Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

Ravenous #Review: The Silverblade Prophecy by Scott M. Sandridge

Check out this awesome review of my novel! 🙂

Source: Ravenous #Review: The Silverblade Prophecy by Scott M. Sandridge

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July 13, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse—Review of The Bone Sword by Walter Rhein

Walter Rhein’s The Bone Sword mixes the grittiness of sword & sorcery with the miraculous wonder common in heroic fantasy, and he does so in a smooth way. While the main protagonist is clearly a good guy, he’s still rough around the edges and willing to do what it takes to win, both in sword fighting and in strategy.

Jasmine, however, ends up stealing the show and actually is the character whose shoulders the fate of an entire kingdom resides on. Her character growth, more than any other character’s, was what kept me reading. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about her brother, Noah. He felt more “tacked on,” and I had a difficult time feeling any sympathy for him, even during the torture scene. I felt he needed a little bit more personality to him.

The villains, with the exception of one, were primarily archetypes; however, I still found them interesting. I’ve never had problems with authors using archetypes, especially when said archetypes work within the context of the story being told. And Rhein uses the archetypes well in his attempt to display the problems inherent in a feudalistic civilization, where a small handful of people often have far too much power over the rest.

Overall, The Bone Sword is a fun, compelling read with just the right kind of pace for such a tale.

 

Best to read while listening to: the soundtrack to Excalibur along with a few instrumentals by Epica.

January 17, 2015 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | 1 Comment

SpecMusicMuse—Interview w/Walter Rhein

I had the pleasure of interviewing Walter Rhein, author of The Reader of Acheron. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

Currently I’m working with Janet Morris at Perseid Press (http://www.theperseidpress.com/).  It’s been fascinating working with her since she’s the author of some of the most important works of Heroic Fantasy published in the last 50 years.  I’ve also got a book coming out with Harren Press (http://www.harrenpress.com/), which is an up and coming press I’ve enjoyed working with.  I got my first publishing contract from Rhemalda, which has now ceased operations.  Prior to that I lived and worked in Lima, Peru.  For a while I was the editor of LivingInPeru.com, which was a fun gig because I got to go and do promotions for all the gourmet restaurants in Lima.  These days, the best place to find me is at HeroicFantasyWriters.com (please subscribe to the email feed), or at the Heroic Fantasy group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/heroicfantasy/).  A lot of my writer friends, including Janet Morris, are generally looking for insightful reviewers, so if you join and introduce yourself, you might get some offers for free books.

How did you come up with the world of Erafor?

Lima is a bit of an inspiration honestly, but so is the US.  I wanted to create a world that is in a rapid state of deterioration due to a kind of overwhelming malaise that I think readers will recognize.  I was also inspired by some recent classes I took to become certified as a high school teacher.  I found it mind boggling that most of the tactics that are used for teaching in the US are obviously out of date and intended more for instilling obedience than a love of knowledge or learning.  My two main protagonists, Quillion and Kikkan, are very much aware that there is more to the world than they are being told—and they’re very irritated that they have been misled.

Reading and writing being forbidden is a major plot point for Readers of Acheron, and it’s central theme.  How vital is such a theme to modern day society?

The only advantage to oppressing reading and writing, or any kind of knowledge whatsoever, is to enable enslavement.  That’s it.  I wish people would consider that when various groups toss around ideas as to what concepts should or shouldn’t be taught in public schools. What’s even more funny is when people claim they want to keep you ignorant because “it’s in your best interests.”  I’ve had a lot of experience with people who always screamed and yelled about how many favors they did to for me and how grateful I should be.  Here’s a tip for life: people who are really doing you favors, don’t bash you in the face with it every two seconds.

Has music ever inspired a scene or story for you, and do you write with music in the background?

I don’t actually.  I have never listened to music a whole lot.  I’ll listen to the first chorus or so, then I start drifting off into dreamland and hours pass buy.  I once did a two hour drive and only noticed at the very end that my tape (I’m old) was jammed and I was blasting crackling tape hiss at myself.  If I want to pay attention to what’s coming out of the speakers, I put in a foreign language tape.

Anything coming out in the near future?

I have a humorous travel memoir that’s been primed to launch for about a year.  That could be coming out in two months, or it might be another year.  We’ll see.  I should be finishing up the second volume of “Slaves of Erafor” before the end of the year.  I assume we’ll see a January 2015 release on that.  It’s going along well, but you never know, the bottom might fall out.  Also Harren is re-releasing my first novel with Rhemalda, “The Bone Sword” soon.  The original publication date for that was May 15, 2014, so you see how that’s going.  But I expect it to come out within a month or so.

 

Where on the Internet can you be found?

HeroicFantasyWriters.com is good.  As I mentioned before, sign up for the email feed and I’ll send out notices when I’m looking for reviewers.  I do a lot of free books since I always like to launch a book with 30-50 reviews on Amazon.  You can also find me at Facebook here (https://www.facebook.com/wrhein), or just send me a good old fashioned email: walterrhein@gmail.com

 

Thanks for having me!

June 3, 2014 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post by Stephen Zimmer – Challenges of Writing Short Stories That Tie Into a Fantasy Series

For the first ever Guest Post done in SpecMusicMuse history, I have the honor of introducing the great Stephen Zimmer, who is both a great author and certainly one of the hardest-working in the field. And if you haven’t heard about him by now, then you need to stop living in a cave.

So, without further ado, hhheeeeeeeerrrreeeeeee’s the Zimmster!

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StephenZimmer-smallI would like to thank Scott Sandridge for the opportunity to be here today on SpecMusicMuse to discuss short story tie-ins with a large series.

Chronicles of Ave, Volume 1, is a collection of stand-alone short stories that are set in the world featured in my Fires in Eden Series.  Readers of the short stories do not need to know anything about the Fires in Eden novels to enjoy these tales.

However, readers of the Fires in Eden Series will find more depth and content relating in some way to the novels, whether it be the backstory on a figure referenced in the series, more about a place or culture that are not yet shown in the series, or a historical event that might be simply mentioned in one of the novels.

In developing the history of Ave, and writing the Fires in Eden novels such as Crown of Vengeance, Dream of Legends, and Spirit of Fire, I have created a trove of material for short stories.  There are so many things about Ave that cannot be delved into during the novels, as to do so would take things on a sideways tangent from the course of the various story threads.  The short stories afford me the opportunity to immerse into those references, whether they relate to a figure, land, or historical event.

In writing these kinds of short stories, I find myself gaining an even deeper foundation for my series and the elements within it.  So, in a sense, it strengthens the process of writing for the novels too.

There are a few specific challenges involved in writing a short story related to a series.

For one thing, the nature of the short story itself presents its own challenges versus the writing of a large novel.   In my novels, I work with multiple story threads, and I have the kind of range and depth in a multi-book structure to plant seeds, foreshadow, let things take shape and develop, and build towards big payoffs down the line.

In a short story, the structure employed is much more linear, following one character, sometimes two.   With a much shorter structure, the plot, main character, and setting must unfold much faster.  You do not have the range of space to include the kinds of foreshadowing, twists, and turns that an epic-scale novel can contain.   You must connect with the reader fast, establishing  a tone and pace that will carry you through that particular story.

As mentioned before, I also work to make sure that the stories do stand on their own, so that a brand new reader who has not read any of the novels can understand everything taking place.  This sounds kind of obvious, at first, but after writing several novels it is possible to make assumptions on the things native to the world of Ave.  I keep an eye out for that and feel that new readers will have no problems whatsoever discovering the world of Ave if their first encounter with it is through the short stories.

Also important to me is to select cultures, lands, historical events and characters that will provide further content and depth for the readers of the series.  I want this to be their chance to explore some of the things that can only be mentioned or referenced briefly in the novels, and to gain more background on how Ave’s history developed.

With Chronicles of Ave I am confident that I have achieved that.  Readers will get to visit a diverse array of settings, from a medieval China style atmosphere in “Touch of Serenity” to the wintry forests of an Eastern European-like vibe in “Winter’s Embrace”.  “Into Glory Ride” is a story focused on the fully original Trogen race, and two non-human races that have not yet appeared in the novels are introduced in “Land of Shadow.”   There is even a little romance, in “Moonlight’s Grace”, and a flare of the heroic in “Lion Heart”, which takes inspiration from the Zulu Nation.

Loaded with action, fully stand-alone in nature, and each distinctive in terms of plot and main characters, the Chronicles of Ave serve as a nice introduction to the world of Ave.  I really hope both new readers and readers of my series find the adventures equally enjoyable!

Stephen

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Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author of speculative fiction, whose works include the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Rising Dawn Saga (epic-scale Urban Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon tales (Steampunk), the Hellscapes tales (Horror), and the Rayden Valkyrie tales (Sword and Sorcery). He is also a writer-director in moviemaking, with feature and short film credits such as Shadows Light, The Sirens, and Swordbearer.

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/AuthorFilmmaker-Stephen-Zimmer/221620254562078

Twitter: @sgzimmer

Website: http://www.stephenzimmer.com

Blog: stephenzimmer.blogspot.com

October 5, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review—Thread Slivers by Leeland Artra

9780615771182_p0_v1_s260x420The first novel in The Golden Threads trilogy, Thread Slivers sets the overall story up well. Leeland Artra delivers fast-paced action, a complex and twisting plot, well-developed characters, and a vast world whose intriguing history gets hinted at throughout the book; leaving you wanting to know as much about  Duianna’s history as you do about the fate of Ticca and Lebuin.

Even though he’s not the main character, The Duke steals the show. But what else would you expect from a horse-sized talking wolf that cusses like a sailor? And considering his background (which I won’t get into and thus spoil), I wouldn’t be surprised if this “Fantasy” trilogy turns out to be cleverly disguised Science Fiction.

I tend to hate cliffhangers, mostly because it pisses me off to have to wait six months to a year to find out what happens next. But that’s really the only peeve I have with the book, for it’s a cliffhanger that actually does its job because I want to know what happens next, now!!!! Now dammit!! NOW!!!!!

Best to read while listening to: Three Musketeers soundtrack, combined with the soundtrack to Patton.

September 22, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review—Dark Shala by Cathy Benedetto

DarkShalaCoverExotic settings? Check. Heroic characters? Check. Big war? Check.

Everything you’d expect from an epic fantasy can be found in Dark Shala by Cathy Benedetto, the second book of the Shala Trilogy. The Shala are a tall race of powerful dark skinned warriors who possess a telepathic bond with large cats they call fels. As a vast army invades their lands, just as had been prophesied, the Shala come to the aid of the native humans.

In this second installment, their leader, Tahjeen, and his Shala escort human refugees through an ancient network of underground tunnels. But they soon find themselves being hunted by Shala exiles that practice dark magic, or “Dark Shala,” who have sided with the invaders for a chance at revenge.

Benedetto has created an interesting mix of lovable characters as well as a world and story worthy of the genre. She knows how to keep a reader turning those pages long after they should be going to bed.

I found the prologue to be unnecessary since it was merely a recap of the previous book, and the information it provided was nothing that didn’t later pop up in the story itself, whether through dialogue or exposition. Those types of prologues are neither required and can be quite irksome. But aside from that, the story was an enjoyable read.

Best to read while listening to: the soundtrack to Avatar.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review—The Brotherhood of Dwarves, Book 4: Between Darkness and Light

between-dark-and-light-cover-4_final-webThe fourth book of D.A. Adams’s epic fantasy series, The Brotherhood of Dwarves, takes place immediately after the Fall of Dorkhun. Roskin’s father, King Kraganere, is badly wounded, and Kraganere’s advisor, Sondious, has gone insane and usurped the throne. Meanwhile, outside the broken gates of Dorkhun, the Great Empire camps in the valley, preparing for invasion.

To save his father and the KiredurkKingdom, Roskin must unite the other Dwarven kingdoms in an alliance against the empire. Meanwhile, the half-elf, Kwark, sends Vishghu to convince her fellow ogres to aid the Kiredurks despite having just fought a devastating war with them. And Crushaw has a limited amount of time to turn a ragtag mass of elves into an army formidable enough to fight the empire.

And far to the east, a vicious and insane outcast has his own plans for the hero, Roskin.

In many ways, this book is what the three previous books were setting the stage for, BDal-Interior1and if the fifth book turns out the way the fourth book seems to be hinting expect to see some major epic battles to come, battles far greater than the one in here.

Adams has taken classic tropes in the genre that has existed since The Hobbit and has breathed fresh new life into them. While familiar enough to be identifiable, none of the races follow common stereotypes. It is a world more realistic, where not every elf or dwarf is good and not every orc is evil. And not all dwarves live underground: some, like Molgheon, are most at home in the wilderness. It is a world familiar to readers of Epic Fantasy but also possesses the grim and grit of Sword & Sorcery.

BDaL-Interior2Adams makes you care about the characters, about the relationships, and about the world. And instead of characterizing the human-ruled Great Empire in a two-dimensional light, he shows, through an imperial captain, the moral complexities of the choices between loyalty and duty in an empire that is becoming decadent and complacent. You actually feel for what the captain has to go through despite him being one of the enemies.

The series as a whole is one of the best you’re ever going to find, whether from small press or large, and the fourth installment will keep you reading well past your bedtime.

Best to read while listening to: any epic music (Two Steps From Hell perhaps?) or epic fantasy soundtrack (you know which ones).

March 3, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review: The Jealousy Glass by Gwen Perkins

15838977Cercia’s new leader, Quentin, sends Asahel and Felix to Anjdur as ambassadors to broker a peace treaty, but also as secret agents. While trying to avoid one war, they find themselves embroiled in another while having to prevent the assassination of Anjdur’s Empress.

Being the second part of a trilogy, I expected The Jealousy Glass to feel like the second act of a three part play, but instead it felt like the first act only with a little back story. Nothing wrong with that, but trilogies normally have a bit more glue holding them together, and the second book is supposed to contain the “good stuff” (ala The Empire Strikes Back).

But as far as character depth and world building goes, Perkins knows her stuff. Even the dialogue felt real for that world and Perkins paints a vivid imagery of the setting without bogging the reader down in details. The plot smoothly transitions from one point to the next; however, there were some points where it felt like the two main characters, Asahel and Felix, were just along for the ride. For example, a certain plot-related item gets broken…and Asahel has no idea why he broke it.

As far as being the mid-point of a larger story, it felt lacking, yet it’s still adequate as a stand-alone story so long as you don’t mind the plot feeling a bit forced in a certain pivotal scene. All in all, it’s a good read to have around when you don’t have anything else to read.

 

Best to read while listening to: the soundtrack to The Tudors? Do they have a soundtrack out for that?

 

And now for…

Ya’know wat? Screw putting that damn dislaimer into every single review post! I’m rebelling, dammit!

 

January 2, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse OVERKILL Blog Tour Double Whammy

It’s April 21st, and as part of the Overkill Blog Tour, SpecMusicMuse presents you with a Double Whammy. And no, I’m not talking about a porno, either, so get your brain matter out of the gutter. What I am talking about is both a review AND an interview in one day. Hell, one post even. 😉

First off, the review:

SpecMusicMuse Review: Overkill by Steven L. Shrewsbury

Another tale of Goria La Gaul, set in the pre-Flood period, in the land of Transalpina, Overkill is just as gritty and blood-soaked as Thrall. Gorias gets summoned by Queen Garnet to find and rescue her lost granddaughter, Nykia, who Gorias once saved when she had been a child. Aided by Alena, one of the Queen’s elite guard, and a palace servant named Orsen, the grizzled old merc must do what he does best: namely kick ass and take names.

This story takes place on land and sea and contains all the action you’d expect in an epic fantasy and a plot twist that just wouldn’t be a La Gaul story if it wasn’t in there. While he avoids making the characters two-dimensional, don’t expect enormous character depth. There’s just enough for a story of this genre without sacrificing the story’s pace. And for such a story that’s all you really need.

The action scenes are vivid. The world and culture feels real once you become immersed. And the story never bores. If you enjoy Sword & Sorcery or Epic Fantasy with a dark edge, then you will love Overkill.

Best read while listening to: the soundtrack to any Conan or Beastmaster movie. Oh, and Viking Metal, because Viking Metal rocks.

And now for:

SpecMusicMuse: Interview with Steven L. Shrewsbury

Gorias le Gaul. How in the world did you come up with a character like him?

 

SS: He sort of volunteered into my mind. He’s a mash up of Johnny Cash, John Wayne and Wagner’s Kane a little (some say a dash of me as well). In GODFORSAKEN my research told me the sacred spear of the god Lugh was named Gorias. I liked the name. That name and a song by a bluegrass legend from antiquity sealed the deal. I didn’t want to write about a young buck with all his learning to do. Gorias is getting on in life, at 700, getting tired, too, but still full of piss & vinegar. When he stepped forward, well, the stories fell in line.

The setting for your le Gaul stories is the antediluvian period. Obviously that period is mentioned in the Bible, but did you also look into other cultural stories about that period, like the Sumerian tales?

 

An illustration by Matthew Perry for the novel, OVERKILLSS: Of course. I know Gilgamesh from Bilgames (only a well read geek will know what I’m talking about). Sure. I read of all cultures and their pre-flood tales, even the American Indians. I think there is a huge epoch we forgot, so thus, anything goes. It sounds like the rules of the material world were a tad bent then ala angels & demons running around. I don’t think all of the things in these books is true (Nephilums, demons cross breeding with saurian beasts to create dragons) mind you, but they are fun to explore. As time goes on, we learn about more forgotten cities from that era, or at least, beyond recorded history. Kenniwick Man, who was in North America 13,000 years ago (found in Washington State) was Caucasian and had a spear head healed into his pelvis (or hip my mind is going). That’s fascinating stuff.

With two books now will we be seeing any more of that old asskicker?

 

SS: Yes. I have several more in mind and a slew of short stories or novellas I can tie in about his life and that era. There was so much I hinted at in THRALL and blurted in OVERKILL that many will want books written of Gorias’ recollections.

What do you find the most fascinating about Epic Fantasy? And which authors do you find most inspiring?

 

SS: Anything can happen, pretty much, and it’s a time different than ours. Yeah, some of the same jerks/characters are guilty of the same passions or hatreds, but one can paint with a broader brush. Howard, Wagner, Moorcock, Lieber, Manly Wade Wellman, and quite a number of horror writers, too. I think some writers are more concerned with telling a long series of books than a real story. The Gorias cycle is not one where ya gotta read them all in order to get ‘em. Each is a tale unto itself. I have never conceived a novel thinking, “Ya know what’d be the ice cream on the titties? How ‘bout I write seven of these f*&kers that will only make sense by the last few when I am senile and forgot the original point.” In the past couple years I have written a massive epic fantasy that isn’t submitted yet. I wrote it as a book to do before I die, a story I’ve always wanted to tell. It’s not about Gorias. I talked with a few folks on it and the FIRST thing they said was, “Cool idea, but is this the first of a series?” No. It isn’t.

And speaking of inspiration is there any kind of music that you find helpful to your writing?

 

SS: A wide variety inspires me for alotta reasons. Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, old blues, an offhand line in a Shooter Jennings song can make a novel. Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley helped create Gorias La Gaul. I don’t care for rap or pop stuff or modern country music. I like the kinda country that makes one want to drink whiskey and kill yourself. I’ve reached the age where new music doesn’t sound so good to me anymore. There are a few here and there, but, meh.

What other fantastic stuff does Shrews have cooked up in his demented mind?

 

SS: I have two forthcoming horror novels, HELL BILLY set in reconstruction era Memphis, due out from Bad Moon Books pretty soon here. That one is about a rebel that keeps offing members of the occupying troops family, gets caught and executed then returns the next day. Over and over. LAST MAN SCREAMING is a Lovecraftian western, with my one armed confederate guy Joel Stuart searching for the Black Bible, NAMELESS CULTS in Juarez for Von Juntz nephew. Plus, I’ve written a novel featuring my Widowmaker character, Absalom Abbas, the traveling executioner. I have that big assed epic to get out, plus more fun & games.

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Steven L. Shrewsbury is a fantasy and horror author who has well over 300 tales published online or in print.  He is the creator of  creator of Dack Shannon and the Majestic Universe, as well as the novels Tormentor (Lachesis Publishing), Hawg (Graveside Tales) and Stronger Than Death (Snuff Books).

He has appeared in many anthologies, most recently Harlan County Horrors from Apex Publications.  Other anthologies include Deathgrip: Legacy of Terror from Hellbound books; Blackest Death-Vol I from BDB; the high fantasy epic Grimoire De Solace from iUniverse, the hardback Cemetery Poets, Scary, Atrocitas Aqua from DDP.

For more information on Steven L. Shrewsbury, please visit his website at www.stevenshrewsbury.com

April 21, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SpecMusicMuse Review: The Fall of Dorkhun—D. A. Adams

Like dwarves? You’ll get plenty of dwarves in D.A. Adams’s The Fall of Dorkhun, the third book in his The Brotherhood of Dwarves Series.  After escaping slavery and surviving the Battle for Hard Hope, Roskin returns home to find his father’s kingdom at war with the ogres. Although his father wants peace, Master Sondious seeks revenge against the ogres after being crippled. Roskin and his friends find themselves caught in the middle of a treacherous coup as the human-ruled Great Empire marches toward the Kiredurk Kingdom.

Everything that makes for a great heroic fantasy is within the pages of this book: cool battles (but what do you expect from dwarves?), political intrigue, and believable characters that will grow on you as the story progresses. If you haven’t read the first two books (The Brotherhood of Dwarves and Red Skies at Dawn), you might want to do so before picking up this one; however, reading the third book without reading the first two didn’t leave me lost. Adams lets you know enough of what went on before for you to be able to pick up on the important parts of the prior novels, and all without needing a prologue.

It takes a couple chapters before Adams gets to the main plot of the story, but those parts are clearly bridges connecting the second novel to this one, and allows new readers to get to know the main characters if they hadn’t read the last two.  And once I was acquainted with the characters, the rest of the story became quite enjoyable to read. It also left me wanting to get the first two novels and anticipate the next one so I can read the entire series. Adams has crafted a detailed world that feels fresh and new despite using the (alleged) cliché of stock fantasy races like elves, dwarves, ogres, and orcs. He succeeds in this by making each character a unique individual instead of relying on stereotypes.

All in all, while not an epic masterpiece it is still a fun read, and The Fall of Dokhun is worth adding to your list of books to read.

Best to read while listening to:  the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings, and Viking Metal of course! Amon Amarth and TÝR rule!

January 19, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | 2 Comments