Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: Making Peace

I've been following Adam Lane Smith on Twitter for a while now. A few months ago, he asked me to look over his (first) novel of Making Peace. The review was held off due to the fact that my Kindle died.

But, now that one of my wedding gifts was a Kindle Fire, I'm now back up and running again.

So, Making Peace ...
Interstellar romance author Belkan Candor has had a string of bestsellers, and his latest hit, My Mech, My Love, is flying off store shelves. When he takes a job as an embedded journalist with a peacekeeping organization, he expects a plush assignment with a big payout. What he gets is an exposé into human trauma and psychological pain, and a twisted conspiracy on an entire planet looking to stay off the grid.
Swords are swinging and magic is flinging, and Belkan is right in the center of it. Assassins, serial killers, prostitutes, and obsessed romance novel fans collide in a web of intrigue and violence which threatens to tear his world apart.
Will he survive, or will this novel be the death of him?
Image result for making peace adam smith
I even like the cover art.
Here's the short version: This is the best epic fantasy novel I've read in years. It's even better than Correia's Son of the Black Sword.

Hell, it starts with a flipping memo, and it isn't boring. Which is an achievement all by itself. Then again, the memo has a fun bit of meta-humans. ("I noted that bit in the waiver you had me sign: death by, among other things, giant lizards? This book had better make enough to settle all my debts")

Our hero, Mr Candor (really, Mister Smith? Really?) is essentially sent to serve in a less friendly Ankh-Morpork, only played less for laughs. (Or just shown from street level, which is fairly messy to start with). Only a war between the noble houses is brewing and the peacekeepers are the only ones who can nip it in the bud before there's riots and blood in the street ....

If you're also a fan of Terry Pratchett, you might think of this as Thud!, as told from the perspective of the city accountant who is sent to audit the Watch, only to be drafted into the front lines of the riot squad.

And yes, I'm comparing Smith to Sir Terry. If you have a problem with that, then buy the book, read it, and tell me where I'm wrong.

But, yeah, this was awesome, from start to finish. I wish I had been writing this well for my first published novel.

Overall, the characters carried this one for the most part. And there's a nice solid formula for character exposition -- because our narrator is an embedded, so of course he can interview each character for in-depth pieces. That formula isn't even that formulaic, because there's an issue while trying to interview the team barbarian, but what else can you expect from barbarians? We still get the character exposition in a genuine and organic manner -- while being held at knife point.

And yes, I will admit, there are elements that are formulaic and simple, but it's a helpful for the readers as they track the six characters we open with, before Smith goes into the depth of each character. And yes, each character has depth. Hell. even the character development and evolution was subtle and so gently sloping that you don't really notice it happening until it's already happened -- and yes, it was happening the entire time.

You could say that this is a very simple fantasy story, but that's only if you're not paying attention.

I spent a lot of Making Peace appreciating this from a technical perspective. "Gee, cute, I can track most character attributes through the names" -- which were Shield, Ugly, Candor and Vapor (the water nano-mage who's part cyborg and part Raven from Teen Titans). It was basically an RPG party-- barbarian, healer, mage, rogue, bard -- which will make the PulpRev crowd happy (I'd note more, but I the closest I've ever come to D&D is Order of the Stick). But this was both highly entertaining as well as technically sweet.

Smith also does a nice does of genre-blending. Mages come from nanite enhancements. We have magic and Valkyries, but three of our characters are from off planet. We have an odd sort of coming of age story, a thriller, at least one romance and total war. He's got political intrigue that easily outdoes George Rape Rape Martin, a story and setting that would make Terry Pratchett happy, and just enough philosophical depth that would entertain John C Wright or Tim Powers (certainly more deep than Neil Gaiman, who is about as deep as a dinner plate in comparison to Smith).

Frankly, my only problem with the book is that chapter 2 is almost pure data dump. Going from chapter 1, which is a fight in an alley, where he's been wounded, to the data dump of chapter 2 is a moment of whiplash. But even that is well-balanced within the story, due to the narrator serving as an embedded reporter. But honestly, it's not how I would have done it. I skimmed and skipped most of the chapter, and didn't even notice.

So yes, Making Peace was awesome. Go buy it now. Leave a review demanding a sequel, please, because I would like more of these characters.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quick Updates

There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes over at Silver Empire and Declan Finn, Inc.

You all know about Hell Spawn. As soon as the sale link goes up, I'll post it on the blog.

Something you may not know, however....

Lover at First Bite is going to be coming out in hardcover.

Yes, hardcover. I'm actually quite excited about it.

If you're one of those people who will only read electronic (or paperback), they're already out.

With Hell Spawn, however, I should note that the first edition that will come out will be a hardcover.  The paper and e-editions will be coming out sooner rather than later. Within the month of the hardcover release.

This is going to be so much fun.

Monday, October 8, 2018


Since the Kickstarter broke two of three stretch goals. you have unlocked cover art for Book two of Saint Tommy, NYPD.

There are only 20 hours left to the kickstarter as of this minute. Thus far, stretch goal 1 and 2 were books 4 and 5. We need less than $400 to meet stretch goal #3, which is book 6.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Vampires in Legend, Folklore, and Fiction, DragonCon 2018

So, this panel was described as follows

Description: Long a staple of urban fantasy, vampires first appear in folklore, often unrecognizable from the versions contemporary readers and viewers are familiar with. Our panel explores how those early stories have influenced the fictional depictions they create, and others they admire.

Time: Fri 10AM Location: Chastain 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

Melissa F Olson, E.J. Stevens, Declan Finn, Clay and Susan Griffith, J.F. Lewis, Dacre Calder Stoker

This is the complete panel   

For those of you who might want my parts, as for some reason, they have the best audio, right here:

For those of you who are new here and wanted to see the video, we have the complete Love at First Bite Collection


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

VIDEO: Looking at Classic Fantasy from the Viewpoint of Today, DragonCon 2018

You will note that I have embedded this video twice in the same post. That is not a mistake. The audio and video quality is variable at different points on each video. So, I thought I should give you an option.

The above video was shot by my wife at DragonCon this year, in part because this was our honeymoon. Aww, isn't that cute?  (Okay, there was a bit of CYA, after what happened to Dave Truesdale at WorldCon a few years ago.)

The video below is the official DragonCon video footage.

To be honest, this was a fun, fun panel to be on. The audience was great, the panelists were amazing. Everyone was sane. Who knew?

The description of the panel is as follows:

The Isms: Looking at Classic Fantasy from the Viewpoint of TodayDescription: Social consciousness changes, but books are forever. Something that was once progressive today may seem anything but. Are these works simply products of their time or true reflections of the person? Let's not toss the dragonet out with the Hatching Sand and shells. *Trigger Warning*

Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

(Panelists: Jody Lynn Nye, Larry Niven, Declan Finn, Lisa Manifold. Moderator: Toni Weisskopf)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hellspawn: A Change in perspective

Before I knew anything about the characters of Hellspawn, before I ever started the plot, I was only certain about a handful of things.

The premise was a cop who would become a saint versus a serial killer possessed by a demon.

And that the first line was "My name is Thomas Nolan, and I am a Saint."

Yes, I know, fun, ain't it?

But that's not the point in this instance.

I always knew it would be first person. In part because that was the only way to get the premise through immediately.

Anyone who knows anything about Catholic doctrine and sainthood should already know how Nolan's story ends. Just from that one line.

But no, it had to be first person. There were other options, but none felt valid. Why? Because "I'm going to tell you all about this Saint" really just sounds like I'm painting him in pastels and bright pretty colors. Perfect characters don't change. They don't grow. They don't have to. After all, they're perfect.

The best way to keep him from being perfect was to show his actions from his point of view.

Why? Because even Saint Francis is on record as saying "I am the worst sinner I know."

You see, Saints didn't go around boasting about how awesome they were. Heck, by all accounts, Saints like Thomas Aquinas were a little bit flakey and spread jokes about his own weight and about how fat he was.

If I tell you, as a 3rd person omniscient narrator that Nolan will participate in church functions and charities and guards the little old ladies praying outside of abortion clinics, he looks almost Mary Sue level perfect and awesome.

However, if I'm inside his head, and I show you that his mind sees church functions / charities as the only way he's going to interact with people outside of his job, or he sees protecting the little old ladies as merely an extension of his job, it sounds an awful lot more practical than being holier-than-thou. In fact, he sees a lot of what he does as "Why not? I have the time / energy / etc." He thinks he loses nothing. But he has no idea what his "Why not?" will cost him in the long term.

You see, one of the problems in character generation that a lot of people have seems to be creating a character who is both a good person, and also interesting. This is largely a conversation for another time. But I didn't want to fall into the trap of "Christian Fiction Mary Sue." Lord, I hate that.

But just because he's good doesn't mean he's not dangerous. As I noted earlier, in the middle of a firefight, he has no problem shooting people in the back -- especially if announcing himself will merely serve to get him shot. I can't even discussed some of the other fight scenes...

Then again, since I've written two of them back to back, the lines sort of blur between the books. Also, there's so much action, it's a bit of a problem picking them out. Right now, the fights that come immediately to mind is the shootout in Bellevue, the machete duel, the backyard battle .... and that's all book two, Cult of Death.  Oops.

Anyway, yeah, we need good people who aren't annoying. My best way to do it was making it first person. Because one of the nice things about saints? They don't become egomaniacs. It's probably best to show that off in order to avoid Mary Sue issues.

Click here, and support the kickstarter so you can get a sample of the first 50 pages of Hell Spawn right this minute.

Meet the Authors, Dragon Award panel 2018

This took forever to get up. Mainly because I wanted to see if anyone posted something with better audio.

Then again, I listened to it and discovered, nope, you can hear most of them.

Description: Listen to the nominees of the Dragon Awards. Maybe we will even have this year's winner sitting with us. We will have past year nominees.

Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: International North - Hyatt 

Panelists: Declan Finn, Marina Fontaine, Larry Correia, Bill Fawcett, Mark H Wandrey, R.R. Virdi, Jonathan P Brazee,



For those of you who are new here and wanted to see the video, we have the complete Love at First Bite Collection