Book Review: War of the Flowers by Tad Williams / The Power of Reviews

As an author, I love seeing reviews written about my books. When a reader takes the time to write what they thought of my work, it’s very gratifying (especially if the review is good) to know my words have touched someone and made an impression on them. However, I did wonder how much of a part reviews played in promoting books and whether they actually had an impact on people other than the author.

I’ve come to the conclusion that reviews are very powerful. Some positive words written about a book CAN influence readers to buy and is one of an author’s most powerful marketing streams. Let me explain how I came to this conclusion:

I follow the Best in Fantasy blog written by Connie J Jasperson. She only reviews books she loves and will never allow herself to be coerced into writing anything but the truth. In April this year, she wrote a review about War of the Flowers by Tad Williams (click here to read her review). By the time I reached the end, I knew I had to buy it. There have been others by Connie that have influenced parting with my hard-earned cash as have some reviews written by Laura Thomas. Friends have also been persuaded to buy books based on reviews they’ve read.

So if it’s having this effect on me and my friends, it would be fairly safe to assume it’s doing the same to other book lovers. Something to think about the next time you read a good book (you don’t have to be an author to write one and it doesn’t have to be long either)!

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Like I said above, I bought War of the Flowers, and here is what I thought of it:

WOTF2

Click on cover to go to Amazon

The Blurb (from Amazon)

In the great city, in the dimly lit office of an impossibly tall building, two creatures meet. Gold changes hands, and the master of the House of Hellebore gives an order: ‘War is coming. The child must die.’

 In our own world, a young man discovers a manuscript written by his great uncle. It seems to be a novel – a strange fairytale of fantastic creatures and magical realms. But it is written as a diary … as if the events were real … as if his uncle had journeyed to another world. For the young man, the fantasy is about to become reality.

My Review

When I first started reading this book, I had to wonder where it was taking me and what the significance of it was. There was nothing ‘fantasy’ related to it and it made me wonder. Then, as the author wove in the first threads of fantasy and the story progressed, I began to see the relevance.

The story is about a (sometimes naïve)  30-year-old man (Theo), a musician who never reached stardom but still dreams of getting his big break, who finds a manuscript written by his great-uncle. Theo reads it, believing it to be an unfinished fiction novel . . . until he finds himself thrust into the world his uncle described.

As the story unfolds, you see Theo struggle to accept this new world and its culture. He’s surrounded by fairies, goblins and other creatures and he’s really not sure who to trust – and with good reason. There’s a war brewing; Theo finds himself slap bang in the middle of it and certain parties want him dead – he just doesn’t know why.

Williams has created an interesting lead character with Theo. He’s not without his faults, and although at times you might want to give him a shake and tell him to grow up, I found he grew on me. As the story progressed I began rooting for him, wanting him to prevail against all the odds. Theo was given real depth, and his emotions and dialogue were realistic and relatable.

Other key characters were also superbly crafted. I loved Applecore – the tiny fairy who befriends Theo. She’s sassy, sarcastic and forthright to the nth degree yet you also see a softer side emerge. She’s also fiercely loyal and courageous. Cumber, a Ferisher, was also interesting to learn about, especially when he began to shake off his subservient mentality. Poppy, the spoilt ‘rich kid’ from one of the leading Flower families, became less of a brat and more humane as the book progressed, and Lord Hellebore was deliciously evil and tyrannical.

The plot was brilliantly conceived; forget about fantasy fiction you’ve read before – this is something unique and totally different. Whilst having some of the classic elements – like fairies, goblins etc, – the ‘alternative world’ of Faerie was far removed from the norm. The hierarchy of flower ‘houses’, who ruled the land since the death of the king and queen, was well thought out, as was the technology employed in Faerie. I particularly liked how Williams likened it to our world, with shops, houses, skyscraper-type buildings and even cars of sorts. If you think Faerie is going to be a sweet place, think again. It’s urban, dirty, shady, and sometimes corrupt.

This is a thick book, but very worth the time investment. The story had me gripped (once the fantasy portion really began) and I found myself losing hours when I thought it was mere minutes. This was the first book I’d read by Tad Williams and it definitely won’t be my last. A great fantasy tale – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it! 5/5 STARS

Impatience

I wonder how many other authors go through what I’m feeling right now.

IMPATIENT!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the editing process (does that make me weird?); working with my wonderful editor, Maria V A Johnson, is a joy. She has fantastic insight and helps me shape my raw manuscript into something worth publishing. But now I’m so close to bringing out my second novel – I’m three chapters of tweaks away before final formatting and uploading to Amazon – I just can’t wait to get it done.

impatience

I know these last minute edits are so necessary, but I can’t help it – I’m excited! The knowledge that there are people who are clamouring for Heart Search: Found is a wonderful feeling and I really don’t want to deprive them any longer than necessary.

So I have to swallow my impatience, do what I need to and give my readers the very best book I can.

The cover reveal will be in the next couple of days so keep checking in – I might even give you a sneak preview! If any of you want to get involved with the cover reveal/book trailer reveal (apart from the lovely ladies who have already committed – Donna L Sadd, Deborah Jay, Maria V A Johnson and Joy Keeney), please leave me a message below, but be quick or you’ll miss out.

#AprilPrompts Day 13 – Throne

Hmmm, another tricky one. Well, it would have been if I hadn’t had an LOTR-fest last week. It was just the inspiration I needed.

Throne

Day 13 - Throne

Day 13 – Throne

When you visit royal palaces around the world, or see photographs of them, the thrones are almost always elaborate, heavily padded and look to be reasonably comfortable. Yet, in fantasy books, TV series and films, they appear about as uncomfortable as it is possible to make them.

 

The throne of Gondor from LOTR

The throne of Gondor from LOTR

Gondor’s throne is carved from stone or marble and ne’er a cushion in sight.

The throne of Rohan - also from LOTR

The throne of Rohan – also from LOTR

Although the wood is elaborately carved, it still looks very basic.

Finally, the one from Game of Thrones.

Finally, the one from Game of Thrones.

Despite the unusual design, this looks about as uncomfortable as you can get, and I certainly wouldn’t want to sit on it for any length of time!

Now, I have a theory as to why fantasy thrones are depicted this way. In epic and high fantasy, the amount of world-building necessary sometimes precludes attention to detail on smaller items like thrones. Writers strive to make their worlds believable so readers can connect with them, and the choice between describing an enemy fortress and a piece of furniture is a no-brainer. Tolkien, of course, was an exception in this regard, as he tended to portray everything in great detail.

So was Tolkien’s method correct or did he over-describe? I think it’s a matter of taste.

#AprilPrompts Day 6 – Growing

When you hear the word growing, most people would automatically think of plants, flowers, vegetables et al. But I’m a writer, so when I hear a word, my mind goes off in a different direction . . .

Growing

Day 6 - Growing

Day 6 – Growing

It’s funny how life changes in a relatively short space of time and you grow into someone more than you envisioned yourself to be.

Two and a half years ago, if someone had said to me that in the next thirty months I would publish a book, have written a second, co-written and edited an anthology, be running a writing group and be a professional editor, I probably would have suggested they visit a shrink. Yet it’s exactly what DID happen!

Since completing Heart Search: Lost, I’ve worked hard to hone my craft and I’ve learned heaps (although I know I still have plenty more to learn). I feel I’ve grown as a writer and am still growing.

Being able to express my emotions through creativity is very cathartic. It has empowered me to move forward from the traumas of my past and embrace a new future as a writer and editor.

As I continue to grow, my writing becomes better, which ultimately, is good news for my readers, and me.

growing1

 

#BlogFlash2013 Day 21 – Success

Another #Blogflash comes to an end. This is the final prompt. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts on the various subjects we were given. I’d like to say a big thank you to Terri Guiliano Long for hosting the event – I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and have made some great new friends!

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Success. How do you quantify it? Society defines success differently to ‘ordinary’ people; if you haven’t got millions in the bank, a high-profile career, your face on the cover of magazines, or a title, you haven’t ‘made it’. That, to me, is superficial crap. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Success

Everyone has their own yardstick for measuring success. For some it’s having enough money to do as they please. For others it’s gaining a promotion, winning a competition, passing an exam, or having a long and happy marriage.

I measure my success differently, and on two fronts:

The most important to me is having raised a daughter who is beautiful, talented, and clever, but above all kind, generous, honest, loving and giving.

IMG_0606 small

My secondary success, but still important, is my writing. When I look at reviews written by readers about my book, and I see how much they enjoyed it, I feel successful.

” 5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down, 10 Oct 2012

By Pat JonesSee all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)

This review is from: HEART SEARCH – book one: Lost (Kindle Edition)

I started to read this in a waiting room at the hospital – nurse had to call my name three times before it registered – I was so deeply engrossed in the book. I found I was hooked, wanting to kick Remy and say “dont waste your time looking up the M6″. To me a sign of a good book is one where you are in there with them and in this case I was right in there.
Totally enjoyable and addictive – cannot wait for book 2 – hope its soon!”

Heart Search Test Cover 1 (2)

Reflections

First off – Happy New Year to you all. I wish you health, happiness and success in all your endeavours.

looking back

 

In the first few days of a new year, most people are making resolutions and setting goals, and whilst I do that, I also take some time to reflect on the year just passed and ask myself some questions:

 

What was my biggest trial during 2012?

This would have to be the major problem with my spine. The first signs appeared mid-February, but by the third week in April, it had deteriorated to the extent I could no longer work, drive my car, dance, sit for longer than half an hour, stand for more than fifteen minutes, bend, and needed a stick to help me walk. Suddenly I was taking medication by the handful (or that’s how it seemed); muscle relaxants, pain killers, anti-inflamatories and nerve blockers were thrown down my neck in the vain hope they would take the pain away. Yeah, they took the edge off, but that was about it. The doctor could have given me stronger tablets, but I really didn’t want to become a barely-functioning zombie.

There were two things which helped me through this nightmare (until I had surgery at the end of September) – my daughter and my writing. It was because of both I refused the more powerful drugs. My writing and editing work kept me sane; in my writing I was able to immerse myself in the world I was creating, and in between I had the honour of editing fantastic novels by Connie J Jasperson, Johanna Garth, Alison DeLuca and Nicole Antonia Carson; Johanna’s (Losing Hope), Alison’s (Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special) and Nicole’s (Yum) are already available, and Connie’s (Forbidden Road) is due to be published within the next couple of months. In the rare times I wasn’t writing or editing, my lovely daughter kept my spirits up.

What was my biggest achievement?

Without a doubt, the publication of Heart Search: Lost through Myrrdin Publishing Group. The joy I felt seeing it up on Amazon for the very first time was indescribable; I still get a buzz from it three months after the launch! When the paperback arrived, I turned it over and over in my hands, scarcely able to believe my dream of publishing a book had come true, especially after the difficult time I had trying to get it written in the first place.

What was my greatest challenge?

I think this would have to be organising and running the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Heart Search: Lost. I’d never done one before so was feeling my way with it a bit, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. I also wanted to combine the tour with a giveaway, so had to choose and design the items too. I wanted each participating blog to have original guest posts and excerpts – if people were kind enough to support my launch, the very least I could do was ensure they had exclusive pieces to share with their followers.

I had some wonderful people supporting me on the tour, a number of which have become dear friends as a result. The fact that the tour began just ten days after the surgery on my spine, when I could only sit for 10-15 minutes at a time, increased the challenge. I had 17 guest posts to write, 14 interviews, and to pick out 20 suitable excerpts. Add this to the actual administration of the tour, the launch itself and all the requisite publicity, it would be fair to say it was a challenge I wondered if I could rise to. I managed it, somehow, mainly by ignoring doctor’s orders and sitting for longer than I should have done!

What was unexpected?

Finding myself holding the reins of a writers group! I had only been a member of Writebulb for about four months when the leader and last remaining founder had to bow out. It had taken me quite a while to find a group I was happy in and I didn’t want to see it close. I volunteered to take over and have been running Writebulb ever since.

I’m proud of the achievements of the group since I took over. Apart from myself, others have published their work for the first time and collectively we published a charity anthology, The Other Way Is Essex, to raise money for our local hospice.

What surprised me the most?

People! To be more specific, how wonderfully supportive my fellow authors, bloggers, followers and readers were. Every member of Myrrdin Publishing were incredible and I’ve found some wonderful new friends as well as very talented authors. The Heart Search Blog Tour crew were all fantastic, most going out of their way to help publicise all the activities/posts/reviews etc as well as their own and offering me loads of encouragement. My fellow writers at Writebulb have been responsive and supportive of my leadership and ideas. Last, but by no means least, my wonderful readers who have given me such fabulous feedback on my debut novel.

What have I learned?

Loads! I’ve learned to stare adversity in the face and find a coping mechanism to deal with pain (admitedly doing something I love and would have done anyway, but still . . .). I’ve been honing my craft, trying to improve my writing, so as to give my readers better quality stories to enjoy. I’ve learned how wonderfully supportive other authors and my blog and social media followers are. Finally, although I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve come to realise it’s a much bigger part of my life than I ever expected and I can never stop doing what I love so much!

 

 

My ‘Made It Moment’

I was recently asked by Jenny Milchman to write a ‘Made It Moment’ for her blog. My first reaction was “I haven’t ‘made it’, so what could I write about?”. But then I got to thinking and realised that my ‘Made It Moment’ is more to do with how I feel about my writing and not society’s view of success. It was quite pivotal for me – the realisation that I had actually fulfilled a major goal in my writing career was a major breakthrough and has boosted my self-confidence no end.

After the post was published earlier last week, I was amazed by the comments it received. Some of them made me feel I was not alone in the struggle I had in completing my first novel, Heart Search: Lost, and each one was supportive of me as a person and a writer. I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to comment and show me such support!

My ‘Made It Moment’ is quite emotional on more than one level, but I wanted to share my story. If it gives even one person hope and inspiration then all the angst I felt writing it will be worthwhile. So, without further ado, here it is (alternatively you can view the original on Jenny Milchman’s blog by clicking on this link http://www.jennymilchman.com/blog/2012/12/18/made-it-moment-carlie-cullen/ and see the introduction and comments first hand)

“Isn’t it funny how it’s easier to believe the bad stuff people say to you than the positive?

Two years ago, when in the early stages of working on Heart Search: Lost, my dream of writing a novel and getting it published was almost dashed by someone who, instead of being a supportive husband, took great delight in putting me down. Phrases like, “What are you wasting your time doing that for?” and “Do you honestly think anyone will pay good money to read that crap?” and “If you’re so bored that you want to write, you should go out and get a second job!” and finally, “You’re living in a dream world – no one’s going to publish anything you write!” haunted me on a daily basis.

I’d been writing since I was a child and it was such a huge part of my life. It was my emotional escape and outlet, plus it gave me a great deal of pleasure. When I decided to write my first novel, I was excited and full of ideas. I wasn’t naïve enough to think I would land a publishing deal with the ‘big six’ (although I hoped it might be a possibility one day), but that didn’t stop me. I had a goal, one which fired me and drove me on to achieve something I dreamed about – to see my book on Amazon.

As the taunts and disparaging remarks continued, I began to get worn down. My self-esteem fell through the floor and I doubted myself and my abilities. My writing began to suffer and I started to believe I would fail before I’d even reached a quarter of the way through. But I had a shining light in my life, someone who believed in me and my writing ability, someone who encouraged/cajoled/pestered me to get each new chapter written – my wonderful daughter. She took to grabbing my laptop every time I left the room, to read what I’d just written, and upon returning was greeted with the phrase, “Where’s the next bit?” It became like a mantra. She loved the story and was eager to see where I was taking the characters next. She encouraged me right up until the final words were written, which was two months after the marriage ended and we moved out.

Just under a year later, after several rounds of editing, my book, Heart Search, book one: Lost was up on Amazon. I had achieved my goal and I felt like a kid at Christmas, faced with a pile of gaily wrapped presents. My heart soared and I was filled with joy. I’d proved the doubter wrong when, at the end of the first day, I had achieved sales on both sides of the Atlantic. If ever there was a time to flip someone ‘the bird’, that would have been it!

My daughter and I looked at the screen and she hugged me, saying, “I knew you could do it, Mum, and I’m so proud of you!” “

After I finished writing this, I realised I hadn’t only written it for other writers or aspiring authors, I’d written it for readers too. I think it’s important for readers to understand what happens behind the scenes, to see writers as real people with hopes, aspirations and rocky roads to negotiate. Once a reader connects with an author, it’s a wonderful relationship which can span many years and one I treasure.