Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nate Philbrick

How could I not share this?

The Page Dreamer

Title: Where the Woods Grow Wild
Author: Nate Philbrick

  • Date read: June 1, 2017
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2016
  • Pages: 375 (Kindle)
  • Series: I’ve heard rumors of a sequel…! *excited bounce* *NEED*
  • Fave character: Martin… and all of them! ❤
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author for review purposes (many thanks! :)). I was not required to write a positive review; these opinions are my own.
  • Links:AmazonGoodreads • Author’s Blog

First thing’s first: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! *hugs it* (Warning: Fangirling zone ahead.)

Where the Woods Grow Wild (don’t you love that title?) is SO much fun, as well as extremely well-written and completely gripping. It’s original fantasy, yet at the same time has this classic feel, so that I almost feel like I’ve known it forever, even though I just…

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Book Review | Lords of the Sith (Paul Kemp)

I’m slowly working my way through the canon Star Wars novels, and Lords of the Sith is my most recent read. I just finished it today, so here are some thoughts.

I’ll do my best to keep this review spoiler-free, though I may mention a few minor plot points or details as examples. Any major spoiler sections will be preceded by a warning.

General impression

Lords of the Sith was, in my opinion, a polarized book. There were aspects I really liked and aspects I really disliked. Generally speaking, I’d say it’s action-packed and simple (in a good way), but it also has some stand-out problems, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

What I liked

The simplicity: I don’t tend to enjoy reading books that get too wrapped up in complicated politics and subplots, and though Star Wars novels can easily lean that way, Lords of the Sith doesn’t. The plot is very simple: try to kill Darth Vader and Palpatine. There aren’t a whole lot of subplots, and those that do exist are more for character development than anything else.

Isval: without a doubt, Isval was my favorite character. She has, in my opinion, the strongest characteristics, and towards the end of the book, she’s the one I cared about most.

Vader’s scenes: one of my qualms about the SW films is that we rarely get to see Darth Vader perform at his full capability. For the most part, he just walks around and looks intimidating. Lords of the Sith, however, shows us just how much absolute demolition he’s capable of singlehandedly.

Twi’leks in the limelight: finally! Twi’lek oppression and enslavement during Imperial times has always been a factor in the SW universe, but this is the most up-close and personal representation of that civilization we’ve gotten to date. I’ve always thought Twi’leks as a people group deserved more recognition, and now they have it.

What I disliked

The pacing: okay, the book IS action packed, especially in the second half. But the pacing is…wonky. Despite all the hack-and-slash action, the plot takes a long time to get going, and every now and then the author throws in some random scenes that feel out of place. For example, in the third act, I had to trudge through three or four chapters (chapters!) of Vader and Palpatine fighting giant bugs. Entertaining for a few paragraphs, but dreadfully dull for twenty pages. It wasn’t even that relevant to the plot.

The predictable outcome: [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT IN THIS SECTION] Okay, one big problem shared by all Star Wars books is that we already know, generally speaking, what the outcome is going to be because of what we know from the films and t.v. shows. In Lords of the Sith, that’s a glaring flaw.

Here’s what I mean: the premise of the book is that Cham Syndulla and his friend/partner Isval want to assassinate Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. The whole plot builds up towards a big showdown between those four major characters. Anyone in tune with the Star Wars universe can VERY easily guess how that ends. Vader and Palpatine survive, obviously, as does Cham, because we see him in Rebels. But it’s safe to assume at least one major character will die, so that leaves poor Isval. Before I’d made it 1/3 into the book, I’d predicted that Cham’s plan would go horribly wrong and that Isval would sacrifice herself to ensure his (and others’) escape. That’s exactly what happened. It stinks when your favorite character in the book is all but guaranteed to die by the end. R.I.P. Isval.

If you know much about Star Wars and you pay attention to patterns, Lords of the Sith is 100% predictable, which is too bad, because it nullifies a lot of the potential tension (which was definitely there).

Miscellaneous complaints: 

  • The character names felt a bit lazy (Pok? Goll? Eshgo? Crost? Really? I know these are Twi’leks and secondary characters, but even Aayla Secura had a cool name, for crying out loud!)
  • Palpatine’s dialog got on my nerves. Everything was ‘it seems’, ‘it would appear’, or ‘my old friend’. Seriously…everything. I know it’s consistent with his film character, but still. Annoying.
  • The back-cover blurb is misleading. Based on the summary, I expected Vader and Palpatine to crash-land on Ryloth in the first act, but then I discovered that the space-battle that causes the crash-landing fills about half the book. (Refer back to the wonky pacing). I also thought there would be a lot more conflict between the two Sith Lords, but on that front, I was a bit disappointed.
  • The author had a handful of phrases that he used over and over. Moving with preternatural speed, for instance. He used that exact wording at least five or six times, and those small things stand out as distractions.

My final rating: 3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to give it 3.5 (maybe even 4) for Isval’s sake, but I just couldn’t rate it that high with much honesty. I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to Star Wars fans, as long as you’re not too overhyped for it.

5 Writing/Reading Goals for June 2017

#1 Write 1000 words a day

I haven’t been very disciplined these last few months when it comes to daily writing. I’ve been doing a good amount of editing and writing new content whenever the need arose, but in June I want to set a daily goal of 1000 words. Not an astronomical amount, but something easily achievable.

My works-in-progress will benefit, as will my creativity flow.

#2 Make a plan for Where the Woods Grow in Flames

…Which will boil down to two factors: a.) recalibrate my outline and incorporate some structure changes, and b.) decide if to self-publish the sequel later this year OR take the project to Wattpad.

#3 Finish reading all the books I’ve started

May was a month of starting books and not finishing them. Not because I wasn’t enjoying them, but because I had a lot on my plate (and plenty of distracting hobbies as well). This month I’m (finally) going to finish The Beast of Talesend (Kyle R. Shultz), Aftermath: Life Debt (Chuck Wendig), and Lords of the Sith (Paul Kemp).

I’m also super excited to get my hands on the new Darth Vader comic coming out this month.

#4 Post four more solid chapters of The Broken City of Crows

As many of you know, I upload a new chapter of The Broken City of Crows to Wattpad every Friday. June will be my first full month of uploads, so I’m looking forward to getting four exciting chapters going. I’m hesitant to set any numerical goals in terms of reads or votes, so I’m just going to enjoy the process and make June’s chapters as good as I can.

#5 Create digital paintings for Gwinn and Ember

Speaking of tBCoC, after sharing my digital painting of Avora last week, a lot of readers asked whether I’d be doing more characters and if so, if Gwinn and/or Ember were on the to-do list. The answer to both those questions is yes. I’ve already started thumbnailing a sketch of Gwinn, and I hope to have completed paintings of him and Ember by the end of the month. Perhaps by the end of the summer, I’ll have painted the whole Red Vanguard. You never know!


What are some of your goals and plans for June? Let me know, and go get ’em! In the meantime, have a great day.

May 2017 In Review

Ever since I graduated from college in 2015 (you know, way back when), it seems that time has accelerated. Months fly by. I’m pretty sure it’s still February.

But it’s not, so let’s take a look at some highlights and decisions from the past thirty days.


Wattpad beginnings

My foray into Wattpad territory was probably May’s most significant turn of events. On the 11th, I launched the first chapters of a new fantasy novel, The Broken City of Crows. I didn’t have many high expectations. I just wanted to post for fun and see what happened.

wattpad cover II

Two and a half weeks later, I’m loving the experience. tBCoC is getting close to 800 reads and has climbed as high as #444 in the fantasy genre. Not bad for a two-week-old novel, eh?

Avora.png
Avora, captain of the Red Vanguard (The Broken City of Crows)

My favorite aspect about Wattpad so far, besides the interaction with readers, is the tangible lack of pressure to make sales or pull off marketing stunts.


Monthly reading

I don’t devote as much time to reading as I should. I am ashamed. I have, however, made progress on some books.

In progress: The Beast of Talesend (Shultz) and Aftermath: Life Debt (Wendig)

Finished: Kanan: The Last Padawan and Kanan: First Blood (Marvel Comics)

AftermathLifeDebt-Hardcover The Beast of Talesend kananlp kananfb


A sequel dilemma

I honestly don’t know what to do about Where the Woods Grow in Flames, my NaNoWriMo 2016 project and the sequel to Where the Woods Grow Wild. The first draft is about 70% complete, but I don’t know if it’s worth finishing.

There are people who I know would want to read it, but not that many. Is it worth spending an entire summer finishing a book that even fewer people will read than the original? I don’t know, especially since I’ve got a lot of other activities on my plate.

I’m considering different options: finish and self-publish, turn it into another Wattpad project, or leave it for the time being. Feel free to offer any advice or suggestions!


What sort of adventures did you have this month? What are you planning for June? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day.

5 Reasons To Draw Your Story World Map

I love drawing maps. In fact, I got into map-drawing before I ever started writing stories. I remember sitting in my room as a kid, taping together sheets of paper to form fantasy lands big enough to cover my floor. My love for squiggly coastlines and pizza-slice mountains translated nicely into world-creating for my fantasy stories.

 

Map
Map of Akor, the fantasy continent for my Wattpad novel, The Broken City of Crows. (Drawn by hand, then colored and detailed with Photoshop.)

 

 

I’m a firm advocate of having a complete map for your fantasy setting, and even if your map-drawing skills aren’t exactly Ptolomeic, I think creating your own map is a valuable resource for fantasy writers. Here are some reasons why:

#1 Map-drawing forces you to develop a complete story world

To fill your map, you’ll need landmarks, cities, political boundaries, etc., and it’s way easier to keep track of all that information if you’ve got a map on the desk beside you. Gone are the days of having to make up awkward city names on the spur of the moment. Even if your story takes place in a reduced area, having that complete map gives your book that behind-the-scenes development it needs.

#2 Map-drawing gives you ideas for in-story locations

If you draw your map before or during an early draft, odds are you’ll get inspired for a cool setting for that scene you’ve been trying to nail down. Penciling in a lake in that one trout-shaped valley? That might be a fun setting for a battle…well, “fun”. You know what I mean.

#3 Map-drawing provides a reference for important information

Wait, how long should it take my protagonist to get from this river to that town? Oh, I’ll check my map measurements! Could an army actually make it through that forest? Check the map. Where does the city import its goods from? The port-towns? Good! How far away are they? Check the map.

You’ll be surprised how often you reference your map for questions you never thought you’d have to answer. Laying it all out on paper helps you avoid inconsistencies or fallacies of time and distance as you write.

#4 Map-drawing results in a valuable resource for readers

Most readers appreciate having a visual reference to help keep track of your story’s locations, especially in the fantasy genre. Once you get your map drawn out, you can share it on social media, on your website, or even in the very pages of your book, if you think it’s good enough.

I don’t know about you, but anytime I find a map at the start of a fantasy novel, I take a few minutes to study it so I remember where the major points of interest are as I read.

#5 Map-drawing is just plain fun

Drawing maps is, at least to me, another extension of the creative engine all writers have. It’s an artistic expression that complements and develops our story ideas, and sometimes it just feels good to take a break from writing and scratch out some of those squiggly coastlines and pizza-slice mountains.


Do you enjoy drawing maps as much as I do? Tell me about it! If you’ve never made a map, I highly recommend giving it a shot. In the meantime, have a great day!

5 Takeaways From My First Week On Wattpad

Eight days ago I created my first Wattpad account. Seven days ago I posted the first chapter of The Broken City of Crows. Now, a week later, I’ve taken a look back at the first taste of what will hopefully become a long and enjoyable experience (I suspect it will!).

wattpad cover II.png

Obviously, these won’t be experience-based tips, advice, or anything like that. I’m still a newbie. These are mere observations or highlights of my first few steps. Maybe they’ll be enough to convince you to join and share a story!

I’ve felt a lot less pressure

As an indie author looking to build a career on self-publishing novels, I often feel pressured to ‘perform’ well in fear of not succeeding economically. I’ve found that, on Wattpad, that pressure is non-existent. Yes, I want my story to be as good as it can be, but not having to worry about sales makes the experience of sharing a novel one chapter at a time way more relaxing and fun.

The feedback is great

A few blog followers and Twitter friends warned me that they received, occasionally, feedback that was either spam or harshly critical. While I’m sure someone like that is bound to show up, my experience so far with other Wattpad users has been nothing but positive. I’ve received general enthusiasm comments as well as constructive criticism. Both keep me going, and the fact that I can go back and make changes based on that feedback (if necessary) is such a big help.

I’ve gotten more reads than I expected

When I posted the first chapter of The Broken City of Crows, I didn’t set any goals or expectations. I was curious to see if anyone would read it, just for fun. Now, seven days and three more chapters later, The Broken City of Crows has received well over 300 reads. I know that’s not a huge number, and I’m sure a lot of writers would have easily topped that in their first week, but for little old me, that’s not half bad. In fact, I’m pretty excited!

Compared to the slow trickle of sales my other books get on Amazon, seeing so many people read (and enjoy) my work makes me a very happy writer. Again, there’s no pressure to reach certain numbers or amounts, a fact I’m quickly learning to value.

An established schedule keeps me productive

I upload new chapters each Tuesday and Friday, and knowing that readers will be waiting for that chapter to go up is a healthy motivation to stay on top of things. The chapters in The Broken City of Crows are on the long side (3000-4000 words), so editing them before posting takes some time, but I love the feeling of consistent productivity.

Working without a detailed outline broadens my horizons

You all know how much I love outlines. But for this project, I’ve decided to not rely on them so much. When I posted the first chapter, I had about 30K words written and a fairly solid plotline in mind. I’m not worried about hitting a dead end anytime soon. However, knowing that sooner or later I’ll have to start writing new chapters with fewer guidelines than I’m used to is a welcome challenge. Writers gotta grow and try new things, right?


If you’re looking for a way to share your work, interact with readers, and motivate yourself to keep writing, I think Wattpad is a fantastic place to do that. Once again, this has only been my first week. I have no doubt I’ll hit roadblocks, encounter nasty people, and get discouraged.

But for now, things are looking pretty great.  You should give it a try! In the meantime, have a great day.

The Ideal 10 Star Rating System + Big Announcement!

At the end of this post I’ll be sharing an exciting announcement with you all, so be sure to get in on it!


I’ve always been pretty vocal about my dissatisfaction with Amazon’s five-star rating system for books, the main reason being that five stars seriously limits the flexibility I’m able to have while expressing my opinions. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and construct a template for a ten-star rating system.

Currently, Amazon suggests the following criteria:

1 Star = I hate it

2 Stars = I don’t like it

3 Stars = It’s okay

4 Stars = I like it

5 Stars = I love it

Yuck. So…basic. So pessimistic. It sounds more like one of those convenience YA protagonists monologuing about her crush than a respectable review system. Does anyone even follow those criteria? I don’t.

Allow me to propose the following ten-star reviewing method:

1 Star = I read two chapters, burst a blood vessel, and fed the book to my pet turtle Franklin II.

2 Stars = I read three chapters, got a headache, and shook my head disapprovingly in Franklin II’s general direction.

3 Stars = I finished the book, but frankly, Franklin II is more interesting. And he’s a turtle. He doesn’t do anything. And his food smells weird.

4 Stars = The book’s okay for some light entertainment if I’ve got nothing better to do. Unfortunately, Franklin II and I had a game of marbles scheduled for today, so I won’t be reading much. Franklin II is bad at marbles. This could take some time.

5 Stars = I don’t regret spending a few bucks on the ebook. I enjoyed the general story, but there wasn’t anything remarkable about it. I might recommend it to Franklin II, since, being a turtle, his literature standards are fairly low, but he’s more of a mystery novel chap.

6 Stars = It’ll probably find a spot on my shelf, assuming the cover looks nice. Franklin II is irrelevant now. He can’t even see the shelf.

7 Stars = I quite enjoyed the book. I tried to have a meaningful discussion about the character development with Franklin II, but he was chomping on a lettuce leaf quite rudely, so I got mad and left.

8 Stars = Hmm, impressive. This book really stands out, possibly enough to earn a spot near the top of the shelf, where over time it’ll acquire a Franklin II-esque aroma. Gross. Franklin II stinks.

9 Stars = I read this book out loud to Franklin II after I’d finished it. We both teared up at the end. I’ve never seen Franklin II get so emotional. It was a beautiful bonding experience.

10 Stars = This book is extraordinary. Franklin II and I built a shrine for it, and on the second Tuesday of each month, we spend ten minutes in contemplative awe in front of it. Sometimes we even split a potato chip.

I hope the King of Amazon sees this post and takes the necessary steps to make my method official. In the meantime, Franklin II escaped his tank again. Gotta go find him.


Okay, now for the big announcement!

After a week or so of careful consideration, consultation, and calibration, I’ve decided to start a Wattpad account and serialize one of my backburner novels. Whaaat? Yes. I know. I think the earth just shifted on its axis. Here’s a fancy shiny thing for you to look at and be amazed:

wattpad cover copy

A band of escaped slave children face a world that wants them back in chains…or dead. Their struggle for survival begins in the uncharted wilderness and ends in a city ready to tear itself apart.

Placeholder cover art by yours truly. 

So why take this project to Wattpad? Several reasons. I’ve been puttering away at the manuscript for the better part of five years now, never really prioritizing it, so I figure this will be a good way to stick with it and finish it. It’s also the only novel I’ve written that doesn’t follow a developed outline, so a weekly chapter system fits perfectly. Third, The Broken City of Crows is longer and more ‘traditional’ fantasy than what I usually write. Why not try something different for it? Lastly, I really like the idea of getting feedback from readers as we progress through the story.

The first two chapters of The Broken City of Crows are already posted on Wattpad. Go read them here and tell me what you think! Any shares, tweets, or promotional smoke signals are greatly appreciated as well.

From here on out I’ll be posting single chapters every Friday or Saturday (depending on which works better for potential readers). And yes, I’m still writing Where the Woods Grow in Flames, don’t worry!

Anyways, I’m really excited to try this out. I don’t have super high expectations, but I’m curious to see how far we can go! Any support from you guys means the world to me, so let’s get going. Come along, Franklin II. We’ll be late!


Have a great day, friends!