Length: Approximately 103,000 words
I've been working towards this for a long while, so it is with great pleasure that I present my first ebook. Since it's my own content, I won't be reviewing it in quite the same way that I do the works of others. I'll avoid giving it a letter grade for obvious reasons, but aside from that, I also want to talk about what makes it different from other books I've read.
In the course of getting to that, though, let's go through some of the typical points of review. This book is a modern day fantasy (astute readers will be able to figure out exactly which year it's based in from the technology and media references, but those specifics aren't important). While the plot follows the perspectives of a few different characters, the main protagonist is a vampire named Morgana. As with most of the characters in my writing, she's based loosely on someone who I knew in person, albeit exaggerated to make up for the fact that most real people are, well, boring. Morgana is more or less a thrill-seeker, leaning a little more towards the sexual side of typical adrenaline-junkie hobbies than other pursuits but still quite willing to do a variety of things to enjoy herself. Personally, I think that considering the motivations of immortal characters is an area that's overlooked far too often, especially given that the concept is something that's been around for a very long time (after all, Bram Stoker wrote Dracula over 120 years ago, and I'd expect that the idea predates that book). I'm not saying that every character needs to have an explicit explanation for how they've managed to avoid being Driven To Suicide from the drawbacks of immortality, but it should be a natural part of a character's makeup.
Anyway, getting back to what I was saying, Morgana is a vampire, which of course means less than it seems like because My Vampires Are Different. In this setting, there is some common set of baselines (vampires drink blood for nutrition, have superior strength/speed/senses/reflexes/pain tolerance/etc. compared to normal humans, can shift into a few different forms, and can regenerate perfectly from any non-mortal injuries including grievous dismemberment), but each one of the vampires; and other supernatural creatures, for that matter; have some extra quirks aside from that. In Morgana's case, she can see auras that give an indication of what someone else is, and the victims of her predation turn to ash, but she needs to feed on other vampires in order to gain sustenance.
Once things get past the introduction, though, it turns out that this setting is a World of Badass in a similar vein to works like Blade of the Immortal or Sin City, so her powers turn out relatively mundane when compared to both the typical fantasy fare (breathing fire, channeling electricity, invisibility, etc.) and what I think are pretty uncommon abilities (such as transmuting between wood and metal or projecting a barrier against hostility). One of the things that I had a lot of fun with in this story was exploring further implications of Required Secondary Powers, Reality Ensues, and/or What Kind of A Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? to see how things could balance out in a larger setting, and I got a real kick out of two of the most dangerous characters ending up being those who were mostly about negating the powers of others (one by being immune to mental/energy/etc.-based attacks and another by just having incredibly powerful regeneration). Generally speaking, characters in fiction are supposed to be every bit as capable of applying their cunning, cleverness, and intelligence to leverage their advantages as people in the real world are, which is something that I feel gets overlooked in a lot of other stories (e.g. how so much of the plot of Written In Red would've been avoided if the Others weren't colossal idiots who only managed to be as threatening as they are being humans were even more colossal idiots).
Much as with works like Kill Bill or Mad Max: Fury Road, while there is a greater plot with some degree of nuance going on, the focus of the narrative is more on the characters. There's no great crisis threatening the existence of much of anything beyond the confines of the city where most of the story happens. This is a story about people living their lives, just in a much more fantastical way than any of us can. In a way, I think this is actually one of the things about Mistborn that I enjoyed more than its sequels, so it was pretty cool to have taken the same approach in something that I'd drafted almost a decade ago. This isn't to say that grand apocalyptic plots are bad by any means. When done well, as with the Wheel of Time series, they can be incredibly enjoyable. It just wasn't an approach that I thought would've worked well with what I'd wanted to accomplish in writing this book. If I end up following up with the rest of the series that I'd like to turn it into, the scopes of the conflicts will naturally have some escalation, but for what it is right now, that's not the point.
The point is enjoying the characters, and this book definitely has itself a cast of those. There's so much that I could say about each and every one of them, but I'd rather leave that as something for the reader to discover on their own. That said, I will admit that my personal favorites were Cyrus (a human who's got elements of being a Psychopathic Manchild when he's not just being The Sociopath), Gordon (a telepath who at least claims to be a literal demon), and Hayashi (a vampire who swings between being a Cloud Cuckoolander and Properly Paranoid), with an honorable mention to erudite dominatrix Endora.
As for the story, notwithstanding my own original ideas, it combines bits of Gungrave, The Departed, and Fallout 2, among other sources of inspiration. After some opening scenes, Morgana arrives in the fictitious city of Melville, Indiana. Since she's got a streak of bad luck rivaling Spider-Man, it turns out that Melville is stuck in a cold war between three supernatural gangs, and her actions upon arriving precipitate the ignition of open hostilities between them. Some people want her on their side for added strength, some people want her dead (either to avoid having her ally with a rival, for vengeance because of what she's done to survive in the meantime, or just because they're murderous Blood Knights), some people just want her to stay out of their way, and in general, who falls into which of those categories is liable to change as things develop. While I tended to keep the character development fairly light, changing the relationships between characters was something that I did with glee, in keeping with my personal opinion that most people are who they are but change their personae based on context.
Speaking of context, I'll say a quick word about the Masquerade. In short, I didn't worry too much about it. I do give it some attention, but for the most part, this story is meant to be styled in the way of an action movie or superhero comic in text, which probably comes across in some of the works I've pointed out for comparison. I think that the purpose of a story's content should be to give deliver an entertaining end product, so I didn't want to get caught up too much in details about how characters avoid detection by the masses any more than Tarantino bothered to explain why the Pussy Wagon was a reasonable choice of vehicle for the Bride to drive to Vernita's house in the start of Kill Bill Vol. 1.
On a similar note, I believe that actions tell as much about characters as dialogue does, so I went into a good amount of detail in choreographing the action sequences. The way that characters fight is tailored to each individual, and it's not meant to be entirely realistic, because the characters themselves are superhuman and thus shouldn't fight exactly like normal humans do. That said, there is plenty of grounding in realistic physics (i.e. I tried to avoid cases of characters exerting super strength without appropriate anchoring). The end result of all of that was making a lot of the sequences come out like something from a pro wrestling match, which was a funny observation, but it was all in good fun, so I don't see that as being a problem.
In the interest of being honest, I'll admit that there were a couple of things that I wish I could've done better. For one thing, I wish that I could've spent more time focusing on all of the different major characters. I could see a number of them having the potential to be an Ensemble Darkhorse, but I just couldn't think of how to give them more time without hurting the overall product. As mentioned before, I've got some ideas for developing this book into a series, and if I do follow through with that, I'll definitely give some of the others more time in the spotlight (if nothing else, the second book in the series would focus on Cyrus's past). The other thing that I'm not entirely happy with is the ending. In terms of what happens, it's fine, but it all feels rather abrupt when it happens, and it would've been nice if I'd been able to give it some more development without veering into Ending Fatigue. That's something that I tend to hate, though, so when it comes to risking cutting things off too quickly or drawing them out too long, I usually prefer the former. If nothing else, at least it respects the readers' time.
Side note: I couldn't think of a more elegant way to work this in, but since I'd complained about spamming brand names in Orphan X, I'll just point out that I called out Desert Eagle by name only three times in the entire course of the book. As I said in that review, brand names are fine as a shorthand description, as long as they're infrequent enough to not become an eyesore.
If anyone out there has read it, thank you very much, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Otherwise, while I'm not going to give it a letter grade, I did enjoy the fuck out of reading through it a few times to polish it up to this point, so I would recommend it to anyone who wouldn't be put off by some gory violence and sexual content.
Currently available at: Smashwords and Amazon (and it should at other major ebook retailers who are part of Smashwords's distribution network)
Length: Approximately 103,000 words