Even More News!

Good_News_EveryoneWhiskey Delta, my zombie apocalypse-themed indie novel, has just sold over 750 copies! What’s more, another good review has come in, once again pushing the overall rating up a bit. And of course, they hit on the usual points:

Good Book (4.0 out of 5 stars)
Great story with interesting people. Spell was poorly done and many editing issues were present. Would like a sequel

Rest assured, Pappa Zulu, the sequel to Whiskey Delta, will be coming in just a few short months. Obviously, I need to finish my work on WD’s second edition, and then give the next installment a full and thorough edit. And if there’s time left over, I hope to have Alpha Mike finished before 2014 begins. Fast times!

Oh, and I do hope the good news continues. As it adds up, you can expect to see less of these constant updates!

Big News!

zombie-attackGood news from the my small corner of the indie publishing world. My latest book, Whiskey Delta has just sold over 500 copies, including ebooks and paperback! Yaaaaay! And what excites me about this is the fact the vast majority of those sales happened since the 21st of April. That means that over 400 books were moved in the last two weeks. I can only assume that this means the popularity of it is growing.

And to add to the good news ball, I got another four-star review, which in addition to being nice, put the book’s overall rating back to 3 and a half stars. Once again, the reviewer was sure to mention quality of story combined with poor editing. I’ll let him tell you:

FINALLY! A zombie story where the US Military is not hopelessly inept, but is instead taking the war to the enemy and doing a damn good job. I choose to look past the vast amount of editing needed… and instead focus on a kick-butt military adventure during a zombie apocalypse. Fun, exciting, great action, and characters that you get to know and even care about–what more can I say? Buy it, enjoy it, ignore the typos and other errors and just get into one of the better examples of military adventure/zombie apocalypse cross-overs out there.

Now that was exactly the kind of review I was looking for! And rest assured, sir, the editing is being done! I’ve managed to clean up three chapters so far and noticed that the most glaring mistakes seemed to be in the first chapter itself. Not good! Not good at all… But rest assured, the 2nd edition will be clean, and the second book immaculate! I’m taking steps right now to procure a professional editor so the quality of my books won’t be left in my (incapable) hands!

Dealing with Mixed Reviews

thumbs upEvery writer knows that bad reviews are a part of the trade. But what do you do when the bad is mixed in with the good? Aren’t mixed messages kind of worse than consistently bad ones? Well, that’s what I’m wondering as I peruse some collected reviews of my books, as posted on Amazon. Some of them only came to my attention by accident, as I happened to be cruising by not long ago, and I must have turned my prompts off.

In any case, here are some of the reviews, good and bad, that came in with regards to Source, my first indie-published work. As you can see, the first one wasn’t so good, ranking the book at a mediocre three out five stars. The second is from Katy “Obsessive bibliophile” Sozaeva, a pro reader/reviewer who specializes in evaluating indie works, which was posted over a year ago. Compare if you will:

Source_2

Inventive and Imaginative, but Scientifically Flawed. I read this with some enjoyment, I admit. But that pleasure was diminished somewhat by the nagging voice that kept saying, “That wasn’t necessary/easiest/realistic.” It happened in just too many places for it to be assuaged by simply pushing the “I believe” button.

Entertaining and enlightening sci-fi story. The Earth and its colonies are running out of water. The government, left with no options, decides to hedge its bets by creating a colony ship and sending off the best and brightest to colonize the stars, while at home strict rationing and a lottery system to decide who should live and who should die will be instituted. Millions will die, either of thirst or through…

Not exactly consistent is it? And consider this: the first review seemed to have far more of an impact than the second. When Katy reviewed my work and looked on it kindly, I honestly filed it in the “Oh, she’s nice” category. On the other hand, the semi-negative review hit me where I live. It actually made me consider pulling it from the shelf and putting a stop on its sequels.

Eyes

And then consider this review from one of the short stories in my Legacies series, otherwise known as Eyes in the Dark. This story I began years back and completed for NaNoWriMo 2011. Some initial opinions I got on it were quite good, all from my writer’s group, but I was happy to see a positive review posted on a professional site:

I liked the story. It had a convincing science fiction scenario and an intriguing dilemma at the core of the plot. I liked the characters, which always helps. I’d recommend this book and read any others Matthew’s written.

I liked that review, especially the last line since it might actually lead to a rise in sales! But I have to admit, I was surprised by it seeing as how I felt the entire thing was a bit rushed and hurriedly written. As it’s writer, I am abundantly aware of its flaws and I keep waiting for someone to say the same bad things that I fear they will notice.

LiabilityOh, and I should also mention the one review which haunts me to this day. It had to do with this oldie, a short known as Liability which I wrote back in 2005. Since I merged it with another short, I can no longer find the review on Amazon anymore. However, I do seem to remember the general nature of it, which ought to tell you something!

The story is nothing special. The ending is a fairy tale of course and is totally unrealistic, but if you’re looking for a cheap read, it’s worth the price.

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Harsh huh? And the worst part of it is, I took it seriously. And even though that review was one of five that were quite favorable, I still seem to put more stock in it than the others. Here’s what these other people said, just to be inclusive:

Grabs your attention immediately. Is well written IMHO.

It’s a well conceived and beautifully delivered novel. I wish it has more pages for a more lasting reading.

Good story. Gets you wrapped up in the action right away and doesn’t stop till the end.

Don’t look behind you when you read this novel, they may be watching you. thoroughly enjoyable reading.

And I can imagine what seem people would say, since I’ve said it enough time myself to know it word for word. “Hey, [insert your name here], you can’t please everybody. And there’s always going to be idiots and haters. You can’t take what they say seriously.” Yeah, but when it’s me, I say the words, but I don’t feel it. Somehow, the bad reviews always see to make more sense and leave the lasting mark.

So I put it to all the other indie writers, artists and authors out there. What is it about negative feedback that we find just so believable? Why do we treat positive reviews (I’m assuming it’s not just me) as if they are obligatory or motivated by the desire to not hurt our feelings? Are good reviews only meaningful if they come from people who are usually cruel and hard to impress?

I don’t know… All I know is, I want to get better. And the appearance of a single bad review makes me want to work harder and convince them of my worth as a writer. Funny, considering that if it were a friend of mine being poorly reviewed, I’d be telling them they rock, and telling the haters: “Screw you, with some sexual harassment on top!”

Anybody else got mixed reviews to share? This experience feels somehow cathartic and I recommend it highly. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your bottom line. Hardly anybody reads this site anyway 😉

Ray Bradbury Gives Writing Advice

I recently came across this article, which seems to have been one of many I found when researching the life and works of sci-fi great Ray Bradbury. The source is Open Culture, an online magazine dealing with cultural and educational media. And like many other publications, they chose to honor the passing of Bradbury by publishing a series of articles which dealt with the man’s monumental influence on science fiction and writing in general.

This particular one deals with his 2001 keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Writer’s Symposium By the Sea, where he treated audiences to the benefit of his accumulated wisdom by boiling it down into 12 tips. As a newbie writer, I can tell you that many of these spoke to me as if they were written with me in mind! That’s the true mark of a great and relatable writer though, isn’t it? Their words somehow seem to transcend the page and all distance between you and get you right at your core.

And even if you’re not an aspiring writer, or an established one, I recommend reading through this list and digesting some of these nuggets. Their value goes beyond mere writing, I tells ya! But don’t take my word for it, read them yourself:

  1. Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”
  2. You may love ‘em, but you can’t be ‘em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and L. Frank Baum.
  3. Examine “quality” short stories. He suggests Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, and the lesser-known Nigel Kneale and John Collier. Anything in the New Yorker today doesn’t make his cut, since he finds that their stories have “no metaphor.”
  4. Stuff your head. To accumulate the intellectual building blocks of these metaphors, he suggests a course of bedtime reading: one short story, one poem (but Pope, Shakespeare, and Frost, not modern “crap”), and one essay. These essays should come from a diversity of fields, including archaeology, zoology, biology, philosophy, politics, and literature. “At the end of a thousand nights,” so he sums it up, “Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff!”
  5. Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writerly ambitions? He suggests calling them up to “fire them” without delay.
  6. Live in the library. Don’t live in your “goddamn computers.” He may not have gone to college, but his insatiable reading habits allowed him to “graduate from the library” at age 28.
  7. Fall in love with movies. Preferably old ones.
  8. Write with joy. In his mind, “writing is not a serious business.” If a story starts to feel like work, scrap it and start one that doesn’t. “I want you to envy me my joy,” he tells his audience.
  9. Don’t plan on making money. He and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit 37 before they could afford a car (and he still never got around to picking up a license).
  10. List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and “kill” the later — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears.
  11. Just type any old thing that comes into your head. He recommends “word association” to break down any creative blockages, since “you don’t know what’s in you until you test it.”
  12. Remember, with writing, what you’re looking for is just one person to come up and tell you, “I love you for what you do.” Or, failing that, you’re looking for someone to come up and tell you, “You’re not nuts like people say.”

Rules one and two are especially important to me right now. I began trying to write novels and found the process overwhelming. Today, full-length novels constitute the majority of my unfinished works, cluttering up my inbox folder and making me feel like I’m a slow writer. Bah! Who needs that? Rule two is like gospel; though you may have writer’s you wish to emulate, do not try to be better than them. It will only lead to unfair comparisons and rob your work of originality. It put’s me in mind of what the poet Basho Mastsuo said: “Do not follow in the footsteps of the masters, but seek what they sought”. That’s right, I read a poem, try not to faint!

The rest all blend together for me in that they all ring true. If they could be boiled down into one simple rule, I’d say it would be “do what you love, and screw the rest!” Best advice I ever got, from J.M. Straczynski of all people (creator of Babylon 5). As long as you’re doing that, you can do no wrong, and your natural passion and dedication will yield results, sooner or later. And if it doesn’t, who cares? For in the end, its about you and not what others think, right? Thought money, fame and recognition are kind of sweet…

Until next time, RIP Mr. Bradbury and here’s hoping myself and my colleagues can acheive a small iota of the respect and recognition you did in your lifetime. I promise that we will stick to short stories for the time being, and that we won’t try to beat you, even if we do try to emulate you 😉