Review: Bewitched & Betrayed

I didn't think I'd be posting an entry so soon, but I wanted to get my review up of Lisa Shearin's new book, Bewitched and Betrayed. It's the fourth installment in the "Raine Benares" series. I hope this will not only be the first of many reviews, but that it'll lead to some of my books being reviewed elsewhere too.

B&B takes off with Raine Benares, an elf and "finder of things lost," still attached magically to a soul-sucking rock known as the Saghred. The evil goblin Sarad Nukpana had wanted to get his hands on the Saghred, but was sucked inside thanks to Raine. At the end of the third book he got out, and now he's taking the bodies of important people to stay alive. What's worse, he still wants the Saghred so he can go on his own little spree of mass destruction and world domination, and Raine's bond is in his way.

Raine isn't alone in her quest to stop Nukpana. Continuing to help her are her two love interests: elf paladin Mychael Eiliesor and goblin mage Tam Nathrach. Also assisting are a variety of powerful humans, elves, and goblins. Then there's her extended family of "seafaring businessmen" (aka pirates).

There's a lot to like about the series in general and B&B in particular. Raine is attractive and witty, the sort of female character that ought to appeal to both sexes. The world Shearin has created has plenty of strong magic, yet the ships have cannons and the heroes get grenades. B&B has a few more twists in its plot that previous books have had.

The one aspect I like about B&B is that Raine is more in command of events than in the previous three books. A couple of times things go awry, but they're due to the actions of characters rather than any mistakes Raine makes. I don't get why authors (and editors and publishers) have their "capable" heroes and heroines making errors or not noticing things just to add some drama. It annoys the crap out of me. Anyway, I'm glad it didn't happen here.

My one concern about B&B is that, unlike in the last three books, the problem raised at the beginning isn't quite solved at the end. (I'd say more but I'd give way too much away.) There's more of a "To Be Continued" feel at the end than in the other three. This doesn't quite mean the reader is left hanging; I felt a genuine sense of hope in the last scene. While the first three books in the series have a stand-alone quality to them, I get the sense that B&B and the fifth novel are going to be closely tied together.

That said, I must repeat that I enjoyed the Hell out of Bewitched & Betrayed. It's has a great appeal to fantasy readers. SF/F readers who like smart characters with a sense of humor will like this book (and the series). I understand Raine's making inroads among the romance crowd; I can see why, and as a guy, I don't really mind. I'm glad I found this series, and I urge you to seek it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Writing for "free"

There might be some changes to Scoopfire, the online newspaper I'm a columnist for. The editor and I were talking about this, and he said he wasn't sure he could pay me during the transition. I replied that I'd be happy to let him publish my columns for no payment. I don't usually write for "free," but I thought in this case I could make an exception. That got me thinking.

Many years ago a certain well-known science fiction author wrote somewhere that authors should never sell their works for "free." According to that author, even getting paid less than the pro rate was about the same as giving your work away. I don't quite agree with this, even though when I send out my short stories I only do so to publications that pay.

For one thing, getting paid in contributors' copies is still getting paid. Those copies have value; otherwise the publisher would be giving them away. For another thing, I've always believed that it's better to sell your work and get the credit rather than wait to sell to a market that pays pro rates. Some markets that pay token payments have been around for a good long time; selling to them can pay off in ways other than a check or PayPal deposit.

Something else occurred to me about this subject. Unless you have a contract, you're writing for free anyway. You're writing your book, short story, or article with no expectation of getting paid, but in the hope that your work will sell to a paying market.

What about blogging? Unless you're charging readers to see your blog, that's writing for free. Of course, most writers blog in part to promote their writing. In that way blogging isn't free, but a promotional tool like a press release that you write to get other things to sell.

While it's good to write with the idea that you'd like to be paid, you need to have something to say first. You need the passion to write, and the passion to be heard. The one will get you working; the other is what motivates you to sell what you write. Where you sell, and how much you're paid, are your own decisions. As long as you're comfortable, you shouldn't worry about what others think.

Write what you can and sell where you can. After all, you can choose where you submit your work to, but someone else decides whether or not to publish it.

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