September 27, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

J.K. Rowling's first book for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy, officially releases today. I am a big fan of the Harry Potter series. I've read all the books, seen all the movies, and even read The Tales of Beedle the Bard. At first, I was excited to hear that she had another book in the works, but now, I'm not planning to rush out to read The Casual Vacancy. I'm sure Ms. Rowling wrote another fine work of fiction. I don't question the quality of her work, and I don't think Harry Potter was a one-hit wonder... or is it seven-hit wonder.

It's just that I don't think The Casual Vacancy is for me. When I finally read the book description earlier this week, nothing about it appealed to me. If it wasn't for the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote the book, I wouldn't even give it another glance.But I wish Ms. Rowling the best of luck, although she doesn't need it. The book was #2 on the Amazon top-seller list even before it was published, and it's #1 this morning. Just her name alone should guarantee that the book is a commercial success. Now, I just wish she'd get on with writing Harry Potter: The Grownup Years.

September 23, 2012

Book review: Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland

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Something wicked this way comes . . . and it keeps coming and coming and coming. . . .

William Shakespeare was one of history’s greatest writers, a master of words with a body of work that is truly impressive . . . some may say a little too impressive for a single man to accomplish in one lifetime. Perhaps, as many have speculated, he had assistance. Or perhaps the explanation is more . . . unusual.

Who was William Shakespeare?

Who was the Dark Lady of the Sonnets?

Why are the undead stalking the alleyways of London?

And can they be stopped?

Something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark.

So brace yourself for a wild ride through twisted streets and shadowed graveyards of Elizabethan London, where you’ll discover how the Bard got his Bite. 

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Zombies, vampires, and the Bard. What more can a reader ask for?

I stumbled upon Shakespeare Undead at my local public library, and I'm glad I did. I picked it up because of the zombie factor, but it turned out that the story is so much more. While zombies played an important part in the plot, the novel is really about Shakespeare's relationship with the Dark Lady, Kate.

The book was fast-moving and very entertaining. I found that what I liked most about the novel didn't have to do with the zombies but were the sprinkles here and there that poked fun at William Shakespeare and modern pop culture. It made me wonder how many inside jokes I missed because I don't know more about the Bard. Shakespeare scholars may not like this book or may point out historical inaccuracies, but for someone whose exposure to the playwright is limited to what I had to read in school, I found Shakespeare Undead to be a great read.

September 21, 2012

Latest KDP Select free promotion results

On Monday and Tuesday, Numbers Plus Four went free under the KDP Select program. On Wednesday and Thursday, With Five You Get Fortune Cookies went free as well.

Compared with previous times when I made Numbers Plus Four free, I had similar results. The first time that the book was free in January, Numbers Plus Four averaged over 40 downloads per day. The highest ranking for the book on the free listing was #1,800 overall and #47 within the Short Stories category. This time, there were about 30 downloads per day. The overall ranking got into the 2000's, and the ranking within Short Stories peaked in the 40's.

With Five You Get Fortune Cookies did a little better. It had 34 downloads per day. While it's overall ranking among free Kindle books barely surpassed 2000 at one point when I looked, it was ranked as high as #9 under the Anthologies category! (see image below)

What does all this tell me? Other than that there appears to be fewer books under the Anthologies category than the Short Stories category, I'm not sure. I didn't see much difference between this week's results and the first time that Numbers Plus Four was free. The proof will come in the next few days. The first time around, I didn't get any additional sales as a result of the promotion. If having my books available for free this week results in just one sale, it will have been more successful than the last time.

September 15, 2012

Trying KDP Select again

I enrolled Numbers Plus Four in the KDP Select program again and With Five You Get Fortune Cookies for the first time. That means that Amazon Prime members can borrow either book for free. Additionally, there will be days when both books are FREE to download.

I'm happy to announce that the first of the free days are coming up. On Sep. 17 and 18, Numbers Plus Four will be free. Following on its heels, With Five You Get Fortune Cookies will be free on  Sep. 19 and 20.

This is a great opportunity to try out my books. They are both short story collections for grownups, which isn't the same target demographic as my novels, but you can get a feel for my writing style. I hope you enjoy both books!


September 8, 2012

What some fresh air can do

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I decided on the story that I want to write next but there were some problems with the plot. It turned out that those problems were more nagging than I thought. For days, I couldn't get the story to make sense end to end. I tried re-working it and changing the backstory that it relied on, but I never felt satisfied.

Then one day, I decided to take a walk outside. Maybe it was the fresh air or just being away from my notebook, but during the walk, I thought about the plot anew and changed the premise a little. Pieces of the story suddenly fell into place. Plot elements that didn't work before either started working or became unnecessary to the new universe I created in my head. As soon as I returned from the walk, I wrote down a new outline for the story.

When I was blocked, it was a scary feeling because I'd never felt that way before. With my first two novels, the initial ideas I came up with worked from the start. All I needed to do was fine-tune them and add the details. The skeleton never changed from the moment I started working on it. However, in this case, I felt like a paleontologist trying to piece together a  fossil where the pieces didn't quite fit until he realized that it belonged to a different species. At least I think I've got the correct species figured out. Now to finish putting the rest of the skeleton together and fleshing it out.

September 1, 2012

Book review: Rex Rising by Chrystalla Thoma

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In a world where parasites create new human races, Elei leads a peaceful life -- until a mysterious attack on his boss sends him fleeing with a bullet in his side. Pursued for a secret he does not possess and with the fleet at his heels, he has but one thought: to stay alive. His pursuers aren't inclined to sit down and talk, although that's not the end of Elei's troubles. The two powerful parasites inhabiting his body, at a balance until now, choose this moment to bring him down, leaving Elei with no choice but to trust in people he hardly knows. It won't be long before he realizes he must find out this deadly secret - a secret that might change the fate of his world and everything he has ever known - or die trying.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

In April, I reviewed Hera, a short story that's the prequel to Rex Rising. I liked it so much that I got Rex Rising, and after many weeks, I finally got around to reading it.

While Rex Rising doesn't pick up where Hera left off, I found it useful to have read the prequel first, if only to get more insight into Hera's motivations. The writing, character development, and pace in Rex Rising were similar to Hera, which is to say very good. I very much enjoyed the book and I'm glad I picked it up.

The aspects of the novel that I liked the most were the universe and the characters. The premise of parasites shaping new human races was intriguing. It was critical to the plot, but the author didn't try to over-explain it or hammer the reader over the head with it, which I appreciated. The characters in Rex Rising were also well differentiated with good depth. I felt like I would be able to tell Elei from Hera from Kalaes just from the way they talked. The only drawback I saw were that some story elements that I assume were supposed to be surprise twists were telegraphed too much, so that by the time the surprise was revealed, it wasn't much of a surprise.

I thought Rex Rising was a great book overall and recommend both it and Hera to everyone.