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Right What You No

Right What You No: March 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Enhance Your E-Reader

The smell of e-books just got better

Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience?

Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right?

If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon, you’re not alone. Book lovers everywhere have resisted digital books because they still don’t compare to the experience of reading a good old fashioned paper book.

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Now available in:
Classic Musty Smell
Crunchy Bacon Scent
Eau You Have Cats
New Book Smell
Scent and Sensibility

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book review: Dead Man's Eye - Shaun Jeffrey

This little beauty has been at the top of my Kindle list for a long while now. Much like Steven L Hawk's book, I stumbled across this via the book cover under a post on the Kindle Boards. Score another one for forums and great book covers!

Now according to Goodreads I've been reading this one for a long time. In reality though I've been reading this at lunch times when not Beta reading other novels (actually I think this is more novella length). So the fact that this book has kept me interested with my short spurts of reading for the first 50% shows that it is well written. I decided today that I couldn't wait for another work week to finish it; I did so and enjoyed every moment.

Shaun has done a great job with this book. The premise is set up quickly and smoothly, the characters are well done, the plot flows nicely, and despite treading an oft trod storyline the book manages to remain fresh and interesting. I should add something about paranormal thrillers and the like, but the back cover synopsis really says it all.

I couldn't finish this post without saying a little about a debate that seems to have erupted on the interwebz regarding the quality of indie vs. traditionally published books. Having just finished this book and Beta read Steven and Rex's work I feel the need to make a comment.

Why is it that traditional publisher's advocate themselves as some bastion of quality publishing? For some reason traditional publishing is claiming that it has been discerning the wheat from the chaff for all time, making sure that grammar and spelling mistakes don't exist, that only good stories make it to the consumer.

Of course they do such a good job of this. I agree completely.

I mean JK Rowling was rejected by a dozen publishers, Joseph Heller's Catch 22 was rejected because no-one could tell if he was being satirical or funny, William Golding's Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers, Stephen King's thumbtack holding up his rejection notices had to be replaced with a nail, and Rudyard Kipling was told he didn't know how to use the English language. Great job! Check this and this for more.

I think that these guys are all great examples of people who deserved to be rejected. There is no way that any author could possibly produce a good book that would be rejected. There is no way that any author could produce a book that won't be filled with spelling and grammatical errors without a publisher. Just wouldn't happen.

Indie and self-published author's like Shaun Jeffrey and Steven L Hawk are great examples of author's who clearly take pride in their work. They have editors and put out professional publications. There is no magic that publishing houses bring to the table. Can we acknowledge that self-publishing is just as legitimate as traditional publishing. Hocking el al. have proved that, lets move on.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Book review: Watch the World Burn - Leah Giarratano

You always know that a signed copy of a book is going to be good. I'd only read the first two chapters of this book when Leah signed my copy. Of course it helps when you already like the author, why else would you have a copy to sign?
Can't think of any other reason to need a signed copy of her books...

But what about Leah's latest book, Watch the World Burn? Well when I had Leah sign my copy she was running a writing class on writing nasty bad guys at the Perth Writers Festival. I think one of the strengths of this book was that every character seemed to have a depth that a lot of crime authors don't manage to imbue. Sure, that sales rep is about to die at the hands of a serial terrorist, but I actually get the sense that the sales rep is more than just another notch in the body count.

It is of course more than the characters; the book is tightly crafted whilst also being well paced. It didn't have those pointless scenes describing how they got to a crime scene, or the endless descriptions of police procedure that is normally rife in crime novels. Most of all it was entertaining, despite the horrible things that everyone of the main characters had been through.

I'm a fan and can't wait for the next book by Leah, even if I know that it is a children's book.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Define Irony

Yes that is right! Someone has released an e-book on Kindle that is critical of Kindle's. Why The Kindle Will Fail by Rick Munarriz

From the reviews it sounds like the book is a review of the Kindle that the author has decided to turn into an e-book. Given the book title, the format and where he is selling it, he clearly can't be taken too seriously. Opinions have to come from an educated point of view; how can a point of view be educated with this much irony?

It reminds me of a lovely cartoon that I think sums up a lot of opinion based articles:

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Being a Beta Reader - Peace Army by Steven L Hawk

What I love about the digital age we now live in is that it has suddenly made communities possible again. All those little sullen teenagers who make statements like "life is pain" can now find other people to bother. For readers and writers it means that, like a readers festival, we can gather in corners of the internet and proudly proclaim "I can read and I actually enjoy it!"

This means that now authors can speak to a writer's group from the comfort of their own couch. Or they can speak to fans directly without having to wait for a book tour or festival. Writer's can now grab some readers and ask them "Is it good enough?" and they can tell them "Yay!" or "Ow, my brain!"

I have previously mentioned how I stumbled across Steven's first book here. Well, when I congratulated him on his first book in an email, he suckered me into being a Beta Reader. By suckered I mean he offered me a free copy; by Beta Reader I mean I got to read it before anyone else!

Now normally a traditionally published author would have a team of publishing house people take a large cut of their book sales in order to tell them to rewrite it so that it is a teenage vampire romance novel - because they are hot right now. But in the world of the indie author, or is that the e-book author, no one can afford to end up co-writing with James Paterson. They have to find ways to turn out a quality product with as few costs as possible. Of course some authors aren't concerned with things like spelling or grammar, and just release a book. True professionals, like Steven, wouldn't dream of releasing anything but a professional quality book.

Enter the community.

Once again we find ourselves in touch with our peers. Instead of it being because we all live within a day's horse ride of one another, now it is because the internet has connected us. Authors can help other authors. Fans can be friends with their favourite authors. Sure, you still get the annoying argumentative people who think ignorance is an opinion, but that is why the internet invented pwnage.

Now my experience in being a Beta Reader has been very positive. By the time I had a copy in my Tablet PC it was clear that Steven had done a lot of work on the novel - Peace Army. I actually spotted less typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in his entire novel than in the middle section of the final Harry Potter novel (you know, the part were Harry, Ron and Hermione are wondering around camping for ages and you wonder when something will actually happen, but nothing does). Since Steve was still sending this book to an editor, myself and the other Betas were tasked with trying to spot plot holes, non-sequiturs, and frivolous inclusions of zombies. I really have to commend Steven on a novel that could have been something I was paying for, not reviewing.

This revival of an ancient (pre-2000 AD) practice is not without its problems. Without going into too much depth, I am actually a professional editor and have a few science degrees - some of them are from real universities! So not only have I been asked to rewrite entire articles that consist of the 7 words you can't say on television, but I've made it coherent. So it is likely that I can contribute something of value as a Beta or editor. As a result I think that authors need to still be reliant on doing a good job themselves, finding Beta's who can give positive criticism of value, and not be in too much of a rush to publish.

Of course I should offer up a few comments on Steven's book. Peace Army is an interesting follow-up to the novel Peace Warrior. Once again Steven has hearkened back to the science fiction novels of old, while having an interesting take on a future Earth. The last third of the novel flew past and I had to remind myself to make notes as the book came to its finale. Even if Steven released this book right now without further changes and editing I'd not only be buying a copy myself but would recommend it for anyone who loves sci-fi. Keep an eye out for its release.

All just a little bit of history repeating:

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Inspiration - TV that is actually worth watching

Amazingly enough I think that books and TV are compatible. If you were to ask my wife she would nod and agree as well, as she reads through most TV and enjoys the ambiance. There are some fantastic TV shows out there that not only inspire, but they are also written not unlike a novel.

Generally a movie has to take a book and cut out every second page, in anything longer than a short story they often just take the title page. In this manner they can squeeze all the wonder and joy of a novel into 90 minutes of unrelated drivel. TV doesn't run for 90 minutes, it has much longer to develop characters, story arcs, plot, and in jokes that you wonder about enough to read the director's blog to understand what the hell is going on. As a result TV and the novel can have a lot in common.

I say that TV can have a lot in common with a novel, not that it always does, as that would be assuming that a novel writer could get away with a procedural crime drama that is always solved by identifying semen left at the crime scene. So the shows that do actually rise to great heights tend to be few and far between, or they get canceled by a network executive who realises that the show may actually be interesting - yes Fox, I'm still pissed about Firefly!

So what are the good TV shows I'm talking about? Well lets go with a list shall we?


Read the short story that Justified is based upon here.
The Wire:
Now I could go on and add other shows I like (Leverage, Firefly, Daria, Family Guy, The Simpsons before they sucked) but this really is enough to illustrate my point. Oz was an amazing show with such a diverse range of characters. Justified is so good that Elmore Leonard not only approved it but came on board to write some episodes. Deadwood was so good the censors felt obliged to leave in the occasional curse word used. The Wire attracted some of the best crime writers to the production team because they saw the depth and intricacy this show had.
So the entire point of this blog post may have been an excuse for me to write something other than my novel while I grab the next episode of Justified, but that doesn't mean that quality TV and quality novels don't have a lot in common - bloody good writers who don't get paid nearly enough. I'll leave you with two links to an interview with David Simon, the creator of The Wire. Fascinating stuff!

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book review: Dexter is Delicious – Jeff Lindsay

Do I really need to review this book? Or did I just want to say that I got Jeff to sign my copy of the book at the Perth Writers Festival? Or is it that adding Jeff Lindsay to my tags will raise my search profile? Who can really tell.

The reality is that all I need to say about this book is that is was very good and is a worthy edition to the Dexter series. Jeff continues to be one of my favourite authors, it may be time he became one of yours too (if he isn't already). Also if the reading that Jeff delivered from his next book at the Perth Writers Festival – tentatively titled Double Dexter – is any indication of what Dexter fans can look forward to in September this year, then the series will continue strongly.

Now it would appear that I never have anything negative to say about the books that I read. I must love everything I read. I bloody wish!

The reality is that I have a very strict set of rules that I abide by in order to read a book.
  1. The book must be interesting enough for me to pick it up and start reading it.
  2. The book must maintain my interest enough to continue reading it.
Thus many books never make the grade to get to the review stage. It would be pretty strange to offer up a review of a book that I've never really read. It really isn't the author's fault that their books sucked so much that I never finished them. They can't help if they spent so much time with mindless exposition that I've stuck my thumb in a meat slicer to prevent myself falling asleep. The author isn't really responsible for spending so much time talking about the protagonist's relationship with their cat and other meaningless crap. Thus when I fail to get more than 10-50 pages into a novel it is clearly my fault and denies me the right to reviewing the offending book. Which brings me to expanding my second rule:
  1. The book has ten pages to impress upon me the need to read further or else the book is mulching my fruit trees.
  2. The book then has until page 50 to convince me that the book isn't mulch material with a passable first 10 pages.
  3. A third of the way through I'd better have been convinced to finish the book.

You see there is nothing worse than “sticking with a book” through sheer bloodymindedness. If the reward for ~400 pages of boredom is finishing the book and feeling that little tingle of accomplishment then really we could all do better. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't have time to waste on finishing mediocre books (yes Stieg Larsson, I am talking about your incorporeal ass).

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Book review: Judgement and Wrath – Matt Hilton

For any avid reader there is an endless search on for another book that will entertain. If readers were to simply rely on recommendations from the usual sources we'd only ever read one book from each genre – regardless of how many books we actually read. Of course as a writer you are always on the lookout for another book to act as inspiration.

I took a chance on this book. There is a book sales van that delivers a select range of books to workplaces, taking the bookstore to the people too busy to go shopping, or so the theory goes. Every now-and-again the book van selection has something I would actually consider purchasing if I was ten years old. On even rarer occasions there is a book that actually looks interesting enough for me to buy. It was on one of these rare events that I stumbled across Judgement and Wrath.

I knew nothing of Matt Hilton when I bought this book. Happily upon finishing this book I am a firm fan. I have been rewarded with a really well written thriller that kept the pace up nicely. I literally plowed through the pages. It isn't often that you get the chance to stumble upon an author completely by accident, usually someone recommends the author or a book.

If you like your thrillers then you will love this book.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Perth Writers Festival

Since I am now set upon an oft trod path, I felt a sudden urge to mingle with my fellow book aficionados. But how do you mingle with your peers when you live 3 hours away from the most remote city in the world? The interwebz seems like a nice starting place, but at some stage we all have to upgrade to real 3D people, if only to remind us not to be so snarky to one-another on forums.

Low and behold the Perth Writers Festival has come and gone for another year, and this year they had Crime Fiction included, and I was in attendance. I know, how likely is that?!

So what did I see? Well a lot of people just like me. Readers, writers, people with a general disdain for the lack of proper grammar usage on TV, you know, people who can read. In amongst this grouping of people who could read I found myself in a small subset of the literate, a subset that had been born after 1960 (to win a free e-book, email me a tell me if this was hyperbole).

Despite my general disdain for the (self-supposed) authority figures at UWA, it did prove to be a good venue for the masses of literates to converge and discuss their favourite topic; those damn kids these days. Their second favourite topic was the reason I was in attendance; writing.

I have to praise the two presenters who held Crime writing workshops at the Perth Writers Festival, Leah Giarratano and David Whish-Wilson. Leah is a rather smart, friendly, charming, and quite tall psychologist. She also happens to write some very dark crime fiction that are well worth reading. Plus she brought chocolates! Since she has dealt with some unsavory people and their victims she was well versed in creating characters with depth. Ever felt like a novel has a bad guy that is just there to be a bad guy? Well Leah had the solution to that, the scary part was that the real bad guys are far worse than the average horror writer's imagination. Oh and she also signed my copy of her latest book with a heart - she was really nice.
Smart, tall, brunette, writer = Leah
David is a writing lecturer at Curtin university, as well as being a published author himself. Too often the two don't go hand in hand, or the publishing means they bought 200 copies to give to friends and family. Not David. I think the thing that David brought to the class was the skills of writing and some handy techniques to break out of ruts and not be too cliche with writing. David was also willing to offer his help with people's manuscripts - cool guy.
David striking his cool writers pose.
Now one thing seemed to be consistent in the writers workshops, that you had to be female and over the age of 45. In fact in David's workshop I was one of two guys and the only one not alive in the 60's. While this may have hampered my ability to appreciate Jefferson Airplane I wonder how it will relate to my comparative writing style. I guess at least I didn't feel compelled to make up my first memory and turn it into some fanciful emotional moment when asked to share our first memories with the class.

What writers festival would be complete without a really big name writer? At this event the organisers turned to none other than Jeffry P. Freundlich.
Dexter, Jeff and Debs
Jeff is of course the fabulous author of the Dexter series of books. To all of the would-be writers out there, do not despair, Jeff also had a hard time selling his writing gold. After years of work Jeff finally came upon the idea of Dexter after meeting some wonderful people (yes that is sarcasm) at a luncheon and was suddenly convinced that serial murder wasn't such a bad thing. It still took him four-and-a-half years and six agents to actually get someone interested in publishing Darkly Dreaming Dexter. He was really interesting to listen to and I managed to have a short chat with him when I corned him to sign my copy of his latest book. Very funny, very interesting and seems like a really nice guy - how the hell did he end up writing about a psychopath?

All in all I enjoyed my time at the festival. I'd also love to here from any other people who made it to Perth for the event, or for that matter any similar thoughts on the writers festivals you have attended. The big question I have is: does genre usually get any mention at writers festivals or was this an exception?

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