Jack Bloodfist: Fixer Review

fixercover

This book is like the Dresden Files with an orc…and a more realistic libido. I stress the word “like” there too. Had a lot of fun with Fixer. Jack is a fun character, smart, tenacious, caring, and, being an orc, tough as hell. Like Dresden, he’s basically the only game in town for what he does. Unlike Dresden, Jack is not a wizard. He’s basically jack-of-all-trades, playing handyman, mediator, facilitator, things like that, for his family. Which is not, as I had originally thought, a mafia thing. It’s just a regular family…made of orcs and goblins. The story itself is interesting, engaging, and clips along nicely. Great pacing. I’m giving it 4.5 stars, ultimately, cause of a few minor text issues and a slight personal preference. Nothing read breaking, certainly, and things I’m sympathetic to with being an author-publisher as well. It’s really hard to edit and proof by yourself. As for the preference issue, the book is primarily told from Jack’s first-person POV, with third-person sections sprinkled through out. I tend not to like that kind of split but, again, that is entirely personal preference and it doesn’t break the read. Beyond that, everything else was great and I can’t wait to see where James goes with the next book.

Speaking of which, why isn’t the next book out already? I need it.

Orctober – Creator Spotlight – James Jakins

orctober

Welcome to the first Orctober, here in my little plot of cyberspace! For the month of October, we’ll be celebrating Orcs and the people who create art with them. It’s Monday and that means the first Orctober post and the first Creator Spotlight post. Let’s kick things off with a peer of mine in the Fantasy Literature world, James Jakins!

 

I met James on Twitter, I think after he found A Demon in the Desert. Like me, he’s someone who decided he needed to write something starring an orc. What he made was Jack Bloodfist: Fixer. He’s a pretty nice dude with the usual geeky interests. He was nice enough to answer my little Orctober survey. Here’s what he had to say.

When did you start creating?
I started writing when I was 11 or 12(none of those creations will see the light of day) but I only really made the conscious decision to pursue it in my early twenties. So I’ve spent close to a decade trying my best to create something that anyone other than myself would give a damn about.

Why do you love orcs?
My love for orcs goes back to the original Warcraft. I always started a human campaign out of some weird race loyalty, then I’d dump that campaign and start an orc one because they had badass green dudes riding giant black wolves, and you really can’t beat that.
Then years later I started reading more Fantasy and was told that orcs are supposed to be the bad guys, which bummed me out a little, but I accepted it(I was a dumb kid). Then, six years ago, I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons(way too late in life, I know). Orcs are supposedly the bad guys in there, too, but my DM had a tendency of introducing us to orc NPCs that reminded my why I used to love the old green-skins.

As I get older, and now as I try my best to write orc characters, I think I love orcs because in a lot of ways they’re a blank canvas. Yeah, there’s a lot of lore there from games and books and all that, but most people don’t think of that when they think of orcs. They see the big, probably dumb brutes, or Tolkien’s orcs, and I love being able to take those conceptions and change them. Creating something new, but still familiar. That’s fun.

What’s your favorite piece of your work?
That’s a really hard question… Generally, my favorite piece is always the one I’m excited to write next, until I actually start it. But out of things that actually exist… I have a novel that I trunked a few years ago because I realized I hadn’t leveled up enough as a writer to do it justice. Some of the characters and scenes in that book are my all time favorites. Hopefully in a few years I’ll be able to share it and not feel immense shame.
But after that, I think Jack Bloodfist: Fixer is my favorite. I set out to write something fun and I think I actually pulled it off. Plus it’s out in the world so I’m able to read the nice things people say about it. So until another of my books gets better reviews, he’s the favorite child.

What’s your favorite piece of someone else’s work?
I have a growing list of orc related reads that I really want to get to. Grey Bastards by Jonathan French looks great, and the little I read of it really got me interested in his Sons of Anarchy inspired orc world. Scott Oden’s A Gathering of Ravens is currently one of my most anticipated releases next year. And I’m still missing a few of the classics, Stan Nichols is still on my to read list, for which I feel shame, so I can’t speak for everything out there, but I actually really enjoyed A Demon in the Desert. I felt like I was reading a weird west themed D&D campaign, which for me, at least, is a huge sell. And, Grimluk just felt like an orc.

What’s your biggest hope for orcs in media?
A Jack Bloodfist TV series? Other than that, I think things are definitely moving in the right direction. More and more books are being released starring the handsome devils. We had the Warcraft movie, which I haven’t seen yet, but it at least exposed a good chunk of the world to them, and I’ve heard rumors of other properties that may or may not actually see the light of day.

High up on my wishlist would be for Wizards of the Coast to make Orcs a default playable race instead of just the go to baddies. Half-orcs are cool and all, but I want a full-blooded orc barbarian in my party.

But seriously, Jack Bloodfist TV series.

That’s James, everyone. You can find him on Twitter @bethteva. Stay tuned for my review of Fixer this month as well. And Wednesday will be ORC FACTS, where I share some wonderful bit of lore from already established franchises like Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls, Warhammer, etc., as well as lore about Grimluk and his world. And don’t worry, no spoilers for Grimluk.

The Demons We See Review

My friend and fellow writer, Krista D. Ball, just released her newest book, and first in a new series, The Demons We See.

This book. This fuckin’ book. I knew it was gonna be good and I’m in love with the cover. Look at the cover. Love it. Anyways, my thoughts on the story itself. The narrative itself is lighter. That’s not a bad thing. It sets things up with its basic premise of “a rebellion is building among slaves.” From there, it delves into the lives and interactions of the main characters. The interactions between the characters is fun. Everyone has their own little quirks but all share a love of snark and sass (just a matter of how much). Friendships and romance build up in a way that feels wonderfully natural while this big war brews in the background. Lex and Dodd come into their own once they get their hats. Allegra has a nice arc that ends in the place you hoped for. And Stanton is there being wonderful and charming and heroic.

I’d say the two biggest aspects to note about the story is the use of various mental health conditions and the topic of identity. The effects of fear and anxiety are on full display, there’s talk of PTSD in a realistic way, there’s a huge point about gender identity with Lex and that was done very, very well and felt real. Choices and consequences and grief and all of it feels very genuine and well done.

And as I write this, the next two books aren’t out and it’s THE WORST. But if you like snappy dialogue and magic and want a world that feels familiar but different and a different sort of adventure in politicking, read this book. You will love it.

In addition, if you love anything Musketeers, you’ll definitely love Lex and Dodd and Stanton. And I know for a fact that if you like Dragon Age Inquisition, it will pique your interest. And seriously, the dialogue is so good.

Christmas Sale

I know I might not like Christmas a whole lot but December is a busy month for gifts and kind of important to a budding business. So, I’ve cooked up a couple of deals. But first, THE BLURB:

cover image

A Demon in the Desert

The Wastelands mining town of Greenreach Bluffs is deteriorating: with each passing day its inhabitants grow more fearful and paranoid, plagued by…something. They suffer nightmares and hallucinations, there are murders at the mine; the community is on the brink of madness and ruin and, as events escalate, realization dawns: the town has a demon problem. Two attempts at hunting it down fail, Greenreach Bluffs is at breaking point…and then Grimluk the Orc strides in out of the Wastes to answer their call for salvation.

So, holiday deals. Unfortunately, it’s a bit complicated due to certain issues with Amazon. Regular prices are $10 for print and $3 for digital. Now, KDP isn’t a huge fan of allowing anyone who isn’t enrolled in their exclusive (as in, sold nowhere else but Amazon) program, KDP Select, to have promotional codes. So, for folks who regularly use Amazon, sorry, I would love to include my biggest source of income in with holiday savings but, here’s what I can do:

For paperbacks, if you order directly from the Createspace store, you can use the code TKPXVPAV to get 25% off.

For digital, head over to Smashwords and use the code XL49R. If you want to load it to your Kindle, just use your Send To Kindle address (can be found in your account settings, manage your content, settings) or app.

Unfortunately, those are the only venues I have direct control of for promotional deals. That said, since Amazon has Kindle Matchbook, you might watch and see if A Demon in the Desert goes on sale if you’d like the ebook as well as the print. If you DO prefer to use Amazon, then I would encourage you to use the version that donates to chairities. It’s not as good as a direct donation, sure, but it’s somethin. Other sites might put the book on sale as well (B&N.com and Kobo for instance), so keep an eye out.

I still have about 25-30 paperbacks for signing as well, so if you’d like a signed copy, contact me and we’ll work something out. I send through 2-day priority mail, which is $5.25 in itself. Add another $2 and you get a print copy, signed, for $7 bucks.

As for extras, well, I’m all up in goodreads, where you can find more reviews as well. You can read the whole first chapter there or on my site too. On top of all that awesome stuff, you can find the OFFICIAL BOOK SOUNDTRACK and stuff it into your beautiful little ears while you stuff my book into your beautiful little eyes. Happy reading and happy holidays.

New Stories!

Bit of an update to go with these new stories as well. I’ve shut down my Patreon. After the security breech, and the fact that I’ve only had one patron, I figured I should just put it on the back burner for now. In the meantime, I’ll be uploading everything I posted there and then occasionally adding new pieces as well. The most important two, however, are the ones I’ll be linking below, as the first was going to be a part of this month’s postings, and was a request from said patron, and the second is the short story I had submitted for publication and was so excited for over the summer. Happy reading, y’all.

“Sadie’s Kitchen”

“From Tusk Til Dawn”

Patreon and an Update

While I haven’t gotten tons of writing done this week, I did get more plotting done for the second Grimluk book, which will help. The book’s coming along at near 15,000 words, almost a fifth of the 80K goal. And in only a month a half, that beats the hell out of my pace for the first book.

In other news though, it’s Friday and September so it’s time for a new story. “From Tusk Til Dawn” is now up on Patreon. Part of me kind of hates doing this because I really really want folks to read this story and realistically, putting it as backers only means few people will, buuuuut I’m also trying to be a professional here. So, for those who haven’t heard, this story is about a lady orc wanderer who ends up having a close encounter of the fanged kind.

https://www.patreon.com/ashearmstrong

Fantasy is NOT Historically Accurate

Trigger warning for talk of rape.

The phrase “historically accurate” in regards to fantasy fiction is so pervasive at this point that it’s almost inescapable. Given that I hang out on r/Fantasy pretty regularly, I see this nearly constantly. And yes, I know, serves me right for hanging out on reddit. The majority of the time, r/Fantasy is a pretty reasonable place to be. The number one rule is “Please be kind” and the mods are all nice folks who keep the place running smoothly. But that doesn’t matter when someone responds to questions, topics, and article links about the nature of fantasy fiction with shit like “historically accurate” or “realistic.” You might be wondering what exactly provokes these responses. Well strap the fuck in cause this shit is painful. This will mostly be me ranting.

Do you watch that show about throne games? Did you read the books? Is there a shit ton of rape? Sure there is. That’s why the recent outrage against the show saw a lot of people finally throwing their hands up and saying they were done, that the limit had finally been reached. And what do you hear about that? “The rape is historically accurate!”

And what about the basic concept of gender equality? In the year of Lord Cena, two-thousand and fifteen, we’re finally approaching levels of gender equality never dreamed of before in history. Women have 100% always been property, never been warriors, only been baby factories, and never ever left an unhappy marriage. Gender equality is NOT historically accurate.

Or maybe you’ve watched Xena or some other piece of history-based fantasy and loved the idea of a woman whooping literally all of the ass. Every ass within whoopin’ vicinity was kicked with extreme prejudice. You may be surprised to learn that that’s nothing more than a Mary Sue power fantasy and in REAL history, women were never able to best men in combat, at all, ever. They had to resort to cowardly acts like poison and using their bodies to get in close. Women are, realistically, weak and cowardly.

And don’t even get me started on gender and sexuality beyond heteronormative and cis. Didn’t exist except in small, deviant pockets. Always. Without fail. Completely realistic.

According to fans of most fantasy media, these things are all realistic and historically accurate. But what the fuck does that actually mean? There’s a huge conflation between “realistic” and “believable.” They’re often interchanged without meaning to be. In a general sense, realistic means believable and you get there through little ways. One of my kickstarter backers for A Demon in the Desert wrote in her review on goodreads she thought the world felt “well thought out.” Other readers said they enjoyed the characters, who felt real and distinct. And lest you forget, we’re talking about a book where a giant green guy hunts a demon and even willfully takes direct gun shots to his person. Realism for Grimluk is in the dialogue, in his interactions with others, in the little details of the world around him. Those things allow us to believe what we’re reading. It’s realistic for the context and while based a lot on the mythology of the American West (where, may I point out, Westerns are rarely, truly historically accurate), I still do my own stuff.

Turn that over to the standard, medieval-based stuff and suddenly, the view gets tighter. Everything was crappier, you were either a peasant or an aristocrat and there were apparently roving bands of rapists. Girls were married off at 12 to start popping out children and on and on and on. And if you dare to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the use of rape could’ve been tweaked to be, perhaps, less intense and less dismissive of the victim…”that’s not historically accurate/realistic.”

Recently, a blog post by an author I won’t name basically wrote what amounts to an excuse for his main character being a shit bag. The thread about the post pretty much devolved into what you’d expect from reddit. This weekend, a reader started a thread on the topic of “grimdark” fantasy and how, while reading a particular book, she struggled to get through it because of a very graphic and flippant gang rape scene where the protagonist first allows his men to rape a woman, but then he feels bad about it and beheads her, and then never thinks about it again. She said she felt like this type of writing was, to her, “unfair to women readers.” The responses were, of course, mostly on the ridiculous side. One poster in particular hounded “realism” and “historical accuracy” ad nauseum and boiled down her thoughts to “don’t like it, don’t read it.”

In relation, many, many posters posited that there was a genre just as “unfair” to MEN as grimdark is for women. That genre? Romance. Romance books are, according to most, nothing but disgusting porn written for women. One step further from that is the very existence of homosexuality in fantasy. Apparently, and I guess I missed the memo, gay relationships and gay sex disgust every straight man in existence and some women too. And this, of fucking course, is exactly the same as graphic depictions of rape.

And these two aspects basically sum up the entire problem with this bullshit. The arguments are entirely based in a wrong-headed approach. “Don’t like it, don’t read it” is thrown at anyone who criticizes anything “uncomfortable.” This doesn’t help anything if the critic actually says “but I could’ve liked it, were it not for these aspects.” My friend and fellow author, Krista D. Ball, was basically hounded a few weeks ago for daring to criticize the character Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files. She fucking LOVES the series. Owns every book. Huge fan. Didn’t matter. Dudebros started falling over themselves to fight her.

Rape? Misogyny? Racism? All integral and realistic for a genre whose common vision among the general public is “dragons and wizards and elves.” You can literally have hordes of zombies, skeletons, imps, and sorcerers serving a grand, DARK LORD, but the moment you make the hero a woman who has trained to become a badass? Unrealistic Mary Sue. The DARK LORD is Evil so how do we show he is Evil? He’ll rape the leading lady! That’s historically accurate. Nevermind that he’s a thousand year-old lich in the body of half-demon, half-elf. Winged, intelligent lizards that breathe fire and speak magic and may or may not be immortal? Super realistic. Matriarchal society with universal healthcare and magic-assisted farming? Historically inaccurate and you have now proven that you are a piece of shit who shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard.

Also, why aren’t you describing boobs more? Why isn’t this character obsessed with reflecting on how her boobs feel in this spider-silk dress? Are her nipples hard? Will she be raped too? Will she actually like it? Stop fucking with history, you big phony!

Fantasy, ladies and gentleman, is not historically accurate and I’m sick of hearing that it should be. This has been a rant.