Intrigue and Immortality

We’re now on day 7 of the Heart Search: Betrayal blog tour and I hope you’re enjoying all the different posts. It’s a great shame no one actually acted on my post yesterday, or backtrack, as you missed the chance to win an eBook of the novel. There will be more spot competitions to win things so pay attention – you never know when I’m going to spring one!

Anyway, today the lovely Emma Biddulph interviewed me. Pop over and take a look – you’ll get an insight on what inspires me and on my current project. Click here to read it all.

In addition, the wonderful Connie J Jasperson decided my book was good enough to make the Best In Fantasy hall of fame and has written a great review. She’s given me 5-stars and I’m absolutely thrilled. Click here to see what she thinks.

More tomorrow…

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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:

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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

The Dream Land by Stephen Swartz

I’m taking a short break from the Heart Search Blog Tour posts to bring you something a little special. My good friend and colleague at Myrddin Publishing Group, Stephen Swartz, has just released his latest novel, The Dream Land, book one: Long Distance Voyager, and it’s so cool, I wanted to share it with you.

This great new novel is a genre mash-up. Predominantly Sci-fi, it also has elements of steampunk, psychological thriller, a bit of romance and a little humour. Here’s the blurb:

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a doorway to another world?

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty.  

Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly–he calls it “research”–and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates. 
 
Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. Then the headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. 

Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back on his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.  
 
But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.

THE DREAM LAND is a genre-mashing epic of interdimensional intrigue, alien romance, and world domination by a pair of nerdy sweethearts, spiced up with some police procedural and psychological thriller, then marbled with twisted humor, steampunk pathos, and time/space conundrums.

Sounds really cool and different, huh? I was really intrigued when I read that and wanted to learn more. I managed to twist Stephen’s arm a little and get him to agree to part with an excerpt for me to share with you and here it is:

“Sebastian had pulled on his adopted name, wore Set-d’Elous with confidence as he stepped out of the bushes and found himself somewhere in Lyas. He remembered Lyas was particularly dry on that spring afternoon when he escorted Gina through the curtain into the municipal park, set between blue Lake Zarmê and green Lake Orosz. The two of them slipped out and in two steps blended with several other couples passing by, admiring the flowers.

Regarding Gina, feeling her hand clasping his, he could not speak.

“What’s the matter with you?” she asked him.

“You’re young! Look at yourself. You’re not the age you were back in my apartment.”

“I’m a First-Class Voyager, I told you.” She laughed. “Someday I’ll teach you that trick. Or maybe not.”

She took his hand and led him through the park. The woman still looked older than him, evidence of her longevity on Ghoupallesz, but she had shed about twenty years during the passage through the tangent. He saw her more like the person he had rescued from the Zetin, the same girl he had kissed in high school. It was still Gina, no matter what appearance she had.

“The first thing I always do, no matter how much of a hurry I’m in,” she told him as they crossed the street to a news bulletin board, “is check the date. Then you’ll know how to act, and what to do.”

He stared at the paper tacked up, realizing the language had faded somewhat in his memory.

“My god! It’s 1472!” he cried.

“Relax.”

“B-b-but the year was 1455 when I returned for Zaura last time. That was seventeen years ago? I lost ten years with her the first time. Now I’ve lost seventeen more years?”

“I said relax.” She linked her arm in his. “You don’t have to stay. You’re just helping me come back, like the Eagle Scout you always were. See me over to my son’s wedding and you’re free to go.”

They walked along the avenue, catching stares from the people they passed, hearing them speaking English.

“But you’re not old now, Gina. Can’t you go by yourself? I don’t want to be here. There are too many bad memories for me.”

She shushed him, gave his hand a playful slap, pulled him along.

“Why don’t you indulge me this one afternoon,” she said. “Look around us. Here is a fine spring day, perfect weather, not a yellow cloud in the whole green sky. Are you looking? The trees are in full bloom, and—look at that stighal over there, the way its long pink petals droop all the way down to the ground. What’s that, about forty feet? You won’t see anything like that back on Earth. You see the beauty here? the harmony? Look at the lugê-feq with the big, orange roso on its branches. See the halêl flying over the roof of that townhouse? Why can’t you just relax and enjoy this day? If you leave here by tomorrow, you won’t have missed more than an hour of your precious Earth.”

He looked around as much as her impatient tugging would allow. She was ushering him quickly down the walk, certain that she would be late for the wedding. Everything was passing by him too quickly, and her words were like breezes, part of the environment.

“Here we are,” she announced, pulling up in front of the red stone House of Union.

A priest in the traditional yellow raelor robe stood outside and welcomed the people who were arriving. The priest seemed to recognize the flustered woman with the younger man on her arm. Inside, Set scanned the group of Ghoupalles—and he presumed they were scanning him, too. He sat beside Gina, the place of honor for the groom’s family. They were the only ones there, he saw. And the bride’s family was no where to be seen.

“Wait here,” she whispered to him. “I’m going to find my son.”

He waited, in that conspicuous seat at the front, closest to the wedding mat. Feeling curious stares sticking to his back, he realized he still wore his Earth clothes.”

This book is definitely on my ‘to-read’ list, not only because of the blurb and this excerpt, but also after reading the review featured on ‘Best In Fantasy’. It’s now available on Kindle – click the cover below to go to the Amazon page where you can read the first seven chapters in this epic tale FREE.

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Meet Stephen:

Stephen2006xStephen Swartz grew  up in Kansas City, Missouri where he dreamed of traveling the world. His  writing usually includes exotic locations, foreign characters, and smatterings
of other languages–strangers in strange lands. You get the idea: life imitating art. After studying music and composing a symphony, Stephen planned to be a music teacher before he decided to turn to a career in English and fiction writing. “I write first and foremost to entertain,” says Stephen, “and if readers
are able to escape into a fictional world I create, even for a short time, I smile long into the night!” Stephen now teaches English at a university in Oklahoma and continues to write fiction late at night.

THE DREAM LAND (December 2012) is an epic of interdimensional intrigue and world domination by a pair of well-meaning hedonists, marbled through with twisted humor and steampunk pathos, a patina of psychological thriller, and the quirky conundrums of time and space. Book I: Long Distance Voyager will be available December 2012 and Book II: Dreams of Future’s Past will be available in 2013. Book III: Diaspora is under
construction.

Blog: http://stephenswartz.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @StephenSwartz1