February 28, 2015

Book Review: Dust by Hugh Howey

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Description (from Goodreads):
In a time when secrets and lies were the foundations of life, someone has discovered the truth. And they are going to tell.

Jules knows what her predecessors created. She knows they are the reason life has to be lived in this way.

And she won't stand for it.

But Jules no longer has supporters. And there is far more to fear than the toxic world beyond her walls.

A poison is growing from within Silo 18.

One that cannot be stopped.

Unless Silo 1 step in

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

February 21, 2015

Too many ideas, not enough time

I might have mentioned in previous blog posts that I keep a notebook of story ideas. Whenever I come up with an idea that I think would make a great story, I jot it down in the notebook. It's usually just a couple of sentences to a paragraph. I have so many ideas now that I could easily spend the next decade writing them! Yet new ideas come up every week.

What's a writer to do when there are so many shiny, new ideas beckoning? Especially when motivation for the current project that I'm working on has waned, and any distraction is welcome? Here's what I do, with varying degrees of success.

  1. Finish the current project: As tempting as it is to take a break from the manuscript I'm working on to start a new story that seems better at the time, I force myself to finish the current story or at least set a deadline when it has to be done. I use the prospect of working on the new idea as an incentive for me to finish the current one. The other reason why it's important for me to stay the course is that a story doesn't count for anything unless it's done. An author could have half-written manuscripts for ten stories that are great, but until they're done and published, readers won't know about them.
  2. Set aside the new idea for it to age: Sometimes a story idea gets better with time, and sometimes it spoils if left alone. I can't count the number of times when I thought an idea was The Next Great Thing (TM) when I first had it, but when I revisited it months (or years) later, it sounded lame. The opposite can happen too. I've had ideas that I thought were just OK, but upon later inspection, I discovered that it held much more potential than I previously imagined.
  3. Incorporate an idea into the current story: It's happened before where I was flipping through my notebook of ideas while working on a story, and an idea for another story sounded like it could make a good subplot for my current WIP or trigger a similar idea that I could incorporate.
Do you have more ideas than you know what to do with? How do you handle them?

February 14, 2015

What I plan to copy from Joe Konrath

Joe Konrath is sort of a legend in indie publishing circles. He's sold a boatload of books since he severed his traditional publishing ties and decided to publish his books himself. Not only is he successful, but he's also an evangelist for the indie publishing industry. His posts on last year's Amazon vs. Hatchette controversy, for example, were often referenced by others covering the story. His earlier posts are part of what inspired me to become an indie writer.

Of all the things that Konrath has accomplished, there is one that I plan to follow in the footsteps of. Note that I said "plan", not "hope" or "want." I hope to be as successful as him one day, and I want to make millions of dollars selling books like he does. However, that level of success is beyond my control. Even Konrath will tell you that luck played as much of a role in his success as skill did.

What I plan to copy from him is summarized in this screen shot from his site:

See those books? That's not even all of the ones he's written because that widget scrolls to reveal more! That's a lot of books!

How many books have I published? Well, you can see them all on the side bar on the right-hand side of this page. I've got a lot of catching up to do. Konrath has been doing this for a lot longer than I have, but his catalog is still impressive. It just reminds me that I need to keep on writing in order to stay in this business and to increase the chances that luck will eventually come my way. Check back in ten years or so to see how far I've gotten in my plan to publish as many books as Konrath has.

February 7, 2015

It's the best of times and worst of times to be an indie author

I know the title sounds contradictory, but it's true (and similar wording worked for Charles Dickens). If you're an indie author or aspire to be one, then congratulations! Also, my condolences.

Why is now the worst of times to be an indie author? I wrote this post because for the first time since I started indie publishing my books, authors who used to make a good living wage from their books are reporting depressing sales. Some are so discouraged that they're calling it quits. I know it's happened to me. My sales fell off a cliff last summer, and although they recovered somewhat over the holidays, they're back down to the levels they were at last summer and fall. This is after releasing two new novels and a short story in 2014! Some blame the introduction of Kindle Unlimited for their woes, but I think the causes of the slump go way beyond KU. Publishing is getting more competitive than ever. Thousands of authors with millions of books have entered the market in the last four years. Additionally, traditional publishers are starting to catch on and offering e-books at lower prices. I believe that reader demand is growing, but not at the pace of supply. It's natural for all the titles available on retailer sites to drown out any individual author or book. Gone are the days of publishing a book, discounting it, and seeing a surge in sales. (Actually, I've never seen this myself, but I've heard it happen to other authors in the 2010 to 2012 time frame.) Unless you already have a fan base, it's going to be harder than ever for new readers to find you.

 So what makes this the best of times to be an indie author? For one thing, the trend is still moving upwards for indies as a whole. The latest Author Earnings Report shows that a third of all e-books sold on Amazon are indie published and indie authors earned 40% of all dollars earned by authors on e-books!

For me, the more important reasons why it's great to be an indie author now are freedom and control. Authors have the freedom to write the book they want to write, and they have more control than ever over the publishing process. No longer do we have to send out manuscripts and wait months for an agent or editor to reply. Under the traditional publishing system, if you were one of the lucky ones to get accepted, you'd still need to wait another year or two before your book saw the light of day, and you'd have little or no control over the appearance of the final product, including the cover and the jacket blurb. Nowadays, it's easy to publish your book and see it available at a wide variety of retailers as soon as its ready.

Amazon is still the gorilla of the industry, but Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Google have all become viable channels for authors to make a living. Newcomers like Kobo and Scribd are also becoming popular among readers. A cottage industry has also sprung up to support indie authors. There are dozens of places to go now to find cover designers, editors, and advice. The biggest difference between now and two years ago is that a smaller percentage of authors will see financial success. Those who jumped in with the hopes of getting rich quick will be disappointed, but those who became indie authors because they love to write will be able to take advantage of everything that's available to them today.

What about slowing sales that are leading some authors to give up? That's typical after a gold rush. After an unsustainable increase in participants, many are getting weeded out, and a new generation of winners will emerge. A recent example from the high tech industry was the dot-com bubble and collapse between 2000 and 2003. I remember it vividly because I worked in Silicon Valley at the time. A sudden rise in all things related to the Internet created a glut of companies that were only interested in getting rich quick and had no business existing. (Anyone remember Webvan or the Pets.com sock puppet?) Although many dot-coms went away, some strong ones survived (e.g., Yahoo, eBay), others thrived (Google, Amazon), and new ones emerged (Facebook, Twitter). I think the same will happen with indie publishing. I don't know if I'll be an eBay or a Google or something else, but I still love to write and I still have lots of stories to tell, so I plan to weather the storm to see what's on the other side.

February 2, 2015

Proximity New Cover Blast

Proximity Series-Book #1
By: M.A. George
Genre- Romance/Science Fiction

She’s an alien whose home world doesn’t even know she exists.
He just inherited a planet, and now he’s running from it.
She has spent a lifetime hiding in plain sight.
He wants to escape the spotlight.
Her touch can heal.
His wounds are deep.
Two hearts, two planets collide.  It’s the perfect union.
Except the part where the world’s about to end.

January 31, 2015

Book review: Fashion Fraud by Jamie Campbell

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Truly Winx only wants one thing in her life: to be a world famous fashion designer.

When she discovers her favorite designers are conducting a design competition with big prizes up for grabs, Truly knows she was destined to enter. The only problem is she can’t sew.

Desperate to make it in the industry, Truly somehow convinces the shy, intelligent Jane Davis to be her competition partner and sew her design into a real dress.

With her future at stake, Truly will go to any lengths to be a fashion designer. Even if that means committing the ultimate act of Fashion Fraud.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

January 24, 2015

When the book isn't better than the movie

2014 was a pretty big year for movie adaptations of YA novels. Mockingjay, Part 1 was the highest grossing film of the year. Divergent and The Maze Runner also pulled in more than $100 million each at the box office in the U.S. alone. The Giver turned a tidy profit after grossing over $65 million.

However, when it comes to comparing the book to the movie, it's almost always the case that when a book is adapted to film, something is lost in translation. How often do you hear someone saying, "The book was better" after watching a movie adaptation? I know that I hear it (and say it) all the time. Even when the films are great (e.g., the Hunger Games and Harry Potter movies come to mind), the books were still better because they were so awesome to begin with.

Looking back on recent years, there were a few cases in YA fiction when I thought the movie was better than the book. For example:
  • Divergent - As a book, I thought Divergent was good but not that great. Seeing it depicted on the big screen made the story bigger than I had imagined in my head when I read the book. I definitely liked the movie better.
  • Stardust (see my book review here) - I really liked both the book and the movie. However, the movie added some more elements that IMHO made it better.
  • Warm Bodies - The movie isn't an entirely faithful adaptation of the book, but that's a good thing because I thought the book dragged at times while the movie was more interesting.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - The decision to focus on and embellish the Battle of Helm's Deep was brilliant. It turned what was my least favorite book of the trilogy into a more exciting movie.

A couple of movie adaptations were as good/bad as the books:
  • The Giver - Although the second half of the movie strayed from the book, I thought both were great. Casting Jeff Bridges as the Giver was a good choice, imho.
  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Here's a case where neither were good. I didn't like the book because Clary annoyed me and the story made little sense. I hoped the movie would be better, but unfortunately, it wasn't.
  • The Host - I almost didn't read the book because it was written by Stephenie Meyer, but I'm glad I did. (For all you Twilight haters, give The Host a chance.) I also liked the movie, partly because I've been a fan of Saoirse Ronan since I saw her in City of Ember. I was equally impressed by how the producers were able to condense a 600+ page book into a 2-hour movie without losing too much important information.
Which movies did you like more than the books they were based on?