Book Review: The Ophian Rising (Soul Cycle Book IV) by Brian Niemeier

The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV by Brian Niemeier

With a heavy heart, I finished reading The Ophian Rising, the fourth and final book in Brian Niemeier‘s Soul Cycle. And thus closes one of the most interesting, unique, satisfying, and fun book series I have read in a long time.

In my review of the first book, Nethereal, I described it as such:

Take the good parts of Dune and Star Wars, mix them together with a heaping dollop of Dante, a dash of high fantasy, and a whole lot of horror, and you’re beginning to almost approach Brian Niemeier‘s self-published Nethereal, book one of his three-part Soul Cycle series.

Is it sci-fi? Is it science-fantasy?

Who cares? It’s fun.

This description works across the entire series.

I refuse to get into spoiler territory here, as interested readers need to experience the Soul Cycle for themselves. What I’d like to do instead is explain why this series works so well, and encourage you to read it for yourself.

All I’ll say about The Ophian Rising is that:

  1. Brian’s writing, good to start with, gets better and better with each book.
  2. The Soul Cycle needs to be read from front-to-back in order to pick up on everything Brian has subtly wove into it. I plan on doing a re-read of the whole series soon.
  3. Brian knows how to tell a lean story that’s still satisfying (more on this later).

And here is my only complaint about The Ophian Rising: I wish that it, and the series itself, was longer. That’s right: Brian has left me wanting more. Thankfully, I know he has no plan to stop writing anything anytime soon.

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Why You Should Read The Soul Cycle

Regular readers know that I’ve written about Brian before. He edited the manuscript for my own novel, The Rust Man, and writes about many topics on his own blog that I’ve used as springboards for further discussion here.

I’m going to distill a few of Brian’s biggest points for you, and then explain why, if these sound good to you, you should read his work.

  • The era of the doorstop novel is over.
  • Readers want something they can pick up that will grip them from the start and keep them reading–the key word here is immediacy.
  • Favor clear writing over clever writing.
  • People crave heroes that are actually heroic–good and evil matter!
  • Books are competing with TV, social media, movies, video games, and streaming video.
  • Keep your politics out of your writing–shoehorning contemporary issues into your fiction is a recipe for disaster, or at least for severely limiting your audience.
  • The era of big publishing is over. Indies are where it’s at.
  • Indie does not equal low quality. Not anymore.
  • And finally: If it has nothing to do with your story, get rid of it.

I can safely say that The Soul Cycle series embodies all of these principles. Continue reading “Book Review: The Ophian Rising (Soul Cycle Book IV) by Brian Niemeier”

“Amateur” versus “Amateurish”

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I love how musicians, especially rock musicians, for some reason equate “knowing the rules of music” with “being a worse musician or songwriter than someone who deliberately doesn’t know any rules.” I find that laughable.

Yet I also find laughable the idea that just because somebody doesn’t have the stamp of approval from “the academy,” what they do is somehow sub-par. I tie the music to writing and technology, trust me.

“Amateur” doesn’t mean you’re “amateurish,” as I explain in this video.

I also start with another shout-out to author Adam Lane Smith and his excellent debut novel, Making Peace.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

My YouTube channel is here.

And check out my Instagram here.

Status and Schoolyard 101

I’ve been meaning to revisit what I call Schoolyard 101–the principle that sometimes you do have to fight fire with fire–for a while now. Recent discussions and articles I’ve read brought this point to mind and launch this train of thought in my mind.

The discussion that provided this impetus was the idea that much of the polarization, intransigence, and complete screaming illogic we see when people cling to certain insane and contradictory positions is the result of seeking status.

It’s a simple concept, but it makes sense. You see, some people only hold certain opinions because they believe people they perceive as high-status will approve of them.

If you can’t see how this is a problem, I can’t help you.

For those obsessed with playing the status game, having the “correct” opinion provides the intellectual shorthand for actually thinking about said position.

Facts, debates, and civility are useless against folks like this (or you or me, if we also fall into this trap). What to do if you’re attacked by one of them?

Schoolyard 101: You must retaliate in kind.

Continue reading “Status and Schoolyard 101”

What Are We Doing Here?

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Yesterday, my wife said something striking about living in a city: “I feel anonymous here.” It was both a good and a bad thing–good, in that friends and family weren’t constantly getting in your business. But bad in that you didn’t feel like a part of any kind of community. You’re a little bit faceless, especially in a place like the D.C. metro area, where most people are transplants from other parts of the country, just here for work, and for a limited period of time.

I’ve writtenbefore about how it’s been difficult for me to maintain relationships with my old friends as an adult, especially now that I’ve moved over 400 miles from home. It’s proven to be even harder to make new friends. Hence the importance of social media. It can make you feel less lonely and provide a valuable connection, but is it the same as flesh-and-blood relationships?

That’s what I get into in this short video: What am I doing here? What are any of us doing here?

I think the Internet has proven to be a “town common” of sort, given that most towns and cities don’t have any such areas. Nor are we prone to trust each other much as of late. Even in the workplace, everything feels so mercenary. Connections with like-minded people are important. And thanks to technology, we can meet these people thousands of miles away.

We’re living in a weird time in history. Even two-hundred or so years into it, the industrialized world is strange. Better use the tools we have to make it more palatable.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

My YouTube channel is here.

And check out my Instagram here.

More Thoughts About Playing to Your Audience

Video number 2 is live on my YouTube channel. I expand on my thoughts from my “Your Audience Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings” post, as well as discussing how this related to my music playing days. You’ve got to change, people! That’s why I’m even doing these videos in the first place!

Generally speaking, you don’t have to sell your creative soul, but there is a thing called “reality,” which can roughly be translated as “What your audience wants.”

In other words, if you want to make your art a business, treat it like any other business: find a need and fill it.

And when you’ve made a name for yourself, then you’re free to be a bit more of an auteur. Until then, play to your audience because they’re the ones who pay your bills.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

My YouTube channel is here.

And check out my Instagram here.

Introducing Low Budget Video!

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I said I was going to do something, and then I did it. How’s that for delivering?

That’s right! Per my last post about video, I actually recorded something courtesy of Twitter’s Periscope app yesterday morning before work; this is why I stop at times to answer questions people watching the ‘Scope posted. I would have posted it yesterday, but uploading stuff to YouTube wasn’t working quite right.

Oh yeah: I have a YouTube channel now!

So for my first installment of Low Budget Video, I decided to discuss a topic I’ve hit on here before: Politics and Art. Specifically, the ways in which all of that ancillary stuff spouted by creators can, fairly or not, overshadow the art itself in a negative way. This thought was on my mind because I’m going to take my son to see the new Star Wars movie this weekend.

Anyway, if you ever wondered what I really look like or what my voice sounds like, here’s your chance! I hope you enjoyed the video, and if this seems to be a thing you wonderful readers like, I’ll do more in the future.

And I’ll try to keep them under 10 minutes. This one went a bit over because of my introductory preamble.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

My YouTube channel is here.

And check out my Instagram here.