Book review: Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightley

The first book our book club is tackling this year is Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightley. The theme for this month was fairies, so we got this … strange … book. Here’s the summary:


lordofdreamscoverWhen a fairy king grants a human wish, there’s more at stake than dreams.

Claire Delaney has a good life, despite her adolescent angst. But she wants more. In a moment of frustration, she wishes to be “the hero.”

What she actually wants is to be the center of attention, but what she gets is a terrifying Fae king demanding that she rescue an imprisoned fairy, facing fantastical dangers and hardships she could not have imagined.

Yet the dreams–and the rescue–are only the beginning of her journey. She is at the center of the king’s audacious gamble to end the war that has raged in Faerie for half a century.


 

It’s not a bad premise, and when I started reading, I rejoiced at how well-written the book was. But then things got … strange. Here’s my review:


What a very strange book.

The first few chapters were very hard to read because of the whiplash of switching between the real world and the fairy world. And then we leap forward years in time, going from child Claire to Teen Claire to Adult Claire, with important but disconnected incidents happening at each point.

Once Adult Claire gets to the fairy world and starts trying to rescue the fairy king, things get slightly more coherent. She’s still ducking in and out of the dream world, but it’s always the same dream world, and that helps it not be so bonkers. The book uses that extreme, literal logic that I got used to with Diana Wynne Jones. Each word the king says means literally what it says. And every word that Claire says means literally what it says. Read carefully.

The story is emotionally satisfying, and Claire does, indeed, become the hero she wanted to be. Although maybe not quite in the way she expected.

If you’re a fan of the dreamlike, non-sequitur way that Alice in Wonderland reads, you’ll enjoy this book. Four stars.


 

For what it is, this was a good book. It portrayed the fairy world as suitably weird, which I don’t find in a lot of books. (Often times, the fairyworld is just a place where people with wings hang out with talking animals. I’m looking at you, Lego.)

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But this kind of book drives me nuts. My brain is too logical. For instance, fairy blood is blue because it has no hemoglobin (no iron, ha ha). But that means … it can’t carry oxygen! Does that mean that they don’t breathe oxygen in the fairyworld? WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN.

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That kind of thing frustrates me, and I don’t care much for Alice in Wonderland, either. So I think it’s mostly just my problem. Lots of people love that dreamscape kind of world. And the book does it very well. It just wasn’t a good fit for me.

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New book covers and stuff

I get quiet on this blog when I’m busy creating things. Here are some of the pretty things I’ve been working on:

I’ve been working on making new covers for my historical shifter stories. Aren’t they pretty? Much better than the terrible covers they had before. These are set in a fantasy world loosely based on the Regency period in England, so you have women in dresses and men in top hats drinking tea and sometimes turning into monsters. There’s romance, but no sex. Which is one reason I think they don’t sell much, ha! But I still love them all. And yes, they each feature a different kind of shifter. I still think the werefox is the most original (nothing like a good cup of tea to set you right!).

I’ve finally completed an audiobook of the second fanfic in the series I was doing. Here’s the first audiobook, and here’s the second one. I got a lot of advice on the first one, namely, “DON’T TALK SO FAST!” So I tried to slow it down a lot for this second one. I find that talking slower leads to a better performance, too. I’m sure there’s seasoned actors out there snickering at me for figuring this out. I feel like I’m slowly building up courage to record an audiobook of my original work.

In other news, I’ve been drawing a lot and writing a lot. It’s amazing how a nice, boring, routine life promotes a creative mind. The kids love being on a routine, because they always know what we’re doing next (even if it’s math).

I feel like I’m slowly coming out of this scary survival place where I’ve been hiding for the last decade. It’s hard to be creative when your brain is shut down in fear all the time. But things are stable, and I feel like I’m turning back into a human being again. All I want to do is create things. And you can tell, because look how pretty those new covers are!

Here’s a composite artwork I’m very proud of, too:

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This is me drawing a made-up Sonic character, then going crazy with Photoshop compositing and various special effects brushes. Oh yeah, those tutorials on matte painting are paying off.

The top five things I learned about marketing this year

Confession time: I didn’t actually do a lot of marketing this year. Not, like, real focused, aggressive advertising. What I did do was a lot of soft marketing–telling people that my books exist, mostly. I couldn’t afford to run ads in the big book newsletters, but I did try the Kobo advertising thing they have. Anyway, here’s some of the things I learned.

5. Kobo’s advertising is very interesting. Mostly because the international market doesn’t read the same things the American market reads. The American market devours weird things like urban fantasy and science fiction. The international market prefers contemporary romance or political thrillers. That’s what I see dominate their charts month after month. But I did manage to sell a few YA paranormal romance books with their ads, and their ads are pretty cheap (5 bucks for the basic one, as of this writing).

4. People like pretty pictures. If they’re pretty pictures that pertain to your books, so much the better. I observed this phenomenon with the launch of the Mortal Engines trailer. If you read the book description, it sounds like nonsense. “London is hunting again. Emerging from its hiding place in the hills, the great Traction City is chasing a terrified little town across the wastelands. Soon, London will feed.”

But you show them the artwork …

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Mortal Engines concept art

All of a sudden, we have a visual for a really amazing setting.

3. Fire and Ice Cream was picked for the Fellowship of Fantasy book club last year, and it got a ton of reviews. Not all of them favorable, either, ouch! But hey, readers say they’re suspicious if a book has only good reviews. Long story short: book clubs are awesome. But go into it with thick skin, because if your book has a flaw, it’s going to be chewed over with delight by the readers.

2. Keep writing books. Every time I launch a book, people go, “Oh yeah, she writes books, doesn’t she?” And I sell a few of everything. And only go Amazon exclusive if you’re in one of the weird niche genres that sells a lot on Kindle Unlimited. If you’re any of the big general genres, like mystery, go wide on all the retailers. You never know where your readers are lurking, and Kobo’s reader is waterproof, so maybe they’re in the bath!

1. Be enthusiastic. If you’re writing and talking about what you’re writing and being excited, it gets people interested. I discovered this to my chagrin while working on a fanfic. When I described it as “Beauty and the Beast with Serenity’s ending”, I had all kinds of people sitting up and taking notice. Too bad it was only a fanfic–the plot really was that good. So my next book, I’m going to come up with all kinds of little hooks and pitches for it. And I’m going to talk about it a lot.

I followed a blogger one time who had a concept that totally fascinated me. I stalked her for two years until her book launched so I could read it. And really, isn’t this cover just intriguing?

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By the way, see what I mean about really good artwork selling the story?

So those are the five things I learned about marketing this year. It doesn’t have to be huge glamorous things like book signings and pestering bookstores to carry your book. It can be simple little things like saying, “Hey guys, I have a book out. Think it’s something you might like to read?”

Choosing a word for the year

I don’t think I ever picked a word for last year. I was looking over my resolutions post from last year, and I seem to remember that it was something like Fun or Moving Forward.

This year, my word is Steadfast. It goes along with this Bible verse:

Hebrews 10: 35-36: Do not, therefore, fling away your [fearless] confidence, for it has a glorious and great reward. For you have need of patient endurance [to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising], so that when you have carried out the will of God, you may receive and enjoy to the full what is promised. 

This year, I’m going to keep on keeping on.

Last year, I was trying to take my art in new directions, trying out streaming with my husband, trying out new school things for the kids. Over the course of the year, what I discovered is that simplicity works best. When it comes to school, a pile of workbooks and read alouds has been great for us. I’ve found some holes in my kids’ education, and we’ve been fixing those this year. It’s been great to have that focus.

Streaming fell by the wayside when we found out that we don’t have the hours and hours of free time necessary to make streaming work. We’ve just been playing games together for fun. Same effect, less stress.

Books published last year were books 2 and 3 of the Puzzle Box trilogy, and the first book of a paranormal cozy mystery with dragons. I also made the decision to unpublish the Spacetime books and completely redo them from scratch. I was still learning when I wrote them, and they were pretty much an unreadable mess.

I also wrote two book-length fanfics toward the end of the year. I just couldn’t get the stories out of my head, and I was very pleased at the way they turned out. It also showed me that it’s better to write for fun than to try to write for money. I’ve been so money-focused for so long that I lost track of the fun. And my writing wasn’t very fun to read. So this year, I’m going to try to balance my writing with more fun. I want to dare to dream and experiment and write crazy things.

I do have the new first Spacetime book in revisions, as well as the second dragon cozy. I’m looking forward to publishing those in the early part of this year, before summer, probably. After that, I want to take a crack at writing a stand-alone fairytale fantasy. Kind of Sleeping Beauty meets Howl’s Moving Castle. Since it’s barely in the concept stage right now, I have no idea if that will be out this year or next. I’ve observed that fairytale fantasies tend to balloon to massive length their authors didn’t intend.

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Howl’s Moving Castle from the Studio Ghibli film

If you followed my blog last year, you saw all these little discoveries and growing pains. I want to thank you deeply for coming back and reading my strange little scribblings. I now have more blog followers than I’ve ever had before, and I’m excited and humbled to see you all.

I also want to blog more regularly–once a week, if possible. And good pithy topics. It’s hard to be pithy once a week, but it’s a good goal to have. Let’s see if I can’t knock the chupacabra blog post off the #1 spot for the year.

My top blog posts of 2017

As we hit a new year, it’s fun to look back and see what bonkers things people came to my blog to read. As usual, the Google image search sent lots of people here for my chupacabra pictures. But aside from that, here’s what else got hits:

#1. Stuff about the chupacabra, or Texas blue dogs

#2. Shouting into the void

#3. Shut up and take my money – a conversation about book piracy

#4. Marketing (and how nobody knows how to do it)

#5. 14 things I learned from urban fantasy

#6. The real reason that Christians don’t read fantasy

#7. Five worldbuilding tricks I learned from the show GRIMM

#8. Waterfall City vs. Theed, Naboo

#9. 23 books reviewed in a minute

As usual, my clickbait headlines did really well, as did anything with interesting pictures, like the angry post comparing Star Wars episode 1 with James Gurney’s Dinotopia. (I later realized that Disney’s Atlantis ripped off his second book, The World Beneath. But I don’t want to watch that movie again to prove it.)

I’ll do some more posts soon about what I learned in publishing and marketing this year. 2017 was a year of revelations, and it’ll be fun to boil them down.

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Sunrise of Baishi Mountain, from InterfaceLift