The Latest Goings-On

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I figured I’d fill all y’all in on what’s been going on.

I spent a week up in Everett, WA two weeks ago, giving some training to a couple commands at the Naval Station there.  Then last week, I flew to Japan for an exercise at the base in Yokosuka.  Flew back on Saturday, and boy are my arms tired.  Yuck, Yuck.  🙂  Anyway, the travel was all for work, but it was also fun.  I like traveling, even when it’s to places I’ve been a dozen times or more (like Yokosuka).  There’s always something new and cool to see and do…and I get per diem.  🙂  That certainly helps.

Yesterday, my wife and I ran the Spring Sprint Triathlon, which takes place in Mission Bay here in San Diego.  We ran it together last year as well because it fell on our anniversary.  I managed to trim a minute from last year’s time overall, so not a bad showing.

And then today was our wedding anniversary.  🙂  Though we didn’t do much today – yesterday was our real celebration day.  But still, it’s cool.  Seven years.  Wow.  It feels like fifteen.  😛  Just kidding, of course.  🙂  It’s been lots of fun so far.  Challenging at time, but then what isn’t that’s worthwhile, right?  We’re looking forward to lots more good years ahead.  The more the better, right?  🙂

So that’s all cool.  But there have been some goings-on in the writing world to tell y’all about as well:

First, and the most fun, a relatively new book review blog, The Good, The Bad, & The Bizarre, wrote a very nice review of The Pericles Conspiracy the other day.  It appears they liked the book quite a bit, which tells me they are people of impeccable good taste.  So all y’all ought to go over and read, not just the review of my book, but their other offerings as well.

And then, if you haven’t done so already, now would be a great time to pick up The Pericles Conspiracy.  Because of goings-on #2: I decided to do an experiment in price pulsing, so for the next week, the book’s discounted to $0.99.  Just to see what happens when that happens.  🙂  Spread the word, eh?

Ok.  Goings-on #3.  Nick Mortise, the guy who read How NOT To Rescue A Damsel In Distress, has finished his audio renditions of my other three Larian Elesir stories.  I’ll be reviewing them over the next day or so, and then they should go on sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes within a couple weeks after that.  So stay tuned.

Lastly, the cover art for Tollard’s Peak, Glimmer Vale Chronicles #3 is just about ready, and I got the first set of comments back from my first readers.  At this point, I anticipate a mid-June release.  More to follow, including the cover reveal as soon as the last few action items for the cover are done and the bill paid.  So stay tuned for that as well.

So that’s it.  As you can see, a fair amount’s been happening while I’ve been silent.  Now that I’m back home and back in a normal routine, I’ll get back to posting chapters of The Pericles Conspiracy more regularly.  Until then, have fun, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

🙂

Yeah, yeah, I know.  That doesn’t leave out very much.

You’ll just have to use your imagination.

A Review Of Mixed Treats

A few months back, Alain Gomez over at Book Brouhaha sent out the word that she was looking for short stories and collections to review.  Being the nice guy I am, I sent her a copy of my short story collection, A Jar Of Mixed Treats.  She finished reading it and posted a very kind review this morning.  Reading her review was a very pleasant way to start the morning, let me tell you.  🙂  So go check it out.

In other news, I put So You Want To Be a Dragon Slayer back to free today, in honor of MLK day.  I also got to thinking some more about pricing.  In the last month, 24 people bought a copy of Dragon.  Pretty good, and Lord knows I’m not complaining.  But…  Several people have, in conversation, told me they avoid the $1.99 price point because it’s this weird place of limbo – it’s not the uber-cheap point that $.99 is (though let’s face it, in this day and age $1.99 is nothing) but it doesn’t give the royalty that $2.99 does.  Several have advised me to just skip $1.99 altogether.  Theoretically, I like the sliding price scale that I developed (I talked about it back in July when I went on my $.99 rant).  But it can’t hurt to experiment.  So post-freebee sale, Dragon is going to $2.99.  We’ll see how the buying public reacts to that price point.

I am, of course, continuing to write.  I am making progress on The Pericles Conspiracy, though not as quickly as I’d like.  I still plan to have the first volume done by the end of the month, and ready for release sometime in February.  My friend/beta-reader is still chewing on Glimmer Vale.  I suppose I SHOULD have been looking for cover artists for the last few weeks, but frankly…I haven’t.  I was thinking it would be cool to have a map of the region inside the book too, so I’ll need to contact an artist about that as well.  I really need to get on the horse with those two things if I want to get it out next month too.  And that’s the hope/plan.

Right.  Well, I guess I’ll get back to it then.  Cheers!

Several Books Reviewed

Hello again.

I did a bunch of reading while we were in the hospital.  In preparing for the trip, I picked up several ebooks, since I figured I’d have time to power through them.  I didn’t finish all of them, but here’s what I thought of those I did finish.

Back when I was getting started writing, late December/early January, I decided to do a bunch of research into the business side of writing and publishing.  I don’t recall exactly how I found Derek J Canyon’s site, but I was pretty impressed with how open he was about how he was doing business, his costs, the steps he took to get his books done and out there, and how he was doing in sales.  I didn’t immediately key on his book though.  But while getting ready for the hospital, I decided what the heck and picked up a copy.

I’m glad I did, because Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is a very fun and quick read.  Noose is a great character.  Heck, they all are.  And there’s nothing like gun fights, car chases, skydiving onto blimps, aerial battles, and general mayhem for great entertainment.  I’m just glad I don’t live in that world.  That said, I do have a few nits to pick.  One character is advertised to be several hundred years old, but if you do that math on that, it means he was born in the 1800s, and none of the technology he supposedly used to prolong his life existed back then.  And they all suffered from the “you shot me but I’m going to keep on trucking as though it didn’t affect me” problem every now and then.  Now, Derek has a reasonable explanation for it with one character: pain inhibitors.  And nanobots for healing solves the long-term wounding problem nicely.  But that still left the immediate “I’m shot” reaction lacking in some of the characters sometimes.  That’s a small nit, though.  I’m going to go ahead and give Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance five stars on Amazon and Goodreads, because I liked it a lot.

On to J E Medrick.  You may recall a few weeks ago I read her first book, Shackled, and that I liked it a lot. Cheat is the first novella in her new Icarus Helix series.  The vision is to put out shorter, serialized works more frequently.  Her schedule right now is to churn out one 20,000 word piece each month for the series.  That’s a pretty good idea, I think.  Several people have commented that ebooks are a great format for shorter reads, and that serialized stories could be primed to make a comeback.  Anecdotally, my wife and her friends have commented to me that they really like the notion of shorter stories, since you can tear through them in a single sitting, vice having to spend days or weeks (depending on schedule and the size of the book) finishing a full novel.  Plus, writing shorter pieces mean you finish them quicker, and get more titles out there faster, which is a great help for getting noticed.  Hard to find you if you have just one story out there.  If you’ve got twenty?  That’s a different matter altogether.  So in all, I’d say this is a smart business move, and a good way to tell stories.  Heck, it works pretty well for comic books, right?

Anyway, back to Cheat.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as Shackled.  She’s going for the YA genre here, and while I found the story fun and enthralling, I don’t think she quite hit the age of the characters correctly.  The main character is supposed to be seventeen, but to me it seemed he acted more like thirteen at times, especially when it came to interaction with girls.  Also, it seemed she made the characters a little too ignorant about some things, and I didn’t buy it (e.g. – is it really believable that juniors in high school wouldn’t know the word fiction?).  Those gripes aside, I dug the story, and she set up the future of the series pretty well.  I’m intrigued about what exactly CGT is trying to pull.  So overall, pretty good, but I thought it had some flaws.  I’ll be throwing three stars onto Amazon and Goodreads.

I’ve been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast for a long time now (a year?  year and a half? Maybe more? Not sure exactly).  I started listening to it because I’m a big Wheel of Time fan, and when Brandon Sanderson got tapped to complete the series I, like everyone else, said “Who the hell is that?”  I found his website, and contented myself that he was legit.  Then, at some point after The Gathering Storm came out, I noticed the Writing Excuses link on his site and followed it.  I dig podcasts in general, so I decided to start listening in, and liked it.  So even though I wasn’t writing, I listened every week.  It helped fan the embers though, I guess.  In January, after I started writing Masters, I went back into the podcast archives and found an episode about agents.  Since every writer HAS to have an agent (or, it turns out, not), I listened in, and realized I’d heard it before.  They talked about some controversial discussions that had stemmed from one of Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog posts.  Intrigued, I went to his site.  I’ve been reading his blog religiously ever since.  His Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog series was one of the first essays about the publishing business I read in my research.  It totally opened my eyes, since he talks about writing and publishing from a practical business-oriented perspective, and that resonated with me as an MBA.  It might be going a bit far to claim him as a mentor, since, though I’ve commented on his blog a few times and exchanged facebook messages with him once, he doesn’t know me from Adam.  But he’s definitely had a big influence on my thinking about this business.

Anyway, he set himself a challenge to write 100 short stories and epublish them, on top of everything else he’s writing this year.  Because his discussion on this topic has fueled my thinking a lot, I decided to buy and read The Challenge: Volume 2. A Collection of Five Stories, which he obviously he wrote as part of that challenge.  I’ve got mixed feelings about it.  I like his two “Poker Boy” stories a lot.  The second story in the collection, about the talking tree, was, as advertised, a bit weird.  But whatever, it’s all good.  “On Top of the Dead” was neat, but I had a couple nits to pick with it.  First, he’s talking about a pulsar being the thing that killed everyone.  I’m pretty sure he means a Gamma Ray Burst, since a pulsar is a quickly rotating neutron star that gives off radio pulses: not harmful.  The second thing is that while a Gamma Ray Burst will, if close enough, sterilize a planet, unless I’m vastly mistaken, it’ll only kill half of it.  The far side of the planet from the Burst would not receive any dose unless the Burst lasted for a full rotation of the planet, because while the gamma rays will be bent by the Earth’s gravity well, they won’t be bent THAT far that the planet wouldn’t still cast a “shadow”.  Now my wife would say, “It’s make believe” and roll her eyes at me for analyzing it like this, and I think Dean would too.  But that’s just how I roll as an Engineer and science guy.  I prefer plot points and details that are as close to factual as possible before they start deviating, if that makes any sense.  I still liked the story, though.  The last story was pretty cool.  I liked the concept: you get younger the farther away from your home planet you travel.  I wonder why anyone would consent to return to Earth at the completion of these missions, though.  So yeah, good stuff overall, despite a couple hiccups.  I’m throwing a 4 up on Amazon and Goodreads.

Ok, I haven’t finished The Name of the Wind.  I’m only into the second chapter.  But I went into it expecting brilliance, and so far it’s living up to that expectation.  As a guy who fancies himself a big time fan of fantasy fiction, I’m rather embarrassed that I’d never heard of Patrick Rothfuss until about a month ago, when he did a bunch of podcast interviews to promote his new book.  Considering he’s gotten all kinds of accolades, I rather think I should have.  Oh well, I’m making up for lost time now.  So far, I give it three snaps up in Z formation, to coin a phrase from “In Living Color”, back in the early 90s.  Ok, I’m dating myself now.  Let’s go with two thumbs up and leave it at that.

Not that it really matters what I think about these works, but I felt like pontificating.

I’m done now.  Carry on, then.  🙂

Book Review: Shackled

Over the weekend, I finished Shackled by J E Medrick, a new indy writer. I’ve commented on her blog a couple times, and she on mine.  So I figured I’d give her book a shot.  I planned to write a review for Amazon, but since I haven’t made any purchases with my Michael Kingswood account yet, I’m not allowed to post any reviews yet.  Ah, the trials of using a pen name.  To get around that, I spent $20 and ordered a couple old computer games.  But it’ll be 48 hours until Amazon will let me post, so in the meantime here’s my review:

Full disclosure: I don’t know Ms. Medrick personally, but I have interacted with her via blogs and email.  So this wasn’t really a cold read.

That said, I was very impressed.  I started reading it during a lull at work on Friday, but didn’t get very far before I had to stop for feeling like a slacker.  That evening, after putting the kids to sleep, I re-commenced.  To put it simply, the book sucked me in.  I didn’t stop reading that night until I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, at a bit after 1 am.  The next morning, I continued in between helping my wife with some tasks for a business event she had in the afternoon.  Then, when she left for that and my son took his nap, I hit the book again with gusto and finished it.  It was a very good read.

Not to give away any spoilers, but it’s a pretty original take on a classic theme (the cover art should clue you in to which theme).  I liked the way she made it all completely believable and within the bounds of natural possibility.  Well, as much as it could be, anyway.  The language she used was very good: a bit old-fashioned, in keeping with its being set 300 years ago, but without going so far that it was difficult to read.  I found the characterization believable and the story compelling.

I will say I was a bit disappointed in the ending.  Not that it wasn’t good, but it left me thinking, “That’s it?  What the heck happens?”  I guess that’s good in a way.  Ambiguous endings make you guess and leave you wanting more.  But to me, it felt a little rushed in the end.  I guess I just like a bit more closure.  Also, I’m not entirely sure why Dragos would have gone along with Anghel’s plan at the end.

Regardless, I liked this book a lot.  As compelling as it was, I have to give it five stars.

So there it is.  I suggest you roll over to Amazon and check it out: Shackled.