Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why Being An Indie Author Is the Best Thing Ever, and the Worst

Okay, so being an indie author is both the best thing ever, and the worst thing ever. How about I start with the bad first, huh? Yeah, let's get that out the way.

The bad:

1. Nobody knows who you are

This one really sucks. I recently did a Goodreads giveaway and got to talk to a lot of cool people. That was an amazing experience and I hope to do it again sometime. But one thing I made sure to do was message everybody personally (Well, everybody who was open to receiving messages) thanking them for choosing my book out of the thousands they had to choose from. It really meant a lot to me. I loved reaching out to them and getting messages back, but it took up a lot of time that I could have spent writing. Still, I'm happy I did it since I formed a lot of personal connections. But I'll get back to that again later.

2. The glut

Now, being an indie author, I've read a LOT of indie books to see what else is out there. Some are good, and some are bad. In fact, most of them are bad, which is a major problem for both the reader and the indie writer. When I buy a book that's been put out there by a major publishing house, I will read up to 100 pages before I put it down if I find that it's excessively boring. But do you know how many pages I'll give an indie book if I find it boring? Five. Ten if it's lucky. And that's because I, like many others, don't trust indie books. It's mostly because of the possible poor quality that may be lurking within. And this really sucks, since every last page, every last sentence, and every last word, has to get a hold of the reader and never let them go with an indie book, because we as indie author don't have the kind of credibility that comes with a Penguin Books or a Random House. Sure, bloggers help, but even that is beginning to become a problem as even book bloggers are getting backed up with requests. So, the relative ease of becoming an indie author is crushing us from the knees down. Too much weight, everybody! Too much weight!

3. Pimping for reviews

And here's the worst part of it all--pimping for reviews. I've done a lot of, you review me, I review you, deals, and it isn't always the best experience. If you're lucky, you'll find a book that you genuinely love and want to give a four or five star review (I've actually come across a few of these). But a lot of other times, you sometimes feel obligated to give a higher review than you think it really deserves, which hurts both you and the writer who thinks they did a great job on their book. And giveaways don't always help, either, since many times, when you do half off (or free!) deals, people will download your work but won't review it, which is ultimately what you want. Instead, your book will probably languish in somebody's kindle for years and years until they finally decide to either A: Give it a try, or B: Just get rid of it altogether. Either way, the writer usually doesn't win.

Phew, that was a downer. But now for the good. And there are a few good reasons. Here are just some of them:

The good:

1. Developing a fan base

As I mentioned earlier, thanking people who decided to click on my book for the goodreads giveaway allowed me to meet some really cool folks that I never would have met before. What's awesome about being an indie author is that you can actually make these kind of connections. You're a human being, not just a face on the back of a book cover. This opens up the opportunity to not only get your book out there to others, but also to develop a friendship and possible beta readers. It's really helpful, and I have people reading my books (Who I can talk to!) as I write this. So 1-up for that!

2. Keeping the content you want

My first book, The Darkness of the Womb, is super vulgar and graphic. A lot of people think that's a bad thing, while others love it. Here's the thing. I love it, and I thought it was necessary to the story. Now, if everybody who read it said that I should tone it down, then you best believe I would tone it down. Because I write for the audience, not myself. But if my book was published by a major house, I probably would have to cut a lot of the material just to fit the interests of the general public. And as an indie author, I never have to do that. Not ever. You can't front on that.

3. I'm my own Flavor Flav

Sure, it sucks that I pretty much have to be my biggest cheerleader, but hey, who's going to love my books more than me? I know if I had a regular publishing deal, my agent would be my cheerleader, but not having an agent (Even though I desperately want one) pushes me even harder to go outside my comfort zone and push my work out there. It's putting me more to task, and that's always a good thing. I love being proactive. YEEEAAAAH, BOOOOOOY.

So while there are positives and negatives to being an indie author, at least I'm trying my hardest. Because remember, it's better to try and fail miserably than to not try at all. Remember that if you ever want to become an indie author yourself. It's not about the money. It's about the experience. And being an indie author is making me a better person every single day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Goodreads Review: Y: The Last Man: Volume 1

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned (Y: The Last Man, #1)Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, wow, wow! Now THIS is what I'm talking about! A friend of mine in my writer's group recommended this series to me since I'm writing a novel about a dimension where women are in charge (The Interdimensional Subwoofer! Coming soon!). I had always wanted to read this series, but his was the push that got me to finally pick it up. And I'm super glad he did. This first book is amazing!

The story follows Yorick, a...well, I guess part-time escape artist would be the best way to put it. He's talking on the phone to his girlfriend all the way in Australia when pretty much the end of all mankind occurs. Emphasis on the "man," since women seem to be fine. At least in this book they are. I have no idea where the rest of the narrative is heading, and that's what's so amazing about this story. It's constantly building and never stagnant. This thing leads to that thing leads to this thing leads to that thing. And like all great fiction, it keeps you wanting to see what happens next. I seriously can't wait to pick up the second volume. I am super stoked!

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Goodreads Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I originally bought this book for my sister-in-law for Christmas, but my wife said that she probably wouldn't like it since it looked like it was for "kids". I initially thought it was for kids myself, too, and, unsurprisingly, a lot of "kids" HAVE fallen in love with this book. But now I actually know why. Just like The Catcher in the Rye has spoken to so many angst-ridden adolescents over the years, I think The Perks of Being a Wallflower will do the same for many years to come. And this is coming from an adult in their early 30s. This is a marvelous story with true honesty and wisdom. So a "kids" book, it's not.

The story centers around a teenager named Charlie starting his freshman year of high school...at the age of sixteen. There's a reason why he's starting so late, but it's all revealed in time so I won't spoil it for you. It's a quick and easy read and you can find out for yourself. That's part of the journey.

If there's one thing I didn't like though, it's that there are so many names. Sure, they aren't hard to remember--Bill, Patrick, Sam, etc--but there are just so many of them that it sometimes tripped me up.

Overall, though, this is a masterpiece of young adult lit that should be read by all, and not only teenagers going through the struggle (Since the struggle is real, of course). There are a few F bombs and questionable material for youngsters, but it's nothing more than what they would hear or find in an R-rated movie, which all of them are watching these days, you can be sure. Read it first before you let your kids take a peek, though. Sixteen would probably be the best age to introduce them to this story.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Goodreads Review: The Running Man

The Running ManThe Running Man by Richard Bachman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow. That ending. I was all set to give this book two stars, but that ending sure was dynamo. It really makes up for a lot of the other boring parts (I'll get to those in a few).

First off, if you enjoy the movie, The Running Man, then you will likely be very disappointed with this book, because it's nothing like it. Like, not at all. That whole Smash TV, this-is-a-game-show-where-you-run-and-kill-for-your-life (And prizes!) aspect is all but absent here. Instead, what we get is a really elaborate, cross-country game of manhunt, where you are literally running for your life so as not to be murdered. Honestly, I preferred the game show concept in the movie more and was definitely hoping for something like that here. I mean, death games, Stephen Ki--er, I mean Richard Bachman. Where could you go wrong? But a lot of the book is straight up boring and missing the cheesy corn of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

I know most people prefer the book to the film, but the potential of a murder game show could have made for an exceptional book if done right. Unfortunately (Or fortunately for those who prefer the book), there is no murder game show. Not really, anyway. And that leads to some really slow scenes that would have probably been handled better had Stephen Ki--sorry again. I mean, Richard Bachman, been more experienced as a writer. Instead, we get a book with loads of potential and a thrilling conclusion. But the rest of book, short as it is, is a bit of a slog.

A decent read, but don't expect the movie. It's nowhere to be found here.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: Judge Dredd: Mega-City Masters 03

Judge Dredd: MegaCity Masters 03Judge Dredd: MegaCity Masters 03 by Kevin O?Neill
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at Comic-Con. There were a whole bunch of Dredd books available on a table and I asked the vendor which one he recommended for somebody who wanted to get into Dredd. He told he to get this one. Maybe that was a bad idea.

I mostly knew Dredd from the vastly different two movies that came out about him, one with Stallone, and the other with Karl Urban. And while the Karl Urban one was far and away better then the Stallone version, I love both movies for different reasons. They both have their own, specific charms. Well, while most people claim that a majority of Dredd's stories are closer to the Karl Urban version than the Stallone one, after reading this collection of stories, I tend to disagree. In most of these tales, which span multiple decades, Dredd is mostly comical, with silly stories that don't really show the totalitarian judge I prefer in the Karl Urban movie. One such story even has Dredd acting like Bugs Bunny after it is wished upon him to be a nicer judge.

Does that make the stories in this volume bad? Well, yes, since I was anticipating a stone-cold badass like I one I got in the Karl Urban movie. I found him in one story that featured a music concert outside the cursed earth jurisdiction. In this story, Dredd is more stern and direct, leading me to believe that a lot of the later Dredd stories are probably more in line with Karl Urban's, tough-as-nails approach.

Even so, as a collection, it's lopsided with the more comical stories, which is why I wasn't too big a fan of this. I guess the same could be said if you leaf through some of the earlier Batman stories, or any comic book character for that matter prior to Frank Miller's stuff, so I guess I can't be too upset. It's more a matter of expectations not being met. So if you're looking for the Karl Urban Dredd in these stories, look elsewhere. He's barely here at all.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: Jurassic Park

Jurassic ParkJurassic Park by Michael Crichton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here is yet another example of a movie that is far and away better than the book. I would say that the last 200 pages of Jurassic Park deserve five stars, and the first 200 pages deserve one, hence my three star review. The main problem is that the first 200 pages are bogged down by science. That's not entirely the book's fault, and it's more the movie's, since the film handles that aspect of DNA and creating dinosaurs relatively well. If I had read the book when it originally came out, I would have fallen out of my seat with how brilliant an idea that was concocted for this story. I would also appreciate all the graphs and "realism" put into a story about bringing dinosaurs back to life. But in 2015, with me knowing full well how the dinosaurs are created, it really slowed down the story for me, which is quite good once the dinosaurs start attacking.

That said, Spielberg still did that better, too. I've read a lot of Michael Crichton's books, with Timeline being my favorite, and The Terminal Man being my second favorite, and I can definitely say that this book's action doesn't move as well as those two titles. The action is fine in this story, but it's not as enthralling as some of his other work, so I can't recommend this book when there is a far superior film out there, which I'm sure you've already seen. Plus, Lex in this book is SO annoying. I just wanted her to get eviscerated by a raptor. Overall, see the movie and skip the book. You'll be better off for it.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Goodreads Review: A Man in Full

A Man in FullA Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily in the top five greatest books I've ever read, Tom Wolfe's, A Man in Full, is a modern day classic that has just as much to say about humanity as Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Jungle. I'm dead serious. Tom Wolfe did the impossible with this book by making every last character both likeable, as well as repugnant in their own little way. In other words, he made them into real human beings. This is why something as, unfortunately, commonplace as a rape case is turned into a sprawling (nearly 700 pages!) epic that feels justified for being so long. Every single page is essential to the last.

I have to be honest, though. There was one chapter in particular that nearly threw me out of the book completely. While reading it, I thought the whole scenario was a dream sequence since it seemed so out of place. But by the end of the book, even that part, which comes out of nowhere (But makes sense given the location it takes place in), seems justified and essential to the rest of the story.

In the end, I don't think I have ever read a book that has captivated me so much as A Man in Full. Each chapter is expertly strung together, and it's so brilliant, that you can't help but step back and marvel. Tom Wolfe is a genius, and this is his crowning achievement.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: Moxie's Problem

Moxie's ProblemMoxie's Problem by Hank Quense
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start this off by saying that I HATE super deep fantasy stories. Wizard, orcs, elves, ugh! No, thank you! I'm not a fan and never will be. And I ESPECIALLY hate King Arthur and all that knights of the round table garbage. It takes itself way too seriously, and I could never understand why. But just like Mark Twain turned all that seriousness on its head with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Hank Quiense does a similar thing with his book, Moxie's Problem. But instead of using a modern day stranger who enters a strange world of chivalry and battle armor, Hank Quense does something even more impressive in that he uses characters within the King Arthur (Artie) universe and makes it funny. That's a feat all in itself.

What makes this story so funny is just how weird it is. Instead of grand scale battles, they play soccer. And instead of Moxie being a blushing damsel in distress, she's super annoying and even kind of ugly (I think I recall one scene where someone says they wouldn't kiss her because she has hair on her face!), so it's a nice switch-up of the tropes that we're all familiar and mostly tired of. But here's the thing. Moxie ISN'T annoying the entire story, and I think that's where this book shines the most. Even with all the humor with the other characters, what I think I like best about this book is Moxie's growth. By the end of the story, she's not the same character that she was in the beginning, which shows the true calling card of a master writer. It's incredible that I grew to like her toward the end of the book.

But I do have a big problem with this book, and that's the cover. I know you shouldn't judge a story by what's on the outside, but that cover is just too terrible not to talk about. If this book hadn't been recommended to me, there is no way I would have picked it up. That cover is just not appealing at all and it doesn't match the zany, craziness that happens within. If I had one recommendation for Mr. Quense, it would be to get rid of that cover! The writing is too good to be shackled down by such a crummy looking picture. Other than that, this book is fantastic. A little long, but it kept my interest throughout, so I applaud it. Give it a read.

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