Archive for » April, 2011 «

Social Network Sites

I’ve been very distracted the last few weeks with creating and maintaining all the social network sites there are on the web.

Now I knew about twitter and facebook. I’ve been on both of those for years now but I do have a new facebook fanpage here

I’ve also set up author pages on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk

These are both great for many reasons. The most useful feature is the forums they both have. Forums are a great way to communicate with any fans and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in there. They also both show the Nielson rating for the books I have their as well as my Amazon ratings.

My favourite new websites though are Goodreads and Shelfari and I seriously encourage anyone that reads to go sign up at both of those.

Goodreads has all sorts of useful things including a very easy to use book review system, an ebookstore, quizes, author event trackers, Q &A sessions with authors and my personal favourite, book giveaways.

Shelfari seems to be the more social one of the two and includes a section for each book with all sorts of trivia and other fun things like that. Slightly more for the reader and a little less for the author but still fun nonetheless. It’s also a subsidiary of Amazon.com so it imports amazon’s book ratings to let you know what people thought of the books.

Through Shelfari I’ve manged to meet another indie film company similar to Flight and we are swapping advice and helping each other out etc so It’s done some good already.

I’m also looking into myspace but as I’m not so great with html that one is taking a bit longer.

If anyone knows of any other good social sites they like let me know. I absolutely love using them and getting to know new people.

Vampires Of The Sky: A Review

Vampires Of The Sky by Michael L. Preble was a book given to me to review in trade for the author reviewing my book. It’s a historical short story with a hint of romance.

Vampires Of The Sky synopsis from Amazon

It’s the summer of 1940.

On the eve of the Battle of Britain, an American girl, Sofia, meets William, a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force who is about to take to the skies in the face of the Nazi threat . . .

My opinion

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was not about undead people but actually about the name German propaganda in WWII gave the English pilots, vampires.

Although a short story and not something I would normally read I actually really enjoyed this book. It’s only approx 40 pages long which made it a nice quick and light read. It flitted between past events and present right up until the last part of the book which was actually something I enjoyed. I found it drew me into the story and I doubt it would have actually done so had it been told straight.

My only real drawback was that with it being so short I didn’t feel like I had quite enough description of places, surrounding and activities and I also didn’t feel like I had much time to really get to know the characters. It was very well edited and paced, however, so I was immersed in the story without being drawn out of it.

I’d give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Buy the book from Amazon.com here and Amazon.co.uk here.

 

Disclaimer: I was in no way paid for this review or otherwise persuaded to give a favourable book review, this is entirely my own opinion.

With Proud Humility: Excerpt

As the date for this book being available in print is drawing near I thought I’d share an excerpt from Chapter 10 of the book.

 

Marie was left alone for many minutes before she heard the door scrape open and the footsteps of two people walking in. She also thought she heard the sound of a chair being moved and then someone sitting down on it. The second set of footsteps seemed to walk out again, leaving her alone with the first.

Whoever was now in the room with Marie seemed content to sit and watch her for several moments as she shivered in front of them. They were evidently satisfied with their position of control over her and were taking their time.

Marie was eager to ask them who they thought they were but her gag prevented anything but a muffled noise being heard. It seemed enough to stir her captor to their feet again though.

They came towards Marie who tried to pull back as they got closer. They then kneeled in front of her and removed her gag.

“Do you know who I am?” Marie immediately said, trying to sound stern, despite her fear.

There was a pause as her captor took their time about answering, making Marie think she had been ignored. She was about to speak again when they leaned in close so their mouth was right by her ear.

“I know exactly who you are,” he whispered and then kissed her on the cheek.

Marie could not reply. She knew who he was as well. Her chest began to ache as she realised the last week with Hayes had been nothing but an act. Marie choked back her tears, wishing to remain calm and not allow Hayes to see the effect this revelation was having on her.

There was silence for some time as Marie did not trust herself to say anything without betraying the wave of emotions that now coursed through her. All she did was kneel, shivering and fighting with the overwhelming desire to let her feelings out.

Captain Hayes continued to kneel in front of Marie while all this went on inside her. Despite her attempts to hide her emotions he could see the turmoil. He took off his jacket and, as he had done the day they first met, he draped it around her shoulders.

“For the cold,” Hayes explained. He then took off her blindfold as well. He did not get up though and stayed kneeling on her level.

“Are you going to hand me over to Vane?” she eventually managed to compose herself enough to ask. Hayes laughed at her.

“Why would I do that? The information you know is worth far more than the price Vane has placed on you.”

Marie looked away from Hayes again, still struggling to keep herself composed. Hayes knew a lot more than he had let on, so Marie waited for him to continue.

“I knew something was not right the first time you were on my ship and I have spent the last few weeks finding out everything I could about you and Vane. There are some very colourful stories, I must say.”

Hayes got up and returned to his seat in front of her. Marie looked at him again, the distance between them helping to compose her. Once he had her attention he pulled a folded piece of paper out of a shirt pocket. Marie understood straight away and exclaimed.

“How did you get the map?”

“Never you mind that. I have it and Vane does not. Where is the island?” Hayes replied.

“I am not going to tell you that! How can you possibly believe that I would ever consider telling you what I know after the way you have treated me?”

“You will tell me because you are not going anywhere until you do.”

“I have spent the last ten years not telling Vane, what makes you think I will tell you now?” Marie said confidently. She was not afraid of Hayes. He liked money but he was not like Vane. He was humane at least.

Hayes put the map away again before getting up and leaving Marie. He locked the door from the other side as he left. Marie assumed he was going to let hunger and thirst try to persuade her to talk.

The books is available as a download from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Smashwords and many others.

The Legendiers And The Battle Of Darkness: A Review

The Legendiers And The Battle Of Darkness by Jeremy Johnson is my first book being reviewed from The List of best indie author books being created on Amazon.

The legendiers synopsis from Amazon

Omri Vale’s parents recently died and he believes it was his fault. Now he is an orphan and placed in foster care. He is transported to a mystical land from his mysterious foster home where he is received as the coming of a legend foretold. He immediately begins looking for a way back home only to find that the thousand year old legend has already begun.

He joins with Amaron Borne, the boy who would be king and they journey together in an effort to reunite the land. They rescue Pacumeni Tuck, a beautiful maiden and the embodiment of light who joins the quest. Prag, the winged boy from the city of Aerland also allies with them as the legend foretells. Omri, Amaron, Pacumeni and Prag are the heroes of legend… They are the Legendiers.

Time is their foe as dark forces arise to stop them. The evil Markduk is creating an army of creatures to fight and cast the land into eternal darkness. The legendiers must complete their journey, retrieving the magical orbs of awareness, creation, wisdom, knowledge, hope, time and enlightenment. Omri must choose to use the orbs fulfilling his role as the legendary hero or as a gateway back home.

My Opinion

As you have already probably worked out this is a fantasy genre book and quite the epic. It’s mostly a rite of passage style book so if that is a theme you like then you will love this book. It’s reasonably well written for an indie book and although meant for a younger audience than me I still enjoyed the journey the characters went on.

The pacing was good but could have been slightly quicker at the start. I think as the story progressed the writer did as well and the few minor things that wrankled and pulled me out of the story stopped doing so after about half way through.

I would say the plot is the definite strength of this book and was my favourite part and I would say it’s a book that was worth forgiving for its minor mistakes as the plot was well thought through and carried the rest out of mind.

I also loved all the different types of creatures, foes and friends the heroes met on their travellers. The writer had evidently thought a lot about all the different types and they were all unique and special in their own way.

The characters also grew in strength as the book went on and while it took me a little while to attach myself to the characters I found I liked them all by the end, especially Pacumeni.

I’ll be looking out for more by this author, especially if there is a sequel or other books set in the same land.

I’d give the book 3 3/4 stars. It was almost 4 if it hadn’t been for the few things that jarred near the start of the book.

Buy the book from Amazon.com here and Amazon.co.uk here.

 

Disclaimer: I was in no way paid for this review or otherwise persuaded to give a favourable book review, this is entirely my own opinion.

Forming Ideas

Often people ask how to form ideas and where inspiration comes from. I thought I’d share where mine comes from and how I form that first spark into a fully fledged plot idea.

The spark

Most of my ideas are stimulated by something that has happened in my life; a conversation, something I’ve watched, something I’ve listened to. Often the link is quite tenuous, however. For example, a conversation I had recently with a friend about growing up in the perfect 2.4 family, with happily married parents, sparked an idea about a little girl of 16 who lived in a small village and had a crush on the guy next door.

The link is the perfect family but the family would make up very little of the plot of the story, at least to start with.

I also had an idea sparked recently by watching the sci-fi tv series The 4400. The tv series is about fourty-four-hundred people who are taken from various points in time, given a enzyme called promicin and dropped back all together in the same point in time. The drug they were given then produced a unique ability in each of them. Watching this series reminded me of a cute theory I’d had a few years back when thinking about humans being made in the image of God.

Back when it was commonly known that we only used 10% of our brains I came up wtih an interesting theory that it was because God had made us in his image and we used the other 90% when we got closer to God and used his abilities, like heal sick people, move things and control the weather. To me it made some sense in us being made in the image of God, why on earth would God give us parts of our brain we didn’t use? Though the original premise is no longer held to be true because we do use all our brain, just not all of it all the time, the spark of an idea is still there.

This lead to me thinking further. What if there were a whole bunch of people that developed unique abilities because they started accessing some more of their brain/some new level of concentration? Now this is beginning to sound like x-men so the next question I can ask myself is how can I move this idea on so it’s more my own idea again and not the same as others.

Well so far I don’t know of anyone that’s done this and had it be possible to lose the powers. Like we could forget how to use the new power. Or that we need to learn how to do so in the first place. Kinda like learning to cook.

Voila, we have a basic idea. A world where a few people have begun to use a unique ability that uses a part of their brain not normally used and can be lost if not used properly.

The Moment

Once I’m happy I’ve sparked a basic idea I try to create a character or two. The best way to do this is think about the key moments that would be created within the above idea.

For example with my girl next door having a crush, I’d start thinking through a conversation between girl with crush and the neighbouring crushee. While going through the conversation in my head their personalities begin to form and I’ve got two vague outlines of two characters as well as the beginnings of a moment in the book/film.

With the sci-fi unique powers idea it’s much more likely to be a action style or drama style thing so the best first moment I can create is with something going on. So let’s start with having a male, let him be a leader type. For now we will call him Jordan.

We’ll assume Jordan has a power so the best place we can start is thinking what kind of powers are likely to make him a good person to have in a leadership role. Maybe he can tell when people are lying. Really tell, because people can trick lie detectors, but not this guy. That would be a very useful ability. Or we could give him the ability to figure out what other people’s abilities are, maybe even block them or remove them completely.

We’ll pick the later power. He can have an advisor that can tell if people are lying and Jordan will be able to tell people’s abilities and block them if he wishes.

So what is Jordan doing? We know he’s a leader and know his ability. Let’s have him in some underground command bunker, issuing orders to other people with abilities. We want to create a moment so something needs to happen. An interruption is always good and another character. First meetings are always a good place to start when getting to know characters.

Two guards come in, forcefully steering a female into the room. She’s wearing dark clothes because she’s been sneaking around and she stops struggling when she sees Jordan. She recognises him.

So our guards would apologise for interrupting our big boss guy Jordan. Jordan would not respond and focus on her. She’s the interesting thing.

“You don’t have an ability.” Jordan would point out.

“No. That’s what I came to talk to you about.”

“You came to see me?”

“Yes. I want to talk to you.”

“I’m a very busy man.”

“It’s important.”

Jordan would sigh, let’s face it, it’s always important. But this chick has just somehow got through all his many lines of defences unarmed, without killing anyone, and with no ability whatsoever. She also has essentially signed a death sentence on herself coming into an ability zone without one. (yes I did just make all that up, but it makes it interesting. If in doubt put someone’s life in danger and make them do something out of the norm in response, as long as it fits their character it’s all good and conflict makes for interesting times)

So our guy would ignore her for now. Let his men handle her. She has no ability and he really is rather busy.

Two days later our chick still refuses to give anyone her name or state her reason for being there. All she says is that she wants to see Jordan and talk to him. Jordan watches a few security video’s maybe of them trying to get info out of her and considering who she is etc I doubt they are being too nice. No food at the least and possibly a lot worse. Jordan is bugged by her, maybe can’t sleep for thinking about her, so finally agrees to see her.

At this point she’s exhausted; all the effort finding him and then they lock her up for two whole days. She’s going to give Jordan her full attention though as he sits down in the room with her. But she’ll be calm, waiting for him to speak. She’s in no hurry. (Going to have to come up with a really good reason for her being here, it’s got to be something that will make her go through all that willingly and be believable. If in doubt God works well, or some moral issue and failing that, love. Money would be no good as she may well die. Those are the three big motivators in people’s lives)

“So what’ your name?” Jordan asks. ( I think we’ll have him feeling quite sorry for our girlie here, even if we don’t tell the reader/audience it’s good to know how the character would be thinking and feeling)

“I can’t tell you that.”

“What can you tell me?”

“I need to see the prophecy you are following.”

“Who said we were following any prophecy.”

“We know Jordan. It’s wrong… I think.”

“You think?”

“Can I hear it please?”

“And that’s all you came here for?”

“Not exactly but that’s where I was told to start.”

“Who sent you?”

“God”

“God?”

“Yeah, God. Well my Church actually but we felt God wanted someone to come.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ve underestimated God’s people in these plans. In fact, you’ve not included us at all. It’s really not wise to make plans for the end of the world without including the people you need for the Heaven part afterwards. But that’s actually not the point for the moment.”

“It’s not?”

“No, I would just like to see the prophecy you have. I assume someone wrote it down. Could I read a copy please?”

“That’s all you came here for? To read the prophecy?”

“Well, I suppose so. So can I?”

“Will you give me your name afterwards?”

“Maybe. It depends.”

Ok and moment done now I think. So from that moment, we now have two characters we can play with; Jordan and our elusive chick on a mission from God. We know Jordan is following some kind of prophecy to lead people with abilities to some kind of Heaven. He’s not too worried about his means to get there if he has a command bunker and just allowed his men to spend two days torturing our girlie. So we still don’t know if he’s good guy or bad guy. He could well be both.

Our girlie is evidently a firm believer in God, and since she has said Church we can assume of the Christian variety. That alone seems to be motivation for her to risk her life. She’s quite open, almost chatty with Jordan but has kept her mouth shut in front of others.

We also now know there is some plan to end the world/get to Heaven. It appears people with abilities are potentially at war with those that don’t have them and the church hasn’t taken sides, at least not yet anyway.

Congratulations, the spark has become a world with potential characters and a lot of potential plot variations. From here I would flesh out those two characters and properly name them both. I’ve talked about character development in previous posts. Then that should lead to the plot, which I may well talk about in another blog.

Social Network: A Review

Social Network is a movie about Facebook and it’s founders Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin and the Napster co-founder Sean Parker. The film is mostly fictional but it follows the creation of facebook, as well as the two law suits levied at Zuckerberg, from Eduardo for cutting his shares, and the Winklevoss twins for stealing their idea.

The film is fairly linear in story, as most adaptations of true events are. The makers did manage to spice things up a bit, however, by having the film cut between the past, and present day court proceedings in both cases.

While the actual truth is not closely followed, I felt they did manage to capture the ups and downs of a creatives life very well and how easily trusts can be broken over large sums of money.  They also managed to show the very rapid growth of the company as well as the impact that it had on the founders.

I couldn’t help but feel very sorry for both Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin when the film came to its closing section. Both of them had made big mistakes and mostly just because everything was moving too fast for them to really keep up. I also absolutely loved the final spoken line of the film where one of the legal juniors tells Zuckerberg that ‘You’re not an asshole, you’re just trying so hard to be’ which does to some degree some up the films idea of what happened to him.

I also really liked the musical score for the film. It was very well done and there was the odd one or two scenes where the music set the scene so perfectly that I fell in love with the scene for no other reason.

The only thing I’d add to that is to stress that it’s a Hollywood film so most of it was exaggerated and a chunk was also completely fabricated. Taken as fictional though its a pretty cool movie.

Best Fiction Books From Indie Authors: Interview with Patrick

While I’ve been browsing my way through the secret hidden forums of the kindle publishers/authors world I’ve met quite a number of authors and a few have stuck out to me. I’d like to introduce you to Patrick, just one of those authors, who is working to create a list on Amazon.com and .co.uk populated by the best books from indie authors. This is the first of many projects Patrick is working on as he also has a website being created called The ePublishing Consortium

I asked Patrick some questions about him and the list he is creating and thought I’d share some of what he said.

How long have you been publishing as an indie author/interested in indie ebook publishing?

I have been publishing books since 2007 when I released Legacy Inheritance in paperback.  I wrote the manuscript and donated the first printing to a nonprofit as a fundraiser.  I have been writing books since 1993 as a hobby.

What exactly is the list and what made you decide to invest your time effort and money into other authors by creating it?

The list is designed to find the best authors and promote their works in an otherwise difficult-to-find environment.  Most new eAuthors and their books are the hardest to promote due to being an ‘unknown quantity’.  There is a strong struggle for these authors as they do not know their way around the industry due to being new/inexperienced at it.  The List is a tie-in to the ePublishing Consortium where works can be shown, the best can be promoted, the Consortium selects their award recipients and authors can promote their books to increase sales.

The reason this effort is being focused on a solution for all eAuthors is due to its real need.  The publishing industry is undergoing a major evolution right now.  It is somewhat in a state of flux and chaos.  It is during the times of chaos where the most change occurs.  The need for independent, as well as veteran, authors to publish their own work has come.  There will always be a nostalgia about paper books.  But, the direction is clear… electronic is the format of the future.  We are seeing the cutting edge of this evolution now.

What do you hope to gain from the list both personally and for others?

I have always had sort of a Robin Hood complex wanting to help those who need it.  My life has not been perfect and there is a learning curve with each new venture, but, there is nothing like the power of people working together to build something.  There is a strong personal satisfaction derived from being part of that.

You can check out the list on Amazon.com here and .co.uk here.

An Echo In The Darkness: A Review

An Echo In The Darkness is the second book in the Mark Of The Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers.

This book continues to explore the characters in the first book, picking up where the previous book left off, almost to the exact second. There are a few more characters introduced but mostly it follows all the well established characters from the first (The ones that haven’t died already anyway).

In this second book there is a distinct emphasis on the characters finally realising their flaws and doing something to sort them out. Marcus and Julia are impacted by this especially and it’s incredibly easy to emphathise with them as they try to figure out what is the right way to do things and get themselves into some more scrapes and messes along the way.

I was pleased to find in this second book the references to God were again a little more natural and in keeping with the plot as it ran forward. It also had a much better ending if a little unsatisfying in some ways it tied up the loose ends. It did leave me wondering what the third book would actually be about, however, as 95% of the characters now had their happy ever after.

I give this book a 4.5 out of 5

Indie Authors First Book Project

Inspired by Joe Konrath’s blog a week ago where he pledged $500 to the charity First Book if his book made it to the top 100 of Amazon.com’s listing, a group of Authors have all come together to do the same thing. All books involved are being kept track of here and I’m expecting mine to be up there shortly. Yup you heard me right. I’m doing it too with my book With Proud Humility

Now don’t panic that it’s Amazon.com doing it and that leaves all you uk people out of the fun. I’m pledging to pay $500 to the charity regardless of which Amazon it gets to the top 100 in and if it manages it on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk I’ll donate twice the amount.

Here’s the book on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Book synopsis:

Marie’s mother died protecting something, but what? Determined to find answers, Marie is prepared to go to any length to locate her mother’s legacy, even to pursue the man responsible for her death. No price is too dear to Marie, who gambles everything on a marriage of convenience to a ship’s captain she knows she can’t trust, but who may be one ally she needs.

This is a historic story of romance and adventure, set on the Caribbean seas of the early 1800′s, a tale of betrayal and sacrifice in pursuit of an unknown goal.

 

So please go check out the books on the list and even if you don’t buy mine buy one of them.

An Artist’s Call

I was listening to the soundtrack for the second Narnia film recently and hit the credit song, The Call by Regina Spektor and found the words inspired me to write some poetry. I thought I’d share what came out of it.

 

An artists call

A gentle whisper close to my ear,
Lets me know that God is near,
And as my soul begins to fly,
That familiar feel takes me away up high.

That feeling then grows and before too long,
A hope of change moves me along,
Though frightened if the truth be told.
I cannot refuse when an artist is called.

The excitement builds, bringing tears,
Giving no choice but to abandon fears.
With fears gone, the quiet is unnerving,
Then a lioness comes, courage unswerving.

Though hardly any more time has passed,
Now a vision, as fragile as glass,
And then I’m flying on wings of gold.
I cannot refuse when an artist is called.

In no time at all a desire to fly,
Has become a roar, a battle cry,
Though alone I may miss my goal,
With God and friends I cannot fall.

A battle to win and territory taken,
With my faith I cannot be shaken,
I have been summoned, I have been told.
I cannot refuse when an artist is called.

Though I may fail before I begin,
To my new found vision I will cling,
And in blackness darker than night,
I will reach for Him, eternal light.

To others I may appear strange,
Odd, unfocused, even deranged,
But this is my purpose, why I was made.
I cannot refuse when an artist is called.

Though all I may have is only a feeling,
It will become more, now’s just a beginning,
And although it is hard to understand,
I have a battle, a sword in my hand.

I am an artist, all of God’s styling,
Only He can define me, and my calling,
No apology for me, you have been warned.
I will not refuse when I am called.