One Essential Way You Can Help Your Favorite Writers…

Writer Dougie Brimson has a post up on the importance of online reader reviews for writers:

As a professional writer of ebooks, whenever I release something new onto the market the promotion of that book falls not to the publisher as it used to, but to me as the author. As a consequence the normal routine is to bombard media outlets, social media, related websites and blogs in the hope that someone will help by providing some publicity.

This, as you can imagine, is an extremely important part of the publishing process because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a book might be if no one knows about it no one will buy it! But this work can consume an extraordinary amount of time and whilst it can be fabulous fun, it can also prove to be both frustrating and soul destroying.

However, after a certain amount of time you have to get back to the actual process of writing which means that you have to let your latest stand on its merits and fend for itself. It’s at this point that all authors hope that their readers will kick in and take up the task of spreading the word on their behalf. Fundamental to that is the review.

Trust me, as a promotional tool online reviews really do work which is why all authors ask, plead and even beg their readers to post them. It isn’t that we want you to boost our self-esteem (nice though that is!) it’s because the simple truth of the matter is that nothing sells books like word of mouth and these days, that primarily means what readers have to say on the online outlets.

All this is very true. Even simply clicking the LIKE button on a book’s page on Amazon helps a bit, but reviews are essential. Even if a writer is published through a big publisher, that doesn’t mean their books are getting decent promotion, or any promotion at all (most often they’re not).

This is also a wonderful way to reward an author if you enjoy a book you didn’t actually buy, whether it’s checked out of the library, bought used, borrowed from a friend, or even pirated off the internet. They didn’t make anything off your read, but you may help sell a few more books for them, and that’s a pretty nice way of giving back.

You don’t even have to write a lengthy review. Just give it a star rating, write a few lines about what you thought of the book, and click LIKE if, indeed, you liked it.

Also, if you really like a book or an author, you may consider “rounding up” when you rate them, i.e if you figure the book is a 4.5 star book, give it the 5 star rating rather than the 4 star. This will help offset the people out there who will give a book 1 star because it has dirty words in it, or because Amazon sent them a damaged copy, or because it has characters whose politics don’t coincide with theirs, or who read a certain type of book and score it badly for being that type of book. You see these kind of reviews all the time: “I’m sure this is an excellent mystery, and it’s incredibly well-written with engaging characters. But I don’t like mysteries, so I’m giving it only 2 stars…”

I’m not asking you to misrepresent yourself. Just err on the side of kindness. That is someone’s baby you’re talking about…

“Past Imperfect,” A New Scorpion Story! (Review)

Back in 2009, I reviewed a modern pulp adventure titled The Sting of the Scorpion. As I said then (review here), I enjoyed the hell out of it, and ever since I’ve been hoping to see new Scorpion adventures. A second book has been due for a while, and looks to finally be coming soon, but in the meantime, the author has released a short story featuring the hero, called “Past Imperfect.”

As I wrote before:

As for the hero, in classic pulp fashion, The Scorpion by day is a wealthy paragon, living in the tallest building in the city, assisted by a mysterious Asian woman, dedicated to his mission against evil…but he’s not just a hero with a dark past, he’s a hero with a really dark past. And he’s not really human, in some very interesting and dangerous ways. Richard Wentworth dressed as The Spider to scare criminals into thinking he was a monster; Kurt Reinhardt becomes The Scorpion because he is a monster.

Reinhardt is a compelling protagonist, the action frequent and brutal, the city a violent and noirish place, and the plot interesting. Not only that, but Stockholm can actually write very well…I do have to warn readers of delicate tastes away, however, because this is a very grim and blood-splashed work.

 I just read it, and it’s understandably slighter than its longer predecessor, but still a lot of fun, and a good taste of Scorpion action and craziness. It needs a bit of editing (little things, like having a character “pouring” rather than “poring” over some documents), but is a sleek and clever read and easy to recommend at an ebook cost of 99¢.

You can buy it here. You can also buy The Sting of the Scorpion here for only $2.99 (and you should).

(Also, if you’re a fan of pulp adventure, make sure to check out the news about my Doc Wilde series!!!)

Oh, Conan, Conan, Wherefore Art Thou…?

Conan the Barbarian is nowhere near as good as Conan the Barbarian, though Conan the Barbarian is better than Conan the Barbarian at being Conan the Barbarian.

Got that?

Let me further break it down for you. Continue reading

Happy Hallowe’en (and the Song of the Week, 10/31/2011)

Halloween/Samhain has always been my favorite holiday. To celebrate, here’s Springsteen channeling the raging ghost of Howlin’ Wolf with a perfect Halloween song…

For the interested, here are some posts from back in my blog somewheres related to Halloweeny goodness…

5 Classic Horror Flicks to Goose Your Bumps

…for those who might like to watch something scary and good, I figured I’d throw you a few bones. Collect ‘em all and you can build a skeleton.

These are just five classics, not my all time favorites or anything with that much thought behind it, not in any particular order. All of them are first rate.

5 New Classic Horror Flicks You Might Have Missed

Some more contemporary works that many people haven’t seen, and everybody who loves a good scare needs to.

Saturday Night With Cthulhu

Sebastian’s Voodoo (A Great Short Film)

A wonderful short animated film by UCLA student Joaquin Baldwin. It’s visually amazing, and the story is very moving.

“The Show Is Over” by Nora Keyes

Last Halloween’s Song of the Week, Nora Keyes gettin’ her serious creep on.

Two-Fisted Flickage (My Latest IMJ Pulp Column)

My latest column at Inveterate Media Junkies is up. It’s part 2 of my look at pulp adventure films.

Two-Fisted Flickage (Pulp On The Big Screen, Part 2)

And if you missed part 1 or earlier columns:

If Adventure Has A Name (Pulp On The Big Screen)

Column 1: I Am Doc Savage

Column 2: I Am Not Doc Savage

I’m Reading DC’s “New 52″ Comics (Part 2)

Thousands of readers haven’t battered me with messages asking what happened to my reviews of DC Comics’s “New 52” which I launched here. For those thousands, and the millions who also didn’t mention it, I figured an update was the least I could do.

Frankly, I burned out quickly. Writing even capsule reviews of all these comics proved a more tedious task than anticipated, especially as I started trying to read some of the bad ones. The first I read that I didn’t even remotely enjoy was Men of War, which was half a pound of machismo in a hundred pound box of don’t-know-what-manhood-is. It also tried to embrace the heroism of the military at the same time as it told us the best soldiers aren’t soldiers at all but bold individuals who ignore orders and thus always save the day. Crap.

But it wasn’t until I tried to read Legion Lost that I couldn’t even finish one of the comics. It wasn’t really bad, it was just there. Nothing about the thing, neither story nor art, was remotely compelling. It was basic, serviceable superhero fare, and I described it to a friend as “what people who have no respect for comics expect comics to be at their best.”

I lack the fortitude to force my way through all these books and bother saying anything about them. If you’re interested in reviews, though, the net is full of ’em. I’ve been enjoying Erik Mona’s thoughtful reviews which put my paltry earlier offerings to shame (even though he enjoyed the war comic). You can find them at his blog.

Now don’t get me wrong, the New 52 isn’t a failure, either creatively or financially (as a publicity stunt, it boosted DC’s sales a great deal). There are a lot of problems with it, from really shaky chronological consistency to some really egregious institutionalized misogyny. Also, Rob Liefeld.

But there are some good ideas too, and I particularly enjoyed the treatment of the big three, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Each of their titles starts off strong, and I’ll be staying with those and a few others in the months ahead.

If Adventure Has A Name… (My Latest IMJ Pulp Column)

He knows.

My latest column on pulp adventure is up at Inveterate Media Junkies. This month I’m discussing pulp movies.

If Adventure Has A Name (Pulp On The Big Screen)

And if you missed the earlier columns:

Column 1: I Am Doc Savage

Column 2: I Am Not Doc Savage

I’m Reading DC’s “New 52” Comics (Part 1)

As you may or may not know, this month DC Comics relaunched its entire line of superhero titles with a batch of 52 comics all starting at issue #1.

They’re doing this in a bid to increase their readership and market share in a time when comic sales are declining. They’re also fully embracing the digital market for the first time (something neither they nor Marvel have done previously), with every title available digitally on the day of release.

Creatively, they’ve decided to reset the timeline of the stories. The characters are (mostly) younger now, operating earlier in their careers. Some of the previous canon of events are still considered to have occurred (Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon was shot by the Joker, paralyzing her; Superman died and came back in that ludicrous Doomsday storyline used in a previous desperate bid for publicity), some did not (Superman hasn’t married Lois Lane). The mish-mash of what officially happened and didn’t happen, and when, is implicitly perilous to the goal of solid continuity for the DC universe, and could easily spin out of control as everything is juggled by the many creators involved.

The first batch of titles is out, and I’ve read them. Here are my impressions: Continue reading

Laughing My Ass Off: A Hilarious Review of a WTF Batman Story

Whoever you are, whether you’re a Batman fan or not, whether you’re a comic book fan or not, if you like to laugh, you should read the review of Batman: Odyssey at Comics Alliance.

Today, Editor-in-Chief Laura Hudson and contributor David Wolkin sit down and attempt the nigh-impossible task of figuring out exactly what happens in Odyssey, a book that has both challenged and redefined our notions of Batman, comics, and our tenuous grasp on sanity…

Neal Adams is one of the all-time great comic book artists, the man who truly defined the cool modern Batman. For many years as a kid, I had a huge poster of this Adams image on my wall:

Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case in comic publishing, someone at DC thought, “Hey, the man can draw, I bet that means he can write too!” Because after all, writing is easy, right? And they gave Neal no telling how much money to do a twelve issue epic series about Batman. The result seems to be one of the most completely batshit crazy comic book stories in history.

You need to read the review. Honestly. I laughed till I couldn’t breathe while I read it. I had to take breaks so I wouldn’t asphyxiate myself. It’s comedy gold, and I say that as someone who hasn’t even seen the comic book in question.

Deconstructing the Complete and Utter Insanity of Batman: Odyssey

My Pulp Pit Column at IMJ Returns! Pulp Pit #2: “I Am Not Doc Savage”

After many travails, my second column at Inveterate Media Junkies is now finally online:

I AM NOT DOC SAVAGE

Free, Easy Ways You Can Help Authors (Please Do These Things!)

Writing has always been a questionable way to make a living.

Yeah, occasionally one of us gets lucky and makes millions, but you may as well plan around winning the lottery. It’s not even a matter of talent…while the bestseller lists are often ruled by writers whose output is an insult to paper and ink, ungodly talents struggle to pay the rent and have to work other jobs to support their families.

But you, as a reader, have the power to help writers you like. Your most basic use of this power, of course, is simply spending money on their work, which is a sacred act. You can take that further by buying additional copies as gifts for others. You can even make a point of actually buying books new, rather than nabbing used copies or reading them at the library.

(Neither of which, I have to tell you, I really have much issue with. As a writer, I write to be read, so the more people reading my work, wherever they get it, the happier I am, on a certain overarching level. And it’s true that someone who reads one of your books for free or cheap may like it so much that they’ll buy your next one fresh off the shelf, where the sale does you the most good. All the same, it’s indisputable that succeeding as a writer is tough, and as a reader your decision to buy new is a powerful act and can make all the difference. I want most of all to be read…but the more sales I get, the better able I am to stay in print and publish even more stuff and make a living at all.)

So yeah, buying is very important. But it’s not all you can do to help struggling scribes, and there are easy things you can do that don’t even cost you anything.

Back in April, author G.P. Ching (who apparently kicks patootie at Guitar Hero) blogged about this very topic, and did such a good job, I don’t think I can improve on it. Her full post is here. In it she offers five ways readers can help writers “that cost absolutely nothing but go a long way toward helping to foster their potential.”

As a struggling mid-lister, I assure you that if you do these things not only will they help, they will be enormously appreciated.

Here are G.P.’s suggestions on free ways to help writers:

5.  Forward their press 
Whether it is a tweet, post, or status message, someone who follows you might be interested. Retweeting or sharing a post only takes a second but could mean connecting a potential reader with an author they’ll love.
4. Tell a friend
If you like someone’s work, there’s no better way than word of mouth to promote their cause. Even if you haven’t read the specific book yet, your comment can inform someone of the book’s availability.  And, of course, if you have read the book, let others know you liked it.  Indie authors don’t have large publicity budgets and rely on personal connections more than anything else for promotion.
3.  Tag and “like” their book on the bookseller’s site
At the bottom of a book’s page on Amazon, there are check boxes to tag a book.  When you check one, it strengthens the association between the book and that category. So, when someone else searches on the category, books with more tags appear higher in the search results.  This increases exposure for the work.
When you “like” a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it adds a message on your Facebook newsfeed and is good promotion for the title.
2.  Add the author’s book to your To-Be-Read pile on Goodreads
All of your Goodreads followers get a glimpse of the cover and can see that you added it. Plus, it increases the number of people associated with the book which can garner interest in the title.
1.  Write a review
Often if your intention is to write a review, an author will provide you with a free copy of the book.  Whether on a blog or on a bookseller’s site, reviews help authors sell more books and are greatly appreciated.
All great suggestions.

More Thinking About Writing (Regarding Tools and Positioning)

Recently I’ve blogged about my attempts to optimize my approach to writing day to day, to hopefully become more productive and prolific. A huge part of that, by necessity, is that I have to deal with my depression; if I can’t, I might as well throw in the towel.

This week, I start a course of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which will hopefully give me the edge in that fight. I’m assuming it will, so I’m working on setting the stage for the writing I plan once it’s over.

Kate gave me a book about writing for my birthday, Chapter By Chapter by Heather Sellers. Generally I find books about writing to be a waste of time for a writer; most of them say essentially the same things, and once you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read the rest. If you’re trying to be a writer, your time is better spent writing than reading about writing. Till now, I’ve recommended only two books to writers looking for advice, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and On Writing by Stephen King.

Chapter By Chapter is now on that list, and not just because it came to me via hot redhead. Kate chose well; Sellers has some fresh perspectives on the work, and her book has been useful to me as I try to figure these things out.

One chapter proved pertinent to this post, the one about “positioning.” Sellers defines positioning as preparing to do the work, mentally and physically, in advance, so that when it’s time to get to work you can just sit down and write. Part of this is making a routine of connecting with your project every evening, thinking about the next day’s writing, staying involved. The other part of it is making sure you’re physically set up in advance so you don’t have to waste time gathering materials and setting up when you sit down to write again. Continue reading

Camelot…Where They Sing From The Diaphragm A Lot… [Updated]

I watched the first episode of Starz’s Camelot series today (it debuts tomorrow evening, but I’m  magic).

I had no interest in it until yesterday, when it came to my attention that Eva Green was playing Morgan le Fey in it.

Eva Green.

As Morgana.

That said to me that someone, at least, had a clue.

So I checked it out. Watched about half of it, and had an “eh” reaction. The direction was sorta crap, especially at the very beginning. It was TV fantasy, not fantasy fantasy, with some really bad editing choices and “dramatic” camera angles that annoyed the hell out of me.

The guy playing Arthur was sorta callow and Teen-Beat. Eva Green was hot and intense (which are two things she can’t help but be, because she is, after all, Eva Green), but Morgan wasn’t that interesting. Joseph Fiennes was an intriguing Merlin, though…

Then it started coming together. The first half, I figured I’d never watch it again. The second half bought them the next episode at least.

Morgan’s conniving got more interesting. The callow young Arthur pulled out a spine, and the writers established him as an underdog in very interesting ways. Camelot itself was a revelation, an ancient Roman fortress abandoned and lost to wildness before being reclaimed by the new king. And Merlin got more and more charismatic and intriguing.

So, yeah. Check it out. It has promise.

I’m looking forward to seeing more direct conflict between Merlin and Morgan, myself…

[UPDATE: Upon further reflection, I just lack interest in this show. I think I may have been trying to convince myself just to look at Eva Green every week. But I haven’t watched it since.]

Introducing My New Monthly Column on Pulp Adventure: The Pulp Pit

A Typical Pulp Hero...

As I mentioned in the Song of the Week post yesterday, I have a new monthly column over at Inveterate Media Junkies. The first installment is now live and you can read it here:

I Am Doc Savage

The column is called “The Pulp Pit,” and as you might deduce, its subject is pulp. I’ll be covering whatever pulpy topics tickle my muse (or maybe cuddle my muse, since she’s not that fond of tickling), pointing out cool pulp stuff for people to enjoy, and reviewing books, comics, movies, games, TV shows, and whatever else as appropriate.

For those with possible review materials they think might be on-topic for a pulp column, please drop me a line at thepulppit at gmail.com (just connect the two parts up with an @). I’m interested in any sort of pulpish media, old or new. I don’t want people just sending me things that stack up and I never get to, as that costs you money and both of us time. So tell me what it is, and if I think it’s something I might actually make time to read/watch/play/etc., I’ll tell you how to send it to me.

Regular readers of this blog  might have noticed a recent password-protected entry titled I Am Doc Savage (Pulp Pit # 1). Two weeks after a column appears on IMJ, I’ll remove the password and make the post public, so it’s available to readers here.

I Am Doc Savage (Pulp Pit # 1)

[This is a Pulp Pit column, originally published at Inveterate Media Junkies. These columns are exclusively available at their site for two weeks, then I make them available here on my blog.]

I am Doc Savage.

If you know me, you know that to the world at large, I am a strange, mysterious figure of glistening bronze skin and golden eyes. A man of superhuman strength and protean genius. My life is dedicated to the destruction of evil-doers. I am the greatest adventure hero of all time.

Now hear me out. Sure, I lack the bronze. My eyes are blue, and I tend toward what you might call an Irish tan, which is to say, freckles at best, charbroiled melanoma at worst. So, I’m not literally the original superman, standing tall with a tropic tan and eyes of swirled gold.

Nor do I live in the Empire State Building, have a team of action-packed scientist aides, or play a mean violin.

Plus, I don’t live in the early twentieth century.

So where do I get off saying that  I’m Doc Savage? Continue reading

Doc Wilde: “A Rip-Roarin’, Action-Packed, Thrill Ride Of A Book”

 

Order Now!

I somehow missed a review of my book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, by Conan Tigard at Reading Review. Now that it has come to my attention, I’ll share it with you.

The review has a detailed plot summary of the book, therefore is loaded with spoilage. But here’s the pertinent, spoiler-free part:

Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom is a rip-roarin’, action-packed, thrill ride of a book that will leave the reader breathless. The book starts out with a bang and never slows down until the last page has been read. This book reads like an old-fashioned dime store novel from the 1940’s. It feels like a old-time thrilling radio show from the era before there was television…

I can only hope that this new author, Tim Byrd, makes an entire series with these characters. Sure, the characters are a little unbelievable with all the cool things they can do, but I loved it anyways… It’s like having multiple versions of a young Indiana Jones in this book.

Overall, Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom is an excellent story that will keep a young reader, and even an older one like me, reading this book far past their bedtime. So, grab your flashlight, boys, tell your parents you are going to bed, and stay up all night reading this adventure under your sheets, so your parents cannot see the light. You will love it.

I rated this book a 9 out of 10.

The full review is here, but remember, it’s full of spoilers…

Ken Hite on DOC WILDE: Tim Byrd has “the keen eye for the plausible impossibility shared by many of the pulp greats”

 

Buy Now!

Kenneth Hite is a smart man.

He’s a writer of various things, particularly in the roleplaying game field. He’s a true polymath, carrying vast stores of knowledge about a vast array of topics around in his brain. He’s one of the few human beings I have ever met who makes me feel kind of dumb.

He’s also a scholar of pulp fiction, particularly the works of H.P. Lovecraft. So it thrills me to share with you his review of my first book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, which is of course an homage to both the pulp heroes of the 1930s and ’40s and to H.P. Lovecraft’s unspeakable horror tales. It’s my first review by someone I’m not only sure gets everything I tried to do in the book, but who I suspect gets stuff I don’t even realize is in there.

Here’s a taste; the rest is here.

Despite our young heroes’ impressive abilities, the threat of the Frog God Frogon builds to a genuinely scary level by the end, with a properly Lovecraftian threat to the universe (and to one of Doc’s sidekicks, a burly Irishman named Declan mac Coul) waiting in the depths of a South American cave inhabited by the titular Frogs of Doom. Byrd plays with amphibian biology, and with plenty of other sciences from nanotech to aerodynamics, with the keen eye for the plausible impossibility shared by Dent, Lovecraft, and many of the pulp greats.

I suspect that readers out of middle school will appreciate Byrd’s tribute first and foremost as a tribute — spotting the references and shout-outs is our own little adventure mystery — but it will surprise you by engaging you with its youthful characters as well…the words themselves reel out at pulp speed, and tickle two kinds of nostalgia at once: nostalgia for reading Doc Savage, and for reading Doc Savage for the first time, when you were eleven and hadn’t yet talked yourself into being tired of heroes.

You can get the book here.

Good Memories of 2010, Day 7: Kick-Ass

I loved the movie Kick-Ass.

What, you didn’t? That’s fine. Hear me out.

I’ll be the first to admit that it sets up a scenario as its foundation that it ultimately blithely abandons, the whole “what would it be like if someone tried, in real life, to be a costumed superhero?” thing. As an exploration of that theme, it’s mostly a failure, though it does sort of tell us that if someone did that they’d get the shit beat out of them a lot and possibly die. Which may be all we need to know.

By giving us those answers early in the film, though, it does add to the vulnerability of its hero, Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass, and we never doubt that he is all too mortal. The old rule in writing is “Mistreat your protagonist,” and Dave really gets his share.

In a review at Comic Book Resources, comic writer Steven Grant made some interesting commentary on the movie’s thematic shift:

[Kick-Ass] cheats right and left on its premise. Once donning his goofy costume, a mish-mash of scuba gear and ski mask, Kick-Ass quickly demonstrates why people are generally disinclined to wear costumes and fight crime in the real world. Once that point is made, though, the intro premise is thrown away so quickly it’s like watching a stage magician make a prop vanish, and to the same effect: it draws the audience further into the show…

If the film cheats on practically every level, that’s why it works. That’s where much of the humor comes from…When characters try to anticipate how “real world” superheroes will or should act, they resort to their only frame of reference – comic books – despite no natural law requiring people to behave like comic book characters when they put on comic book costumes. But we say “but of course” because it’s also our only frame of reference and in the logic of the film it makes sense: if you’re trying to emulate comic book characters, you emulate comic book characters, and when the film finally makes the notion explicit we’re already so deep into the magician’s act that our instinct is to play along.

Kick-Ass is both one of the best and purest superhero films yet and mostly not a superhero movie at all. Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 6: Red Dead Redemption

My son asks me periodically what my favorite videogame of all time is. In the past, Halo and God of War (both as trilogies) and Batman: Arkham Asylum have occupied the top spot, depending on my mood when he asked me. But the last time he asked, I said Red Dead Redemption.

RDR is ostensibly a distant sequel to Red Dead Revolver, which I reviewed a long time ago here, but it’s really a sequel only in titular branding. The earlier game was an arcadish shooter in a small world, with a whisper-thin story (and hideous voice acting). The new game is so much more. Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 4: MR. SHIVERS

By the time the number nineteen crossed the Missouri state line the sun had crawled low in the sky and afternoon was fading into evening. The train had built up a wild head of steam over the last few miles. As Tennessee fell behind it began picking up speed, the wheels chanting and chuckling, the fields blurring into jaundice-yellow streaks by the track. A fresh gout of black smoke unfurled from the train’s crown and folded back to clutch the cars like a great black cloak.

I met Robert Jackson Bennett briefly at SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) in September 2009. When I did my signing for Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, he was signing at the next table, and we chatted briefly (I recall telling him his title was cool) and exchanged inscribed copies of our books.

Here’s his inscription:

Know what? When I finally picked the book up months later, I did enjoy it. A hell of a lot. Continue reading