Bloody Rose

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Nicholas Eames’ “Kings of the Wyld” was an epic blast. It was a breath of fresh air to have really fun but not sardonic characters and going out in wild adventures. At its heart, “Kings of the Wyld” was a road trip story about reconciliation.

So yes, the fool in me expected something similar in the sequel, “Bloody Rose.”

I was a fool.

Humor my poor analogy – my brain has been in the frying pan for weeks – if “Kings of the Wyld” was “The Hangover” (I liked the movie, okay? Fine! “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” happy?), then “Bloody Rose is “The Breakfast Club” [1] on the road. [2]

There’s adventure, there’s drama, there’s heartaches. It’s everything that made “Kings of the Wyld” a great book and more. I love the characters and each of their respective arcs. Though some part in me wanted to explore them more, instead of going through a few pages or chapters about them. But in the end, it’s really a story about the newest member of the band, Tam. Okay, okay, maybe not, it’s actually really about the band itself and leaning more toward the frontwoman, Rose, because of plot reasons. But it’s also more about Tam learning more about the world. Like, I don’t know, a millennial getting slapped in the face about the real world.

I kid. I kid! I fucking kid! We cool? Okay.

Look, I don’t think I have anything much else to say but a redundancy of praises. The book has been out for months now, so here’s the spoiler parts.

HERE BE RANDOM POSSIBLY NO-CONTEXT SPOILERS

I’m just glad we got to the adventure part fairly quickly. I mean, it’s going to be obvious one way or another that Tam is going to be part of the band.

That cyclops event was glorious. It’s also a point to remember that stories what everyone knows is very much different behind-the-scenes.

I was curious how their quest will weave into the current Horde, where all other mercenaries are eager to get into. I assumed it was going to be a cliffhanger thing or something really wild was going to happen. And yes, something wild did happen.

Finally, we get to meet the client! Of course the client is sketchy. There’s always something about the client. I bet, she’s a baddie related to the antagonist in “Kings of the Wyld.”

It’s called the “Dragoneater” for a fucking reason.

… And Rose killed that motherfucker like a boss.

Baddie revealed. Called it.

Holy shit, she can keep on resurrecting the dead.

Not only can she resurrect the dead, she has Spider Senses that alerts of her of any incoming danger.

Okay, I can see what’s going to happen here. Tam is going to shoot an arrow straight into Cloud, which is going to pierce through him and kill the baddie.

Okay, that didn’t happen, not technically like that, but something like that, and now I just want to curl up and cry.

Anyway…

The ending was so bittersweet for me. I really like the father-child theme with each character. Tam and the overprotective Tuck. Brune and Cura’s sick fathers. Cloud and his elitist father. Rose and the Golden Gabe from “Kings of the Wyld.” Pardon me while I curl up once more and cry again.

Also, I forgot to mention, Nicholas Eames is a known gamer. He loves “Final Fantasy” and had the galls to include a Tonberry into the “Bloody Rose.” Yes, a fucking Tonberry.

[1] OMG footnotes! Anyhow, maybe “Breakfast Club” wasn’t the best example, considering it kicks off with a bunch of kids getting stuck together in detention. But then again, I guess the essence here is, each of these kids has a story to tell, and we get to know them more one-by-one. Or something, whatever. That’s how I relate to “Bloody Rose,” ‘kay?

[2] Fucking footnotes! Ew! Okay, I just had this realization, only now, that mostly all adventures in fantasy stories are basically road trip stories. Okay, I’m done.

The Rage of Dragons

“The Rage of Dragons” by Evan Winter rocked my balls so hard I had to lie down, decompress, let the typhoon of emotions settle for several nights, and still I imploded.

It’s such a fucking good book. The characters are amazing, the magic system is unique, and the pacing had this breakneck speed I feared for whiplashes. But nah, Winter was gentle to step on the brakes every now and then, giving us warm characterization, opening doors for us to like others. I haven’t encountered any character I disliked, so far. Well, maybe one – but that one is so far back, that hardly matters.

The dragon-summoning system is fucking awesome and when you learn more about it, brains will splatter the walls, the hallways, the driveway, everywhere. And you just kind of get, it makes sense, of course, it’s damn brilliant!

Training scenes are incredible. Just, fucking Rank S+ tier incredible. It makes you wince; it makes you want to look away, it makes you uncomfortable, it breaks your jaw in half and leaves it hanging. It is built exactly that way, to let you know how fucking serious and how fucking angry our main protagonist, Tau, is. He’s only a mediocre human being but he’s pissed and he has a goal, and he’ll kill himself over and over to reach it. To butcher VE Schwab (or was it Rin Chuperico?) tweeted, never underestimate the power of spite.

There is a phrase in the book that left a big fire in my heart.

“The days without difficulty are days you do not improve.”

It’s powerful, inspirational, and very true.

There is another quote that rumbled up my feelings but am ultimately, in total agreement with.

“Life is nothing more than moments in time. To achieve greatness, you have to give up those moments. You have to give your life to your goal.”

Powerful. True. But difficult.

Welcome to the Valley of Spoilers

Here I’ll just talk about the stuff I liked, loved, and disliked.

1) Tau discovers he is left-handed. Or so it seems to me. His sword hand, which I presume is the right, gets broken early in the book. So he trains with his left and believes to be even better at it than his other hand. This later evolves into his two-sword style, where he butchers everyone in sight.

2) Tau kills Lekan Onai.

3) The Scale battles. Lots of awesome battle scenes.

4) In the prologue, the hedeni had magic that allowed their people to multiply. Scary.

5) Tau’s intense training. He’s the last to sleep, first to get up, continues to train nonstop.

6) Tau’s intense training intensifies when he gets killed. And then gets killed some more. (If by any chance you are reading this, and if you haven’t read the book, well, this should intrigue you.)

7) The magical tethering between the magic user and warrior, which basically turns them into Smart Hulks or Juggernauts. The two-way system how it works, where the magic user has a limited time for this and will die if the tether isn’t broken, which is determined by the warrior. Dangerous shit going on around.

8 )Dragons are really answering a call, but they aren’t technically “summoned.” And the entire behind-the-scenes is horrifying.

9) Tau losing his mind after the intensified intense training.

10) One of the supposed bad guys isn’t really a bad guy and actually seems like a pretty cool guy.

11) The Trojan Horse.

12) The ending! That ending! That fucking ending!

What I didn’t like: Mentor gets beaten and then impaled, while Tau watches in horror and hopeless to stop it. It’s just an exhausting trope I find, and the most predictable thing ever. One sentence after introducing him, I was like, yup, you going to die.

That sums it up. Amazing book. Can’t wait for the sequel. Go read it if you haven’t yet!

Red-Stained Wings: Review

Received an eARC via NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge.


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“Red-Stained Wings” by Elizabeth Bear.

Over other previous reads, where stories were filled with action and adventure, “Red-Stained Wings” featured almost no epic clashes between warring factions. Sure, there’s a few cannon balls here and there, and a few sorceries pulled up from Wizards’ sleeves every now and then. But it’s a definitely a big change of pace and I’m not complaining about it.

It’s the most character-driven book I’ve read in a while, where we explore each of the main cast as they navigate in their own hopeless and complex situations. “Red-Stained Wings” is proof you don’t need a tome with a thousand pages to give you intricate character-driven narratives. Everything is packed in there, self-discovery, purpose and empowerment, ambitions in every angle. Of course you’ll know who to root for, and at the same time, you kind of develop sympathy over supposed antagonists. Reader’s Stockholm syndrome?

All the characters are rich, fleshed out, and well-developed. There were characters I cared for, those I never wanted to leave their POVs, and a character I love to hate so much, which makes the book all the more better.

In such a tight book, the worldbuilding is amazing. It’s vast and weird. The Cauled Sun provides dim light and heat in the night, and the stars brighten the day. There are strange entities in the world and divine schemes gradually unfold.

Perhaps my favorite parts involved the Gage, traversing through dangerous land. The worldbuilding here explodes, a blast of epic proximity, making it known that there are much bigger things happening than the family drama. Or rather, the true reason behind it all. The intrigue here extends farther and makes insidious twists along the way.

Red-Stained Wings” by Elizabeth Bear comes out on May 28, 2019.

Innards #16: Expanse

Some time ago I got it in my head that I can write well because I enjoy it. These days I’m not so sure. Self-loathing is a thing, gnawing at the back of my head. Wouldn’t go away, no matter how much I shoo it off. That’s alright. I like some self-loathing, keeps me sharp, in some way.

In any case, besides sulking in the corner like a whimpering cretin, I’ve sorted out my writing a bit. Things are looking somewhat hopeful, with the baby on its way and the job hunting and all that shenanigans, all things considered, my writings just got the refresh it much needed.

Year of the Red Whale23%

23% is as much as I can give to my current WIP. As of this writing, the Red Whale has about 50,000 words. The prime original word-count was 120,000 and then I decided to cut it down to 80,000. I’m dancing between the two, since I’m going to self-publish anyway. I can go crazy and push through that 120K, or chop things off with clean 40,000-word novellas. Sounds intriguing. But I don’t want to do that. “Year of the Red Whale” is a self-contained story. My challenge now is deciding to maintain the single protagonist perspective or add a few POV characters. There are four candidates to help expand a ton of things. I hope to finish the final draft of this book by the end of February.

Project Ashes: 15%

Oh, humbug. I have 40,000 words written in the first book of Project Ashes. I have parts of the beginning and parts of the end, with little details in between. This is a grimdark tale that is part of a much larger epic. I’m really excited to devote more time into the completion of this story.

Mindfly3%

Crap. Crap. Crap. Project Mindfly is a novella I’m working on for this month’s Apex Publication’s open submissions. I’m not sure where to put this story, if it’s fantasy or horror. I’ll just say it’s weird. Missing person. Body horror. Time travel with a twist. All that gritty stuff. I’ve began writing this story about two years ago but somewhere down the line I stopped to focus writing Project Ashes, which was, ironically, pushed back because of the Red Whale.

Project Sherlock10%

Every now and then I look back at this WIP. I love it and to me, is a fine project after Project Ashes. It’s got miscreant heroes, adventure, a bit of romance, conspiracy, street gangs, assassins, and an epic showdown in one of the unlikely places. It might involve a little bit of magic and if it does, it will probably be tech-based. Like Jedi lightsabers. If magic does get tangled into the mix, then, Project Sherlock will be part of a much larger world I’ve crafted up. The entire concept is really cool and exciting, so I’m putting a lot of thought into it.

Project Sword0%

Holy shit Jon, what the flying fuck is this? A new project? So soon? You still have a bunch of commitments like Project Ghost, “Tunnel Crow Town,” and “The Conductor.” And there’s a whole lot more. What is this Project Sword? Well, it’s a standard sword and sorcery. I wanted something that’s a little bit traditional. Just a bit. I have the characters mapped out and how some of the scenarios will play out. Yes, it will probably begin in a remote village farm. Yes, it will probably involve a main character who wants to live a normal life but is instead force-fed a destiny with big-ass responsibilities. Yes, it will probably have elves and dwarven folk, talking trees, and the such. And yes, it will probably have a pub scene, which is very important to fantasy stories. I got it covered though and I plan to twist ’em all up. My main concern is two of the characters resemble so much from the ones in Project Ghost. So, I don’t know. Should I merge them or what? We’ll see.

I guess that’s it for now. Here’s Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Tell me, baby”

Red Whale: Quick Update

On Reddit Fantasy a topic about National Novel Writing Month emerged. Writers everywhere started posting stuff about their work-in-progress. I’m still waiting what exactly comes out of the blender out of all the random stuff I put in the Red Whale. Yet, I gave in, and posted something real quick about the “Year of the Red Whale.” Might as well update it here too for the world to see.

Tyrant emperor turned beggar turned criminal thug, burns empire that starts a world war but he doesn’t give a damn cause he’s busy squaring off against necromancers, witches, and basically everyone else he pissed off while he was the emperor.

That’s a mouthful. I probably could have come up with something better, but I didn’t want to write a sales pitch, just to bring out an idea into the open. My original thought for this novel was to set it at 120K words, then it got reduced to 80K. Having recently scraped much of the material, I feel the sweet spot is going to be between 90-100K. This is, if the plot went out of its way again to complicate things. I could revert back to 80K if I manage to control everything and keep the plot simple.

Now, with this shenanigans over, I’m off back to writing.

By the way, this is Ryukahr, my favorite Super Mario YouTuber/Twitch streamer. Give him some love, will yah?

On a side note, here’s Hayley Williams of Paramore doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”

Red Whale: Year One Draft

I started writing “Year of the Red Whale” around October, to participate in NaNoWriMo. I made it to 40K words before the month ended, progress that I’m proud of. Since then I barely made it past the 50K-mark, getting stuck on multiple dead ends. The plot thickened to a messy pile of goo. Then all sorts of ugly things started spawning from said goo after trying to patch things up.

I didn’t think much of it until January. The Red Whale was a NaNoWriMo project, not the main WIP, but still it had ended up as my top priority novel to work on. I kept putting deadlines for myself to complete the draft, after all as a journalist I’m trained to submit on time, but I keep letting myself down. The solution was to get back to the main WIP, Project Ashes, but I couldn’t just let go of the Red Whale and busied myself over it.

Now, a year later, I’m still stuck, making no decent progress whatsoever. I had renovated a lot of scenes and redone several chapters. Nothing helped.

Finally, the nuclear option: Change the entire plot. Keep some scenes, some chapters, some characters, but turn things around. It worked. The pace changed, a lot, and I had to remodel my writing style. I had to cut down some action scenes and then add more action scenes. It feels like a brand new work-in-progress at this point, really. My only issue is, should I add more POV characters? There’s a lot going on, but the only thing that matters comes from the protagonists. So there is that to consider.

My final deadline, I hope, is on December.

Since it’s November and it’s a season for Stranger Things, here’s a Alice Cooper “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” I’d put “The Man Behind the Mask” instead, but, meh.

Not going to make it

As of this writing my total word count for “Year of the Red Whale” is within the 30K range. This includes the initial write-up pre-NaNoWriMo. I still have two hours to go, but I don’t want to blaze through it so recklessly.

A lot of things happened this month. And I failed to catch up, and that’s no excuse. I failed at NaNoWriMo, but I still managed to write a large amount of words into the story. So, I can’t feel too bad about it.

I’m just now going to polish the things I’ve written at this point and then proceed in crafting the rest of the story.

Peace out. Still listening to the entire Paramore soundtrack in an endless loop.