Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hadde's Banana Blueberry Smoothie

Hadde stopped by to visit on several occasions this summer. I was doing a lot of planning for the sequel to Eternal Knight, and really wanted her advice. Now, you should really understand that I am not Hadde's favorite person in the world right now. If you've read Eternal Knight you know that I put her through some really awful abuse. In fact, I think the only reason she agreed to come at all was because it has been a really hot summer in Landomere (and especially on the Kiremi Plains) and I have 1) air conditioning and 2) a freezer.

Despite the tragic events in Eternal Knight, Hadde thought she had some reason to expect a break when the novel concluded. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and things have actually gotten worse for her. I can't go into any story details, but she did at one point attempt to stab me with a pen as I was showing her the outline. I am not showing her the last three chapters.

Anyway, Hadde was visiting, and as she always does, she raided my fridge looking for some "exotic" foods they don't have in Landomere. I hadn't been shopping in a while and the fridge was pretty empty, so she started digging around the freezer. There she found some frozen bananas (I was saving them for banana bread) and some frozen blueberries (my wife makes some mean blueberry muffins). Hadde grabbed the ingredients and starts experimenting. Here's what she came up with:

Hadde's Banana Blueberry Smoothie
2-3 ice cubes
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup to 1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Crush the ice cubes in a blender. Add all the other ingredients to the blender. Blend. Hadde likes to blend it for a long time (long enough for the blueberry skins to completely disintegrate). Use 1/2 cup of milk if you want ice cream consistency. Use 1 cup of milk if you want milkshake consistency. Makes two servings.

Hadde's B-B Smoothies are so good that I have stopped buying ice cream altogether. And the smoothies are MUCH healthier. I tried to tell her how good they were, but she just took the blender and stormed out.

I got a note from her the other day (Maret took dictation) demanding that I write banana trees and freezers into the next novel. Guess I'm not getting any more help.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Killer of Men and Marathon book review

I am adding a book review feature to my blog. Twice a month I will review novels (fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction for the most part) and post my reviews. I will only review books that I think deserve four and five stars and am not taking solicitations for reviews. These will all be books that I have personally selected.

For my first review I have selected two books: Killer of Men and its sequel Marathon by Christian Cameron.

I will freely disclose that I know Christian and am a fan of his writing. I have also previously interviewed him.  The following is my honest review of his latest two novels. American (US) readers will be discouraged to learn that Christian's novels are difficult to obtain in the US because his publishers apparently feel that we can't handle realistic historical fiction. There is the possibility of purchasing the Kindle version from Amazon.co.uk

Killer of Men and Marathon Review

Summary (from Goodreads): Arimnestos is a farm boy when war breaks out between the citizens of his native Plataea and and their overbearing neighbours, Thebes. Standing in the battle line - the wall of bronze - for the first time, alongside his father and brother, he shares in a famous and unlikely victory. But after being knocked unconscious in the melee, he awakes not a hero, but a slave. Betrayed by his jealous and cowardly cousin, the freedom he fought for has now vanished, and he becomes the property of a rich citizen of Ephesus. So begins an epic journey from slavery that takes the young Arimnestos through a world poised on the brink of an epic confrontation, as the emerging civilization of the Greeks starts to flex its muscles against the established empire of the Persians. As he tries to make his fortune and revenge himself on the man who disinherited him, Arimnestos discovers that he has a talent that pays well in this new, violent world, for like his hero, Achilles, he is 'a killer of men'.

Characters: Killer of Men and Marathon are both first person accounts of the life of Arimnestos, the son of a Greek blacksmith who grows up to be a fearsome warrior-- a killer of men. The book takes the form of a story being recited to Arimnestos’ daughter by him. As such, we know that 1) he survives and 2) he becomes a great man. What we are left to discover are the trials and tribulations of his strife-torn life. I’ll leave it to say Arimnestos does not have an easy life.

There are many other characters in the books, many with similar sounding names. It is sometimes a challenge to keep the many other characters straight, but the book wouldn’t be the same without the large cast. The novels are too epic in scope to have a small cast.

World building: Cameron completely captures the feel of the ancient world. The novel is filled with rich descriptions of geography, economics, technology, religion, arts, and government. This is not done in the form of info-dumping. The culture comes through the story in a very natural manner. Cameron has a scholar’s mastery of the ancient Greek world.

Engagement (Willing suspension of disbelief): Killer of Men and Marathon both utterly absorbed me. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put the books down. There were no jarring or unrealistic elements that pulled me out of the story and into the real world. When you read one of Cameron’s books, you are IN his world.

Writing/Mechanics/Editing: I found both novels to be error free. This seems to be increasingly rare, even with professionally edited novels. Cameron perfectly balances a fast-paced, engrossing read, while also getting across important philosophical and political concepts. Cameron also writes action scenes as well as any author I have ever read.

Cameron does use a lot of Greek vocabulary in his writing as opposed to using modern alternatives, however the meaning of the Greek terms is easy to pick up in context. To me it enriched the novels.

Impact: Cameron’s novels stay with me long after I have finished reading them. One of my favorite elements of his novels (including his Tyrant series) is how well he captures the spirit of the soldier and the profound importance of the “brotherhood of arms”. Arimnestos might be a killer of men, but he is still a human being who feels loss and knows the impact of his actions. The killing in Cameron’s novels is not there for mindless entertainment, it always serves a deeper purpose.

I highly recommend these books and eagerly look forward to the next one in the series.

(Five Stars)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eternal Knight Casting Call

"Who do you think should play Hadde in the movie?"

It is one of the most common questions I get. [We  are all positive thinkers here, right? A movie deal will happen.] Now, I have some ideas for some of the characters, but I will freely admit to being a little out of touch with what's hip in Hollywood. That's where you come in.

Who do you think should play the major characters? Just leave your choices in the comments, and in a few days I'll reveal my picks. Feel free to mention why you like that character and/or any roles they've been in. I'll post a couple of characters every few weeks until we get through all of the significant characters.

Hadde (Age 20) Petite but athletic. Black haired and considered exotic/different/barbarian by the Saladorans (think aristocratic northern Europeans). Hadde is brave and stubborn, sometimes to a fault. The actress needs to be able to handle a demanding athletic role.

Arno (Age 42) Hadde's father. A bear of a man. Sarcastic, funny, and tough. He is a village leader and is willing to make tough decisions when they need to be made.  Handsome in a mature, rugged way.

Waltas (Age 24) A powerful South Teren (Saladoran) Earl. Hawk-nosed and fierce looking. You need an actor who can play a Class I jerk. Elitist, racist, and sexist, he's a slimy schemer, but also a warrior to be feared.

Have fun! As an added bonus I'll give a free Smashwords ebook copy of Eternal Knight to anyone who participates. Just mention that you'd like a book in the comments.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Two Terrific Reviews

It has been a good couple of weeks for Eternal Knight. The novel has pulled in some nice reader reviews as well as two excellent blog reviews.

The first blog review is from Leslie Wright at Blogcritics. In it she says:

Heppe has done a great job of building a world on the edge. The wasting is a plague on the place and its people and he makes you feel the despair and hopelessness of the people. -- and -- The story is full of action and adventure, and some very interesting bits of magic. If you enjoy epic stories of warriors and adventure, you will certainly find your fill here.

The review itself wasn't starred, but Leslie did give it five stars on Amazon. Before you jump over to read the review I will mention that it does contain a good bit of plot summary.

The second blog review is from Kayelee Rock at Sift Book Reviews. Here is the point in the review where I developed an author crush on Kayelee:

Small happenings in the story that we as readers might think inconsequential come back to surprise us at unexpected times. Each part of the story connects and intertwines with the rest of the story so incredibly well that I was blown away at the cleverness of it.
It is feedback like this that keeps me writing. (It certainly isn't the money.) Eternal Knight earned 4.5 out of 5 stars from Kayelee. 
I'd like to thank both Leslie and Kayelee for taking the time to review Eternal Knight.  Book bloggers do a great service to the writing community, and their efforts are much appreciated! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Free Books...

That's right, I'm giving away free copies of Eternal Knight. 

There is a catch or two. Or three.

1) I am only giving ebook copies away via Smashwords.

2) I am only giving them away until August 14th.

3) If you accept a free book, I am asking you to write a review.

The details:

Smashwords is an online book publisher. They have made Eternal Knight available in a variety of ebook formats. Have a Kindle? Works. Nook? Works. Sony reader? Works. PC? Works. Other formats? Probably works. You get my drift. The download onto your reader might not be the typical one-click, but Smashwords has made it pretty easy for you.

Just go to: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54342 and when you buy the book enter the discout code: SQ35Q

Now about that review...

The review doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just your honest opinion of the novel. You are not required to write a positive review! And, um, how could I stop you if you did?

Cross-posting your review in various places would be greatly appreciated. Just cut and paste. Places you could post your review:

1) Smashwords
2) Amazon (The big Kahuna. Really, this one is important.)
3) Barnes and Noble
4) Goodreads
5) Your blog
6) Your facebook
7) Twitter (just have to cut it down to 140!)
8) Anywhere else it might get some attention.

Hey, Matt, I really didn't like it that much. Do you stil want me to post a review? I don't feel right posting a bad review.

No problem. I'll be totally honest here. 5's and 4's help me. 3's don't hurt that much. 2's and 1's hurt. If you took me up on the free book offer and like the book, I would really appreciate the review. The only way Eternal Knight is going to be successful is through word of mouth. If you don't like it and don't want to write a bad review, I would still appreciate it if you would drop me an email and let me know what didn't work for you. I am working on the sequel, and the feedback will help!

And feel free to spread the word about this offer.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Finally Tally

As my three month Eternal Knight charity period has drawn to a close, it is time to do the finally tally.

38 + 60 + 125 = 223 paperback books sold by me (including a dozen sold by Susan Miller at a Cure-CMD conference). Most of the books were sold at school and at three book signings.
12 + 6 + 28 = 46 paperback books sold on Amazon and CreateSpace.
3 + 5 + 15 = 23 Kindle ebooks sold.
0 + 0 + 1 = 1 Smashwords ebook sold.
0 + 0 + 4 = 4 Apple ebooks sold.
0 + 5 + 2 = 7 Nook ebooks sold.

Total books sold over three months: 304.

Total amount raised for Cure CMD and the Wissahickon Educational Opportunities Foundation: $1,400. I am very happy that I have been able to raise this amount of money for these two great organizations. They both do great work and are worthy of our support.

I am also very pleased by the total number of books sold. As I previously mentioned, some of the numbers have fallen off due to the end of the school year and the loss of initial sales to friends and family.

There are some positive signs, however. Book reviews remain very strong. Eternal Knight now has 21 reviews and is the 27th top rated epic fantasy on Amazon.com. Eternal Knight is also 65th top rated amongst all fantasy genres. I continue to believe that strong sales will follow good reviews.

I also just received an invitation to speak with a large book club. I had a wonderful experience with the first book club I met and can't wait for this second opportunity.

Back to work!