Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interview and Giveaway: The Second Coming by David H. Burton

I have recently been contacted by a self-published author David H. Burton, who is hard at work promoting his debut novel, The Second Coming (see trailer here). It's my pleasure to announce this interview, as well as host a giveaway of the book. Welcome, David!

Please tell us a little bit about your debut novel, The Second Coming.

Well, it's hard to categorize other than: paranormal/fantasy/horror. It's not for those who are sensitive about their religious beliefs, as it will likely offend.

The religious context of the novel is very delicate. Where did this come from?

From my past where I was immersed in it. In my early years, I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness. Later, after my father was excommunicated and became a born-again Christian, I was brought up in a nondenominational congregation. I've never seen so much judgment and hypocrisy, which I have very little tolerance for. For instance, people will use various biblical passages to justify their own bigotry and skip the passages that don't suit them. As for my book, I decided that if others can pick and choose passages to suit their own purposes, why can't I? The Old Testament God is jealous, pompous and blood-thirsty, so it was easy to "demonize" him.

You mention on your blog that you are a person of "queer persuasion".

In other words, gay. I live with my same-sex partner near Toronto. We have three boys, brothers that we adopted two years ago. We're lucky to have them. I often blog about adoption, particularly older child adoption. Our children were truly the greatest thing that ever happened to us. And being gay has had an influence on my writing, as well. A couple of the main characters in the book are queer, and I have a children's fantasy novel finishing up that will include two dads. Sometimes you write what you know.

Your blog is used for both promotional purposes, as well as a personal blog. How important do you think it is to communicate with one's readers?

Extremely important, especially in today's connected world. I like being able to share both my experiences as a writer and as a human being with others. And I love hearing from readers! I think that, moving forward, authors will be more connected with their readers and that's a great place to be. It allows us to get feedback directly about what they like and don't like about a book. It might even help shape a series, for instance, which is very exciting (and a little scary!).

Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing?

I often write on the commuter train - that's as close to a ritual as I can get. It seems to be the only time I have to sit and be creative. Basically, I just need uninterrupted time and music. I like dark, Gothic music like Evanescence when I write. The Open Door album is perfect for writing this particular series. It's dark, tragic and brings out one's anguish. It may sound weird, but it really works.

What's next on your agenda as a writer?

I'm currently working on the next novel (tentatively titled The Blood of Isis). I'm self-published so I also have to spend considerable time peddling my book. I'm hoping a traditional publisher will pick it up at some point. Also, I've mentioned I'm working on a steampunk fantasy novel for children. There aren't enough boy books out there! I hope it will be ready soon.

What book is on your night stand at the moment? Could you share some authors whose works have influenced you?

George R.R. Martin, both on my night stand and as an influence. When I first read his novel A Game of Thrones, I was aghast that he killed off one of my favorite characters. That was a huge influence on me, realizing I shouldn't be afraid to kill off a character. I also realized I didn't need to use traditional fantasy settings, nor the dichotomy of good pitted against evil. Some people can do evil things, despite their good intentions, and vice-versa.

I also love Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, Margaret Weis, Mark Anthony, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert J. Sawyer and Dan Brown, to name a few.

Finally, are there any literary trends you particularly like or dislike?

I hear angels are the new vampires. I suppose my angels are not what you'd expect. Sadly, publishing houses latch onto some trends and flog them to death. Right now the focus seems to be on urban fantasy and it's killing the authors who write something different. I don't follow trends as a writer or a reader and I think the vampire/werewolf thing is way overdone.

David has generously offered 5 E-book copies of his novel for a giveaway, in the format of your choice.

The giveaway is open to all and will end on April 28th. Leave a comment to enter. Extra entries are as follows:

+2 for following (never too late to start)
+2 for tweeting about the contest (leave a link!)
+2 for linking to the contest, sidebar is okay (+4 for using a picture!)

The giveaway is now closed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Dan Brown's books are great if you're looking for a page-turning read. They are provocative, move along rapidly and often give readers the illusion that they are actually learning something (which is exactly what it is, an illusion). However, make sure you take breaks between Brown's books - his writing stile tends to get repetitive and you can almost identify the twists and turns as soon as you read the first pages.

Digital Fortress tells the story of a sexy, young cryptographer Susan Fletcher. Susan works for the National Security Agency, an organization that deals with preventing acts of terrorism and crime by decoding digital information. One day, she is stunned to find out about the latest code, nicknamed Digital Fortress, which seems unbreakable. The code presents a threat to worldwide peace, and it is up to Susan and a number of Brown's other characters to stop it from leaking.

This is an exciting thriller, of course. The titillating dilemma it introduces is whether affairs of the state are more important than people's privacy (this is a real-world issue, read more about it here). However, Brown doesn't linger too much on these philosophical issues. Rather, he is more interested in writing a complex story, where everyone may be a hypocrite and where betrayal lurks around every corner.

I wish the author paid more attention to his characters, as well as his moral contemplations. This way, everything plays out exactly the way you expect it to (and even if you don't, it is still far from shocking) and although all the loose ends are pretty much tied up in the finale, the book leaves you a bit hollow. The motivations of certain characters are forgotten halfway through the novel and the plot seems really too convoluted at times. This is especially evident in the epilogue, which may make some readers cringe.

All in all, Brown is great if you want to read about a potentially-devastating conspiracy, but he is all too eager to jump in on the action. However, he should receive credit for writing a book on algorithms, binary codes and all other sorts of techie stuff and still make it accessible to the general public.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

April Read-a-Thon 2010 - Recap

To recap the April Read-a-Thon 2010, I am immensely glad I had signed up! Although my plans on reading kept being interrupted (plus, the time zone thing got a little funky), I ended up reading for a couple of hours and enjoying the adrenaline that was the Read-a-Thon!

I was only reading one book (didn't finish it), Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. In total, I went through 203 pages in 3 hours and 40 minutes. Not bad, considering I was very tired for most of this time, as well as that the font is INCREDIBLY small in my copy of the book.

I especially wanted to thank the cheerleaders for leaving so many comments on my blog and for keeping the excitement of the Read-a-Thon. Finally, a special thanks to all my book bloggers, whose company I constantly feel grateful for.

April Read-a-Thon 2010 - How I'm Doing

12:15 AM
This is it, book bloggers and blogettes! I am about to start my Read-a-Thon reading! The plan is as follows: It is 12:15 AM here, and I plan to start reading by 12:30. By then, I'm gonna check out the Read-a-Thon page, update my Twitter and perhaps visit a few blogs. Then when I get tired, I'll update this blog post and go to sleep. As soon as I wake up, I am going to make myself a cup of coffee and continue until 3 PM, which is when the Read-a-Thon ends in this timezone. Many thanks for the wonderful cheerleaders and their comment love!


Reading Time:
2h10min (12.30am-2.40am)
Book Read:
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (still reading)
No. of Pages Read: 131

I now plan to get a good night's sleep and continue reading in the morning.

Special thanks to all the fantastic cheerleaders and commenters! I'll get back to you ASAP.


Reading Time:
1h30min (1:30pm-3:00pm)
Book Read: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (still reading)
No. of Pages Read: 72

The April 2010 Read-a-Thon is now over! Thank you to the people who organized it, as well as everyone who's been cheering me on. I'll visit your blogs in the near future and thank everyone individually. I'm going to go eat now and then post a Read-a-Thon recap post!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April Read-a-Thon 2010 - Signed Up!

Exciting news! I have just applied to participate in my very first Read-a-Thon! The Read-a-Thon starts at 3 PM here and I am hoping I will manage to read at least for some 5-6 hours. I have an exam tomorrow at 1 PM, so I doubt I'll be able to start right away, but where there's a will, there's a way!

Here's some of the books I might read tomorrow:

  • Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
  • Without You by Anthony Rapp
  • Ryland's Sacrifice by Kim Dare
  • Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
  • Starting Over by Tony Parsons

Obviously, this is more than I can actually read tomorrow, but I am proud of how diverse this list is, just in case I'm in the mood for any particular genre.

As for updating my progress, I'm definitely going to take the time to write at least one blog post. However, I am still not sure how I'm going to go about doing this, so for now, I think Twitter is the best way to go. If I'm not following you, make sure you let me know and I'll start (there is a Twitter button in the sidebar). We need to be a big happy family tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: An Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell

It was a great honor for me to receive an ARC from such an accomplished author. Elise Blackwell's past triumphs include many short stories, cultural criticisms, as well as three novels: Hunger, The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish and Grub. An Unfinished Score is her latest novel, but hopefully not the last.

The novel tells the story of a viola player named Suzanne who hears the news that her lover is dead. Dealing with her grief takes a toll on her, especially as she has to hide it from her husband Ben and best friend Petra, who lives with them, along with her deaf daughter Adele. Soon enough, Suzanne gets a call from her lover's widow who is not without secrets of her own and Suzanne's world slowly starts unraveling.

Elise Blackwell's fourth novel is a slow, contemplative read that manages to penetrate the very basic of our thoughts and ideas with her sharp prose. Painful subjects such as infidelity and relevance are brought in focus, while traditionally accepted values are scrutinized, sometimes with devastating effects. Is music really that similar to love, when one knows one is always perfectly orchestrated and the other always unpredictable? Can art really provide comfort? And how can one ever blame someone else for anything, if humans seem inherently vicious?

An Unfinished Score is a literary tour-de-force, one I am happy I've read and one I'm happy to recommend.


Monday, April 5, 2010

The Art of Reading More

Lately, I've been returning to one blog post written by Sheila over on her blog (link below), and keep reading the comments. The truth is, I am envious of many bloggers on here who somehow manage to read like 40 (!) books a month. I am ecstatic if I manage to read 10! Or even 5! With so many obligations (in my case: college, studying, tutoring, writing, socializing/going out) it's sometimes downright impossible to find time to read!

So, here's a couple of tips I've accumulated from many "helpful" sites (again, links below). Please tell me what you think of those and if you do some of that stuff or you don't, or what you do better or worse... You know, just share your thoughts. :)

  • Turn off the television.
  • Use your library more.
  • Learn more about a book before you read it.
  • Carry a book everywhere you go.
  • Keep a list.

My thoughts: I do most of these things, but there are obvious problems with these tips. First of all, I consider TV and movies art as much as books, so I want to try and have both. Also, if I use my library more, my TBR pile will just be HUGE! Do I want that? Finally, the "keep the book in your bag and read it on the bus" only works for lighter reads. I can't read literary fiction on the bus! :)

Also, one more thing: I found that the slower you read, the less books you review. Thus, one must artificially fill the blog with things like memes, teasers, etc. And in my experience, I would say that makes one lose its readers. Any thoughts?

Tips found here, here and here. Sheila's original post is here.
Photograph by fhrankee.