Have you ever heard of the Amazon Top Reviewers? I have, because I’m an author who would desperately love to get their attention, especially if they decide the like my books. A lot of marketing gurus will make a fuss about finding the right reviewer and then sending a polite email asking if they would like to review your book. This is definitely a good practice, or so it seems. Many authors have had good luck. The Amazon Top Reviewers are serious about what they do. They want readers to mark their reviews as useful, which would suggest they would only give honest reviews.
I am taking a short break to daydream about all of the top one hundred finding my book and giving Dragon Badge, Dragon Attack, Enemy of Man, Son of Orlan, and Die Like A Man five star reviews.
Ah, that was a nice fantasy.
Perhaps I would have more luck if I sought reviews (as every book marketing expert suggests). Unfortunately, there is only so much time in a day and I enjoy making up stories more than marketing best practices.
Which brings us to the reason we are here today, good reader. I recently left a review for Kinslayer: Book Two of the Lotus War series by Jay Kristoff. Book reviews for traditional and indie authors is something I do whenever I can. Just now, I saw that forty-five people have found my recommendations helpful. Cool beans! My Amazon Reviewer Rank is...not “Top” to say the least. Currently, I’m sitting at 95,717.
There are a lot of people doing a lot of reviews! That’s great. To reviewers everywhere, good work! Keep it up! Writers love you.
Kinslayer: Book Two of the Lotus War series took Japanese Steampunk farther than the first book (Stormdancer). There were more characters and plot lines. I liked the first book better, but only a little bit. As second books go, this one is worth a read. The visual, auditory, and even olfactory detail of the lands of Shima really is impressive. Every character has something at stake--lives to be lost, honors to regain, sacrifices to make. Kinslayer fits the type of things I read, in that there is danger and death, and the violence involved is not watered down with cliches or falseness.
Mortal combat is not pretty. Kristoff makes that very clear. I’m good with that. Lately, I’ve become fatigued with war and violence in fiction. By the end of the book, I was ready for a break. Having said that, I recommend reading it, or listen to it as I did. (I really love audiobooks.) Jennifer Ikeda does a fabulous job narrating Kinslayer (as she did Stormdancer). As someone who has listened to hundreds of audiobooks, I feel like I’m qualified to make a recommendation. Kinslayer is worth the time. I plan to listen to Stormdancer, Kinslayer, and Endsinger when the third book comes out.
I would have liked to see more of Budo and Yukiko, and the Gaijin. When they came on the scene in this book, I started to see new landscapes opening up. And there were some interesting settings and characters. I hope for more of the world beyond Shima in the next book.
What do you think of Japanese steampunk? I’m dying to know.
Illyrio reminds me so much of Varys that I had to check and see if they were ever in the same place in the story. Both men are morbidly obese, cunning, and far more agile than they appear. Do you remember Butter Bumps, the court fool who danced, sang, and did handstands despite sporting a build reminiscent of Varys, or Illyrio for that matter. We all know that Varys is a master of disguise. It might be good to remember that he was a master thief in his youth, a skilled cat burglar as it were.
In a Dance with Dragons, Tyrion spends quite a bit of time with Magister Illyrio, and he also knows Varys. So my curiosity must be misplaced, but for a time, I wondered if Varys had time to bounce back and forth between Westeros and Pentos, assuming multiple identities and scheming to topple kingdoms.
But alas, it seems that is impossible. But still, I always think of Varys during scenes with Illyrio, and vice versa.
Welcome to the latest stop on the It Takes All Kinds of Characters blog tour.
In the previous episode, as it were, military science fiction author Britt Ringel reveals the creation of his primary protagonist, Garrett Heskan. As an avid reader of the series, starting with This Corner of the Universe, I can attest that Heskan is a classic character worth cheering for. Not without flaws, Heskan leads his crew through situations and space battles that keep me on the edge of my seat. I particularly enjoy his awareness of his shortcomings and his determination to strive onward no matter the personal cost.
Garrett Heskan is a true professional of the Brevic Navy.
Author Britt Ringel was kind enough to invite me on this tour, so I'd like to share some thoughts on my most popular character, Kin Roland. (For this post, I have omitted the questions and gone straight to the answers.)
The character of Kin Roland evolved from the organic, seat-of-the-pants writing style I followed at the time. I actually wrote Enemy of Man in about six weeks as a screenplay, then later novelized it with major expansions and revisions. Starting his story life as a tough former soldier trapped on a hostile planet with survivors of various shipwrecks, he was pitted against an alien hunter that blamed him for destroying his home world. So Kin's character developed in the crucible of conflict. He had to survive a deadly world plagued with extraterrestrial storms and protect a local village from a creature that made Aliens and the Predator look simple.
With each supporting character, Kin's motivations and conflicts grew. So far, readers have enjoyed the first two books, Enemy of Man and Son of Orlan.
The story takes place at shipwreck with a wormhole anomaly looming in the upper atmosphere. Kin has been hiding on the planet, working as the security officer, for about nine years. Why is he hiding? Well, there was this issue with him failing to destroy the home world of the Reapers. He's a tough veteran, but balked at genocide, deciding the Reaper's couldn't leave their planet in the state of ruin it was left in. Maybe it wasn't the best decision, but it is his cross to bear.
There are a few important things a reader considering this series might be interested in, namely that Kin Roland went from hero to outlaw with one decision. He's competent, brave, and completely loyal to those he has given his protection. He fights for what is right, despite his many flaws.
The obvious conflict in the first two books, is survival against long odds. However, Kin is also put in another difficult moral decision. There is an alien princess that maintains a zone of protection around Crater Town. He needs to bring her back, but doing so will put her in danger from Droon, Earth Fleet, and her peoples ancient enemies. Once he learns more about her past, he has to wonder if this young woman deserves his life or if she has a hidden agenda that will endanger everyone he holds dear. Of course, she might be saving the entire human race.
Enemy of Man and Son of Orlan are available in ebook and paperback book format through Amazon and CreateSpace. The third book, King of Hellsbreach, is shaping up to me my most exciting release yet. I can't wait to share it. It should be complete this fall, and released in early 2015.
Thanks for stopping by. Please check out the blog stops by Britt Ringel, Mark Bordner and other authors.
Last week I purchased several UFC fights from the local video store, because they were on clearance and I can't bring myself to invest in pay-per-view. I wish I could, because I really want to see UFC 178 on September 27. There's going to be some interesting contests.
Meanwhile, I DVDs of the events months and years after they occur. Combined with occasional visits to the UFC website, I am slowly reacquainting myself with the world of MMA. It is the only sport I watch. I used to look for rowing, but good luck finding live coverage.
The fight between Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones in UFC 165 help reignite my interest in the sport. Gustafsson came into the match as a serious underdog. It was his title shot, and Jones' chance to make history by defending his title for the fifth time, a new record.
Gustafsson put on an amazing show, taking down Jones for the first time and controlling the match (I thought). As far as I can tell, Jones was awarded the decision based on the number of leg strikes. One thing was evident, it was one of the best fights in history.
Another DVD I picked up for $5 was Ronda Rousey: Breaking Ground. She is an Olympic Judo champion that has opened up the UFC for women fighters. She is one of the top fighters requested by sponsors, and the Ultimate Fighter 16 is dedicated to women competing for the straweight title. I was able to catch part of the first episode and it looks like there is quite a bit of talent.
Rousey fights in a different weight class, and seems unbeatable. She is the master of the Judo takedown and arm bar.
Watching such inspirational fighters always makes me want to train (and secretly dream of cage fighting, though I'm too old to do it for more than something to check off my bucket list). This means I spend time watching fights, instructional DVDs, training at my local BJJ gym, and generally working out and daydreaming of greatness.
I'm not extremely competitive. I like to spar and have been to a few tournaments with mediocre results. If I have any natural talent, it is for writing. But there's no law against dreaming, and if it helps me get in shape and gives me the tools to defend myself and others, then it must be a good thing. This is all part of balancing life with writing. In the long run, I hope it will make me a better writer and a better person.
The question is, can an independent writer compete without dedicating every waking moment to the craft of fiction and the job of marketing?
As an independent writer, I understand the importance of hiring a professional editor. Thus far, I have used two that greatly improved my work--caught mistakes, made me think, saved me a lot of embarrassment.
Finding an editor can be a daunting task. I've ran into a few that seemed almost hostile to authors, waging a fear campaign that suggests there are secret agencies hunting any writer who claims to have a reasonable grasp of the English language and story telling. So when I am shopping for a professional editor, I seek a skilled professional with respect for writers and readers. In short, I will be spending a lot of correspondence time with my editor, and I'd like the experience to be pleasant. Both editors that I've used, Samantha LaFantasie and BZ Hercules (Beth) are easy to work with and have the ability to correct my mistakes and encourage my development at the same time.
Editors I recommend:
Samantha LaFantasie edited Enemy of Man and Son of Orlan. BZ Hercules (Beth) edited my newest Urban Fantasy / Horror novel Die Like a Man. Both editors did excellent work for a great price.
How I chose BZ Hercules for this project:
I wrote Die Like a Man several years ago and kept coming back to it. The plot and the narrative style are intense, the hero flawed, and the stakes as high as they can be in Urban Fantasy. The protagonist has the power to do good or evil, and may be losing his ability to tell the difference.
Since this was a new book, parallel to but separate from my previous urban fantasy / crime thrillers, I decided to hire an additional editor while my first editor worked on my science fiction series. I'd seen BZ Hercules on Twitter, and did some research.
After browsing her web page intently, I selected the Triangulation Service from BZ Hercules for Die Like a Man. This gave me editing, proofreading, and beta reading all in one package for a great price. Beth was prompt in all correspondence and delivered everything she promised and more.
One thing I really liked:
She provided two copies of the edits, a raw version and a cleaner, easier to read version with much of the Track Changes finalized. This must have taken her a lot of extra work, but I liked it because it made my review and revision much faster. All I had to do was read the manuscript, change what I wanted, and refer to the original raw edit when I had questions. I emailed her several times, and she answered right away.
Where I found peace of mind:
With each new editor or proofreader, a writer encounters different opinions and advice. A quick check of the Chicago Manual of Style, and online grammar sites, revealed that BZ Hercules knew her business. The corrections BZ Hercules made were grammatically correct and insightful. I came to embrace them, just as I had learned from other editors and proofreaders.
I enjoyed working with BZ Hercules so much:
...that I immediately started writing with renewed enthusiasm, confident I had found a true professional I could trust with the labors of my imagination.
Thanks for reading my blog. Have a great day, and may everything you read be wondrous.
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
- The Craft of Writing: 7 Magnificent Books
- Use of Force Myths
- A Really Useful Tool
- Project Rotation