Month: January 2016

Collaboration

There are many pros to collaboration when it comes to writing, but it is not something everyone can do. Peter David, who is best known for being a comic book writer, said that he found writing prose novels much more fulfilling, as that’s a product that he completes all on his own, as opposed to a comic which is a collaboration with an artist.

Jeph Loeb is another comic book writer (though he’s written other thing as well, and currently heads Marvel’s television decision), and being a comic book writer, his work requires much collaboration. He used to be known as an amazing writer, until his son passed away. His work was never the same again. Some people say it broke him, and he never recovered. I don’t know if that’s true. But something I found interesting about his work, specifically in comics. It became very obvious after a while that he was writing for the artist, often at a disservice to the story. There was no reason for a time traveling Kingdom Come Superman to show up in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, but the artist wanted to draw him, so he was written in. Batman: Hush, another one of his works, is overly crowded with villains, but most puzzling of all was an appearance by Jason Todd, a former Robin who was dead at the time of it’s publication (don’t worry, he got better. Comic books and all that). It was later revealed that it was Clayface impersonating Jason, but the only reason he was there was because the writer wanted to draw him. And in Loeb’s Supergirl book, he has Supergirl fight the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl, who was paralyzed at the time and thus no longer Batgirl (don’t worry, she also got better). The only reason that was written was so the artist could draw a character he wanted, even if it didn’t make sense in the concept of the story. (Again, it was revealed to be Clayface in disguise. Boy, Loeb sure relies on that Clayface gimmick a lot.) A successful collaborator should put the story before pleasing his or her partner.

Having two names on a book is good, if only for marketing purposes, as it would lead fans of one individual author to check out the other author’s solo work. But honestly, I don’t know how two people can write a book together, other than switching off chapters or something.  Plotting though, can be done together with another. I enjoy talking through the story with my wife. Its fun, and we get to bounce ideas off each other. In fact, my favorite part of A Spark Ignites was actually her idea (or taking my idea and pushing it one step farther). Using a collaborator can also help you catch plot holes. There are some people who have to do everything by themselves. I used to be one of them. But even if you want to do all the writing yourself, I’ve found that when it comes to working through a story, two heads are better than one.

Book Trailers: Are They a Good Idea?

Speaking to fellow writers out there: Should you make a book trailer? Is it an effective marketing technique? It there a point to them? Numerous books, both self-published and traditionally published try to put out book trailers. It isn’t hard to notice that even book trailers from big publishers often only have views in the quadruple digits on youtube. Often, book trailers are underwhelming, and it is unclear to me if they actually help sales. Ninety-nine percent of book trailers I’ve seen did not make me want to buy the book. Why is that? Well, for one thing, they’re often boring. They’re slow paced, are comprised of static or almost static images, and have a few slow moving words here and there. A book trailer should be like a movie trailer. The point of it is to make the audience HAVE to find out what happens next. When you’re making a book trailer, watch it again and ask yourself, if you say a trailer just like it in the theater, would you want to see the movie? If you’re making a boring trailer, you’re just wasting money that could better be spent on other, more effective forms of advertising (unless you’re skilled enough to make the trailer entirely by yourself).

So the traditionally published books’ trailers are usually boring and not well circulated (this one has been out since 2011 from Harper-Collins, and has 12 views, as of this writing). What about indie books’ trailers? Often they’re boring too, not to mention amateurly done. Many of them contain stock pictures found on google and some text. Then there are those who go a step beyond, and use clips from various movies and tv shows. The problem with that is, ignoring the copyright issues, that they too look cheap and unprofessionally done. Oh, they can be interesting, but then you realize “Hey, it’s a clip from Iron Man! And that one is from Dragon Ball Evolution!” It will make people think of other products, not your work. And again, if it looks like it was made by a fifteen year old making an music video revolving around his favorite show, it is less likely to get a positive response from your audience, and less likely to be taken seriously.

Then there are the few, rare trailers that seem as if they’re advertising a movie. They have actual animation or actors, and it really seems unique. Until the very end, the audience isn’t even aware that it’s advertising a book. And they MUST find out what happens. I wish all trailers were like that, but even among the traditionally published companies who hire professionals, it is quite rare. The trailer for the self-published series, Mindjack, is one of the rare ones that fit this criteria.

Ultimately, unless you’re making something that would make someone need to find out what happens next, something that looks exiting and is professionally made (or close to it), you are likely wasting your time and energy investing in a trailer, and should probably not make one.

A Spark Ignites – Synopsis

I have posted the synopsis to my first novel, A Spark Ignites, on the ‘Books’ page of the website as well as below:

Matt was just a regular teenager, dealing with homework, hormones, high school drama, and an obnoxious older brother. He found his life complicated, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Then, when Spark, the city’s greatest superhero unexpectedly dies, Matt finds himself in possession of the hero’s costume and gadgets, with a note asking him to carry on the legacy. Finding himself unable to refuse, he reluctantly begins his superhero career, hoping he can live up to the name of his predecessor. Not knowing the first thing about being a superhero, Matt soon finds himself overwhelmed. Will he find himself in an early grave, just like his hero?

Meanwhile, an aging supervillain, the Inventor, creates a powerful device capable of killing thousands. An elaborate plan is put in motion that could lead to the destruction of everything Matt holds dear. Will he be able to figure out the how to stop him in time? And when evidence arises which indicates that Spark’s death may not be the accident everyone believes it is, Matt finds himself consumed with trying uncover the truth. Will he be able to get to the bottom of this mystery? And if so, will he be able to handle the dark reality behind it?

Matt’s journey is a rollercoaster of action and adventure, although he suspects it will be short lived. And he’s probably right. When you’re the kind of kid who’s never gotten into a fight, how can you be expected to face supervillains and survive? With lives on the line, Matt will have to step up and be the hero Spark knew he could be, whatever the cost.

A Spark Ignites is currently set to come out sometime in March.

Indie Review: Earthman Jack vs. The Ghost Planet

51gv9hmqcjl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Matthew Kadish’s Earthman Jack vs. The Ghost Planet is certainly an ambitious book. For a younger-skewing YA novel, its ridiculously long. Possibly too long, but I’ll get to that later. It follows Jack Finnegan, an average teenager, who stumbles into an interstellar adventure. While I won’t summarize the plot for risk of spoiling it, I will say that it has space battles, alien invasions, a princess to save, and ancient order of knights, Michael Chrichtonesque ‘science,’ pirates, robots, basically everything a young teenager would be into. And the book mixes all these diverse ideas excellently. Every one of the characters, and there are a whole lot of them, has a fully realized personality. The plot, while it has shades of Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, still feels fresh. The narrator is also quite funny, and seems reminiscent of Lemony Snicket at times. Another thing I really liked about it was during a point where Jack loses something important to him, he actually morns, something you usually don’t see in a YA novel (which usually jump right to anger and revenge). It was a nice realistic touch. As a whole, this is a fun YA novel, with a lot going for it.

My biggest issue is probably the dialogue, specifically Jack’s dialogue. At times, it sounds very real and genuine. Other times, it sounds like an older person trying to write what he imagines kids sound like. It can be very unnerving, and took me out of the story more than once. Another thing I found a little annoying is that it seemed just a little too long, purely because of meandering description or pointless dialogue or detours. It could have been a good 10% shorter without losing anything important.

Ending this review on a positive note, this is probably the first book since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where I actually bought the second book before I even finished reading the first. To put it simply, it is just a good, fun, enjoyable book. If you like science fiction or young adult fiction, check it out.

 

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

When I began writing my novel, I had intended to go the traditional route. I was researching query letters, looking up how to get an agent, etc. However, by the time I finished the first draft, I had decided that self-publishing was the best option, for me at least.

Both traditional and self-publishing have pros and cons. One major advantage when it comes to traditional publishing is the advance. You’re paid before your book ever sees print. While that sounds great, from what I understand, most first time authors don’t receive a large advance, and their books rarely earn out. Another advantage of traditional publishing is the editing. Traditional publishers ensure the books they put out are properly edited (although that does not mean that they’re free of errors or poor writing), and as a result those books have a reputation of being of a higher quality. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the third, and perhaps most important factor to use traditional publishing. The prestige. That is why most authors become authors. Most imagine what it would be like to be famous, have countless fans, and be part of that ever exclusive club of traditionally published authors.

Now, self-publishing has had a reputation for the longest time of being poorly written and edited, but that simply isn’t true, and the public is starting to realize that.  For every Fifty Shades of Grey (which was originally self-published), there’s a The Martian (also originally self-published). Self-publishing is also cheaper than ever now. Before digital, it would cost  ridicules amount of money that you’d have to pay upfront, and you’d have to try and sell all the books to book stores or fans yourself. These days, you can just upload it to Amazon, and they’ll even let you sell physical print-on-demand copies. You don’t have to put down a dime. Of course, you probably will end up spending some money, such as for your own editor or a cover artist, but it is a negligible expense in the long run most of the time, and you can usually find people who can do it really cheap. Additionally, Amazon pays royalties of 30%-75% depending on the price of your book, compared to traditional publishers where its closer to 8%-15%, in some cases even 5%. And it is also important to remember that in self-publishing, the author owns all rights to the book and can do with it as he or she pleases, while in traditional publishing, the book could be out of print for years, but the author still won’t have the rights to do anything with it.

There’s a common assumption that traditional publishing takes care of all the author’s marketing, so the author can focus on the book. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true. The traditional publishers have limited resources, and with the very rare exception, first time authors (and even authors who have been published numerous times) will find all themselves doing all of the marketing, with the publisher not lifting a finger. So chances are, a first time author, be it traditional or self-published, will be doing their own marketing. One thing traditional publishers do take care of, however, is the cover. But that also means that the author generally gets no say in what the cover will look like. When someone self-publishes, they can have the cover look however they see fit.

Another factor to consider, which was a major deciding factor for me, was patience (or my lack thereof). I want to be able to hold a book in my hands as soon as possible. If I had gone the traditional route, best case scenario I would be published two years from my personal final draft (before sending out query letters), while with self-publishing, I can be selling the book weeks after the final draft is completed (due to editing, formatting, and the book cover).

What path do you think is better, and which would you choose?

Short Story Review – The Bottle Imp

Robert Louis Stevenson is probably best known for Treasure Island  (which gave us a fantastic Muppet movie) and  Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which was a brilliant mystery that’s marred by the twist ending undoubtedly being spoiled before you read it). However, my favorite work of his is a short story, The Bottle Imp.

The Bottle Imp follows Keawe, a Hawaiian (not an American, as it was written before Hawaii became a state, and was still called the Kingdom of Hawaii), who buys a bottle from an old man, who tells him the bottle can grant any desire. There’s a catch, of course. If the bottle is in someone’s possession when that person dies, then that person’s soul will spend eternity in hell. There are also rules surrounding the bottle, such as how exactly it can be sold (it must be sold at a loss, which means inevitably, someone will be stuck with it) and the way the wishes are granted are reminiscent of the Monkey’s Paw. It is an unholy object, after all.

The story is written almost like a fairy tale, and has  all these great twists and turns. They even tie in historical events and figures. The best way to describe it would be clever. It’s just a fun, clever story. Not to mention it has a fantastic ending, which probably ranks as one of my favorite ending to a short story ever. If you have the time, you really should check this one out.

Indie Review – Meta

51r3irvpbol-_sx311_bo1204203200_Meta is the debut novel of Tom Reynolds. Like my previous review, it too is a superhero novel, although this one skews much closer to its comic book roots. Keeping in the comic book tradition of alliterative names, it follows Connor Connelly, an orphan who gains a device that grants him superpowers. He’s the first person to have superpowers in years. But while trying to gain control of his powers, a new supervillain, the Controller, has been wreaking havoc. Inevitably, Connor has to stop him.

It is a quick, fun read. It is very much a young adult book, but that isn’t a bad thing. Some of my favorite books are YA.  Like most YA (thank you, Harry Potter), the main character is an average Joe who discovers that he’s ‘the superspecial person’ for an unexplained reason, but that’s nearly every superhero story. Heck, that’s Superman. The point of the story is how one deals with it (in addition to overcoming other challenges). There’s some great world building here, and you can tell the author is a big DC Comics fan, as there are numerous elements sprinkled throughout that comic book fans will recognize, but they’re thankfully not such blatant references that would leave those unfamiliar with them scratching their head. Speaking of DC Comic references, Midnight, a supporting character, is essentially an ersatz Batman, but it should be noted that he’s written like a good ersatz Batman. The main character comes across as a very green Robin, but that helps make him relatable. The main character here seems overpowered, but it is due to the strength of the writing that he is still challenged. It comes across, at times, like a story about what if Robin had superman’s powers (which interestingly was an actual story arc published by DC Comics last year). There’s some great wish-fulfillment stuff in there, and not since Robert Luis Stevenson’s Bottle Imp had I read about a fictional object that I wished I could have. I found my mind wandering, thinking about how I would handle it. Another fantastic aspect to the book, is that it doesn’t answer all the questions. It knows just which ones to answer to give you a satisfying ending, but leaves open just enough to make you want to come back for more. As for the writing, while not the best, it was clear and concise. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it wasn’t trying to be. It got the point, story, and emotion across, and that’s what’s important.

The book is not without its flaws. Conner seems a little underdeveloped, but that seems to be done with the intention of allowing the audience to see themselves as the main character. Being a story about a high school aged superhero, it seems like a missed opportunity not to have the story actually take place in high school. Rather than on summer vacation. The average teenager’s life revolves around high school, and it just seems strange not to have it take place there. As a result, the best friend and love interest seems to come and go, not seeming as constant as they would be in a teenager’s life. It seems the only reason for not taking place during the school year was to set up action pieces, some of which don’t make sense, particularly a scene at the beach that just feels so small time, it feels unbelievable that it would be a target, or that anyone else would consider it to be a target. The thing that annoyed me most of all, however, was the ending, which seems as though it is trying to come across as a clever twist, but due to the readers not having the information prior to that, or even a hint to it, the ending comes across as a deus ex machina type ending.

Ultimately, despite the books flaws, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable read. It isn’t the greatest novel, but it is a fun one. It took me back to when I was a kid, and it is exactly the kind of book I’d have eaten up then. I can see some adults not enjoying it, but if you’re a kid (or teen) at heart, it might pay to give it a shot. There are apparently two sequels, and I plan on picking them up sometime. I’m curious to see where it goes.

If you’ve read the story or have a suggestion of another book you’d want me to review, please mention it in the comments below.

Continuity Errors

As a comic book fan, I’m no stranger to continuity errors. It’s something that’s inevitable when a product is made by numerous people, writers and artists alike, over a period of decades.  I accept that. But what really bugs me are continuity errors in books. I’m not talking about plot holes or the like, as those can always be explained away if you’re creative enough. No, I mean “wow, that totally contradicts what you just said” type of errors. Now, people are under the misconception that a book series is always written by one author. More often than not, however, that isn’t the case. Even going back to The Hardy Boys, most long-running book series are ghostwritten. And in such cases, book-to-book continuity errors can be excusable, if they were written by different authors.

In elementary school, Animorphs was one of my favorite book series. I simply couldn’t get enough of it. I even had the videogames. Even at that young age, I noticed continuity errors within the world of the books. It’s no secret that about half of the Animorphs book series was written by various different ghostwriters. However the first twenty-something were written by K.A. Applegate. She introduced a concept in the first book called “thought-speak,” however violated and rewrote the rules several times during the first few books. The last fifty or so books were consistent with one another, but you get the impression reading the first few books that they’re earlier drafts, as though the author herself wasn’t entirely sure of all the concepts yet, or how they worked. From what I heard though, when they rereleased the first few books a few years back, they fixed the continuity errors. So at least they acknowledged their mistake.

It’s one thing to have inconsistencies from book to book, because at least then, if you read only a single book, it will still make sense. The gravest of continuity errors is when same book contradicts itself later on. Years ago, at the recommendation of a friend, I read Pendragon Book One: The Merchant of Death. It was not a very good book. What bugged me the most, however, was when the book contradicted its own rules. At one point in the book, Bobby, the main character, travels to another dimension. The people in that dimension speak a language he cannot understand. While there, he meets “travelers” from yet another dimension, who explain to him that at the moment his brain can only comprehend the language of other travelers, but it will take time for the magic to fully take affect and allow him to understand the natural inhabitants. Later on in the book he confronts the villain, another traveler, who reveals that he was disguised as a natural inhabitant the whole time. Which would be fine, if Bobby hadn’t tried talking to the man earlier in the book and couldn’t understand him, while the other travelers he was with were able to. This wouldn’t be hard to explain away, of course, if the author explained that the villain had killed the original person after Bobby had met him and was impersonated him (he had shapeshifting powers). But now, the villain explicitly said that the original person who he was impersonating had died years ago. If that was the case, Bobby should have understood him right away, as he was a traveler, but he didn’t. (Like the continuity error in Animorphs, this was apparently also fixed later, in the graphic novel adaptation.) Now, perhaps this is a nitpick. Continuity errors often are. But they always take me out of the story.  If you’re going to publish a book, please have someone read it over specifically looking for continuity errors. It’s embarrassing.

Let me know of any book continuity errors you’ve noticed in the comments below. How much did it bother you?

Indie Review – Micro God

Micro God 51smbuqgxxl-_sx332_bo1204203200_is the debut novel of K.R. Martin. Honestly, calling it a novel is actually kind of misleading. It’s more of a short story or novella. It follows a man, Richard Clarke, who has the ability to control the reality directly around himself. Essentially, at least within his few surrounding feet, he is a god. A character like that is vastly overpowered, and it poses a challenge to write a character like that, at least if it went the typical superhero route. Thankfully it does not.

The story begins with Clarke finding himself disillusioned with humanity and life itself. It is a story of the pain and anguish immortality can bring. The horror of outliving everyone you’ve ever loved. Where he goes from there is something I won’t ruin for you, as I do not want to give anything away, but it isn’t exactly what you expect.

This story has a surprisingly original premise, with shades of Hancock and Lucifer. It asks what it would be like to be a god, and really explores the concept well, giving the reader a feeling of what it would be like to be an immortal with (nearly) limitless power. The execution is fantastic, for the most part (there are a few gang members who act and talk in a cliché manner that clashes with the otherworldly tone somewhat, and took me out of the story). There’s a romance element that can be a bit eye-rolling at times, but then again, most romance usually is. The writing was impressive for a first time author, and although there are a few minor mistakes, like a missing comma here and there (I’ve seen worse violations in traditionally published books), it doesn’t take away from the story. I’d be very interested in seeing more from this author at some point down the line. The book is currently only available in digital format, which given its size is not surprising. I would say it certainly worth picking up, especially considering it’s less than a dollar.

If you’ve read the story or have a suggestion of another book you’d want me to review, please mention it in the comments below.