June 23, 2012

How I choose what to read

Last time, I talked about how I read both print books and e-books. The process by which I choose what books to read differs depending on the format.

The print books that I read are all traditionally published. A majority of them come from recommendations by friends or via GoodReads. I joined GoodReads about a year ago, and as I add more books to my list, I've been getting more and better recommendations. Of my favorite books read this year, about half came from GoodReads recommendations. I also visit my local public library every weekend. A few months ago, I decided that I would pick random books from authors I've never read and give them a shot. I've been trying to do this once a month. Most of the time, these random books have been so-so, but occasionally, I'll stumble across a gem. The remaining print books that I read are ones that look interesting when I browse the library or bookstores.

On the e-book side, my selections are based on electronic sources: blogs, forums, Twitter, free e-books on Amazon, etc. I tend to favor indie authors when I read e-books. One reason is that there are a lot of indie authors on the websites that I go to. The other is that I will only buy an e-book if its price is significantly less than the print version, and that tends to happen with indie books much more so than with traditionally published ones. As part of trolling blogs and forums, I'll also hear about books that are available for free on Amazon. I probably wind up downloading one free e-book a week, but they tend to go to the bottom of my to-be-read list and will bubble up only when I run out of paid books and previously downloaded free books on my Kindle.

I'd be curious to know how other people pick the books they read.

June 16, 2012

E-books vs. print books (or, how I read)

There's no question that e-books are here to stay. Last year, Amazon reported that they sold more e-books than print books. This has led to a religious war about which is better for readers, e-books or print books. E-book supporters point to the convenience of carrying many e-books on one device and their (sometimes) lower cost. Those who prefer print books cite that print books feel better and they're easier to share.

Where do I stand on the e-books vs. print books debate? Honestly, I like both. It may sound like a cop-out, but I like having both formats and would be sad if one of them went away.

When I have at least half an hour to read, I prefer print books. There's nothing better than curling up with a paperback in bed before I go to sleep. I'm in the camp that believes that print books feel better. I like the feel of the pages between my fingers, sometimes even the smell of paper. Also, dropping a paperback on my face when I fall asleep hurts less than when I drop my Kindle reader. :-)

On the other hand, during the day, it's inconvenient to carry a print book around with me, but I always have my phone, on which I installed the Kindle app. So during the day, whenever I have a few free minutes, I whip out my phone and read.

In the end, on any given day, I'll be spending time reading a print book and an e-book. I've been doing this for several months now, and it seems to be working out pretty well. I wind up reading about 4 print books and 2 or 3 e-books each month. Nowadays, I can't imagine having just e-books or just print books to read.

June 10, 2012

Book review: Origin by J.A. Konrath

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When linguist Andrew Dennison is yanked from his bed by the Secret Service and taken to a top secret facility in the desert, he has no idea he's been brought there to translate the words of an ancient demon.

He joins pretty but cold veterinarian Sun Jones, eccentric molecular biologist Dr. Frank Belgium, and a hodge-podge of religious, military, and science personnel to try and figure out if the creature is, indeed, Satan.

But things quickly go bad, and very soon Andy isn't just fighting for his life, but the lives of everyone on earth...

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Joe Konrath is somewhat of a legend among indie writers. His blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, was one major influence on my decision to self-publish. His blog is known for being controversial, sometimes offensive, but informative. Likewise, the two previous books I've read by Konrath are also offensive yet entertaining. I don't read one of Konrath's novels because I'm looking for good writing. I read it to be entertained. So when Konrath made Origin free on Amazon, I snapped it up.

Reading Origin was like reading two different books. The first half, unfortunately, was not that good. Konrath spent too much time going into the backgrounds of the people working at the secret facility where the story takes place. The back stories were forced and didn't flow with the rest of the novel. Even the relationship between the two main characters was hard to believe, as if Konrath threw it in because you have to have a romantic relationship in every story.

Then, once hell breaks loose, the story takes off. It becomes the entertaining joy ride that I hoped the book would be. There's a good bit of gore, so I don't recommend the book to those with a weak stomach, but if you can handle it, you'll probably find this book a fun, fast read.

I couldn't decide between giving this book 3 stars or 4. If I could rate each half of the book separately, I'd give the first half 3 stars and the second half 4 stars. In the end, I decided on 4 stars for the book overall because my intention in reading it was to be entertained, and in that respect, Origin did a pretty good job.

June 4, 2012

Done with first round of revisions

Thanks in large part to my productive Memorial Day weekend, I'm done with the first round of revisions on my second novel! I estimate that I changed about 30% of the text during the editing process. A whole new chapter was written from scratch, and large parts of three other chapters were re-written. I also resolved a plot problem that nagged me when I wrote the first draft. In the end, I believe that this second draft is significantly better than the first.

Now comes the hard part. The easy fixes have been made to the manuscript. Every round of editing from here on will only result in minor (albeit necessary in many cases) changes. The book will never be perfect, but at some point, I will have to decide that it is good enough to hand to beta readers. When they provide me with feedback, I'll undoubtedly revise the book some more until I deem it good enough to be published. Like many authors, I don't believe that I'll ever achieve perfection, but the question is how good is good enough.

But I don't have to worry about that for another few weeks. Now it's time to start the second round of revisions.

June 1, 2012

Five things a writer should and shouldn't do

I came across a blog post on author Tonya Kappes's blog titled "FIVE Things a Writer Should and Shouldn't Do NOW!" that I wanted to share. You should go read the blog post, but to summarize, here are the 5 things.

Things a writer shouldn't do:
  1. Stop quitting
  2. Stop treating your body bad
  3. Stop writing what you hear is going to sell
  4. Stop dreaming and start doing
  5. Stop worrying

Things a writer should do:
  1. Recognize that you are a writer
  2. Read more
  3. Give back to others
  4. Work hard
  5. Just do it

I think it's a good list, and one can certainly add more to each category.

From the "shouldn't do" list, I'm pretty good about not doing all of those things except for the worrying. I can't help it. I'm a natural worrier. I worry about everything. I won't stop worrying even if I sell a million books.

As for the things you should do, I didn't score as high. The only item on that list that I think I do well is reading more. On average, I read five to seven books a month, which I consider pretty good for someone who works full time, has a family, and also writes. Clearly, based on the list, I still have room to improve, but I feel like I'm still in the first or second inning of my writing career. It'd be interesting to look back on this list in five years and see how well my future self is doing.