Posts Tagged With: Review

An Experiment in Self-Publishing: pt. 2

No. You don’t get a fricking drawing or a picture of any kind. Nuh uh. Why? Because 135 people have ‘viewed’ my story Cuhlyn’s Tale on Payhip and of them I have sold 6 copies. SIX!!! And 2 of those were to the same people. So they bought it TWICE! Which must mean it’s awesome, right? Guess that shows you. You could have been on the ground floor of something amazing but nooooooo…. YOU chose to sit on the sidelines and see how it all plays out. Didn’t you? Didn’t YOU?

Naw… Just kidding. Sort of. It’s no big deal. It’s a little story anyway. Not something I was looking for – just something that happened along one fine day. So I wrote it. NOW GO BUY IT!

Truth be told the experiment isn’t working all that well. I’ve had a friend in Scotland have some issues with the Payhip site, there was some trouble in the very beginning with Paypal (my fault), and it needed some editing. It has now been edited. Again and resubmitted. According to the site, if you purchase a copy you get it as a Doc file or a epub file. Or both. It’s a little hard to tell. Personally, I really don’t understand the doc file thing. That really shouldn’t even be an option should it? That would enable anyone to purchase, download, alter the heck out of it and resubmit it under their own auspices. Hmmm… I think I’ll have to pull that doc file down before someone with more marketing understanding rips me off.

Also, the same friend in Scotland has mentioned difficulty with the ‘sharing/liking’ of it on FB. She’s not even getting those options on her browser. This is a problem as I have it set right now so that you (yes YOU!!!) get a discount if you share or like it. This amounts to 50% off if you share it. Which seems to work backwards if you ask me. It’s a great idea but maybe the discount should be paid forward? If you buy something and like it enough to recommend it, you can click share or like from the main page and have a discount applied to your next purchase. I mean, who really want’s to go BACK and like something after you’ve read it? Okay. Wait. I do that all the time.

I have to say, though, one thing i do like about it (and dislike about it) is that there is no place to leave comments or reviews. Payhip, as a whole, is very stripped down and no frills. There are no pushes, no marketing slams of ‘if you liked this story, you might like this one that someone with more money has had professionally promoted’. It’s nice because the review thing has become a game. You see it all the time – people begging on the cobbled streets like Dickensian paupers: ‘Please, sir – would you kindly review my vampire novel? I promise it will be no trouble. There’s only one werewolf in it. Honest, sir…’ I know reviews matter. I know i have none. I read reviews all the time, but – as a writer – i tend to review the reviews if you know what i mean. Too many spelling mistakes in a review, loose language use, colloquialisms and it’s as good as a bad review in my opinion. In any case, there is no place to put a review on Payhip, even if you wanted to. There’s no rating system, no genre searching, Really, i’m not sure how you’re supposed to find anything on there.

That said, their percentages are really good. Definitely worth it. And i hope they keep that in place should they choose to expand. They’re also really easy to upload to and the sharing/liking features (when they work) are really easy to use, but as i said i have had at least one friend have difficulty getting them to work.

In any case, the experiment continues. If you would like a short little tale about a barbarian trying to save his little village from slaughter you can find it here. If not, that’s cool too – just leave me tips and pointers on how better to market stories, because i still suck at it.

Categories: Fiction, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Longmire – The Cold Dish

ar124708363646529I know. I’ve already talked about this on an earlier Blog. But I’m getting close to finishing it and I honestly can’t wait to download or even buy the next one. First, let me let you in on a little secret: I’m not a downloadable books fan. Don’t all gasp at once. I know I publish on digital and all that but really, my big signal of ultimate triumph will be when I stop into the local bookstore (if there are such things in the future) and am able to pick up a copy of my own book. I’ve resigned myself to downloading because my bookshelves just can’t take anymore. I don’t have many bookshelves to begin with, and the ones I do have hate me. Thus, every once in a while I download a book rather than buying it.

That is, unless it’s something I really like.

The Cold Dish is one of those I wish I’d bought from the book store.

You might have seen the show. It’s a terrific show, really. The plot and the stories are something, the scenery is amazing, but the acting is terrific. You might have read the blog post I put up a while ago that had something to do with acting. I don’t want to rehash it. But basically you know when an actor has really slipped into the skin of someone else. You can see it. They know how to blink in character. Longmire is one of those shows where you really feel like they know their business and I’m hooked.

But that doesn’t tell you much about the book. The book is a different critter altogether. It’s the rare gift of a mystery/thriller that is as pretty to read as it is compelling. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’ve been searching for with the sort of scintillating paragraphs and sentences that make you believe that Genre can be art. Too often we resign ourselves to the mediocre and fun. Don’t get me wrong. It is fun. But it’s also very well written and delivered with the sort of attention to detail that makes me sing with envy. Craig Johnson knows his subject and just the right (write?) english to put on it to make it sound practically perfect:

He had opened the passenger-side door, and i was looking through the holes in the floorboards at the melting snow. Part of the dashboard was turquoise, part of it was white, and the large mic of an antiquated citizens’ band radio was bolted to the front edge over the shift lever. There was a shifter; a transfer-case lever; a worn, white steering wheel; and an unending number of chrome handles and knobs guaranteed to dislocate, jab, or stove anything that might come in contact. Most of the windows were cracked, and there were no seat belts. At the top of the antenna, even though there was no radio, perched a little, dirty-white Styrofoam ball that read CAPTAIN AMERICA. “It’s gonna break down.”

“It is not going to break down. Get in, I am getting cold.”

His breath was clouding inside of the glass, and i looked down at the heater box, which was taped together with duct tape. “As i recall, the heater in this thing, among other things, doesn’t work.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a more gorgeous description of a truck on its last legs in my life. It’s the sort of thing that I take as a personal challenge and I love it. From a strictly writing perspective, it’s like slipping on an old, well-oiled, baseball glove and finding it still fits at the exact moment someone drops a battered baseball into it. See? It’s intoxicating. It makes you want to write, and write better. And that’s nothing compared to the description of the Cheyenne Haunted Death Gun: A Sharps rifle from a hundred years ago that is haunted and reappears a number of times throughout the book in just beautiful ways.

So.

You can sit there on the sofa and watch Longmire – and I recommend you do – or you can read the poetry of it. For me, the words are every bit as beautiful as the mythical landscape they inhabit; particularly considering the show is actually filmed in New Mexico and not Wyoming.

Johnson’s characters are vivid and expertly wrought. Again, I just stagger at the skill in creating these beasts, men, indians, italian smart mouthed Philadelphia cops. I curse him for writing them so well. I study the pages. I soak it in like good poetry or the crisp warm air of the Montana fly stream I once fished on. Yeah. That’s right, Johnson. I curse you. I shake my fist. You bastard. You’ve got me hooked.

The literary Longmire is a much more wry, self-deprecating character than the tough old sod you see on the show and it’s better for it. Robert Taylor does a terrific job on the show – it’s in the eyes; the way they aren’t always certain, the way they try – and sometimes fail – at looking like the strong hardened law man. It’s his way at reaching through the script to the soft, somewhat floundering Longmire of the novel and I appreciate it. But I have to admit I love the interior thoughts of the literary character, dubious, skeptical, funny, and capable in spite of himself. He’s a modern western law man and Craig Johnson doesn’t skimp on the thing that I find irresistible in a Mystery: humor. If you’ve read any of the Meg stories you know I can’t really live without it and find it sorely lacking in way too much of it.

Katee Sackhoff (who I confess I loved as Starbuck in BSG) is a true gem here. I’ve got to say, in spite of the radical change in hair color – she nails Vic Moretti. Somehow, though, because her character is a little more in the background of this novel she makes even more of an impact. I could go on and on. I should stop somewhere. I don’t want to. I want to buy a copy of this book for every brave soul who’s weathered the storms of the blogosphere and made it this far. But I can’t. Cuz I’m poor. Buy more copies of my Meg series and maybe I’ll give out a free copy of Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish.

That’s it in a nutshell. Go read this book. Do what I did – pour yourself through the entire first season on Netflix and then read this book. Read it. Now. And then – when you’re all done – drive out west to the Beartooth mountains to a little place named Cameron, Montana. There you will find a bar. Leave five dollars on the bar and tell them i owe them. Head one more mile west, hang a Left and take the road till you get to the Lee Metcalf wilderness area. Head up the creek and don’t get eaten by a bear. Read the next book in the series there.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Please Pass the Melon-baller… – A Review of Transformers 3

… I need it to remove my eyes.

I have never hated a movie more. There. I said it. Except now that I said it I’m not entirely sure it’s true. I don’t generally HATE movies. I dislike them sometimes, I think some are an enormous waste of time but it’s rare that I actually HATE a movie. It’s just not worth the effort. As of the moment of this writing I can only think of 3 movies off the top of my head that have kindled a rage in me the likes of which might astound biblical plagues, Mongolian warlords, or alien scourges. Those movies are: Titanic, Pearl Harbor and now Transformers 3. Were I a horrible soviet era tyrant copies of those three movies and everyone responsible for them would be purged and sent to Siberia. Or sent to Siberia and then Purged. or maybe I would simply have them put in a city square and have people hurl grapefruit and insults at them. That would do it. I clearly wouldn’t make a very good Soviet era dictator.

Now, Titanic and Pearl Harbor – as you may have noticed – are different. They are execrable. But their sin is primarily because they ginned up a stupid story where the actual historical story was infinitely more interesting and dramatic. They’re saying: I COULD watch Casablanca but Pamela Anderson’s Barb Wire is on. Sure. I will admit that there are folks (probably teenaged boy’s in the early 90’s) who would take Barb Wire over Casablanca but these people are insufferably stupid. I was a teenaged boy in the early 90’s. I should know. If you want the worlds most obtrusively hackneyed love story heaped on some of the most compelling factual drama you can go that route and watch either movie. Just don’t comment below and please find a different site to read.

Transformers 3 is different. Where Titanic and Pearl Harbor got filthy drunk and stumbled into awfulness, Transformers courts awfulness like a one toothed meth addict scrounging for the last resin caked spoon in the house. It’s terribleness is awesome to behold. It dwarfs Battlefield Earth and Plan 9 From Outer Space and stands proud: daring others to surpass it. It makes the viewer question themselves, their sanity, their grip on life. Dark, twisted, Lovecraftian nightmares from the deep will put this on their Netflix and quietly retire their aspirations for world domination and subjugation unless they suddenly turn the moral corner into charity and opt for domination just to preserve the artistic integrity and heritage of the planet.

This is in clear violation of my own policies I know. I just can’t help myself. So maybe a revision of the policy should be: I will not review anything I don’t like except in cases where the virulent hatred of something has so infected me that I can’t help myself.

I won’t waste my breath on particulars. You needn’t worry about spoilers. How could i spoil something that is so rancid and rank that it passed spoiled a millennia ago? I can only say that in the opening 20 minutes of this piece of garbage we are reintroduced to Sam Witwicky – the single most unlikable, unsympathetic character ever snorted from the nostril of any writer ever. Witwicky, as played by Shia Le – oh screw it. I don’t even want to spell it correctly – is an obnoxious, arrogant, illiterate, whining, sniveling, entitled, uninteresting zombified chipmunk. He chatter’s out dialog like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. Like its toxic waste. And it is. Everything he utters for the first portion of the movie just makes you want to punch him in the throat and you can’t imagine why any other character in the movie who shares screen time with him doesn’t do just that. Frances McDormand, an actress i love and respect, has the character to do it and she doesn’t. Josh Duhamel (I liked him in Vegas) could and he doesn’t. Even his walking collagen laced Barbie girlfriend (a prerequisite in any Bay film) has more character and chutzpah than him and SHE doesn’t do it. Hell, I would go for the supposedly noble but idiotically vapid Optimus Prime to squash the little turd like the annoying insect he is but Prime ‘likes’ him. WHY?????????? THERE’S NOTHING TO LIKE FOR GOD”S SAKE. Steaming piles of Chernobyl Bear Poop have more personality and character than Witwicky. JAR JAR BINKS is more likable. There I said it. Phew. I feel better.

And now that I’ve said it I feel obliged to admit that I didn’t finish watching it. I know. People are going to say: how can you review something if you didn’t sit through the whole thing. Honestly. It was self-preservation. In the first half hour we have Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, John Turturro, making complete asses of themselves. Malkovich does what he can but it’s not his movie. Which is a shame really. Between his character (written as a prototypical american boss with prototypical OCD and control issues) and McDormand (written as a ball busting stereotypical government bureaucrat) we may have actually had a fun movie. Turturro has been a lost soul in all of these movies, unfortunately. Nothing you can say about it except that somehow Bay manages to squash a decent actor into another sniveling waste of a character with no function and seeking some purpose.

But we don’t stop there. Nope. When executive producers sat down at the poker table with Bay they couldn’t reckon that he was ‘All in’ on every hand. We have a cameo from Buzz Aldrin allegedly lending legitimacy (and thereby eroding America’s accomplishments in space) to this incredibly moronic plot. Then we have Alan Tudyk. Ahh… Ugh. That one hurts. I’m still stung by the last images of Alan Tudyk’s Wash, impaled on a spear after safely landing the Serenity. But here he’s a former assassin turned bodyguard straight out of an ancient SNL ‘Sprockets’ segment. And then we have the voice of Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime. It’s almost as if the producers of this epic piece of sci-fi sewage cobbled together as many respected talents in Sci Fi Acting as they could and held a gun to their head while filming. I’m still trying to tabulate the amount of respect lost for anyone involved in this mess.

Transformers clearly cost a fortune. If you superglued all of the dollars pissed away on these films you could walk to Mars on a ribbon of green. You could sew them together and make money suits for everyone in the world ten times over. You could use the paper to allow 3 year olds to write better screenplays than this. What you get for this fortune, unfortunately, is a clinic on what is wrong with the world. In that it’s practically poetic and would be admirable if it weren’t so unironic. It intends, and succeeds, in making a crap load of money all the while eroding our sense of the spectacular or even entertainment. If this is what we pay to watch just where is the nearest cliff to jump off of?

It is now on instant streaming from Netflix, presumably so that Netflix can help create the taste by which it is to be enjoyed. To all the boys aged 13 – 18 who are taken up and were relieved of the shrapnel in their pockets to watch this garbage: go play a video game. It’s actually better for you in terms of moral and intellectual development than watching this. better yet read a book. ANY book.

 

Categories: Movies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeking Whom He May Devour – a review

It’s thursday? Already? What? No. I’m not ready for the weekly mystery blog. Not ready. But i said i would be so here it is. The first of the book reviews. The idea is to talk about stuff you MIGHT not be into – yet. I mean, we’ve all heard of Tana French by now and so forth, so it’s only right to blerb about stuff you may not have. Of course i’m probably not that qualified at finding this stuff. I search for it blindly and am ALWAYS open to suggestions so if you’ve got anything that you think i might be interested in let me know and i’ll take a look. The same rules will apply. If i don’t like something or it’s a little too ‘normal’ chances are i won’t write about it. So please don’t recommend Patterson or Sanford and such.

Anyway. Today it’s Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas.

Fred is French. Just so you know. All of the books of the Commisaire Adamsberg series are translations. I’ve read two of them so far The Chalk Circle Man and this one and i have to say they are – weird. In other places at other times i’ve described them as “what if Amelie was a homicide detective?” and i think that still holds up. Adamsberg is a charming weirdo and he’s well insulated and surrounded by other intriguing weirdos, some of whom have murder on their minds.

In this one Adamsberg isn’t so much at the heart of the book, though. Here the central character is his enigmatic ex, Camille, who finds herself as a small town plumber in a mountain town full of mountain folk tending sheep. She’s surrounded by charming pastoral folk, a foul mouthed shepherdess and her adopted child whom she’s convinced is an African Prince, a grumpy superstitious shepherd with a passion for strong wine, a Canadian documentary filmmaker studying wild wolves. Drop in one werewolf terrorizing the neighborhood and a victim, stir, ferment, see what happens.

Of course this isn’t one of the glut of paranormal mysteries so we don’t believe for one second that there is, in fact, a real werewolf terrorizing the Mercantour. It’s a testament to the languid and dazzling flow of Vargas writing that she somehow convinces us that it just MIGHT be a lycanthrope, even as we laugh at ourselves for being so stupid. Of course it may  be that we’ve seen this sort of thing before, too, and have conditioned towards the spontaneous outbreak of lycanthropy in otherwise perfectly good mysteries.

In any case, Vargas keeps her main detective involved from afar, he’s a little busy trying to fend off the murderous attention of a woman so doesn’t quite have time to track down possible werewolves in another district. In stead, the wonderfully bizarre keeps us going down the road throughout most of it and she’s truly a gem to follow. Vargas clearly loves her being enigmatic and somehow, in spite of being central to the story, she manages to keep her distant and yet interesting. We never quite get familiar with her. You might think it would be difficult having a protagonist you’re never allowed to fully identify with but Vargas makes it all a pleasure – like spending time with a marvelous host at a party you know you’ll have to leave.

She is not, however, a detective. Her pursuit of the wolf through the countryside takes the whole thing into a road book – On The Road with idiots, werewolves and murder. Setting off with her two companions to find the murderer and (literally) eviscerate him they bumble amiably through the countryside collecting things they think are clues but aren’t and following leads that go no where.

It’s here that the story does become a little bit of a chore as we’re already aware that Adamsberg must show up at some point and Vargas makes us wait just a little too long. Oh it’s fun. Solimon and Watchee are excellent comic relief even though the reader never really needs relief from anything. They repeatedly deflate any latent idea of buried wisdom that we might feel about old shepherds and their proteges but at times it seemed that that was all their purpose was, to kill time while the reader waits for Adamsberg to get into position.

When he does show up i immediately felt how much i missed him. Maybe that was the point? To get the reader to the point where we’re as relieved to have him along as the characters themselves. Adamsberg is easily the ruling king of this motley band. His style of detection is as charismatic as it is bizarre – almost tranquil and nonchalant. There is literally no other detective in film or literature (that i can think of anyway) who would have been able to stick with the assorted ensemble effectively without losing their minds in the process, though i have to admit it is fun to think of Thomas Magnum trying.

In any case i don’t want to give too much away. Vargas is a fun and engaging writer and i’m always predisposed towards writers who can efficiently use vivid detail to elucidate the unique qualities of their characters. She’s quirky. I like that. And it’s not quirkiness for just the sake of itself – it shows tiny glimpses of deep characters who are comfortable with their own oddities. She uses enough of it to get you to want more. You want to hear the end of Soliman’s strange, rambling stories even if no one else does, you can’t wait for Camille to page through her big catalog of tools like it’s her personal bible.

I can’t say that the ending was any great surprise. It may be just a little overly elaborate for a story who’s greatest charm is it’s unique and unapologetic simplicity. Order is restored. That sort of thing. We’re rewarded with a killer. Yay. About what you’d expect really, but getting there is a lot of fun if you have a little bit of patience and like your characters vividly random.

If you’re a straight up whodunit procedural type and like your characters tough, straight faced (boring) then this probably isn’t for you. But if you have a ken for the weird, the daring, and the interesting then you probably couldn’t do much worse, though i still feel that the ending was a bit of a let down. It reached more than it needed to and you could see it a pretty long way off, but then again i can’t remember the last time the ending of a mystery actually surprised me.

Categories: Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

All Hail Emperor Zhark!: Something Rotten Book review

Three days ago, sunday, i went to the not really local but still independent bookstore in the neighborhood and picked up three books. One of these books was the fourth of the Thursday Next series of books which my few minions will recognize that i’m totally addicted to. I finished it last night.

Generally i don’t read that fast. I don’t want to read that fast. I’m one of those ‘savor the book in a slow feast’ type guys, having a little morsel here and there, tearing off a chunk to chew on my way to work, etc. But Fforde lays a table of candy coated feasty goodness and i turn into a kid in a candy shop – i know, unforgivable use of cliche. The strange thing about Fforde’s writing is it doesn’t leave me full – in fact it’s like a delicious feast that leaves you wanting more, and luckily for all inquisitive readers the books are like launch pads to explore other writers, other books.

Book four finds our Plucky Heroine finally reappearing out of Bookworld to do dubious battle with the great and all too powerful Goliath Corporation (now trying to convert themselves into the most popular religion), and the fictional (fictional, of course taking on an entirely different significance here) English Chancellor Yorrick Kaine. She brings with her a new son, Friday, a juvenile delinquent Dodo Bird, Alan (son of the wonderful Pickwick) a morose Danish Prince who is worried about his penchant for equivocating, and the memories of a husband who never existed.

If you are familiar at all with the style of these books you’ll soak it in quick – that feeling of a great big plot stew, everything thrown in (including bits you think probably shouldn’t) add a dash of extreme weirdness and voila – a wonderfully strange novel you think can’t possibly work but somehow does. I honestly don’t know how Fforde manages to hold the whole thing – and his head – together while writing these gleeful hodgepodges. I know, for myself, i would probably send for the guys in white coats after finishing every novel, but somehow he manages to pull it off, leaving the reader just a little dizzy.

Well last night the novel left me with a serious case of the sniffles which is a first in the series. A beloved character, whose arc i managed to figure out a while back, finally revealed herself and expired and, well, in the middle of six foot hedgehogs, talking gorillas, a displaced Dane with an affection for Mel Gibson films, and plot devices so convoluted and twisted that the forest of them is opaque with baroque twists, there i was dazzled by a moment of honest tenderness.

the down side to attempting to write a review of such a thing is that it’s basically impossible to show the moments that produced the excitement and happiness without totally revealing the plot and ruining the experience for others. I mentioned this sensation before, but i reiterate the fact that i can only say the book is a whole lot of fun, and Fforde – though reigning in the dazzling cleverness of the last two novels – still retains a panache for the absurd that is not simply praiseworthy but should be lauded across the land – particularly in a world that seems to grow increasingly dire with each passing minute.

So maybe this isn’t the book you’ll be discussing with your literary friends trying to convince them that you’re a brilliant post avant critique, but it is one that you’ll tell your other friends about – the one’s who still stand slack jawed and marvel at words, and plots and characters. The one’s who might still read Hamlet for fun will get it, and if you know of any people who have privately whispered their admiration for Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams they will thank you for the suggestion.

And of course, Emperor Zhark – bloodthirsty interstellar tyrant that he is, is a wonderful character. Just sayin.

Categories: Book reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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