Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: The Long Way Down

One of my New Years Resolutions was to read at least four novels this year and to review them (especially since I hope people will review my books).  Today I gave up on this book, which I had nearly dropped a couple times before.  My reading time is just so limited that unless a book really drives me to pick it up and keep reading, I eventually lose interest.

Below is the review I've posted to Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads.

I forgot to also mention in it that I didn't like the author's chapter breaks either; rather than ending a scene with a cliff hanger or interesting lead, he just broke the scene itself in half.  An unclean gimmick instead of an artful break.  

I didn’t make it all the way down in The Long Way Down. 

It’s not that it’s a *bad* book, it’s actually a decent book, and a fun one.  I made it just over halfway before finally deciding I wasn’t interested enough to continue, and had almost given up a couple times before that.  I picked it up because it sounded similar to a story I’d written a long time ago, the cover was very alluring, and it just sounded like fun.  

I’m not a big Urban Fantasy fan, but this one makes a damn good fit for the genre: a former private eye and modest sorcerer operating in the mystic underground of Las Vegas. 

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Stuff I liked:
- The detective work he does is well done and realistic, like going to the county clerk’s office for property records. 
- The world building is kinda cool.  The author obviously knows Vegas and what a great place for this kind of story.  And I liked the underground community of odd magicians he gathered together, as well as the corporate cult of bad guys. 
- Though I didn’t get through enough of the book to get all of the character development for the hero, it was there.  Flashbacks and hallucinations make a scattered attempt at giving him some background, but it’s kind of few and far between, and feels a little forced. 

Stuff I didn’t like:
- It’s written with what I can only call the Joss Whedon voice.  A lot of quick quips, sarcastic comments, and clever comebacks.  Everyone’s a snarky hipster, which gets on my nerves quickly.  To me it sounds less like how real people talk and more like a corny TV show.  A lot of readers (and TV viewers) like that, and if you do you’ll enjoy that voice here too.  But I don’t.
- Similarly, the book reads kind of like a fun comic book and less noir as I’d like.  (Though he certainly makes a lot of effort to sound noir-ish by using—sometimes over using—old narration tropes and clich├ęs.)  This also made it kind of weird for me that he’d dip into such dark places as snuff films and still handle it with that corny Whedon voice.
- The second most important character in the book is a stylish demonic hottie who dresses like an Anime chick, drives a sports car, and has a crush on the loser magician.  Again, too comic book/CW TV series for me, and I just didn’t buy that a demon prince’s right hand would give a damn about the hero.  (Granted, as far as I had gotten into it, she hadn’t gone all in for dating him yet, but she was heading that way, and that didn’t work for me.)

Overall, I firmly believe that a lot of readers will love this book.  And I certainly didn’t hate it, but…  It just wasn’t for me.  3 stars.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Love Hurts: Meerkat Press Anthology

Now that Meerkat has it up on their site and it's all official, I'm proud to announce that my short-short story "Green-Eyed Monster" is going to be included in their spec fic anthology Love Hurts.  It's a collection of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, slip stream, etc. stories from a wide range of authors.  My story will share space between the covers with big names and award winners, including Hugh Howey, Charlie Jane Anders, Morgen Knight, and Steve Simpson, among others.

You can check out the preliminary info and my own related bio on their site by clicking here.

Love Hurts is scheduled to release in October.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Top Blogger's Fantasy Review of Tarnish

Some time ago I submitted Tarnish to a big book review blog-off, initiated by celebrated fantasy writer Mark Lawrence, author of the Broken Empire series.  My book went in a big batch of others to Bob R Milne, who has a reputation as a big-time book reviewer.  You can see his shining review of Tarnish and four more indie book here: Beauty in Ruins. 

Here's what he had to say about Tarnish:

This is a very odd book to talk about - on the surface, it just shouldn’t work. We have multiple narrators, between whom we switch more for narrative effect than the needs of the story. We have a distinct coming-of-age story (which I’ve long since grown tired of), where the hero hides behind the persona of who he’d like to be. We have storytelling within the story, a kind of intrusive info-dumping that interferes with the forward progression of the plot. Finally, we have a plot that seems to wander without a clear direction for much of the book, before suddenly finding its direction and racing to a climax.

Despite all that, it worked. The narrative was strong – from the language, to the dialogue, to the imagery. Brink isn’t afraid to write lengthy paragraphs and scenes, to take his time setting things up, and to show us his world. That, to me, is engaging. It draws me in, makes me read a bit more closely, and gives the appearance of depth (which, it must be said, is not merely appearance). As for the characters, the hardest aspect of writing a novel is to encourage that immediate emotional connection, to draw readers in, and make them care - and Brink does that very well. I liked Billy from the first time we met. He interested me, intrigued me, and made me want to know more about him. There was this welcome duality to him that allowed him to play the hero very well, even as he grew into the role. It’s less a coming-of-age tale and more a story of self-discovery.

There’s a lot of imagination and fantasy flourishes here as well that really caught my attention. Even small, throw-away scenes like the dream of monsters inside the tavern are full of fantastic detail, allowing you to not just ‘see’ the danger but ‘feel’ it as well. That element of storytelling within the story really won me over. It allows for things to get a bit wild, a bit over-the-top, without dragging down the credibility of the entire story. We expect people to embellish their tales of heroism because we want to be entertained as much as we want to be informed, and Brink clearly understands that.

It’s not just mindless heroism and adventure, however. There’s also a heart to the novel, a very self-aware sort of appreciation for humanity and the horrors of war. Towards the end of the story, Billy stands before an advancing army of swamp monsters and asks himself, “How monstrous can they be if they mourn?” It’s a good question, and it leads into the final evolution of Wil (the hero) coming to terms with being Billy (the boy). Sure, I would have liked a little more world building, and I would have liked more of a sense of the wider world, but those are minor quibbles to be resolved in a second book. All-in-all, Tarnish is a solid tale, a classic sort of heroic adventure that’s really pulls all the elements together in a satisfying resolution.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Writing in 2015: May Recap - Dark Fantasy, Superheroes, and Sex with Aliens

I keep checking my email for news, but there's no news to be had.  I'm checking my sales numbers every day, which are doing great and holding steady, but not on any dramatic upward rise.  How can they be when I'm not writing anything new? I realized the other day that sitting idle and not creating new stuff is driving me crazy!  That's why I'm antsy and doing the same pointless routine crap everyday with no new results.  Because I'm stagnant.  I need to be moving forward, onto the next book!  But it's not for lack of material...

Unfortunately my creative endeavors are on hold for a little while.  I have one month to accomplish two months worth of pre-deployment paperwork, planning, and training, and then I'll be in training for two to three more months before shipping out to Afghanistan.  Real life is dropping a bomb on writing life (hopefully not literally).  Once again, it's time to reassess and draw up new plans and expectations.

The month of May was far from a loss, however.  

*Photo from a couple years--and books-- ago. Not this event.*

I had my most successful book signing/sales event to date.  Each one I have turns out better than the last.  This one was on-base here in Japan at a big semi-annual bazaar.  I doubled the sales from my last one back in Texas, and am quite happy with that, though I still didn't get all the business I was expecting.  I was hoping all the young guys and gals from the ships would come through looking for books to read before they set sail, but that didn't really happen.

The biggest draw for the bazaar is Asian furniture and knickknacks, which appeals more to married folks with housing; I don't think my potential readers who sleep on a 3" x 6" rack were expecting a SF/F author to be set-up in there.  I also got a bit screwed because a big box of Hungry Gods didn't arrive in time for the event, and I sold out of what I had pretty quickly.  Postal system from the States runs slow, especially for big heavy boxes.

I also, believe it or not, sold some ebooks from my table!  I had some certificates printed up which I filled out with Smashwords coupon codes that the customers could use once they got home, paying a discounted rate at the sale.  Worked out great!

I actually intended to write up a big post about my thoughts on the event and holding signings in general, but who's got the time?!  Not me, unfortunately.  Working 13-hour ER shifts, preparing for war, and spending time with the fam leaves little time for blogging.

This month I also got two more books into paperback editions: Dreams of Flying and The Prince and the Darkness.  Both retail for $11.99, and they have a combined total of 360 pages, two novellas, six short stories, and two different sneak-peeks at Hungry Gods.  Great fun in bite-sized packaging.

(The "sex with aliens" from the title of this post, by the way, refers to the short novel Invasion inside Dreams of Flying.  The life of a superhero...  *Sigh*)

As I posted and "tweeted" about previously, May also saw my heroic fantasy, coming-of-age novel Tarnish published in an audiobook edition.  It's 15 hours of awesome storytelling narrated by Todd Menesses, who lives in New Orleans but sounds like he's from fantasy England.

What about my stats and word count recap?  Well, just as I start getting into a good routine, some earthquake hits and screws up my nice trend.  (We did, in fact, have two earthquakes here this month, too, but I'm referring to the deployment.)  I will leave here in July and not return to my home and family until well into next year.  So there goes my 12,000 words a month goal and the nice streak I had going.

Aside from the nice accomplishments above, I did get 5300 words written in May, some of it on the next story I intend to float around to magazines.  But the blog series I started this year may be ending right here and now.  I'll continue to track any work I get done, but I probably won't be spending any more precious time blogging about it.  My writing efforts are about to get much more focused, and things like marketing, social media, etc. will be taking a seat even further to the rear than they already have been.  Doing these things take time away from the most important aspect of writing: WRITING!

(In fact, it amazes me how much time and energy I see spent on Facebook and Twitter by people who say they are "writers" -- when do they write stories or books if they're always online gossiping?)

So that's my "writing recap" and probably the last of that series.  But looking to the future:

I still hope to write Twilight of the Gods by the end of the year, which is the prequel to Hungry Gods and Identity Crisis: Book Two.

And I continue to simplify and focus my writing career goals looking forward.  I think if I do these rather easy things for the foreseeable future, I'll be doing pretty damn well for myself:

1. Publish 2 to 3 books a year, every year.

Period.  This year I've already gotten out Hungry Gods, The Prince and the Darkness, and Dreams of Flying, and it's just now June!

2. Double my overall sales from one year to the next.  

This one I have less direct control over, but I think it's a realistic and ultimately successful expectation.  I figure if this trend does continue--selling twice as many books this year as last year, and twice as many next year as now--then I could be making a decent living from writing in about five years, maybe even enough to ween myself off of a day job.  Not a Hollywood, one-in-a-million instant best-seller story, but a realistic goal and certainly one I can live with.

Increasing the availability and media forms of my work help accomplish this.  This means not being exclusive to one outlet (*cough*cough* Amazon *cough*) and diversifying with ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobook versions, as well as writing in multiple genres.

3. Continue to work both sides of the fence: indie publishing and getting stories into magazines and anthologies.  My story  "Green-Eyed Monster" has been picked up for Meerkat Press's "Love Hurts Anthology" and I have a couple more in circulation with high expectations.

4. Focus on the single most important aspect of writing: WRITING. 

But what about marketing?! you might ask.  In my opinion, over-rated.  But if you want to make real money, start up your own indie book marketing outfit.  I bet the marketing side of the indie author boom is making five-times what indie authors themselves are making.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has their own "book marketing and tweeting service" that they're happy to let you pay them for.  And I'm not convinced they help all that much.  But that's just me.

When I get half a million words out there, I'll start marketing.  Until then, what's the point?

Okay, that's it for me.  This post has been two or three that I've had in mind combined to "save time," but I've sure been out here on the patio typing away for a long time.  In fact, the sun is now cloaked behind some grey clouds and a nice, moist breeze.  Looks like rain...