Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

You know the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? When I saw this book, I totally judged it. I judged it so hard, you guys. I mean, look.

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And when I read that it was a fantasy that took place in Jazz-Age Mexico, I couldn’t get my money out fast enough.

The story starts out just like Cinderella, and the main character, Cassiopeia Tun, even makes mention of how similar they both are. She’s a ‘poor relation’ who is employed by her wealthy, mean-spirited grandfather and her bully of a cousin Martín. She longs for finer things, to drive in a car, to dance the trendy fast dances, and to see the ocean. She wants to get out of her town, Uukumil, just once, but there is no hope for her. She’ll end up just like her mother, slaving around Grandfather’s house, expected to be thankful for room and board.

Getting frustrated with her lot in life, she finds herself alone in her grandfather’s room. She sees the strange carved trunk that he always had but never spoke of, and thinks to finally see what is in it. She expects to find gold, silver, some kind of treasure hidden away, but she didn’t expect to see a pile of bones. Before she knows it, she pricks her thumb on a bone shard. In front of her eyes, the bones reassemble themselves into a stately, beautiful man.

But he is no man. He is Hun Kamé, Supreme Lord of Xibalba, god of death. And he requires Cassiopeia’s assistance to reclaim his throne. Or else.

The whole book was an amazing journey into Mayan mythology and Mexican history. Every page brought up something I had never heard about, but I want to learn more. Cassiopeia was a very believable character, both full of longing and born with a practicality born of necessity. She was both rebellious but also nervous about breaking social rules. (Cutting her hair short? How scandalous!) And Hun Kamé’s transition from an aloof, proud god to feeling mortal emotion was a gradual, skillfully done change.

And I don’t want to spoil the ending but it made me cry. Well done, Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I can’t wait to read more of your books.


In other news, I’m working on a map of the world in Vessels. I’ve got the lineart done, and now I’m working on the colors. I’ll try and figure out a way to print it in Venomous.

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Also, I’m debating about whether or not I should include a list of characters. I saw it done in River of Stars and I found it was helpful to keep track of who was who since all the names were unusual. I think having to keep track of names like Mwarthes, Nephtet-Ka, and Eshmedi is taxing enough to warrant a cast of characters.

3 Overdue Book Reviews

I am an awful human being. I yearn for more book reviews of my own, and yet I’ve let the books that I’ve finished go without reviews of their own. No more. Here are the books that I’ve needed to review for a while now.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Okay, I love fantasy. I really do, but I’m tired of the same old tropes. Cool brave white dude defeats impossible odds with his sword, wins the heart of the sexy elf/princess/dragon in lady form? And saves the kingdom.

Fantasy can be so much more than just the tried-and-true medieval European setting. This is why I was excited to pick up River of Stars. It takes place in a land clearly based on China’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It was very low-magic, which is something I liked, with the main conflicts being solved with sword and bow, and clever political manipulation.

However, I couldn’t help but feel like everything came too easily to the main character, Ren Daiyan. He was geared up to be a child of destiny, the one who would win back the lost prefectures of Kitai from the warmongering Xiaolu. All his plans, all his efforts went perfectly and the only conflict he faced was from his own court. He could do no wrong.

Some might call the resolution of the book a letdown, and I felt that way at first. Then I realized that Kay had set us up to believe we knew the inevitable ending, and let us know that things don’t always turn out as planned. Then I was okay with it. I will definitely read more from this author.

John Goblikon’s Guide to Living Your Best Life

As a massive fan of Nekrogoblikon, I had to preorder this book when it was announced, and I was not disappointed. You see, John Goblikon is a goblin...from outer space...who sells insurance but also is the mascot/hype man/best band member of the metal band Nekrogoblikon. He’s even got his own show.

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The book was, at times, inspiring, but mostly it was full of laugh-out-loud moments. I read it in one sitting and afterwards, I did as John said and went to Chili’s.

When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

Wearin Nefertiti’s hat, felt cute

Wearin Nefertiti’s hat, felt cute

I don’t read much nonfiction, but I absolutely love ancient Egypt, so I picked up this book while at an exhibit at the National Geographic museum. I am so glad I did. Cooney is, of course, very knowledgeable about the goings-on of ancient Egypt, but she also has a casual and accessible writing style. I never felt I was being lectured to. She explained events that happened so long ago and gave them a modern-day equivalent to really hit it home. I learned about six queens of Egypt who rose to power because a woman’s rule was what the country needed at the time, and I just wonder when America will get to that point.


Okay, I’m all caught up with my reviews. I’ll be sure to put these on Goodreads and Amazon, of course. Am I a book blogger now? I don’t think I’ll make reviewing books the main focus of my website, but I want to be a good literary citizen, so I’ll post the reviews here.

A Quick Update

Ignite Peoria

First up, as you all may already know, is Ignite Peoria. There will be 100 Artist & Maker booths - 28 Performance Groups - 6 Workshops - ALL UNDER ONE ROOF!

A few of the MANY talented artists that will have booths, including:
2 Birds CollectiveJeremiah LambertKiley BeecherCamron JohnsonKagan MastersJaci MusecJeremy Berkley and Quinton Thomas.

Don’t just come for little ol’ me. Come see all these amazing creators! And if you can’t make it, I’m in plenty of other events coming up. Just head over to my events page.

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Advanced Readers

I should be done with the manuscript for Venomous by September. But then it goes into the hands of my advanced readers, so it’ll still be a little while. Would you like to be an advanced reader? It would probably help if you’ve read Vessels before. Let me know if you want to help me out. To all of you who have already volunteered, don’t read what I gave you. I mean, you can if you want. It’s just not the finished version.

Writing books is hard, you guys.

Ignite Peoria 2019

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This will be the second year I attend Ignite Peoria. I think this year will be even better because I won’t have lost my voice the night before.

Come see some incredible artists and entertainers FOR FREE. The Handweaver’s Guild of Peoria will be there with their great big loom, and they’ll teach you how to use it! Artists are there to do a sort of jam session, but for, you know, art. Singers, belly dancers, and robot fights are there for you to come see.

I’ll be there, selling Vessels and teaching kids how to write their names in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. It’ll be cool so you should come on down.

Did I mention it was free to get in?

How to Break Out of Writer's Block

Writer’s block is a problem that most writer’s will encounter. They want to write, but they don’t know what to write next. Or, and this is usually my situation, they know what to write but they don’t know how to word it. How do you get out of those situations? I’m no expert but these are the top five things that help me with writer’s block.

Get away from the screen

Don’t just sit at the computer screen and expect the words to come to you. They won’t, no matter how hard you push. Get up. Take a walk. It’ll be good for your body to stretch a bit, get the blood flowing.

You aren’t in the Matrix, Neo. You ARE the Matrix.

You aren’t in the Matrix, Neo. You ARE the Matrix.

Play a video game

Yeah, I know I just said get away from the screen. But I didn’t say the television screen. Yeah, I play PC games but I find consoles to be more helpful in getting past writer’s block. Lately, I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins. It takes place in ancient Egypt and while I love the setting and the characters…it’s not the best game.


A few days ago, I was escorting an NPC, Phanos the Greek poet, to a party. A simple party. No big deal. But he just kept shoving into people he could have easily avoided. What a dick. Then he took off in a dead sprint and hopped on a random horse. “Damn Phanos, how far away do you live?” I thought as I summoned up my camel. He answered by getting off of that horse, hopping on a different horse, and went tearing off down the street, only to inexplicably stop. Some bad guys attacked us and the NPC (who, remember, was a poet) went into beast mode and killed most of them. We finally get to his house. In a cutscene, he very seriously turns to me and says “We’ve been followed.” So we have to go outside, kill the guys we just killed, and I get a quest to leave the city.

There was never any party.

Anyway, I’m trying to say that you need some kind of a distraction to make you forget that you don’t know what to write. Sort of like how the best cure for hiccups is forgetting you have the hiccups.

Phanos, I swear to Horus, that’s the last rager I follow you to.

Phanos, I swear to Horus, that’s the last rager I follow you to.

Get lunch

Okay, so taking a walk and engaging in some virtual murder therapy hasn’t done the trick. What you need to do is get your goofy ass out of the house. Get some lunch with friends or something. Go visit your Grandma. She’d love it, and you’d be better for it. When you come back, you’ll feel better. Or at least full. Grandma lunches are best lunches.

Ain’t no party like Nana’s tea party

Ain’t no party like Nana’s tea party

Exercise

Similar to going for a walk, getting your blood pumping is good for your brain. If you don’t come up with any good ideas, at least you’ve done something good for your body and you’ve gotten away from the computer. Strength training, yoga, running…it’s all good.

Just don’t overdo it like Brad. Brad is boring and only talks about his ‘gainz’.

Just don’t overdo it like Brad. Brad is boring and only talks about his ‘gainz’.

Talk to someone about what you’re writing

Sometimes, talking to someone about your writing is the best help for writer’s block. It’s not because they’re there to give you their thoughts and insights. It just helps to say your thoughts out loud. But if you’ve got a creative friend, great! I’m sure they’re helpful. But so is this good girl. She knows exactly how Venomous is going to end.

No spoilers, land seal.

No spoilers, land seal.

So there you have it. My tips on breaking past writer’s block. Do you have any secret techniques that work for you? Let me know in the comments. Lord knows I could use all the help I can get.

Non-European Medieval Fantasy Does Exist!

Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Sword of Truth, The Riftwar Cycle, The Inheritance Cycle, Shannara…

What do all these series have in common?

  1. They’re fantasy, duh

  2. But also, they take place in a world based off of medieval European times.

Now, I’m not saying these are bad series at all. My childhood would be formless without these tales of noble knights protecting their lords and princesses, kings and queens ruling in their castles over their magical lands. And dragons, So many dragons.

I’m just tired of it.

Fantasy can be much more than just one setting and I know it’s out there. Right now, I’m reading River of Stars by Guy Gavier Kay. It takes place in a land similar to China in their Three Kingdoms period. It’s not high magic, but it’s there, and I’m loving it. Brave soldiers, fox spirits, clever courtesans, and a ruling class that’s completely out of touch with their people. All good stuff.

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This is why I love Robert E. Howard. Sure, his main character Conan is a muscle-bound white dude from a proto-Celtic people, but at the very least, he’s not from feudal England. Howard was a historian and loved to use ancient civilizations in his work. Ancient Greece, Egypt, Chinese, Scandinavians, Rome, Afghanistan, Iran…he used them all. He was also hideously racist, but we can do better than him.

I wrote my first book based off of ancient Egypt and in my research I didn’t get much further than just using Greek, Roman, and Scandinavian influences. Because with studying ancient civilizations, you can definitely go down a rabbit hole from which there is no return.

But I’ve got time. And I’ve got more books to write. I’d love to learn more about the Hittites, Nubians, and Hyksos. Ooh, and the Scythians!

Oh man. I’m going to be at this for a while. But my main point today is just check out some books that aren’t based in medieval Europe. Or try books that aren’t based off of any pre-existing culture, like the Broken Earth trilogy by N K Jemisin. It’s about geological magic and the evil things people do to try and harness the power and those who use it. Check it out!

Just Some Updates

I don’t have much in store for this week’s post so I’m just going to give some updates.

  1. Work on the audiobook is postponed until Fall. It’s just too noisy. Either everyone is mowing their lawns when I have the windows open, or the AC kicks on.

  2. Venomous is coming along nicely. It’s all starting to fall into place. I expect a release at the very latest in September.

  3. Believe it or not, taking time out to play a video game throughout the day actually improves productivity. I’m finally playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins again.

  4. I’m not going to do Music Mondays anymore. I’ve pretty much been listening to awful Touhou dubstep/Gabber remixes and I don’t want to subject anyone to that garbage.

  5. Painting Dungeons & Dragons miniatures is so relaxing.Would anyone like to see my minis? Tell me in the comments below…

    Please let me show you my minis.

Been thinking about buying one of these bad boys. I will be a beautiful and terrible queen.

Been thinking about buying one of these bad boys. I will be a beautiful and terrible queen.

So that’s pretty much been what’s up with me.