A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Indie Author Spotlight: Tim Stead

The Seventh Friend, by Tim Stead
Review and Author Interview

From Goodreads:

Hero. Monster. Saviour. Butcher. Madman. Recluse. Wolf Narak, the deadly and charismatic god of wolves, has earned all the names men give him, and since the climactic and bloody final battle of the Great War he has shunned the company of mortal men and withdrawn to his forest home. There he is troubled by dreams of blood and fire, tormented by memories of his own deeds. 

But fate has not quite finished with the victor of Afael. 

He receives an impossible message, and as he follows the trail a suspicion grows to a certainty within him. War is coming again, and Narak must leave his beloved wolves and once more take up his twin blades. Once again he must become the general of the six kingdoms, the terror of his enemies, a hero, a butcher, the bloodstained god

My Review:

The writing here is beautiful, the imagery and characterization very good.  The worldbuilding is fascinating, complex, and epic, while the story stays very close to the characters, which is the best of both worlds.  I love the cultural differences between the five kingdoms and the Seth Yarra. I couldn’t always keep all the ancillary geography and political structure straight, but Tim Stead did a really good job of subtly re-explaining what was necessary as he went, so I never had trouble following the actual story.  If the academic geography essay in the prologue puts you off, just skip it and go back later if you need a refresher on the layout of the kingdoms. 

Some parts are too detailed for my taste, and there’s a bit of repetition.  I may not have noticed these had the book not been so very long.  For example, the final battle builds up for a long time, in great detail, and then ends rather abruptly, followed by a really lengthy denouement.  I really enjoyed the novel, but I would have enjoyed it even more if it had been trimmed a bit.

I would also have liked to see a few more female characters with the same depth as the male characters, who are wonderfully drawn.  Narak is fantastic, as are many of the others, and I love getting in the head of the Seth Yarra spy.  Well done there.

There are a few typos, but not enough to distract from the enjoyment of the story or the excellent writing.  This is the quality independent authors need to aspire to.

This is a great story, with great writing, and so close—so very close—to earning five stars, something I don’t give out liberally.  I will certainly read the next book.

êêêê+

Exclusive Interview with the author:

I loved Narak’s character.  Was he your favorite character to write, or did you have another?
I have always been fascinated by characters with real power. What is it that restrains them? Why don't they run amok? Narak is constrained by conscience and a deep mistrust of his own personality. It is conscience that redeems him. I really can't say if he was my favorite character, but he was certainly the most fun to write. Many of my major characters, Narak included, are fragments of my own personality broken off, exagerated and distorted by the funhouse mirror of fiction. Cain Arbak is another that is close to my heart. When I wrote the first chapter when Narak met Cain it was going to be Cain's only chapter, but Narak liked him, and so he survived to grow and become a rival focus for the tale.

Narak is the wolf god.  Other members of the Benetheon are gods of sparrows, bears, and other animals.  If you were one of the Benetheon, what animal would you have an affinity with?
A sloth? Perhaps not, though I do confess to enjoying sitting down with a good book, sitting down to write, sitting around with friends and a beer or a glass of wine - sitting seems to feature prominently. As a former diver I have to say that it would be hard to go past a dolphin. I met one once, a lone dolphin off the coast of the UK in about twenty feet of water. I juggled for it (that's hard underwater) which it seemed to like. We shook fins and went our seperate ways. Yes, I think a bottlenose dolphin.

Though the Seth Yarra are universally feared and hated by the people of the Six Kingdoms, their culture and traditions have some redeeming qualities, and that’s part of what makes the book so interesting.  What would you say the best things about the Seth Yarra are? 
Now that's an interesting question! I deliberately made Seth Yarra society egalitarian - a quality I much admire - but handicapped them with a destructive dogma. It's a poke at how I see fundementalist societies, those that persecute difference and change. The majority of people do well in such societies, but they tend to stagnate. The kingdoms on the other hand revel in their freedoms but are quite firmly elitist, and not especially troubled by the condition of the poorest among them. Like Narak, we tend to side with freedom, but for the Seth Yarra it's more important that everyone has enough to eat and a house to live in. How can you not find good in a society that cares for its citizens?

How long did it take you to write, revise, and publish The Seventh Friend? 
 If you stitched all the time I spent on it together, probably about a year. At the time I was writing a steady 5,000 words a week, perhaps a little more. Chronologicaly it probaby took three years. After I finished it I went on the write the other two in the series almost without pausing. At the same time I was offering the book to various agents and publishers with no success (though one complimented me on my writing - I'm not sure the others got past the submission letter). After I'd completed five novels and got some pretty good feedback I decided to go indie and see what happened.

What are some of your favorite fantasy books or series?
I have to start with Lord of the Rings, which I re-read quite recently. It still presses all the right buttons if you can get past the absence of women in leading roles. Robin Hobb's Assassin books are good. My reading of George Martin has been overtaken by the TV series. I loved the first book, but will probably wait for the show to finish and then some before I resume with the second. Pat Rothfuss is entertaining, though I fear the third book is too long delayed and may be just too long when it comes out. I have a problem with books over a thousand pages - there is a tendency to ramble. I like Naomi Novik's dragons and ships, Kate Elliott's Crossroads (Gate) series, Michelle Sagara's Cast in ... series. I could go on for ever, but can't stop without mentioning Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, which started me down this road, and Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, which is a slightly more challenging read, but quite exceptional (check out the reviews for this on amazon - it's a love or hate it book).

What are you writing now?
I'm writing a fill in novel - The Lawkeeper of Samara - for an unpublished series (The Fourth Age of Shanakan). This is seriously ambitious for me, so I will expand on it a little. There is a main series of novels which concern another power figure who is not totally unlike Wolf Narak, but the first book picks up his tale when he's no more than eighteen. There are three books in this series, but they are widely spaced. Allied to these are several other 'Mage' books that deal with the lives and times of other Mages living in the same place and time. Then, just for the fun of it, I'm adding a fantasy detective who will be solving a series of bizarre cases in the great city of Samara - that's what I'm writing now (71,000 words done). There will also be an explorer/mathematician character with his own series, and more may be added. I have no idea how many books it will take to finish this - it depends on how many people like it, I guess, but I can't see it being less that 12 books in total. Hope I live long enough :-)

How can people find you online?

About Tim Stead:
Born in the UK, lived in Hong Kong, London, Hampshire, and eventually moved to New Zealand.
Always seem to be moving to more deserted places.
He wasted many years not writing, but now has the time to devote to it. He has written six books, three of which are available on Amazon (The Sparrow and the Wolf trilogy). The others will follow, as will editions for Createspace and Smashwords.
He writes fantasy because it is so open to the imagination, which is half the fun, and also because it permits exaggerated explorations of humanity and all its excesses.
He is a former avid scuba diver, a former beekeeper, and a very poor skier, archer and fencer.
Torn between reading and writing, but writing is winning.
He now spends most of his time writing, reading, planting trees, cutting them down and cutting them up, and trying to persuade people to read his books.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Second Life, by RJ Crayton

Second Life, by R.J. Crayton

From the Book Cover:

After helping friend Kelsey flee the country in Life First, Susan Harper is being held captive by the government in the thrilling sequel, Second Life. As the normally feisty Susan’s hopes of freedom dwindle, a mysterious stranger sneaks into her room and promises to help her.

Susan and mystery man Rob grow close as he tries to orchestrate her escape. When the duo discovers the truth behind Susan’s captivity, they realize she is in grave danger, and they must act quickly. Susan and Rob will need more than passion for each other and their wits to succeed. They will need help from old friends, including Kelsey.

Susan gave Kelsey a chance at a second life, but will she get her own?

My Review:

I enjoyed First Life, and also Second Life, the sequel.  I would have preferred the book to center a little more heavily on the suspense and dystopian aspects, and a little less on the romance, but that’s mostly a personal preference.  Still, I think the romance got in the way of the plot sometimes, and the arguments between Susan and Rob could have maybe been trimmed. 

The errors and punctuation quirks weren’t frequent or distracting enough to detract from the story, and the writing was good.

Susan’s first few chapters really drew me in, and the story kept me reading.  I finished it faster than any other book I’ve read recently, which is always a good sign with me.

Though Rob was a little too perfect, I really enjoyed seeing the gray areas within the characters of Dr. Grant and Dr. Patricia Donnelly.

Second Life is an enjoyable book, with some great tension, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes their dystopian seasoned with a lot of romance.

êêêê



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Denali National Park, Alaska

A few photos of my trip to Denali National Park, Alaska
Early August, 2014


Taiga on the way to Denali, Alaska

Squirrel friend in Denali

Our first caribou in Denali National Park

More magnificent caribou

A mama bear and her two older cubs
Denali National Park


Me with heavy caribou antlers
How do they hold their heads up?

Gorgeous scenery, Denali
First few days of August--the lushest time of year
For more pictures of my trip, click the links here:


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Glacier Bay, Alaska

A few photos of my last trip to Glacier Bay, Alaska
August 1, 2014

Glacier Bay, Alaska, with water like a mirror

Bald Eagle chilling on an iceberg

A sea bird cruise ship

Marjerie Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska

Marjerie Glacier and its source mountains, Glacier Bay

Calving, Marjerie Glacier, Glacier Bay

Looks just like a normal August
Glacier Bay, Alaska
For more pictures of my trip, click the links here:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Skagway, Alaska--Upper Dewey Lake

Here are some pictures 
Of my gorgeous hike to Upper Dewey Lake
Skagway, Alaska
Late July 2014
Glaciers on the rugged peaks

Views from near Upper Dewey Lake
Skagway, Alaska

More breathtaking beauty

Upper Dewey Lake

Views of Skagway and Lynn Canal
From the path to Devil's Punchbowl
For more pictures of my trip, click the links here:


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Juneau, Alaska

A few photos of my last trip to Juneau, Alaska
(And Mendenhall Glacier)
Late July, 2014

Sockeye salmon getting ready to spawn.
Steep Creek Trail, Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau

Porcupine in a tree?
How can that be?

Mendenhall Lake, Mendenhall Glacier, Nugget Falls
Juneau, Alaska

That's where I want to be
I've heard the wind can be quite brisk

Sailing away from Juneau, Alaska
That's Holland American's Amsterdam on the right.
For more pictures of my trip, click the links here:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ketchikan, Alaska

A few photos from my last trip to Ketchikan, Alaska.
Late July 2014

Colorful Creek Street, Ketchikan.
Don't those kayakers look like they're having fun?
There weren't a ton of salmon in the stream this time,
but we still saw some.
I recommend going late August/early September.
If you hit it right, you'll witness crazy salmon traffic jams.
 
Our ship from the windy breakwater
by Ketchikan's downtown small boat harbor.
You can go down into the harbor itself and look at the boats.
Very cool.  
Sailing away from Ketchikan in the evening
For more pictures of my trip, click the links here: