Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interview with Jason McCammon

Greetings, fantasy and sci-fi enthusiasts! Today I’ve got a special treat for you. Please join me in warmly welcoming the author of Warrior Quest: Search for the Ifa Scepter, Jason McCammon! *throws confetti*

What was your inspiration for writing Warrior Quest?

I’m already a creative person. I wrote Warrior Quest because frankly, I hadn’t seen anything like it out there. I’ve seen a lot of fantasy books and movies, yet I had never seen one that had an African-like setting or characters. I guess I wrote it so that it would exist. Also, keep in mind that I first wrote this book as a feature length animated screeplay.

How did you come up with your ideas for the shape shifters, and other creatures?

It’s tough to say how I come up with anything at all. By that, I mean that I’m always in a state of creating. I’ve written screenplays, have product ideas, and constantly think about how what in front of me can be different. I will say this though, the whole segment with the shape-shifters, and the Temple of Wanyama was the last thing I put in the book. I already had the entire book completed without it. But it didn’t feel complete, it all came out of a need for Farra to have more purpose. The strange thing is that it’s my favorite part of the book.

Friendship is definitely a key theme in your novel. Is there a specific message you hope readers will get when they read your book?

Yes, friendship is a big part of the book. But there is another underlying theme. There are so many stories about boys wanting to be King and girls wanting to be princesses, like that is the end-all purpose of life. The main theme of this book is that there are more important things in life than being King–like true friendship.

Though Bomani and Farra develop a close friendship by the end of the book, it doesn’t go beyond that. Was there a reason why you chose to avoid romance in this novel?

That is for another story at some other time. And I’m not necessarily saying between Farra and Bomani. Boys and girls don’t always have to fall in love and have a romantic relationship just because they know each other. And I don’t want kids to think that just being with the opposite sex means you have to be physical, because it doesn’t.

What character do you relate the most to?

Heh, an editor of the book told me that it didn’t make sense that Bomani would climb over that rock outside Hagga’s hut. “Really,” she said. “Who would waste energy climbing in when it would be much simpler to walk around it?” I laughed and said, “I would.”

What was your favorite part of writing Warrior Quest?

Like I said before, I was really happy when I got the Temple of Wanyama idea/sequence down. From that came Torik, the shape-shifters, and the shadowlight. But all-in-all, writing the book feels like you are actually bringing those characters to life, so it is all very fulfilling, even more fulfilling when people read it and talk about it. It’s like the Madunia actually exists.

What was most difficult about writing this book?

Well, most of the writing probably took place in the wee hours in the morning. I’m talking midnight to 4am. So there were a lot of sleepless nights. I did have to push myself sometimes, but the story lived inside my head all the time. If I didn’t get it out, I probably would have gone insane. But authors beware, the hardest part comes after the book is finished.

Did you learn anything while writing? (This can be research related, about yourself and goals, etc.)

Being a self-publisher, there is constant learning to be done about the BOOK BUSINESS. I also learned how to work with an editor. I did do some research on African tribes, cultures, and mythology so that I could use it as a platform.

What is the most rewarding thing about being an author?

I think the most rewarding part is seeing the people actually LOVE the book. For most, the book was far better than they anticipated. Especially people that don’t read at all, I mean people that haven’t read a book in years. When they come back and tell me they read the book in a few days and that now they’re interested in reading books, that means something. It’s really a great book for readers and non-readers; fantasy readers and non-fantasy readers alike.

If there was one thing that you could change about your book, what would it be?

Heh, probably the prologue.

What are you working on now?

The illustrated version is almost finished. Also I am working on book two: The Ancient Lands: Tribe of Leopards.

For more information about Jason McCammon's work and Warrior Quest, please visit: The Ancient Lands.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week Sept. 25-Oct. 2

Holla everybody. Sorry this post is a day late. Yesterday marked the start of banned books week. Since 1982, from September 25 to October 2, libraries, schools, and bookstores all across America have challenged you to read books that have been challenged for their content. Believe it or not, even with the First Amendment in place, people still try to censor and ban books. According to the bannedbooksweek.org, “People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and they protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups—or positive portrayals of homosexuals.” In 2009, there were 460 challenges, the top ten challenged books being:

Ttyl by Lauren Myracle

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

As you can see, some of these books are over forty years old, and are still being challenged to this day. Even the dictionary has been challenged, for the use of slang terms such as "balls."

So pick up a challenged book! There are hundreds out there, from classics to contemporary masterpieces, including Harry Potter. By doing so, you make a statement about the practice of banning books, and are working to protect your right to read what you want, when you want!

For more information about Banned Books Week or for a list of events in your area, please visit bannedbooksweek.org, or the American Library Association.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi


Ship Breaker is fantasy author Paolo Bacigalupi’s first YA novel, published this year (May 1st, 2010) by Little Brown books. Its 323 pages long.


Nailer works light crew; his job is to crawl deep into the wrecks of the ancient oil tankers that line the beach on the Atlantic Gulf Coast, scavenging copper wire and turning it over to his crew boss. But after a brutal hurricane passes over, Nailer and his friend Pima stumble upon the wreck of a wealthy clipper ship. It’s filled with valuable goods that, if stripped, could make them rich for life. There’s only one thing that stands in their way: Amid the wreckage, a girl named Nita barely lings to life. Nailer makes a split decision to save her with the hopes that she can reward them for rescuing her. But can they trust her? And on top of that, can they keep the girl safe from Nailer’s drug-addicted father? In a world where you have to not only be lucky, but smart, Nailer learns just how lucky—and smart—he really is.


I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Like any good PA or fantasy novel, the backbone of the story lies in the strength of the world in which the story is taking place, and Bacigalupi delivers. You can actually taste the rust and smell the salt in the air. The way he references modern cities and countries (for example, New Orleans, which has been destroyed but rebuilt in a different place, now known as Orleans II) made this world easy to envision, and frighteningly current. I think this quote pretty much sums it up: "No one expected Category Six hurricanes. They didn't have city killers then. The climate changed. The weather shifted. They did not anticipate well."

Anyway, my biggest problem with this book was with Nailer. Not because he wasn’t a good character, but because it was a little unsettling how he seemed to flip between personalities when interacting with Nita, the female protagonist he rescues. It’s insisted that he, above all else, values loyalty, which is scarce in this world. But throughout the second half of the novel he’s continuously snapping at her, and threatening to leave her swank (the slang word for “rich”) behind, well, behind. This attitude never made sense to me, as he was the one who originally vouched for her life and insisted on forging a blood pact with her, promising to watch her back if she watches his. Even though this promise is fulfilled, it's done with lots of complaining and second guessing. Eventually, Nailer decides that he really cares about Nita, and then everything is okay, but it takes a while for him to get to that point.

Besides that, the characters were unique with lively slang, and the bad guy, Nailer’s father, is positively frightening. There’s a bit of romance, but it never quite steps into the spotlight making it the focus of this grimy adventure. I thought this was for the best, because in between the exciting boat-chase scenes and boiler room fights there wasn’t much room for it. All-in-all, readers will be in for a fast-paced, well developed read. Was it the best PA novel I’ve read? No, not story wise. But it was a pretty darn good one with probably the best setting I’ve read to date.


6/8 Tentacles

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Warrior Quest: Search for the Ifa Scepter by Jason McCammon


Warrior Quest: Search for the Ifa Scepter is the first book in Jason McCammon’s “The Ancient Lands” series. It was published in 2009 by Brown-Eyed Dreams, LLC. The paperback edition is 247 pages long. The series will be continued in The Adventures of Farra and Bomani, a completely illustrated novel, set to be published sometime in 2010.


When fifteen-year-old Bomani finds out that the Ifa Scepter must be found in order to save his kingdom, he sets out to on a journey to retrieve it—alone. But along the way, he picks up a companion; a cheerful, chatty, and annoying, young girl named Farra. She is a sorceress is just attaining her powers and has only just begun the sacred magical bond she shares with her wolf pup, Pupa. Together, the three of them journey to the “Forbidden Expanse,” a realm far beyond Bomani’s kingdom, where the Ifa Scepter is said to be located. Using their fighting skills, sorcery, and help from a few magical runes, the two work to evade ogres and the pursuit of the dark sorcerer, Hatari, with the hope that they will be able to restore life to Bomani’s kingdom.


I was thrilled to find out that I won this book from a giveaway on goodreads.com, and have to take a moment to applaud for McCammon. This book far exceeded my expectations (which were quite high, because the plot synopsis sounded exciting). I love and read a lot of fantasy, but I don’t think I can ever remember reading a fantasy book quite like this. The setting was original; based off of the savannahs in Africa, and set in its own pseudo-realistic world. It drew me in right away. Fast-paced with imaginative landscapes and creative creatures including flowers that bleed rainbow-colored liquid and shape-shifting ogres, Warrior Quest: Search for the Ifa Scepter was an excellent way to open up the world of Madunia to the reader.

Even though Search for the Ifa Scepter is really for kids between the ages of 9 and 15, readers of all ages will be able to enjoy it. Bomani and Farra’s adventures are almost episodic; every other chapter has them encountering something new, and conflicts are solved quickly without much emotional drama, even though Bomani is a bit of a jerk. Don’t get me wrong, the kid actually has reason to be cocky: between pole vaulting onto zebras' backs and fighting river worms, this kid can take on the world—especially when he teams up with Farra. Oh my spirits, I adored Farra! She’s adorable, and Bomani and Farra’s skills nicely complement one another, as do their opposite personalities. When she and her wolf pup, Pupa, enter Bomani’s life, he begins to change—as all jerkish heroes tend to do when they finally meet somebody willing to be their friend. McCammon does a good job of developing their relationship, and watching their friendship grow was just as exciting as seeing them escape from a volcano (which actually happens in this book).

All-in-all, it was nice to read a book like this after tackling novels like Kristin Cashore’s Fire and Suzanne Collin’s Mockingjay. Warrior Quest: Search for the Ifa Scepter is a good reminder to us all that you don’t have to have an incredibly complicated and dark plot in order to have fun reading.


6/8 Tentacles

Again, I'd like to offer a warm welcome to Corey, and a welcome to John Mac! Thanks for following Oktopus Ink!

Recruit-A-Friend Contest Winner!

Hey there ya’ll! It’s officially been a week, and you know what that means. The Recruit-A-Friend contest is over!

So, without further adeu…

Congratulations to Furrow, who recruited Corey Klinzing! *throws confetti*

Welcome to Oktopus Ink, Corey!

Furrow will get their choice of one of two ARCs: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, or The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby! Since only one person was recruited, I’ll hang onto the other one and give it away some other time.

Again, congratulations to Furrow, and thanks to everyone who participated. Now we can get back to your regularly scheduled blog programming. Look for more competitions in the future!

Peace out!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Contest: Win a copy of Plain Kate and The Clockwork Three

Recruit-a-Friend Contest!

Start date: 9/6/10

End date: 9/12/10

Howdy there everybody! It’s that time; time to launch Oktopus Ink’s first contest! This week I’m giving away two Advance Readers Copies (ARCs for short, also known as uncorrected proofs): Plain Kate by Erin Bow, now out in stores, and The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby, set to be published October 2010.

So, here are the rules: This is a recruit-a-friend contest. The person who recruites the most people to follow this blog within a week will win first place and get first pick of one of the two ARCs listed above. The person who recruits the second highest number of people within a week will win second place, and receive a copy of the book not chosen by the first place winner.

Once a follower, each person recruited should post a comment here, on this post, mentioning who recruited them. At the end of the week, The person listed in the most comments will win! Those recruited this week can also participate (once they are a follower of this blog). The contests starts today, Monday Sept. 6, and will end on Sunday, Sept 12. That’s my brother’s birthday. So spread the word! Bribe, blackmail, persuade, flatter, threaten—do whatever it takes to get them to follow!

To find out more about the prizes, click the links above. They'll take to you their respective pages on Amazon, where you can read the back covers/product descriptions. Both books promise to be a good read. :P

Good luck, and happy competing!

Fire by Kristin Cashore


Published in 2009 by Dial Books, Fire is the second book in Kristin Cashore’s “The Seven Kingdoms” series. Though it is the second book that she has written, it acts as a prologue to her first book, Graceling, taking place years before Leck becomes king of Monsea. It is 480 pages long (hardcover). A good sized book, if you ask me. :D


Fire takes place east of the setting of Graceling, in a warring land called the Dells. As if war wasn’t bad enough, brightly colored animal-like monsters reside there, and have the ability to influence the minds of humans. With hair the color of flame, 17-year-old Fire is the last human monster. Equally hated and adored, she is mistrusted by the people around her, despite her human morals and appreciation of right and wrong. But when she is called to investigate the appearance of spies in the king’s land, she helps to discover a deeper plot; war is coming, and coming much sooner than anyone had anticipated. Can she use her power to save the kingdom without becoming the monster her father was?


At first, I was a little turned off by the idea of monsters, since they were never mentioned in Graceling (or, at least, as far as I can recall). But Cashore’s writing is so solid that I quickly warmed up to the idea and sunk into this imaginary world where the characters are plagued by these oh-so-colorful creatures running about. With that being said, Fire was completely different than Graceling was, and with the exception of one character (Leck) who shows up in both books, the two stories had little to do with each other. Where Graceling was charged with action and personal survival, Fire was charged with emotional drama, which was actually nice for a change of pace. Cashore was smart to create a character completely different than Katsa: Fire’s personality is a mixture of sensitivity, vulnerability, and independence, which blended together nicely, given the situations she faced throughout the book. Blessed, or in Fire’s opinion, cursed, with exquisite beauty, she is constantly bringing out the worst desires and feelings in people, including—more often than not—rape. Sex is big deal and a major theme of this book, one that I think Cashore handled well for the most part, given the difficult nature of that theme in young adult fiction.

Like a good chunk of teen novels out there, this was really a coming of age story. Fire eventually learns that her power isn’t necessarily bad or something to fear, and if wielded in the right way, can be used to help people, especially when they are in pain. At the beginning of the book she is an outcast, hiding beneath headscarves, plagued by daddy-guilt issues. But at the end, she evolves into the fantasy version of Florence Nightingale. Her transformation took a little while to achieve, but came naturally in a way that I found believable. And, better yet, she didn't do it alone. Like Katsa in Graceling, Fire has a support group of friends who are loveable and love her. Cashore’s ability to handle minor characters was very impressive; the King’s family manages to be both endearing and despicable, and even the members of her guard, are unique and memorable. In the end, I wanted the supporting cast to have just as much happiness in their lives as I did Fire.

All-in-all, I loved just about everything in this book, and can officially say I’ve become a Cashore fangirl. I’m really looking forward to when she decides to combine the characters in Graceling and Fire. Maybe in the upcoming book, Bitterblue? One can hope. We’ll have to wait and see.


7/8 Tentacles

And a big ole' warm welcome to my new subscribers HiL and Michelle! You know I love you guys. ;P