Archive for the Reviews Category

Beta Reader Feedback for Novel StarFire Dragons

Posted in Reviews, Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , on October 15, 2016 by Dawn Ross

I’ve submitted my sci-fi novel, StarFire Dragons, to several beta readers and their feedback has been exceedingly helpful. Beta readers are readers who look for loopholes, point out spots that are confusing, comment on whether the pace is too slow or too fast, suggest ideas for plot movement or character improvement, and so on. Beta readers do not edit for grammar, punctuation, or spelling (unless they want to).

In many cases, several people pointed out the same issues. This was helpful because it showed me something really needed to be fixed. In other cases, only one person pointed out a certain issue. This was also helpful because sometimes it was just something that other readers missed. Here are the most common issues people found in my science fiction story.

Action or No Action

Chapter 1 starts out with action. Some of my readers loved this while others did not. The ones who loved it said it really hooked them to get into the action. The ones who didn’t pointed out that a story should start with scene and character introductions. In other words, start the first chapter in the protagonist’s normal world. I can see how this would be important, but I am at a loss as to how to hook the reader with a normal situation. Also, I decided to rewrite the first chapter and present it to new beta readers and was told it was too boring.

Obviously, this is a case where I’ve received conflicting information. I can either decide to just please one set of readers or I can see if I can try to find a way to please both. The way to please both would be to show J.D.’s normal world, but in an exciting way that hooks the reader. Thoughts?

Too Many Characters at Once

This is another one where I received conflicting information. Some beta readers said I introduced too many characters at once while other beta readers wanted more information on each of the characters as they are introduced. A suggestion to fix this problem would be to only vaguely introduce the characters in chapter 1, then add to their characteristics as the story progresses. Thoughts?

Details

Some of my beta readers said I gave too much detail while others said I gave too little. I think this is more of a reader preference than it is an issue. The readers who said I gave too much said a close-third point of view doesn’t justify lots of detail. They also said that today’s readers can easily fill in the blanks. The readers who said I gave too little felt the characters were too faceless. They said they couldn’t feel the scene as well because it was never described.

While I myself prefer to fill in the blanks, many people prefer more detail. So my choice is between not giving enough detail to readers who like detail or giving too much detail to readers who don’t like detail. I choose to give more detail. And perhaps to avoid giving too much detail, I should try to be brief but very descriptive about the detail. I should try to convey emotions with the detail. And I should try to convey the detail using other senses besides sight.

Terrible Antagonist

A few beta readers did not like Mik Calloway’s character. They said he was too cliché for a bad guy. I agree. I’m not very good at writing bad guys. I’ve decided to fix it by making him a little more personable. Although we still hate him, it will help us understand him better if I provide a better explanation as to why he hates Tredons so much. Any other ideas?

The Connection Scene

Many of my readers felt that the scene where Jori cried in J.D.’s arms really hit the spot. But one beta reader said it felt forced. The situation forced Jori to warm up to him rather than it happening organically. I kinda see the point. I tried to make it show organically when Jori was upset that J.D. called him a brat. This, to me, showed that Jori actually cared about what J.D. thought of him. So, I think I can expand on this a little more so that when the connection scene does come, it doesn’t come across as too fake.

Sentence Structures

I tend to write very formally. And as such, my sentences tend to be about the same size and the same structure. This was noticed by a few of my beta readers who are aware that sentence lengths should vary because it helps with the story pacing. Short and choppy sentences can indicate a fast paced scene while longer sentences can help provide the pacing for slower scenes.

Better Character Dialogue

Many of my beta readers pointed out that all my characters talk the same. This is not at all realistic, especially in a futuristic world where the races and cultures are even more diverse. I tried adding a different way of speaking for Lt. Jenna Stein, but it turned out to be more confusing for people. So I need to think of a way to make my characters speak differently without trying to write out annoying accents since today’s readers don’t like reading accents.

There are a few ways I can vary the way a character speaks without writing annoying accents: different sentence structures, different sentence lengths, different words, odd speech habits, swear words (which I succeeded at with Terk), jargon, characters who repeat themselves, characters who over- or under-explain, and probably many more I haven’t thought of.

I plan on keeping Stein’s use of the word “be” the same even though some of my beta readers were thrown by it. I think they were thrown because Stein was the only one who talked differently. If I make other characters talk differently, it may not be as noticeable. I plan on having Lt. Chandly use more jargon. Lt. Commander Bracht seems like a guy who would speak shorter sentences. The captain as well, but he always speaks much more formally than Bracht. Some other character may use the word “um” a lot. I’m still deciding on others.

Weak Main Character

A few of my beta readers felt J.D. was too weak of a character. One beta reader specifically said that Jori seems to be a much better developed character than any of the others and it would really make the story better if J.D. and perhaps even Captain Arden were just as compelling. I agree. I keep trying to make J.D. more interesting, but for some reason I am having a hard time. Suggestions?

Too Trekke

Almost every single one of my readers thought this story had the feel of Star Trek. This was intended because I thought it would make it easier for readers to relate to the setting. But it turns out that many of my readers was annoyed by this, especially since some characters, like Bracht, were too similar. They wanted to see a different world with different people. While I don’t want to deviate too much from the world I’ve created, I do understand the need to be a little different. Thoughts?

Tags

One person said I used the word “said” too much and should use other more creative tags. Unfortunately, though, I’ve heard that using a bunch creative tags is a weak and novice way of writing. A better way to fix the problem of too many people saying this and that is to use action before or after a sentence in order to tell the reader who is speaking. For example: The captain raised his eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Another example: J.D. scratched his chin. “No. Probably not.”

Chapter End

One beta reader felt the story should end at chapter 30 because it left the reader hanging and inspired them to read the next book. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when a book leaves me hanging. I tried to inspire the reader to read the next book in the series at the very end, chapter 33, but I’m not sure I did a good enough job. I need to work on the ending so that it concludes the first book but still inspires readers to read the second book.

Conclusion

While I may not be fixing every point or taking every bit of advice given, everything my beta readers shared with me was helpful. The best thing about the feedback I received from every single one of my beta readers is that they really liked the story. This gives me a lot of hope and inspires me to perfect it as much as possible. Thank you, everyone for any tips and feedback you’ve provided. ❤

 

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2012 Prime Time TV Reviews – Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season

I don’t watch much TV but I do need a mental break every now and then. Besides, sometimes sci-fi / fantasy television shows or movies inspire my creativity. Even the bad ones can ignite a spark. There are a few new sci-fi / fantasy shows on prime time TV this season and a few recurring ones that I’d like to mention. Here they are in no particular order:

Fringe, FOX, 5th Season
Fringe is a sci-fi television show on FOX. It was set in present time with the sci-fi elements being unexplainable but supposedly scientifically based events. I liked this show in its beginnings. It reminded me of X-Files. However, I always felt the two main characters Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop were weak. I like Walter Bishop and Astrid better. Their quirkiness, especially Walter’s carried the show. However, I think the show has gotten way off base. It all started with the alternate universe and has now progressed in this fifth season to an alternate future. It’s been like starting out watching Lord of the Rings and suddenly finding Iron Man coming to save the day. It just doesn’t fit the original direction this TV show was going.

Arrow, CW, 1st Season
Being a huge fan of Batman, Spiderman, and other DC and Marvel comics, I really liked the idea of Arrow. But the backstory is too much like Bruce Wayne’s. I have to admit that the man who plays Arrow/Oliver Queen, Stephen Amell, is really hot but his character is not at all believable or even likable. I hate the love story too. All the characters are flat, but I am a bit intrigued by the character John Diggle and Walter Steele. I do like the darker aspect of Arrow as compared to the older Batman and I love the action, but the drama doesn’t entertain me.

Beauty and the Beast, CW, 1st Season
I loved the original Beauty and the Beast, especially Ron Pearlman, the man who played the beast. This version is different, but I like it too. The backstory is interesting and the plot just keeps getting better, especially with the recent twist of his violent blackouts. I do not care for Kristin Kreuk who plays Catherine. She is not a bad actress, per se, but I keep associating her with Lana Lang in Smallville who I got very tired of in that television series. Also, she is not really a believable detective. She is much too pretty and young-looking. Then again, Kate Beckett in Castle is a hot female detective too but she is a more mature woman and carries her role well. Jay Ryan who plays Vincent Keller makes a great beast. His character is more believable, although I think his on-again/off-again relationship with Catherine is wishy-washy.

Castle, ABC, 4th Season
This is not really sci-fi or fantasy but I brought up Kate Beckett in Castle so I thought I would mention this one too. Detective shows are not usually my thing but because the character who plays Rick Castle is also the same character who played Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly (Nathan Fillion), I had to watch it. All the characters are wonderful and I love how the show can be both funny and serious depending on the situation. It is really the character interactions which make this TV series interesting since the murder cases follow much the same themes as any other detective TV show.

Once Upon a Time, ABC, 2nd Season
Once Upon a Time
 is my all-time favorite prime time show this year. Although the characters are all the same character’s from Grimm’s fairy tales and Disney movies, the story is very original. Even when they do a flashback to the original fairy tale, it is different. Snow White was an outlaw, the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk was actually a good guy, and the evil character Rumplestiltskin has a few redeeming qualities. In fact, I would say that Rumplestiltskin is my favorite character in the series. He is such a complex character that contradicts himself by doing both good and bad, but those contradictions do not make his character any less believable. Prince Charming’s character is a bit wishy-washy but he doesn’t ruin the show. And I don’t care much for the character Mulan either.

Elementary, CBS, 1st Season
This is another one that doesn’t really fit into sci-fi or fantasy. But I mention it because I want to compare it to a far more brilliant Sherlock Holmes show called Sherlock. Sherlock is a British television show that is much more dynamic and the characters far more interesting. This detective show is nothing like any detective show you have ever seen. So even if you don’t like detective shows, I highly recommend Sherlock, which is currently showing on Netflix, and forget about Elementary. Unless the plot of Elementary gets more involved, it will not last long. I wonder if they will introduce Moriarty soon. That might spice things up a bit.

To read about more about what the TV shows are about, find more information on Wiki.

A Wonderful Book Review of The Third Dragon!!!

Posted in Book 1 - The Third Dragon, Reviews, The Dukarian Legacy - Fantasy Novels with tags , , , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by Dawn Ross

The Third Dragon

Ariesgrl Book Reviews has done a review on my fantasy novel, The Third Dragon. Check it out HERE. She says, “Excellent storytelling and an intriguing plot will capture the attention of readers everywhere.” and “If you enjoy young-adult, fantasy-fiction books, then you will want to mark this book as a must-read.” Ariesgrl has also added the book review to Goodreads HERE.

The Third Dragon is available on Amazon as both a paperback and Kindle edition. It is book one of The Dukarian Legacy series. If you like this first book, you can also read the sequel, The Raven’s Fire. I am still editing the third book, The Dragon and the Lion. I hope to have it out in the Kindle version by the beginning of 2013.

By the way, I have a couple of unsolicited book reviews on Amazon too. I’m so happy to see that people are enjoying my story.

Thanks, Ariesgrl!

Dawn Ross

Fantastic Book Review Given for “The Third Dragon”

Posted in Book 1 - The Third Dragon, Reviews, The Dukarian Legacy - Fantasy Novels with tags , , , on October 22, 2011 by Dawn Ross
Third Dragon Book Cover

“The Third Dragon: Book One of the Dukarian Legacy” by Dawn Ross

Diane Donovan with Midwest Book Review has given “The Third Dragon; Book One of the Dukarian Legacy” eBook a great review. Here is her entire review:

The Third Dragon (The Dukarian Legacy) opens with a description of a land devastated by generations of war where a prophecy of peace is the country’s only hope against the constant fighting between factions.

One Tomis Dukar, the third son of King Haban Dukar and descendant of the ancient Dragon clan involved in the prophecy, is pitted against his own evil father who has a different idea of how the prophecy is to be fulfilled. His first task involves a struggle against his own blood for his survival.

The future of Ungal seems to lie in the Dragon clan … but how the prophecy is interpreted could change or destroy the country. The resulting conflict leads Tomis to undertake a long journey at a young age during which he confronts different ideas and incarnations of evil, finds unusual friends with unique abilities to compliment his own powers, and finds help in a magical order that lends him power against the evil forces amassing against him.

Tomis’ ability can lead him to heal or kill with a single touch: but can these powers bring peace to a divided world? And can healing and help be brought to a world through battle strategies?: “It was he who was staring at the ashes of the fire now. Did Mitas kill innocent people to achieve his ends? Is there such a thing as a hero? How could he continue to be a warrior when he wasn’t certain if he was fighting for the right thing?”

Poetic reflections on right, wrong, and struggle permeate a fine story of friendships and the hidden costs of warfare and even peace.

In the end spirits, magic, and issues of a father’s love and dangerous ambitions come together in an unexpected manner to provide a satisfying conclusion to a fantasy adventure packed with action and twists of plot and characterization.

The story won’t end here: anticipate additions to The Dukarian Legacy down the line, even as the dust barely settles on Tomis’ ultimate fate and legacy.

The Third Dragon; Book One of the Dukarian Legacy” by Dawn Ross is available at Amazon.com and will also be featured on Midwest Book Review in November 2011.