Tag Archives: book reviews

This Plague of Days: Writer’s Digest Ebook Awards and what’s next!

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This series presents a fascinating and original take on the zombie apocalypse story. I was drawn in from the opening scene…and I found myself instantly connecting with the fate of the Spencer family. The writer did an excellent job interspersing the family’s story with details about the broader world. Every time it seemed that something was understood or under control in that sphere, the story would shift to reveal a new wrinkle in the plot.

~ Judge, 2nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards

The TPOD Omnibus won honorable mention in Genre for these awards in 2014.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)Next month, the second book in the Ghosts & Demons Series will launch. In the meantime, get in on the ground floor of this really cool series with The Haunting Lessons. It’s a little bit Buffy and a whole lot of fun.

NEW THL COVER JAN 2015 COMPLETE

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This Plague Of Days, Episode 4, Season Two is out! (and why I won’t do this again)

Here’s the truth about reviews:

The happy ones make my day. When someone is unhappy, it drains creative energy a bit. Yeah, that’s right. I said it. I’m human. (God, the shame of that statement!)

Sometimes unhappy reviews and low ratings are a result of a misunderstanding. I’m finding that’s certainly true of This Plague of Days. Some readers love it despite it being a serial.  For a few readers, I’ve found that people have mistaken Episode 2 for Season 2. Then they’re mad at me. That sucks. I want the impossible. I want everyone to be happy.

I usually tell them in a review comment (unless they sound crazy), as gently as I can, that if they’ve bought any book in error, they can return it to Amazon for a refund and all’s well. Mistakes happen but I’ll never know if the bruised reader ever read my helpful comment and went, “Oh, okay.”

That’s one of the reasons I won’t be serializing the third season of This Plague of Days. Despite the reader’s mistaken click, I’m still stuck with a one-star review. We’ve labelled the books and I’ve made a point of warning people to click wisely in the sales description, but there is still confusion. It doesn’t happen often, but I truly am sorry when anyone gets confused or disappointed in their purchase. I’m not out to rip anyone off and the stakes are rather low to try that in this business. That would be like going to the trouble of counterfeiting dimes.

 Still, I wish there were an easier delivery system for serials because I love writing in this format. Well…

Actually, there is a better delivery system.

With Amazon serials, readers pay one low price once and episodes are delivered automatically. Personally, I’d worry that your kindle would update automatically and you wouldn’t be aware of the new arrival, but that question is moot. You see, before I launched This Plague of Days, I contacted Amazon’s  serialization department, somewhere in the bowels of the beast. 

Did I, perchance, mention that Episode 4 of Season 2 is now available for fans of serialization? All of 99 cents now.

Did I, perchance, mention that Episode 4 of Season 2 is now available for fans of serialization? All of 99 cents now.

I made my pitch for This Plague of Days. I wanted them to handle it because I knew they could spread the good word far and wide and make it easier on me. I pressed send and promptly…never heard a thing from them. This isn’t nyaa-nyaa-na-nyaa-nyaa. Sales are brisk with TPOD, but being part of Amazon serials would have been a better reader experience.  

I must admit, the guy who hated Season One and then read and reviewed Season Two anyway? Flummoxes me. He hated Season Two almost as much, but that second read…wasn’t that a self-inflicted wound? And the people who declare they hate serials but bought a serial anyway? Gobsmacked me. I guess it’s the downside of the quick one-click buy. To their credit, some people who hate serials put that aside, gave the story a chance and ended up writing nice reviews anyway. That’s actually pretty cool of them.

Most reviews have been awesome and, each day, I get a boost from the vast majority of reviewers who are so encouraging. They dig my word-jazz and want me to keep going. This isn’t an easy thing and if you’ve been reading along in this space, you know why. I appreciate the kind words. I’m a sucker for “Atta-boy! Atta-boy! Go get the ball!”

Anyone who has read any of my books will not be surprised to find I’m conditioned to expect the worst in any situation. Tonight, I got a request to list TPOD Season Two on Nook. For the foreseeable future, I’m sticking with Amazon because that’s where my books sell. (Though Season One is in paperback and Season Two should be in print, too, just in time for Christmas.)

It’s a measure of the depth of my pessimistic worldview that I expected to be be chided for not being on all sales platforms. Instead, the reader kindly replied that she understood, no hard feelings and she’d read Season Two on her computer. You know how it is when you expect Mom to slap you and you get a hug instead? It felt like that. (I’m assuming. All I remember about my childhood was getting chased with a wooden spoon. And Mom smiled when she had me running into a dead end.)

So, in honor of the vocal minority, you win, I’m sorry, I suck, you’re good. Season Three will be one book. No episodes. No 99 cents weekly. Just, bam! Here’s your story. No serialization of Season Three. Hope you love it. By the time most people are reading the third season, that’s a pretty clear signal they’re all in by now, anyway.

I don’t regret serializing Season One, though.

The reason I don’t regret the first serialization is, This Plague of Days would never have taken off if I hadn’t serialized it. Obviously Amazon Serials didn’t have much hope for me as an investment, but it worked out. Those readers who loved Season One but got annoyed (or downright pissed off) because they mistakenly thought the episodes were seasons? They probably wouldn’t have discovered the story they liked (or as cheaply) if I hadn’t launched the book as a serial. They simply would not have seen my signal flare.

Yes, serialization is more expensive to the author and more demanding of the reader. Yes, it’s damned clumsy. But it can also work as a tool of discovery. That’s crucial to get a book noticed in a sea of offerings. Readers think it’s hard to find a book to enjoy? Wow, is it ever hard to write and publish a book and get anyone to give it a chance.

Anyway, I hope you understand the choice. And now, in keeping with my worldview, I shall sit back and await the outraged emails. It’s true, you’ll get a lot less of Kit Foster’s awesome cover art this way.* It’s a no-win sitch, ain’t it?

 

*Oh, and just wait until you see the cover of Episode 5 next week! It’s so creepy! Kit’s a genius!)

A bit of research: The Prepper's Pocket guide, 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home for a Disaster by Bernie Carr.

A bit of research: The Prepper’s Pocket guide, 101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home for a Disaster by Bernie Carr.

 


This Plague of Days: About Season Three’s End (No spoilers)

Just got the 51st review of TPOD Season One and the 14th review of Season Two!

Now I’ll now type something that you see in print sometimes but you never hear it in person: “Huzzah!” (Well, maybe Mr. Burns, once.)

One of the fun things in happy reviews is the number of readers anxious to find out what happens in Season Three. Me, too! However, today was a low energy day. I get these sometimes. Too much gluten, not enough sleep, mood swings and headaches and the rising urge to strangle people with sheep guts.

We all have those murder by haggis days, right? I slept. I puttered. I met She Who Must Be Obeyed for lunch to review our strategies for taking down the Establishment. Then…

I wrote the broad strokes of the end of Season 3 today!

808 words, so far. It’s the final scene. I had general ideas about what it would look like. I knew what would happen to Shiva, Adam Wiggins AKA Misericordia, Jaimie Spencer and his family. I’m about 35,000 words into the beginning and this scene gives me a place to navigate toward.

No spoilers, but I’ll say this: The climax is heroic and unexpected and operatic. Questions are answered and answers are questioned. It leaves on a note that’s equal parts hope and despair, victory and defeat. At the last word, the reader will be called upon to make a decision for themselves.

I’m very happy with who survives. I’m less happy about who does not. I tell lies to tell the truth, but I promise, I’ll stick to the honesty in the subtext. I’m tracking the story and I’ll follow where it leads and I will not allow anyone to finish this book with a dry eye. You may even be inspired.

That’s a lot of smack I’m talking for a zombie book, so I better write a book worthy of Jaimie, which also lives up to my aspirations. 

Since there’s lots of daylight left, maybe I can salvage this day and make it more productive. I have to attend to a suicide in Queens. A young man named Romeo Basilon is in big, Shakespearian  trouble. But don’t worry about him too much. He’s in another book I’m working on right now.

I should also mention that if you’re into dark, prose poetry with a cynical flair, you could try this short read. It’s 99 cents. It’s weird, but there’s some fun to be had in there.

braingasm cover

 


Writing Against the Grain: B Movies. A Treatments and the Deceptive Familiar

I just received another happy review of Season One of This Plague of Days! (Dance of Joy ensues. Look away!)

On Writing TPOD

TPOD season 1 ecoverYou know, I made some artistic choices with TPOD that challenge the genre. For instance, the zombies don’t show up immediately. The hero is an autistic boy. I show the beginning of the crisis and how it evolves instead of waking someone up from a coma after civilization falls (a la Walking Dead and 28 Days Later.)

I’m pleased to report those gambles are paying off. (Great new reviews in the UK, too!) I’m getting extra points for doing something different. I wanted to give what some think of as a B movie idea an A treatment. I have a hero who is more in his world than ours. While things fall apart for his family, he’s obsessed with words, their meanings and roots and Latin phrases. It doesn’t sound very sexy in a submission letter to an agent, does it? However, horror fans are flexible readers who want to see something familiar made unfamiliar. To an agent, unfamiliar is not good at all. Readers are more forgiving because there are too many books out there that are clones of other books.

On Writing the Hit Man Series

When I wrote Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus, I ran into the same…problems? Opportunities? Challenges? I have an anti-authoritarian streak so I set myself up to fail and wrote the books I wanted to read instead of what an agent might get excited about. Don’t get me wrong, there are many very well-written hardboiled books out there. However, I pushed the boundaries and conventions of the genre with Jesus Diaz. I also tell the Hit Man Series stories in present tense and in second person. (AKA Agent Repellant.)

But there’s more. I made a hit man loveable and pitiable. I love the character of Dexter, though Jesus Diaz isn’t a psychopath in the same way at all. Unlike Dexter, Jesus Diaz is crushed by his regrets and guilt. I made my anti-hero the funny hit man with Chili Palmer overtones, a horrific childhood and the gift of gab. He’s made a more complex character due to a neurosis around women. He blames circumstances for his problems, but really the poisoned root of his abuse as a child informs the character and so the story. You won’t find another hardboiled hero who is afraid of women, but Jesus really is afraid.

Mr. Diaz just tapped me on the shoulder with the muzzle of his Sig Sauer to inform me I should change that from afraid of women to “worshipful”. I told him to buzz off. Kill me and he won’t see himself in the third and fourth novels of the series. He’s sulking in the corner, pretending to play Angry Birds on my iPod.

Books and their shelves

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_KindleBigger Than and Higher Than are unusual novels that defy convention so hard, I’m not even sure they are properly called hardboiled. Maybe they’re action adventure or, despite the childhood sexual abuse, their also damn funny. It’s a rich palette, I guess. Agents hate that in genre novels.

Some so-called experts would suggest I’m making stupid choices. Maybe so. I’m singing “I gotta be me” while yanking the wheel and steering hard toward the ditch with the blinking warning sign that reads: Obviously Non-commercial!

I felt self-conscious about those gambles. Those choices are just as much about me as anything. See, I write for me. Readers come later. Sorry, but it’s true. That’s selfish considering I’m trying to contribute to the family budget with my writing instead of sucking it dry.

And then I read Stephen King’s Joyland yesterday.

Oh my god! It’s coming-of-age and funny. It’s Summer of ’42. It’s so damn charming it doesn’t even need the murder mystery. In fact, though it has a climactic scene worthy of JoylandHitchcock, I really would have loved it just as much without the mystery and the ghost story.

Traditional publishing didn’t know what to do with Stephen King. Even though the cover is terrific, the book is packaged as if Joyland is a hardboiled mystery. I don’t think it is. I think it’s good, easy storytelling that rolls along and you’ll be sorry the ride ever stops. It’s also high literature in a cloak that could appeal to anyone no matter how it’s classified or what shelf it’s on. 

I hope you’ll feel the same about my books because no matter what I do, that defiant streak is a mile wide and made of granite and diamonds. Some things I can’t change so I hope you like the view from my ride. 

And, not for nothing, thanks for the nice reviews, folks. I’m not for everyone but when those who get it leave a happy review, I push the accelerator harder and sing louder for our little club who are in the know.

Sure, I might hit the ditch, but we’ll go down screaming and laughing and grokking what it all means in the end. Let’s all grit our teeth and dare to be what we are while we can.


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