Review: Uprooted

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book reminds me of the Buried Giant for the fact that both have a fairy tale quality to them. Eastern European folklore is well mined in this one. Stories rooted in history and legend are just the type of thing I eat up, So I very much enjoyed “Uprooted.”

Agnieszka is a headstrong protagonist who does things her own way. She quickly discovers her power, but chooses not to follow established traditions when using it. Instead she takes her cue from the wild and infamous Baba Yaga of Slavic legend.

I appreciate the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon. It transforms subtly and believably over the course of the book. Even up to the very end we see their opposing views on the use of magic as a constant point of strife between them and wonder if it is something they can overcome.

An excellent read. well worth the time. While I have enjoyed the first few Temeraire novels by Novik, this story has become my favorite. I hope she chooses to write something more in this universe.

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Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve never read Dresden Files. This is my first book by Jim Butcher, but it will not be my last.

I think the author did an excellent job of painting an intricate fantasy setting without ever resorting to exhaustive exposition. The world-building elements were instead woven seamlessly into the narrative. There are many things about the Cinder Spire world that remain a mystery. However, this volume contained more than it needed to tell the current tale. That which is still hidden only adds to the anticipation of coming volumes.

I appreciated the strong, well-defined characterization. While it could be stated that most characters strayed little from common tropes (Some dialog between Grim and Journeyman has previously been uttered by Kirk and Scotty), I still considered them to be comforting reminders that were well executed.

If you’re searching for true steampunk, I’d say this only bares a passing resemblance. But definitely worth the plunge.

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Review: Gideon’s Sword

Gideon's Sword (Gideon Crew, #1)Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston

I had only a couple of minor issues with this book. 1. The prose was just a bit rough. 2. It took a little too long to get into the thick of the plot because the beginning contained characters and events specifically related to the protagonist’s backstory and having nothing to do with the eventual plot. However, once it got going, the story was very engaging and moved along at an excellent pace. The greatest success the authors achieved was in painting a title character that just grabbed my interest and didn’t let go. Gideon Crew is a smart ass. I just love a good smart ass. The amount of BS he manages to sling and the ease with which those around him eat it up is not exactly believable. But who cares? It’s really, really fun.

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The Lady and the Eye


green-eyeI leap from the edge without thinking. A long drop to the icy river. Arrows pelt the water around me and I dive for my life.

“Was she worth it,” I ask.

Far above my station, to be sure. But worth it? She was warm, soft, sweet… and rich.

Right now is anything but warm and soft as I duck my head below the water to save my skin.

I must hold off on deciding the value of my lady until all the facts are in. If I survive, that’s one point to the good.


Fiona heard the dogs baying, saw her father’s men racing for the river. It was all so thrilling. The night breeze touched her bare shoulder through the window and she shivered, pulling the sleeve of her dress back into place.

“It was worth it,” she whispered as she crossed to her bed.

“Tristan. Sweet, beautiful Tristan!” She fell into her pillows with a giggle. “So, incredibly worth it.”

The shock on her father’s face. That had been worth it too. Only for a moment, then he had rushed away to call the guard. Tristan was already down into the garden by then.

Fiona could still hear the dogs, far off now. Her pillows smelled like Tristan. She was so, very warm.

The door burst inward, crashing against the wall. A portrait of Mother, the one Fiona gazed at when she missed her most, fell to the floor and smashed to pieces.

Something like her father stood in the doorway, but could it truly be him? This man was bigger, wilder. His eyes burned with an insane fury. In his hand, he held his box, the one she had never seen open. But it was open now… and it was empty.

His voice went so deep that it chilled her blood.

“What have you done, child?”


“Tristan! Hells, man!”

A familiar hand grasps my own and pulls me from the river.

“I’d almost given up. What kept you?”

I wipe the water from my eyes and grin up at Cedric.

“Warm things, old friend. Warm, soft things.”

Cedric frowns and scratches the stubble under his chin. “Yes, I’m very happy for you. But the question is, did you get it?”

I fish in the pouch at my hip and pull out a heavy object, big as my palm. Cedric leans in, his eyes wide with awe.

“Hells. It’s true. The Mad Wizard’s Eye.”

The stone glitters a pale green even in this night with no moon. It draws the light of the stars like a beacon.

“Oh, it’s magic to be sure. Just look at it. Eerie, isn’t it?”

“Eerie?” I almost laugh. “No. It’s beautiful.”

Cedric shuffles back. “Perhaps it is. But don’t forget. That thing destroyed your family, and mine. Remember that.”

“I know it,” I snap. “You think I would forget? I’d barely stopped wetting myself when the Wizard took them.”

Cedric grows fearful. He begins to inspect the shadows around us.

“Oh, Hells, but we are truly committed now. Do you think it was worth it?”

“I’ve been trying to decide that.” I look again at the Eye. I imagine soft Fiona and her soft bed.

“Yes. Yes, it definitely was.”


The Wizard returned to his chambers. He dashed his empty box against the wall.

“Stupid girl! The Eye was everything.” He sat before his scrying basin and stirred the water within. He still had power, but how could he gather more without the Eye?

He needed two things to acquire his power. The lives of his peasants. He only took the poorest, those with the least worth. And the Eye, to draw out their lives and add to his own.

Something shifted in the water. He saw the thief. He saw his daughter. The Wizard rose to go and call back the hunt. They need not search.

He had locked Fiona within her room, but she knew her way from the window down into the garden. She would lead the way. She would find the thief for him.

“I’ll follow you, daughter. Ungrateful brat. With my magic, I’ll follow you and you’ll lead me to my Eye.”


“You did what?” Cedric sounds unhappy with me.

“As I slipped out the window,” I repeat. “I whispered to Fiona where she could find me.”

“Are you mad? She’s the daughter of the Wizard. What were you thinking of?”


“Love wasn’t the plan, you fool! Ridding our land of the Mad Wizard, that’s the plan!”

“I remember…”

“Tristan!” Fiona’s voice stops my retort.

I turn to find her in the dark and suddenly she is in my arms, all soft and sweet, just like before.

“Tristan, this is madness.” I can hear Cedric, but he sounds far off as my lips search for Fiona’s.

Another voice is not so meek. It booms at us from out of the river, from the rushing water.

“Thief,” it cries. “See how easily I find you? Now I’ll have your lives. Even you, my poor child.”

“Father, you wouldn’t!”

“And why not?” The river begins to foam and swirl. The Wizard’s face forms in the wild spray. “You have crossed me, Fiona. Your mother crossed me once. I cannot have it.”

I step in front of Fiona. Cedric cowers away from the phantom head. The wizard’s mouth grows wider as if to swallow us all.

Without a thought, Fiona snatches the Eye from my hand. The words that fall from her lips as she holds it aloft are not hers. They are ancient. I taste the dust of them on the air.

She stabs the Eye at the swirling spray and it becomes a fury. It howls and moans, then dies away, spilling back into the cold river.

Fiona collapses against me. Soft.


In his chamber, the Mad Wizard stared down into the basin. His lifeless gaze held no fury, sucked dry by his own daughter’s words… by the image of the Eye floating in the water.


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A Dragon For Cymnea

Dragon EyeMy memory is long, longer even than my life. I remember those things that befell my poor mother before I cracked my shell. I am part of my ancestry, a long, thin line stretching into the dark past. A tenuous line to be sure, for a dragon’s life on this earth is tenuous. We are wise, and yet we are subject  to the whims of man. I remembered that much even when I was still small enough to sit on Cymnea’s lap. With all our wisdom, it is passion that ultimately rules the heart of a dragon. And my misplaced passion for the princess was enough to drive reason away.

Now, as I face the metal clad men who point their gleaming teeth at me, I cannot summon that wisdom to see the folly of my situation. I have become a massive thing. My great length encircles the tower in which Cymnea is held, and still my neck stretches up so that I can stare down, one baleful eye upon my enemies. With my other eye I can see Cymnea standing at the tower’s window. She holds her arms outspread toward me and I see the pleading on her face. Her sweet lips send words to me but I cannot hear through the din and clamour of the enemies below.

She is so tiny now, this princess that I adore. This once child who mothered me when my memories would not serve.  I used to sleep curled about her ankles in the softness of her feather bed. Now my body hugs the cold stone of the tower instead, but it is for her.

Those below would steal my treasure away. Promises were made, I  know.  Though I care little for the promises of men. It was the false king himself who did it. Promising away his own child as easily as he snatched away my mother’s precious egg. So when he snuck away to meet with his accomplice, I locked him out with all the rest.

I see the king there, cowering on the hillside behind his ranks of metal soldiers. My memory is long. I know how he took his lordship over these people. I know it was my own mother’s blood that colored his hands when he grabbed me and stole me away all those years ago, before I had even broken my shell to taste the night breath and to see the glorious moonlight for the first time. But no mother. She is only memory. And so it was that Cymnea took that place in my heart.

Cymnea. She is the treasure of my life. A dragon’s passion for that which is precious and beautiful did not find for me gold, jewels and things that sparkle in the light of the moon. It found only her.  I owe at least that much to the false king. He stole me away and gave me to the princess, gave her to me. I have nothing else to thank him for. A dragon is born to protect that which is beautiful and precious.

I protect her even now, my Cymnea. I protect her from these vermin that would steal her away. I protect her from the false king himself… from the world.

Suddenly the front rank advances upon me. I narrow my eyes and growl deep in my throat. I can feel the searing bile churning in my gut. I exhale a vaporous breath and the tin men clatter back to their places, but only for a moment.

Four of them rush at me. I am ready for them. My deadly breath has held long enough. I heave up dragon fire and spill it down in a glorious fountain onto my enemies. Their metal shells glow orange in the night. Their screams are wild and terrible. The cooked scent of them makes my stomach rumble with an angry hunger, but this is not the hunt. These are not deer to be snached up from the ground and swallowed for my dinner. These are men. They do not bleat as they die. They scream curses and throw up oaths to their gods. Unlike prey, their brethren do not flee but instead they rally. They fall upon me from many sides and force me to draw in another hot breath.

Cymnea, where is she? I have no time to find her there at the window. They drive at me from every angle. I cannot choose where to aim my wrath.

And then the pinprick, under my scales. So insignificant, yet the chill of it is a dreadful thing. Like the antithesis of the fire that roils in my gut, stinging with needles even as my fire would burn. It spreads upward, extinguishing my magnificent heat from within. What poisonous sorcery imbued that thin blade?

Sleep would be so nice. A strange thought to have here in the thick of battle. But it is so strong that I can feel my grip on the cold tower relax. I  lower my great head to the earth, sweet grass and buttercups crushed under my hot cheek.

I lay dying and my eye searches for the tower window. Cymnea is no longer there. I am aware of my own thudding pulse and panic matches it beat for beat. My treasure is gone. That which rules my passion, my failing heart.

But then she is beside me. Cymnea, standing before my great, rolling eye. Tears wash her cheeks. I hear the sobs that escape her lips but they are fading farther away.

Then the brute strides forward, he that laid me low with his poisoned tooth. He wraps the cold metal of his fingers about Cymnea’s waist and draws her away. It is he that won the king’s vile promise, the promise of my treasure. My mother, sister, daughter, lover. The only world I ever knew outside of my long, long memory. The dragon’s path that my ancestors trod now fades away along with the brilliant moonlight shining down on my glassy eye.


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2000 Things to do Before my Book Launch

This post is just as much for me as for anyone who happens to read it. Think of it as a way to organize my thoughts in these last few days before everything comes to a head. I’m starting to pull my hair out. This is all very exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I never knew there were so many things to do in order to prepare for a launch. With my first book, Wind Rider, I did little more than put it up on Amazon and wait for the droves of readers to come. Surprisingly, they did not.

I want to do it right this time, but even now it’s a huge learning curve. I will probably have to wait until the next book before I can really put into practice the things I have learned along the way with Charlatan’s Magic. I’m going to list all the things I can think of that still need doing for support of the launch as well as the Goodreads cyber-convention I will be participating in the following week. Again, this list is more for me, but it may be interesting for others. If you are considering the possibility of marching down this road, consider the fact that I have already conquered a huge to-do list. These listed here are the residuals. Perhaps it wll help inform your own decision about how far in advance of launch you should begin preparing (hint: make it longer than I gave myself). I think I will probably start this process for my next book as soon as I am done getting Charlatan’s Magic out the door. That should give me about seven months to get everything together…might just be enough time.

So here is my list as it comes off the top of my head, probably not complete and definitely not in any specific order. As I have said my time is short.


  • Twitter Promo images
  • Prepare and schedule launch tweets
  • Prepare facebook posts for launch event lead-up
  • Gather interesting materials and activities to share for facebook launch party
  • Update website with promo materials
  • Prepare to support book blast promotion with social media support  (April 2.)
  • Video trailer would be nice but probably wishful thinking prior to launch
  • Goodreads preorder invites
  • Push Goodreads giveaway (now – April 12)
  • Prepare materials and activities for Goodreads Cyber-convention. (April 10-12)
  • Continue to grow platform
  • Seek out and absorb tips and advice from those who have succeeded
  • Shamlessly beg everyone I know for their support
  • Follow up with ARC readers for advance reviews
  • Engage, engage, engage
  • Oh, and somewhere in here I have other stuff I should be writing

Writing Stupid People

stupid-people2As a writer you have to deal with all kinds of characters, many of them perceived as offensive or undesirable. You could write man vs. nature tales all day long and avoid this problem altogether, but if you find that plan limiting, then you’re going to have these characters in your story. If you don’t, then where is your conflict coming from?

Alright, with that said, let’s talk stupid people. We all know them. They’re everywhere and so they are going to have to appear in your writing in order for it to seem believable. By my estimation about 80 percent of the world’s population is comprised of stupid people. Yes, that does mean that eight out of 10 people reading this post fall into that category. Well, let’s say more like 5 out of 10. we’re going to assume if you’re here, then you’re above average to start with.

Am I correct? Is 80 percent of the world’s population really stupid? I sincerely hope not. Don’t get me wrong, Darwin would have gotten rid of some of these folks a long time ago if society were not keeping them afloat. However, the vast majority of that number includes people who simply share widely different views than myself. Isn’t that the same thing, you ask? As much as I would like to think so, the answer is no. Just because these views are difficult for me to fathom given my particular groove in life, it doesn’t make those who hold such views dumb. And we cannot simply write them as ignorant or uneducated. That is too easy. We need to dig deeper. We need to cast off our own lives and imagine a world where supposedly stupid things make perfect sense to us. This is how you make that stupid character real. This is how you make the reader love to hate them, rather than just hating them.

So, by all means, throw some stupid people in your story. Just remember that they will more likely garner sympathy. If you want the type of character that will make readers want to punch them in the face because they are so stupid, that usually requires a bit more cleverness on your part.

Charlatan’s Magic: Excerpt


“Are you really a magician?” Ben asked in a croaking voice.

Ming turned with a glint in his eye. “Do you believe in magic?”


“Then how could I really be a magician?”

Ben shrugged. “I could be wrong.”

“Oh, that’s good.” The old man snickered through yellowing teeth. “I like to see that you’re a man of conviction, Ben.”

“Don’t be a fool,” said Ming’s companion, if he could be called such. Ben had hardly seen the two men look at one another. The dark figure had a voice of ice.

“There is only the blackest magic in this one.” Moolag pointed an accusing finger at Ming. “I have heard tell of him taking the form of a mad dog in order to spread his evil.”

Ben’s eyes went wide. He glanced at Ming Loo and saw a wicked smile form under the rim of his broad hat. Suddenly Ben’s arm began to throb where the teeth of the hellhound had dug at his flesh.

He took a step away but that only brought him closer to the assassin, Moolag. That was no better. The man’s eyes were cold, without emotion. He could easily have been made of granite. Even Ming could not dismiss his gloom.

“You don’t sound as though you’re enjoying your work, Moolag.”

The assassin threw a look of poison at the old man, yet still emotionless, full of danger rather than hate. His words hissed through clenched teeth.

“Just remember your promise.”

Ming only grinned.

“How could I forget?”

Charlatan’s Magic is available April 1!
The perfect read for April Fools.

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