Becoming an Indie Author

I’ve been doing my own thing as far as publishing my fiction for a couple of years now and if I could have had this book to guide me, the road would have been a bit less bumpy. I purchased Becoming An Indie Author Sunday and I’m darn near finished with it come Sunday night. I had to take some time out to write this post so that other Indie Authors will get the chance to learn from Zoe Winters like I wish I could have.

To be sure this book is not just for beginners. I’m a somewhat jaded old hand at the do-it-yourself publishing thing and even I have found this book invaluable. If you think you have what it takes to roll your own writing career, then start with this book. Ms. Winters tells you what worked for her and how you can avoid many of the pitfalls associated with being a Indie Author. It’s smart, no-nonsense approach will have you pumped up and ready to try your hand at the fastest growing segment of publishing today.

What are you waiting for, order it now for Kindle and start taking things into your own hands, with the help of a true pioneer in the field.

Slush Tail

Choosy Readers Choose

My method for discovering new fiction on the Kindle is evolving as I learn this new medium and adjust to the current markets for finding e-books.  In reality, it’s no different than what I do in a brick and mortar bookstore while browsing. Basically I’m cutting down on the noise and filtering to find the books that I would enjoy reading.

The first thing I do is go to the best seller list for the sub-genre I’m interested in. Say that I want to read a good Space Opera book. I start my search on that category in the best seller listings and then browse down the list looking for covers, titles and descriptions that look good to me. When I find one that looks good, I then download the preview and read a few paragraphs. I can tell right away if the author has a voice that I like and if the action is grabbing me. When that happens in the previews, I will probably punch the One Click and buy. But what about all those books not on the list? What about those books down in the slush pile of the Long Tail?

What is needed, I think, is a Trust Agent for self-published authors in the SF genre. Ideally this could be a blog that lots of different readers contribute to and review which books they have found to be good. Then I could go to that site and do a search on a prospective book title or author and get instant reviews.  This would also be a news service for press releases, so I can see what new titles are appearing weekly. The two sides of the site would have to be separate but would compliment each other.

Perhaps it would be less of a reviewer site and more of a fan site. Books could get a page in a blog with a blurb about them and the author. Perhaps list the Amazon ranking there too. Then those who have read the book can leave posts either for or against the work. In a way, Amazon provides this with reviews, but most readers don’t leave reviews. If you knew that lots of people were coming to a certain blog to leave opinions, you may be more inclined to tout your opinion too.

Over time, such a release and review site could be a valuable reader tool and it would validate the good books and elevate the social awareness of new authors. Let’s face it, those undiscovered authors could languish in the Long Tail for years before anyone finds out about them. This site would get the good stuff the recognition it deserves.

Just a thought. Anyone else have a way to find the good authors down in the Slush Tail?

A Reader Reviews My Writing

This is the first in a series of posts that I have opened up to people who read and enjoy my writing. I thought it would give readers of this blog an interesting look at how others view my work.

Bill Blohm is one of my Beta Readers.  In a way, he’s kind of an Alpha Reader, in that many times I use him as a sounding board for my story ideas. Bill also writes and you can read his work on his blog. (I highly recommend that you check it out.) Take it away Bill.

Ken asked me to do a sort of “guest blog” about his writing.  It is an honor to be invited to do this and more so if it actually shows up on the blog.  ;-)  Obviously, what follows are my own viewpoints, opinions, perspectives, and all that.  Mine.  So, in the following insert the phrase “at least to me” or “the way I see it” or “IMHO” as required.  They’re here once to keep the rest of it short.

I had planned to write about how he writes and part way through this I realized you can’t do that, only he can.  What I can do, though, is discuss his writing in relation to his books by reviewing his stories.  I don’t plan to hit every story he’s written that I know of, but I will reference some of his stories.  I will be careful not to reveal any plots or endings.

One of the attractions of Ken’s writing is its apparent similarity to those I consider the old masters:  Heinlein, Doc E. E. Smith, Asimov, Anderson, NIven, Pohl, Norton, and others.  That should give you a feel for the type of science fiction I’m thinking of.

Starstrikers, in particular, reminds me somewhat of Doc E. E. Smith, in that it feels like a space opera.  Some space operas, you read them and they read like a big science fiction story.  Starstrikers, like the Skylark series, actually reads like a space opera.  You know you’re in an opera that’s set in a science fiction setting.   The Lensman and Ender series are what I mean when I say something reads more like a long science fiction story:  They are truly great stories, but they don’t have that operatic feel.  Starstrikers does and I’m hoping that Starforgers continues that feel.

Ken’s short stories, using The RenokeThe Rock CollectionTin Star as just three examples, bring back the joys I had reading science fiction as a kid.  They’re short, they let me get into them, and the characters are…hmmm…I almost said ‘human’ but the last two mentioned are more robot-centric.  Still, his characters are ones the reader gets to know, whether human or android.  As a reader you get to know the characters almost as well as in a novel even though they are short stories, and you get that suspension of belief that lets you just read them.  His android short stories are actually related to each other while each can be read alone, so the more you read the more you get to know about the characters involved.  Yet, each story adds to that character’s history while each story is easily read stand-alone and still gives you a character you get to know.

Ok, so we know he can write science fiction.  What about The Safe Cracker or Null_Pointer?  Or The New Vampires?  I’m not a crime fan, although I admit enjoying Fu Manchu and a couple others.  Neither am I a horror fan though at my wife’s insistence I’ve read a few King novels.  That’s a little ironic as I am a fantasy fan.  Null_Pointer was a book I read straight through one night, and I enjoyed it.  I don’t know if it was the locale, since I live, work, and play in that area, or the technology.  Whatever it was, it kept me going to see if I had figured it out right.  I had no desire to just jump to the end and see if I was right, either – I wanted to read it to add support to my guess or to get another bad guy lined up before the real bad guy was revealed.  Ken’s writing in NP just kept me reading.  It flowed, I sympathized with the main characters, and the book was readable.  I was never aware of how much book was left to “get through” or how much I’d already read.  Interestingly, when I got to the end of NP I could see several things that I was curious about and thought needed mopping up, but not necessarily in that particular book.  He covered what needed to be written but also left open questions about Joshua and others in a way that lets the book stand on its own yet suggests to the reader a sequel wouldn’t be a bad thing.  You’re left having read a good story while wanting to know just a little more.  When a writer presents characters like that, just as if you knew them in person, you know the writer has a grasp of the dynamics of writing, plotting, and characters.  I’ve heard rumors of a sequel, KD-9, and while I’m looking forward to it, I’m admittedly more interested in his science fiction.  But when it comes out, trust me, I’ll be reading it – I want to know more about a particular sub-plot that wasn’t really tidied up in NP.  That’s writing.

Ok, that takes care of mystery.  Now for the remaining genre….

The New Vampires is an interesting short story.  It’s only claim to horror is it has vampires in it.  Ken’s writing here is subtly different from his other writings.  I just can’t see it as a horror story, his writing here is more like a mob story, for lack of a better comparison at the moment.  You could easily replace the vampires with two different mob families and the other character with a gun-runner.  For some reason I can’t really define, when he writes science fiction you know it, when he writes mystery you know it but this story is almost generic.  He writes a very well implied background story into a pretty short story — somehow he manages to provide the reader with a huge volume of history during a very brief storyline.  It’s interesting to see how his writing here differs so much from his other novels and short stories.  You get to know one of the vampires, but everyone else is written as secondary characters.  Maybe that’s part of it, what makes this one so generic: all the rest of his writing that I’m familiar with has multiple characters that you get to know.  Yet, the writing style remains consistent.   I like this story; it has suspense in it but just not of horror to come but rather from wanting to know…I can’t say, I think, without giving away something so I’ll stop here.

I’m not saying I could take one of his new books or short stories and just by reading it be able to tell you Ken wrote it.  I can’t even do that with the masters.  However, I can say that even if I didn’t know Ken personally, I would still have read everything that I have.  He loves to write and it shows in his stories, he writes to tell the reader a story as best he can.  He has a writing style that’s comfortable to read and his writing flows easily around the reader.

I keep reading his works because I like his stories and they are readable.  Being readable is a big thing for me and it means that I can immerse myself in the story.  Grammar, writing, plotting, all the “firmware” of the story contributes but isn’t what makes it readable.  It’s the storyline, the characters, the flow of the story, the continuity of the story.  It’s all that plus something intangible that differs from person to person.  For me, Ken’s writing is readable.  It might take a few drafts, but I know the end product is going to be readable.

From my knowing and chatting with Ken, I know he is a writer who strives to improve his craft.  He has ideas about writing that I don’t necessarily agree with, but whether or not I do I can respect him and his writing.  Sure, he has typos out there but who doesn’t?  I should go check on one peeve in particular and see if it’s still out there…umm…sorry for the tangent.  Any of us that write and put our stories out there are going to have some minor typos or inconsistencies.  Even the masters have them, but maybe those are from the publishers?  Yeah, let’s blame the publishers and leave the masters on their pedestals.  My point here, though, is that he tries to catch them and to constantly improve his writing.  That contributes to making his works readable.  I don’t like it when a typo or punctuation or a plot inconsistency breaks the flow of my reading.  One or two is fine, I can live with that, but the more there are, the less likely I’ll finish reading it.  Ken’s never yet turned me off his finished work that way and so you can see his pride in his work by its readability.

EON Trailer

If you love Sci-Fi you have to check out this imagined trailer for a film version of Greg Bear’s EON on the CG Society web site. I have not read the book, but this makes me want to run right out and buy it so I can read it. Great job on the CG and live action combo! The creators of this trailer defiantly have an eye for film making.


Null Pointer

In case anyone is interested, I’m engaged in writing a Mystery Novel called Null Pointer and blogging about the process of writing a novel. Null Pointer is about a programmer who is thrust into a full bore mystery to find out who killed a co-worker with little more than code. If you are a IT geek, you may be able to relate to the story.

If you are a programmer, you may have more in common with mystery writers than you might otherwise think.

Skunk Works

“Skunk Works” by Ben R. Rich & Leo Janos

During the night before the Air War began in 1991, crew members found dead bats lying around the Steath Fighter’s in their  hangers.  The bats could not “see” the planes and were crashing into them and killing themselves.   This gave the pilots some confidence in the technology they were taking into combat.  No Stealth Fighter was ever hit in the Gulf War.

This is a very entertaining look at what went on at the Skunk Works in the 1950’s through the Gulf War period.  If you like aviation history, you’ll love the stories told by the man in charge.

Unlocking The Sky

“Unlocking The Sky” by Seth Shulman

If you think the Wright Brothers were American heros, you’ll hate this book.  If you think Microsoft is an unjust monopoly, you’ll like this book.  I like this book.  Glenn Hammond Curtis was the true American hero of early aviation and his accomplishments dwarf the Wrights and every other early pioneer.  In fact its unlikely that any single person could match his achievements in aviation.  With the possible exception of Kelly Johnson.

Heart of Darkness

“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

I admit to not having read this one in high school, but after seeing King Kong and being reminded of it yet again in another work of fiction, I finally gave it a read.  In case you didn’t know, “Apocolypse Now” the movie, was based on this literary classic.

All I can say is – what a let down.  Perhaps I should have read the hundreds of pages of praise that wrap this short story.  But I found it a racists (albiet a product of it’s time) and not very dramatic tale.   Skip this novel and go rent the Francis Coppola movie.

The Demon-Haunted World

“The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan

Anyone who knows me very well, knows that I’m a big fan of Carl Sagan. I’ve read all his non-fiction books, most of them while I was still in high school. If you never read any other book by Sagan, this one should be it. There is a disturbing trend these days to slight science and science education. Fundamentalism is again raising it’s ugly head in the world and we could very easily loose everything and plunge the world back into darkness. This book explains why ID is insane, even if it was written long before Creationists thought of the title.