Monthly Archives: May 2014

#39 “Skin Game” Launch Event

Well met, my friends!

Today I went to the launch event of Jim Butcher‘s latest book “Skin Game”, which was held at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach.

I arrived early in the morning, so that I could get a low number for the signing, but several other people had the same idea.

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Still, I managed to snag number fourteen, which wasn’t too bad, considering how many people ended up being there in the evening.

Before the signing there was a Q&A segment. What really impressed me was that Jim Butcher repeated each question before answering it, so that people at the other end of the room would get the full story. I’ve been to Q&A sessions where you only get to hear the answer part, because the questions directed at the author don’t carry far enough into the room for everyone to hear. The complete session can probably be found on youtube, as people were filming. I only want to mention a few of the questions and answers:

Someone asked about another short story collection in the spirit of “side jobs” and Jim mentioned that there would indeed be another one called “brief cases” once he collects enough material. There is an option for a new TV show with the additional point that if it ever gets the green light, Jim Butcher will probably be involved as a consultant / executive producer.

Someone asked about Harry Dresden’s character in the D&D game that he played in one of the books, which prompted a bit of a digression. First, Jim said that Harry plays a barbarian, but would also gets into arguments about how magic should work. This then triggered the confession that Jim Butcher once saw a Star Trek movie with an astrophysicist…

In general he lightened the mood with jokes throughout.

I didn’t even ask questions this time, but someone else brought up beta readers, so he said that in case of his books it’s more of a “beta asylum”, because a regular reader can just turn the page and find out what happens next when there is a scene that makes one turn over the table in frustration. The beta readers on the flipside might have to wait a long time for that next page to get sent to them.

Another good question was about recommendations regarding up and coming authors that didn’t get as much exposition so far. At that, he threw out the name Benedict Jacka.

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When it was time for the signing, I said “I flew in all the way from Europe to see you.” but unlike my trip to the UK to attend the Patrick Rothfuss signing, this time it wasn’t the complete truth. I actually flew to Las Vegas to see Lindsey Stirling, so I did confess that I was exaggerating, but that I did get a rental car and drove from Vegas to L.A. for his book launch.

I got an extra book for Day[9] and mentioned that he plugged Jim Butcher’s books several times on his show and also in his “Why we like it” series, which surprisingly only has about twenty thousand views. I’m very much looking forward to reading “Skin Game”.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#38 Lindsey Stirling Las Vegas Concert

Well met, my friends!

As expected, the highlight of this vacation was the Lindsey Stirling concert at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. This was her tenth concert of forty six of her North America 2014 tour.

Before I arrived in Vegas, I spent half a week in London, catching up with old friends. It’s also more convenient as there is a direct flight from Heathrow to Las Vegas, whereas I would have needed to change planes, if I had gone from Düsseldorf. On the plane, there were two wedding groups and one stag night group. I sat next to one of the guys from the stag night group, who in turn sat next to one of the women getting married in Vegas. Here I thought those weddings were only valid in Nevada, but I guess I was wrong. Anyway, they asked me why I would be flying to Las Vegas, so I showed them Lindsey Stirling’s video Crystallize and told them that I’m going to her concert.

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Just like last time when I saw her at her Cologne gig, her sister Brooke Passey took the photos during the meet and greet segment. I had to ask Drew whether it was her, since she used to have blonde hair back then. In the photo above, I explained that I also write for the misscliks.com website that focuses on positive achievements of women in geek culture and gaming. Despite practice, I botched my pitch a bit, but fortunately I was able to fall back on the letter I wrote in advance. When I got the picture with Drew, Lindsey and Gavi, I didn’t know they were making weird faces, but then again, I probably would have just smiled anyway.

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When I went to get a coke at the bar, the guy, who stood in line behind me, was there as well. After another bit of small talk, we headed to the stage where we ended up talking to a few of the other meet and greet attendees. His name was Justin and there were Brett and Elizabeth and another girl, but I forgot to introduce myself. Justin raised a good point that it’s hard to find someone, who creates original songs for the violin, rather than just performing classics, which is one of the reasons he likes Lindsey Stirling. During the meet and greet segment, I did manage to ask a question this time: “I was pleasently surpised to find such a strong track like ‘eclipse’ in the bonus material and that made me wonder, what factors govern whether a song is put on the regular track list or on the bonus material?” I’m hitting some points with my questions, for example I haven’t heard that particular question before and it shows that I listened to the CD including the bonus tracks, but on the flipside the question lacked a bit on the emotional impact. Thus, the answer was short – it’s simply a matter of preferance, so the songs that she likes best get regular slots on the CD. Brett actually recorded the whole Q&A segment on his phone, so I asked him whether he could e-mail that to me. During the Q&A it became apparent that our position wasn’t the best, as the instruments blocked out the view. Brett joked about it that he strategically positioned himself in front of the drums, so he could catch one of the drum sticks. However, he actually did catch one in the end!

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Before her segment, the band Archis performed. Their lead singer Dia Frampton also joined later on for her collaboration song “We are Giants” with Lindsey Stirling.

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While performing on Youtube’s Dance Showdown, Lindsey met the dancer Anze Skrube. He planned the choreography for her video of “Stars Align”, which happened to be Justin’s favourite LS song, and also for her tour. So for most of the songs, Lindsey was accompanied by two dancers Stev-o and Pete. The music is already fantastic, but coordinating all those moves really lifts the performance to a whole new level.

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Lindsey played a good portion – or maybe even all of it? – of her new album, as well as hits from her first CD, like “Crystallize”, “Moontrance” and “Stars Align”.

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Towards the end of the show, Gavi switched to a portable keyboard. Despite my blurry on stage photos due to the lack of light, I managed to get a good shot of them having fun.

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It was an amazing show that is even better than her 2013 tour. If you can, do check out one of her concerts (the dates can be found on her homepage). I’m definitely looking forward to her return to Cologne this October.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#37 Book review: The Way of Kings

Well met, my friends!

Here is my review for Brandon Sanderson‘s “The Way of Kings”.

The review rules:

I’ll start with the genre and my rating of the book, followed by a synopsis, explaining what the book is about. Since this will be done from memory after I’ve read the book, it may not be entirely accurate. The rating will be as follows: 5 / 5 is reserved for those awesome books that completely blow me away. Think “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss or Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. 4 / 5 are great books that are worth reading. Most likely this will be the majority of book reviews, as I probably won’t spend the time to write up reviews of mediocre books. Still, for completeness sake, 3 / 5 are good books, 2 / 5 are books I would not read, if I were able to go back in time and warn myself about them and 1 / 5 books are the ones that are so aggravating as to incite anger.

After this subjective rating, I’ll talk a bit more about the book in the actual review and list what I thought was great about it. This will contain spoilers!

Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings”

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 4 / 5

Synopsis: A fractured nation of ten provincial rulers is entangled in a drawn out war against a tribe of warriors. At the forefront, this war is about revenge, but it’s equally about securing the plains’ resources in the form of the coveted gem hearts. Two of the three main view point characters are involved in this war effort, but there is a third view point character and some minor view point characters that illuminate the political intrigue and mysterious dealings that will probably become more important as the series progresses. As with all Sanderson books there are several different types of magic in the world, which use the series title giving stormlight as fuel.

Review (without spoilers): My friend Peter mentioned that he did not like Sanderson’s Mistborn books, but loved “The Way of Kings”. He’s a huge fan of epic fantasy books like Steven Erikson’s “Gardens of the Moon” or Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” Unfortunately I don’t share that fondness, so for most of the book, I was tempted to give it a 3.5 rating. Epic fantasy just isn’t my cup of tea. The rules of story telling become mere guidelines in works of such magnitude. For example, new authors are cautioned not to have two characters, whose names start with the same letter. In “The Way of Kings” every letter is used for multiple names, which becomes a necessity by sheer number of characters. There’s Kaladin, Kalak, Karm, Kadash, Jasnah, Jezrien, Janala, Dabbid, Dunny, Dalinar and Danlan to name a few. Brandon Sanderson even goes a step farther and wrote a scene where Dalinar and Danlan are interacting. Of course when you’re a brilliant storyteller like Brandon Sanderson you can get away with deliberately breaking the rules, but for a reader, who doesn’t love epic fantasy, this is a bit tedious.

However, the last 10% of the novel were so good that I upped my rating to 4. The thing with epic fantasy is that you seem to get 90% build up and 10% payoff. The ratio is much more favourable in regular fantasy, but trust me: that final bit is worth it. Sanderson has cast his hooks throughout the story and when he finally pulled, I couldn’t help but be moved. If you love the genre it’s a must read and even if you don’t, it’s still great and worth your time (but do read the Mistborn books first, if you haven’t done so).

Review (spoilers!): This section contains some spoilers for “The Way of Kings” and Sanderson’s Mistborn series, so proceed with caution. As I have indicated in the spoiler free review above, for a long portion of the book I did not like it as much as I wanted. The reason is the selection of view point characters: I enjoyed Dalinar’s scenes – he is an honest person that does interesting things. Shallan starts out as a crook and only redeems herself towards the end of the book, so I did not care for her scenes all that much. Although I did like Kaladin in principle, the amount of crem he has to slog through was a bit much for my taste. When I read his parts, I couldn’t help but feel that if Brandon Sanderson wanted to turn “The Final Empire” into epic fantasy, all he had to do was make it twice as long and fill up the additional pages with a detailed description of Kelsier’s ordeal in the pits of Hathsin…

As usual, the story is self contained, while leaving enough unresolved points of conflict to keep reader’s wondering how the story will continue in the next book (what happend to Gaz, by the way?). The big ending with Kaladin, despite being burned time and time again, running back to save Dalinar’s men provided a strong emotional pull. Tugging the reader like that is a truly masterful display of skill. It saved the book for me and made me admire Sanderson’s writing even more.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

P.S.: There are five alternate chapters of “The Way of Kings” in the Altered Perceptions anthology. It’s only available as part of an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the medical bills of author Robison Wells.

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