Mr. Dowdy gives the reader his first person account of his day-to-day experience as a father raising his children with his wife. While he admits that he feels like he’s talking to himself, it reads like he is, which to me is complimentary. He takes his experience from marriage, pregnancy, sports, dance recitals, and later to a too-close-for-comfort experience that would be a parent’s worst nightmare. I would recommend this book for all parents or parents to be because of the realistic message. My main critique of the book is his bitterness throughout most of the book except the end. It’s like he’s felt he had to give up something because he had kids, but I do believe he meant that his kids give him a lot, it’s just easier to see it in hindsight. Congratulations, Mr. Dowdy, and three and a half stars!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Posted by C.C.Cole at 3:29 PM
Friday, April 22, 2011
Author Todd Russell sent me a novella consisting of multiple short stories. Avoiding spoilers, I’ll say my first thought after reading this was that Mr. Russell was playing a trick on me; to see if I would review a completely outrageous piece. Fortunately for me, he kindly included an epilogue describing his writing journey into the bizarre pushing it as far as I’ve seen (at least, on the short list). The stories are for adults, and each give a different take on issues that typically disturb the human mind. While at first I was appalled, I wanted to think about his writing skills; what I was feeling was a reflection of his writing talent, combined with my own personal preference. The stories are horrifying, disturbing, and nauseating at times, suggesting he has exemplary writing skills. I recommend “Mental Shrillness” to adult readers to challenge themselves on how strange a story they can handle. If this is your type of writing, Mr. Russell has accomplished the task. It moves fast, and is confusing at times. The ending provided an essential explanation for the reader to understand the message; therefore I give it three and a half stars out of five.
Posted by C.C.Cole at 5:23 PM
I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of the fantasy genre, but C.C. Cole managed to write a book that even those who aren't fantasy fans could delve into. For a new author, this is a pretty good debut. Despite it being a novella, you could still see the development in writing style as the book progressed. I was fully intrigued by the middle of the book and Cole gives the heroine, Shevata, room to grow as a character for future installments. It had dark themes, but very age appropriate for YA. Fantasy fan or not, I thought the premise was great and loved the integration of both fantasy and horror elements. I certainly look forward to reading the second book in the series! I believe C.C. Cole may have converted me!
Disclosure: My review of Claudia's short novella "The Fury" was not contingent on her reviewing my novellas.
Sometimes new authors just want to help new authors! I like helping them and I appreciate their input regarding my work.
Disclosure: My review of Claudia's short novella "The Fury" was not contingent on her reviewing my novellas.
Sometimes new authors just want to help new authors! I like helping them and I appreciate their input regarding my work.
Posted by C.C.Cole at 2:27 AM
Thursday, April 21, 2011
“The Fury” is an excellent short novella that takes the reader into the life of a “nobody” high school student, who endures a horrific event inflicted by her classmates. Her life goes from isolation to hostility from her peers. At the story’s unpredictable and dramatic end, she learns the difference in justice and vindication. The story is well written, and to me, would make a great series, to carry on this interesting concept and to allow for more character development. Four stars!
Posted by C.C.Cole at 4:33 AM
Monday, April 18, 2011
aobibliosphere™: bestseller for a day: a walk in the snark by Rache...: "Sometimes I think I'm too jaded. Then I think no, it's just the lighting - Rachel Thompson, A Walk In The Snark from webclipart.about..."
Posted by C.C.Cole at 3:41 AM
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Mr. Angley’s debut novel, “Child Finder,” is a compelling read, filled with courageous, believable characters. Pat, the lead character, is an agent found to have the gift of clairvoyance. As he learns more about his ability, he is able to use it to the benefit of those in peril. However, as he reaches out to others, others reach back at him for use of his unique abilities for larger, more dangerous tasks. Mr. Angley points out that in the powerful character Pat, the same people affecting his life the most are the same people affecting us in our own lives, namely family and co-workers. As the story continues, not all is that it seems as the characters unfold into their own agendas, making it a page-turner as it reaches its dramatic end. Congratulations to Mr. Angley, and I look forward to reading the rest of this great series! Four stars!
Posted by C.C.Cole at 10:38 AM
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
With my learn-by-doing approach to writing and maneuvering the blogosphere, I’ve seen several authors give their own take of their stories. I’ll take up some cyber-space with my own essay about my work with the sincerest of promise that I will not do this on a daily basis. A publicist advised me to become more comfortable talking out loud about my work and to keep an outline and very brief synopsis available for last-minute radio/TV interviews. I appreciate the good advice, and if I followed it, it would be even better.
As I’ve stated in radio/blog interviews, I began my creative writing journey many years ago following the death of my sister from a domestic violence incident. While I keep the details of her death private, the effect it had on my family and myself remains as I think about it every day like it just occurred. I remember coming home from working that night after midnight, and going straight to bed. The telephone rang; waking me up around 3am. I didn’t catch it but saw it was from my brother. I called him back then and he told me in a monotone voice that she was found dead in her house. All I could do was gasp, tell him thanks for letting me know, and I dropped the telephone in the bed. I stood up, walked into the bathroom and turned on the light. I saw my face in the mirror age at least five years. I had just seen her two days before when I delivered her a Christmas gift.
My husband and I went to my grandmother’s house and my family just sat together and said nothing. We sat quietly for at least an hour. As daytime approached, we began the nightmarish task of informing our friends/family and to make funeral arrangements. This part is a blur, as I felt like a robot performing assigned tasks. My voice trembled, I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t sleep. After the funeral, I repeatedly swept the floor, vacuumed the carpet, and washed dishes by hand. I didn’t even know why I was doing it; I just couldn’t stop moving. My best friend called and she could tell in my voice that something terrible happened. I returned to work immediately after, hoping it would take my mind off things. It helped some and over time normalcy returned. Time is the best remedy for such a situation and though it helps the days drag by in the beginning.
A few months after her death, I sat at our desktop computer and typed a chapter of a fantasy story. I immediately realized writing was difficult, but I liked channeling my energy into creativity to give me closure. Over the years and many throw away, start-over stories it gradually evolved into the Gastar Series. While writing it, I never thought of a character as my sister, or any other people in my life. I just thought of what I would like out of a fictional story and applied it to my writing. I’m not a writer by trade, so it was difficult and still is.
The Gastar series itself is not a self-embodiment of my family tragedy, but it is the result. The hardest part was not the writing; it was the final edit before publishing. For each of the two novellas, I felt like I was stepping off a cliff in a “leap of faith” that my foot would land on a ledge. When readers and reviewers mention the names I chose for my characters as odd, I couldn’t agree more. In seeking names, I decided to name some characters weird names, like Shevata, the lead character. I knew I wanted a feminine name that wasn’t heard everyday, and I wanted three syllables for some reason. “Gastar” to me doesn’t sound particularly imaginative and that’s what I wanted in the title; something that’s sounds like fantasy but with a conceptual subtitle. The first book, “Act of Redemption” introduces the reader to Gastar and to Shevata by laying out the steps she must take to re-gain her soul.
I never doubted that I wanted to write a dark fantasy, action/adventure series; with a flawed anti-heroine with a dark past that kicks “serious booty” (as one Tweeter stated). The main antagonist, Zermon, is based on the personality of my older brother (a family joke these days). After watching interviews of famous authors, for example, Shelby Foote on his Civil War series; he recommended new authors to read and learn from other authors. So I thought of books that I like and extrapolated their writing style (the example I use most often is Michael Crichton’s Timeline, with the breaking of scenes mid-chapter to create a page-turner). Other influences are Anne Rice, non-fiction biographies, film documentaries, and all kinds of movies. (I have migraine headaches, so when critical reviewers say that I want the reader to “see” the story; it’s actually a compliment. Headaches make reading difficult).
Authors have their own personal reasons that drive them to write. In reading many biographies of authors, sometimes tragedy throws them into the writing sphere, others write instinctively. Whatever the reason, if writing makes you the person you want to be, then go forth and write. For me, it brings me peace, closure, and joy. I hope it brings the same for other new authors.
Posted by C.C.Cole at 8:45 AM
In “Let’s Pretend,” Mr. Gustafson re-creates the real world through the eyes of a child. Johnny is an ordinary boy doing what we adults recall in our everyday lives of childhood by playing war, admiring Star Wars posters, and watching favorite cartoons. As Johnny becomes more fascinated with his make-believe world, it incorporates into his own reality separate of his parents’ as he merges into the entertaining but violent world of television. As the story reaches its end, Johnny successfully separates from reality, leaving a disturbing but valid point, as part of maturity is the ability to recognize fantasy in the world of reality. Four stars for Mr. Gustafson!
Posted by C.C.Cole at 7:55 AM
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I will clear the air early by declaring myself a non-expert in the world of high finance. Let me certify this as I ponder who is the character known as Dow Jones, and why I don’t have this person’s Twitter/blog address. (I’m a little better than that but not much). I believe love makes the world go around. I believe hate destroys the world. And last, I’m absolutely certain of the hard-cold fact that money is required for survival. Money is a very personal issue for all of us; therefore, this discussion of money regarding new authors is made in broad generalities. Everyone has his or her own financial obligations, and as it would be nice to breeze through life without the need of money, it doesn’t happen.
So what of the financial status of the new author? At first glance it appears to be a contradiction of terms. “New author” and “money” translates often into “new author” and “no money.” Especially regarding new fiction, which is my emphasis, a new author would certainly need to have a heart stopping manuscript in order for a publishing company to award big bucks prior to publication. A writer must show that they have a marketable product in their talent, and once that achievement is made, the status of “new author” is removed, hopefully leading to writing careers.
Self-published new authors, like myself, start out “in the red.” Many writers’ threads are out there in cyberspace, with anywhere from extreme cautious advice like “anyone that spends a dollar publishing is a sucker or shouldn’t be writing” to “an agency offered to read my manuscript, but I didn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” I didn’t find these threads especially helpful, other than the emphasis to never pay someone to read your work, which is good advice. I do agree that if the new author is to fork out money, then it should be to either improve the manuscript with an editor, or move to self-publishing. Many writers criticize the self-publishing industry for having no interest in marketing the book, since they make profits with the publication process. I don’t believe they have disinterest, I believe they sell marketing like publishing and it can get very expensive.
So what can the new author do to achieve the dream of writers by having a published manuscript? I tend to lean on the practical side of finances; meaning, if you cannot afford it, don’t buy it. Businesses employ people to generate customers to purchase their product, so especially self-publishing companies will ring your telephone off the hook and sound extremely interested in your book that they haven’t read and probably never will. Lines like “it’s an investment” are used often. I tend to define “investment” on my own terms. To me, an investment is risking money with the hopes of earning more money, outside of the realm of household bills and long-term savings. If the money is not available and is borrowed via loan or credit card, to me that’s “debt.” New authors already come out behind considering the hard work and possibly editing fees. The addition of the financial risk of debt may make for some inspirational writing on lessons learned, but some lessons need not be learned “the hard way.”
As a standing target for non-stop sales pitches in publishing, new authors need not succumb to financial risk to achieve their dreams. Take some time and think about your financial situation in terms of yourself, those depending on you, and those that you depend on for everyday livelihood. Explore all options in the writing industry; especially now as digital books gain popularity. (Since acquiring a kindle, I have space in my home to store more useless stuff than books). Don’t be too shy to say to some guy calling you all the time pushing some great deal to stop calling, and if you think it’s too expensive, just say so. No apologies are necessary to anyone from the new author who needs to maintain financial responsibility.
Are new authors just “screwed” from the get-go financially? Answer: Probably, in the most general sense. Would I stop writing or recommend a new author to stop writing because I’ve not made a profit? Answer: No way. I cannot put a price tag on how much I love to write and the amount of enjoyment by reading the work of other authors, as well as readers enjoying my writing. Also, the news is not all grim, as self-published fiction becomes more popular and generally new authors are paid a greater percentage of sales than in the traditional publishing industry, according to some articles. As much as we’re driven to write, we’re driven to success, but success has it’s own double edge. As writers achieve and are promoted from the “new author” status, at some point their craft is at risk of becoming “work.”
I love my job and I love to write. As a new author, I remain uncertain if I’m ready for my job to become what I write.
Posted by C.C.Cole at 8:09 PM
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Nathan Bransford, Author: Who Should Have the 'Indie' Label: Self-Publishers...: "A new term has been cropping up in writing circles, posts, and Forums lately. The self-published author is no more, and from its ashes has r..."
Posted by C.C.Cole at 8:28 AM
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Miss Good on Paper: Writing Prompt: Stealing First Lines: "I’ve heard versions of this activity from several teachers and writers, but it is still one of my favorites. In this activity, start writ..."
Posted by C.C.Cole at 8:37 AM
Saturday, April 2, 2011
As a new author, I continue to hold the hopes of success as hard as I try to resist the anxiety of failure. Beginning the journey, the definition of each has equal importance. Is a writer successful only if he/she makes millions of dollars followed by Hollywood blockbuster films? Is a writer a failure if he/she sells ten ebooks with ten five-star reviews? For most of us new authors, the answer is “no” to each. Technology of today allows us to see the realities up close of the variable paths to take during the writing journey, each with advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, I am going to review some pros and cons of publishing options; namely, traditional and self-publishing, from the perspective of the “not completely informed” new author.
All publishing for the new author obviously requires completion of the manuscript. Traditional publishers usually require submission by a literary agent. The literary agent requires the work to be completed and professionally edited before they consider representing the author. A query letter is usually sent that must be attention-getting enough to catch the interest of the agent.
So is traditional publishing a bad thing for a new author? Of course it isn’t. Like self-publishing, the burden of the written work lies with the author. Credible literary agencies make it clear they are paid via a percentage of the sales of the book. The multitudes of writer’s threads on the internet emphasize new authors to never pay someone to read your work. So really, if all goes well, a person can go from pen and paper (or computer, these days) straight into publication without spending a dime (in theory). Once accepted by an editor of a traditional publisher, then marketing and distribution of the book is out of the author’s hands, with contractual agreements regarding what the author is paid as a result of sales.
There’s criticism amongst the self-published community about traditional publishers. But if they are so bad, then why do we try it first? Well, it is cheaper than paying for everything, and money does have a loud voice. But how much cheaper is traditional publishing for the new author? Note my above sentence: Agents wanted completed, professionally edited manuscripts. Does anyone know any editors that do free work, unless your mother is an English teacher? From recent conversations with traditionally published new author friends of mine, they tend to remain silent when I ask how much did the editor charged them.
What about rights? I won’t pretend to be some expert on intellectual rights, but I do know that a publishing company is a business, and for a business to exist, it must function, and therefore, make sales. To have the burden of marketing, distribution, and sales on the publishing company instead of the author, traditional publishing doesn’t sound like a bad deal. But also as a company, they have to proceed on their terms. Horror stories are out there with new authors writing books sitting on traditional publisher’s desks for years before distribution. I hope that’s an urban legend.
Self-publishing is not a walk in the park, either. In this setting, still the author writes the book, and it’s preferable it either be in completion or close to completion before the process begins. The experience is opposite that of the traditional publisher; these companies beat your door down for business better than an insurance salesman. This time, the burden is upon the author to pay for publication; and for various editing/marketing services that can damage the pocketbook faster than I can on ebay. (Articles defining various self-publishing companies are out there, with at least one listed on my blog). I’ve always known I need an editor, so I use at least one or two, these companies do satisfactory service, and good book covers. So for the service itself, you get what you pay for, and I’ve had generally good service. I go with paperback plus kindle/ebook, but if your budget is for ebook, that appears to be an upcoming market, which I use extensively myself when reading the work of other authors.
The “taint” of the self-published author will stay with you and your book during your journey. Reviewers, buyers, writers’ groups, and bookstores will shun you for being what you are. Some writers’ threads have traditionally published authors saying nice statements like “some of the self-published authors actually can write.” I had one guy be so bold as to walk up to me and say, “So, you published your book because you had enough money, not because it was chosen.” (I suspect a case of car envy). It’s a stumble but not a downfall these days; especially in fiction because self-published authors are a big club. Move around these obstacles; it’s hard to change one’s mind once they’ve made it up. I’ve been given great advice to forget about them, and I pass it along.
On book blogs: so far, I like them. Reason: I continue to learn how to blog. That may sound ridiculous, but some are better at blogging than others. I joined and donated to a syndicated blog that offered my money back because of my useless blog. What, who turns away money? I took a deep breath, as I do with bad reviews and tried to learn instead of scoff. I’m still learning, but now my blog is syndicated; therefore, my posts reach more people than my direct followers. It takes time to grow an audience, so by actually doing what social network experts tell you to do works. Also, the self-published author lacks the advantage of marketing by a large company. What the new author is looking for is the credibility given to traditional published authors. To get that, one must promote. To promote, one must be cautious; yes, promote your work. Don’t promote only your work. It takes time, but that’s OK. Take your time to learn to do it well; obviously I’m still learning. Reviews help with promotion; but don’t expect some favorable reviews lead to the NY Times bestseller list. As a new author, you’re in a tough industry, so learn to work with it.
Last note on book blogs: I’ve learned something that I stubbornly learned in professional school. I was told that my most important resource was my classmates. With authors, our most important resource is other authors. By networking, interacting, reading, reviewing, tweeting, etc. there’s a universe of information out there helpful to the new author; one just has to take the time to look.
Posted by C.C.Cole at 11:24 AM
Friday, April 1, 2011
This is a well-written, emotional, compelling, and disturbing short story. With just a few paragraphs, it invokes fear, anxiety, anger, love, hate, and resolution as a small family interacts with each other for a single evening. The weather outside the home correlates with the storm gathering inside the home as, like the storm, rage is anticipated, tolerance is difficult and the ending is tragic. Unlike the nature of the storm, human nature of revenge, sacrifice, and salvation remain in the aftermath.
Posted by C.C.Cole at 8:20 PM
Interview with Erik Gustafson, author of “Fall Leaves and the Black Dragon” April 1, 2011 by C.C.Cole
Erik Gustafason’s above book was reviewed my me and I found it a very compelling story about a boy growing up to become a young man, and past incidents grow from disturbing paranormal flashbacks into the harsh world of reality.
C.C.: Is this your first novel? Have you published other works, such as short stories? Are you traditional or self-published? What was your experience in the publishing industry?
Erik: This is the first novel I have written and actually completed. Many years ago I used to write short stories and had 2 or 3 books that I tried to write but they all fizzled out. I do have two other short stories available on Smashwords: “The Road to Safety” which is a story about being stranded on the road and how that isolation can turn ugly quick; the other story is “My Lover, My Garden” and its about one man trying to save his brother, an obsessed gardener when the garden takes on a life of its own and fights back to keep the gardener right there in the garden where he belongs!
I choose to self-publish my book because it seemed both simple and popular. I choose to put my book up on Smashwords and that was a simple process but the real challenge was getting the formatting correct and figuring out how to design a cover that was decent. Then there is the reality about publishing: you have to be popular to get popular. Its tough getting people to give my book a try!
C.C: What started you on this novel journey? Was it a certain real-life event, historical event, book or film?
Erik: It had been years since I wrote anything. I had switched to painting and was having a great time with that. My wife heard about NaNoWriMo and I checked into and though it sounded like a great challenge. So I started writing it on November 1st and forced myself to write almost every day in November. The people I met through NaNoWriMo were great! They kept me motivated and were very helpful. It was a lot of fun and that’s how I started getting connected with Twitter. So I met the goal of writing 50,000 words during the month but the book was not quite done. I finished it up and then started the grueling editing and rewriting process.
C.C.: Describe your book to us (generally, not asking for spoilers). What is the inner message?
Erik: I have a Master’s degree in psychology and I hope my writing reflects that. In “Fall Leaves and the Black Dragon”, the main character suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from a horrific fire when he was five. His childhood playmate was also in that fire. The family moves away to get away from all those painful memories but that doesn’t work for our main character. The traumatic memories seem to take on a life of their own in the form of relentless fire-breathing dragons! This dragon that haunts my main character pretty much ruins his childhood, keeping him embarrassed and afraid of the next attack. He also hears voices calling his name and other paranormal things happen to him. As time goes on, he learns more about what really happened in the fire and realizes that he all the hallucinations might be a real haunting and he must go back to confront his past before the dragon finishes him. He sets off on an adventure with his best friend and together they learn about what happened…and confront the ghosts of his past! The ending is intense and will surprise you!
C.C.: What age group do you recommend this book and why?
Erik: I think most any age group can relate to the characters in my book. It’s a horror story on the surface but its also a coming of age story and the struggles with conquering your fears and overcoming your past.
C.C.: Tell us about your background. Did you grow up in the United States?
Erik: I grew up in Iowa but was in the Air Force for 20 years so I have lived all over the United States and several foreign countries. I have lived in Iceland, Germany and in a tent in the desert in Saudi Arabia! Now I have settled back down in Iowa to be close to family. I teach psychology classes at a community college and coordinate services for people with intellectual disabilities so they can live more independent and satisfying lives.
C.C.: Do you plan on writing more novels? If so, generally, what are you working on, and when do you expect completion?
Erik: I am working on my second novel! I have given this one a working title of “The Second Chimney.” It has a lot of bats…the guy is bat hunting in his house all the time! During one of his on-going bat proofing the house adventures, he realizes his old house has a second chimney that has long since been covered up by walls…when he opens the chimney back up, its not bats that come out of the darkness…its something much worse and something very bad.
I am thinking this one might turn into a horror series…the second book in this series will shift more toward dark/horror fantasy.
I hope to have “The Second Chimney” ready to go by fall of this year!
C.C.: Do you have a website or blog so we can follow your progress as an author?
I do have a blog, although its just getting started and doesn’t have much to offer yet…. http://Eriktiger.wordpress.com
C.C.: where can your book be purchased?
Erik: You can purchase my book and other short stories on Smashwords or Amazon Kindle! My author page on Smashwords is https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ErikGus
I want to thank Erik for his interview and sharing his interesting novel with us, and look forward to follow up work!!
Posted by C.C.Cole at 3:22 AM