cornwell at his best.


Lots of shitting, raping, and eye-stabbing.Collapse )




My complete list of book reviews.
More space battles against aliens as the war drags on.


Points of Impact

47North, 2018, 297 pages



Humankind may have won the battle, but a new threat looms larger than ever before....

Earth's armed forces have stopped the Lanky advance and chased their ships out of the solar system, but for CDC officer Andrew Grayson, the war feels anything but won. On Mars, the grinding duty of flushing out the twenty-meter-tall alien invaders from their burrows underground is wearing down troops and equipment at an alarming rate. And for the remaining extrasolar colonies, the threat of a Lanky attack is ever present.

Earth's game changer? New advanced ships and weapons, designed to hunt and kill Lankies and place humanity's militaries on equal footing with their formidable foes. Andrew and his wife, Halley, both now burdened with command responsibilities and in charge of more lives than just their own, are once again in humanity's vanguard as they prepare for this new phase in the war. But the Lankies have their own agenda...and in war, the enemy doesn't usually wait until you are prepared. As Andrew is once again plunged into the chaos and violence of war with an unyielding species, he is forced to confront the toll this endless conflict is taking on them all, and the high price of survival...at any cost.


Milking this series for more than it's worth.Collapse )

Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment, Lines of Departure, Angles of Attack, Chains of Command, and Fields of Fire.




My complete list of book reviews.
The dead rise at Gettysburg; chicks with scythes become professional zombie killers.


Dread Nation

Balzer + Bray, 2018, 455 pages



Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities - and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It's a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


Zombie alt-history YA novel is a bastard genre child.Collapse )




My complete list of book reviews.

AQATWA: Prologue

Happy New Year!

The last four Alexandra Quick novels were published on Fanfiction.net, FictionAlley, and MuggleNet Fan Fiction. I am not sure the latter two sites are even still being run — they appear to be in archive mode.

I will continue to use Fanfiction.net, but I'll also be putting AQATWA on Archive of Our Own. I have already posted books one through four there.

I started writing Alexandra Quick and the World Away over six years ago, so that's how long the first chapter has been sitting on my hard drive. This is the first time anyone else has seen it, so it's unedited and unbetaed. Minor word changes and SPAG corrections aside, I'm 99% sure this is what will appear in the final draft, however.

As a reward for your patience (and to celebrate), here is a sneak peek at AQATWA.

Thirty Years Ago.Collapse )

AQ reread and AQATWA progress

I just finished rereading all four books in the Alexandra Quick series. Whew!

I should have done it before now, but as I've mentioned before, I am not much of a rereader. I very rarely reread even my favorite books, because there are just too many books waiting for me to get around to them in the first place. But for an author continuing a series, it's obviously necessary to do a reread now and then, and since I finished the last book over five years ago, it was very much overdue.

I've seen people who say they reread an entire series every time a new book comes out, even massive ones like Game of Thrones or Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance. Like, wow. I don't consider myself a slow reader, but obviously some of y'all read a lot faster than I do.

On the one hand, I was pleased that I remembered almost all of the plot points and characters and seeds I have planted and even the major scenes and dialogs. I do have a pretty good memory for books, so it's not like I had no idea where I was going or what I had in mind or what Alexandra's story had been. I just needed to refresh my memory on some of the details.

But there were some details that had slipped my mind. One in particular will require a significant rewrite of a few chapters of AQATWA because I forgot something that was mentioned in passing in an earlier book. I found a few other places in the current draft where I contradicted some things that were said in earlier books, and found a few story elements that I obviously intended to do something with and... forgot about. So I'm trying to tie those back into the plot.

I am about a quarter of the way through my first rewrite, but I haven't gotten to the hard parts yet.

Given my record over the past few years, I am naturally wary of giving even an implied timeline. But with an actual completed first draft, I am a little more confident that I'm not overpromising, barring unforeseen circumstances. So, I am hoping to finish my first pass in the next month or two. That would put it in the hands of my beta-readers in a couple of months, which means — tentatively — AQATWA will begin posting in the spring or early summer.

That's the current plan. Things might change, but you really should see it this year unless I get hit by a bus.

As a reward for your patience, I may give you a New Year's sneak peak.

And book six is slowly taking shape in my head...

Book Review: Occultation, by Laird Barron

Barron's second short story collection was good but uneven.


Occultation

Night Shade Books, 2010, 274 pages



Laird Barron has emerged as one of the strongest voices in modern horror and dark fantasy fiction, building on the eldritch tradition pioneered by writers such as H. P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti. His stories have garnered critical acclaim and been reprinted in numerous year's best anthologies and nominated for multiple awards, including the Crawford, International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards. His debut collection, The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, was the inaugural winner of the Shirley Jackson Award.

He returns with his second collection, Occultation. Pitting ordinary men and women against a carnivorous, chaotic cosmos, Occultation's eight tales of terror (two never before published) include the Theodore Sturgeon and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated story "The Forest" and Shirley Jackson Award nominee "The Lagerstatte." Featuring an introduction by Michael Shea, Occultation brings more of the spine-chillingly sublime cosmic horror Laird Barron's fans have come to expect.


A mix of Lovecraftian horror and bickering couples drama (with added bloodshed and grue) in the Pacific Northwest.Collapse )

Also by Laird Barron: My reviews of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and The Croning.




My complete list of book reviews.

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