Archive for February, 2016

FenRisRev

I’m going to start by saying this is an unsolicited and unbiased review.

Fenix Rising is a novella which focuses on the titular character Vincent Fenix and his becoming involved with a sinister group known as the Death Division. This is a quick read even for me, and I’m slow. It is the prequel to a series.

I know what you’re thinking: this looks like a Vin Disel movie. Yes, and that’s why I chose to read it. I was looking for something with a lot of action and this book didn’t let me down.

I’m going to start out with the positives.

  • Fast paced action
  • Well described fight sequences
  • No technical issues

Being a novella, the story  moves along pretty quickly. I haven’t read the remaining books as of yet, but Jeff Liboiron did a good enough job with storytelling that I would read more. It reminds me of films like Mad Max or The Fast and the Furious. This is book you read for fun, just like an action movie is for fun.

It does have a violence and gore factor. I’d say on a level of 1 being the least gore and 10 being a bloody nightmare, this story is a solid 8. If you don’t enjoy battles and swear words, I’d steer clear because this novella uses both pretty regularly.

The fight sequences are the best part of the the story. They are very well described. It’s pretty clear that Liboiron knows something about fighting. He uses very technical descriptions that make it easy to follow along. It actually makes the battles feel realistic because everyone involved is a seasoned veteran rather than a noob with a stick.

As for the book itself and the formatting, I didn’t have any difficulty reading it on my iPhone. The grammar and spelling were all fine along with paragraph and sentence structure. I didn’t notice any errors.

Now for a few notes.

  • Too much tell, not enough show
  • Relationships between characters are lacking
  • The book is too short to have the full impact of what the author is attempting
  • Confusing world building

My biggest complaint is this story struggles with “show and tell.” There’s a lot of tell and not enough show in a few areas. I realize it’s a novella, but I feel like it could have been much more in depth in certain areas.

Right from the start we get a big tell on a failed mission with the antagonists. I feel it would have been better to have been part of that mission instead of hearing about it after the fact.

Another concern is we don’t get to meet Fenix until 45% mark of the book. The story opens with the antagonists. I’m not saying that’s necessarily bad because it’s clear Liboiron was going for a dramatic entrance for his hero. I’d be fine with that in a longer book. The antagonists are pretty intense and they fill up a page nicely. Unfortunately, being a novella means that the story is over before you get to know the protagonist.

Relationship building for Fenix would be appreciated earlier. Being told who his friends are isn’t as helpful as getting to see him interact with them. Telling the reader “you should feel bad for this character because” just doesn’t cut it. I’d rather get to know the character in his natural environment to decide if he’s worth caring about.

Lastly, the world is very reminiscent of Mad Max, or at least it seems to be at first glance. It’s a dystopian world which seems to be overrun by anarchy. At the same time, there is mention of access of advanced medical care and technology which require other infrastructure such as education. Granted, those things could exist in a post-apocalyptic world, but in a world steeped in extreme violence it doesn’t seem to fit. More world building would be beneficial to have this make sense.

I think with a little rearranging and a a bit more polish, this story could really shine. If you enjoy B-Movie type action flicks and want a quick read, I recommend this book.

My overall rating for this book is 3 stars.

Three Star

If you’re interested, you can find it here on Amazon:

 

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Upcoming Changes

Posted: February 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

White Plum Blossoms, Flowers Of Early Spring, Plum

In the upcoming weeks I’m going to start making a few changes here at the blog. These changes will hopefully be for the better. If you’re wondering why I’m going to make changes, it’s because I want this blog to feel a little more alive.

First, there will be more posts. That doesn’t mean there will be posts every day, but just more often. I will continue with my weekly post on writing, musings,  and random rants as usual. The new posts will not be scheduled and be more of a “I have something to share” type of formatting. Some of these posts will be reviews!

Hurray!

First and foremost will be books by indie authors.  Before anyone gets too excited, I have some rules for my review.

1)      I will not be taking requests or submissions. The reason for this is that I’m a very slow reader. I also have a full time job, three kids, a husband, a new dog, and am writing and editing. On top of that, I struggle with concentration. Therefore, I will be choosing the books myself and already have a stack of them in my phone waiting to be read. You can check which book I’m reading and which books I have waiting in cue on my GoodReads profile.

2)      At this time I will only be reading eBooks. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on books, and eBooks are cheaper or free. I also prefer eBooks. Although paperbacks have their special place with their mystical smell and fluttery pages, they are heavy and clunky and don’t have their own light source. My phone is also with me at all times, which makes it easy to sneak a paragraph when I can.

3)      I will only review books with less than 20 reviews, and particularly I’m aiming at books with 10 or fewer reviews. My goal is to find those diamonds in the rough, because I know they are out there waiting to be discovered.

4)      I also will only post reviews if I have positive things to say about a book. Even if I give a book a low number of stars, I’m more interested in providing constructive criticisms and pointing out the good things an author has accomplished. My goal with these reviews is to show support to other indie authors, not to make people feel bad about themselves and their writing. We’re all on a journey which requires learning. Perhaps some people are publishing too soon, but bashing a book for lack of polish is not my goal.

Besides book reviews, I’m going to start discussing things I enjoy. That means I’m going to start talking more about my favorite shows and video games. In a little over a week Tom Clancey’s The Division is coming out. This is not a book but a game that I’m very excited to play. I’ll probably be doing my own player based review here on the blog. I’m also a big fan of MMOs and RPGs, which means you can expect me to talk about games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy, Skyrim, and so on.

Shows you can expect me to talk about are The Walking Dead, Jane the Virgin, Supergirl, Elementary, and The Shannara Chronicles. That’s not a definitive list, just an example. I don’t really get to see movies until they’ve been out for a while, so I might not talk about those as much.

I’m also considering sharing some of my art and have an idea for a new comic. I’ll be upfront and say that I’m not the best artist but I’m not terrible, either. We’ll see, though, since I don’t want to overwhelm myself.

Anyway, those are the upcoming changes I have in mind. I’ll be posting my first book review later this week!

Why Self Publish?

Posted: February 20, 2016 in Musings
Tags: , , ,

sunset-485016_640

As we all know, the world of publishing has changed. For writers like myself and many others, the changes have opened doors that once seemed permanently locked and barred. Over the past few months of my publishing journey, I’ve taken note that some people think these changes are for the worse, which I found surprising. Isn’t a place with more books a better place?

Apparently some people don’t agree.

A new author has a 1-2% chance of being picked up by a traditional publisher. In 2002, 81% of Americans surveyed wanted to be an author.  This was before the advent of simple self-publishing on the internet. Back in 2002 it cost upwards of $2000.00 to self-publish a physical book. I know because I looked into it. It was a daunting amount of money, and still is for many people.

In 2008, 5,000 books crossed publishers’ desks every year, which means approximately 50 of those books were chosen. In 2013 over 450,000 books were self-published. Think about that for a minute. 450,000 is really close to half a million people wanting to get their books out there, and is a much bigger number than 5,000. That shows how many people were not querying or who gave up completely after multiple rejections. It didn’t include every person who wanted to publish, either, just those who were early to the game.

I know writers get annoyed when talking to random stranger who say “I’m a writer, too!” It’s funny when you think about it.  I’m doubtful that accountants are annoyed when someone says “I’m an accountant too! I’m all about accounts payable.” (I don’t know if accountants say things like that. I’ve never been to one of their parties.)

The reality is, there’s a very good chance that a person is gushing because their mom loved their stories from elementary school. They could be saying it because they think writing a book is easy, or that person could legitimately be a writer.

Think about your own writing. That 450,000 people is only a sample of the how many writers are really out in the world, all of them wanting to get published. They may or may not query. Imagine an agent’s desk drowning in a sea of books.

The reality is this: Rejection is Subjective, (and they almost rhyme, so that should tell you something.)

Proof of this can be found in best sellers. You can Google “how many times was my favorite best selling novel rejected,” and you can feel uplifted by what you read. You can say “Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before it was published!” But think about what you’re really saying; 30 times an agent or publisher looked at it and said: “This is crap.”

A publisher is not an all knowing being in the clouds who can magically pick a masterpiece out at first glance. They’re human beings forced to make a choice out of an overwhelming number of selections.

Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than your book was dropped into the wrong hands. That’s why when I hear someone act as if a traditionally published author is somehow more magical and sparkly than a self-published author. I disagree. The only difference is that one won the lottery and the other didn’t. It’s the same as playing the PowerBall except the “ticket holders” have some skill and understanding on how to choose their numbers.

When the world of publishing eBooks became free, the flood gates were opened. Today anyone can jump out and publish a book. You can choose to do it poorly or you can choose to work hard and try to get it right. You can hire help with things or do your best to learn for yourself. The gatekeepers still stand at their gates, but those gates are no longer the only way into the palace.

Yes, there are a lot of books in that 450,000 which are poorly done, that’s true. I’ve seen some comments about how you can’t purchase an indie book because there’s a good chance that it’s bad. These less than stellar books are gumming up the system. They make the good indie authors look bad.

I hate to say this, but those books were already making writers look bad in traditional publishing. Remember the agent digging through 450,000 queries? How many times did that agent look at a horrible book only to then move on to another book with similar themes, plot, or characters to think: “Not another one of these rabbit zombie apocalypse stories! Ugh!” and throw it directly into the trash?

Agents are human. Wrong time and wrong place, grumpiness due to a bad day, and pre-conceived notions can all play a factor in their choices. I’ve seen agents on Twitter listing things that they don’t look for in an attempt to cut down the number of submissions they receive.

Now instead of one agent you have thousands of customers. You’re still in a pile of 450,000 books. The only thing that has changed  Nothing has changed, except that now your book is floating around available to be read by millions of people instead of hoping just one will look at it.

The point of writing a book is to have it read, right? Even if the audience is small and you’re not a best seller, the goal is to reach at least one person.

I don’t self-publish for fortune.

I’ve made less than $30 in four months. Except for those “lottery winners,” both traditionally and self-published, it’s not easy to live solely off of your writing. Just because you have a traditionally published book with a marketing team doesn’t mean  you’ll be successful.

I don’t self-publish for fame.

I’ve sold or given away 90 books. I’m still a big giant nobody.

Even if you’re a New Your Times Best Seller it doesn’t make you a household name. Authors like Stephen King and J K Rowling are exceptions to the rule. I’d guess that if I grabbed a random person off the street, they’d know the title Game of Thrones before they knew the name George R. R. Martin. (I give it a 50/50 chance, anyway.)

I self-publish because being published is my dream.

I wanted to be a author since the third grade. I’m guessing for most writers it’s a similar story. I just want a chance to tell my story. Maybe how I’m doing this isn’t perfect enough for some people. Maybe my lack of funding for an editor or graphic designer will cause people to turn their nose up at me, but oh well. If my story can reach a few people who truly enjoyed it, then it’s better than sitting down in the mud and giving up.

I’m also teaching my kids that you can make your dreams come true even if you have to get up and go to another job every morning. It takes hard work and dedication reach your goals. The Blue Fairy isn’t going to come down and smack you with her wand.  I want them to see that nobody should tell you “you shouldn’t do this because of xyz reason.”

Even if your dream doesn’t turn out perfectly or the way you planned, reaching your goals is what makes life worth living.

Thanks for reading and I hope all of your dreams come true! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I saved my blog for the occasion to talk about romance from my point of view by discussing two of my characters.

I’m not a big fan of romance. A little bit of a love story is fine, but once a story focuses on the love story part, I start to lose interested. If it’s a romantic comedy I’m more interested in the comedy rather than the romance, so I’ll be interested if it’s really funny. Love triangles especially annoy me.

For example, I watch the shoe Jane the Virgin. I love that show, but not because of the romance aspect. Jane’s dream is to be a romance novelist, and I love her journey in that direction. The characters are fantastic, the narrator is witty, and the constantly twisting plot keeps me hooked.

Jane ends up in a love triangle with two characters, Michael and Rafael, and at this point I’m glad it’s over. After a couple of episodes of “who should I choose?” I’m rolling my eyes thinking “can you please just decide so we can talk about other things?”

There are love stories in my writing. One of my beta readers is intent on my two main characters falling in love. If that happens or not is a spoiler, and I won’t say. The reality is, I like to look at love from a more practical point of view. Too much romance is unrealistic. Love is complicated.

This wasn’t always true.

Once upon a time Darkness Falling was full of the sappy daydream of a teenager who’d never had a serious boyfriend. Impyra, my lovely protagonist, was highly stylized to feel my own wishful thinking. I tried to create her as a mirror to myself. Her trials were somewhat different. She suffered abuse where I’d gone through sever bullying. Despite that, I was trying to create for her the thing that I really wanted: true love.

Going back into the story and having a great deal more knowledge and research on the subject of abuse, Impyra has grown up in my head while I grew up into adulthood. She’s no longer chasing a dream of true love, but rather the hope of self-discovery. Her worries are no longer the worries of my teen years.

I know that I’ve found love in my life, and come to understand what it really means. It isn’t about heart shaped candy boxes, roses, or rings. Those are all nice things, but for me, real love is much more than that.

It’s my husband playing with the kids so that I can focus on writing.

It’s being pulled in for a surprise hug while washing the dishes.

It’s watching a movie or show together after a long day.

These are simple things, but they are precious and what make up the moments of life. The big gestures are only special because they are not a common occurrence. That is the feeling I hope to put into the love stories in my books. Quiet, unassuming, and real.

What is your favorite type of love story? Let me know in the comments

 

Happy Valentine's Day2

I’m going to start out with a spoiler alert (although technically these are older works.)

Spoiler Alert for anyone who hasn’t read the Harry Potter Series and Little Women. Consider yourself warned.

I want to talk about characterization in interpersonal relationships, and I’m going to use examples. You can drop a few characters onto a page and make them interact. Creating meaningful connections needs to come from somewhere deeper within each one. Claiming two characters are best friends does not make it believable unless the reader can see their interaction. These are often things we do not explain to the reader. Much of this type of characterization comes from research, backstory, and the psychological makeup of each individual character.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot about the debate in the Harry Potter series discussing the way characters paired off in the end. Rupert Grint even gave an interview stating Ron would probably divorce Hermione. Even J. K. Rowling herself has admitted putting Ron and Hermione together was her own form of wish fulfillment.

The other side of the debate is how in the world did Harry end up with Ginny?

I don’t know Ms. Rowling or how her world building was done, so I can’t say if she admitted this due to societal pressure from the debate or of her own understanding of psychology. Even if Harry and Hermione would have been a better match from the standpoint of building healthy relationships, Harry’s relationship to Ginny makes complete sense considering his backstory.

This is an excellent time to take a look at character development on a much deeper level. We meet Harry just before he turns eleven years old as an abused child. s an abused child.

He doesn’t have a room of his own and is kept in a closet despite the house having ample space. He’s fed and clean but treated like a servant rather than a family member. His parents are dead. He fantasizes about them constantly, and what it would be like to be part of a loving family. He’s alone, isolated, and friendless.

Hogwarts was a fantastic school and Dumbledore a good mentor, but the reality is Harry never receives the proper therapy to overcome that abuse. On the contrary, every summer he was carted back into that environment. He’s promised being with his horrible aunt is keeping him safe. How would that make a child feel, to hear that these people who don’t want him are his only hope?

Now consider the questions “what does this character want more than anything?”

The answer is pretty simple. Harry wants a family that loves him, accepts him, and protects him.

The Weasley family is exactly what Harry wants. Their giant house is stacked to the roof with siblings. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley accept Harry from the moment they meet him. Ron is the brother he never had in life.

Although Harry is accepted into the family, what better way to assure permanence than through marriage? Once they have children he will then be linked genetically as well.

I’m sure the Grangers are lovely people (although one of them is probably a super perfectionist,) but we never really see them. Hermione is an only child. Intellectually and emotionally she may be the better choice for Harry. Damaged humans, however; tend to make choices that they think will repair that damage, even if they are wrong.

Also consider this from Ron’s point of view. The Grangers are a quiet, small family compared to his over abundant family at home. He’s trading hand-me-downs for quiet Sunday brunch with the muggles.

This isn’t the only time relationships in literature have caused an outcry. Let’s instead look at another book where two characters who seemed destined for love do not end up together: Little Women.

Like many girls, I read Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel as a teenager. I was so angry when Jo turned down Laurie’s proposal that I nearly stopped reading. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me because I saw the romance instead of what the book was attempting to teach to young girls.

Ms. Alcott purposefully chose for Jo not to marry Laurie. She wanted the girls reading her book to focus on things other than the romance. In the end, Laurie ends up with Amy instead.

LittleWomen

Laurie is actually not all that different than Harry. He is an orphan, being raised by a stanch grandfather. He’s wealthy (even though Harry didn’t grow up wealthy, he truly was.) He’s unsure of his place in the world. He’s lonely.

Meeting the March family is a breath of fresh air. The rambunctious sisters and their games is just what he has wanted. It is his wish to become part of the family rather than a welcome outsider.

Regardless of whether this type of characterization is intentional or not, the relationships in Harry Potter and Little Women are both examples of fictional people behaving like living, breathing human beings.

It drives the reader emotionally to see their favorite characters make choices they disagree with or make obvious mistakes, but that’s because it speaks to all of us on a much deeper level. It’s like watching your friend in the same situation and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop them. At the same time, the realism of these relationships is what makes them believable and memorable.

Thanks for reading as always. If you have any examples of characters behaving on their deeper psychology, let me know in the comments.