Monday, August 23, 2010

Review of The Hidden Sun

When I was asked to review The Hidden Sun by J. Lloyd Morgan, I wasn't sure what to expect. It sounded kind of like a fantasy since it was set in a medieval-style kingdom, but when the book arrived in the mail I found out it wasn't. Even worse, as I started to read it, it began to look like a romance. Ugh.

After reading the first few chapters, though, I was hooked. The Hidden Sun ended up being a pleasant surprise and a nice book to read while on vacation. The nice thing about being on vacation at the time was, when I found myself not wanting to put the book down, I didn't have to. I could keep reading and no one could stop me! I wish I always had that luxury when reading.

And the book wasn't a romance, though it had some romance in it (but not enough to make me nauseous). This was a political intrigue book with interesting and enjoyable characters. In fact, I enjoyed some of the characters so much that I got mad at what the author did to them. But then, that was what ended up sucking me in. It created a great emotional response, which is what every author wants to do. I also enjoyed the action and sports scenes which added another dimension to the novel.

I don't want to go into detail about what happens, because that would ruin the surprises, and there were many. A lot of the story revolved around the Book of Law and how the various characters, both good and bad, worked with it or tried to subvert it to their own purposes. It seemed to parallel what we see today going on with the U.S. Constitution, whether that was intentional or not.

There was a recurring theme throughout the book, having to do with “the sun playing hide and seek.” This, of course, does relate to the title. Also, there were a lot of symbolisms with the various character names. You can read about them on J. Lloyd Morgan's website: , but don't do that until after you finish the book.

As far as age group, this could be read by anybody, but the political stuff probably won't appeal to readers until in their teens. This book does get the official Berin Stephens Big-toe-up award for being a clean read.

An interesting moral dilemma comes up in the book and is worth noting: sometimes doing the right thing can be very difficult and at first seem to be the wrong thing. This is the dilemma the characters face and is one we often face in life. But don't worry, doing the right thing does work out in the end. Or sometime . . . anyway . . . maybe in the next life.

I highly recommend this book for not only being a clean read, but also a thoroughly engaging story. So go get it. Now. Are you still here? Why are you still reading? Go, git, you should be clicking on Amazon right now:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Time Gangsters done!

I just finished the first draft of Time Gangsters. I'm pretty pleased with how the story turned out on a first draft and I'm hoping that it won't require as much reconstructive surgery as my other novels have. There are still some time paradox issues to deal with/explain. Overall, though, I had fun with it.

So here's my plan. I'm going to have my writing group work it over and beat it up. Then I'll do the second draft and put that out to my alpha readers. That should give me enough info to have a solid third draft that I can submit to publishers. My goal is to get it out by November. We'll see.

I set a goal to write three books this summer. Well, I wrote two books, and there is one week left . . . I guess I better get writing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why I Read What I Read

One sad thing about becoming a writer is that I have less time to read and more things to read. I also read a lot slower now because I'm analyzing everything. So that means I need to be more choosy about what I pick up.

I'm still reading some national releases but lately I've been focusing on local and LDS authors. Why, you may ask? (Actually, no one's asked but I'm saying it anyway) Mainly, because they're clean. Clean meaning no sex, minimal swearing, and no graphic violence. That's not to say I never read books that have some of that material, but as I get older (i.e. crotchety and set in my ways) I find that they make me more and more uncomfortable.

When I do read mass market books, I mainly focus on YA (young adult) and middle grade books (Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling). I can enjoy the stories without having to deal with those other things. Is this real life? No, but I get enough of real life while dealing with real life. I read to escape.

Recently, there was an article in the NY Times ( about how adults are starting to read more YA. It listed several reasons, which I agreed with, but feel like it missed the most important one. Maybe its because I live in a mostly religious community, but I've talked to a lot of adults during my book signings expressing that they like to read YA for the same reasons I do: because it's clean.

Okay, back to the local authors I've been focusing on lately (like James Dashner, Daron Fraley, David J West, Michael Young, Frank Cole). For one thing, it's nice to read something by someone I know or have met. It has a little more meaning. It's nice to read their book and be able to pop them an email and discuss it with them. And these people write back - it's awesome.

Now for my third reason: because it's where I want to place my vote. The marketplace takes votes by where people put their money. The money also supports the "community" that you want to support. I want to support the community of authors who write clean, entertaining material.

When I lived in Alaska, this was a little more obvious than here in the "lower 48". If you bought stuff online, you were supporting the economy of South Bend or Chicago, or wherever you ordered it from. If you bought it from 'Bob's Sushi and Fishing Gear' up the street, you were supporting your neighbor. Sure, it might be a couple dollars more than if you bought it online, but it kept money circulating where you wanted it: your community.

The clean book community is where I want to circulate my money. Sure, the books are a little more expensive because many of them are published by small presses, but it helps keep some of my fellow authors going. Many of them, in turn, have returned the favor by buying my book.

My hope is that we can get this market to grow. I believe, which is why I write the way I do, that there are a lot of people out there who just want good, clean, fun entertainment. Case in point: what's the highest grossing movie so far this year? Toy Story 3. It's made almost 400 million clams. It's rated G. It contains nothing offensive (unless you are offended by evil Care Bears).

Hopefully in the next week or two, I'll blog a little more. I want to do a series about the challenge of writing clean humor. I need to finish my current project first, so bear with me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cannonball Fiore vs Buffet R13

I just had the opportunity to try out a prototype Cannonball Fiore. It is a soon-to-be released intermediate line clarinet that has incredible playability with a low price tag. I was able to put it up against a Buffet R13 and my good ol' Yamaha 72CS using my Combs LC3 mouthpiece with a Vandoren Traditional 4 reed.

First off, about the R13, I haven't been a huge fan. They are great clarinets, though, but usually don't appeal to me. The one I just tried was an exception. I even liked it better than my Yamaha. It had a crystal clear tone and nice ergonomics. The tone was on the bright side, but not too bright.

I first put them through the paces with Rose #9. As I switched between the three, I kept thinking, "This is the better one." Then I'd switch to the next one and think, "No, this is the best one." That's how close these instruments were. After several rounds, I settled on the R13 sounding the best, but just barely. The Cannonball had a nice, rich dark tone, which I usually prefer, but I loved the pristine sound of the R13.

For test two, I played "The Girl from Ipanema". Once again, all three sounded great. I ended up liking my Yamaha the best. It had a brightness between the Cannonball and Buffet. The Cannonball came in second due to its dark tone.

Specifics about the Cannonball: It doesn't have the interchangeable barrels and bells like the Piacere or Veloce, but didn't seem to be an issue. It did have the neck strap hook built in which is a nice feature for me, since I have to use one when I play clarinet. The pitch was even throughout the instrument and the tone remained consistent as well. The throat tone Bb was a little stuffy as usual, but it was on the R13 as well (and it's downright annoyingly stuffy on my Yamaha). As I mentioned earlier, it had a rich, dark tone. The finger ergonomics were nice, too, with some of the same features as on the Piacere and Veloce, like a flatter register key. I will give the edge to the R13, though, for ergonomics; it just seemed to fit my hand better. The Cannonball bell was hard to get to go on all the way, and once it was on, it was really hard to get off. This would be an issue that could cause bent keys, but it is also something easily fixed by a good repair tech. So if you get one one like this, make sure to get it adjusted.

Overall, I gave the edge to the Buffet. If money were no object and I were in the market, I would have gone with that one. Here's the kicker, though. The Cannonball is an intermediate model yet held its own against the Buffet and Yamaha pro models. What this means is, you can get something that plays almost as well as the industry standard Buffet R13 for half the price or less. That's something to think about.

All three clarinets played well, the only thing that really differentiated them was personal taste.