Category Archives: Books/Literature

Book Reviews

Over on Reddit they had an interesting discussion regarding negative book reviews (you can check it out here) and it reminded me of my own personal book review horror story.

As an independent author, I very much appreciate and love when readers take time to review my books. Thankfully, the bulk of the reviews have been positive and, again, I so very much appreciate it.

However, there was this one time I had a review on Amazon.com for one of my novels that really set me off.

While I don’t have the exact quote (I’ll explain in a moment) the reviewer stated something to the effect of: “This was not the book I wanted to order” and gave my novel a 1 star review.

The reason I don’t have the exact quote is because I wrote to Amazon and requested they remove this review.

What the reviewer was essentially saying was that they somehow mistakenly ordered my book instead of whatever they wanted, were pissed off -I can only suppose!- that my book was out there confusing them, and therefore I deserved a 1 star review for being a pain in the ass… or something.

I told Amazon.com that the review made no sense. They were not reviewing my actual product but were somehow upset by their own actions and were taking my book down (the overall stars went down as the book had just been released and had few reviews) with their 1 star review.

To give credit to Amazon, they took the review down.

But I know there are many other bad reviews out there that make no sense.

Perhaps the one I see far too often involve giving 1 star reviews for delivery of books, where the package is mauled or wet or the book is damaged in transit… and that somehow is the fault of the author of the book how?

Ah well.

On Writing: How I Do It…

I’ve always been fascinated by how authors write.

I’ve bought books by some noted authors who go into explanations of their writing techniques and I’ve found that, for the most part, there are similarities and differences but one thing is clear: They put in the work.

As much as writing is presented -especially in the media- as some kind of diversion, writing is hard work, at least for me, which involves considerable concentration and thought along with many, many hours of sitting either behind a desk or on a chair going over page upon page of material.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: When I set about writing a novel, it becomes something of an obsession. In quiet times, when driving or when eating or showering or you-name-it, my mind tends to wander upon whatever story I’m currently writing and thinking through scenarios and bits and pieces of the book and, at times, coming up with new/interesting material to add to the whole thing.

It’s almost like going into an OCD trance that can quite literally last for many months and, in extreme cases, a year or more!

But let’s take a step back and please note, this is my way of doing things and may not apply to other authors.

How do I begin the whole process?

This is the hardest part of the whole thing: Coming up with a concept you feel is worth pursuing.

It’s so easy to say so very hard to put into practice. At any given time I may think -when I’m not concentrating on whatever novel I’m currently writing- scenarios and possibilities for future stories.

Sometimes, I back into works I’ve considered before and/or not quite completed and revisit them to see if they’re worth giving a second look. Other times I’ll simply come up with an interesting new concept -one I very much like- and work from there.

There are no hard and fast rules about this, other than that the initial idea, however it came about, is one that I feel is worth pursuing.

In the novel I’m currently writing, I did a little of both. The story begins with a short story I wrote quite literally many, many years ago and always felt like it would make a great intro to a cool longer story/novel.

Only problem was at the time I wrote that original story, I simply had no place to go with it.

I subsequently got involved in my Corrosive Knights series and, following finishing that off and looking around for a follow up, I then recalled that original short story I wanted to expand upon all those years before and, like magic, the gears in my head start turning and soon I had an interesting initial concept which used the short story as the novel’s intro and went off from there.

But, just because I had an initial concept doesn’t mean the whole story, start to end, is all planned out and ready.

I started the process of writing this new novel and, as I did, the story morphed from something relatively simple/simplistic into something a little more involved. Often, it moved into directions I couldn’t have anticipated without the hard work of sitting down and typing away and/or thinking about the story day after day.

This is a standard part of my process of writing, by the way. Every novel I’ve written, every one, I start off with an initial set of ideas that appeal to me enough to pursue but over time the story inevitably moves into all kinds of new and interesting -and unanticipated!- directions.

Why?

Maybe because I can’t stand the idea of writing something that isn’t to some degree original/interesting to me as a writer… and I need to surprise myself with these new directions.

See, this is part of what makes for a successful book in my mind: I want to be as surprised and excited by new and interesting ideas as I hope I make readers feel. I don’t want to go through an “easy” route and write something that repeats other stories. I want there to be an unpredictability to the story being told, to offer surprises that make sense yet are just that. In as much as possible, I want to give my readers -as much as I’m able to- something they may not have read before.

That’s not to say I’ll always succeed at doing this, but I try!

If I’m very lucky -or in a good groove- I’ll have the first full draft done in a matter of 2-4 months or so, usually the later and in some cases sometimes longer.

The “completeness” of the first draft of my novel varies wildly but it usually represents a point where I’m comfortable enough with what I’ve written -start to end- that its time to print it out, read through it, and add notes and new material while starting the process of getting rid of any extraneous material.

There have been times I’ve decided to print out a “first draft” with significant chunks of the book missing/not yet written. Sometimes its because I’m unsure what will go into these sections and I want to step back and get a clear look at the book “as is” to figure out what it may need. Once again, creativity is the key as I’m coming up with scenarios and sequences.

Speaking of which, at this stage I sometimes realize sections of the book may need to be re-ordered. An action scene on page, say, 100 works much better if it is placed a little earlier in the book proper.

By the time I finish the first draft read-through, I have a printed copy that’s filled with red marks and notations. Sometimes, I’ll write on separate pages what I need to put in.

I take those revisions -and at this stage they’re pretty significant- and put them into the computer. I then print the whole revised thing out and read through it, once again adding in things that are needed, taking out things that aren’t, while cleaning up whatever I can. The earliest drafts are mostly about getting the novel’s sequences in order and making sure the book works like it should.

When we get around to the third draft, its usually more of the same: Going over the book, trimming whatever fat there is, and adding or subtracting what needs to be added or subtracted. In some instances I may realize that there are two or three separate sequences that work better if they’re merged together into one, or one sequence that works better if its split in two.

It’s like having Lego blocks and swapping out pieces here and there as well as sometimes moving bigger sections to other places.

This will go on with each subsequent draft and soon I’ll have the novel’s story pretty well “locked” down. All the parts will flow, leading to the climax and conclusion and there will be no need to either add or subtract sequences.

When I’ve gotten to that point, my revisions tend to move into the storytelling mechanics themselves. In this part of the process I become interested in streamlining the writing and making sure its as sharp as possible while leaving the story itself.

I’m an impatient reader and this informs my writing. I don’t like novels which waste page after page with what winds up being pointless dialogue or overlong description. While it may work for other authors, for me it becomes an exercise in “trimming the fat”.

While the page/word count tends to rise from the first draft until I have the story “locked down”, the opposite happens when I reach this later stage of writing. As I cut things down, making sure that I’m not repeating myself and offering the reader the essence of the story I’m trying to tell without the bloat, the word count now tends to start falling.

Soon enough I reach a point where my red marker is being used very little from page to page and that’s when I know the book is just about ready to be released.

And that’s when the reward for all that hard work comes.

The moment I finally hold a fresh copy of my latest novel and flip through it.

It’s an absolutely beautiful feeling!

…And so it begins… Again!

Last week Wednesday I flew to Texas to deal with some family business. It was a short flight and I was back home by Sunday morning.

However, before taking the flight, I was determined to finish off the first draft of my latest novel. It was a tight thing but I managed to do so, creating a more than adequate first draft before flying off and, on Monday, I printed the whole thing out.

Alas, Monday through Wednesday have been something of a nightmare. I’ve been super busy with other work and the stresses associated with it -and they have been just beautiful, let me tell you- and I haven’t been able to give the new novel as much time as I’d like.

Today, Thursday the 15th of April, I finally had some time to devote to it and I managed to work through a few pages. Not a lot, granted, but I feel like the book’s opening is pretty solid.

I also feel the novel is not unlike Terminus Island, my last novel, in that I feel we’re moving quite well here and I have a book that’s much closer to done than some of my previous ones that required up to 12 or so drafts before I felt they were good enough to be released.

In the case of Terminus Island, I wound up doing some five or so drafts of the book before I felt it was good enough for release.

I’m hoping the same happens this time around. If that’s the case, its not inconceivable that this new novel will become available later this year.

Oh, and in case you were curious: This novel will be an independent story and not part of the Corrosive Knights series.

I may well return to that universe after this novel -I still have story ideas!- but this concept proved too much of a draw to let go!

I’ll tell you more as I go along!

Dr. Seuss in the (negative) spotlight…

Over on CNN.com I found this article by Amanda Watts and Leah Asmelash concerning…

6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published anymore because they portray people in ‘hurtful and wrong’ ways

Basically, these six books feature stereotypes, particularly of Asian and Black people, which sadly were somewhat the norm in caricatures back then but which are now looked upon quite negatively.

The books in question, taken from the above link, are:

  • And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
  • If I Ran the Zoo
  • McElligot’s Pool
  • On Beyond Zebra!
  • Scrambled Eggs Super!
  • The Cat’s Quizzer

I’m quite familiar with Dr. Seuss’ most famous books, like Green Eggs and Ham, and of the six titles they’re not going to print anymore I’m only familiar with And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street and McElligot’s Pool.

The others I’m unfamiliar with.

As I mentioned before, this sort of problem has reared its head with other works of the 20th Century: They present caricatured stereotypes which by today’s standards are very hard to take.

I recall plenty of Warner Brothers cartoons featuring questionable depictions of Black people. And who can forget that Walt Disney won’t release Song of the South, the film which features one of their most recognizable songs –Zip A Dee Doo Dah– because the entire film features a depiction of the antebellum South that is, to say the least, extremely out of date -and that’s being kind!

I suppose this is a sign that as a society we’re growing and coming to understand how hurtful some of the stereotypical depictions of people can be.

We can’t change the past, certainly, but we can work to make things a bit better today and tomorrow.

On Writing… More Stuff

So a couple of days ago the novel I’m currently working on seemed to somewhat come together after several months of working on it.

Finally!

I wish I could offer some kind of short cut to coming up with a story but the reality is that, at least for me, its a tough process that involves so much daily thought and consideration…

For me, at least, my novels have to have a special something to make them come together and be worth pursuing. At the risk of sounding really obnoxious, I want to say something with each book. I want readers to have some very complete work which has its beginning, middle, and end which, if I’ve done things right, will leave you, the reader, satisfied.

Hopefully, more than satisfied!

I want the work to linger in your mind, at least for a little while, and maybe get you curious enough to try my other works.

When writing, I want to create something that intrigues me and which I feel would intrigue me if I were walking through a bookstore looking for something to read.

For my current novel, I have what I consider a terrific start but wasn’t too sure of the middle and ending.

What’s changed is that I’ve now got an ending I’m quite happy with and which eases -and creates!- problems. On the one hand, I now know where it is I’m going to with this book. On the other hand, I have to come up with some juicy stuff to fill the middle of the book. I already have a few things so let’s see how it goes!

More news when it develops!

On Writing… Cracking The Story…

While I’m certain it’s different for authors, for me a book really starts to work when I’ve got both the start and, especially, ending worked out.

Before reaching that point, there’s plenty of thought put into my novels, working with situations I’d like to present or bits of dialogue that appeal to me.

But once I have that ending, I have something to work toward and that, in turn, allows me to more sharply focus on the stuff leading up to that ending.

I’ve often tried to put into words what writing is like.

It’s like creating a jigsaw puzzle from scratch, creating each individual piece and getting them to fit together -or throw them away- until you have a picture.

Or perhaps its like painting in oils, first creating a rough image then slapping on the oils, mixing them and creating more and more delicate shades and a more solid overall picture.

The part that can get frustrating -and, paradoxically, invigorating!- is that, at least for me, the final product is in flux, usually through the first two or three drafts at least. Its frustrating because sometimes one worries when and, more importantly if the whole thing will come together. So far, I’ve never encountered a situation where I’ve written over 20,000 words or more and then have felt the need to go back to the beginning and start all over.

But I’ve come close!

There have been works where I’ve written this amount of words and, while I still completed the novel I was working at, wound up discarding hard work in that word count range because it simply wasn’t necessary for the book as it evolved in my head and on the page.

Invigorating because with each “failure”, if one wants to look at the early pecking away at the book, you close in on what makes the story work and, like a dull blade, you’re banging away at it and sharpening it with each new passage/page.

So it is with the book I’m currently writing.

But yesterday I had a pretty big breakthrough: I kinda/sorta have figured out the novel’s ending -finally!- and now all the other pieces are falling into place.

I’ve been writing this book for something like two or three months now and have reached, roughly, the 1/4th point or a little past it, and now with the ending, things should move a little quicker.

We’ll see!

And just like that…

…I’ve begun my next novel.

It’s the way it goes, you never really stand back and admire your work but rather put it aside when its done and start up something new.

While I’m not totally done with Terminus Island -I’m still waiting for the paperback proof copy of the novel to arrive- the fact is the creative aspects of that novel are pretty much finished and, therefore, its time to think about what’s next.

I started doing so and certain ideas started creeping into my head. Next thing I know, I’m putting some of those early rough ideas into a brand new Word file and I’m off and running…!

I suspect this next novel will not take place in the Corrosive Knights universe, making it the first book in many a year that is set apart from that series.

…but…

Does that mean I may be leaving the Corrosive Knights and the various characters behind?

Hard to say. I still have that one “Epilogue” story sitting in my hard drive and I do mean to one day get to it but we’ll see about that.

Further to all this, given that I’m at the very, very early stages of writing this new work and there’s little doubt it will go through a lot of changes before I’m done with the first draft, much less the final draft, it is certainly possible it might wind up tying into the Corrosive Knights universe when all is said and done.

So, for now, stay tuned!

Terminus Island: Now Available In All Formats!

As of today, September 29, Terminus Island, the 8th Book in the Corrosive Knights series, is now available both in Kindle/Digital format as well as in Paperback:

Whew…!

It’s been quite a bit of work getting it out the door but its for the most part all done on my end. I have yet to get the “proof” copy to verify everything’s ok, but since I’ve already seen the PDF and it all looks good through and through, I felt confident enough to make the paperback available despite not having the proof copy yet.

So for those who prefer to get physical copies of the book, you can get ‘em starting today.

And if you do get the book -I know some of you have already picked up and read the Kindle version!- if you like what you read, please put in a review.

I would appreciate it!

Terminus Island Is Available Now…!

A while back, while still working on Terminus Island, I mused that I might have it done by late Summer. Welp, today, September 22nd, is officially the first day of Fall…

…but…!

Terminus Island was officially listed for the Kindle (ie, digital) yesterday, September the 21st, which means on the very last official day of Summer, the novel was available!

She lies hidden in the frozen northern seas, a dark island with even darker secrets.

For seven survivors of an ill-fated cruise ship, she offers hope at first, then terror.

They will meet forces they can’t understand even as some in their group prove they are not who they seem.

The fight for survival begins and before their stay is done, they will learn the terrifying secrets of Terminus Island.

To get your copy or read it free through Kindle Unlimited, click here:

Given the book was just listed, there’s still some stuff Amazon.com has to do. For example, the Corrosive Knights book listing at this moment has the previous 7 books in the series listed but not this book, with is #8.

…but…!

I’m here to tell you it is a part of the series and in the next day, hopefully, I’ll be getting the paperback material (ie cover and back cover graphics) and will have the proof sent to me. Once I review it and if it all looks good, the paperback follows. I’d give it a week or two, though.

Meanwhile, if you want to read the latest Corrosive Knights book, there it is!

Corrosive Knights: Terminus Island…!

Ladies and gentlemen, its been a long journey but we’re just about there now.

Without further ado, here is the cover to the latest book in the Corrosive Knights series, Terminus Island!

She lies hidden in the frozen northern seas, a dark island with even darker secrets.

For seven survivors of an ill fated cruise ship, the island at first offers hope, then horror.

These seven survivors will meet forces they couldn’t possibly understand even as some in their group prove they are not who they seem.

The fight for survival begins and before their stay is done, they will learn the terrifying secrets of Terminus Island.

******

Terminus Island will be available via Kindle (ie, digital) by this week. I’ll give you the exact date when it is released but it should be in the next couple of days.

The paperback will be available a week to two weeks later, as soon as I get my proof and feel everything is ok.

Feels nice to finally update the eight cover picture…