March 31, 2012

Q1 2012 resolutions update

At the beginning of the year, I made two New Year's resolutions:

  1. Finish writing my second novel
  2. Read at least ten books by indie authors

Today is the last day of the first quarter, so I wanted to review my progress so far.

I started writing my second novel last November, and I'm about 2/3 of the way through the first draft. My goal is to finish the first draft before the end of June, which should leave me enough time for editing, etc. so that I can publish it by the end of the year.

I'm ahead of pace on my second resolution. I've already read three books by indie authors. If you count short stories (which are technically separate e-books), then I've read NINE indie books. Most of them have been good, as good as traditionally published books. I've already downloaded several more indie books to my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to reading them.

March 25, 2012

Book review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

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Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

At its core, Under the Never Sky tells the age-old story of a boy and a girl from different worlds who meet, initially dislike each other, and then fall in love. What makes this book so great is the universe the author creates. It's a young adult dystopian novel with elements of sci-fi and fantasy mixed in with the romance. If you're a fan of any of those genres, you'll probably enjoy the book.

The author also does a good job of building the two main characters into people I cared about. The book alternates points of view from chapter to chapter. Under the guidance of a less skilled writer, those shifts can be jarring and confusing. However, this was certainly not the case with Under the Never Sky. Not only were the shifts not confusing at all, they brought me closer to the character from whose viewpoint each chapter was written.

The only negative comment I have is with the cover, which shows a girl walking seductively toward the reader. It's not that the cover doesn't look nice, but it screams romance. If I hadn't read the book's description and only saw the cover or title, I doubt I'd pick it up because romance isn't a genre I like reading. I'm afraid that the book won't attract some readers who will find it as enjoyable as I do.

March 23, 2012

To review or not to review

Up to now, I haven't posted any formal book reviews on this blog. I've mentioned some books I read, like the Hunger Games trilogy (loved it) and The Stand (hated it), but there have been no posts dedicated to reviewing a book. That's about to change.

There are a few reasons why I want to start posting book reviews now:
  1. I believe that reading should be a big part of a writer's life. Reading more makes me a better writer. Therefore, any blog about my adventures in writing should also talk about what I'm reading.
  2. When I read a book I enjoy, I want to tell the world about it. This applies even more to indie books because they can really benefit from the publicity. But regardless of whether the book is indie or traditionally published, I want to promote the author who did such a wonderful job writing it.
  3. I think writing reviews will be fun and a nice change of pace on this blog.
Note that bullet #2 implies that I will only write reviews for books I like (4 or 5 stars out of 5). I don't want to be in the business of trashing books I dislike if one of my goals is to promote them. So if you start wondering why all my reviews are 4 or 5 stars, now you know!

I already have a book lined up to review. It should be up in a couple of days. Stay tuned.

    March 17, 2012

    The revival of short stories

    For most of my life, I read short stories from two sources: anthologies and magazines. If you were a famous writer, like Isaac Asimov or Stephen King, publishers were willing to put out a collection of your short stories or include them in an anthology of short stories along with other famous writers. Otherwise, your best hope of publishing a short story was to submit them to magazines. I took that route. However, with the popularity of the Internet and factors, many of these magazines died out. Most of the ones I read when I was a teenager no longer exist. Even ones that I submitted my stories to ten years ago aren't around anymore. It looked like short stories were dying.

    Then along came e-books, and now I'm seeing more and more short stories being published. I should know, since my first self-published effort was a short story collection, Numbers Plus Four. Since then, I've read more and more short stories in e-book format. It helps greatly that you can buy an e-book for 99 cents or even for free, because I personally wouldn't pay $5 for a short story, but 99 cents is reasonable. In the past year, I've read dozens of short stories, most of them by indie authors who I would never have read if not for e-books.

    I predict that the flexibility of e-books and e-book pricing will make short stories increasingly popular. If nothing else, authors will release free stories as samples of their work in the hopes of attracting new readers. It's an idea that I'm toying with, as well as releasing another short story collection later this year.

    March 14, 2012

    Results from last free promotion day

    Numbers Plus Four went free on Monday, March 12. It was the last free day under my current KDP Select enrollment period. Unlike the previous free day on a Monday, my results this time were underwhelming. There were a total of 19 downloads, and the book didn't break #4,000 in the ranking of "Free in Kindle Store."

    March 10, 2012

    Numbers Plus Four will be FREE March 12

    I have one more free promotion day left as part of enrolling in the KDP Select program. Based on my previous four days' experiences with making Numbers Plus Four free, I'm choosing Monday, March 12, as my final free day. Monday was by far my most successful day with making it free, and I hope next Monday will be just as successful.

    March 3, 2012

    Writing in different genres

    The news about J.K.Rowling's new book emphasized the fact that the book will be for adults. It made me think about writers who publish books in more than one genre. I recently read two books by authors who have done that. A couple of weeks ago, I read John Grisham's The Associate. I'm a big fan of Grisham's legal thrillers, even those like The Associate that didn't get good reviews by the wider reading public. However, when I read A Painted House, Grisham's attempt at literary fiction, I was bored out of my mind and didn't even finish the book. Another author who IMHO didn't successfully cross genre boundaries was Eoin Colfer, best know for his Artemis Fowl books. I enjoyed reading Artemis Fowl and looked forward to reading Colfer's entry into crime fiction, Plugged. While not nearly as atrocious as A Painted House, I was still somewhat disappointed with Plugged. Maybe my expectations were too high, but Colfer doesn't let me down with new Artemis Fowl novels.

    I can't think of too many authors who have written across multiple genres that I enjoy reading. Isaac Asimov and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle come to mind. More recently, the only two I can think of are Neil Gaiman and Stephen R. Donaldson (although I didn't think his crime and sci-fi books are as good as the Thomas Covenant series that made him famous).

    I really hope J.K. Rowling's new book is close to being as good as Harry Potter. It's easy to brand an author as a sci-fi author or a horror author, and I can see why traditional publishers want to do that with writers because it's easier to sell books that way. However, I would like to see more authors write successfully across different genres because it's something I plan to do. I don't want to be pigeon-holed into one genre. Of course, being successful in one genre is something I still aspire to, much less success in multiple genres.