Jan. 26th, 2011

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As part of the promo for the After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar release, I figured I’d highlight all of the contributors to the anthology individually. And while we’re at it, run a contest as well! So here’s the deal, to enter the contest you have to either friend the [livejournal.com profile] afterhoursurbar community here on LiveJournal OR you have to like the After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar Facebook page (search for the title of the anthology to find the page). If you do both, you’re entered into the contest twice! The contest will end March 31st, 2011. Prizes will include copies of the contributors books (sometimes entire trilogies), After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar M&Ms, and perhaps other prizes. They will be awarded by random drawing from those who’ve liked or friended the appropriate pages. If you’ve already friended or liked the pages, then you’re already entered into the contest! Find out more about the anthology at its website: http://www.sff.net/people/benjamintate/afterhours/afterhours.html.

And now for the second contributor: S.C. Butler ([livejournal.com profile] scbutler)! Sam’s contribution to the anthology is the short story Why the Vikings Had No Bars, which takes the Ur-bar a little farther north and a few years forward in time. Here’s the official description:

“Why the Vikings Had No Bars” by S.C. Butler: When the Ur-Bar appears outside Hedeby, Odin can’t resist “helping” introduce the bar to the locals . . . with a typical Viking brawl answering the question of why the Vikings had no bars.

I’ve known Sam since we met at a convention (I can’t remember which one), probably at the bar (which would explain why). I loved his Stoneways Trilogy, enough to blurb the third novel before it came out. Excellent books. Here’s his author bio from the anthology:

S.C. Butler is the author of the Stoneways Trilogy: Reiffen’s Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magicians’ Daughter. A relative once complained to him about all the underage drinking in his books, but who ever drank the water in the Middle Ages? His favorite drink is a glass of Pinot Grigio, and his favorite place to drink it is the bar deck of the Lawrence Beach Club on a summer evening, with two hundred yards of sand and fifty miles of the Atlantic Ocean spread out before him.

A copy of his first book, Reiffen’s Choice, is being offered as one of the prizes in the contest, so skip on over and friend or like the appropriate pages for your chance to win!

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I finished Dead Matter the other night and I have to say that Anton Strout is definitely improving as a writer as this series progresses. With the first book, I thought there were some "debut book/new writer" issues (of which I suffered from myself with my books). Mostly these were things like a little bouncing around and looseness in the plot and a few odd emotional reactions from the characters. Things like an extreme mood swing that wasn't properly motivated, etc. In the second book, the plot issues smoothed out tremendously (although there were a few bumps in the road), and the character things weren't so extreme although I did think Simon Canderous, the main character, got angry too often for extremely minor issues.

The third book is much more solid. The plot (involving vampires, but not the expected way for an urban fantasy) was very straight forward without any odd twists and turns. There were twists and turns, of course, but they didn't feel thrown in. Everything happened for a reason and for a purpose and the actions of the characters were dictated by the plot, so there was no random "Simon goes here for no apparent reason" kinds of things. (OK, there was ONE spot where I felt that three scenes could have been accomplished in just two, but this is minor.) As I said, the plot was tighter in the second, but it was MUCH tighter and fluid in Dead Matter.

But what really impressed me most about this third book was the advancement in the characterizations. The beginning of the book focuses in on Simon and his relationship with his partner Connor. This is what drives the plot forward at first. We also deal with Simon and Jane's relationship. These relationships aren't necessarily complex, but the plot depends on them, whereas in the past two novels the plot didn't. Simon gets angry here, again, but not as extreme and his reasons for getting angry make sense (again, there are one or two places where this slips, but those are rare). This improvement in characterization doesn't just apply to Simon, Connor, and Jane either. The main conflict comes down to one of the Enchancellers named Allorah, and her back story and emotional state are integral to the plot.

In addition, this book has some significant connections to what happened in the second book. So overall, the characters and the plots are getting much more complex, and the writing itself is improving dramatically in each book. I'm looking forward to the fourth novel, Dead Waters, coming at the end of February.


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Joshua Palmatier

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