16 June, 2015

Interview with Peter Orullian, author of Trial of Intentions

I've been a fan of Peter Orullian since his debut, The Unremembered, and I'm still looking forward to Trial of Intentions, which is both a sequel and a starting point in The Vault of Heaven series. I would really appreciate it if someone could add an extra couple hours per day that's only allowed to be used for personal, free time. Thanks. 

Peter was gracious enough to let me bombard him with questions and I really enjoyed the answers he provides relating to his series and the decision for an author's definitive edition of The Unremembered, writing in general, music, and much more. I hope you enjoy...

Bryce: Hi Peter, thanks for letting me take some time out of your busy schedule. Tell me about a typical writing day. Do you have any routines? Any music that you write better to than others? Any set schedule?

Peter: I get up at 3:30 a.m. to write before going to work. I do roughly three hours. I don’t care about word count, or page count. I just do the time. Same thing on weekends, holidays, vacations. Every day. That’s the routine.

I don’t write to music. A lot of folks ask this, since I’m a musician, and quite passionate about music. But for me, music isn’t a background thing. If music is on, it requires my attention. And if I’m in public, I’m either singing myself—much to the embarrassment, usually, of those I’m with—or trying to figure out what’s playing on the speakers of whatever establishment I’m visiting. I use Shazam a lot.

Bryce: Your publisher, Tor, just released the author’s definitive edition of The Unremembered. What lead to this new edition? If I read the first version (which I did), do I need to read this one to understand the rest of the series? Will it change my understanding of the rest of the series if I only read that first version?

Peter: First off, no, you don’t need to read the Author’s Edition of The Unremembered to be fine jumping into book two, Trial of Intentions. If you read the original version, you’re good. In fact, due to the delay—which I’ll explain in a moment—I wrote Trial of Intentions as an entry point to the series. So, readers who’ve never read anything by me can start with Trial of Intentions just fine.

The Author’s Edition came about primarily because of a bad author/editor pairing. Later, when my publisher graciously allowed for a new pairing, I got talk to my new editor, sharing what I’d originally intended, and the Author’s Edition was born. It’s actually substantially shorter than the original. I’ve sharpened dialogue and motivation, warmed up a few characters, and added some things to tie to Trial of Intentions more seamlessly.

Bryce: Speaking of the rest of the series, what are the plans for the entire series, The Vault of Heaven? How many books do we get to look forward to and now that the definitive version of The Unremembered is out, along with its sequel, Trial of Intentions, when’s the next one coming out? Because of course that’s what you want to talk about after all that work. J

Peter: I’m always suspicious of writers who give exact book series counts. But that’s just me. Originally, I’d thought six to eight books. I’m now feeling it’s more like five or six. But we’ll see. The thing I can promise you is that I won’t drag it out. I will be sure to do justice to the story I’ve conceived, but I won’t belabour it. Besides, I have other books I want to write, and I can’t really start those until I’m done with the Vault of Heaven series.

Bryce: How does writing the sequel or future volumes in the series compare with writing the first book? Do you already have a lot of the big events planned out ahead of time?

Peter: In some ways, writing the sequel was more fun. I had a lot of the world building done, so I could spend more time with narrative and character development. And Trial of Intentions is where so much of what’s unique about my world really kicks into high gear. There’s some major science stuff—astronomy, mathematics, physics, philosophy, cosmology, etc. The music magic system—which my readers and reviewers are saying is unlike anything they’ve ever read before—steps into the spotlight. I twist old tropes, challenging reader expectations. And I deal with some sensitive topics, like suicide, giving characters some deep motivation.

And yes, I have some of the big events all mapped out. Not all of them. I’ve left myself room to play. But I know the broad strokes, for sure. And the ending.

Bryce: Not only do you publish books, but you work a day job at Microsoft and write and play music. How much does music effect your work as an author? Do you find yourself drawn to other musician/authors? Do you recommend any?

Peter: Well, I think music influences my writing in a few ways. First, there’s the overt stuff, like my music magic system. I spent a lot of time developing magic in my world. I started with the idea that there’d be what I call “governing dynamics,” akin to mechanical law in our world—things like gravity and magnetism. In my fantasy world, the central governing dynamic is: Resonance. It’s a unifying principle for magic systems everywhere. Which means that while the magic systems—so far I have five—all look and are expressed differently, they all operate off Resonance. The reader can look at them and understand this, even though the magic systems are quite different.

Then, there’s music as a part of the cultures of my world. I’ve woven it in deeply. Things like entire cultures that pivot on music. Conservatories. Etc.

And I’ve had many readers tell me that they find my writing musical. I don’t try to do this. But I’ve begun to wonder if there’s something about being a musician that gets inside the words. In any case, that’s what my readers say. And whenever they do, I get a happy.

I don’t know very many musician authors, I guess. I did become fast friends with Ty Franck—half of James S.A. Corey—because we both love metal. Does that count?

Bryce: And how do you balance working full time with publishing? I know the publishing schedule can be gruelling. 

Peter: It’s mostly what I said above, I get up early. I have to. I’m too emotionally exhausted from corporate America when I get home to write fiction.

Bryce: Are there any things that have kept you grounded when times get tough?

Peter: My family. And music. And the sky, mostly at night.

Biggest priority in my life is my family. Being a dad is the best thing I’ve ever done. Love it!

And I can put on certain bands and listen to their music and it helps the bullshit fade away.

And I’m a bit of an amateur astronomer. I’ve always loved the stars. I find looking up at them always puts things into perspective.

Bryce: Do you have any recommendations or advice to authors trying to break into publishing?

Peter: Read. Write. Keep doing those things. Keep pushing yourself to learn and improve. Don’t give up, no matter what anyone says. And then try to be your most gracious, authentic self, and go out and meet other writers in the real world—not just online. We’re usually very supportive and helpful. We’ve been there.

Bryce: Traditional publishing versus self-publishing. What are your feelings of both, what do you feel are their strengths and weaknesses?

Peter: I’m of the mind that they can/should co-exist. Traditional publishing is less nimble, more risk-averse, but they do often have more editorial rigor, as well as access to the retail channel, which is where most books are sold. Self-publishing allows for rapidity, more chance-taking, and more revenue for the writer, but it has virtually no access to retail assortment, and the digital shelves are crowded—not to mention that discovery is a challenge, and most writers don’t understand how to drive digital discovery of their work (and to be fair, much of it is out of their control); plus the majority of self-published work hasn’t gone through the editorial rigor I mentioned, or smart product packaging and design. Oh, and with all the review gaming that goes on, it makes it hard for readers to wade through the sea of titles.

Bryce: Thanks for stopping by, Trial of Intentions is one of my most highly anticipated books this year and I can’t wait to jump in. Any final comments?

Peter: Thanks, Bryce. Love hearing that! I hope you enjoy it.

Nothing really. Just that I appreciate your time; as one who puts a premium on time, I’m genuinely grateful for yours in doing this interview. Cheers!

Thanks again to Peter! Check out his books below and a quick author bio:

Peter Orullian has worked in marketing at Xbox for nearly a decade, most recently leading the Music and Entertainment marketing strategy for Xbox LIVE, and has toured as a featured vocalist internationally at major music festivals. He has published several short stories. The Unremembered is his first novel. He lives in Seattle. 

The Vault of Heaven:

Also check out Peter's Goodreads page for a list of all the short stories and anthologies he's been involved in, such as Unfettered and Blackguards.

15 June, 2015

Winner Chosen - Giveaway for Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian

We have our winner for an ARC copy of Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian:

Kayla Strickland from Virginia!

Thanks to all who entered and congrats to Kayla! I had a few responses who commiserated with my lack of attention to emails and some very nice responses in general. No snark, you guys are just too nice. :)

Look for an interview with Mr. Orullian going up tomorrow.

12 June, 2015

Interview With ... Me!

S.C. Flynn has been running a great series of interviews with some wonderful bloggers and influential people in the online discussion of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Fantasy Literature, Fantasy Book Critic, Stainless Steel Droppings, Dag Rambrout from SFFWorld.com, and so many more).

So in other words, you're probably asking yourselves why I've been interviewed. :) I don't make the rules, but you can find it here: Interview with Only the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy.

After just over 5 years of blogging, I guess I should thank those who've "tuned" into the blog. Thanks for all the fun discussing something I have such a great love for. I hope you take some time to read through some of the responses of those others interviewed as well. Flynn has done a great job.

Additionally, I wanted to note that I'm still running two giveaways at the moment:

1. Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools, book 1 of The Red Queen's War - SIGNED. I've got 2 copies to giveaway. I'll give this another week or so.

2. Peter Orullian's follow up to The Unremembered, Trial of Intentions. I've got 1 copy to giveaway to one lucky winner. I'll announce the winner on Monday, so you have until then to enter.

04 June, 2015

Giveaway - Two Signed Copies of Prince of Fools (paperback) by Mark Lawrence

Some days being a blogger is just fun. This is one of 'em. (Are there even any bad blogging days?) I woke up this morning to a direct message from author, Mark Lawrence, who, among other things, offered to do a giveaway with signed copies of Prince of Fools.

I can't say that was my hardest decision of the day. Not only did I love the book (review here), but I get to give away a book that I loved to two lucky people, and it's signed!

The sequel to Prince of Fools just came out in the US and it's one of my most-anticipated books this year. The Liar's Key is book 2 in The Red Queen's War and I couldn't be more excited to jump back into Lawrence's writing. Note, this is NOT a giveaway for The Liar's Key.

The rules for those who want to enter for their chance to win one of two SIGNED, paperback copies of Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools, Book 1 in The Red Queen's War:

1 - Send me an email to onlythebestsff@[remove this]gmail.com with your name and address.
2 - Enter the subject, "Prince of Princes!"
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.

03 June, 2015

(audiobook) Review - Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans

"Apocalypse Now meets Lord of the Rings" is an apt description of this book as long as you recognize anyone's comparison with Lord of the Rings is interchangeable with "Fantasy."

Not even high fantasy, which Lord of the Rings is, but in the case of Of Bone and Thunder it's more on the grimdark, realistic fantasy level.

The Kingdom (America) occupies the jungle of Luitox (Vietnam, pronounced Luto) and back home citizens of the Kingdom are blissfully unaware of how bad things are actually going. But, it's hard to come to grips with the fact when you already know your country can't be beat.

Chris Evans created an incredibly realistic world here with different peoples at war, humans, the slits (derogatory name for people of Luitox), and even dwarves.

The armies of the Kingdom ride dragons, or rags as they're commonly called, who have been domesticated as much as dangerous fire-breathing dragons can be. Plus, there's magic in the form of thaumaturgy and all the divided allegiances you could ask for.

What I liked about this book was the focus on the common soldier. Mostly, we follow a shield (a handful of soldiers) and their tasks on Luitox. We see their grumblings with their senior staff, their difficulties with the "slits", their treatment of the new recruits, and get to know them quite intimately. You easily feel at home with this grouping.

Also, we follow Jawn Rathim, a thaum, and later a grouping of dragon riders.

There's lots going on and it's obviously a well-thought out world. I also liked the use of the strange words that become commonplace by the end of the book. You feel part of the world and the soldiers who tend to have their own language as well.

Because it is a Vietnam-type book, there's lots of racial tension and even more focus on the grim. I have to admit to getting a little worn out by the end of the audiobook because it was constantly a downer. It's only natural given the circumstances, but it is wearing.

Speaking of the audiobook, the narrator, Todd Haberkorn, did an excellent job. He nailed the voices and quickly became unnoticeable, which is the sign of a great narrator - you forget it's being narrated. There are lots of gruff soldiers and yet he had a different voice for each and it wasn't even too difficult to recall who was talking with all those harsh voices.

Count me impressed with this book. I don't know what I expected, but Of Bone and Thunder is quite unique with its take on an unstoppable fantasy kingdom who's met its match. The world is all its own and the characters are relatable if not loveable.

3.5 out of 5 stars (recommended)