Book Review – The Ice Dragon

TITLE: The Ice Dragon
AUTHOR: George R R Martin
FORMAT: Hardback
ILLUSTRATIONS: Luis Royo
PUBLISHED: 2014 (this edition – story originally 1980)

 

I picked The Ice Dragon up at a bookstore because it was cheap and also short.  I estimated it to be a novelette.  I love GRRM’s stories, but I’m not always a fan of his writing style.  In fact, the last thing of his I read I found incredibly boring.  But I quite enjoyed Fevre Dream in graphic form and Game of Thrones on the screen.  So I wanted to give him another shot.

Four dollars later, this was mine.

As far as I knew, I was reading a short story that he did, and I was a little surprised to see it in chapter form, but not totally.

The story follows Adara, who is different and also the reason her mother died in childbirth.  While her father adores her siblings, she gets left to mostly her own devices, and ends up befriending an Ice Dragon, which nobody does.

I liked the story.  It was written more simply than his normal stuff, which means I wasn’t bogged down by unnecessary words and overly-long descriptions.  I found out later that the reason was that it’s actually a children’s book (Note: the bookstore hadn’t specified that.  I found it on the internet when I tried to look up word count)

So I guess the key here is that GRRM needs to write for Children for me to want to read it.

Still, the ending was annoying to me.  It was predictable and went in exactly the opposite direction from where I wanted it to go.

So a rating.  Whatever genre you want it to be, it was a nice story up until the very end.  I’ll give it a healthy 3/5.  Go ahead and give yourself a bit to read it, but don’t expect the most amazing story ever.

 

 

 

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Writer Wednesday – Jackie Gamber

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Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
With Jackie Gamber, author of the Leland Dragon series

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’ve been a soldier, a secretary, and a stay-at-home mom, gone rogue into writing professionally.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
My published works include poetry, short stories, novelettes, and novels in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the genre-bending blends of them. I’m also an indie screenwriter/director, with four produced short films.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Since I’ve just finished “Reclamation”, book three of my Leland Dragons trilogy, I have a few more novel projects in the works; a steampunk fantasy, a SF-romance, and a paranormal-lit about a twin whose sister has died, and begins journaling as a tribute. I’m also writing my second full-length screenplay entitled “The Mark”, as well as other short film scripts.

What are your earliest book ­related memories?
I remember the Scholastic book program in school where I could peruse the book catalogue and order books that would come a month or so later right to my classroom. I always started with a “one of everything” sort of list, and then had to whittle down to one, or two – sometimes for 99cents! Also, I could describe in detail the layout of my town’s library. It used to have a clawfoot bathtub that I would spend more than my fair share of time in, with huge stacks of books beside me. I love libraries.

What are your three favorite books?
Just three? This is always a tough question for me to answer! I have favorite books for different reasons, but I have to say “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, and “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
When I read fiction I read one at a time. Non-fiction books could be as many as three or so, back and forth. Right now I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain, about introversion in an extravert culture.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…forget about everything else. I even get irritated when I have to pause to use the restroom.

To re­read or not to re­read that is the question.
I re-read all the time! I don’t keep every book I buy because my bookshelves couldn’t possibly hold them all. I’m selective in that I only keep the ones I know I’ll go back to again.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
In my profession, I get a lot of recommendations. I don’t have enough time in the world to read them all, unfortunately. But I will, if it’s from a reader source I trust and the story sounds like my kind of thing. That’s really how all readers find books, mostly—word of mouth.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely! I do it all the time. Speaking of which, have you read “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham?

What do you look for in a good book?
To me, a good book is full of believable characters that get involved in their own tale.

Why do you write?
I write because I’m a storyteller. I resisted the notion for years, but the truth is that I see life, and the world, through metaphor and symbolism. I’m always asking, “But what does that really mean?” and “What makes a person think like that?” It’s in my nature.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I have a knack for looking at others’ stories, and seeing why what they think they’re saying isn’t actually being communicated that way. If I wasn’t a writing, I’d be an editor (although, I do both, already). Outside of words, though, I’d be working more with animals; at a zoo or a rescue, probably.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
To be honest, I don’t exactly know the mechanism that whirrs into motion from observation to idea. But I spend a lot of time watching the world, and studying it, and trying to figure it out. Somewhere in there, inspiration happens.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’ve gone through dry periods, and times when I’ve set down my pen, so to speak, for the greater good of other responsibilities. I’ve struggled with how to find readers, how to prove to my contemporaries I’m not a hack. I’ve battled my demons that terrify me, and there have been days I’ve almost decided to just stop, because the desire to be heard is too hard to carry into an industry of cacophony.

I’ve lived with writing, and without it. What I’ve learned, is that I turn too inward, and become bitter and miserable, unless I believe in a world where writing happens, and that I can be a part of it.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband and two kids (my children are grown, now) have always been my support system. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. The stigma that science fiction or fantasy isn’t real writing lingers.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I wouldn’t wish a stereotype on anyone. Human beings share commonalities, of course, but I like to think my job as a writer, and fellow human, is to bust stereotypes, not feed them.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The writing industry is in a stage of rapid, almost violent, evolution. What used to be “the way” just isn’t anymore. Authors are writing books aimed at other authors for “how to do it the way I did” and a new one emerges practically every week. The biggest challenge I see for writers today is holding on to their own conviction, and their own ideals, while everyone is shouting into their face that their doing it wrong.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Some mistakes take a long time to make themselves known. My perception is that I may have trusted the wrong people a little too much, or a little too long. Sometimes, I haven’t trusted enough.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’ve always said it’s a life goal of mine to write a book that one day is banned!

How do you deal with your fan base?
I don’t think of myself as having fans. But I love readers! I have so much in common with fellow readers. In the end, that’s what I am, anyway; a book lover who can’t resist writing a few of her own.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m a pretty transparent person—or at least, I aim to be—so I’m not sure how surprising I am! Although I do tend to get a reaction of disbelief when I share with people how introverted I am. They say “You’re not shy!” But I am incredibly introverted, nonetheless. And I’ve spent an inordinate number of years figuring out it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Jackie Gamber is the award-winning author of many short stories, screenplays, and novels, including “Redheart”, “Sela”, and “Reclamation”, Books one through three of the Leland Dragon Series. For more information about Jackie and her mosaic mind, visit http://www.jackiegamber.com

And meet Jackie elsewhere on the world wide web at:
https://www.facebook.com/AllotropeMedia
http://www.amazon.com/author/JackieGamber
http://www.twitter.com/JackieGamber
http://www.facebook.com/jackiegamber

Writer Wednesday – Jackie Gamber

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Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

I’m a stay-at-home Mom turned professional writer, with a love of books and tea and snuffling, short-snouted dogs. Our current family friend is Lady Ursula, a dignified and lovable English bulldog.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve published numerous short stories, poetry, a novella, and novels. Most of my stories have involved an element of science fiction/fantasy/the paranormal; I think because that’s where I get to break some rules and rewrite society’s expectations. It’s fun to examine life through the eyes of an alien, or a mythical creature, and to examine why, in our everyday life, we either believe or don’t believe the things we do.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Currently, I’m in the editing phase on the third and final book of my Leland Dragon series, entitled “Reclamation.”

What are your earliest book-related memories?
One of my earliest book-reading memories is “My Father’s Dragon” by Ruth Stiles Gannon. I’m certain that had a long-lasting effect on me, although I can’t say for sure how that all works. I never woke up one day and decided to write about dragons, but Kallon Redheart, a main character in the Leland Dragon series, definitely introduced himself to me as one, and I couldn’t have written him any other way.

What are your three favorite books?
I have so many favorite books, but I like them each for different reasons. First, without a doubt, is Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for its redemption and hope. Shelley’s “Frankenstein” -it’s so much more than the cult movies make it out to be. And Wyndham’s “The Midwich Cuckoos” for his utterly charming way of telling a chilling tale. I’ll stop at three, but I could go on and on!

How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?
I sometimes have 2 or 3 books going at one time, if I’m reading non-fiction, which I do when I’m involved in my own writing projects. I think because it fires different brain cylinders. Most non-fiction reading of late has been related to how-to’s on screenplay and such, but in my stack of to-be-read fiction are Asimov’s FOUNDATION and Philip K. Dick’s A SCANNER DARKLY, among others.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…become utterly lost to the rest of the world. I might as well be invisible!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read, and re-read, over and over. Some of my favorite books are so worn around the edges they’ve become soft as fabric.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely! Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to discover new authors and new stories.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I recommend books all the time! I even do something called “Booktasting”, where I pair a book (usually a classic science fiction novel, but not always) with a certain tea you should drink while reading. It started out as something I was just doing for fun, for myself, since I love both reading and tea. But then tea drinkers, or book readers, began asking me about it, as well as authors, who were interested in knowing what tea I might choose for their book, and I decided to start sharing my Booktastings with the world. It’s been so much fun!

What do you look for in a good book?
I like a book with characters I can root for and a good conundrum I can help them figure out.

Why do you write?
I began writing very young. The trickier part of that question is the answering why–it’s a bit like trying to figure out why some kids climb trees, or collect marbles, or play with dolls, or paint, or play video games. I seemed to be an observer-type and I wrote out poems and story bits to process through what I was seeing. Or feeling. I’ve always been intrigued by mysteries, and writing is one way I explore that.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I would be a baker; it’s one of my other life dreams. In fact, I’ve recently started working in a bakery, in addition to writing, so I’m working my way through my bucket list, slowly but surely.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My writing inspiration comes from everywhere, because people are everywhere! I tend toward character-driven fiction, which draws on the “why”. Why does a person feel the way they do? Why do they act a certain way? What about their life could create their fears, their hopes? In my attempts to fill in the blanks, stories emerge.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me that I can persist as much as I need to, after all. If I can wrangle one thing, I can surely wrangle another. I keep piling dreams on top of aspirations, on top of goals (even becoming a baker, too). I came a little late into this “believing in a dream” life. Took me a while to unhinge my baggage and step out into a brave new world. Deciding I was going to write “for real” was a first step in finding out what I’m capable of.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My family has been my best supporters. On days I didn’t think I could keep going, my husband helped me hobble along. And having my two kids be proud of me has been terrific incentive to do my best, and keep on keeping on.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
The writing life is not the glamorous, celebrity-filled life so often shown in movies. It’s a job like a plumber, or a farmer: I go back day after day, and get the words down with a lot of labor.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The publishing industry can be pretty brutal on a sensitive soul. Publishing is a business like any other, and yet its product is subjective art, and so how does combining the two make success? It’s a mystery, both to those inside and outside the publishing world. There are no formulas, and no real repeatable patterns, especially with all the publishing options and changes that have rocked the industry for the last few years. A huge challenge is getting noticed among the din, and getting read.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I don’t really think of myself has having fans; more like fellow readers with whom I can share my love of stories. We all have something to say, and something to share. I share with words, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do so, and to have my words, hopefully, touch someone.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
…I’m a gamer, when I have time for it! I was one of the first kids on the block to get Pong (for Christmas, about a hundred years ago) and I’ve enjoyed video games ever since.

Anything else we should know?
I have lots of exciting projects on the way! In addition to Book Three of the Leland Dragon Series, I’m also writing a steampunk fantasy novel. I’ve written a feature length paranormal thriller screenplay, as well as several short film screenplays based on my published stories. I also edited a special issue of the dark fiction magazine Shroud, due out in the coming weeks.

Jackie Gamber is the award-winning author of many short stories, screenplays, and novels, including “Redheart” and “Sela”, Books One and Two of the Leland Dragon Series. For more information about Jackie and her mosaic mind, visit http://www.jackiegamber.com

And meet Jackie elsewhere on the world wide web at:
https://www.facebook.com/AllotropeMedia
http://www.amazon.com/author/JackieGamber
http://www.twitter.com/JackieGamber
http://www.facebook.com/jackiegamber
http://www.lelanddragons.com

Book Review–The Sword And The Dragon By M.R. Mathias

Title: The Sword And The Dragon

Author: M.R. Mathias

Format: Electronic

Published: 2010 [Date of Kindle release]

 

This is partially a review of the generically-titled fantasy novel, but it’s also a bit of a discussion about how authors can make or break their own work beyond what they do in the crafting process.

The Sword and the Dragon was first released three years ago as a self-published ebook and was lost in the slush pile that is Amazon’s Self-Pubbed E-Book Library.    It started popping up on my purchases as “Customers who bought this also bought…” and eventually I gave in.  I figured it was only a dollar and so why not?

Now it has nearly five stars and hundreds of readers pushing it to the top of the pile.  There are many accolades that make  it very attractive to someone looking for something new.

It’s kind of a shame that it isn’t nearly as good as those accolades would make you think.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a terrible book or a book that causes you pain to read.   Parts of the story are actually really excellent, with the author zagging where you assumed he would zig and therefore taking it in a slightly less predictable direction.  I never felt like I was reading a cheap retelling of more popular titles, which is often a danger in the Fantasy genre.  The problem I had with the book–initially–was that there are many characters who tell part of the story through their points of view.   This is a technique I prefer, but the problem comes when fully half the POV characters are boring.   There were some whose stories I was dying to follow and some whose stories were killing me out of dullness.   With a book this long (the thing is the e-book equivalent of 522 pages) it’s a real struggle to finish with so many drawn-out dry patches.

Ultimately I decided to abandon it in spite of the parts of the story I enjoyed, and that’s why I want to talk about it in detail.

I abandoned it because of the author and the online persona he’s cultivated.   Even though I enjoyed what was amounting to a good 60% of his book I saw some of the meltdowns he’s had on various fora and review sites and realised that if I’m going to give the consideration of my time to someone it’s going to be someone who is considerate of others–not arrogant and rude.

When a popular British Fantasy forum directed his self-promotional post to their section for self-published works he insisted that his books are not self-published:

I am not a small press. I am an author with 18 titles for sale. That is more titles that some big publishing houses. I have advertising currently running in Locus, Publishers Weekly, Fantasy and Sci Fi, and Revolver magazines. I have blog advertising across the entire blog-o-sphere. I am not a small press or even self published. M. R. Mathias’ books are PUBLISHED by Michael Robb Mathias Jr. and should be treated no differently that any big named publishers title [emphasis mine].

This conflict degenerated into a massive number of tweets about Mathias’ own wonderfulness and the “#Nazi” behaviour of the webmasters who dared to define him as what he is–a self-published author.

I don’t believe there is any shame in being self-published. I think it’s a courageous move that, when handled correctly, can be a lot more lucrative for an author than a traditional contract. We’ve reviewed a number of self-published titles here at Book In The Bag and will continue to do so as we come across ones that are worthy of notice.

It’s that “worthy of notice” thing that’s tricky for any self-publisher. Getting attention is very difficult, especially as more and more review sites (eg. GoodReads, Amazon) are cracking down on promotion in the wake of some truly obnoxious and intrusive “entrepeneurs” who stalk and harass readers, derail conversations and (in Mathias’case and others like him) go completely off the rails.

When you self-publish you’re marketing yourself as a brand; you don’t just sell your books, you sell your persona. Mr. Mathias has obviously done a better job than most self-publishers in that he has been able to draw an unusually high amount of acclaim on Amazon. That’s a key thing to remember because there are a lot of readers out there who will see your brand as distasteful if you behave distastefully. I know it’s why I put this book down, why I can’t recommend it to others and why I’m adamant about insisting that authors be mindful of the image they put out there. It’s fine if you want to sell your brand as a provocateur. Just know that it may cost you readers, reviews and–ultimately–cash.

The Sword and The Dragon without the taint of Mathias is probably a two-worm book.

With Mathias’ “help” I give it one worm indeed. And one worm ruins the apple.
bookworm

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