Responding to Comment spam

Like most blogs, I get my share of spam in the Comments section of each post. My spam blocker does a good job of eliminating most of it before I even see it, but some comments make it through the filter and end up in my “pending” folder. I don’t want to let them through for obvious reasons, so I thought I’d respond to the most popular comments I got in the last three days:

Many thanks for making the effort to describe the terminlogy for the learners!

You’re welcome, although there wasn’t a lot of rocket science in my review of the horror novel Creepers to which this comment was attached.

Helpful info. Fortunate me I discovered your site by accident, and I am stunted why this twist of fate didn’t came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

Thanks for bookmarking me! Yes, it is truly stunting how those twists of fate can lead strangers to each other.

I do not even know the way I ended up here, but I thought this put up was once good. I don’t understand who you’re however certainly you’re going to a well-known blogger if you are not already. Cheers!

Have you considered a GPS system? I’ve heard good things about Garmin. And thanks, I am the best-known blogger in my house.

Strongly suggest adding a “google+” button for the blog!

People still use Google+?

Attractive component to content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to say that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I?ll be subscribing in your augment and even I fulfillment you get right of entry to constantly quickly.

Finally, somebody picked up on the ratio of component attractiveness to my content. But don’t hold your breath on my augmentation happening quickly. It’s the holidays, you know.

Higgs? You in there?

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) aren’t quite claiming they’ve found the elusive Higgs boson “God particle,” but they say the latest proton collisions show “tantalizing hints” at its existence. Finding Higgs means finding the particle that gives everything in the universe its mass, according to the Standard Model of particle physics.

Check out Leon Lederman’s popular science book, The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?, for a primer on the Higgs boson. His book’s title is actually where the term “God particle” comes from, a term that most scientists apparently hate.

Book Review: Oathbreaker, Book 1: The Knight’s Tale by Colin McComb

Oathbreaker, Book 1: The Knight’s Tale by Colin McComb, is a riveting debut fantasy from an author who knows what fantasy fans love (he wrote adventures for TSR, after all) – visceral prose; logically sound and creative world-building; and fascinating characters that do not follow genre conventions.

Sir Pelagir, a Knight Elite in the Empire of Terona, faces a terrible choice – serve the Empire or serve the King. There is no middle ground. Either choice means he will break an oath and be hunted for the rest of his life. But a choice he makes, and it is one that makes him a marked man and sets the Empire on a destructive path from which it may never recover.

Right from the beginning, we know we’re reading an author who knows what the heck he’s doing. From the Prologue:

He rode, his proud face bleeding and grim in the light of the setting sun. He cradled a sleeping baby in the crook of his left arm, the reins of the metal horse in his right fist. With a few swift kicks, he urged the steed ever faster westward. His eyes squinted into the setting sun, and beads of perspiration—or were they tears?—coursed down his unlined cheeks. The gleaming hooves of the steed tore great clumps of sod from the grassy hills as it sped through the spring dusk.

Miles behind him, the city burned on its mountain. Steel-clad knights thundered from the great city’s gates into the dying day on their own metal stallions or took to the air with mechanical wings. The military dirigibles Retaliator and Heaven’s Will rose slowly from the heart of the city, flames spitting from their engines, and turned their massive noses to the west.

The knights sought the oathbreaker, the thief of their princess, the betrayer of their king. They swore bloody vengeance on Pelagir of the King’s Chosen, son of Pelgram, and raced to be the first to have his head. He had betrayed the most sacred of their oaths, and their rage burned as brightly as the flames in the capital city.

I dare any fantasy fan to stop reading at this point. I mean, the whole book is like this. And don’t worry, McComb’s prose serves the story, and not the other way around like so many first-time authors. Not a word is wasted.

The dialogue is unique to each character – you’d know who was speaking even without attribution. Some of the characters even tell their own tales in first person narration, giving the reader better insight into their goals and desires.

The settings are not overly described, but given one or two descriptive elements that lock them firmly into your mind, enabling your imagination to fill in the rest. While Oathbreaker was a short book – around 40,000 words – I did not feel like it was a “thin” book. McComb gave me a thorough introduction to his Empire of Terona, yet left enough mystery for me to look forward to the next book.

The only nitpick I had was that the ending felt more like the end of the first act rather than the climax of a complete story. I know, this is only Book 1 and, yes, that Tolkien fellow did the same thing, but it’s never been one of my favorite novel structures. Plus, I had to find some nit to pick in this otherwise spectacular fantasy novel. My credibility as a reviewer demanded it. 🙂

Highly recommended.

Thinking of KDP Select? Read the fine print…

Amazon just gave a big fat middle-finger to all the other ebook stores out there with the announcement of their KDP Select program. It sounds great:

KDP Select gives you access to a whole new source of royalties and readers – you not only benefit from a new way of making money, but you also get the chance to reach even more readers by getting your book in front of a growing number of US Amazon Prime customers: readers and future fans of your books that you may have not had a chance to reach before! Additionally, the ability to offer your book for free will help expand your worldwide reader base.

But as with all things that “sound great,” you need to read the fine print:

1 Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.

In other words, if you also published your ebook on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc., you’ll have to remove it from those sites while you’re in the KDP Select program.

Now this is a brand new program, so I don’t pretend to know if placing my ebooks in it is worth the lost sales from the other online bookstores I use. I’ll wait for all the first-adopters to be my guinea pigs.

But the program’s costs/benefits aren’t the most interesting thing about it to me.

What’s interesting is that KDP Select’s “Exclusivity” clause means Amazon has just declared war on every other ebook store. Now authors will have to think about whether their ebooks will get more exposure/sales from KDP Select’s — admittedly — large marketing mega-phone, or if they’ll do better on the virtual shelves of multiple ebook stores. Many authors will choose KDP Select and give up placing their ebooks elsewhere.

The other ebook stores must respond to this. They have no choice. Whatever they do, though, it’ll only benefit authors. They’re fighting over us and want to lure us into their stores with the better deal. Without authors, they have no product to sell.

Feels nice to be fought over.

Operation eBook Drop

I just donated my two books to Operation eBook Drop, an organization that sends free eBooks to American service members around the world. Considering today is Pearl Harbor Day, my donations seem like such a small way to say thanks to men and women who sacrifice so much on a daily basis to keep our country safe. Nonetheless, my thanks to all our troops and I hope my books give them a bit of entertainment while they’re so far from home.

Book Review: Creepers by Bryan Dunn

My review of Creepers by Bryan Dunn is up at the New Podler Review of Books. Fans of B horror movies will love this one:

Creepers follows the same pattern as my beloved SyFy movies – cut-out characters, dubious science, mortal peril for all involved.

But that’s what I love about those movies and this book.

Creepers does not pretend to answer, or even ask, profound questions about the human existence. It’s all about monstrous vines tearing apart buildings, animals, and people. It’s a story you’d tell your friends around the campfire on a clear night in the desert. I can almost see the author winking at me as he relates one humorous/horrible scene after another. It’s obvious he had fun writing this book, and the reader (at least the fans of B horror movies) will have fun reading it.

Read the whole thing.

The positives of negative reviews

I review small-press and self-published books at the New Podler Review of Books, and I’ve unfortunately read my share of, shall we say, “challenging” books. I hate writing bad reviews. I’m an author, too, so I know how much blood, sweat, tears, love, and butt-in-the-chair time writers put into their work. I know how much courage it takes for writers to submit their baby to a complete stranger and say, “Judge it, please,” and then sit back cringing as if waiting to be slapped.

Peter Hassebroek at LL Book Reviews says authors (especially indie authors) shouldn’t sweat over bad reviews, and offers several positives they should take away from one:

* Something about your book enticed the reviewer to select it over dozens of others.
* Something made the reviewer spend time reading your book, foregoing reading or some other pleasurable activity, such as watching or playing football.
* After reading it, the reviewer cared enough to dedicate additional hours solely to craft a custom review just for your creation.
* The reviewer respected you enough as a professional author to be honest.

A glowing review, while nice to read and share, is useless for your craft and possibly dangerous in the way junk food is tasty but harmful to an athlete’s condition. A negative review, on the other hand, helps you grow by providing clues to what might be missing in your craft, what others may fear to tell you, what you need to hear.

Read the whole thing.

Two things I’d add, though.

First, all commercially successful authors get bad reviews, so if you’re a relatively new indie author, you shouldn’t take a bad review as a sign to quit. Keep writing, improve your craft, put your work out there, and the good reviews will come.

Second, take negative (and positive) reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews can be helpful if they’re thoughtful critiques of your book, offering points where you excelled along with suggestions for improvement. But if all a reviewer essentially says is, “You suck!”, then your only reaction should be pity for the poor soul whose self-worth hinges on tearing you down.