Publish date: July 2013
Shinobi – Literally, “shadowed person.”
It starts with the main introduction of the two main characters. Father Mateo and his scribe and translator Hiro, who happens to be a high ranking samurai. Immediately you get the impression that the relationship is student to master, but it’s far from it. In fact, it very much reminds me of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as the story progresses.
Father Mateo is a Portuguese priest teaching the Christian faith in Japan with the Shogun’s approval and protection. Hiro is literally the Father’s shadow. The relationship is pretty standard as far as most stories go, but you’re immediately reigned in by the beauty of a world that most do not even know, or would understand. Spann does an incredible job researching and detailing the Shogun era, never quite overwhelming the reader with descriptions, but excellently weaving the Japanese tradition with the main voice of the book, Hiro. It’s an extremely polite, fragile world of respectability, reputation, and within the first dozen pages, vicious murder.
A retired samurai is murdered violently at a local and reputable teahouse, allegedly by a young ‘entertainer’ who is a convert and part of Father Mateo’s flock. Immediately Hiro and the Father are thrust into a murder investigation to not only prove the entertainer’s innocence, but to save Father Mateo’s head from joining the young lady’s per the son of the murdered victim who claims the right to avenge his father’s death. They have two and a half days to solve the murder.
What captured me was the beauty in which Susan Spann writes the Japanese culture. Her explanations and description of the forgotten world is amazing and beautiful. The characters are solid, especially Hiro – the possibly dishonored warrior (although his back-story is extremely vague on purpose), and the dowdy Jesuit priest. Mateo comes across as clueless, initially, but very much reminded me at how obviously insightful he is with his ‘foreigner’ point of view. Hiro leads the investigation to protect his ward, but acknowledges that Mateo’s lack of Japanese social graces comes in handy when dealing with the standard snarky characters who are deeply entwined in the murder investigation with everything to hide.
The tea house madam, the vengeful son, the delicate widow, the wistful brother, the jealous General, the threatened Shogun, and the beautiful murder suspect make up this amazing story with the richly developed shinobi detective and his priest. I really, really enjoyed this book. It started a little slow, got a little confusing as Spann established the relationships of the characters – especially the Japanese tradition involved with family names – but kept me reading into the wee hours of the night until I finished the damn thing.
I’m hopeful Susan Spann will continue writing more Shinobi mysteries, exploring some of the side characters like Hiro’s young samurai relation ‘Kazu’, the inebriated monk, Ana the Miss Hudson-esque housekeeper, and the life that Hiro left behind to become the priest’s protector. I wholeheartedly recommend it if solid mystery storytelling and well-written fiction is your thing, and really, who wouldn’t enjoy a well-written book?
Mike: Oh I see how it is.
Me: Huh? (sitting at my desk)
Mike: Your webpage says you’re married, but you don’t mention my name, but you mention the kids’ names.
Me: What? What page?
Mike: Your Rosalind Hartmann one.
Me: My website?
Mike: The Rosalind Hartmann one.
Me: My facebook page?
Mike: The Rosalind Hartmann author one.
Me: Yeah the facebook.
Mike: No, the author one.
Me: (pauses) I have too many pages.
I say graphic novel review, but this is a little different. Not only does she write incredibly vivid fan fiction for MMO games, but she’s an extremely talented artist as well.
(PROPERTY OF CELTICWOLFWALKER.DEVIANTART.COM)
Celticwolfwalker has been on deviantart.com for over 8 years now and has been, in my opinion, one of the most prolific 3D poser artists/writers to come out of the website. What I’ve personally read and loved by her is the fan fiction she puts out for Dragon Age II. I’ve played all the DA games, and like a lot of the fans, enjoyed the romances you can cultivate and explore in the series. One in particular is a series called ‘Abandon‘ with the female Hawke main character and templar knight-captain Cullen.
This is action mixed in with quite a bit of evolving romance between two characters who, in the game lore, should be at odds. The Mage versus the Templar. If you’re not familiar with the game, the Templars are the Mage’s domineering prison guards. Mages are locked down within something called ‘The Circle’ where they are kept subjugated so their incredible magical powers cannot wreck havoc on the non-magical populace. Mages can be tempted by demons and could ultimately be turned into abominations, but that’s where the Templars come in. They are the keepers, but of course no relationship born out of oppression is usually not a good one.
There is an almost immediate attraction between the apostate (mage outside the Circle influence) and the Knight-Captain. During a mission, the two are stranded on the outskirts of Kirkwall, the massive city within the game. Together they make their way back to civilization with only each other to rely on to survive. You can guess where it goes from there, but this isn’t your standard at-odds romance. Celticwolfwalker manages to weave a telling story, with outstanding dialogue, all the while staying within the actual timeline of the game. Beautiful description of the lush and vivid world and a compelling romance that is believable. Plus the characters are developed far beyond what you get in the game, really fleshing out the series and opening you up to not only wanting to play the game, again, but reread the entire thing. I’ve read it several times and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Along with the story are artistic pieces portraying moments in time for Cullen and Hawke. Extremely well done, each piece capturing the thrill you experience reading the story…and that takes some serious skill. I’ve dabbled with 3D programs and it is no joke – it’s easy to render a scene, but it’s extremely difficult to get the realism that Celticwolfwalker achieves. It’s not just posing barbies and many many hours goes into just prepping the scene, even more rendering in some cases.
Give Celticwolfwalker a look-see. Not only does she write fan fiction for Dragon Age, but for Mass Effect and Skyrim. You’ll enjoy her sense of adventure, touch of class, and incredible artwork. Find her on deviantart.com and tell her Rozbeans sent you.
He wakes up screaming, a bullet in his head and his body buried in a shallow grave. He has no memory of life before this moment, just a single clue to the past: a ticket to a bullfight crumpled in his pocket with a phone number on the back. Maybe it will unlock the answers he needs. Or maybe it will be a brutal reminder that some lives are better left forgotten. Because as his luck would have it, the ticket leads to British drug runners and their gangster bosses who don’t take kindly to dead men walking around. Now they’re hot on his trail, threatening the family and friends he barely remembers yet will kill to protect. If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get. And this time when they murder the Matador, they’d better make sure he stays dead…
With no one else available, Susan reluctantly hires her raucous detective employee, Richard “Dutch” Holland, to assist in the case. Dutch is the Vietnam Vet that every man wants to be and every woman wants to be with. He is a tough, free spirit who rubs Susan, as well as most of his acquaintances, the wrong way. Susan doesn’t quite appreciate Dutch’s gung-ho style, so together they are like oil and water, making unraveling the disappearance of the missing teenage royal even more of a challenge as well as an adventure.
Chuck Wendig – terribleminds.com
Chuck is the author of the published novels: Blackbirds, Mockingbird, Double Dead, Bait Dog, and Dinocalypse Now. He also the author of the soon-to-be-published novels: The Blue Blazes, The Cormorant, Heartland Books 1/2/3, Beyond Dinocalypse, Dinocalypse Forever, Harum Scarum, and Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits.
He, along with writing partner Lance Weiler, is an alum of the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriter’s Lab (2010). Their short film, Pandemic, showed at the Sundance Film Festival 2011, and their feature film HiM is in development with producers Ted Hope and Anne Carey. Together they co-wrote the digital transmedia drama Collapsus, which was nominated for an International Digital Emmy and a Games 4 Change award.
Chuck has contributed over two million words to the game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP). He was a frequent contributor to The Escapist, writing about games and pop culture.
Much of his writing advice has been collected in various writing- and storytelling-related e-books.
He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, two dogs, and newborn son.
He is likely drunk and untrustworthy.
You may reach him at terribleminds [at] gmail [dot] com.
1. Write – this is actually harder than it sounds. You write your book, but then you have to promote it. Do you know how much time goes into kickstarting a blog, getting your facebook page seen, getting your name out there beyond your friends. Hell, TO your friends? It’s exhausting.
2. Care less – I used to confuse ‘could care less’ with ‘could not care less’ – either way, both are pretty hard.
3. Write about what you want to write – blogging isn’t what I want to do, but you have dues to pay. I do enjoy writing about shit blowing up and men who aren’t afraid to cry, but don’t.
4. Bring yourself to the page – Or in my case, to the .doc. Facebook and twitter are just too interesting.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others – this is hard to do when you see hacks, and yes, I said it…hacks, get published by major houses and I’m strugging in the indie world.
6. Open yourself – once you’ve delved into the world of social media promotion, you can’t get anymore open than that, I’ve noticed.
7. Set realistic goals – I just read Stephen King pushes himself to write 2k words A DAY. I mistakenly tried that goal as a NY’s resolution. I did it one day and it’s now almost April.
8. Recognize the lengths of your control – You can only spam your friends on facebook so much.
9. Gaze not into publishing’s demon eye – I’m self-published, the only evil eye I’m getting is from my mirror.
10. Don’t give haters real estate in your brain – so far I’ve gotten 2 not very nice comments on my facebook pages about spamming them with my book. I don’t think people understand how facebook ads work. I didn’t spam them, they picked preferences and facebook spammed them. They should just give in and buy my book. I deleted and banned those 2 haters, though. They were ugly.
11. Stop looking at your amazon ranking (or any other internet numbers) – why do you think I’m writing a blog in the first place? Of course I check how many hits I get a day here. Amazon ranking? It varies from 400k to 600k, although I peaked at 26 next to James Patterson’s recent unpublished book. I got a screenshot of that.
12. Give yourself permission to suck – I’ve had friends tell me they’re starting my book, then never hear anything else from them. I’m too afraid to ask what they thought, assuming that they just didn’t like it. Which is ok, first one out of the gate gives me a baseline and I can only get better. Right? Please say right.
13. Deal with your shit – Luckily the only shit I have to deal with is my 13 year old daughter’s middle school drama, but wow that’s exhausting, too. It’s hard to write when I want to punch a bunch of girls in the face.
14. When something isn’t working, change it – I have the misfortune (I call it that because sometimes too much of something is a bad thing) of coming from a role playing message board where I have a CRAP load of material. I keep wanting to incorporate it all (why waste it all??) but timeline and condensing material has become a problem. Where do you start? I recently read – write out of order. Giving that a try.
15. Take care of your body – I just lost 90lbs. You can read about that here but you don’t have to – it’s not that interesting.
16. Fuck money – that is easier said than done. I published: Book 1 knowing full well I’d never be out of the red. Granted it didn’t cost that much to publish it, but I certainly did not make a profit. My first, and only, royalty check was for $23. I took my family out to McDonalds with it. You don’t write for the money, at least I’m not, I write because it’s fun.
17. Recognize the limits of shame – Shame is somewhat goal oriented. A motivator? Not really, at least I don’t put much stock into writing more because I’m ashamed. Think I’m more ashamed of my internet time.
18. Treat your audience well – Dearest reader, you’re happy, right? Maybe if I stopped posting/spamming so much?
19. Help nurture other writers (and be nurtured in return) – People ask me about self-publishing, and I’m more than happy to answer questions, but I don’t feel like I’m helpful. I’d feel like a noob in a room full of professionals if I went to a conference, but I’d gladly sit, listen, read, and learn.
20. See failure as an instruction manual – I think this goes with shame, sucking, and writer’s block.
21. Make no excuses – Set a goal and stick with it. I hesitate to add ‘as reasonably close as you can’ because it just gives you an out.
22. Long term satisfaction over short term happiness – Nothing ever comes to you. Certainly not fame and fortune. I’m hoping for some recognition by book 4. (sigh)
23. Let your voice find you – I spent most of my adult life being kind of snarky. Bitterness takes a hold of your sense of humor and strangles the shit out of it. In my 30s I realized that I just don’t give a shit. Why sweat the small stuff? I let that come out in my writing, finding a humorous hook goes over way better than a bitter one. Like I recently told a friend, if writing action/adventure/paranormal is not my schtick, and the fetish stripping doesn’t pan out, there’s always comedy.
24. Love some part of what you do – I enjoy writing, mostly because it takes me somewhere other than Colorado Springs in the dead of winter. Who wouldn’t want to live in a paranormal universe where you run the risk of either being a vampire’s snack or a werewolf’s girlfriend. I mean, really?
25. Finish your shit – hey, I’m just happy I finished this.