21 May, 2015

Review - Superposition by David Walton

For some reason I'm always impressed when something both entertains me and educates me. It's as if all those years of torture schooling gave me unreasonable expectations.

But that is the case here. David Walton's Superposition is a fun romp through quantum physics. Jacob Kelly is a brilliant physicist who is confronted by an old friend who pretty much destroys his life.

His old friend has some secrets, mostly involving his scientific research and he arrives at Jacob's house, uninvited, and points a gun at Jacob's wife. He shoots, but nothing happens to her. He's discovered something big, but this discovery ends up with Jacob on trial for murder.

The whole book switches back and forth between two viewpoints. One is the present time where Jacob is figuring out the mysteries surrounding his friend's odd behavior, the other time period is Jacob on trial for the murder of that same friend. All of this is told in the first person.

As an attorney, I was actually quite impressed with Walton's grasp of the courtroom. I spend quite a bit of time there and just ask my wife, she can't stand watching shows with any amount of court. But I can't help it, the stuff Hollywood does in a courtroom tends to make no sense at least half the time.

Walton does a great job, however, making the courtroom both realistic and entertaining, which is why Hollywood tends to not follow the realistic approach I'm lead to believe. And the worst part is, the District Attorney has a pretty great case against Jacob only made worse by the fact that the real explanation is absolutely ludicrous.

Throughout the entirety of the book, you're also learning a lot about how quantum physics work. How probability plays more of a role than just about anything and how that is just about impossible to wrap your mind around because how can probability have anything to do with things that exist!

And that's not to say the narrative gets bogged down in explanations, it's a smooth thriller and the science only adds to the wonder.

I quite thoroughly enjoyed Superposition and probably mostly for how much I get to bug people with my new found knowledge of particle physics. It's a fascinating concept on display in an entertaining read. Highly Recommended. The finale of this duology, Supersymmetry, comes out September 1, 2015 from Pyr.

4 out of 5 Stars.

19 May, 2015

Giveaway - Trial of Intentions (Vault of Heaven #2) by Peter Orullian

Somehow I ended up with an extra copy of Peter Orullian's Trial of Intentions. While technically book two of the Vault of Heaven series (preceded by The Unremembered), the author tells us Trial can be read on it's own.

I really enjoyed The Unremembered, perhaps because of the similarities to the Wheel of Time, but the characters are also all their own. This is one hefty book, but since it's me running the giveaway on my own, I'll open this one up internationally.

The rules for those who want to enter for their chance to win one copy of Peter Orullian's Trial of Intentions:

1 - Send me an email to onlythebestsff@[remove this]gmail.com with your name and address.
2 - Enter the subject, "Emails of Intentions" which is my book where I have so many intentions of getting back with people and don't. I can't say I recommend reading it.
3 - This is an international giveaway, so ... no aliens from outer space I guess.
4 - Snark increases chances of winning future giveaways! I know I'm terrible, but how can I know how terrible I am? This is how.

01 May, 2015

Review - The Vagrant by Peter Newman

I actually accepted a copy of The Vagrant from the publisher knowing just about nothing about the book. The synopsis coupled with an intriguing, if somewhat cliche, cover (but wait, a baby?!?) sold me alone. This doesn't happen all the time and usually when this is all that sells me on a book, I end up about as disappointed as you can get. 

That's why I scour blogs and Goodreads so regularly. I can't trust my gut reaction on these things...normally.

The Vagrant is a hard book to nail down. It involves a mysterious man, the Vagrant, who can't speak and who's on some kind of pilgrimage with a baby in tow as well as a goat he picks up. He carries a huge, mythical sword and it seems like he's trying to save the world or some such thing.

Right away, you're thinking, epic fantasy right?

Well, that's not quite it. It obviously also takes place in some type of futuristic landscape because there are neon lights and all kinds of other technologies the reader begins to meet along the way.

The closest I can put it is probably Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire series. A good mix of fantasy and science fiction and lots of dark, unspeakable doings. I think I can firmly put it in grimdark at the very least ... whatever that means.

In a book where the main character can't speak, I'm quite impressed at the degree of emotions I felt, almost on par with Janny Wurts, who really gets the feels out of me. 

The Vagrant, as mentioned, is on a quest and many are out to stop him. Demons have taken over the land, corrupted the people with a taint, though not all, and submitted humanity to their wills. 

With their own factions vying for power, the demons have different ways of subjugating humanity. However, they end up hurting their cause with all the infighting. Filled with grotesque monsters, one which has literally built itself out of masses of dead humans, The Vagrant is dark and twisted and make for excellent juxtaposition of the goodness of The Vagrant and those who follow in his wake.

The novel itself is broken into chapters with interludes going back to the beginning of the demon infestation, starting with "Eight Years Ago" and moving up to the present. One of the things that threw me for a bit was during these sections, the action would go back to the present without a chapter break in between. This only happened a few times and I found myself wondering if it was an accident. It's not a huge deal, just an odd thing I wanted to discuss with anyone who's read it.

Though dark, more likely because of the dark, The Vagrant emphasizes the light. The emotions were deep, I was amazed how deeply I felt for this character who can't even speak. And then there's the goat, who also can't speak (he's not some magic goat, just a run-of-the-mill one) which was probably one of my favorite characters in this book.

I can't recommend The Vagrant enough. It's different than anything else I've read. It's dark and brooding, but filled with so much beauty at the same time. Peter Newman is an author to watch.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)

14 April, 2015

Guest Post - Betsy Dornbusch on "Writing Sequels"

I'm happy to have Betsy Dornbusch on the blog again (see her article on the Writing Process). She's here today to talk about writing sequels, as I guess you may have guessed from the title of this post, you clever devils.

And Betsy would know all about writing sequels as the sequel to her debut, Exile, just came out last week - Emissary:

Here, she takes us into the writing process once again and looks at what it's like going back to the world she created in the first book.


Writing Sequels
Betsy Dornbusch

            Writing a sequel is a really big topic because Emissary is such a big book (for me, anyway). At a 140K words, it’s bigger than Exile by 50%, and the book is a sort of trilogy all on its own because it’s sectioned into three parts: Draken in his new home, Draken traveling to his old home, and then back to his new home in a mad dash to defend it against invasion.

            The world of the Seven Eyes is also a big one, but I think you don’t get the sense of just how big it is in Exile. Draken, exiled (duh), doesn’t think too much about his old home except in comparison to the  new one. He’s still in shock from all that happened and dwelling on memories isn’t conducive to staying alive. His new country, Akrasia, has little to remind him of his old, Monoea. It isn’t an old country, nor is it crowded. The biggest Akrasian city isn’t a quarter of the size of Sevenfel in Monoea, the one Draken grew up in. And shifting from a nation of single ethnicity in which he is an outlier to a melting pot kingdom where he actually fits in without much trouble is a big enough adjustment for one book.

           At the start of Emissary Draken is about as recovered from the trauma of being exiled as he’s ever going to get (he suffers from depression). But when soldiers from his old country invade and demand he return home, he knows it means certain death. Unfortunately, they’ve got more than one secret to hold over his head. Going back is a selfless act; his queen, a child on the way, and the well-being of his country are all at stake. But when he gets to Monoea he realized the leaders there have even bigger concerns.

            The plot isn’t at all straightforward, either, and lends itself to some sprawl. There are too many factions with opposing goals, and we only get a limited picture of each with the entire story being in Draken’s point of view. Plot points in the story, as was noted in an early review, tend to fold back on themselves. I guess it’s natural; the whole story is one of Draken having to fold himself back into his past. In a way, Emissary is two stories: one of the present day and one of Draken’s past.

            Such a big story has myriad subplots: love interests, relationships gone askew, running jokes, a cast to keep track of, and an ever-growing body of magic. I found the magic the toughest to manage, because I had to one-up Exile. I knew in each book Draken would be gifted magic from the gods. Draken is a believer but not faithful, and he doesn’t view any of it as much of a gift. He has a tendency to turn his magic on people he shouldn’t and use it in ways the gods never intended. When they give him a necromantic sword in Exile, he has mostly disdain and then uses as a mere tool, ignoring the gods’ favor that comes along with it until forced.

           A minor spoiler for Emissary, one I feel comfortable sharing because it’s on the first page: Draken becomes self-healing. This could be a small, limited gift, but the way it manifests is not. These are big gifts: a sword with the power to give death and life, the ability to heal oneself. Really, they’re as big as the story itself. Keeping the magic in consistent use with a growing tension was one of my biggest challenges in writing this sequel.

            And then of course I’ve spent a lot of time working out how Emissary informs the last installment of the Books of the Seven Eyes. Draken emerges from the sequel cleansed of his old past but saddled with new truths and damage. Fortunately, I tend to plot. That helps.

           A trilogy is an intimidating project. I found writing the bridge piece, the sequel, a major challenge. A sequel does more than further the overall story arc, it has to lead to the next book, increase stakes and tension, grow the characters, but not finish them, and yet leave the readers satisfied they’ve read a complete story with its own subplots and resolution. But it has its advantages, too. The world is mostly established, though we might get to see more of it. Characters are developed and relationships can be deepened rather than launched. There’s a definite satisfaction in returning to beloved worlds. I hope you enjoy returning to the world of Seven Eyes as much as I did.


Betsy Dornbusch is the author of several short stories, novellas, and novels. In addition to speaking at numerous conventions and teaching writing classes, she has spent the last decade editing the online magazine Electric Spec and writing on her website Sex Scenes at Starbucks (betsydornbusch.com). She and her family split their time between Boulder and Grand Lake, Colorado.

Links for ordering Emissary (Seven Eyes, Book 2):