In the spirit of streamlining this website, I will be systematically moving archived book reviews and other posts to this section, then deleting the archive. So let’s get started with:The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth, stunned me at the end with its resonance.I began reading this novel after Sol Stein recommended it in his book Stein on Writing as an example of structuring a story for suspense.At first, I was a bit confused because so many of the “rules” of writing were violated. A great deal of narrative summary padded the beginning of the book and many uses of the passive voice existed.What made Forsyth’s tale a modern classic and basis for popular movie versions?I wasn’t blown away, but the story and the historical references interested me. So I continued listening to the audio book.Enter the Jackal. At first, this character seemed like a modern anti-hero like so many assassins portrayed as good guys in movies. Forsyth showed him as a skilled professional not to be messed with. When an identity forger tries to double cross him, the Jackal ruthlessly takes him out.A gunsmith treats the Jackal honestly, and the Jackal spares his life. Not every character is so lucky. Let’s just say that at a certain point, I thoroughly turned against the Jackal and wanted him to go down hard for his crimes. Police Inspector Claude Labelle is introduced well in to the story, but quickly becomes a major character. By the end of the novel, I’m cheering him on and growling at everyone who seeks to destroy his reputation.The Day of the Jackal entertains from start to finish, though I found the second half of the book exceptionally good. This is a novel I will read again for enjoyment, but will also study as an example of good writing. Simon Preble performed the audio book. He’s one of the best readers I have listened to, and I devour audio books one after another.
Photo obtained from JoshHayesWriter.com What are some elements of good, entertaining fiction? For me the list starts with compelling characters, conflict, suspense, and a setting exotic enough that I’d like to go there and have an adventure. Hayes put all these pieces into the story, and I want to see more of these characters and this place they have found. I obtained this as a free advanced reading copy in return for an honest review, and thought I knew the gist of the story before I began, but I was delighted and surprised by the end and can’t wait to read the next installment. I wish I had thought of the science fiction Neverland concept. This series is going places, and should be full of fun. I recommend this story for fans of science fiction / action adventure genres.You can learn more about Josh Hayes and his works on his web page, Josh Hayes Writer.com. He is an active member of the indie writing community and does a lot more than just promote his own books. His site is full of author interviews and book reviews. In fact, I am going to try and get an interview set up up with him soon.Second Star: Breaking Through Kindle Link (I like to use Amazon to see other reviews, download a free samples, and make purchases.)
Josh Hayes, author of Second Star: Breaking Through
Five years of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes, including countless lessons and sparing matches brought me to a goal I’ve pursued for a long time. When I first became interested in BJJ, there were no instructors in the region. Royce Gracie was dominating the UFC and the martial arts community was scrambling to reinvent itself. It took several years before qualified instructors started opening schools in the area, and I trained at several.I stopped and started several times, bowed to the responsibilities of work and family again and again. Now that I have moved from white belt to blue belt, I feel a stronger obligation to attend class regularly. The past three weeks have been excuse-busting tests of dedication and logistical skills. With the exception of being sick, I have made every class I set out to attend. Training three days a week will not make me the top grappler in my rank, but should give me the skills to proudly say “I am a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belt.” What does this have to do with writing? This web site is named Scottmoonwriter, after all.I always believed that living a responsible, adventurous, and productive life helps any writer. At the same time, the competition is fierce, especially for indie writers. There are days I wish I could do nothing but write, read, and work on my craft.That way lies madness, like as not. After family and God, there are only a few things that matter to me. Like most writers, I often test the patience of my family and give my faith less work that it deserves. I’m only human. Maybe God didn’t put me on this Earth just to write, maybe he did. My fiction is meant to entertain. I don’t write to push a social, political, or religious message, in case you were wondering.When I write, when the story is growing naturally, I feel complete. I don’t worry about the through-line or the moral premise or the plot structure. Each time those issues push to the forefront, the process seems more like work–and I do it because I strive not just to express my creativity, but for professionalism.When I am on the mat, sparring or learning a new technique, there is no opportunity to worry about getting the oil changed in the car or paying bills. There are days when I get submitted time after time and wonder why I put myself through the ego crushing abuse. Just like writing or anything else, there are moments when the work put in seems crazily out of proportion to the reward gained.Over time, progress is realized.That is a reward. The journey is a reward. At least I am not sitting around.Earning a rank in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a lot like publishing a novel. Certain expectations come with the accomplishment. I am about to have a birthday, and each year I set goals. So here is my resolution. I will write when it is time to write, train when it is time to train, and never take the people I care about for granted. Without them, it is all meaningless.
Everyone likes #free, right. There was a time, let’s say 2012, when Indie authors were using Kindle Direct Publishing free days to promote books. I was new to the realm of digital self publishing, and gave it a try. The result was about 18,000 downloads of Dragon Badge, an urban fantasy crime thriller, and over 2,000 actual sales. I thought it was pretty neat, since I was ecstatic to have people reading my first book! (Well, not the first I wrote, but the first I published on KDP. I’ve been writing for over thirty years.)Dragon Badge also received fifty-three (53) reviews, with a 4.1 star average. Heady stuff. I assumed all my books would get reviews quickly. Enemy of Man currently has thirteen (13) reviews with a 4.4 star average. I’d like to have more.We know everyone likes free, but maybe deeply discounted is also good?The first thing I noticed when I published Enemy of Man, was that it immediately out sold Dragon Badge. There may be no way to understand the reason, but I think it is a factor of genre and the larger readership of science fiction. To be honest, Dragon Badge doesn’t fit neatly into urban fantasy or crime thriller, but I digress. I also think I learned a lot about writing during Enemy of Man, and the use of a professional editor helped a bunch. (Dragon Badge and Dragon Attack were proofread and edited by several individuals, including a trusted reader with a baccalaureate degree in English literature and a doctorate in education. Dragon Badge is scheduled for a serious re-write and at least one round with a professional editor before I start on book three of the series.)And now to the point of this post; I didn’t do much in the way of free days for Enemy of Man. Why? All the book marketing blogs (and books–I’ve spent a small fortune on “how to market your ebook” material) suggested that the free day strategy had outlived it’s functionality. The biggest problem with giving away free books is that many people, myself included, tend to download more than can be read in a life time.I still have more reviews for Dragon Badge than Enemy of Man. The later book has sold more copies with less promotional effort, but lacks reviews. Were the free days the secret to getting book reviews? Have people become exhausted with reading and reviewing so many independent authors? I’m not sure I will ever have the answer, but I do know I have at least a hundred books on my Kindle account that I won’t have time to read. It is safe to assume many other readers are in the same situation.So where does that leave an indie title?The alternative to glutting the market with free books seems to have become the Countdown Deal. Amazon actually has a Countdown Deal Page, which is more than can be said about free books. I am keen to learn if KDP Free Days or Countdown Deals will boost Kindle Unlimited (KU) downloads of Enemy of Man and Son or Orlan…and dare I say it, the next two books in the series which should be done in 2015.During the last two months, Kindle Unlimited sales have accounted for half my income. Occam’s Razor would suggest that KU must be part of my marketing plan. I think either Free Days or Countdown Deals would increase visibility and improve KU performance as well.Shall I go with Free Days?Or try a Countdown Deal?The winner is, a KDP Countdown Deal starting on October 16th at $0.99. This is the first discount I have done for Enemy of Man for several months. It hasn’t been free for a year. I hope this works.I hope this get some reviews.Several things have changed in my marketing plan during 2014. I spent a significant amount of money on an Orangeberry Blog Tour and a few other promotional sites with good reputations. I have not tried Book Bub, because I was saving that for the day when the series is complete. At that point, I plan to really follow the author marketing best practices and get serious about writing as a career. The results of spending money to promote have been decent. I think having a larger back list will make each dollar spent more effective. So the big change is this; I save ninety percent of my profit for editing and book cover design. What does this mean for Enemy of Man in the free day / Kindle Unlimited experiment?I need your help. Please share the news of the Enemy of Man free day with anyone you know who likes science fiction. October 16th, 2014 Enemy of Man will be $0.99 for a limited time.ENEMY OF MAN – sampleSON OF ORLAN – sampleDRAGON BADGE – sampleDRAGON ATTACK – sampleDIE LIKE A MAN – sample
Yes, I must admit, I am fanatical about George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. How fanatical? I just spent $40 on maps and ordered The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire). Now I have to quit eating out for at least a week.Totally worth it.For the last two years I have developed the habit of Googling Westeros maps as I work my way through Mr. Martin’s books again and again, and I am telling you the world is hard to make sense of on a smart phone screen. I haven’t yet obtained my collection of hardback copies. I have all of the Game of Thrones books in audio and ebook formats. Starting next month, I plan to buy a hardback Song of Ice and Fire book a month. Had I done this earlier, I would not have as much confusion with the maps as I sometimes do while driving and listening to the story.Anyway, I am anxiously awaiting my copy of The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire). I pre-ordered. I also just learned that J. R. R. Tolkein was a devout Catholic. How did I not know that?
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.
Photo credit http://www.jaykristoff.com 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.
Raw Edit of Die Like a Man Clean Edit f Die Like a Man
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.
No Way to Start a War, the second book in the TCOTU series (This Corner of the Universe) by Britt Ringel is a well thought out military space opera with excellent characters. I enjoyed the first book in the series, but Now Way to Start a War is better.First of all, the conflict between the Hollaran Commonwealth and the Brevic Republic is heating up. Lt. Heskan and his crew face dangerous enemies as they become part of a new mission and learn to handle a larger ship. New and old battle tactics become important, and Heskan has decisions to make.No Way to Start a War benefits from tighter control of point of view characters, a high-stakes plots, and some serious moral dilemmas faced by various characters. But one of the biggest home runs in the book is the antagonist. I won’t put any spoilers in this review, but Ringel did an excellent job with one of the primary antagonist, an area of storytelling were many authors, even the greats, often fall short.My “job” as a book reviewer is to help readers, to tell it all, to shuck it down to the cob as we say in these here parts. I am confidently giving No Way to Start a War a five (5) star review, so keep that in mind when I share my less favorite parts.Science fiction fans love detail. I marvel at how much technical and operational detail authors like Britt Ringel can put into a book. Sometimes, for me, it is too much and slows things down. Take it for what it’s worth; the detail in this book is very thorough. On one hand, I learn a lot about how a space faring naval force might operate. I believe Ringel’s bio says he was an officer in the Air Force. He seems qualified to speculate on how would operate in the future. So if you are the type of science fiction fan that thrives on this kind of thing, the TCOTU series is definitely for you. If you have a shorter attention space and suffer from slow-reading-syndrome (I daydream as I read fiction–entering the story world as it were), then the TCOTU is still very excellent.I’ve said it before, Britt Ringel’s books remind me of Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey in space. There really isn’t higher praise than that.