Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review - The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: DAW
Genre: Fantasy




Book Description:

Publication Date: March 27, 2007

The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime- ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet's hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.

Being so impressed and absolutely enthralled with Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyeria Series, who better to ask for a recommendation for my next read?  So, that’s exactly what I did, and the result was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.    

The more I read good quality epics, the better I like them, and appreciate the skill, talent and creativity it takes to write them.  It’s no easy task creating a whole new universe.  God himself found it so tiresome of a job He rested after every six days. Unfortunately, there are many who fall flat on their faces in their attempts to create successful epics, but I’m learning that it’s not so much these authors had a lack of imagination, but more of a lack of patience and discipline.  I’ve been extremely blessed these past few months to have come across some really great epic writers and truly wonderfully crafted stories, part of me keeps wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.

The Name of the Wind is an excellent example of the masterful strokes of a truly talented story weaver.  For those who’ve followed my reviews for a time, you know how I’m more drawn to character-centered and character-driven stories.  My favorite writing/reading style is active/third-person.  Too many times I find that stories written in first person are often pregnant with too much telling and not enough natural character and story development.  Nothing irks me more than a character that “knows it all  (no offense to Kvothe and his genius intellect)– knows the right things to say – always makes the right decisions – and always saves the day”. Kvothe is full of mistakes, wild with fears and though highly intelligent, he’s highly naive. That’s awesome!  A character that has plenty of room to grow???  Wow!  What a concept.  (Please note the dripping pools of sarcasm).

I love fantasy, not faery tales (my apologies to all fae).   Saying all of that, I was a bit weary of diving into a story, being told by one of the characters, however, this is why I call Rothfuss a masterful weaver, because somehow this author was able to keep this story engaging, active and spell binding.  I know those terms are overused by other writers in the industry, especially when it comes to the marketable blurb, but in this instance, it is the simple truth.

While the ‘present day’ part of the story is engaging, interesting, had me asking a million questions, it wasn’t until Kote started telling his story with young Kvothe, that I was not only intellectually, but emotionally absorbed into this story.  The little, street rat has pick-pocketed my heart.  His song calls out, not just to be heard, but to be felt and remembered.  The way he yearned for knowledge, music, and magic felt so familiar, and so daunting at the same time, I am forever hooked. 

This is a story, for story-tellers.  I believe Rothfuss’ greatest praise will come from other writers like me, because this story is the story of a story-weaver, told by a story-weaver.  I feel like I know this character, as well as I know myself. 

So, thank you Michael J. Sullivan for your recommendation of this series.  This was a good one.  I would definitely recommend it to others.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Arcainians Trailer

The official trailer for The Arcainians - due for release September 20, 2012.
Check it out and spread the word!

Ladder of Specificity

There have been many times that I’ve touted the tremendous resource the Carrollton Creative Writer’s Club (CCWC) has been for me, since being invited in the fall of 2009 by Fred Hamlin during my very first book-signing at Borders Bookstore. I’ve made some great networking connections and new friends, some just as crazy as I am.  There’s nothing like finding yourself in a room full of people who really understand the weird way a writing mind works.  There are some things I can’t fully share with my non-writing friends and family, because they can’t understand.  So, for a long time I really felt alone in that part of my life.  Now because of the CCWC, I know many writers and it feels much like a family – filled with all kinds, some you like, some you don’t like, some you’d never admit any relation, and others you admire, respect and find inspiration, but you’re connected to them all.

Yesterday at the Tuesday CCWC, we had a guest speaker, Jo Brachman of Pine Lake, GA.  I was late to the meeting so I missed her resume, but made it just in time for the first assignment concerning a writing technique called “Ladder of Specificity”.  Though the program was targeted especially for poetry, I always look for a way to associate everything to apply and enrich my novel writing. 

What is a ladder of specificity?  According to my understanding it’s a writing technique that starts with a topic with the most general of description being applied to the bottom rung of a ladder.  As you climb each rung of a ladder, the writer is to add to the depth of the description and meaning by becoming more specific.  There’s no limit to how many rungs, or how tall your ladder can be, until you’ve creatively achieved the desired inspiration.  This method is to help with preventing or remedying writer’s block.

With this exercise, we were instructed to use descriptions that will help avoid lifeless word choices by focusing on things such as amounts, numbers, calculations, physical senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, shape, size, color, texture) and the who, what, where, when and why.

Here is the result of my ‘ladder of specificity’ after being given a prop.  We were handed three items (a feather, a match stick and/or an old utensil).  I chose the matchstick for my ladder.  Don’t forget to read from the bottom – up. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Coming Soon - The Arcainians!


The Arcainians manuscript is complete and submitted to my publisher.  Keep checking back for the exact release date - coming soon  - and upcoming promotions and author appearances.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Open the Window

To fuel our imaginations, we’ve got to live our lives.
To create other worlds, we’ve got to better understand the world in which we live.
To develop a character, we’ve got to study the different characters around us.
To inspire hope, we’ve got to witness depravity.
To describe love, we’ve got to experience it in both joy and pain.
To exhale, we must first inhale.
So, open the window and fly into life, and then watch your dreams soar. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Real Story

Most often a book is judged based on a back-cover short synopsis, a blurb or recommendation by a fellow author, celebrity, or someone high in the writing industry, the cover art, a review or a query letter.  I’ve made the same assessment for years.  It’s the main factors that determine whether I read the pages between the bindings.  That’s all good and well, but those things are NOT the REAL story, just the commercials.

The real story happens in every chapter, scene, paragraph, line and amid every word.  This is where characters are developed, plots threads are sewn, executed and tied, and where the relationship between reader and story is made.  We don’t fall in love with ideas, but with characters and events as they are read, revealed and received. 

This is where the real magic lives.  This is where true talent is exhibited.   Anyone can tell a story, but not everyone can have a vision, and then masterfully craft the path to its fulfillment, breathing life into characters, worlds and epic journeys.  It is a gift to breathe life into vision. That takes skill, imagination, determination, heart, and lots of passion and undeniable faith.

So, the next time you read the jacket of a book, a review, a blurb, synopsis or a query letter, remember that the real story is more than just the idea, and the real magic lay between the pages.  The same can be said about life – the real living happens in every small moment, not just the milestones – those are just the commercials.

What is your real story?

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, August 13, 2012

Well WrittenStory

Whispering words,
Stirring the imagination.
Taking ours hands,
On a grand destination.
Heroes and villains,
Battling for our passions.
Magic and myth,
At the heart of our lessons.
Oh, the joys of a well written story.
~T.L. Gray

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review - Heir of Novron - Michael J. Sullivan

Publisher: Orbit (1st Edition)
Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:

Publication Date: January 31, 2012

The New Empire intends to mark its victory over the Nationalists with a bloody celebration. On the high holiday of Wintertide, the Witch of Melengar will be burned and the Heir of Novron executed. On that same day the Empress faces a forced marriage, with a fatal accident soon to follow. The New Empire is confident in the totality of its triumph but there's just one problem-Royce and Hadrian have finally found the Heir of Novron and they have their own holiday plans.

And so concludes the final tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.

I’ve tried to take a little bit of reprieve before I wrote this review, to allow my emotions time to settle, but after a full two weeks, and reading another spectacular fantasy series in between, I don’t think they’re going anywhere.  If anything, they’re solidifying, especially the feelings of sadness.  Not only for the heartache at the loss of some of my favorite characters in this last part of the saga, but because the series came to an end.  It reminds me a lot of how I felt at the end of Harry Potter.  I cried for two days, but that was after I had invested several years following that particular journey.  With Riyria Revelations, I’ve only recently discovered it, revealing how strong of an impact it made in such a short period of time. I hereby induct Michael J. Sullivan into the Evil Author’s Guild – for his love of killing off much beloved characters.

 This series has a brilliant mix of riotous comedy, wondrous character development, and heart-breaking resolutions.  Sullivan did such an excellent job of keeping the strongest elements of this story in a good balance, not allowing one component to overpower the others.  As a fellow writer, I understand the difficulty of such a task.  While reading Heir of Novron, knowing a conclusion waited on the horizon, Sullivan was able to keep me in the moment, but most all, able to keep my heart and emotions in the moment in order to break them.

While Hadrian and Royce has cemented themselves into my heart as strongly as Harry, Ron & Hermione, it’s some of the secondary characters that helped solidify my love for this series: Empress Modina (Thrace Wood), Amilia, Albert Winslow, Mince, Elbright, Brand, Kine, Gwen DeLancey, Princess Arista, the Pickerings – all of them, Myron Lananklin, Magnus, Esrahaddon, Wyatt Deminthal, and Sir Breckton Belstrad. Of course, there are all those bad guys too, but these are the characters that pilfered my heart.  With so many fantasy series filling it pages with dozens upon dozens of characters, I find many of the main characters get lost in the melee, but Sullivan did a great job keeping Hadrian and Royce front and center.

Though I figured out early in the series the identity of the Heir of Novron, I still enjoyed experiencing every step, clue and adventure that brought out the revelation.  I love the great mixture of all the elements of fantasy like:  new worlds, colorful kingdoms, gods & goddesses, elves, dwarves, wizards, magical beasts, and everyday medieval elements like inns, thieves’ guilds and armies (reminding me a lot of the video game Assassin’s Creed).  There’s a surprise at the ending, something I thought about in the first book, but then became so absorbed in the other elements of the story, I totally forgot.  When it came about in the end, it really made me smile, and it added such a soft, pleasant touch to the story, especially coming after some really heart-breaking moments. That was I think the formula that made this series great – the balance of soft, hard and hilarious moments.

I’m trying to hard not to give away any plot points, it’s difficult, because it’s those particular points I found so exciting about this series. I guess all that I’m left with is this last sentiment: I love Michael J. Sullivan’s imagination.  I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review – Mistborn Trilogy – Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Book Descriptions: 
MISTBORN is the name of Brandon's epic fantasy trilogy. The first book is technically MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE, though people just tend to call it MISTBORN or MISTBORN 1. The entire series consists of THE FINAL EMPIRE (2006), THE WELL OF ASCENSION (2007), and THE HERO OF AGES (2008). It's a hybrid epic fantasy heist story with a focus on political intrigue and powerful action scenes.

Mistborn: The Final Empire - What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark. Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot. But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension  -  Evil has been defeated. The war has just begun. They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire. They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows. It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages  -  Who is the Hero of Ages? To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness---the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists---is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed. Having escaped death at the climax of The Well of Ascension only by becoming a Mistborn himself, Emperor Elend Venture hopes to find clues left behind by the Lord Ruler that will allow him to save the world. Vin is consumed with guilt at having been tricked into releasing the mystic force known as Ruin from the Well. Ruin wants to end the world, and its near omniscience and ability to warp reality make stopping it seem impossible. She can’t even discuss it with Elend lest Ruin learn their plans! The conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy fulfills all the promise of the first two books. Revelations abound, connections rooted in early chapters of the series click into place, and surprises, as satisfying as they are stunning, blossom like fireworks to dazzle and delight. It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave readers rubbing their eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream.


I first became a Sanderson fan when he took up the mantle to complete The Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan.  I liked Sanderson’s writing style, but had no idea what his true imagination contained, what stories he could produce on his own, and so I was a bit hesitant to read his successful series, Mistborn.  Not because I didn’t believe he was a good writer, but because I did believe, and feared being disappointed.  After reading Mistborn, I’m now very relieved.  Sanderson not only lived up to my expectations, but surpassed them.

As a reader and as a fellow writer, I’m beginning to discover what I truly love most about a story. I love adventure, I love action, but most of all …I love characters – good, flawed and complex characters.  Mistborn had a great story premise, but it didn’t’ take long before the storyline took a backseat to the characters, and I’m quite happy about that.

The first character to really grab my attention, and my heart, was the young, scared and vulnerable Vin – street urchin, orphan and skittish loner.  I found myself quickly rooting for her and wanting to see her rise to greatness.  Then, it wasn’t long before, like Vin, I found myself LOVING the company of Kelsier and his Crew.  Perhaps I have a soft spot for a little rebellion, who knows.  I can probably blame that on my Star Wars geek side, where the oppressed come together to fight against the Empire. Then of course, I instantly fell in love with the bookworm and prince charming-in-disguise, Elend Venture. However, when I first met this last character, I rolled my eyes, because of the obvious Cinderella motif, but at the same time I had to smile, because there’s a reason to use this formula (poor, abused waif becomes the belle of the ball and catches the eye of the dashing prince) - it WORKS!  It’s something ingrained into the psyche of every young girl, even if we don’t recognize it. That was a smart move on Sanderson’s part.  Then, of course, there are all those other supporting characters that I also fell in love with – including the hero of ages. 

The genius I found in the Mistborn series Sanderson displayed came in the simple fact that he took the ultimate bad guy, and transformed him into one of the heroes.  I have to again use Star Wars as another reference – in the way Lucas took the ultimate bad guy (Darth Vadar/The Lord Ruler) and turned him into a good guy (Anakin Skywalker/Rashek the Terrisman), to reveal the ultimate bad guy (the Sith Lord Palpatine/Ruin), and bring ‘balance’ to the Force/balance of Ruin & Preservation. Whether or not these similarities are intentioned or not, they worked!  Combine those attributes mentioned above, and then mix them with magical elements of allomancy and feruchemistry, with political elements of a democracy vs. imperial rule, and religious overtones and the struggle and evidence of faith through the Terris Keepers and the battle of Ruin & Preservation, you’ve got a perfect mix for epic greatness.  However, I will also place Sanderson into the Evil Author’s Guild for his flair in killing many beloved characters and revealing a hidden, but pleasantly surprising, hero in the end.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Who's Got Your Ear?

Not many of us really think about whose advice we allow into our lives.  It would probably surprise us if we actually took stock of who truly influences our decisions.  So, if I can offer a small bit of wisdom that I learned early in my college days, I’d be happy.  I use this bit of advice almost on a daily basis, because it’s become ingrained into my very being.

So, what is this little piece of wisdom?

1.    Decide where you want to go, what type of person you want to be, and what it is you want to achieve. 
2.    Evaluate and list those that surround you, inspire you, and speak into your life.
3.    Decide who in your life that encompasses the traits and characteristics that will help you achieve the goals listed in Step 1.
4.    Separate from those listed in Step 2 that does NOT encompass those traits and goals.
5.    Put your decisions into action.

This may separate you from your closest friends and family members, but the choice is yours alone.  Do you want to stay where you are, surrounded by who you already know, or do you want to move forward? It may be selfish to apply this into your life, but YOUR life is YOUR life; and it can’t get more selfish than that.  If you’re a true friend, you’d want your friend to be successful and achieve their dreams, but the reality is that most of us are not true friends.  We surround ourselves with people that make us feel comfortable and better about ourselves, only rarely taking their feelings or aspirations into account on occasion. 

Ask yourself these simple questions:
1.    From whom should I take marital advice?  Someone divorced several times or can’t seem to sustain a long-lasting relationship or someone who’s been married to the same person for several years and survived through several storms?
2.    From whom should I take financial advice?  Someone in bankruptcy or in debt up to their ears or someone who’s started from the bottom and worked their way to the top, who offers opportunities to others, and who gives more than they receive?  Do you want to be rich or poor?
3.    From whom should I take spiritual advice?  Someone who doubts, who switches their faith with every whim, is swayed by every new fad or someone who stands firm on their faith in the midst of storms and among rainbows?
4.    From whom should I take writing advice?  Someone who runs wild with every new idea, but never seems to finish them, who believes their fellow writers are their competition and rivals instead of friends, who thinks themselves part of the artistic elite, filled with elitist snobbery and is above self- promotion and marketing, or someone who pushes through their labor of love, believes in themselves, and their talents, and takes their time to pour into others the wisdom and knowledge that have poured into themselves?

People like to talk.  People like to give advice.  But consider the ‘actions’ of those whom you allow to sow words of wisdom into your life.  If they only SAY, but never DO, then perhaps you should find DOERS instead.  Surround yourselves with people to whom you admire, respect and who encompass the traits, successes and character of the person you want to be. Follow someone who stands on their path and doesn’t allow their emotions to lead them with every whim, but always steps forward.  Follow someone who has heart, who cares and loves success in others, who will pour out continually as they receive.  Follow, as you learn to lead. 

I’m learning to apply this bit of wisdom into my own life.  I’ve recently

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Writing Material

Where do you get most of your writing material?

I get some ideas from other stories I’ve read, some from movies I’ve watched, and some from the figments of my imagination.  However, my greatest source of inspiration comes from the life I live, the people I love and the faith to which I cling.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Write What You Want

One of the first pieces of advice most veteran writers will give fledgling and upcoming artists is to: Write what you know.  That is excellent advice.  Readers can spot fabrication easily, which doesn’t bode well for the writer.
The second piece of advice should be: Write what you want.  It is my experience that unless I’m writing something that excites me, it becomes a laborious project, and resentment towards the project grows when I’m forced.  How I feel while writing is often interjected into what I’m writing.  I’m beginning to recognize this transference in what I’m reading, and becoming more aware of its possibility in my own work.

However, this writing method needs to be balanced with scheduled productivity in order to meet deadlines and achieve story completion.  I learned very early in my writing career that you can’t just write when you ‘feel’ like it.  What you ‘want’ to write has nothing to do with how you ‘feel’.  What I mean about writing what you want, is writing the story that burns in your heart, that you can’t quit thinking about, the one your muse constantly sends inspiration, not whether you have an ache somewhere. 

So, what do you want to write today?

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, August 06, 2012

Vabella Publishing

I’ve always heard the phrase that you need to strike the iron while it’s hot, and if I’ve seen anything searing these days, it’s the rapid growth of Vabella Publishing, and I can’t express how excited that makes me. 

I met publisher John Bell in January 2010 when he was the scheduled guest speaker of the Carrollton Creative Writer’s Club (CCWC).  At the time I was a published author with a company out of Florida, and an entrepreneur working 16-hour days.  Needless to say, I enjoyed his presentation, but didn’t put much more thought into Bell or his company. 

What a difference a few months can make.   At a combined book signing with other CCWC members at Wiley’s Book Exchange, I again met John Bell, and was able to talk with him in more detail.  He expressed with great desire his goals and how he’d like to see Vabella grow.  Due to his level of passion, combined with my business experience, I found myself talking about distributors, contracts, websites, marketing and everything else I had learned about the publishing industry over the two years since I signed my first contract, and thus was born our publishing/author relationship.

After a few more months, being dissatisfied with the amount of time I had to market my debut novel, or write on my other subsequent novels, I sold my business and began the process of cancelling my contract with my previous publisher, and called John Bell.  He seemed very happy, and invited me with open arms into the Vabella family.  A few months after that, and a couple of rounds of edited galleys, my second book was published.  At the time, Vabella boasted of nearly ten titles and authors.  What a difference a year can make.  Now Vabella has over twenty published titles and more than a dozen authors, many coming from the CCWC.  I have recently published my fourth novel, and am working diligently on my fifth, and sixth and seventh. 

As you can see …Vabella Publishing is simmering hot! I wish John and his family much, much success.  I couldn’t be more excited to be part of such a wonderful company.  I am also excited for my fellow authors who’ve also joined the Vabella Family.  Congratulations and good luck to Dr. Robert Covel, Thomas Young, Rev. Harley Fiddler, Shelly Murphy, Rev. Daniel Patrick, Dr. Eleanor Wolfe Hoomes, Gary Spillers, Mary Wilburn, Jeanette Pickering, Georgia Adams, Jim Perry and Steve Davis.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Congratulations Winners!

Congratulations Goodreads winners!  You have won an autographed copy of The Blood of Cain – Second Edition.  Thank you for entering the give-a-way! I hope you enjoy the adventure, and I look forward to your reviews.

And the winners are …

Abby M. of New Hope, AL
Kindra A. of Campbellsville, KY
Victoria M. of South Hampton, Great Britain
Kaitlin K. of Brownwood, TX
Jocelyn S. of Yonkers, NY