Thursday, March 7, 2019

A New Year, A New Book

Remember that last post I made about writing a good book devoid of combat and gimmicks? Well, it’s finally published, and you can judge for yourself whether I hit the mark! Introducing World of Myth #10 – A Dagger in the Light



Takeo Karaoshi has never had the respect he deserves as master warrior, accomplished tactician, and survival savant. One would have to be a fool to ignore the threat he poses, and yet he’s been overlooked countless times and betrayed many more.

Until now.

After defying the Katsu horde, Takeo has earned the de facto command of an army, a legion of fanatical followers, and a sliver of respect at the generals’ table. It might just be enough to win against the Nguyens and the rakshasa pulling their strings. Except there’s one problem. He has many, many enemies.

And they’re taking him seriously, too.

Out at Amazon and Smashwords for download, with the paperback version coming available sometime in the coming days/week, I hope to keep those who’ve come this far on edge and enjoying the ride.

I’d really like to do that, too, thank my readers. I have no real numbers on how many followers I have, just guesses, but rest assured the amount is low. This is to be expected, considering my lack of advertising, but let’s talk about it just for fun. I think a book’s readership is kind of like a person’s weight. Keeping the exact number a secret doesn’t hide the fact whether a book is popular or unpopular; it’s apparent on first glance. So here you go, warts and all, here’s the people I’d like to thank.

My new-book-email-list is comprised of 19 address, 10 of which are personal/family acquaintances of mine. On Smashwords, 8 people have voluntarily elected to have new releases from me emailed to them, with 13 people having favorited me. On Goodreads, my entire series has accumulated 238 ratings, which when divided among 10 books, doesn’t pan out so well. I’ve been added by 480 unique people, but this includes people having added the series to their “to-read” list, which doesn’t count for much. People add random books to that list all the time that they may never read; I would know, I do it, too. My only claim to fame on Amazon is that for a brief moment on June 21, 2016, I was the #17,000 ranked author (thanks reddit!), out of some 700k, putting me in the top 3% before I quickly plummeted back down to #560k. The largest number I have anywhere is Smashwords making a claim I’ve sold over 2,000 books, but once again, divide that by 10 . . .

To add to that estimate, you have to consider that probably only 1 in 10 people who reads a book does anything afterwards, such as review it online or follow the author. That means chances are my book hasn’t penetrated 1,000 people. If you’re wondering what this series is cost me versus money I’ve earned, let me put to bed any rumors: I’m firmly in the hole.

But you know what, that’s alright. You 10 or so dedicated readers are the best damn readers I’ve ever had, and I love that you love to read what I love to write. This isn’t reaching for the stars here, I’m being quite honest, and I’ve been this way since the beginning. You can even find an old post on reddit proving that I really am enjoying myself and this is what I've always wanted. I want you readers to know that it is really great having you around and hearing from you.

Thank you so much. You’re awesome, and don’t let anyone tell you differently!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Another draft finished


Let me record my thoughts, for posterity.

About a month ago I finished the draft for World of Myth #10, A Dagger in the Light. In my opinion, it was one of the harder books I've had to write, where cheap gimmicks like combat, suspense, and world building had to take a backseat for more difficult subjects such as plot, character building, and subterfuge. Not an easy task, for me, but according to my alpha readers, I pulled it off. Let me say that again, in a mirror, that I wrote an actual page-turner with almost no action at all. By the gods . . . I've done it.

This is the quality I've been aiming for since the start. I've always said that anyone can make action and drama exciting; true storytelling is making the parts in between interesting. It may be hard to explain, but there is a certain level I was reaching for with my writing, one that can only be described as a reader. Two books come to mind, Gone Girl and Red Rising, that I recently read that did to me EXACTLY what I want to do to others. These books gripped me by throat and would not let go. I could not put them down. I read in the bathroom, on the bus, in my bed; they consumed me, and I loved it. If only I could be so lucky to read books like that all the time. If only we could all be so lucky.

This is what I've been aiming for with Takeo's Chronicles. It started with the first book, Fated for War, where I pulled back on my combat at first, intentionally trying to force myself to grow as a writer by disabling one of my tried and true skill sets that I use as a crutch. It was shabby, I thought, passable but just not quite there yet. I let the next two books slide, even going overboard on the violence in Fortress of Ruin, but this next one was different. The plot, the story, demanded that I grow. I had to. There was no other choice. It was either that or failure.

Let me say that I am okay with failure. I'm not afraid of it. However, I've always said that I never want the reason I fail to be because I didn't try. So try I did, and now I have yet another great book, and I'm one step closer to completing Takeo's 6-part adventure.

So while Trish works over #10, A Dagger in the Light, I will move on to #11, the next to the last story for Takeo's Chronicles. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

My Year in Books by Reading Challenge!

Last year around this time, I posted a reading challenge with the intention of making readers more well-rounded and getting out of their comfort zones. I posted it to reddit, too, and received a fair amount of attention. It was interesting because, well, I don't normally do reading challenges, and admittedly, I didn't do it this year either.

However, that I can still see how I stacked up, you know, for the hell of it. Here's how I did! For reference, here are the list's rules, of which I did easy mode. Thankfully, Goodreads really helped out here with My Year in Books. Thanks Goodreads!

1) Easy Mode: For every book you read, check off each item that applies. If you find a paperback Science Fiction Dystopia written by a woman pre-1950 featuring an LGBT character originally published in a foreign language, go ahead and mark all those off. This a great mode for slow readers, ensuring you'll still be well rounded in the end.

I got 31 out of 52, so not half bad!

2) Hard Mode: One book, one check. The only exception is #52, which you'll see why when you read it. That gives you 52 weeks to read 51 books, because life is hectic and we all need an extra week sometime.

Genre

1. Read a book in the Science Fiction genre - False Gods

2. Read a book in the Fantasy genre - Gardens of the Moon

3. Read a book labelled as Young Adult

4. Read a nonfiction book - Meditations

5. Read a History book, fiction or nonfiction

6. Read a Biography, whether normal, Auto, or Memoir.

7. Read a book about Politics, Religion, and/or Philosphy - Meditations

8. Read a book in the Thriller or Suspense genre

9. Read a Mystery book

10. Read a book labelled as Dystopian - Brave New World

11. Read a book in the Paranormal genre

12. Read a book labelled as a Satire or Allegory

13. Read a book from the Self-Help, Health, Travel, or Guide category - The Millionaire Next Door

14. Read a collection of poetry

15. Read a book from the Horror genre

16. Read a Romance and/or Erotica book - Pride and Prejudice

Publishing

17. Read a book originally published in a language you do not know - Meditations (Latin)

18. Read a book written before 1950 - Pride and Prejudice

19. Read a book written after 1949 - Galaxy in Flames

20. Read a book published this year

21. Read a self-published book

22. Read an indie book, where the publisher is a small or niche house and not one of the top 6 publishers - Galaxy in Flames

23. Read a book published under one of the Big 6 publishing houses - Brave New World

24. Read a debut book from this year

Popularity and Notoriety

25. Read a book that was turned into a movie - Moby Dick

26. Read a popular book, with at least 1 million ratings on any one website - Brave New World

27. Read an unknown book, with no more than 100 ratings on any one website - Galaxy in Flames

28. Read a book that won a literary award

29. Read a book labelled as a Best-Seller from this year

30. Read a book that was, or currently is, banned by a government - Brave New World

Author

31. Read a book by an author born in the same country as you - The Millionaire Next Door

32. Read a book written by a man - Moby Dick

33. Read a book written by a woman - Pride and Prejudice

Characters or setting

34. Read a book with a contemporary setting - The Millionaire Next Door

35. Read a book that features animals - Moby Dick

36. Read a book where the main character goes on a journey - Moby Dick

37. Read a book where a stranger comes to town - Pride and Prejudice

38. Read a book by or featuring a character that is LGBT

39. Read a book set in your country - The Millionaire Next Door

40. Read a book that is set in country that both exists today and you are not from (last time, some people had trouble understanding this item. Hopefully this makes more sense) - A Tale of Two Cities

Book features

41. Read a short story, one with less than 5,000 words

42. Read a short book, one between 5,000 and 100,000 words - Brave New World

43. Read a long book, one between 100,000 and 250,000 words - Moby Dick

44. Read an epic book, one with over 250,000 words - Gardens of the Moon

45. Read the first book in a series - Gardens of the Moon

46. Finish a series

47. Listen to an Audiobook

48. Read a book on paper - Horus Rising

49. Read a book with pictures in it

Other

50. Read a book for the second time

51. Read a book that’s been on your to read-list for more than a year - Moby Dick

52. Combining all the letters of all the titles of all the books you’ve read this year, complete the Alphabet

ABCEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Release: Fated for War, World of Myth #7

So I have a slight confession to make: I've had Book #7 done for quite awhile.


And not just this one either. Right around the time I was putting the finishing touches on my last Reddit giveaway in 2016, I was also touching up the final author-edits on Book #8, An Enchanted Sword. Actually, if truth be told, I've already finished the first draft of Book #9, and I just started writing book #10 in the past week. I'm finally releasing book #7 just now, and hope to follow with the next two books in the coming months.

So, you're probably asking what gives? Why the huge delay? Honestly, it comes down to a bit about money and a bit about life.

Firstly, the money. This can't be ignored, but my first 6 books didn't sell well enough to financially justify spending more money on editing and book covers for future installments of the series, or at least not at that time. I had thousands of free downloads, but relatively few went further than that. Now, let me immediately follow up with a resounding "That's okay!" I did give the book away for free, and I do understand what that meant, and I am not upset about it. It is, however, a reality that the wider audience won't accept an unedited book, and that requires money I wasn't willing to spend.

So I went ahead and released the book in a different way, personally, un-edited, and coverless, to friends, family, and other miscellaneous followers who loved my work. It didn't cost me a thing, and I felt encouraged enough to press on and write more books, the 3 mentioned above specifically. Then, life distracted me further, as late 2016 my wife became pregnant. I won't go into the details, but suffice to say it wasn't expected, and my World of Myth series disappeared into the furthest reaches of my mind. Time marches on, our son is born, sleepless nights, wild trips, paternity leave, and all the while something interesting keeps occurring. About once a month, I get seemingly random PM's and the occasional email from internet strangers with messages not unlike the following:

"I just finished Emily's Saga after reading it only during certain off times (so I wouldn't rush and finish it too soon). I feel like I've lost a best friend. Please tell me there's more!!!"

Well, I have to say, there's only so many of those I can take before I start to feel guilty. The truth was that I had more, plenty more actually, just waiting to be released any time I decided to pony up and pay for a professional editing service.

As so often happens in life, my financial situation changed over the course of a year and a half. Suddenly, the prospect of losing money on publishing more books in a not-so-widely-popular series didn't seem so terrible in exchange for the happiness/fulfillment I was receiving. After a short discussion with my other half, I bit the bullet, and after a long time sitting on the electronic shelf, the World of Myth series continues.

With any luck, #8 and #9 should be coming out relatively soon, too.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: Brave New World

In short, Brave New World earns 4 out of 5 stars from me. Novel concept, done well, prophetic in some ways, but losing a star to a poor story with too much suspension of belief for a dystopian that wishes to be taken seriously.


Brave New World's biggest selling point is its concept. While novels about authoritarian governments run rampant in the dystopian world, Huxley takes the interesting approach of running the opposite direction. This book posses the question, what if we took humanity's need to remove discomfort and pain to the absolute extreme? What would a society with no suffering look like? In a few words, the answer is dull, childish, and shallow.

To dive a bit deeper, Huxley shows through his world that seeking comfort and avoiding struggle stunts human passion, and thus deprives a culture of art and (ultimately) meaning. He also has a stint where he does some ridiculous arguments on religion's importance, which nearly derailed me with all the eye-rolling I was doing, but let's just ignore that and focus on the good stuff for now. In Huxley's world, everyone is so busy seeking cheap entertainment and zero-side-effects drugs that they don't fight, or create, or seek, or really do much anything except act as robots of a sort, fulfilling a role until their expiration date arrives. He has some great scenes that illustrate this, too, like one of the characters wanting to write a great poem but lacking any motivation, or really anything to write about at all. With no war, no love, no struggle, or loneliness, all his writing is tragically without fuel for the flames of passion.

In a way, Brave New World was kind of prophetic. I see the use of smartphones today as a solid example of how some (most?) are being conditioned to be entertained, all the time, and also to be connected, unable to find solitude in the world's increasing connectivity. I could see a great many discussions being opened up using this novel as the basis, and I really have to hand it to Huxley for doing that.

However, I couldn't find myself capable of giving this book 5 stars on its concept alone. I had to knock one off because the truth is . . .

This story was kind of boring. Since the culture is so dull, Huxley attempts to create a plot out of bringing in an outsider, The Savage, into the story for an outside perspective, only The Savage is just as terrible as the people he's supposed to reflect in my opinion because he's a serious religious nut-job with a 1500's perspective on women's chastity who apparently didn't learn a freaking thing about NOT being prejudice when he himself suffered such a thing all his damn life. I mean, really, everyone in this story except the ONE girl is a hypocrite and I find it hard to empathize with people I'd rather see miserable for not growing a damn spine and showing a slight bit of integrity.

I mean, really, is that so much to ask?

And let's dive deeper into that view on women and religion I talked about. Another reason I knocked off a star is because although Huxley had a good concept of people being, basically, soothed into a semi-moronic state, he chose some vehicles that were really stuck in the past. Let me see if I can explain.

Huxley uses sex as a crutch pretty much throughout this entire book. Sex and drugs, really, but the drugs part was spot on while the sex part really missed the mark. In Brave New World, anyone can have sex with anyone, and they are encouraged to do so. Huxley goes through great length to imply just how terrible this is for WOMEN only, as in terrible for their HONOR. Although everyone is having sex with everyone, his characters only ever consider the women as meat and female chastity as a problem. It's heavily implied by Huxley that in Brave New World, women are worth less and aren't treated with respect because they get to have sex all the time.

Obviously, none of this applies to men, because you know, Huxley published this book in 1932, and apparently didn't have the foresight required not to slut-shame.

I mean, really, it wouldn't have been much of a stretch for Huxley to push beyond and imply that love was lost between everyone equally for not valuing each other as partners, but no. That's not what happened, and it reflects terribly on Huxley and his work, making Brave New World an interesting view into the future, but forcing the viewer to be forever stuck in the past. I had to suffer this ridiculous slut-shaming view every single freaking chapter, which kept making me sigh and shake my head, jolting me from the real concept Huxley was trying to get at.

Also, Huxley basically does the same thing with religion, implying the christian god is a stated fact and this Brave New World, where everyone is essentially atheist, is terrible for rejecting that. Only adds to what I said earlier.

Could have been five stars, but just wasn't quite there. Brave New World hit the nail on the head, but unfortunately used a rubber mallet to do it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: Meditations

In summary, the unfortunate reality is that a good idea conveyed poorly is a poor idea in the end.



Let's start with the good stuff, as I like to do.

Just so you know, Marcus Aurelius is known as the last great emperor of Ancient Rome. As I'm an Ancient Rome fanatic, reading his work seemed like a sort of intellectual necessity. I mean, given the chance to read the words and thoughts of someone long dead over 2,000 years, who ruled such a place at such a time? Think of the implications! Isn't that exactly what makes writing so amazing to begin with? The chance to cross the very barrier of time and live in the moment with those who existed so long ago? Maybe it's just me, but I find it awesome to think about.

So anyway, I was excited to start reading, and at first, this book seemed promising. In brief, Meditations is basically an instruction book on how to live a great life by being a great and respectful person. In a word, Stoicism. Treat people with respect, let your actions speak for themselves, avoid vices of thought such as prejudice and idleness, and just generally try to be a man (or woman) of virtue and discipline. I can only imagine that in Marcus' time, this was a revolutionary philosophy, considering the widespread wars and slavery that ran amok in that age. However, what was most fascinating to me was just how relevant such teachings were to this very day. Marcus' Meditations could be easily and readily applied to any individual walking around in the modern age, and doing so would improve the lives of many by an alarming degree.

Now, I say this because I agree with most of what Marcus' wrote. Unbeknownst to me until readings these works, I'd been "following" Stoicism for a good decade now, and in truth, most good people do, too. Meditations is, I believe, just putting into words those common things that all good people eventually come to realize: that happiness is easy to obtain when you live a virtuous life. And that right there is where Meditations fails.

Meditations was written by Marcus for Marcus' eyes only, and it shows. This book is not revolutionary, I hate to say it. Marcus did not invent any of the ideas presented in his book, which he freely admits by saying things such as "I learned from father this, from my mother that," which any halfway decent and smart person does anyway. Human beings learn from their surroundings now, then, and until the end of time, and the only thing Marcus can boast is that he was a) fortunate enough to have good mentors, b) smart enough to learn from them, c) wise enough to jot them all down in a book, and finally d) lucky enough to have his book survive to the digital age. Reading Meditations might be rather insightful for anyone who didn't grow up with good guidance, but I'm a firm believer that good people are everywhere, if only one looks for them, and were Meditations to have been lost when Ancient Rome fell, there would still be a great many people unknowingly "practicing" Stoicism to this day.

So now let's get to the bad part, or why I only gave this book 3 stars. Although I feel the idea of living a virtuous life is a 5-star concept, and the fact that I can so easily agree with a long-dead ancient emperor is astoundingly fascinating, the truth is that this book wasn't well written.

The majority of Meditations is simply a bullet list of good practices in paragraph form. Marcus drones on "think well of others, do not judge, avoid idleness," without extending much effort to explain why. There's no compare and contrast with the opposite points of view, little dwelling on why doing these particular things will enrich one's life. He says they will, but doesn't often dive into the meat of it all. The few times he does, for example when he speaks of why it's important to live in the now, are absolutely riveting and absorbed me to no end. Unfortunately, these moments were few and far between, and the majority of the books makes for a dull read that goes in one ear and out the other, which results in me forgetting most of it.

As I said in the beginning, the unfortunate reality is that a good idea conveyed poorly is a poor idea in the end.

You see, I can't recommend this book to anyone who needs to read it. Due to the nature of this book's dry and mostly face-value delivery of information, the only people who'd be able to absorb this book's teachings would have to agree with the writer from the start, or at least that's my impression. I couldn't recommend this book to people I feel could really benefit from it because they'd be lost in a heartbeat, having no frame of reference to tie all these things together. From their view, it'd just be a long rant by some old dead guy telling them what to do.

So yeah, 3-stars. Although the message is a good one, Meditations is a short book of preaching to the choir.