"If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster." --Isaac Asimov

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My writing progress

I'm finally at the stage (revising and editing) where I can post an update on my current project. Like Bombay Bhel, it will be a collection of linked short stories. However, it will be released in three parts, in e-book format at first. There will also be an "omnibus" edition, after the last part is released, in both e-book and paperback.

The title for the series is Gateway of India. I hope to have the first part done in November. Meanwhile, if anyone is interested in being a beta reader (reading the prepublication draft and providing a critique), please leave a comment or contact me.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book review: Tenth of December, by George Saunders

Tenth of DecemberTenth of December by George Saunders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've never read anything by Saunders until this book, something that I now regret. I hope to remedy that situation soon. He's clearly an author who believes--as I do--that the short story is a much-underappreciated art form.

These stories are packed with emotion, often conveyed with subtle touches that nonetheless have gut-wrenching effects. Above all, Saunders manages to create a unique narrative voice for each story. The combination of ingredients in this collection includes plenty of dark humor and biting satire that most often take aim at middle-class America.

It's hard to pick a single favorite. Escape from Spiderhead is a look at the future of a world run by big pharma, where there's a drug that can elicit every human behavior imaginable. It's one of the longer stories in the collection, yet every word is there for a reason. Along the same lines. The Semplica Girl Diaries is written in choppy, journal-entry form but does so much with its sparse sentences and fragments. It chronicles the eternal struggle of a middle-class dad living from paycheck to paycheck while being crushed by debt. He is tormented by the need to make his daughter's birthday special and keep up with their wealthier neighbors. This carefully crafted story keeps the reader entranced through its highs and lows all the way through its bizarre twist.

In a popular fiction landscape dominated by formula writing and Hollywood endings, Saunders is a much needed breath of fresh air.




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Friday, September 5, 2014

Book review: Dying To Forget, by Trish-Marie Dawson

Dying To Forget (The Station, #1)Dying To Forget by Trish Marie Dawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Three and a half stars. An interesting take on a serious issue that you don’t find in most popular YA books—suicide. Dawson presents some of the issues without sugar-coating. It’s a quick, light read, and the pacing is generally good, as is the voice of Piper. However, I thought the second “assignment” (Abby) seemed rushed and unrealistic, in contrast to the first. Her story read almost as if she changed her life overnight simply by changing her appearance.

Overall, I enjoyed the book except for the ending—I prefer each book in a series to stand alone. The other issue that lowered my rating was repeated typos (e.g., “confidant” for “confident”) and punctuation errors, especially unnecessary apostrophes. Hopefully, the next book in the series will benefit from professional editing.




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Monday, August 25, 2014

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon's foray into the e-book subscription market, Kindle Unlimited, has been interesting to watch. From an author standpoint, it's resulted in a few more "borrows" of my book. As a reader, I might be more inclined to use a subscription service if I had the time to read as voraciously as I did in school and college. Sadly, these days, my reading time is confined to whatever precious minutes I can snatch after everyone in the household goes to sleep.

What most readers seem to object to is the limited selection of books available through Kindle Unlimited. I can probably understand that, but I see it as an opportunity to try new authors and genres--to pick up books that I might not normally read. The other complaint I've heard is that the selection is dominated by self-published authors.

As a self-published author, I'd be the first to admit that there's a lot of terrible writing out there. The biggest problem that I see is authors who rush their manuscript into publication, without revision, editing, or even proofreading. The traditional publishing process has numerous gatekeepers who filter out this sort of writing for the most part--there's still awful writing that gets published, but it's generally free of typos and grammatical errors.

However, there's also some outstanding work being self-published, in just about every genre and category. I think readers who dismiss programs like Kindle Unlimited just because they're dominated by self-published authors could be missing out on some great books. Part of the self-publishing reality, when compared to traditional publishing, is that readers are now the gatekeepers, instead of agents and editors. The trade-off for this additional burden imposed on the reader is (usually) lower prices on self-published books compared to those from the Big Five.

I think Kindle Unlimited could be a good opportunity for readers and self-published authors to discover each other. Time will tell if the program succeeds.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book review: The Aftermath, by Jen Alexander

The AftermathThe Aftermath by Jen Alexander

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm not a gamer, and this book is clearly designed to appeal to gamers. And yet, I found myself sucked in right from the start. The writing is solid--it's hard to believe this is a debut novel. The plotting and very capable story-telling keep you turning the pages. There's a lot of action, as you might expect for the genre, and the pacing is generally taut, except perhaps for a slight sagging in the middle. I would have liked some more character development, although I suspect that most readers wouldn't want that to happen at the expense of the action.

Perhaps the best part of Alexander's achievement is the world-building. At times, it had an almost Gibsonesque feel, and again something even a non-gamer could appreciate. I must also praise Alexander for writing this novel in first-person present. I've heard, so many times, how YA readers are turned off by this particular POV and tense combination, but it happens to be one of my favorites (thank you, Suzanne Collins) and Alexander once again proves that it works.

I'm not a big fan of cliff-hanger endings. However, this one had the desired effect: I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Note: I received a free advance review copy of this book from the publisher.




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Monday, August 11, 2014

I caved...

...and read The Fault in Our Stars.  My reactions on Goodreads:


The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The last time I read a book with this much hype was the first Harry Potter. That turned out quite well, considering that I'm re-reading the series for the fourth time now.

I was prepared not to like this book, but I did. It has a way of getting under your skin. It was funny and sad and light and heavy...and realistic, for the most part. The only thing that prevented me from giving it 5 stars was that the voices didn't ring true, at least to my ears. When was the last time you heard a 16-year-old use the word "sobriquet"? I almost felt like Green "YA-ed it down" to attract a larger audience, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.



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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Control-Alt-Delete

That keystroke combination still stands for everything that's wrong with Windows, even when Microsoft ironically started using it for a completely different (even opposite) function.

I'm not rebooting, but refreshing. Both this blog and my writing. I still have little time for either, but I'm hoping to make the best use of the time that I do have. Along those lines, I'm going to challenge myself to a "mini-NaNoWriMo" and write 15,000 words by the end of this month. That works out to rough drafts of three short stories, which will eventually find their way into publication.

This blog will also evolve, but I'm not sure in what direction. It probably won't be focused solely on writing, since I haven't done much of it for a long while :)

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