Category Archives: Stuff That Works For Me

Dark High Fantasy from a Great Indie Author: “Elf” by G.R. Sabian

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After a multi-year absence from blogging, this is an overt but well-deserved review for my best friend’s first(ish) novel. (I say firstish because this friend published a novel before, but took it down after a while for editing purposes. It’s a great book, too, but as of today isn’t back for sale yet.)

 

G.R. and I have been close for most of my adult life. We bonded over our love of writing (and reading) dark fiction with a fantastic slant. This includes everything from straight-up horror to all kinds of fantasy, sci-fi, speculative fiction, and so on. In addition to being a great writer, G.R. is a fantastic editor and I would be a weaker writer without our friendship.

 

Anyway.

 

“Elf” is one of the stranger novels I’ve read. The book takes familiar fantasy tropes – beautiful elves, dire world-wasting threats, quests, dragons, magical creatures, and gorgeous nymphs – and uses them to create a story that is very singular and dark. It’s a combination of high fantasy, dark fantasy, and science fiction.

 

I think the blurb on the page puts it better than I can, but I’m a reviewer so I’ll do my best to summarize. The narrative follows the journey of Euthain Kurowin, a member of a society of elves who are deeply, intrinsically connected emotionally and psychically. One elf’s joy is every elf’s joy; one elf’s pain is every elf’s pain.

 

Euthain is a very privileged member of this society. He’s the son of two renowned leaders and has everything an elf could want. The problem is, Euthain doesn’t want what other elves want. His society is extraordinarily peaceful. They’re so in tune with nature that they can’t stand even to eat meat. Euthain, however, is essentially violent, jealous, and emotionally miserable. As such, he doesn’t have a place in a society that basically reads his mind, a society that recoils from everything he feels and thinks – dark, horrible things they can’t even comprehend. This results in him being effectively shunned, even within his own family.

 

Right about the time he finally gives up and decides to exile himself for the good of his community and himself, an old, forgotten evil emerges. Even as his people panic, Euthain is euphoric: here is his chance! A war is coming, a violence his people can’t even begin to imagine. He sees the chance to channel his violent impulses and callous nature in such a way that he can be a warrior, a defender. But when he comes face to face with this threat, he unexpectedly finds himself beguiled. He has to make a choice: fight for his people, the community that reviles and fears him…or fight alongside the only person who understands him.

 

So, a couple of things. First, “Elf” is not for everyone. It’s violent, dark, and Euthain – while presented in a way that allows the reader to empathize and even root for him – is objectively a terrible man. He tries not to be. He struggles to be a force for good. He wants to be so much more than he is, and he really does work hard in pursuit of that goal. But he doesn’t work hard enough. Thus, he’s not a good person, and does many, many, many things a bad person would do. Some of these are highly objectionable. But it’s part of what makes him a well-rounded, believable character. You may not love him, but you want him to succeed at his ultimate goal.

Second, there’s the portrayal of women. Does Euthain have issues with women? Absolutely. Is his culture and society dismissive and unkind to a subset of women? Yes. Is the story disrespectful of women? No. A lot of what we see, as readers, is through Euthain’s perspective and a lot of his issues are explored, but not in any way condoned. Besides Euthain, the other main perspective is that of a young woman, and I think she’s portrayed not only realistically, but as the story’s only real, true-hearted hero.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me emphasize that “Elf” is extremely well-written. It’s concise yet poetic, clearly composed, and proceeds at a great clip. The world-building is also exceptional. It’s immersive; from the first page I could see, hear, and feel this world that is by turns utopian and hellish. It wasn’t something I expected, but it was a wonderful treat.

I loved it. If you like a good, dark fantasy, I think you’ll like this too.

Hopefully I’ve piqued your curiosity, and if so, here is the link:

 

Note: I love reading indie books (not just ones my friends write.) I’m getting back into reviewing after a long absence. If you need reviews, then (time permitting) I’d love to help out. No charge, of course, although a free copy of the book would be greatly appreciated because I’m kind of poor. I’m honest but kind, and will let you read the review before I post it if you like.

Second Note: I also do editorials, copyediting, and line-editing. Not for free, but not expensive either. Please understand that my fly-by-night blog posting really is not indicative of my writing and editing prowess; I’m an experienced freelancer and I swear I know what I’m doing.

 

 

 

 

 

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So There’s a Book I Really Enjoyed

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If you’re into great writing, flawless pacing, and horrifying subject matter that may or may not destroy your faith in humanity, you’ll probably like it, too. It’s called “The Wish Doctor“, written by the most likely pseudononymous G.R. Sabian.

 

The book follows the exploits of a crazily rich and seemingly soulless man who, for no discernible reason (other than a near-supernatural compulsion that I suspect is rooted in a traumatic past) randomly grants violent wishes to miserable people – regardless of whether the misery is warranted, the person is good, or the wishes are deserved. As an example, he burns one family alive to satisfy the wishes of a disgruntled young scion.

 

On to other things.

 

Somehow, he crosses paths with a child prostitute named Jamie. (Can you guess where this is going?) Her deepest wish, naturally, is that the pimps and offenders all die. Our hero, Harry, accomplishes this and assumes his work is done.

 

Only it’s not.

 

First off, the child refuses to let him leave. Second, she (understandably) has many issues that make her a danger to herself and others. By necessity, she is a master manipulator and basically, they end up in a twisted, if mostly sincere, approximation of a parent/child relationship. On top of that, the two have some kind of weird, understated psychic connection.

 

I’ll be honest. First, this is most definitely not a book I wish I’d written. Second, I definitely did not write it (just want to throw it out there – I am a professional writer, but I do things like ad copy, product descriptions, and blog posts for small/midsize businesses. I want to be a novelist, but I’m too chicken as of now to put my work out there).

 

Third, the entire novel is extremely disturbing on several levels. Think graphic violence and a lot of implied abuse and memories. It isn’t for everyone. In fact, the entire book is basically one giant trigger. As good as it most certainly is, as fantastic as the writer him/herself is, I can sort of understand why it’s retailing for $1 USD.

 

That said, I’ve been trying to talk people into reading it since I first read it in July of 2014, but my efforts have been in vain (and I can sort of see why, after reading the above endorsement). So, after this, I’m honestly giving up. I just couldn’t let it go without a cursory post on my very own blog. G.R. Sabian, whoever she/he is, is a stunningly fantastic writer. Think the pacing and spare, impactful sentences of Dean Koontz with the eerie lyricism of Cormac McCarthy wrapped around Tarantino-level violence (without the absurdity) and the true-to-life, hard-to-stomach grit of “Taxi Driver”. It’s cinematic and oddly literary at once.

 

If you can tolerate this, please read it – mostly because it’s supposedly part of a series and I want to make sure it continues.

 

In case you missed the link the first time, here it is: The Wish Doctor by G.R. Sabian.

 

It’s just $1, folks. Pleeeeeeeease do this. For me.

Stuff That Works For Me, Part 1: The BCBGeneration Milla Satchel

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So.

I gave in to my lust for a designer handbag.

It could definitely have been a ridiculous thing. It could have been a mistake, a complete waste of money that I absolutely cannot afford to waste.

I’m still cringing over the fact that I gave into my desires, given my precarious financial situation. But give in I did. And for the first time in like, three years, I have no buyer’s remorse whatsoever.

Before I go any further, let me insert a disclaimer here: the only reason I have no buyer’s remorse is because I a) saw the item in person before I bought it (no online purchase here, for once); b) carried it around the store, torn over the price (which was severely discounted only because it was the last one in the store); c) put it back regretfully; d) obsessed over it, looking it up, price-checking, researching the brand; and e) finally went back ten days later, praying it was still there.

It was. (Miracle, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight??? $108.00 handbag for $31.99? Shooooooot. )

And that bag, in case the title didn’t tip you off, is the BCBGeneration Milla, in the pewter color.

It is not only adorable and satchel-y and doctor-bag-like and designer and trendy, it is the perfect bag for my needs. It’s very roomy, but not at all bulky or awkward. It actually looks a lot smaller than it is (always cool as far as I’m concerned). In addition to the flipover top, it zips completely from side to side. There is a huge interior, with two small holders inside(I use them for my phone and camera) a zippered interior pocket, and a zipperless outer pocket with an opening just
underneath the buckle.

It has an old-timey, doctor-bag/school satchel look to it. Also, be aware that it looks so much better in person than any online photo gives it credit for. In all the photos, it just kind of looks like a fat, lumpy, regular purse with a sky-high degree of “ho-hum”. I have the pewter color (it also comes in black and bronze), which is darker and much more neutral than you’d think. While it doesn’t go with everything, it matches very well with any color in the cooler spectrum. (Not that it matters to me. Come summer, I’ll be toting this puppy with my neon-pink tank top and day-glo shorts. But I know that relatively few people care less than I do.) Throw on a dark coat or pants, and
you’re set.

For the record, I typically carry a digital camera, planner, a book or two, a sketchpad, notebook, pens/pencils, Bamboo tablet, mini netbook, and a handful of miscellaneous items with no visible strain. It would also probably work as a small overnight bag, depending on what you packed. (But who’d use a designer purse as an overnight bag, right? I mean, besides me.)

As alluded to earlier, I got this item 65% off due to a combination of a pricing error and it already being on sale because it was the last one, of any color, in the store. That said, after owning it for
a while, I believe it’s worth retail (not that I would’ve been able to afford it then, but it’s still worth the price). It’s strong, very well-made, with tight double-stitched seams, and very sturdy in addition to the aesthetic appeal I have not lauded enough. I have no complaints. The Milla is definitely recommended. If you ever have reason to buy one, I hope it works for you, because it definitely worked for me. Because of it, I am officially a BCBGeneration fan. Way to go, expensive labels, seducing girls who have no money to spend.