Wednesday, 24 May 2017

So I Listened to... Hatred Day.


This story summary is a hard one to write, as it is a story I really don't want to give any spoilers on. What I can say about it, is that it pulls you in easily and does not let go until the end. The characters are varied and engaging, the setting is both familiar and futuristic, and the writing is fantastic. That is all I will say out about the story. The purpose of this piece is to talk about the audiobook, something I will take great pleasure with.

T.S. Pettibone (the identical twin sisters of Brittany and Nicole Pettibone) certainly made a brilliant choice when they had Joe Calarco narrate their story. I would go as far as to say that it is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard; hands down. There are voice effects for certain characters, musical pieces between the chapters, awesome sound effects, and a nice finishing note from Calarco himself. The narration of this story is awesome, each voice Calarco plays is wonderfully convincing and not once was I thrown by any of them as I have been with previous audiobooks.

The length of the audiobook is fourteen and a half hours long, one that you will take great pleasure indulging yourself into. I look forward to the next installment of this series and hope they bring Calarco back to work his magic again. Check this one out, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Audiobooks: A Counter View.


My friend and fellow indie author, Mr. Brian Niemeier wrote an article for his blog in which he talked about his views on audiobooks. I agreed with what he said in the article, people want audio versions of books but do not seem to realise the cost involved in making them. Due to the costs involved and the ACX profit sharing scheme, it can be off-putting for indie authors like him and I to make them. I had the dream a long time ago of recording my own versions of my works but I had certain factors working against me. First off is that there is nowhere in my home that I can go to record properly in where no unwanted sounds can leak in. It would be either the sounds of my children playing, cars going by outside, the TV downstairs, or the sound of my neighbors screwing rather loudly; thanks to the thin walls. Another reason was that I did not have any of the equipment needed to make this happen. It is pricey and so is hiring a studio for the day.

When it comes to audiobooks and indeed Audible, I am appreciative of the market and the demand for these versions of author's material. As I have written before, my brother is a truck driver and does not have time to read so he makes great use of audiobooks; especially when driving. I like to read after I have finished writing but there are times I find it difficult to go from the screen of my laptop to that of my Kindle, so I go with an audiobook so I can relax and just listen. Brian also mentions in the article that narrators overcharge by a lot. He has a good point there.

I have seen authors have to turn to Kickstarter in the past to get audiobooks done and have a certain narrator perform them due to such a high cost. It is very disheartening because as Brian breaks down in his piece, it would cost him twice as much as it did for him to write a book for someone to perform it. He also raises objections by having to share the profits of his work with a narrator via the ACX scheme, I can see his point here totally but I do have some differing views on the whole thing of which I will now go into.

I have heard some great narrators do their thing with someone else's material. Adam Baldwin did a fantastic job with Larry Correia's Tom Stranger, Mare Trevathan also did a fantastic job with Nick Cole's CTRL ALT Revolt!. But sadly, I have also come across a couple of bad ones too. I won't name them but with the first, I had a job to finish the audiobook, and with the second... I couldn't finish it and deleted it half way through. These amazing narrators, especially the likes of Trevathan, I would consider it a compliment, even an honor, to have them read my material. When it comes to the ACX profit sharing scheme, if I were making just as much, if not more than a sale of the ebook of my work, then I would be happy with the whole thing. This view can be criticized or debated, sure, but it comes from the place that I do not rely on my writing to earn a living wage, I work full time and often write when I have gotten home but I understand Brian's dislike of it as he is a full-time writer; every penny counts.

This, to me, comes down to a case of each to their own. It can certainly be suggested I am coming at this from a biased position but I guess it is a debate that can rumble on for a little while. I respect Brian's opinion on the whole thing and I know he and I can have a healthy debate about it. Either way, Brian and I share the most important point and that is that our readers matter to us and if they have chosen to spend their money on our works, we will certainly listen to them.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Crash for Controversy

These days I like to think of myself as someone who will support writers that are struggling to make a name for themselves. It is not a competition as far as I am concerned because if there are more of us out there, with good stories to tell, then it will be the reader who benefits. However, I am always wary of when someone publishes a book based on a scandal of some kind as it comes across as an attempt to make money from the whole thing. This year we have had two examples of this and it still boggles my mind that someone thought it was a good idea to publish them.


The first is Rachel Dolezal's book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World. I still cannot believe that somebody thought was a good idea to publish. For the handful of people out there who don't know the now famous story, Dolezal was a woman who was born white but then decided she wanted to be black and set about changing herself to achieve this. The whole thing came crashing down after she pissed off the wrong person and he hired a private investigator to dig for dirt. The PI knocked on the door of her biological parents, saw the family photos, and the game was up. Today, she cannot get a job anywhere and is one step away from being homeless. She has managed to write this book (with help) in an attempt to "set the record straight" but it doesn't look like many people are convinced by this. The bulk of the reviews on Amazon are one star, 61% of them at the time of writing this. What is more disgusting is the price, roughly four or five times that of a regular ebook, leaving me to hope some of those who brought the book in the hardcover format have found a better use for it, such as to prop up a bed, table, or hold open a door somewhere.


The second example is none other than the queen of professional victims herself, Zoe Quinn. She has a book due out in September, Crash Override: How Gamergate Nearly Destroyed My Life. It is available for preorder and only in hardcover so far, even Anita Sarkeesian advertised it in a tweet a little while ago. Quinn was held up in high regard by the media as the best example of the damsel in distress after her ex-boyfriend published his blog post about her. She used the whole thing to build a career for herself as an advocate for fighting online abuse with her company, the Crash Override Network and has been seen as a hero by many out there.

However, hardly anybody in the media really tried to get both sides of the whole thing, Eron Gjoni has had various nasty things written about him whilst living under a gag order he had to crowd fund to fight, the only fair interview he sat down for was with Cathy Young for HEATSTREET (disclosure: I know Cathy over social media) and it was a well-conducted interview. It was later revealed (in the smaller press outlets) that the Crash Override Network (or CON) had actually been compiling dossiers on people it disagreed with as a way to take them down, one of her employees, Robert Marmolejo, was exposed to have been using his position in the company to harass over twenty different women and admitted to this before disappearing from Twitter. A series of chat logs from CON were leaked in which members discussed how to take down people they didn't like, either with police reports or doxing. Most notable were some of the members of that group, such as Katherine Cross, Sarkeesian's secretary, and Randi Harper, creator of the now infamous blocking programs Twitter uses. Notice though that the links I provide here are of the smaller online sites and not the more mainstream media out there? That's because not one of them covered it, not one of them, and that speaks volumes to me.

With regards to Quinn's book? Time will tell if it sells well or not, but due to the reporting of her being so one-sided in the past; I have a pretty good idea. This video sums the whole thing up quite well, check it out.

I support any writer out there who has a good story to tell, but these examples are ones that I will criticize and stay well clear of. There are writers out there who are struggling to build a platform for themselves, to put content out and be recognized for it whilst holding down a full-time job. I will respect them far more than a couple of con artists who use their name to make money when their five minutes of fame ended a long. Time. Ago.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Progress From a Better Process.

It has been a while since I sat down to write a blog post as I have been so busy with applying various edits and so on to my manuscript. Well, I am pleased to say that after going through it, as well as applying feedback from a couple of the beta readers (more will be applied later), the manuscript got to as good a place as I can get it right now. So, yesterday, I sent it off to be edited before posting it to Amazon.

I have been lucky this time around. Mr. Brian Niemeier, the Dragon Award-winning author of the novel SoulDancer, has undertaken editing duties for me, something I consider a real honor as his work speaks for itself. As I have mentioned before, a mistake I made in the past with my first book, Nomads, was that I did not have it properly edited and pretty much rushed it onto Amazon. I look back on it and still cringe to myself, but with this book, I think I have managed to avoid that mistake. I took more time editing it myself and asking beta readers to pick it apart, two things alone that I never did before and that has been an interesting ride. In that regard, special thanks must go to Michael Fisher, a friend of mine from work who gave me his spare time to beta read, Bre Faucheux, who gave me some amusing feedback when she had picked up on some of the English slang I had used, Angela Night, who provided some in-depth feedback for me, especially with the characters and some of the more technical aspects, and also Brian Hall, who pointed out an overuse of exposition in places that I could cut down on.

But it doesn't end there.

One aspect I really wanted to focus on was audiobooks, but sadly I lacked both the talent and the equipment in order to record my own. One day, Brian (Niemeier) tweeted about a man whom he had spoken to about audiobooks for his own work, JimFear138, and vouched for the quality of his services. Jim and I had a number of conversations, the result was him agreeing to record the audiobook version of my book. Jim had performed the prologue of my short story, Darkest Before Dawn, to show me what he could do and I was blown away by it. Once the manuscript has been edited, it will be sent to him to work his magic with and I cannot wait for the results.

I will keep those interested in my work updated because this time I have worked with some absolute professionals to make this book, titled Penance, a much better product than before. I can look at this and say I am more than proud of it. In the mean time, I shall present you with the finished cover, by the wonderful Peta-Lynn Fraser and ask that you watch this space.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Righting a Wrong.


Back when I was a child and read comics heavily, there were some individual issues, series, and stories that will always stay with me. Yes, I know many of you have read about me washing my hands of Marvel as of late but there will always be some of the classic stories that will always be close to my heart. A lot of those stories were written by one man, Peter David, and thanks to him among a few others, I will always have something to smile about when I think back on what, to me, were the golden days of Marvel.


Peter David is not doing so well these days. He wrote in his blog a few days ago that he was in serious financial trouble. His ex wife had withdrew a large chunk of his money from their account to divorce him a while back, he had to use the rest to pay for his own lawyer. After a period of repaying the IRS and running out of money, they seemed to forget about it, but then they came calling for the rest.
With a penalty.
And added interest.
I felt so bad reading what the poor guy was going through that I decided to write this piece in support of this great writer. I will be donating at the end of the month when I get paid, he has offered to sign anything sent to him when donating, and part of me wants to take him up on that offer, but it feels a little like I am taking advantage if I were to take him up on that.


I rarely, if at all, promote crowd funding schemes because I have little faith or trust in them anymore. There are some that would laugh at David for this fate and maybe call him a tax cheat. This is something not caused by himself, but a greedy ex wife who saw an opportunity to take advantage of him and did so without a second thought. It is not the first time I have known something like this to happen to a man and my heart goes out to him. At the time of writing this, his campaign is doing well and is almost at the half way point.
Even if you cannot donate, spread the word, as writers like this man deserve all the help they can get.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Beating a Dead Horse.


I decided that I would have to write one more thing about Marvel comics and its continuing circling of the drain. I thought I could leave it alone after the last piece that I had written but sure enough, something came along that I couldn't ignore with regards to the whole thing.

Bleeding Cool, a website that I don't hold in high regard, published a story featuring an interview with David Gabriel, Marvel's VP of sales, and his views on the company's position. When asked why the company's sales fell so much, he commented that readers were "nose turning" at the things they had been doing "successfully for the past three years". He followed this up with the almost breathtaking line of "what we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there."

The comments went viral and there was quite a response, my own included, and Gabriel was forced to provide an update to Bleeding Cool as to what he meant. I will give Bleeding Cool their dues, they have covered this thing quite well and even explored that part of Marvel's fall was a lack of superstar artists to drive those sales. I can think of no major artist that works for Marvel, not one, they all left to do work for independent companies. Image comics was created after several of the top artists walked out after the way they had been treated, paving the way for the likes of The Savage Dragon, Spawn, and of course, The Walking Dead.

What bugged me about Gabriel's response was that he totally missed the point of it all. Nobody out there in their right mind gives a toss about the race or gender of the characters as long as you get a good story out of it. Saga, the Image comic by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples, is a perfect example of this. Marvel, however, seemed to be doing its best to shove various politics down the reader's throats, jokes at their expense, and of course, changing long established characters to suit a different audience. How did that do? Well, here are a couple of examples:

All-New Wolverine 1 sold 119,786 copies
The latest issue sold 29,255 copies.

Captain America Steve Rogers 1 sold 99,768 copies
The latest issue sold 36,610 copies

Thor 1 sold 150,862 copies
The latest issue (now Mighty Thor) sold 40,175 copies

Angela Queen of Hel 1 sold 39,271 copies
The last issue (canceled) sold 14,091 copies

I could go on and on about this, but the point is clear. In more ways than one, customers simply were not buying what Marvel was selling them. But in the company's mind, it was us the consumer who were to blame for this.
Ok then.

The writers of some of these comics have pretty resistant attitudes to the whole thing on Twitter. In part, I do not blame them because I'm guessing they have taken some abuse over all this (please don't do that) but their defiance in defending their material is just as forlorn. Jon Del Arroz, an author friend of mine on Twitter, took a look at some of the Marvel staff and the way they behave on social media in a blog piece, they are almost identical in their attitudes and dislikes, no real diverse opinions among them. Jon would later update this more in another piece, it helped show to me that these writers have helped chase off readers with their attitudes. Even G Willow Wilson's response in her blog about the whole affair was quite telling, especially when she mentioned social justice.

As I read into this whole thing, I came to realize that I was basically beating a dead horse by continuing to talk about it. I simply will not waste my time anymore with the company as it appears they are not going to change anytime soon. Readers like me have been made to feel like they are unwanted, that they are old news. Fair enough, our money will happily be spent elsewhere without regret. Indie comics, like indie authors, are more worthy of your purchases because they respect their readership and feedback.

Without fans who appreciate your work, the work itself becomes flat, flavorless and avoidable. It looks like Marvel forgot that along time ago.







Tuesday, 21 March 2017

So I Listened to... CTRL ALT Revolt!


I came across Nick Cole after hearing about CRTL ALT Revolt winning the Dragon Award for Best Apocalyptic Novel for 2016. I became curious as to what this book was like but was hesitant because I had quite a backlog (and still do) on my Kindle. I saw that an audiobook of it was available and took that route because I am able to get through these quicker, it turned out to be a great choice for reasons I am about to go into shortly. Nick was kind enough to join me on a live stream after I had finished it (and given it a five-star review) and we have become buddies online. Can it be argued that this piece is biased? Sure but I won't be bothered by that, I will always write about a good story or a bad one and give my thoughts. This story is not just a good one, but a great one as far as I am concerned.

An artificial intelligence has been slowly evolving inside the internet, watching humanity and considering it a threat. It begins with an assault by drones on the high-tech campus grounds of the Wondersoft Technologies company, it intensifies from there. Several characters stories are at first separate but as the threat increases and the story reaches its climax, they come together brilliantly.

A sign that can be considered a good one for me, whenever I listen to an audiobook, is how long I listen to one for in one go. With this I found myself listening to it in two-hour chunks on occasions just so I could see what was going to happen next. It was one of those stories where I could feel the tension slowly tightening and even felt shocked when a certain character met their end. It certainly deserved the Dragon award many times over as far as I am concerned.

The story behind what happened to Nick with this is well worth a read, especially for anyone considering going to a publisher. It is an example that freedom of speech will always prevail over censorship of any kind, especially the feelings of triggered little snowflakes in positions they don't deserve.

If anything, the icing on top of this wonderful cake is the voice of Mare Trevathan who narrates this audiobook. She reads with an easy going tone which ramps up when the tense scenes arrive, manages different accents with ease and takes on a delicate tone with the final scenes. Audiobooks live or die on their narrators and Trevathan gives a great performance in this ten-hour story, another reason I gave it five stars on Audible.

I recommended this to a few people now and will continue to do so. One day I hope to have Mare Trevathan read something of mine, based on her performance of this story alone and I remain hopeful that will happen. Give this a listen, it is another example that the best work can be found independently.