The Lotus War Book Review

The Lotus War book series by Jay Kristoff can definitely be described as incredible.  I just finished reading the entire series and am most amazed at Mr. Kristoff’s ability to create evocative imagery without slowing down the pace.

As a child, I took piano lessons.  Each week, three of my siblings and I would get dropped off at our piano teacher’s house.  As we waited for our lesson, we got to watch her TV.  This was a real treat since we didn’t have one. Our teacher lived a bit off the beaten track and because of this, she didn’t have much in the way of TV reception.  To exacerbate the situation, she only had two movies for her VCR.  One was a taped copy of Shogun television series and the other was The Sound of Music.

We watched the Shogun series a whole lot.  I can also sing along with nearly every song from The Sound of Music–and I’m never sure if this is something to admit or not.

The Lotus War series takes place in a Steampunk Japanese Dystopia which brought back a lot of memories from my time watching Shogun waiting for my piano lesson.  Kristoff does a great job creating a believable world which has all the expected issues such as class warfare, a rigid hierarchy, and a Samurai class obsessed with honor.

This book series felt a lot like Shogun with some significant differences.  Think feudal Japan with chainsaw katanas, flying airships, and even a bit of magic mixed in for good measure.  Kristoff handles this mash-up with professional ease.  The characters are compelling, the imagery incredible, and the action is fantastic.

If you are looking for an enjoyable read that sits a bit off the standard beaten track of fantasy book–give these books a try.  I rate them a solid 5 out of 5.

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New Short Story–Yvette and the Hunter

Just finished a new short story and I will be sending it to my email list for free in the next two weeks.  I want to get the cover set up properly and make sure I do a complete final edit.  Here is the cover tease–


Yvette and the Hunter


The art was done by Nele Diel and I am super excited.  Let me know what you think.

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Free Books!

I love free books as much as the next person.  So here is a little something you might like that was organized by one of my friends, Mel Tomlin, over at The Prolific Reader.

It is a huge instaFreebie giveaway of over 450 books in 25+ different genres.  I’m sure you find several fantastic gems that fit exactly what you are looking for.


The Prolific Reader

The Prolific Reader

Click the picture or click here to get over to the page with all the great free books.

And if you haven’t downloaded my book, An Assassin’s Tool, you can find it there as well.

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Have You Read It?

I read Blake Snyder’s book, Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need this past week.  Although written for screenwriters, this book contains some nuggets of wisdom for all writers.  The most important Save the Catpoint he makes, I believe, is the need to understand the point of your writing.  Before you move into actually writing, he suggests you ask yourself, “What is it?”  If you can’t easily, clearly, and in simple terms describe what your future work is all about–then you aren’t ready to write yet.  He explains that you must have clarity before you can begin telling a story.  I know there are many authors that just start writing and follow wherever their characters take them.  This isn’t me.  I definitely need clarity.

As an example, after writing several dozen short stories, I made my first stab at writing a full length novel.  When I was done, I set it aside for a few weeks and then picked it up to read it with fresh eyes.  By the time I was done reading, I was certain my future as a writer was doomed.  It was, quite frankly, rubbish.  If I would have read Save the Cat first, I would have saved hundreds of hours of work–because I would have understood the most important point–clarity of vision before I started writing.

I started doing more research on Save the Cat and came across his website.  Lot’s of great information there.  I also found an author named Jessica Brody who teaches Save the Cat! for book authors.  Her website can be found here.  She has loads of great advice.  And as a bonus, she has a book to be published in Fall of 2018 called Save the Cat! Writes a Novel.  I will definitely be picking up my own copy as soon as it is available.  Until then, I’ll be following her blog and appreciating all her wise advice.

My advice to you–go write, but make sure you have a clear vision of where you are going before you start.  It may just save you the sad story of an extraordinarily bad first draft.

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An Assassin’s Tool — Special Offer

Today and tomorrow you can pick up my short book over on Amazon for free.  I’d love it if you gave it a read and left me an Amazon review.

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Time Flies on Hidden Wings

This past year has been amazing and fantastic and wonderful, but I have not written enough for my satisfaction.

Time truly flies on hidden wings.

As I look back at the year, the lack of writing stems directly from my failure to plan and manage my time.  I have spent the past 9 months cycling back and forth between various projects with little progress.

On the plus side, I published a non fiction book under the name T.U. Darby.  It is all about habits.

The irony is clear.  If I had been better about applying the lessons of that non fiction book in my own life, I would have had a much more productive year on the writing front.

My day job has kept me much more busy than I expected.  Throw in a few family obligations and my writing time has diminished to nearly nothing.  These are but excuses I offer and as I lay them out before you, I realize how weak and ineffectual they seem in the bright light of reality.  The moral of this story is that life’s obligations will conspire to rob you of your precious writing time.  It is each writer’s responsibility to protect that time.

In a deliberate act of choice with the desire to change the future into something I will be more satisfied with in another year, I sat down and reorganized my schedule to reflect the things I want to achieve instead of the things that come my way.

I have set aside over 5 hours M-Th for writing.  Friday gets a paltry 2 hours and Saturday gets a minimum of 4.  I take Sundays off.  This puts me at 26 hours for a week.

What will this allow me to produce?

With my average rough draft pace of 750 words an hour, I should have nearly 20K words a week.  This gives me a solid rough draft in 4 to 6 weeks depending on how the writing plays out.

I spend about 20 hours writing the initial book plan.  From start to finish, I estimate about 8 weeks to produce a solid first draft.

Yes I do write a book outline.  I call it my zero draft.  I use Amy Deardon’s book, The Book Template.  I follow it religiously.  The first time through her book, I struggled and railed against the oppression and tyranny of planning.  When I finished, I realized the power of the template.  The product of my effort was a better zero draft than any first draft I had ever written.

In reality, once you have gone through all the steps she outlines in her book, you have a true understanding of where the book is going to take you and what you are going to deliver to your reader.  This series of planning sessions is a powerful tool that allows me to create a better product in less time.

I used to be a pantser and it got me nowhere.  Now I am definitely a planner.  Each and every idea for a novel goes through the steps.  Some don’t even make it past the first 10 steps because I realize the idea isn’t viable.  The process saves me a ton of time and backtracking.  By the time I am ready to start on the 1st draft, I know exactly where I am headed and have the confidence that I will achieve my intentions.

Seriously–what professional doesn’t create a plan before they start their project?  Can you imagine an engineer telling her boss, “Don’t worry, I’m just going to fly by the seat of my pants on building this billion dollar dam?”  Haha, you laugh.  And yet we aspire to be professionals without doing the one thing professionals always do–plan.

Everything starts out as an idea.  Just having an idea isn’t that impressive.  It is the ability to put the idea into motion that creates things of power and beauty.  And to get something created properly, you need structure.  You need a plan, a direction, a guide.  The Zero Draft will be your trusty guide.  Now don’t give me the whole, “but it takes away my freedom,” crap.  That is what rewriting is all about.  You have your zero draft.  You rewrite it into your first draft.  You rewrite that into your second draft, and so on and so forth.  Each time you rewrite, you have total freedom to make whatever changes you want.  That is the point.

After I finish my first draft, I give it a 2 to 3 week cool down period where I studiously ignore it and try to forget everything about it.  I spend this time working up the next book or working on some short stories. Then I get to rewrite.

“Rewrite?” you ask.

“Yes, rewrite,” I answer.  The act of writing is really about creating the finished project suitable for others.  Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”  Once you are done, you realize how much better you can tell it the second, third, fourth, and even the fifth time.  As Hemmingway once told a reporter, “I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.”  Rewriting is the key.  After I begin the rewriting process, the actual time spent on original writing falls back down to just 2 hours a day.  The other 14 hours of writing is actually rewriting.

And so it begins again.  Hopes are high, my mind is full of ideas, and my heart is determined.  I’ll let you know how this newest project went in 8 weeks time.  In the meantime, watch for regular posts about other sundry thoughts and ideas.

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Update on The Second Book in The Nyepsium Wars

The second book in The Nyepsium Wars is fully outlined and ready to go.  For me, outlining is the heavy lifting–after I have the essentially story laid out and know what scenes must occur, I am ready to write the first draft.  I will be spending countless hours writing this over the next several weeks. And yet, I know that once the first draft is done, there is an amazing amount of work still to be done.  Regardless of how it is for other authors, the first draft for me is often in need of some serious CPR.  I accomplish that with another ten or twelve rewrites.

It is exhilarating to know that Mathonwey is ready for his next adventure.  Stay tuned for more action, mayhem and intrigue.

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Short Story Now on Amazon

An Assassin's Tool


I just published my short story, “An Assassin’s Tool” on Amazon.  You can pick it up for just $0.99.  This story was first published in the January 2015 issue of New Realm magazine.

After you read it, I would love it if you would share a great review over on Amazon.  Good reviews can make all the difference to a new writer.  Thanks so much.

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The Beekeeper’s Guide

If you are thinking about keeping bees this year, now is the time to get started.  Get on the phone or the internet and place an order for a package of bees with your local supplier.  Your new bees will arrive around the middle of April and can be placed in their new hive box immediately.

Interested in learning more about beekeeping?

Why don’t you head over to Amazon and pick up my book, The Beekeeper’s Guide.  It will walk you through every step of your new beekeeping adventure.

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You Are Amazing

I’m not sure if you know it yet, but you are amazing.

Here’s the thing, you have arrived at this moment in time by a miraculous route.

You have faced countless struggles, challenges and trials.

Sometimes you have fallen.

Sometimes you have failed.

But I know one thing–the fact that you are here, right now, reading this means one thing.

It means you got back up after you fell.

It means you tried again after you failed.

And because of that, you are amazing.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

You are amazing.

And because you are amazing, you will go on to do many great things in your life.

Along the way, you will face many more struggles, challenges and trials.

And sometimes you will fall.

And sometimes you will fail.

But as long as you keep getting back up.  As long as you keep trying.  At long last, you will succeed at whatever you want to do.

Because, you are amazing.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.   Just keep being exactly true to you.

Because. . .

You are amazing.

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