Friday, March 23, 2012

Sh*t I love—Edition one: Emperor’s Edge series

Sh*t I love—Edition one: The Emperor’s Edge book series by Lindsay Buroker
Official description:
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.
I can’t remember the last book I read with a female lead I enjoyed as much as this series. Even female authors have the tendency of skewing women into helpless hero-needing leads or pretty princesses without a believable care in their pretty head. Because of past experiences of not enjoying books with a female lead, I was hesitant to read this series. But my friend wore me down with her rants and raves and I downloaded the first book. (It’s free on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords)

The author has created a vivid world in this fantasy book made all the better with the dash of steampunk-like elements. The setting is described but not overly described. (I find too many details more distracting than too little.) Not only are the physical aspects of the setting explained, but all the parts that make up a civilization that cannot be seen are explained as well. Mindset of the citizens, history of the leadership, and the religious belief system are all created and explained in a way that blends seamlessly into the plot.

The characters are well rounded with their own traits and growth. (Especially by the third—the most recent by posting of this review.) Each is composed of bad and good parts. Just like real people—the bad traits can be little things or big things. The scary assassin Sicarius might be a killer, but he still has a human side beneath all that black clothing.

I’m a sucker for humor and the characters never fail to deliver. There’s more than one type of humor so if one line doesn’t get you smiling, another might. The back and forth between Amaranthe and Sicarius are well timed and executed. (Even more so by each book’s progress in character development.) That’s not to say they’re the only two to enjoy. It’s hard not to fall for all the boys in Amaranthe’s group.

The plot is not only unique, but fast moving (more so in later books—the first needs room for character introductions) and hard to put down. A group of misfits—lead by a women with a bounty on her head paired up with an assassin wanted dead by the emperor—work to do “good deeds” for the empire to get noticed by the emperor and maybe get a pardon. These good deeds don’t always get them the attention they want (what plan ever goes as planned?) but the adventures tighten the group’s dynamic little by little. And offer entertainment for the reader. While some books fall victim to forced plot movement, this one does not. Every decision seems plausible and natural—helped by Amaranthe being led by her heart.

In short, this series is one any reader should check out. The first ebook is FREE so there’s no harm in trying. Pick up your Kindle or Nook and navigate to Lindsay Buroker and pick the free version of Emperor’s Edge. (or see the links I posed above) If you don’t like it, you haven’t lost a single penny.

Comment here and tell me if you plan to read Emperor’s Edge or if you have already.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Water Waltz: inspiration from the oddest of places

Inspiration for Water Waltz came from many sources.

I first got a tickle of an idea while watching the animated series, Archer. Yes. That crude show inspired me. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a story with an assassin in love with his butler?” The star of Archer (named Archer) has an old man as a butler and is cruel to him on so many levels, so I guess that could explain the terse way Varun and Triste communicate with each other in Water Waltz, but their relationship is a bit more complicated than my need to have characters bicker.

When I write a story I sometimes pick out a song I come across in the writing process that just fits. Once in a while it helps shape the story, and other times it could be a theme song to what’s already shaped. In the case of Water Waltz, I got Panic at the Disco’s new album and fell in love with Trade Mistakes. It’s perfect for Triste and Varun and their story as a whole. Panic at the Disco is one of my favorite bands. I love their style just as much as I love their sound. Bow tie and suspenders on stage? Yes, please, Mr. Fancy-pants. 

Around the same time I was juggling with the idea of an assassin and butler romance, I was also watching classic movies from the 1930s. To narrow it down further: Fred Astaire movies. Yes, I’m young and a fan of Astaire. I can’t say the plot lines for his movies are earth shattering or even remotely good, but I like to watch him dance and wear brilliant suits. So my angel—Triste—became a dancer. In fact, dance was a minor part of the plot but very much there.

This brings me to my final inspiration: surprise. I love when a story can twist in such a way that leaves me shocked but satisfied (because the twist is not far-fetched) by the turn of events. Like in Undercover Sins, I attempt to surprise readers with a twist--or two. I certainly hope I was successful. (read this post for more about the angels, demons, and other races in Water Waltz.)

The time setting in Water Waltz is undetermined (in other words: never mentioned) and since it is a fantasy setting in a fantasy land, I’ve meshed eras together. We already covered how I adore 1930s musicals, so that’s a big part of the world. I also read far too many historical British novels (1890s or so) so that blended into the time period as well.

I’ve created a world for Water Waltz—one I hope to revisit in future novels.

 Water Waltz is now available