A blog showcasing Indie and Small Press books and authors

The publishing world is changing and the boom in e-publishing has allowed both small press publishers and self-publishers to gain greater exposure than ever before.

The Roaring Mouse aims to bring you the best selection of those books as reviews, interviews and features. You don't have to look to the Big Six for quality literature, you can look towards the little guys.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Choosing by Jeremy Laszlo

Featured this time on the Roaring Mouse is a self-published book by US author Jeremy Laszlo. I discovered this book when I met Jeremy on Twitter. At the time Jeremy had published it on Smashwords, but now its available on Amazon kindle. Jeremy is going great guns on the series (Blood and Brotherhood Saga) - he has his third book out now!

The Choosing is the first novel in the series. It tells the story of two siblings, Seth and Garret, who embark upon a journey to a recruitment ceremony. This 'Choosing' dictates what division of the army the recruits will enter, depending upon their talents. The brothers begin the journey with a healer, called Ashton, who educates the pair on the aspects of religion that dominate the world. As the journey progresses, the lads experience a variety of adventures, encountering a girl, Sara, with whom Seth falls in love with. This introduction of a female into the group dynamic begins to have serious ramifications for the brothers.

As with many stories based around a journey (which is a frequent feature in the fantasy genre) we learn about the world of Thurr as we accompany the group. There is a great degree of detail in Jeremy's description of the world, most notably in his concepts of patron gods and magic. I really enjoyed the taster of magic we got in this first book and am certain it will play a larger part in the future books.

What stands out for me is the intimacy of characterisation in this book. The characters feel very genuine. Their relationships are detailed and realistic, especially those between the brothers and the evolving relationship between Seth and Sara. This latter dynamic took me back (a good few years) to my adolescence, with that awkward sense of developing emotion, the feeling of uncertainty, and a great sweetness to interaction. It makes for some great comical moments--there is a fantastic scene where they are shopping, and another where Sara has bought some lingerie. Simply great.

But where the books stands out is as a first part of a fantasy series. It hits all the right spots: good characters, a sense of anticipation, well structured world and logical magic. The action is well written and not excessive. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I asked Jeremy some questions about the book, his writing and himself.

Me: What have been the biggest challenges in self-publishing for you?
Jeremy: I think the biggest challenge for me were all of the unknowns that come with self-publishing.  There is so much to do, and so many details to handle that I had never even thought of before publishing my first book.  I had done tons of research, but even that did not really prepare me for what was to come after publishing The Choosing.  I guess overall however, the biggest challenge has been marketing and self promotion.  It has all really been trial and error for me, and I am constantly adjusting my approach and learning what works and what does not.  Though I have garnered a modicum of success, I always feel there is more I should be doing and other avenues I should be taking to promote my work.  Unfortunately however my time is limited being that like you and most other Indie Authors I work a full time job, have a family, and write as well as market my own books.  So it is a constant struggle to balance all of my responsibilities, leaving marketing and promotion as the last on my list of things to do.

Me: One of the most poignant scenes in the book for me is where the 'twins' are leaving to go to the Choosing. How much do you draw on your own experiences as a serviceman for writing such scenes?

Jeremy: I think that much of my writing draws from my own personal experiences.  I like the fact that you were able to put together that scene with an experience that you believed I have had in my own life.  To me that makes me feel that I have written it correctly, in that it feels real enough to make you question that connection.  I do relate to that scene personally, as I have experienced something quite similar.  In my case I was 22 preparing to leave for war.  I was leaving behind a wife and my eldest daughter who was only 6 months old at the time.  I was unsure when or if I would see them again, and I worried for their safety and well being in my absence.  It was an emotional time filled with uncertainty, and that is what I tried to bring across in the scene where Seth and Garret are leaving their home to attend the choosing ceremony.

Me: What especially attracts you to writing fantasy?

Jeremy: I think there are probably more reasons than I could even think of that draws me to the fantasy genre, however I can name at least a few.  When I was younger I was assigned a book report and read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks.  It was the perfect introduction into fantasy and ever since reading that book I was hooked, but for me at least I think it goes deeper than that.  Growing up my family was well below the poverty line, and life was at most times a struggle at best.  To say I did not have a good childhood would be an understatement with moving constantly, a mom and step dad who struggled with alchoholism and depression, and a family budget that at times required eating the same thing nearly every meal for weeks at a time.  Fantasy for me was an escape, and one that I could get for free from the library at school.  I spent several years inside books as a way to escape my life until eventually I was on my own at 16.  Today I realise that everyone, in every aspect of life needs an escape from time to time, and fantasy books have always worked well for me, it is by far my favorite genre.

Me:  I see you have released the third book in the series, The Changing. How many books will the series run to? Will you remain with fantasy when it's concluded?

Jeremy: Yes I am very excited, Book 3 of The Blood and Brotherhood Saga, The Changing, was published April 23rd and thus far the feedback from my readers has been amazing.  As for an overall lenght of the Saga, it would be a lie to give you a definite answer as the story is always evolving.  However, since it's inception I have always imagined it to be a 12 book saga with 4 trilogies, although at this point I am beginning to think that 12 was an under-estimate.

I do have plans for a couple of different books bouncing around in my head that are outside the fantasy genre, however even if I stray from fantasy I think I shall always return to it.

Me: What authors inspire you?

Jeremy: Every good book I have ever read has inspired me to an extent, if not then I don't believe the book was worth reading.  There are a few authors however that have inspired me more than others.  Terry Brooks of course was my introduction to fantasy, and I have followed his work ever since that first page of The Sword of Shannara.  I have always been a huge fan of Edgar Allen Poe as well.  I love the dark surealism of his writing, and have read all of his published works several times.  Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are also among my favorite authors for their work with the Dragonlance books and how they can follow multiple story lines so flawlessly within the confines of two covers.  Last, but not least, I would mention David Farland and his Runelord series for its originality and wonderfully vivid descriptions.

Me: Your work has wonderful detail in it , especially in descriptions of the settings. How much background work did you put into developing the world in which the Blood & Brotherhood Saga is set?

Jeremy: To be honest I think my life has been the background work to describing the things I see vividly in my imagination.  I have been fortunate enough to see a large perspective of the world during my years in the United States Marine Corps.  I have seen with my own eyes and touched with my own hands, mountains and jungles, deserts and forests.  I have visited buildings in every architectural style dating back to Ancient Rome.  Though these landscapes and creations of man have given me an immense palate to paint from, it was my father, James, who taught me the importance of detail.  When I was little I would sit with my dad and we would draw together.  Though he would never admit it, he has a natural talent for drawing.  I wanted so bad to draw like my dad that for years I worked to perfect the art myself.  Over those years I trained myself to really look for the details in items so that I could recreate them on paper from memory.  However while in the military I suffered an injury to my dominant wrist that required several surgeries.  Though I still enjoy drawing, I admit that my ability has suffered and with that the quality has diminished to a degree, and as such I don't spend as much time practicing the art anymore.  Even so, however, though I may never draw a masterpiece worth mention in any museum, I can still paint the masterpiece with written words for my readers to imagine as they journey with me through the world of Thurr.

An enjoyable and intimate interview, thanks to Jeremy for taking the time out to answer the questions. Jeremy is having a giveaway on his site, just click here to go there. It involves answering a few questions about his book and then you can win a gift card.

So, if you need to read his books before you enter, they can be found at the following links:

The Choosing (US)
The Chosen (US)
The Changing (US)

And for UK readers:
The Choosing
The Chosen
The Changing

My Amazon review for the Choosing is just here!
And Jeremy's awesome website is http://www.wix.com/jeremylaszlo/author

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Last Good Knight by Connie J Jasperson

Connie J Jasperson’s The Last Good Knight is the featured book today on The Roaring Mouse. I read Connie’s book on Kindle, although it is available in print via Amazon.
The Last Good Knight tells the story of a gang of mercenaries called the Rowdies. Their captain, Billy MacNess, bumps off rival Bastard John but not before he burns down their headquarters. On the ruins Billy builds a brand new inn dubbed Billy’s Revenge in which the Rowdies come to live.
The knight of the title is Sir Julian De Portiers, or Julian Lackland for short, and he comes to join the Rowdies along with his (unrequited) love Mags. The adventures of the Rowdies form the bulk of the book, interweaving their relationships with a variety of tales and ultimately involvement in politics and wars. The narrative style of the book is reminiscent of an old storyteller, with quips and asides and reflections on events which give the prose a real vitality. I was reminded of the style that Neil Gaiman wrote Stardust in when I read it.
The escapades of the Rowdies tread a fine line between grisly and humorous, and indeed the comedy in the book is dark yet well done. The chapters with the dragon, Bloody Bryan, the waterdemon and the Lady Rowdies are superbly done. In the later chapters we get a more character focused story, with the seemingly perfect Julian Lackland beginning to struggle with some of the traumas he encounters. I was glad that this aspect of his character was explored as for parts of the book he seemed too perfect and his relationship with Mags not fully explored. The finale of the book really moved me (which is tough as I’m a miserable so and so) and got me thinking a lot about my own past and the role of nostalgia and missed opportunity.
Connie’s second book the Tower of Bones has just been released, to excellent reviews. I pitched a few questions at her during one of her rare free moments.
Me: What writer has influenced you most in your work as an author?

Connie: I think Anne McCaffrey and J.R.R. Tolkien are my greatest influences, although there is a piece of every good book I have ever read lodged in my heart. I originally began writing because I could not buy enough books to feed my reading habit, and I had read everything the library had, so I started writing stories that I would like to read. They were pretty awful, of course, but I found that I loved writing as much as I love reading.
But strangely enough, I am addicted to playing ‘Final Fantasy’ games, by Square-Enix, in particular the classic console games FF IIV, IIIV, X and XII.  These games, created by the genius Hironobu Sakaguchi have wonderfully vivid and immersive storylines and deep plots to them.  My second book, ‘Tower of Bones’ shows this influence most of all, as I originally wrote it as the walk-through for an RPG that was never built. 

So it turns out that along with J.R.R. Tolkien, I have a Japanese Anime-style RPG twist to my fantasy worlds when I am imagining my beasts and my magic systems.  Also my fights tend to be more visualized from a gamer’s point of view.

Me: The Last Good Knight counterbalanced the rather grisly bits (and I’m thinking here about castration, poisoning and serial assassinations) with great comedy. How do you manage to write the comedy sequences without slipping into a Terry Pratchett-style satire?
Connie: Well, I try not to dip into satire, although I do love a good satire and Terry Pratchett in particular. But when you look at real life situations, people are really quite entertaining in the way they go about things, and in the way that they think.  It is a sad fact of life that nothing is more hilarious than something that seemed like a good idea at the time that has gone slightly awry.  Tears and laughter are really akin to each other, and I have found humor in some of the worst, saddest moments of my life.  It is the humor amidst the horror that gives us strength to go on, at time.

Me: I found the idea of a knight becoming part of a gang of mercenaries very original. What was the inspiration for that idea?
Connie: I wrote the book during November of 2010 for NaNoWriMo (National Write A Novel in a Month).  It came to me as a short story in which an elderly knight returns to the scene of some of the happiest days of his life.   His memories, as he approaches the place that he thought of as his home, and the hopes that he once had as a young man are raw and vivid in his mind.  He is old and tired, and he wants to retire from the business of saving the world but there are no heroes any more, and so many people need him. He can’t let them down, but he is at a crossroads in his life. 

As I wrote that story which eventually became the final chapter of ‘The Last Good Knight’, I wondered “What sort of life did he have? How did this sad, but strong old man arrive at this point in his life?”  It was then that I had my real story, and I found myself immersed in writing about his life and the people he loved. I was so captivated by the story that the first draft of the book was written in just 21 days.
Me: The boom genre of the last few years has definitely been YA paranormal romance. Is this something that interests you as a writer or a reader?

Connie: I will read ANYTHING that you put in my hands!  I am a ‘sucker’ for a good vampire tale with a sexy plot and a mystery attached! I read every genre and every book I come across, and I love to talk about them.  I enjoy a good paranormal romance, but so far I have not been inspired to write one.  I do have a sci-fi comedy on the back burner that has a somewhat paranormal twist to it, but that book is far from my mind right now.
Me: Your Best in Fantasy Blog demonstrates your clear love of the genre. If you had to pick one fantasy novel or series to be made into a big production (along the lines of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones) what would you pick and why?

Connie: I would say that Indie author L.T. Suzuki’s ‘Imago’ series would be a fabulous big production. It has been optioned for a movie.  Also I would love to see L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s sci-fi fantasy classic ‘Scion of Cyador’ made into a big production TV series.
Me: Do you feel that print books will go the way of vinyl records i.e. a curiosity/collectors thing only?

Connie: I suppose that I am a bad judge of that sort of thing, really. The feeling of a book in my hands is a pleasure that is indescribable. Conversely, I love my Kindle, and have hundreds of books in it.  I could never own that many ‘real’ books, because my little bungalow would never hold them all!  I also have a huge collection of well-worn paperbacks and hard-bound books that gathers dust and harbors bits of cat fur (the poor old cat died 2 years ago but the fur is eternal) in my office, or the ‘room of shame’ as I think of it.  I can never get my family to help when moving house because of the book collection!  I think that both are here to stay, at least for the time being.
You can find Connie's book The Last Good Knight on kindle UK here.
And in the US Kindle here....
And in the UK print here!
And in the US print right here!!!

Connie's blogs can be found at:

And if you want to read my Amazon review its just over here.