Who is Alene Moneya?

I’ve been interested in music for much longer than I’ve been writing, so it’s hardly surprising my stories and my characters are influenced by the songs I listen to. Whenever I start a new book, I pick out a playlist to serve as soundtrack to the writing. Same when I need to get to know a new character.

This week, I started the first pass of revisions on Lost Dogs #3: A Freak Among Freaks.

Naturally, I decided to put together a new playlist. The book has a different main character, and while Alene and Roy have their similarities they’re not the same people, so of course her soundtrack is different. What surprised me, and what inspired this blog post, was how much Alene’s soundtrack has changed over time. It may sound obvious, but it really wasn’t expected.

When I started picking out a playlist for the revision of this book, I began by looking through the playlists I made for Lost Dogs #10: Nothing Left to Lose (there are four of them). That’s the most recent book in the series, and it also featured Alene as the main character. However, almost none of the songs for book #10 fit with who Alene is in book #3.

The playlists for book #10 were full of slow, dark songs. Strange electronic music with a lot of depth, subtle messages, and meaningful lyrics. That’s cool and all, because it’s reflective of who Alene is in book #10. Both me and the reader know her better, and the story is more introspective. It’s not who Alene is when we first meet her, though.

In book #3, Alene’s music is loud, angry, and dirty – and so is she.

There’s almost no actual punk music, but punk describes the feel I’m going for. Aggressive music with more attitude than substance. A sonic punch in the gut, if you will.

Sure, there are calm, quiet songs in the list as well, but they’re a minority, just like the loud angry songs were a small part of the playlists for book #10.

This fascinated me.

Alene is the main character of books #3, #4, #7, #9, and #10, which is probably in the vicinity of 200,000 words of story. It’s safe to say she’s come a long way – even if it’s been less than a month as far as the story goes. The things she’s gone through has affected her, but even then, I’d be hard pressed to put into words just how she’s changed.

With music, it was easy.

Right away, I could tell whether a song fit Alene or not. Does this piece of music feel like the person she is?

How is it that a song can say much about someone?

I have no good answer to that, but what I will do is give a few example of the music that represents Alene during the revisions of Lost Dogs #3 (and #4 – there’s not much change between those two). As such, here are three different tracks:

This may very well be the most “Alene” song ever. It’s loud, noisy, drum and bass, and it’s got Skin from Skunk Anansie on the vocals. I didn’t really listened to Skunk Anansie when they were big, but I knew their big hits, and I’ve seen the videos. Skin, the singer, was a big part of the inspiration for how I picture Alene in my head when writing.

For this one, the lyrics aren’t all that important, it’s about the sound, the vibe, and the attitude.

Despite what I said above about how the music has changed for Alene throughout her story, this is one of the songs that has stuck around for a long time. It represents standing up for yourself and about not taking any shit, and while that doesn’t always happen in the books, it’s still an attitude I want to associate with Alene.

Third out is K.Flay. This could very well be the theme tune for both the third and fourth book. The attitude is there, the lyrics fit, and the energy shifts back and forth. It’s quiet, a bit repressed, and then it explodes.

There we go. Three tracks to represent Alene. What are your thoughts on this? If you’ve read the books, do you agree?

Second Book Revised

Yesterday, I uploaded the revised edition of the second book in the Lost Dogs series, Undeserved Second Chance. This one needed a lot more work than the previous book, which surprised me, as there weren’t any major content changes to deal with. I didn’t have to replace an entire chapter with two new ones, like with book one.

What I discovered when preparing for the revision was that the book, especially the first half, had a lot of language issues. Much of the prose just wasn’t particularly good. It was a bit dull, a bit boring, and filled with repetitions of things that had already just been said two paragraphs ago.

Fixing this took time, and rather than editing the existing prose, I ended up rewriting the introduction and the first few chapters. Here and there, I copied passages from the previous version, but even then, much of the text is new, even if none of the story actually changed. It just felt better doing it like that.

There were a few changes to the story overall, though. Most notably I took out the two flashback chapters and replaced them with a rewritten version of the first one, and I added one additional chapter at the end of the book.

This additional chapter is fairly short, and it’s there to tie up the story and connect it to the next one. In the original version of the book, the story just stopped, and the reader had no idea what to expect next. This new chapter hopes to fix that, so that it makes more sense to continue with Alene’s story, rather than leaving the reader hanging, wondering why I’m introducing a new character instead of continuing with Roy’s story.

For those of you who have already read Undeserved Second Chance, I’ve included the new chapter at the end of this post (it’s less than ten percent of the book). Obviously, it’s a bit of a spoiler, so if you’ve not read the book, you may want to skip that part.

First, though, I also included chapter titles with this book, as you can see here:

And now, from Lost Dogs #2: Undeserved Second Chance, I present to you…

Chapter 14

Time to Rumble

The wolf stood watch over him. Hackles raised and chest heaving. Exhausted from fighting off nightmares he couldn’t remember, but knew he’d had. His heart beat too fast, and the terrors of his mind still lurked just beyond the edge of awareness.

Little by little, the world came back into focus.

There was noise, and there was pain. Everything hurt, his stomach screamed for something to eat, and the hard surface under him swayed and vibrated.

Roy blinked against the darkness and tried to breathe.

The smell of stale sweat, blood, and filth washed over him, and bile rose in his throat. He tried to sit up, bumped his head on something just above, and lay down again.

Closed his eyes for just a moment.

– – –

When Roy woke again, the nightmares were gone, and his mind was clear. The stench, unfortunately, remained – and the hunger. He had no idea how long he’d been out, but probably over a day. His body still ached, and he’d soiled himself in his sleep, but the hole in his hand was gone.

His blood no longer burned with the taint of silver.

The affliction had done its job and healed his wounds.

He was alive, and he was free, and that was all that mattered.

Well, it’d be good to know where he was, and a shower and a change of clothes wouldn’t go amiss. He’d packed a towel. Might be time to put that to use.

Roy felt around for the backpack, found it and pulled it to him. He traced his hand along the ceiling until he located the hatch he’d climbed in through. Shuffled around a bit to get into position to open it, and pushed.

Daylight and fresh air rushed in to meet him. The wind tore at his hair and filled his nose with the scents of the world outside.

Mud and standing water.

More kinds of vegetation than he could count.

None of the salty tang of the sea.

Squinting against the light, Roy raised his head up through the hatch and looked out.

Enormous trees rising out of murky brown water.

Shafts of sunlight filtering in through the canopy far above.

From every vine and every branch, lichen hung like long beards, speckled with little white flowers, and alive with insects and butterflies.

Roy stared, tried to wrap his mind around what he saw, and eventually he cursed. Loud, foul, and long. He must have been out for days.

The mid-south swamps.

This was not where he needed to be, but it was the only explanation. Nowhere else would you’d find nature like this. A vast, nearly impenetrable band of marshland jungle. As close to lawless land as you’d find within the civilised world. Corporate city states built to harvest pearl slugs and swamp gas.

Only the truly desperate came here.


So much for a quick ride up the coast. Set him back a week, easily.

Grumbling under his breath, Roy grabbed hold of the edge of the hatch and pulled himself upright. Stood in the hatch, flung his arms wide, and raised his head. Let the wind rip into him. A deafening roar of air and light. Tore at his hair and clothes, and drowned out everything else.

Every thought and every emotion.

Every worry and every doubt.

The wolf loved it.

The speed and the wind and all the interesting new scents.

Roy couldn’t help but smile to himself. Sometimes, when travelling by train, he liked to open a window and stick his head out, just to make the wolf happy. It’s joy and excitement would rub off on him, and this was no exception. Despite everything, it wasn’t long until he grinned like a fool, for no other reason than that his inner beast loved the wind in his hair.

Perhaps there was a lesson to learn from that.

He was here now, and like it or not, he’d just have to deal.

There would be a town eventually, and a train station. There’d be showers, and a place to eat. He could get a ticket out of here, on an actual passenger train.

He’d also need to find an open pack he could join for the full moon, but there was time enough for that once he found a town. The main thing was, he was still free, he was still on the move, and there was no way the syndicate would be able to catch up with him now. Not here.

Things would be fine.

There we go. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them.

Is Lost Dogs Urban Fantasy?

Does genre really matter anyway? Isn’t it more important to just tell a good story?

Yes, no, maybe?

For me as a reader, genre is a way to narrow down the search for new books to read. Instead of looking at All Books, I can look at Books In The Genre I Like, and I’ll have an easier time finding something that I’m in the mood for.

As a writer, I know that not everyone will enjoy what I’m doing. Knowing what genre best fits my book will make it easier for me to find readers who might like it.

When I first came up with the idea for Lost Dogs, I envisioned it as an Urban Fantasy story, but these days, I’m no longer so sure. In this article, I look at a few different definitions of the genre, and I’ll try to answer the question: Is Lost Dogs Urban Fantasy?

  • If Urban Fantasy is fantasy that takes place in a city, then yes.
  • If Urban Fantasy is about hot chicks in tight black leather staking vampires and playing fetch with werewolves, then no.

In fairness, neither of the above are good definitions of Urban Fantasy. The first is too vague, and the second too specific (and maybe just a tad sarcastic). It’s a little bit more complicated than that.

When I think of Urban Fantasy, I think of fantasy stories taking place in a modern day, real world city, but I also think of stories in that setting with a certain feeling, and a certain vibe. Stories with attitude, with action, and with a bit of mystery.

  • Lost Dogs isn’t big on action, but it’s there, in almost every book.
  • The story has attitude, but it’s not the snarky, confident, kick-ass kind of attitude.
  • Is there mystery? No, not really.

Sure the world and the characters may be mysterious to the reader, and there are plenty of things to wonder about, or to jog your imagination, but the mystery isn’t central to the story. It’s not about uncovering a secret, or solving a riddle, or exposing a conspiracy.

It’s about a middle-aged man trying to come to terms with his past, and it’s about a young woman trying to find her place in the world. It’s about how both of them struggle against the monsters living within them.

Going by my own definition, Lost Dogs is not quite Urban Fantasy, but close.

Let’s see what others have to say.

In this article, Mishell Baker lists five elements that Urban Fantasy must have (let’s take that with a pinch of salt):

  1. The City – yep, got that.
  2. The Magic – got that too.
  3. The Mystery – nope.
  4. The Point of View – yeah, kinda got that.
  5. The Sizzle – hard nope.

The fourth element, Point of View, is about how Urban Fantasy is heavily character-driven, and how that shines through in the voice of the story. Lost Dogs is all about character, and although it’s written in third person, the characters definitely come through in the narration.

However, even with the best of good will, I can’t in good conscience claim that the story has “sizzle.” There may be a hint of it in books seven, and a little more in book ten, but other than that, there’s nothing.

Considering that one of the main characters lets his love for a woman rule his every decision, this may seem a bit weird, but there you go.

Much as Lost Dogs does not include all the “required” elements, I still think that the list is a good one.

I’m not ready to settle just yet, though, so I dug up this article from Reedsy. It explains how the term Urban Fantasy has been used in the past, and then moves on to say:

These days, this is the understanding that is most widespread: to be an urban fantasy, the story simply needs to be a fantasy with supernatural elements that is set in our world and modern time.”

I like this definition. It fits with my own thoughts, and it meshes well with the list of elements above.

The thing to call out the bit about how the story should be set in our world, which Lost Dogs isn’t.

Lost Dogs is set in a fairly traditional fantasy world (elves, dwarves, dragons, magic), but in a time period that’s roughly equivalent to the real world of today. This isn’t very common, and from what I’ve found, there’s no widely accepted genre for that.

Now, can I answer the question?

Is Lost Dogs an Urban Fantasy story?

I’ve checked my own understanding of the genre, I checked the elements listed by Mishell Baker, and I checked the definition provided by Reedsy.

For better or for worse, Lost Dogs doesn’t match any of these definitions. It’s close, but it’s not quite there, so the answer will have to be a reluctant “no”

Why reluctant? Does it really matter what genre it is as long as the story is good?

This ties back to what I mentioned at the start about how I, as a writer, want to find readers for my book.

I believe that people who like Urban Fantasy will enjoy Lost Dogs, but I also believe that if they’re looking for a story that matches the definitions of the genre, they might be disappointed – not because the story is bad, but because it’s not what they expected.

As such, I’ll keeping hanging out in places where people who enjoy Urban Fantasy meet. I’ll talk about my books when it’s appropriate to do so, but I won’t be making out that they’re the next big thing. Since, after all, they’re not Urban Fantasy, but Urban fantasy is closest to what they are.

If you’re curious, you can read more about the books on the blog, here, or you can grab the first part directly from Amazon, here.

Series Review: Mapweaver Chronicles

  • Autor: Kaitlin Bellamy
  • Genre: Epic YA Fantasy
  • Cover images link to each book’s page on Goodreads

I recently reviewed the first book in this series, Windswept (here), and rather than reviewing each of the other ones, I figured I’d share my thoughts on the series as a whole instead.

Short version: it’s awesome, read it.

Longer version:

I don’t consider myself a fan of Young Adult stories. I don’t have anything against YA, but I often find I have a hard time relating to the kind of issues young people face simply by virtue of being young. On the flip-side, I remember the stories I read as young man with great fondness.

There was a joy and a simplicity to them that I don’t often find in the kind of books I read today. They were about adventure and excitement and magic. Cool shit happened, and it was awesome.

I’ve missed that.

Enter the Mapweaver Chronicles. This series is all the things I missed from the stories I read back in the day, but without any of the awkward growing-up problems that I don’t miss.

There’s adventure and magic. Excitement, and a hint of romance. Gods, pirates, monsters, more magic, villainous villains, and dangerous treasure hunts. A pirate ship plucked from depths of the sea, patched up with magical ice, and crewed by the ghosts of the pirates who went down with it.

This is a story that doesn’t give a shit about paying bills or getting up early in order to get to the office in time. This is about the joy and excitement of getting lost in a good book and forgetting everything else for a while.

What I’ll whine about:

Two things.

First: I read all four books in a row, over just a few weeks, and it got a bit much for me. I think that to a big degree it’s because I’m just not used to this kind of story, and in my eager to consume it all, it became a little too much of a good thing.

This in turn was enhanced by how the fourth book took a turn for the darker, and things became a little more serious than the earlier ones.

Second: The fifth book isn’t out yet! Despite what I just wrote, if I’d had the fifth book on hand, I’d have picked it up and started reading right away. From what I’ve heard, it’s in the works, though, and should be out later this year.

What I’ll gush about:

I mentioned this above, and I mentioned it in my review of the first book, but there’s a warmth and kindness in these stories that I rarely find in much of what I normally read. In Thicca Valley, where the story begins, life is harsh and cruel, but rather than turning the villagers into hard cruel people, it shapes them into a caring and supportive community. I kinda needed that.

The sense of adventure. Yes, I know I mentioned it already.

The main character has a complete pair of fully functioning, supportive, and living parents. You don’t see that everyday.

Final words:

If the world brings you down, read this.

My Year In Books

For 2020, I set my reading goal at 60 books. I didn’t hit it, but I got to 50, which I’m still happy with. For this year, I once again set my goal to 60, and hopefully I’ll hit it this time.

So what did I read last year?

Mostly, it’s been fantasy of one variety or another, but I also read a bit of science fiction, and then not much else. Some books were good, and some books were not so good.

In this post, I’ll look back on the year and talk about the books I remember the fondest. These may not be the best ones, but they’re the ones I think back on now and then, and which brought me joy reading.

Land of Perpetual Night, by Miri C. Golden

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This one started out as a classic fantasy novel. It had just the same vibe as the adventure I read as a teenager, and for a while it almost felt like stepping back in time.

Then, it got better.

Sure, the beginning was great, but the book took all my nostalgia and memories and ran with them. The story took a turn for the darker, and a bit more adult. Things got complicated in a way they didn’t get in the books I read back I the day, and I loved that.

It was the best of both worlds.

From what I’m hearing, the next book is not far off, and I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

Rumble in Woodhollow, by Jonathan Pembroke

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This isn’t an exceptional book. It took me a while to get into, but once I did, I grew to really enjoy it. There was a warmth to the characters that doesn’t come through until you get to know them, and that takes a while.

On top of that, I’ve never read a story of fairy gangsters in a turf-war with hobgoblins before. It sounded a bit weird to me at first, but that too was something I grew into soon enough. In many ways, the city of Woodhollow reminded me a lot of Ankh-Morpork, from the Discworld books. It’s a melting pot of different cultures and peoples, and it gives the place a lot of color and character. Also, there are no humans.

Storm & Shield, by J.D. Evans

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I did not expect to enjoy fantasy romance, but here I am. During a reading challenge this summer, I decided to try and push myself and read a little outside my comfort zone. One of the books I picked up was the first in this series, and I found to my surprise I really liked it.

This is the second book in the series, and picked that over the first (and third) due to the humor elements. The book deals with a lot of serious topics, and it’s by no means a comedy, but the characters at the center of the plot play off each other in a way that’s often hilarious, and even had me laughing out loud a few times.

Other books from last year that I want to mention, and that I want to encourage others to read:

Book Review: Windswept


The Mapweaver Chronicles Scroll 1


Kaitlin Bellamy

Over the last year or so, I’ve gotten into the habit of downloading book samples of anything I come across as recommended that seems even mildly interesting. They sit in big pile on my kindle, and once I finish reading something, I browse the samples to see if something catches my interest, and if it does, I’ll read the sample. If the sample is to my liking, I get the book.

That’s how I came across Windswept.

I know someone recommended it, and it might have been the author, but I can’t recall, and it doesn’t really matter. I’d downloaded it, so there must have been something interesting about it, and now (two days ago) was the time to check it out.

I’m glad I did.

On the surface, this is a fairly standard fantasy adventure, and if I were to describe the plot, it’d probably sound a bit like “village boy has special powers and saves the day.” Yes, that’s a bit dismissive, but that’s because I want to highlight that even with a pretty standard plot, you can still tell an amazing and heartwarming story. You can still bring a world to life, even if it’s not the pinnacle of originality and invention.

This isn’t to say that the plot doesn’t have its twist, or that the world is dull, only that there are other (and better) reasons to read this book, but first…

What I’ll whine about:

In the second half of the book, there are a few chapters (one at a time, not all at once) dedicated to telling the backstory of one of the supporting characters. I’m sure there’s a reason for this, but by the time I got to these chapters, I was so eager to find out more about what happened to Fox that I skimmed through them as quickly as I could.

What I’ll gush about:

This is a winter warmer. I’m not sure there’s a better term to describe it.

Outside, the real world is cold and rainy and miserable in all kinds of ways, and this book is a little beacon of hope and warmth.

The village where most of the story takes place is located in a cold, harsh, and inhospitable part of the world, where everyday life is a constant struggle for survival. This could have lead to the story and its characters being mean and cruel, but it doesn’t. Instead, it creates a small community filled with warmth and kindness, where people care for, look after, and rely on each other.

Sure, there are exceptions, but they’re on the edge of the story, not smack in the middle.

As escapism goes, this is awesome. It’s a book to bundle up with and forget all the troubles and just go on an adventure. It doesn’t have to be so serious.

There’s that spark of magic, that hint of adventure beyond the mountains, and there’s a tiny seed of a romance that I can’t wait to see what it grows into.

Final Words

If the world rests heavy on your shoulders, read this.

Book Review: Dragon’s Reach

Dragon’s Reach

The Keeper Origins Book 1


J.A. Andrews

I started this book months ago, and I loved the introductory chapter, but when the story proper got under way, it just wasn’t what I was in the mood for. I put the book away and tried later, and once more it didn’t work. Then, a few days ago, over the holidays, I figured third time’s the charm, and went for it.

I normally wouldn’t have, but I’d heard enough good stuff about this book and its author’s other works that I wanted to try again. This time, it worked, and my only regret is that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind earlier. This book really deserves all the praise I’ve seen it given.

It’s a rock-solid piece of fantasy writing.

There’s magic and mystery, deceit and deception, and there are living characters with their own stories, all conspiring to create something both complex and believable.

What I’ll whine about:

There are a lot of loose ends, unanswered questions, and unfinished story arcs. Sure, I know this is the first book in a series of three, but even then, this feels like it’s just an introduction to a much larger story – one which I’m not quite sure I can see how it will pan out.

Will two more books be enough?

What I’ll gush about:

This is actually a little bit tricky. There’s so much that’s great that it’s hard to point to anything specific.

As mentioned above, though, it’s a really solid piece of fantasy. It goes beyond “I’m reading a book and it’s great” and into the land of “I’m having an experience together with people I care about.”

The other thing I want to mention is Sable’s powers. I’ve not come across similar in the past, and they way they grow throughout the story is fascinating to watch.

Final Words

Believe the hype.

If, like me, you don’t get caught up right away, give it some time and try again later.

Book Review: Siren & Scion

Siren & Scion

Mages of the Wheel, book 3


J. D. Evans

With this being the third book in the series, I figured I had a good idea of what to expect. There would be a man and a woman, and they’d fall for each other, suffer complications, and sort things out. There would be a bit of action, a bit of sex, some magic shenanigans, and the overarching plot of the series would move forward a little bit.

It’s what I got from the previous books, and it worked really well with them, so I was hoping for more of the same.

I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.

The book is more of the same, but it’s not just more of the same. What I realized while reading is that each book so far has been different in the way it approaches its characters and its reader.

The first book is set against a backdrop of political intrigue, and centered around high-stakes power plays. Tense, and serious.

The second book is more light-hearted, and I laughed out loud several times. There’s a focus on trust and duty, and while it’s often funny, there are a lot of very serious undertones in it.

The third book now, is different again. It’s about broken people struggling against themselves and their pasts. It’s about knowing yourself, and how what we want isn’t necessarily what we need.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the fourth book takes us.

What I’ll whine about:

The overarching plot of the series is really interesting, and I’d like to see a bit more of it. That said, that’s a complaint that arose after I finished the book, and not something I paid attention to while actually reading.

I’ll never be as awesome a lover as Cassian. I’ll just stay single.

What I’ll gush about:

The writing. It’s smooth, clear, and flows like running water. There’s no need to stop and reread anything, and there’s no confusion about who’s talking. There are no stumbling stones between me and the story, and I love that.

The magic. It manages to be both spectacular and subtle at the same time. It’s held back and kept in the background for a lot of the story, but when it’s finally released, it knocks the world over.

Final words

This series is turning out to be my big positive reading surprise for the year. I really didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did.