Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: Smoke and Bone Series

Why did I pick it up?

To be honest: I can't remember. I think it was in a three-pack, a finished series, and priced well so I grabbed it. See, I love when a series is finished, all together and ready to go like that. It means I don't have to wait a year or more for the next book thus forgetting everything that happened in prior books which generally forces me to read the prior books. I'm also impatient when it comes to knowing what happens next, so much so that I'll look for a summary somewhere so I don't have to wait.

Funny story, so I started watching The Walking Dead when it was in its second season. I got to the point where they leave Merle on the roof with his hand cuffed and a bunch of Walkers ready to break through the door. I was binge-watching and it was almost midnight, too late to see what happened to him so I turned off Netflix then went to look up what happened to him. Yes, I totally spoiled it for myself but that's okay. I'm one of those weird people who doesn't care about spoilers. You can tell me the ending of any movie I haven't seen or book I haven't read and I'll still watch or read it.

Anyway, I started this series right after finishing Harry Potter so...March-ish and finished it in a week. Yes, three books in one week. They were that good. ONWARDS!

The Review of The Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor:

Normally I don't do a full post on a series but I kind of got really into this series and completely forgot to do a review after each book then started reading another series and here we are. Oops?

Anyway, our story follows Karou who's an art student in Prague. At first I had no idea what was going on and I remember being annoyed that this girl had such a blasé attitude about being strange. Then she started explaining how things she wished for came her naturally blue hair. Then she met up with Brimstone. Well okay. AWESOME.

I mean that seriously. Suddenly we're thrown into a world where angels are trying to destroy demons and Karou has no freaking clue why or what's going on. She does see all the portals to Brimstone's world destroyed and the first book ends with Brimstone's death. Karou falls in love with one of the angels and it turns out the reason she has these eye tattoos on her hands (that hurt the angels no less) is because this is her second body. Yeah, you read that right. Her second body.

Originally she was a "demon" (chimera) who had been killed for loving that same angel and wanting to change the world. Brimstone managed to save her soul, make her body (a completely human one) and re-birth her, making up a complete lie of a life in an attempt to save her. Well see, NOW I'm really invested.

I believe this is where we moved into the second book. Again, I read them exceptionally quickly so my memory could be a little hazy. Turns out the angels are still killing the chimera but now that Karou's finally figured out who she is, she takes over for Brimstone's job: being the chimera resurrectionalist. Yes that's right, it's become Karou's job to bring the chimera who've fallen in battle back to life.

There's a whole bunch of awesome political stuff going on with the White Wolf and the leader of the angels, then we find out what the angels really are, and some more cool things happen. I don't want to get into too many details as it'll ruin the books.

These books were amazing. It's rare a book can capture me so effortlessly I can't put it down. This did it, all three of them and I wanted to stay up until I'd read them all. I do have to say I was weary about the story being set in Prague because of another book I read I ended up not liking. And being honest, this story would have survived if not set in Prague. Yeah, okay, Prague has this whole mystery thing going on around it with magic, etc, but I think the story would have had as much impact if it happened in any other city in the world.

Regardless, the story was great. I loved Karou and Zazuna. I was upset when we found out Brimstone was dead. Seriously I almost cried because he was an awesome character and finding out about the real him and Karou was great. Right after that: bam, he's dead. Urg. Overall: I was and still am impressed with the trilogy.

Would I read the Smoke and Bone Series again?

Hell to the yes. Over one weekend. Again. Because I'm cool like that.

The Negatives:

I can't find any negatives in this series. Like I said, the only thing that miffed me was it being in Prague. The other was how we were introduced to Karou and her strange ways. Kind of like, thrown into her oddness without really knowing how or why she was so odd. I almost didn't make it past the second chapter but held on and I'm glad I did.

Now, some of the negatives I am seeing is the fact Karou is a reincarnation of someone else. I think what people aren't getting is that this is kinda, sorta, integral to the plot of the entire series. There would be no book if that "someone else" didn't die and Karou didn't come about. And really: exact same soul with all old life experiences in new body with new life experiences. Not so much a reincarnation: an upgrade if you will. Karou is both this other person and herself.

The romance: Karou falling for Akiva totally and completely. Yes but then she leaves him at the end is entirely pissed at him for everything and yeah, eventually they get back together, yadda, yadda, but not until after they force separation on themselves and all the other fun stuff. Again: Angel falls in love with demon so yes it's kind of important the two have the whole "love at first sight" thing going on. And remember, Karou's soul remembers who Akiva was to her before she was killed. So yes. There is going to be an instant bond.

What I find really funny? How one person hated Karou's former being but love Karou herself. Again: without Karou's other being, half, life, we wouldn't have Karou so...yeah. Personally I would've loved to see more of this other self in the beginning chapters.

Final Review: 5/5 I adore this book and it's one of few that will stick with me for years to come.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Writing Tip #15: Vanity Presses

There will come a time when you've finished drafting your novel and you're ready to put it out there in the world. You have two choices when it comes to publishing: self-publishing and traditional publishing. There's a post in the "Writing Tips" tab called Self-Publishing is Hard Work which I suggest you check out for more information. You can do it now or later, either way is fine.

If you're still with me: I mention in Self-Publishing is Hard Work something called "Vanity Presses." More specifically, I say to avoid vanity presses. For those that don't know: a vanity press is a publication company that says they'll publish your book for you. Sounds good, right? It's not. When something sounds too good to be true then it usually is.

Before anyone asks, YES, I did publish through a vanity press. Tale of the Twins Book 1 was originally published by AuthorHouse in March 2010. So yes, I do know what I'm talking about. Below you will see a list because lists keep concepts neat and tidy. There's a lot to go through.

1) Money

When someone asks YOU to pay for publishing your book: RED FLAG. Money should only be dealt out on cover designs and editing because, hey, they have to be paid too. Now, a vanity press will charge you exuberant amounts of money to do a lot of what you can do on your own. You will be spending anywhere from two to five times the amount of money publishing your book if you go with a vanity press.

Yes, they will give you an ISBN. But you can get it for free.

Yes, they will give you promotional material. But it won't come with how to use said promotional material and said material is normally bookmarks, postcards, and business cards centered around this ONE book. This is fine if all you're ever looking to do is publish ONE book and not make a brand.

Yes, they will give you hard and soft cover copies of your book. Yes, it will be more expensive then getting them printed somewhere else. And yes, there has been cases when they HAVE NOT delivered on printed books.

Yes, they will do other promotional stuff...for a price.

Oh, and those prices you see on their websites? Mm, yeah, they don't include the cost of editing.

And the stuff they might list under marketing? Mmm, yeah, you can totally do it on your own for free.

2) Marketing

Despite what any vanity presses' website says: They will not market your book. Oh, they'll put out some news releases and put you on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a few other sites. But that's all they'll do. And sure, they'll talk to Kirkus for you to get a review but only if you're willing to shell out $5000 for the whole package. Kirkus charges $425. Let's say editing is about $2000, cover is around $'re all ready saving by NOT going through a vanity press.

Sorry, we're on marketing. Oh, you might get a social media set up guide. So, they'll give you a list of what social media sites to sign up on and might even sign you up themselves. That is not marketing my friend. They will give you an account and you have to take care of it.

If you really shell out some cash you can do a couple of video interviews and get some stand-alone ads on Google...both of which won't work if no one knows who you are anyway. Interviews and videos only work if you can show people where those interviews and videos are, that is PROMOTE YOURSELF.

Don't buy into anything they say about marketing. You will be on your own and out a couple thousand dollars.

3) Your "Team"

A lot of these vanity presses talk about your personal "team" of people working on your novel. You get your own book consultant, cover design team, editor and EVERYTHING! In the four years I was with AuthorHouse I went through about ten book consultants, NOT through my own doing. They just got changed and I never saw the guy or girl before again. My cover design team got switched on me mid-cover design. I'm pretty sure my editor no longer works there. Personal team? Nope.

You will continually get people who know nothing about your book trying to sell you more hard copies of your book so they can get paid and you can sit there trying to figure out what to do. You are not a special member of their Publication House. You are a number and nothing more.

4) MORE Money

Every so often I'd get these calls from AuthorHouse telling me I was a special little snowflake that had been selected to participate in an event to promote my book. I fell into the trap and flew all the way to Los Angels for a Book-To-Screen event.

You are NOT a special little snowflake. You're number 54 of the thousands of authors in their "House" they've tried calling and who has said "yes" to doing said event. You will be shelling out MORE money to participate in the event then you will have to pay for your way TO the event, as well as your lodging AT the event.

My trip to Los Angeles wasn't a total bust (I did get a replica Saber Tooth Cat fang and to see a Tim Burton exhibit) but it did cost about $3000. What did I get out of it? The knowledge that some people thought my book was "too similar to Twilight", a replica Saber Tooth Cat fang, to see the Tim Burton exhibit, to say I've been to LA, a cool cab driver story, and to meet 149 other authors. Was it worth the $3000? Nope. Would I do it again? Nope.

Later that year I got a call about shelling out another $3000 to go to a book signing event in some park in Toronto with another 150 authors. Um, yes half a million people would be going through said park. No, just because I would be there wouldn't mean people would take copies of my free book. Yes, free. I wouldn't be making any money while there. I would just be gaining a readership. Oh, did I mention I would have had to BUY copies of my own book before going? No? Well yes, I would have had to buy copies of my book to hand out for free. Think about that for a minute. Yeah.

5) Your Rights

The cool thing about being self-published is you get to keep your rights. The not-so-cool thing about going traditional is you don't keep your rights. Vanity presses SAY you can keep your rights but if you decided to stop publishing through them you don't get to use anything with their name on it. What does that mean? Oh, the cover, the inside EDITED version of your book, the bookmarks, postcards, business cards, posters, and any other "promotional" material is null and void.

Why yes, that does mean you shelled out thousands of dollars to give up your rights and be back where you started before meeting said vanity press if you break contract. If you want to be able to use the cover, INSIDE EDITED VERSION OF YOUR BOOK, or anything else you have to pay a fee. Yes, that's right: you have to pay a fee. I suppose it's only fair. I mean they did do all this work setting you up with people and what not. But after spending $10,000 with them that extra fee felt like a kick to the groin.

Worse yet, if you want to self-publish on Amazon, you really can't. Why? Because THEY have all ready made a page for your other book and it would look stupid to have two separate accounts. That's not good for branding.

Did I mention you can't control your pricing? Well you can. But you can't offer the book in any kind of promotional deal with other books you might self-publish because you don't have access to the vanity press' book through Amazon. You can't offer that book for free because then you're throwing money out the window and THEY won't let you. And if you want to make any REAL money through them you've got to charge at least a dollar or more than other authors to make the same amount as them.

Do they tell you when your book is coming off their shelves? Nope. Do they deliver the files you paid for in a prompt and efficient manner before taking your book off their shelves? Nope. As of this writing (January 23), Tale of the Twins is no longer available on the AuthorHouse website but I still haven't gotten any of my files even though I paid the fee on January 9th. Yeah. Think about that for a minute.

So, an update to the file thing. I finally had to call to see where the Hell my files were. When did I call? March 23. March 23 after paying for my files on January 9. What did I get? A PDF of my novel. No cover. And no, not a Word doc which is easily editable for any excess pages, a PDF which when you convert over to a Word doc. you have to reformat everything. I'm currently in the process of reformatting line-by-stinking-line because there were excess pages, wonky paragraph tags, and a bunch of other crap I can't get rid of unless I literally bring a line into the paragraph before then do a hard return. Yeah. What did I pay $150 for? More work and needing a new cover.

In conclusion:


I will admit there have been some authors who have had success with vanity presses but they are few and far between. In order to be a success with a vanity press you have to have disposable income and you have to be able to promote yourself...which are the EXACT same things you need for self-publishing. Except with self-publishing you get to keep your rights. You'll also get to stick with one cover designer and editor who you'll grow to like and keep doing business with. A vanity press can't give you a permanent team. You can give yourself one.

I know it might not seem like it at first glance but it's MUCH, MUCH cheaper and better for you to self-publish without a vanity press. If you're going to self-publish you want as much control as possible so that your book will come out perfect. A vanity press can't offer you that.

And a funny note: There is a company out there who helps you to self-publish. They look like a vanity press but there are major differences. To be honest, I haven't checked them out as much as I normally do but they do offer a discount if you're trying to re-publish your book after being with a vanity press. Think about THAT for a minute. Yeah.

A note for those thinking I'm being bitter: AuthorSolutions (AuthorHouse and iUniverse for those curious) had a class action law suit filed against them. There's a section in Self-Publishing is Hard that talks about research. ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don't fall into the same trap I did.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Another Million

Technically I should have posted this blog on June 31 but I got lazy. Oops? Anyway, another million down and six more months in the year to go.

What's funny about this million is it's less novels and more ongoing stories and short stories. I've written a total of four complete novels since January 1 which are Mists of Time Book 4: Adam's Story, Zombies 2, Death's Feet, and A Dragon's Rage. So, where did the other half a million or so come from?

Well 346,153 came from Avalora School of Magic. There were a lot of scenes written for character for another series, about 105K words or so. The planning for Avalora is over 7K. About 175K worth of fan fiction and about 10K for a short story and some random planning. Lemme break it down:

January: 158,491
February: 132,736
March: 88,876
April (Camp NaNoWriMo): 126,539
May: 253,040 (The biggest Word Count EVER in a month)
June: 240,823 (And the Million)
  • End Days: Planning
  • Avalora School of Magic
  • A Dragon's Rage
  • Naruto Fanfiction: One short story and one seemingly unending piece.

How did I write so much in May and June? Well on April 15th or so I had a mental break down because of a lot of reasons. Stress from work, former stresses I never really took care of, and a bunch of crap I can't seem to get away from now and I won't be able to get away from.

Essentially I was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder (to the point I was clawing at myself before going to work) and was told to take 15 weeks off. The unfortunate part is because my prior job didn't pay into the government benefits thing, I only had about 422 hours of taxable work hours when I needed 600. So, I don't get any kind of Unemployment Insurance for being off because of a medical reason. One of the many ways my old company screwed me over.

Of course I am planning to keep writing the rest of the year. Whether or not I get another million will remain to be seen but I can without a doubt say I'll beat last year's total of 1,440,350. I won't beat out the novel total of 16 but definitely the words.

I do have to say, Avalora School of Magic and the fan fiction will be the bulk of whatever my final number is. Am I going to write the other novels listed in the Novel Series Tab? Well, hopefully. I at least want to get Tale of the Twins Book 3: Heaven vs. Hell written once I re-edit Book 1 and go through Book 2. Will I write any of the others? No idea. I do want to finish Glory Hole: Kids. Besides that, no clue.

I have found that writing something as long as Avalora (again over 300K and nowhere close to being finished) is both refreshing and daunting. That 345K is the first term of first year. There's a second term to first year and NINE MORE YEARS of schooling for these kids, PLUS at least a chapter or two for all six of them after graduation. It literally is Friends meets Harry Potter.

I'm also finding writing the fan fiction, knowing not many people (if any) will see it to be refreshing as well. Hey, I might post it up on wattpad or but I don't have to. It can be totally mine. It might be safer that way...ahaha. As for why the Naruto-verse: I watch a lot of anime, and yes I have gone to conventions and dressed up. Once as Misa Misa from Death Note and once as Lust from Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood). I find it funny I kind of went backwards in the whole writing path. Most people practice with fan fiction before moving onto original characters.

Not me. I did original character then wrote fan fiction. Technically at the start of this almost twenty year adventure of writing I started with fan fiction but I didn't know it was called fan fiction...

ANYWAY. For those wanting to reach a million in six months it's easy. Just have a mental breakdown so you have 8+ hours a day to write and just keep writing. Actually, skip the mental breakdown part and keep writing. It's probably safer for your mental health that way. Not that writers are sane people in any sense of the word.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, questions, rants, rages, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.