Book Review: Crown of Ash (Blood Skies- Book 4).

Firstly, let me say that this was not a paid-for-comment type of thing. The author posted on social networking sites, asking for people who might be interested in previewing a book for review, in the hopes of generating some interest or conversation about their upcoming book prior to release. I put my hand up. If I thought the book stank, I would have written that as much as I would have written anything else. So all opinions are actually my own, and do not stem from being paid for my pleasantries… which I wasn’t… because I’m not generally pleasant.

This book is well entrenched in the fantasy genre, but it’s not your average swords and star-crossed lovers coming together under impossible circumstances. The characters are well developed, with no gaps that force you to make up your own back story to flesh them out. The world is far enough separated from our own to make it “other-worldly” but not so far removed that pages are needed to describe the simplest of concepts. The action is believable, with powers and magic having flaws just as any other combat style might.

“Eric Cross and his team have been to hell and back, but their journey isn’t over yet.”

It has a certain ring to it. And indeed they have. If you haven’t read any of the series, I strongly advise you do so. They are an easy enough read. We’re not talking Lord of the Rings trudging to be done here (aaaaaand, cue the hordes of menacing Tolkien fans who want to rip my head off and offer it up as tribute to the Eye of Sauron). The pace is easy to keep up with and, unlike some other writers, I do not find that it goes from dull when developing the story to the world zipping past you in times of action.

Marooned in the remote criminal city of Blacksand, the only way for the mercenaries to get home is to help a local crime boss protect his territories from the Ebon Cities.

To complicate matters, Danica Black is also being hunted by The Revengers, a powerful band of corrupt prison wardens, while Cross himself is trapped in the Whisperlands, a realm of darkness controlled by a cadre of evil mages known as the Shadow Lords.

The team will battle their way through corroding wastelands and deadly vampire outposts, but even their considerable skills might not be enough to save them from the cruel machinations of the Shadow Lord’s mysterious master, a malevolent creature who has manipulated their destinies right from the beginning…

Return to the world of The Black in Book 4 of the BLOOD SKIES saga!”

If you like you fantasy with a touch of reality, try this series. If you like you like a good amount of action served with your dystopian world, go for it. I just really enjoyed them and I think for a light, yet engaging read, you could do a lot worse.
You can buy Steven Montano’s book from Amazon in either Kindle edition or hard-copy.

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Writing about Yourself…

… Or: Why Writer’s Will Spend Foooorrreverrrrrrr Writing Their Own Bio or Intro.

“My name is Melissa Nile and I will be writing these posts for you. I have covered previous conferences, blogging and tweeting my way. I will be your resident blogger and tweeter for the conference, so please approach with caution, preferably with a suitable offering (coffee and cake is entry level. Vodka and lime will afford you a single question and answer. Real conversation requires creativity on your part)…”  – Needless to say, this will not be the intro I include.

Okay, let me get one thing straight. I am not a writer. Well, not in the real sense. I have published one poem in a book in my life time. I have submitted chapters of stories that have never been picked up, presumably because they were crap. I have always thought my style of writing was more of an insight into the feeble mind of a something-something than anything worth a Grand Prize. Having said that, other people clearly have faith in my ability to write, at least in certain circumstances. Apparently I am particularly good at covering events with blogging and tweeting. It’s a talent, what can I say? I type hard and fast and never look back. I am like the Hunter S Thompson of the tweet-verse… and yes, this is bat country.

ImageSo, if I am okay with introducing speakers and topics for discussion, why is writing a short introduction to myself so freaking hard? Does it stem from a sense of unworthiness (that is when you feel like you’ve stumbled into a room full of experts and you have to make conversation, knowing absolutely nothing about whatever it is they’re talking at you about!)? Or a dislike of sounding like a conceited clown (that’s when you make your intro sound self-important but then throw in a line you think is hilarious to lighten the gravity, but no one else gets, and so you end up looking like a douche)? For me, it’s a bit of both.

I have a somewhat over-inflated sense of self-worth. I know I’m good… I’m just not quite sure at what yet. So covering events attended by experts in a field I might like to feel “one of the team” is stifled a bit by the feeling I’ve somehow got there on a pretense. I’m not actually this blogger-extraordinaire. I’m an imposter! I have no idea what I’m doing!

This, of course, isn’t true. I do know what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing and how everyone else should be doing it all the way I do it. I guess the fear is that someone is going to see me dither at making an editorial choice, point the long Bony Finger of Shaming and cry out to all and sundry, “Faker!” I will be lead through the streets wearing a dunce’s hat, forced to write lines in chalk on the footpath. “I must not pretend to be as good as I am,” they will say. Line after line, until someone washes it away and makes me start over.

And then I wake up…

It was a dream after all…

Now can I go back to the one where everyone else brings me the tribute?

AAAAAAARGH!!!!!!

What’s that?

It’s the sound of automated feed filling by a site that only allows you to sign in with a pre-existing social media account. And you know what? I’ve had enough!

ImageThere was a ruling in Germany this week slapping Facebook over the back of the hand in regards to their facial recognition data. They have been told to delete it, because it’s deemed to be against EU regulations, even though it’s perfectly fine by Irish standards, where Facebook’s European offices are located.

So what does this all mean?

Well, at the heart of the matter is the fact that Facebook did not allow users to opt-in for this. Instead, it was forced upon them and they had to opt out. Now, if you remember from when you signed up to Facebook (because we all read the Terms of Service, didn’t we?), we gave them the right to use any and all information we publish on their site in any which way they want. That’s right. We don’t own our own information, they do. So when we are forced to use some kind of facial data recognition, and that data is stored, anything published that employs that until we opt-out of it (which, in some cases is darned hard to find), is therefore theirs and they can use it however they want.

Likewise, other SNSs (Social Networking Sites, for the uninitiated) that only allow you sign up using a pre-existing SNS account are responsible for adding to that information. I am looking at Spotify, Pintrest and other useful sites that are fast becoming part of the social media/community manager Must-Have ToolBag (or, at the very least, we need to know about them in order to explain why we wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole). These you can only sign up to with an existing social media account. I understand that Facebook now owns Spotify, but why can’t I use it without attaching my facebook account to it? I have to download it… and THEN you want me to sign up with my facebook account? WHY?! Why isn’t my email address good enough? And then having automatic posts “on my behalf” (read: “whether you like it or not”) until I go and turn it off.

Now, I know I’m banging on a lot about Facebook and the evils of it when I use it for so much. I know I am just as responsible for the perpetuation of these unethical allowances as any other user. However, I am aware that whatever I put out there is no longer mine, but if it’s so bad and I hate it so much, why don’t I just opt out of Facebook altogether? Well, there’s a simple answer to that. “If you can’t beat them, join them.” I was going to disable my account and shut it all down. Cancelling Facebook alone would have had far-reaching ramifications to my “displacement activities” when assignments were due. In fact, I probably would get more done. Thing is, I accept that it still, for a little time at least, is the number one SNS of the world, which means I need to keep up with what is going on in, on and around it. Also, until my friends understand what I have been saying now for over a year that Facebook will not keep its “top dog” position in the SNS world for too many more years (I’m guessing about seven to ten more years tops), I will miss out on much of the invites to parties, knowledge of life and whatnot. It’s a sad but true fact.

 

So, what do I suggest you do? Stop. Think. And if you really need to sign up to these things, please, for the love of all that is lovely and dear to the people of the world, opt out of those updates STRAIGHT AWAY! Don’t let Automatic Update Syndrome be the thing that turns your friends to opting out of your updates altogether.

The S-word… and what it means to me.

Sexism.

There. I’ve said it. It’s a nasty word, as are most “-ism”s, but it seems to be one of the current ones doing the rounds in the media spotlight for this month. Twitter, in between Assange and other asylum cases, is rife with stories of sexism against women and how women are made to feel inferior due to their appearance or other characteristics generally thought to be “female”…

A lot of these describe how making the choice to not dress in a provocative manner, or a socially accepted “womanly” way has led to gender based bias from colleages and superiors. I feel their pain. Really I do. By making the choice to not wear short skirts or wearing makeup and/or shiny hair, how is your work any less valuable than another’s? By choosing to look a certain way, do you automatically rate lower than someone who is towing the stereotypical line?

But this is not my gripe to give, per se. Mine is at the other end of the situation. What is you are one of the girls who actually likes to wear make up, have shiny hair and wear short skirts? Does that mean I am automatically buying in to the theory, undermining the last decades of feminist’s hard work?

Why can’t I wear my heels and short skirts and tight blouses, with makeup on and my hair looking lovely, without fear of being sexualised by my co-workers or hearing mutters behind me of other women in the workplace who think I’m sleeping with my superiors to get the good jobs?

I work hard. I do damned good work. Why do I choose to dress that way? Because it makes me feel good and when I feel good, I work better. When I work better, the company wins, When the company wins, I get paid! That should be as far as it goes. I am not performing sexual acts for the boss if I wear a tighter dress than you might feel comfortable in. I am, however, sleeping with the boss if I come out of the closed office with my lipstick awry and my hair a mess as I pull down my dress and remove a soiled condom from my stocking.

All I am saying is that women who suffer sexism on a daily basis should also give those of us who actually, genuinely feel better in our skirts and blouses a little lee-way. Don’t automatically assume we haven’t thought our decision through. Though, I will admit some of us clearly haven’t… and that’s why they don’t seem to get the promotions. Am I right? But that’s because they can’t do the work!

Gah! I am sick of the mentality that simply because I choose to look a way that is the opposite to how you see a feminist looking, that automatically means I must support misogynistic, sexist behaviour. I don’t. It’s uncalled for and yes, I have been the target of it. You know what? I have been the target of it when wearing my skirts AND when wearing my loose pants and a jumper, so arseholes are arseholes no matter what you’re wearing!