Thursday, January 14, 2016

Warbreaker, By Brandon Sanderson

Yay! Very happy to throw the first review of the year out there. I'm already off to a good start.

So, as a Sanderson book started last year, finished last year, and started this year, I think I need to add him to my ever-growing list of favorite authors. Once I find an author I really like, I tend to binge read a lot of their books, and with the discovery of the Cosmere, I pretty much had a whole year of catching up. I believe Warbreaker was the last Cosmere novel that I had left to read.

What's the Cosmere you ask? To put it simply, it's a universe Sanderson has created that a lot of his books take place in. They do not cross storylines, although IIRC, I read somewhere that one day they will, but for now, they are all separate stories that don't even take place on the same planet. There is a reading order to them, I believe, which I totally ignored. I didn't even know what the Cosmere was when I picked up Stormlight Archives: Way of Kings, which probably should have been the last book I read instead of the first. Reason is, there IS a crossover with a character (not storyline) that may have been more thrilling to read had I read Warbreaker first.

C'est la vie.

But I'm over it. That being said, I'll probably reread some of the more important scenes from Stormlight Archives eventually, just to refresh my memory on that one certain character since I know so much more about them now.

So, on we go. Review time. I'm going to start with the bad since it's a small nitpicky part. I did my normal half read/half listen of the book, and even though the narrator of Warbreaker was pretty decent, I was totally not in love with the Bill & Ted voice he attached to one of the characters. It was over done, imo, and forced me to the text during that character's scenes. Some people might like it, though, so that was just me. Like I said, a nitpicky detail.

As far as the book itself? Well, Warbreaker was AWESOME! Oh man, total 5 stars. One of the best "Sanderson Avalanches" I've read so far, and I think one of my favorite Sanderson books altogether, just under Stormlight and Shadows of Self.

If you've ever read a Sanderson book, Warbreaker is going to feel quite familiar starting out. The story starts slow, wrapping you up in the world building while you get to know the characters and the magic system. This system deals with 'breaths' and characters awakening objects to do their bidding. The political intrigue in the book was very captivating, and he does an excellent job of just giving enough information to draw you in and misdirect you... several times. It was beautiful!

Technically speaking, I don't feel that there were any loose ends left open that weren't obviously intentional, and honestly (fan girl that I am) I can't put my fingers on any flaws that I think should have been done differently, (like I did with Elantris). It's just remarkable storytelling and one of Sanderson's best.

Another reason why I absolutely loved reading this book was what Sanderson offered to the other writers out there. The full book is posted on his website, chapter by chapter, with annotations (much like a director's commentary) at the end of every chapter. Even as a writer myself, I can't come up with the words to convey how amazing this is for those of us struggling to better ourselves. Reading another writer's process and thoughts on a scene at this level is a tremendous help to how I view my own writing, and even confirmation for some techniques I already use. Granted, I am nowhere near Sanderson's level and might never be, but we never stop learning. Ever, and I appreciate what Sanderson has done with his book. You can find the book and his annotations here.

Because of this, Warbreaker wasn't just a book for me, it was an event in my life and career that I can always look back on.

As glowing as this review is, keep in mind that it's high fantasy, and that genre doesn't appeal to everyone. However, if you're already a Sanderson fan, or even Salvatore or Jordan, this is an absolute must read!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

MY Books

Unofficial year in review, part three!

And to clear up any confusion on my post titles, I'd like to take a look back at what I actually wrote/published last year, as opposed to what I read.

I think the biggest news was my release of Dreamland - Part One that came out last fall, the beginning of the second book in The Phoenix Curse saga, and the fourth installment overall. 

There was a recent giveaway of paperbacks (provided by Lulu) last month, sent out to five lucky winners. I think this particular paperback is beautiful, and I really like the cover better than my ebook cover. I will eventually get the book to print at Createspace and the Lulu paperback will be going away, but until then, you can pick it up from here. I know I have a few fans out there that prefer holding a book over a tablet, and understandably so. A tablet or phone just doesn't compare to the smell, the feel, the weight of a real book. 

AfterAlso printed last year was the compilation of After: The Complete Book One. Of course, I want to stress again that if you already own all three parts separately there is NO NEW CONTENT in the compilation. It's just for convenience and for new readers to pick up. After - Part One continues to be free so those new to the series can try it out before they invest any money. I would just like to point out that if you are one of those people that want to continue reading and haven't purchased yet, buying the complete book one will save you a whole dollar rather than all three parts separate. Neat, huh? If you haven't guessed by now, there will be a compilation of Dreamland once it's all said and done, probably with an additional savings in there as well, but that'll be a while. Probably late 2017, early 2018. 

Now, I do want to point out to the collectors, do not buy the hardback directly from Amazon. They have jacked up the price quite a bit. You can get the same book from Lulu at 30% off, and I mean THE SAME BOOK. If you buy it from Amazon, they're going to get it from Lulu first, and then ship it to you. I love Amazon, but it is what it is. Buy smart, save some money to spend on more books.

Are you interested in a signed copy? We can work something out. Shoot an email over to drjpublishing@gmail.com and we'll see what we can come up with.

Now, the flop. DRJ Publishing published a romance novel by Katlynn Rose, Thief, early last year that sold one copy on Amazon. It is, however, free on Smashwords, iBooks, B&N, and several copies have been downloaded across those platforms, but it only has one lonely review. Such a sad story (and I mean the book's release, not the actual book). It is an indulgent romance (not erotica), and an introduction to a few characters that will evolve into a series once I get around to it. That might be a few years out still since I have so many other things on my plate right now. I do, however, really like the cover.

If you are actually one of the few that read it and enjoyed it, please drop by and leave a review! It needs it! Amazon will also price match to the free cost since it's available elsewhere on the internet for no mula. This book has not made it to print yet.

Okay, I think that wraps up the publications for last year, so what's next for 2016?

First up will be Dreamland - Part Two. You can expect the fifth installment to be out in the fall, or at least somewhere close to that. Barring any huge life disruption, I see no reason (this early in the year of course) that I wouldn't be able to meet this deadline. Excited?!?

My second project is The Walk, a sci-fi, apocalyptic tale of the fall of society due to the widespread loss of electricity. This was my NaNo project for 2015, a story that had been bumping around in my head for a few years. I had no idea where it would take me, but I have written on it solidly since November, 2000 words most days, 50k word target hit in November/December, and I'm still going strong. I plan to finish it up this month, then start on the editing. I have a timeline set out already that I will stick to, shelving the project if it takes me past my start date for Dreamland, so no worries there. 

I may not have The Walk published by the end of the year, but I will have it finished. I haven't decided if I'm going to indie publish it yet or not. I might hold out to see what might become of it if I explore other avenues. This is extremely scary for me, but a brand new adventure in my writing career!

I think that wraps up this post. Will be back tomorrow with my Warbreaker review!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Books

This is my unofficial year in a review, part two. Today we'll go over my one actual resolution; books.

In 2014, I read 30 books. Last year, I thought I could beat that number and hit a total of 35 read for the year. I did not make it. I didn't even make 30 books, and the number of reviews I actually got posted were lacking. I promise to try to do better this year.

"Do, or do not. There is no try."

Not this time, Yoda! See, I love books. They're a passion for me and a hobby for me, but in the end, they're still just a hobby. If anything is going to take a back seat to my day job and writing, it's books. I can't always say it's easy to get 2000 words down a day, and that's what I struggle to do before I turn to anything else. Some days, words come easier than others and I have more free time. But some days... I'm past my bedtime getting those words in.

So the best I can promise is a try.

I'm going with 25 this year. I think that's a reasonable number, and what I entered into Goodreads. I also make it a point to always review indie novels, but I'll try to get a few more traditional reviews up this year as well.
Lightsong

I actually just finished Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson last night, (and totally just got distracted for 10 minutes looking at fan art while trying to find a link for that title. This is why blogging is hard for me.) To start the year off on the right foot, this is the first review I'll post.

And I'll copy it to Goodreads.

AND I'll copy it to Amazon.

I can do this! Review will just be posted later. This is not where I meant this tangent to go!

Okay, so, books I read in 2015. Here is the complete list of the 22 books I read last year, in the order I read them. I am severely disappointed in myself, BTW. That number should have been higher. I really intend to read more in 2016.

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson (my review)
Words of Radiance Brandon Sanderson (my review)
Scorch Trials - James Dashner (my review)
The Death Cure James Dashner (my review)
Mistborn: The Final Empire Brandon Sanderson (my review)
Darkness of the Womb - Richard B. Knight (my review)
Well of Ascension Brandon Sanderson (my review)
Hero of Ages Brandon Sanderson (my review)
Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf - R.A. Salvatore (my review)
Mastic - Eli Constant (my review)
Demons: A Hunter's Novel - Felicite Lilly
Alloy of Law Brandon Sanderson
The Pendulum: Legacy of the Celtic Brooch - Tarah Scott
Knight of the Seven Kingdoms - George R.R. Martin
Archmage - R.A. Salvatore
The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
The Crucible - Arthur Miller
Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn
Shadows of Self Brandon Sanderson
Elantris Brandon Sanderson
His Brother's Wife - Mary Ellen Boyd (my review)
The Emperor's Soul - Brandon Sanderson

Looks like Sanderson wins 2016 by a landslide! That was me discovering the wonderful thing call the cosmere. Hours of awesome reading and experiencing the "Sanderson Avalanche." I also see a horrible trend in my reviews. At least I started the year off with good intentions!

I would also like to point out that even though this post might be lite on word count, it took forever getting all those links together!

And because I'm writing this post at home on Sunday, schedule to post early AM on Tuesday, I cannot ignore my mommy duties. It is time to go play Super Mario Wii U with the 4 year old.

Ugh..

Have YOU ever played Super Mario Wii U with a 4yo? Please, keep me in your thoughts... This is going to be a struggle...

Monday, January 11, 2016

That Time Of Year Again Already??

Wow. Just like that, we're through another year. At least this past year was much calmer than the previous. We didn't buy a new house, new car, new hip. I think it was pretty average as years go. Let's review...

So, I didn't really set out a lot of goals for myself. There was a vague lose weight/work out goal I set, so I'd like to talk about that one first.

As for a lot of people, I struggled with weight loss for the past decade, and I've never been one to work out on a regular basis. Even when I was thin, I was skinny fat. Now, I don't want to sound like a spokes person or anything, but last year for Christmas, I got myself a fitbit. It was a little Flex that did nothing but track steps, but when I linked the app to MyFitnessPal, something clicked inside my brain.

I had always thought the way to lose weight before was limiting myself to 1200 cals a day, or a 20 carbs a day keto diet, both of which worked for me for short periods of time, but strongly restricted my eating habits. I think my longest jaunt on one of those diets was maybe 3 months. All the weight I lost, I gained right back after I fell off the wagon. Sad days.

The fitbit app was the first I'd come across that measures all your daily calories. Based on age/weight/height/gender, it showed me how many calories I'd burn on a day, even if I laid in bed all day long. Apparently my body burns around 1400 cals a day if I didn't move a single muscle. For some reason, seeing that against the calories I was consuming, it helped me finally realize the whole Calories In vs Calories Out. Of course I'd heard that phrase before, it seemed reasonable, but I had never actually seen it in action. I started eating 1500 cals a day even though I was only burning 1700/1800 a day (I did not work out,) and the weight slowly started coming off.

And then I understood.

Face Gains! Left 2014 Christmas Eve,
Right, 2015 Christmas Eve.
Total lost 30lbs.
Now, I haven't dropped a ton of weight, but 30 lbs in a year isn't bad. I didn't put a lot of restrictions on my diet other than calories, so I was able to stick with it. For the past few months, I've only been maintaining my current weight due to the holidays. I wasn't planning on really chowing down until Thanksgiving, but then my son brought back one hell of a haul on Halloween. I figured one Butterfinger wouldn't be horrible, but no... I unleashed the dogs of war on that candy dish... NOM NOM NOM. Worked off those extra lbs by Thanksgiving, and then... Well, yeah. It was Thanksgiving.

Anyway, I'm back on track now and pretty much have been through December. It's been a long process, but that time was going to pass anyway. My health needed it. I'm hoping that once I get closer to my goal weight, my blood pressure will sink back to normal levels without the need of medication, since even my new medication is messing with me.

Also, one very important thing I want to point out about my journey and my take on dieting. It was my journey, and your mileage will vary. Every diet plan out there technically will help a person lose weight, but you have to find the right one that fits you.We are all different people, and we can't all approach things the same way.

So, new resolution for this upcoming year? Lose more weight/work out more. I am working out now. I actually started jogging in October and now that it's colder, working out with Jillian Micheals 30 day Shred. Oh so fun those are, (not) but I rarely miss a day. I hate it while I'm in the middle of it, but love the changes I can visibly see in such a short time. My goal is just to keep that up. Also, the whole burning more calories a day so I can eat more food is not a bad thing either!

Now, I honestly didn't think my little tangent was going to take up so much space. I have more things I want to talk about and review from last year, but not sure I want to have what happened to Martin happen to me. I also don't have near as much to talk about as Martin, but I think it's worth splitting these up in a few posts for the week.

I shall return!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

His Brother's Wife, by Mary Ellen Boyd

Happy hello from the middle of the holiday season! We've almost done it! One more year down. (insert spectacular firework display here.)

Everyone feeling festive now? Good! Just have to keep that spirit going for a few more days.

I've read a lot of books this year that I haven't gone back and reviewed, (shame on me) but today I'd like to take a moment to blog about His Brother's Wife, by Mary Ellen Boyd. This book was a little different for me, as it was outside my normal selected genre, so it took a bit for me to get through it. I'm normally all about the big explosive, magical battles in fantasy, or the creepy crawly things hiding under my bed in horror. This book had neither of those things. It was simple a really nice story.

I don't want to give the impression that this book was inferior in anyway to what I typically read. It was just very different and I'm glad I took the time with it that I did. I am not a historian, so I can't really vouch for the accuracy or the details of the time period the book was set in, but I found it fascinating. One thing I'm really grateful to the author for, is that she did not try to force the dialog into old fashioned speech. It was simple, modern speech that was consistent, and did not take away from the story. I've read some historical books that tried old english dialog, and when it fails, it totally breaks the story rhythm and pulls me out of the book. That was not an issue here.

I really felt for the main characters, especially Hannah. Her situation was so sad and dire at the beginning of the book. The mystery is spun out slowly and is well paced. The resolution at the end of the book was satisfying and watching Hannah's character blossom was rewarding as well.

I downloaded the book from Audible, and it was narrated by the lovely Pamela Lorence, who did a wonderful job bringing Hannah to life.

Solid romance with a little bit of mystery, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Now, what have I been up to lately since NaNo? Well, still NaNo. I currently have a manuscript of over 100k words from my NaNo this year, a smashing cover ready to go, and still probably another 50k words left to finish up the story. I originally thought it would be done by the end of December, but I also didn't think I would need so many words. Hitting my goal of 100k words was accomplished, but now I have to adjust my time line to account for the rest of the story! So lets say January. Three months to write, three months to edit, allocate that same time frame for The Phoenix Curse, and that means you'll see both The Walk and Dreamland - Part Two next year!

The more I write, the more comfortable I am with assessing my capabilities and my limitations. If I can't finish first draft of The Walk by the end of January, I'll have to turn my attention to Dreamland. Getting the next installment of The Phoenix Curse out next year still remains my top priority. I'm looking at another September/October release for that one. Hold me to it!

The end of 2015 is just a few days away. Whatever your plans my be come Thursday night, remember to have lots of fun and stay safe!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dreamland Paperback Giveaway!

Hello, everyone!

It's just as the title says. I have 5 paperback copies of Dreamland - Part One that are ready to give away. These are limited editions and will be out of print soon as I'm moving to a different size book. The giveaway is running for a whole month, so this could be a late Christmas gift. Also, the cover isn't exactly right in the giveaway promo, but I'll get a picture up of the actual books once I'm at home.

After Thanksgiving, I will work on getting another giveaway started of the digital kind, one that will be available before Christmas.

The holiday season has started. Have a yummy yummy Thanksgiving!



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dreamland - Part One by D.R. Johnson

Dreamland - Part One

by D.R. Johnson

Giveaway ends December 23, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, October 8, 2015

That Ol' Zombie Twist

Zombies are undead creatures, typically depicted as mindless, reanimated human corpses with a hunger for human flesh. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works. The term comes from Haitian folklore (Haitian French:zombiHaitian Creolezonbi) where a zombie is a dead body animated by magic. Modern depictions of zombies do not necessarily involve magic but invoke other methods such as a virus.
Taken from Wiki, but not like it was necessary. We all know what a zombie is by now, considering their huge surge in popularity lately. (The Walking Dead returns this Sunday,y'all, OMG!) Also, it's a pretty good depiction of me Monday morning. HAHA! AMIRITE? ... No? ... Okay, I'll stop.

Lame jokes aside. we've always had a steady stream of zombie movies to satisfy our cravings, but their popularity seems to have exploded in the past decade with movies hitting the mainstream like Zombieland and World War Z, and of course, the aforementioned The Walking Dead. There's also a new show on CW called iZombie, which looks... interesting. I'll have to check that out. (No, seriously. CW shows are like crack to me, I watch them all.) Even the premiere of the ELEVENTH season of Supernatural had a pretty hardcore zombie vibe going on and a pop culture shoutout to 28 Days Later. (Told you I watch them all.)

So, a little over three years ago, I joked about writing a zombie story because they're "so hawt right now." I wrote a blurb and slept on it for six months, because at the time I had never actually written a book. Those who have been following me since the beginning know this story already. That's when I stumbled upon NaNoWriMo, challenged myself to complete it, and BAM! The rest is history.

I knew at the time I couldn't just write about the undead walking the earth, searching for brains to eat. So many before me have already done that, not to mention much better than I ever could, so I had to do something a little different. Also, when I have nightmares, they aren't about zombies. Zombies can give me a jump scare, but I'm not terrified to my core thinking about them. They're mythical/magical creatures that don't really exist, so I needed something that could actually mess with my head. (My nightmares are about spiders, btw.)

So my "zombie" was born, but they aren't technically zombies. The only time I use the word zombie in-world to describe them, the MC is taken aback by it. The people you get to know in my world all have their pet names for the "zombies." Ali calls them freaks, Joss calls them dead-brains. The people at the hotel call them red-eyes and demons, but my favorite is rager because it pops up in my spell check every time I use it. We'll just go with that for simplicity here on out.

Ragers aren't dead. They are very much alive, fast and strong, and they are hard to kill. They heal quickly from wounds and need very little to eat and drink to sustain themselves. They have a very high tolerance to extreme temperatures, and they hate humans. This is what drives them to attack people, not their hunger.

The saving grace? They're mindless. Aside from the rage they feel when exposed to a human, not much else is functioning upstairs. Like most other zombies, they're drawn to noises and lights, but don't do much once there. They have the physical capability to open doors and other things, but they don't know how. It is very possible for someone to sneak past them as long as the ragers aren't alerted to their presence. However, it's dangerous to even try if it isn't absolutely necessary. The ragers scream when they become enraged, calling all other ragers in the vicinity to them. HINT: This usually does not turn out well for any humans involved!

As far as appearance goes, they're normally very thin and lean, and just like the undead zombies, these guys smell, too. I mean, it's been five years since shit went down, how do you think you'd smell without a bath after all that time? And if they can't open doors, they're sure not operating their belt buckles when nature calls. I mean, even though they're bodies run so efficiently, a little excess does need to be relieved every now and then.

Another characteristic is their hair. They have none. It all fell out after they turned, or is in the process of. What ever caused this issue did not, however, affect the finger and toe nails. Those are still working as originally intended. Their most defining physical characteristic is their eyes. The irises to be exact. After the ragers recover from their damning sickness, their irises turn blood red.

With all these odd changes to their bodies, although some for the better, most for the worse, it's almost as if they are the result of an experiment gone wrong... eh?

So those are my zombies, but my book isn't about them. My book is about my characters. About Ali and Joss, and how they're coping (or not) in this new world. After all, Ali fell victim to the same sickness that turns most humans into ragers, yet she came out fine... better even... than before she was bitten. Hrm...

So if you haven't yet, you can get the first book in The Phoenix Curse for free here; After - Part One. Check it out, see if you like it! If you do, I recommend grabbing the complete book one, rather than picking them up separately, although there's no difference in the text. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it, and remember, there is more to come!