Review: The Greenland Diaries by Patrick W. Marsh

(“A book that scares you” from the Reading Challenge)

This is a review for the first two books of this series, Days 1-100 and Days 101-140.

These were gripping books! Horror is not my usual genre, but I happened to meet the author at a local convention last year, and this story sounded intriguing. It sucked me in right away; in spite of having told myself I wouldn’t read it in the evenings, I did, and ended up finishing the first book in just a few days. Similarly, I read the second book in just a few days as well. They are difficult to put down! I live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, and I think that it makes a story like this more real, and more terrifying, to have it set in an area that you know well, because then you can’t help but picture what is happening to these familiar places, and feel sympathetic to what the main character is going through.

The premise was very different than anything I have read before, and therefore quite interesting. The main character, a bank teller, manages to survive a terrifying night at his bank when strange drums signal the arrival of monsters which kill anyone they encounter out in the open. Being careful and observant, he makes it home, and continues to evade the monsters that appear every night, even as strange green plants begin to slowly grow over everything. The story does a good job of capturing both the hair-raising periods of terror and the in-between tedium that the main character experiences. Both volumes leave off on quite a cliff-hanger, so I’m looking forward to reading the third book. I don’t know how many books the author intends, but it will be satisfying whenever the characters finally learn what has happened to their world and why! I’ll do an update when I’ve read more.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes horror, and particularly horror with a fantasy/fantastical twist to it, or someone who isn’t picky about genre but enjoys stories set in Minnesota.

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Self-Publishing Tip: Careful with Categories

There’s definitely a learning curve to this self-publishing business, even if you’ve done your research beforehand! I’ll post some tips as I figure stuff out. Something I ran into (publishing as I currently am on Amazon) is to be careful with what categories your book gets placed into. This is undoubtedly a rookie error on my part, but I will learn more about this process and get better at it. 🙂

For this, I’m especially referencing the categories that Amazon chooses to put your book into based on keywords that you select during the uploading process. They have a chart in the Help section on KDP that helps you pick these. For example, I wanted The Wizard of Suomen to appear in the Fantasy>Sword & Sorcery category, so not surprisingly I had to have the words “sword” and “sorcery” appear in my keywords. So far, so good.

My mistake was in not paying enough attention to the other keywords I was using, and whether or not Amazon used them to determine any other categories. Because of this, TWoS ended up in Fantasy>Myths & Legends>Norse & Vikings.

The first problem with being in the wrong category is obvious: I don’t want to give potential readers a false impression of what my book is about. Although it is inspired by Finland to a certain extent, TWoS is definitely not a Vikings kind of story, so this was not a good category for it from that perspective.

The other problem was one that I had not considered, though, which had to do with the sales rankings, and how I viewed them. “Norse & Vikings” is a fairly small category on Amazon, with not too many books in it. Because of this, even my few early sales were enough to boost me into the top 100 bestsellers in this category, which in turn pulled up my ranking in “Sword & Sorcery,” etc. For this reason, it was tempting to leave TWoS in the smaller category, in the hopes of that trend continuing! But having the categories be accurate is more important, so I changed my keywords so Amazon would remove it from the “Norse & Vikings” category, which they duly noted and did. And then my sales ranking took a BIG hit, which was very disheartening to watch!

So, if you’re getting your first book up on Amazon, be careful of the keywords and categories. That way you’ll not only show up to the right potential readers, but also you won’t have to go through the disappointment of seeing your sales rank improve, only to have to undo it all!

~Ethelinda

Book Release: The Wizard of Suomen

Book Release: The Wizard of Suomen

I am delighted to announce that The Wizard of Suomen is now available on Amazon! If you like a good sword & sorcery fantasy, this one is for you. If you enjoy it (which I hope you will!) please consider leaving a review and sharing it with your friends!

When Elof Kálmári arrives at the border in southeastern Suomen, he hopes that rumor has exaggerated the trouble he is walking into. He has heard that this conflict with their neighboring country is serious, and that his new commanding officer is a magic-user. To his dismay, both rumors are true. Elof struggles to deal with the unfamiliar, destructive magic wielded by their enemies and his own leader, General Virtanen. Then disaster strikes: the enemy gains access to the very heart of Suomen, Suomen’s King makes a series of increasingly unwise decisions, and uncertainty and mistrust divide their allies. General Virtanen, Elof, and his comrades must put everything on the line to keep the King alive and give their people a fighting chance against a powerful enemy. Come find out which way the Winds will blow…

TWoS Final Draft

Draft 6 of The Wizard of Suomen was finished on August 10, 2017, at 12:46am. 158,005 words.

The seventh and final draft was finished at 12:45am on December 3, 2017, with 157,934 words. At the size and type of font I was using at the time, that was 374 pages in Word.

Happy New Year! Further updates shortly!

~Ethelinda

Cover

The quest for a great cover has begun! I’m both excited and very nervous about this part, because (other than the formatting), this is the last major step before I can publish, and it really has to be good. I’m fortunate to have some good friends helping me with this process, though, which makes it less daunting.

I also found some very useful information about this process (especially about doing photoshoots to get your own images) on kboards.com.

~Ethelinda

Review: The Kalevala

(“A book that was originally written in a different language” from the Reading Challenge)

The Kalevala is the national epic of Finland. As with many of the older epics, this one is a modern-ish (early-1800s) written collection of stories that were originally an oral tradition, spoken or sung. And, in this particular case, then also a translation from Finnish into English. I’m sure that some of it gets lost in translation, but overall I found it very interesting and I enjoyed it. It took me a long time to actually read all of it (3 years or so), both because it is very long, and because I could read a good chunk of it at a time, but then would need a break before I would feel like reading more. I read it primarily to get some further inspiration for The Wizard of Suomen, not so much in plot or story-line, but more for the feel of ancient Finland as a place, and for some of the descriptions of things and land and animals. I would say that any inspiration for TWoS is more aesthetic than anything else. (The following is more a collection of my impressions than a proper review, so be forewarned. There are also a few slight spoilers.)

The story traces several heroes, and here I will use that term in the older sense as meaning a great warrior or great master of something, rather than the more modern connotation of “a really good person.” The three main heroes whose stories are told are Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen, and Lemminkäinen. (Or at least, those are their usual names. Sometimes the same character was given multiple names or epithets, so it was a little difficult to follow at times. Don’t ask me about pronunciation, I wouldn’t dare try.)

Inasmuch as there is a main character in the Kalevala, it is definitely Väinämöinen, who is an old wizard and musician of great power. He has many adventures, and uses his very-cool-seeming powers to either accomplish great deeds or to get his way. As a modern person, I found him kind of arrogant and annoying at times, but I think that is partially a symptom of my perspective.

Ilmarinen was the only one of the three that I really liked particularly much. He is a blacksmith of great skill, and seemed to get the short end of the stick in many of the stories, but always pushed through and worked hard anyway. My impression was that he was younger than Väinämöinen, but other comments I have seen about the Kalevala seem to indicate that he is an older man too, so I’m not really sure about that.

I really hated Lemminkäinen, who struck me very much as a spoiled, whiny brat who only wanted to get his own way and whose mother very much enabled him. I was pleased to reach the point in the story where he is killed on a quest to the underworld, because by that point I really felt like he deserved it. But then of course he turned out to be the one who got the “my mother will gather my body parts, put me back together, and bring me back to life” story arc, so my relief was short-lived.

The fourth character who gets a large arc, Kullervo, is pretty much just straight-up evil. I think it was prophesized at or before his birth that he would be evil and do lots of horrible things, and he then spent much of his life turning that into a self-fulfilling prophecy, so I liked him even less than Lemminkäinen. Granted, he was also treated very poorly by almost everyone around him, so it’s understandable why he would be angry at everything, but still. (Tolkien apparently found this character fascinating, and his story of Túrin Turambar in The Silmarillion is based on this character Kullervo in the Kalevala.)

There was a lot of interesting repetition and exaggeration, which may or may not have come through the translation well, but fits with what I would expect from an oral tradition. One of my favorites was the description of an ox that was “neither the largest nor the smallest,” but its size was given by stating something like it would take a weasel seven days to run around its head.

The land called Pohjola (possibly the area we know as Lapland today) is always described as “ever-dismal Northland,” which I found very amusing (and again, not surprising!)

The last Rune was the strange story of a young maiden who becomes impregnated by a lingonberry and does this strange virgin-birth thing, which I strongly suspect was added to the tradition after the introduction of Christianity. I often wonder what changes have been made to these traditional stories and epics since the introduction of Christianity into those lands; it would be interesting to know what they were like prior to that time, but of course nothing was recorded in those days, so we will likely never know.

While I didn’t always like the characters, the Kalevala as a whole was an interesting and enjoyable read! I don’t have much to say about the specific stories/adventures, I guess, but they were fun to read. The Wikipedia entry about it seems decent, and I might go through the summary of the story at some point, just to clean up my knowledge of it; there were a few things that I was never quite clear on. There is also interesting discussion there about the man who wrote it down originally and the translations and that sort of thing. I would recommend it to anyone who likes the old epic sagas, who is interested in Finland/Finnish culture, or who is interested in a source that Tolkien drew some of his inspiration from.