Friday, July 27, 2007

Ready any bad books lately?

Over on the SRReader discussion board, someone posted a topic, “The Worst Book You Ever Read” which was interesting to me in a couple of ways. I could write on the worst book I began but was unable to finish, and there is an ever-growing pile of those. As I get older, I am simply less tolerant. Oh, it's selfish, I know, but I have a finite number of years on this planet, and I don’t want to spend many of my precious minutes reading something I don’t like. If I am being paid, such as reading the essays my students write, that’s one thing. But when I am reading for fun, I often set books aside before I finish and look for something that I find more entertaining. However, I have read a few bad books, in their entirety, for various reasons.

The worst book I actually read from cover to cover was Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, a novel required in my freshman English class in undergraduate school. At least I remember it as the worst. Some thirty-three years have passed since I read it; therefore, Joyce’s novel may not have been as bad as I remember, but I still tout it as a fantastic cure for insomnia. I do remember going to sleep almost every time I read a significant portion of that stream-of-consciousness experiment.

Recently, I read one of E. E. “Doc” Smith's classic space operas, which have been rereleased as eBooks, just as a research item. I chose Triplanetary, and it ranks high on the list of worst books that I actually read. One interesting aspect of this yarn was the love story. Our hero, his girl, and his superior officer have been captured and the young lady has been separated from the men. Our hero, Conway Costigan, fears for his lady’s well-being. The dialogue is a bit melodramatic: “We’ll do something,” Costigan declared grimly. “If he makes a pass at her I’ll get him if I have to blow this whole sphere out of space, with us in it!” Nowadays, I think he’d have more to worry about than the villain merely “making a pass” at his lady-friend.

His prose is also dated. For instance, Einstein proposed calling the medium through which light travels in the vacuum of space “ether,” and Smith embraces this term, using it over seventy times. Smith’s climactic space battle scene is filled with lines like this: "Crimson opacity struggled sullenly against violet curtain of annihilation." About a third of this scene was written in passive voice as well.

Still, Triplanetary was an interesting look back at what was SF entertainment in 1934. Obviously, the genre has come a long way from these tales from a by-gone era.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Everyone says there no such thing as bad publicity....

That’s manure, folks. Really. If I read review which skewers a book or movie, I might question the taste or even the ethics of the reviewer, but negative is still negative, and I am conservative with my cash. Often, I don’t buy the book with the negative reviews. Okay, I bought a copy of Cally’s War, which got some horrible reviews on Amazon, but I have never managed to read the thing. If I am not inclined to buy a book or attend a movie that multiple reviewers panned, I am probably not alone.

Fortunately for me, I have had multiple good reviews for Trinity on Tylos. Fallen Angels Reviews named it a Recommended Read, and my all time favorite review is posted on Amazon. Often, my past blog entries mention better reviews, so here are links to blog entries about each of my favorite reviews:

• The RR for Trinity on Tylos from Fallen Angels Reviews is my highest rating.

• From the Romance Studio I got four out of five hearts, and this book is not a romance.

• In all, I have received eight reviews at various internet review sites, but this one from Debbie in Winter Park, FL, remains my favorite review of Trinity on Tylos. I like it because she notes the controversial elements, but judges the book as a whole, which is important.

Fellow writer Malcolm Campbell gave Trinity on Tylos a very favorable five-star review on Amazon, and I got decent reviews from Harriet Klausner of Alternative Worlds and Rob Preece, publisher of Books for a Buck. I quote short passages from each of those on my website.

However, a reviewer for a science fiction site, emailed me after having read about half of an ARC of Trinity on Tylos, saying that rather than write a really bad review, that I could pull it. The criticisms that reviewer mentioned included an assertion that androids can’t use contractions. Obviously, I was unaware of that rule, but if you ever intend to write about artificial intelligence, KC says no contractions; I said “no thanks” to the review, but I was most careful not to use a contraction in my missive.

RP, a reviewer associated with a site which primarily does erotic romance, states that “Azareel consistently forced his will upon Venice, even going so far as to use pain to get what he wanted. The author uses cultural differences to excuse his behavior. However, I was not convinced.” I’m not sure what convincing RP needs. Azareel is the villain, not the hero, so he should do nasty things, right? However, etiquette dictates that authors never argue with reviewers, and I didn’t. I did note that she gave "Cally's Sexy Surprise" and "Feral Hedonism" ratings two notches higher than she gave my sci-fi thriller, and she awarded "Wed and Wanton" five whatevers. If you ever see a My Space site offering free “exerpts” from her books, you’ve located RP. She does have a new novella out, but I haven't read it. Somehow, I think our tastes in fiction differ.

A review by AO, who spells even worse than RP, contains these passages: “Major Venice Delyenski, head of security, doesn't trust the Archeons... Venice discovers that her long lost ship mates have settled on Vention 11....He challenges Azareel and looses the battle.” In case you are wondering why I chose these passages, this reviewer misspelled the main character’s name, invented a new name for the planet where they settle, and seems to need a brush up in basic grammar. Worse, the review itself neither praises nor criticizes the book.

Reviewer SW writes better than some reviewers and professes to be an expert in military matters. He states, “One does not rise to the rank of Captain in military service, on-planet or not, by underestimating the value of security or ignoring the warnings of a top-flight security officer.” I’ve not argued this point either, but I sincerely hope this reviewer’s next assignment is a book about an officer named George Armstrong Custer.

The relationship between authors and reviewers is symbiotic, for they both stand to benefit from the process. Reviewers will have nothing to review if authors do not offer them the opportunity. Some authors have a list of favored reviewers, and they refuse to allow their publishers to submit to anyone else, which is wise indeed. I didn’t know which reviewers were good and which ones were not in 2005, so I let my publisher submit it to their list of review sites, and I submitted it any place which said they’d take science fiction. I wanted reviews for Trinity on Tylos, and I got more than I ever thought possible. As a parent, I often tell my children that getting what they want might not be what they need, and that has proven true for me as a writer. Eighteen months have passed since I got most of these reviews, so I have had plenty of time to rue my lack of knowledge regarding “who’s who” in the book review world.

Next time, I'll pull out the "good guys" list, because bad publicity hurts sales.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

So, you want to be published. What now?

Sometimes folks ask me about my publishing experience. Generally, I say that it is fun, but there is no money in it, which really does reflect my experience. There is much more to tell, but Voltaire once said that the secret for being a bore is “to tell everything” so I usually keep it brief. However, some people want more information and ask. In that case, I’ll gladly tell all, and after six years I have a good bit to tell. Recently, erotic romance writer December Quinn, who has published more books than I have, and who has many “coming soon” titles, has done an exemplary job of explaining what to look for when seeking a publisher on her blog. This is multi part series which will run this summer, and I am linking to the first post. Once you are on her blog, you’ll no doubt find the other posts in the series, which I can’t recommend enough. She has covered almost all the bases and promises more to come.

If you are in the early stages of writing or are just beginning to explore publishing what you’ve already written, a writer’s conference can be a great help. Some of these offer agent evaluations of your work. If there isn’t a conference near you, or you don’t have the money, an online writer’s conference such as Muse It Up might help. I’ve heard some good things about this one.

I’ve mentioned some other resources for writers in previous blogs or on my website, including the Writer’s Beware blog and, science fiction author Piers Anthony’s site, which has an informative section on internet publishing. When looking at internet sources such as forums and blogs, do be aware that some writers, for reasons I can’t fathom, are “cheerleaders” who will refute any negative information which is posted about their publisher, even if the negatives are accurate and should be considered by authors prior to signing a contract.

Anyone who asks me about my publishers will get straight answers, since honesty was drilled into me at Papa Dodd’s knee. For POD, Booklocker tells you up front how much it is going to cost. They charge out the ying-yang for corrections, but they never lie about it. The biggest downside is few reviewers will accept a POD, so it is hard to publicize these books outside the writer's circle of acquaintances. WCP is a mixed bag, wherein some authors are happy and others have paid or begged out of their contracts to seek better distribution and higher royalties. Gardenia Press, which once had a contract on The Gift Horse, was a publishing nightmare, but even they had some cheerleaders.

There are many opportunities for those who want to be published, via print on demand, ePublishing, and small presses, but be careful out there. As the old saying goes, it’s a jungle.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Laptop in limbo

My beloved G4 iBook was DOA last evening. Hubby and I made an early morning trek to the Apple Store at Lenox Square in Atlanta this morning, where I made an appointment with an Apple Genius, who did what I did at home, plus trying to run it via a remote server and came up with the same conclusion that I did: hardware problem. That means a trip to a service center, and I have applecare on it, so the repair won't cost me, but my hard drive may or may not be salvageable. I do write some of my Pam's Pages posts a bit ahead of time, and I have one on getting published ready, but it is on that computer and not on this one. If Lazarus makes it back, I'll have that post in a week or two.

In the mean time, I'll mention some of the things going on in the publishing world—
•A romance ebook publisher, Triskelion, just folded. Some of their authors are scrambling to find new homes for their books, so that will make publishing that genre and method a bit more difficult for a time.
•Whiskey Creek Press continues to have issues with distribution. Right now, the authors on their Yahoo group are bemoaning the fact that Barnes and Noble stores won't even order a trade paperback book from WCP, saying they are non-returnable. Actually, WCP does take returns, but B&N is quite arbitrary in their policies, so good luck changing that, folks. Unless WCP will bow to publishing conventions and use a distributor such as Ingrams, the books will experience very slow sales indeed.
•Some of my author friends are saying that My Space is the way to promote authors and books. One of them told me that his My Space profile gets more hits than his website and his blog, combined. I don't yet have a My Space. I have looked at it, but it seemed so busy and confusing that I just went back to blogging. I have looked at some profiles of my teenager's acquaintances, and all I can say is that the entire site should be rated "R"or "X" and I prefer to have my promotions be family friendly.
•POD pricing, which was high to begin with, is getting higher. Booklocker went up on set-up fees and cover prices in June, and they are among the cheaper such publishers. It will cost approximately $500 to get into print there, and you'll pay a bit more for Lulu or iUniverse. Xlibris, once a viable printer, is up to a couple of thousand, so I wouldn't recommend that to anyone, although I have done so in the past.

That's it for this week folks. Let's hope the repair facility can resurrect my computer without sacrificing my hard drives' contents. BTW, all of my current manuscripts are on it, and they haven't been backed up lately. If it goes, so does a few months of work...

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