Addition to November reading

I just realized that I forgot one of the books I read last month. Not sure how or why, but I failed to repost on The Magic Bakery: A WMG Writer’s Guide by Dean Wesley Smith.   I am actually happy that I left it for its own post because I found it to be a very important book. It didn’t really change the way I am writing, but it encouraged me to get back and finish these books and get them published. (I am almost done with final edits before formatting of the second book, Once that is done, I will format it and then go back for a final read-through of the first book.) Smith’s point in the book is that you need to have more product available for sale if you want to really sell anything. After all, if you went into a bakery and there was only one pie or only one cake, would you really buy it? He says we probably wouldn’t. So I am working in my writing again, and that makes me happy.

This book also changed the way I look at the books I buy and the books I read. As I have said frequently, I primarily get free books either for my Kobo or my Kindle. I have tons and tons of books I have gotten that way.  Some of them have been great and some of them have been not so great, but overall, I have been happy. Smith says that an author might want to think twice before offering a novel for free, and I understand his arguments. He doesn’t say not to do it, but he raises some good points. He says free should be used to help sales. He seems to favor free chapters of the next book included in the current one or free short stories on your website. In Chapter 6 he says:

The key in sales are LIMITED and SHORT TERM. Keep free short term and limited and never put it on a bookshelf anywhere.

And that makes a lot of sense.  He compares it to the free samples you often see in grocery stores. You don’t get a whole pie there, but you get enough to decide whether or not you want to buy a pie.

He also talks about pricing your work. He talks about new writers who feel they have to give their stuff away or price it at 99 cents. And he says that is wrong. When we walk into a dollar store, most of us assume the low price means poor quality. As a reader, I find myself sometimes feeling the same way. If it is free or 99 cents, I don’t care so much if it isn’t a great book.  But if I pay even $3.99, I expect it to be a good book, a well-told story.

As a reader, I should probably value my time more and demand higher quality books all the time. As I writer, though, I hesitate to think my books are worth even $1.99, much less $3.99! That is an issue I am going to have to come to terms with here soon.

Smith talks about readers like me who (generally speaking, at least) only read free or 99 cent books. He dismisses us as not his customer. And that made me stop and think. I found myself wanting to be his customer. And since I have read many of his books, I think I am his customer. So what does that mean for my addiction to free books?

What it has done is made me decide that I am going to spend more for books. I will buy fewer, probably, but that is OK. I have a lifetime of reading on my ereaders if times get tough! But I owe it to authors whose work I enjoy and those whose work I might enjoy to support them by paying money for their books. Actually, I had started doing this already. I have for some time now spent money for the next book in a series I was enjoying. But now I am more committed to that.

I am also committed to continuing to buy books through StoryBundle and HumbleBundle. That way I support authors and can support charity. I am paying more than I have to now, and it is still a good deal for me.

I don’t think I have adequately explained the way this one book has affected my life, but I hope you can get a vague sense of it, at least. And yes, I really recommend the book to any writer out there who is struggling to get published. All of Smith’s books on writing that I have read have really encouraged me, but this one just came at the right time to have a big impact.




November reading

I didn’t get as much reading done last month as I usually do. Oh well…

I read three mysteries:

  • An Ace and a Pair: A Dead Cold Mystery by Blake Banner was a good story. The powers that be would like Detective John Stone to retire, but he just won’t go quietly. Detective Carmen Dehan just rubs everyone the wrong way.  So they get assigned to cold cases. This one is a doozy. Five bad guys were killed ten years ago, and the murders were never solved. Stone and Dehan end up traveling across the country but finally discover the truth. This is the first in a 5-book series. I would like to try another one.
  • Whiskey Rebellion by Liliana Hart was a little odd, but I enjoyed it. A middle school teacher tries to earn extra money as a stripper but is really bad at it and gets fired. As she leaves the strip club, she trips over the body of the principal of the school she works at. Sound a little odd to you? Yeah… It gets stranger, too. She gets a job with a detective agency and discovers that the cop investigating the murder also works there. He ends up falling for her, of course. In spite of all this, I enjoyed the book.
  • The Gemini Factor by Philip Fleishman M.D. was an interesting book about twins. It is fairly old, and in some places that means it didn’t translate well.  But overall, I enjoyed the book.  It starts with a story of babies being switched at birth in 1959  that was so convoluted, I really lost track of who was who. Then it moves to the “present” of 1997, I think. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of how the world has changed. Anyway, two cops, one in Toronto and the other in Tucson, end up investigating very similar murders.  Twins are a big part of the mystery, but I almost defy you to figure it out!

I read four books of speculative fiction:

  • The Sword of Bedwyr by R.A. Salvatore was wonderful! Luthien is the younger son of a king who has had to give up real control of his kingdom to an evil wizard-king. He goes along with everything until his closest friend is killed by order of  a representative of that king. He leaves his father’s kingdom and meets up with an outlaw. The two join forces to combat the wealthy merchants who support the evil king. It is a fun story — perhaps not the best book Salvatore has written, but a good one. It is part of a series, and I will try to read more of it.
  • The Hero, The Sword, and  The Dragons: The Chronicles of Dragon by Craig Halloran is the first book in a ten book series. It operates on an interesting premise: dragons start out in human form and earn their scales. Nath is the son of the dragon king, and he is a terrible disappointment to his father. He can’t seem to earn any scales no matter what he does! The book is intended for younger readers, but I enjoyed it.
  • Blade’s Edge (Chronicles of the Gensokai Book 1)  by Virginia McClain tells the story of two girls, best friends, raised in an orphanage. They have special powers that are outlawed in the land; most girls with the powers are killed at birth. They are separated after a time but eventually they are reunited and work to change the society that has made them outlaws. This is a 2-book series, and I want to read the second book.
  • Ambassador 1A: The Sahara Conspiracy by Patty Jansen was a great book. It tells the story of a diplomat from Earth who is brought back to fight a warlord. To do that, he also has to hold off a large alien army poised in space to solve the problem in their own way. I enjoy these books a lot, and I will be reading more of them.

i also listened to Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. It was a Graphic Audio production. And I loved it! The story, of course, was excellent, and the audio production was wonderful, as always. Sanderson is an author on par with Salvatore, and that is the highest praise I can think to give.

Net Neutrality

If you live in the US and care about the Internet, it is time for you to contact your senators and congresspeople to ask them to support the 2015 Open Internet Order and block the proposed FCC plan to trust the ISPs to put an open Internet ahead of profit. A vote on the plan by the FCC is scheduled for mid-December.

The hope is that Congress will consider the issue and attempt to protect open access to the Internet. To that end, the Electronic Freedom Foundation has created a tool to make it easy for you to contact your senators and representatives in Washington about the issue. Check it out here. I encourage you to make your voice heard.

October reading, part 2

Well, I am finally getting back to this. It isn’t that I have been busy or anything — just lazy!

I read four mysteries last month:

  • From Mangia to Murder by Caroline Mickelson was an interesting story set in 1946. The main character, Sophia, and her brother, a former cop who came back from the war unable to re-join the force, start a detective agency in an effort to prove his ability to care for his son. Things go from bad to worse, though, as someone is killed at the party they throw to mark the opening of the agency. The story was a good one, I thought. It had more substance to it than a lot of cozy mysteries do. It looks like it was intended to be the first in a series, but I don’t see any others, so I guess Mickelson moved on to other things. Too bad.
  • The Big Bend by Gary Showalter was the first in a series of books about a Florida man who owns a private security firm. Everything was going pretty well for him until it all blew up in his face, literally. Several times. I kept thinking he needed security! But the story was good, with lots of twists and turns. I recommend this book.
  • Memories and Matchsticks by N. Gemini Sasson was a decent book. Sam McNamee is a romance writer. Her husband has died, and she decides to take her daughter and move to Florida. First, though, she has to help her dad move out of the family home and into a retirement community. As any of us who have helped parents move out of the family home know, that is almost never an easy task. When a series of fires and deaths cast suspicion on her dad, Sam knows she won’t be in Florida any time soon. And then there is that darn dog she accidentally hit when they arrived in town and the vet who took care of him. The story was enjoyable.
  • Identity Crisis by Debbi Mack was a good mystery, I guess, but it had way too many twists and turns for me to really think it was great. Sam McRae is an attorney who investigates the disappearance of her client and, frankly, does all manner of illegal things to get to discover the truth. While the author says  that she made the detective an attorney to set her apart from the rest, all I could see was her being disbarred for some of her antics. She didn’t seem to have any qualms about breaking into a strip club, for instance. Putting that aside, though, the book was pretty good.

I read two nonfiction books last month:

  • Writing as a Team Sport: Reflections on the Art of Collaboration by Kevin J. Anderson was a very interesting book. He talks about the different kinds of collaborative arrangements you might have with a co-author, some of the advantages of each as well as some of the potential problems. This is a very practical book, even including a sample legal agreement you might want to use. I read it primarily because my son and I have been working on these books forever, not always very successfully, and I wanted to see if I could learn something. And I did. While we will not ever enter into a legal agreement (at least I don’t think we will!), the book provided me with some insight into how we are working together and why it is and is not successful. As a result, it gave me some ideas about how to make it more successful. I got this book as part of the StoryBundle NaNoMo bundle, which is still available if you are interested. I don’t think it available anywhere else right now; at least I couldn’t find it.
  • The Accidental Author  by Sarah Jane Butfield is a very short book that is part of a series the author has written about self-publishing. It describes her experiences in writing and deciding to publish her first book. It was interesting, but I don’t think I learned anything more about writing or self-publishing — except that I got to see someone else’s experience almost first-hand. So it was encouraging, I guess.

So that was my October reading. November seems to be off to a very slow start!

October Reading

I was traveling for almost half of October, so this month’s reading will look a little different from some other months.

First of all, because I was driving from New Mexico to Illinois by myself, I listened to audiobooks a lot. I finished Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. I really enjoyed it.  I have had the book for some time but hadn’t read it yet. I got the audiobook through HumbleBundle and decided this trip would be a good time to listen to it. I enjoyed it so much that I will probably actually read the book later.  The audiobook was done by Graphic Audio, and it truly lives up to their claim of being “a movie in your mind”.

I read one book I classified as “Other”, Summer Haikus  by S.J. Pajonas. It is a romance written by an author I like, so I decided to give it a try. Like all her books, this was set in Japan. It gave an interesting view of life there.  It was a fun read, and I recommend it.

I read two books that qualify as historical fiction.

  • Long Road to Abilene by Robert Vaughn is the story of a man who, after serving in the Civil War, ends up in Texas. It is set up in an interesting way: a writer comes to visit Cade McCall in 1929 to write the story of his life.  The vast majority of the book is written as the content of the story of McCall’s life. And what a story it is! I really enjoyed this book and recommend it highly. There are two other books in the series, and I hope to read them.
  • Trail of Thread by Linda Hubalek is based on the story of the author’s ancestors’ move from Kentucky to Kansas in 1854. Having just driven from about 30 miles north of the Kentucky/Illinois border across Oklahoma, a few miles south of Kansas, the trip doesn’t sound all that difficult — until you remember they walked almost the whole way! The book is written as a series of letters written by Deborah, one of the women who was making the trip, to family back home. This is a very gentle read, and I recommend it.

I read two books of speculative fiction:

  • After the Fact by Fred Saberhagen was a really fun story of a man who is sent back in time to save Abraham Lincoln from being assassinated.  The problem, or part of it at least, is that he really didn’t have any idea what he was getting into when he signed on for a job with the Pilgrim Foundation. And he didn’t really have a clue until he woke up in Illinois in the 19th century. I enjoy Saberhagen’s books, and this was no exception!
  • Prince of Time by Sarah Woodbury finds David, the son of Prince Llywelyn, barely escaping an assassination attempt. His friend is severely wounded, so David brings him back to present day Pennsylvania in hopes of saving his life. When they go back to 13th-century Wales, they bring along a friend, a graduate student who jumps at the chance to see it all first hand! Another great book by Woodbury.

OK, that’s it for today. I just realized I have 6 more books to tell you about, so I will have to finish later.

If you want to help…

A very easy — and extremely enjoyable — way to help Puerto Rico as it struggles in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is to buy Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “It’s Almost Like Praying”, which is available wherever you buy your music. (I got mine from Amazon here but that’s only one place you can find it.)  Read this article at Forbes to learn more about it and to watch a youtube video.

September Reading

I didn’t get as much read last month as I do sometimes.  We were traveling and visiting family for two weeks, and I just didn’t read a lot then. But here is what I managed to read:

  • Applied Ethics: The Philosophy of Right and Wrong by Isabel Gois and Christopher Woodward was an interesting book that may be useful to me in the class I teach each spring on critical thinking. We do a unit on ethics, and I am always looking for new materials to incorporate. This book takes various ethical questions and looks at them from different ethical standpoints. If you are interested in that kind of thing, you might find the books interesting.
  • The 9th Hour by Claire Stibbe was a mystery that I really should not have read. It was supposed to be set in Albuquerque, but it just didn’t work for me. Nothing made it seem like Albuquerque at all. The main character, a transplant from London, seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Reading this book, I discovered that you can’t just say a book is set in a particular location — you have to convey a sense of that location. If I didn’t know Albuquerque at all, I might have liked the book more. It was a finalist for an award, though, so maybe I am just not getting something. The story was good, overall, so you might want to give it a try.
  • Back to Lazarus by Judy K. Walker was a very enjoyable book. An investigator is hired to discover why a man, in prison for murdering his wife 24 years before, suddenly commits suicide. The story was a good one and kept my interest throughout. Some things were a little confusing — like why the Public Defender’s office was so willing to help the investigator — but overall, I liked it a lot.
  • No Place to Die is the first book in a new series by Jaden Skye, author of the Caribbean Murder series Death by… I was hoping more since this is at least Skye’s second series. But, sadly, I was disappointed. The main character here is similar to the female lead in the other stories, but the story itself seemed even less well-developed than those of the other series. I don’t think I could be persuaded to read any more books by this author.
  • Cold My Heart  is the first book in the Lion of Wales series by Sarah Woodbury. This  is a story if King Arthur that was very different from what I usually think of.  I enjoyed it a lot.
  • Footsteps in Time by Sarah Woodbury is the second book in her After Cilmeri series. I enjoyed this book every bit as much as Daughter of Time, the first book in the series. I find myself becoming as obsessed with Wales as Ms. Woodbury appears to be! The basic idea, time travel from present day United States to 13th century Wales, was intriguing. The characters are very appealing. I really recommend these books!
  • Glorieta Pass by P.G. Nagle tells some of the story of the Civil War in New Mexico. The book is well-written, and the characters are memorable. I enjoyed the book, and I learned a lot from it. I knew that New Mexico thought it should be given statehood because of its contribution to the War, but I didn’t understand why until I read this book. There are others in this  series, and I hope to read them all.
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte was a long, difficult book. It was written as correspondence between a man who is in love with the tenant and his friend, but the letters are interrupted by the inclusion of the diary of the tenant before going back to letters. None of that was very well set out, so it was a little confusing at time. The story is one of domestic abuse and the toll it can take on everyone involved. I have to say I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t without its struggles.
  • The Education of Brother Thaddius and other tales of Demon Wars by R.A. Salvatore was probably my favorite book last month. The stories were excellent, and I was very happy to be back in the Demon Wars world. If you like fantasy, I cannot recommend Salvatore’s Demon War books enough!

So that was it last month. Let’s see how this month goes!

More August reading

I only read three books of speculative fiction:

  •  The Remnant Keeper by Robert Scott-Norton was a fascinating story. Jack’s job is to look into the last moments of murder victims.  It isn’t a great job sometimes, but this case turns out to be a lot worse than he expected. There are some slightly gruesome details — like eyeballs coming out of heads — but otherwise I had no complaints. This is the first book in a series, and I will probably try to read the next one.
  • Song of Edmon by Adam Burch is set on the planet Tao, which is  divided into two distinct parts populated by two distinct groups: Daysiders and Nightsiders. Edmon is the child of a peaceful Daysider and a ruthless Nightsider. He struggles to find his place in the world and to fulfill his destiny. There was something about the book that made it unique. I can’t really put my finger on what it was, but it felt fresh and new. I recommend this book a lot.
  • Daughter of Time by Sarah Woodbury was another excellent book.  This is the prequel to the After Cilmeri series. Meg is a modern woman who suddenly finds herself in Wales in the 13th century. She falls in love with a man, the Price of Wales, and the story is about them coming to terms with the differences between them. Along the way, they must deal with Llywelyn’s world and his life as prince. To top it all off, Meg knows that, according to history, he is soon to be killed. While the ending isn’t particularly happy, I will be reading the other books in the series.

I also read A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard. It is a reimagining of Jane Austen’s life, with a decidedly optimistic bent. It reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel, a fact that will delight some readers and probably drive others crazy. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Disclaimer: I am a fan of Jane Austen and her books, so I am definitely prejudiced!

I think that concludes my reading for August. I didn’t read as much as I have done sometimes, but that’s life!

See you soon with September’s reading!

August reading, part 2

Finally, I’m back!

I read five mysteries last month:

  • Shaman Winter and Jemez Spring by Rudolfo Anaya are the last two Sonny Baca novels, and I loved them both! I have to admit that the last one was less of a mystery than the first three, but I still included it here because the series is definitely a mystery series. These books, like the first two in the series, offer wonderful insight into more traditional life and traditions in New Mexico. The books are worth the read on that level, if nothing else. But, as I have said, the the mysteries are excellent and the writing is even better. I cannot recommend these books enough.
  • Fame is a Killer  by Meredith Potts was a quick read and, as such, an OK one. It was a fun read. An actress has just had her show canceled and her boyfriend breaks up with her on the same day. No wonder the police think she might be the killer! I am glad I read it, but I wouldn’t have been wiling to put a lot more time into it than I did, though.
  • 52 Steps to Murder by Steve Demaree took me months and months to read. I have gone on to read others in the series and enjoyed them, but this first book just bugged me. The main characters seemed more like caricatures than real people. But I finally persevered and finished it. The story was a little convoluted for me, but it was a decent mystery. I really recommend that you skip this books and start with one of the later books, like Murder at the Art and Craft Fair perhaps.
  • The Mad Monk’s Treasure by Kris Bock was a decent story, but it didn’t really impress me. Part of the problem for me, as crazy as it might sound, is that it was set in New Mexico. Normally that would make me like the book more, but in this case it worked the other way. What I learned from this is that I only like the books set here in here that are set in identifiable places. This book could have been set in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, and probably any other state in the union and nothing would have had to change. So if I look just at the story, it was an OK book. But I wanted something more!

So that’s it for right now.

August Reading, a beginning

I am so far behind with this that I started to post my September books rather than the August ones! Fortunately, I remembered before I posted them all in error!

I read one non-fiction book, The Plot to Hack America by Malcolm Nance. It was a very interesting book. Most of it seemed familiar because I have been following the news, but it becomes really amazing when you realize he wrote the book before the election last November. Regardless of your politics, if you are a citizen of the U.S., this should concern you a great deal.  The issue is not whether or not Trump’s election was legitimate but rather how and to what extent Russia interfered with our electoral process.

The only historical fiction I read was The Call of the Canyon by Zane Grey. It was a good story, as his usually are, and well written. A young, well-bred city girl travels west to bring her fiance home. He fled there after the Civil War in an attempt to heal, and she thinks that he should now be ready to return to what she considers the real world. He, of course, isn’t ready to leave, so she returns home without him — only to discover she is no longer at home their either. I really enjoyed this book!

The only short fiction I read was Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson. It was a very interesting story — as all Sanderson’s are. The God-Emperor Kairominas rules everything. Of course, he has a nemesis who causes problems from time to time. But at the moment, his biggest problem is that he is being forced to choose a woman from another world to have dinner with. Ah, if only it were that simple! There are a number of twists and turns along the way, and I definitely wanted to continue reading until the end — maybe even after the end!

So this is a taste of what I read last month. I will be home tomorrow and can finish this up over the next couple days.

(Edited 9/19/17 to fix typos and insert links)