author C.C.Cole's blog

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Zermon’s Soliloquy by C.C.Cole June 30, 2011

Zermon's appearance closest to "Darkness" in film "Legend"

What you have to understand from the beginning is my unique situation here.  As ruler of hell, I have a number of specific and time-consuming responsibilities.  Demons come down all the time, and very few are of quality for any real use.  Finding suitable, appropriate assistance is nearly impossible down here. 

“What would some ‘god of the dead’ think he’d get from us down here? The lower demons overwhelm me enough with stupidity, so how can the dead possibly be of use? This god or whatever-he-is makes dead people get up, walk around, and occasionally eat a few people.  I’ve got much better than that without the awful smell. 

“This ‘god’ named Abbias, furnished me with living people to send straight into our flames so I could make demons with potential quality. He needed to rid himself of number of hideous child-soldiers created by the barbaric humans to fight his rancid armies. We made a deal. He delivered several dozen souls, but I didn’t want to spoil them all at once, because I needed time to see how they would respond to the transition into demons. Perfection takes patience. I suspended them above the pits for a while, so they could get to know the place better.  After all, I am an impeccable host.

“Then arrived the bane of my existence, that little monster bitch Shevata, who ruined it all. I was minding my own business when one of my intellectual imbeciles reported my fresh souls were missing. Lower demons I sent to track the souls were never seen again. Finally I summoned Mathiam.  He’s my weaker twin brother, but when it comes to finding culprits, he usually pulls it off.  He found our little she-devil within hours.  As she dropped unconscious into my arms, talk about unimpressive!  She looks like she’s twelve, but she says she’s sixteen.  Her hair is matted, her face is dirty, and at least a dozen swords and daggers fell out of her clothing as I carried her.  I hate to say it, but the girl needs a course in hygiene.

“I’ve spent a millennium imprisoning obnoxious members of the upper world.  I questioned a few, tortured a bunch, but never found results to take up my valuable time.  Shevata was no different.  I had some of the fools in my domain work on her a few years.  I’ve never seen a ruder prisoner. She tried to kill every demon that entered her cell, even if they didn’t threaten her.  She was impossible, stubborn to the point of a nightmare!  All I needed her to tell us was how was she getting the souls out of hell.  And she guarded her secret, laughing, like I’d never find out.  Well, she was right, I never found out until centuries later.

“As I pondered over what to do with this scourge of humanity, I decided to move on with changing her into a demon, to improve her hideous attitude and keep her impressive murdering abilities.  All she had to do was drink some unholy water from a goblet.  Is that asking so much?  I used to drink it all the time, which made me the intellectually superior, well-rounded ruler of demons that I am.  To her, I might as well have demanded a dragons’ treasure, as she sustained her lack of cooperation like a rock.  She choked down a little, kicked the chalice away, and then like an idiot, jumped into the flames!

“I knew she’d never rise from the fire. My world couldn’t tolerate her any more than her own.  Years later, I called in my favor to the god of the dead, so he gave me access to the human world with a gateway to hell.  I could summon my demonic servants to the human world as needed.  Everything was set up perfectly, by my own design, of course, with a fallen city nearby, plans for me to leave a half-human son to maintain rule after I got sick of the place.  So who shows up?  My old friend Shevata.  She looks the same, plain, underdeveloped, and in severe need of a decent hairstyle and wardrobe. 

“Humans tell each other about unstoppable forces, like me, naturally.  What they don’t say is sometimes the worst of us all arise directly from the world of their making, instead of the world that I’m ruling." 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When NOT to Promote: Why I Quit Every Writer’s Forum But One

When NOT to Promote: Why I Quit Every Writer’s Forum But One

On Payback and the New Author June 26, 2011 by C.C.Cole

After completing “Lord of the Flies” with an upcoming comparative analysis with “1984” I scrolled through Twitter, thinking about which Indie book will I pick up next.  Though I’ve been writing on-and-off my third novella installment of the Gastar Series, “Point of Return” I’ve been taking more time to reading and learning from other authors and other genres. 

As I’ve stated in prior articles, the first Indie book I randomly snatched up and reviewed, was “Bang” by William Butler.  The noir novel to me was a stroke of genius, though not for all audiences.  Along with new author Erik Gustafson, who wrote the excellent “Fall Leaves and the Black Dragon” we exchanged books and reviews.  Maybe to veteran established writers and reviewers, it looks shallow, but to new authors any good publicity carries much meaning, as the NYT isn’t exactly tearing our door down to get a copy of our books to review.

Since beginning my reading frenzy, I’ve read absolutely outstanding literary pieces by Gina Penn, Ania Ahlborn, Derek Haines, and Sean Keefer, just to name a few.  Their books were great, and I’m happy to post stellar reviews.  OK, so I’m not the NYT, but as I stated when I reviewed the mega-novel “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen, I’m a member of the audience.  While Indie novels remain my favorite, I still like to include classics every few books for my own reflection regarding why these books are classics, and to self-educate myself, as my hard science education background didn’t lend itself to reading a lot of Hemmingway.  Unfortunately, great literary works do not help solve calculus problems, and GPA are the most important letters for the hard science student’s alphabet.

Now that I’ve read, and still reading many of my Tweeps’ books, should I be put out that they have not read mine?  No.  That would be childish on my part, and out of line professionally.  Many writers/readers are very good to me on Twitter and Facebook, even though we haven’t read each other’s work.  An important point of “payback reading/reviewing” is the potential loss of objectivity that is important and desirable when reviewing books.  Writers want honest reviews (we hold our breath a lot, or at least I do), and reviewers want the freedom to review honestly.  Without a clear playing field, the whole process is de-certified and falls apart, helping no one.

So new authors, what do we do when reading and reviewing the work of our colleagues?  I say read and review the work of your colleagues.  That’s it.  Write as you see fit, read as you see fit, review as you see fit.  (With the exception of reviewers that give a bad rating, admitting to not finishing it.  Grrr!!!  I won’t go there today).  It gives me joy to reach out to another new writer, and amazement to the new, lesser-known talent, wondering if the industry will recognize them in a higher caliber someday.  The education all writers give me is not something I can pin a dollar sign in the form of sales of my own books.  Would I like more readers to become interested in my novellas?  Sure.  But I believe more in giving than in taking. 

Writers give by means of our work, and some of us by means of supporting other authors.  “Payback” can be good or bad, and for new authors, to support each other is part of what keeps us on our creative journey.  Negative payback, which I hope to never see, helps no one.  Getting rarely happens without giving first.

Utterances of an overcrowded mind: Dummies guide to publishing an ebook on Amazon Kin...

Utterances of an overcrowded mind: Dummies guide to publishing an ebook on Amazon Kin...: "In this blog post I'm going to try and demystify the ebook publishing process. I've been through it and lived to tell the tale. So here goes..."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review of “The First Ten Steps” by M. R. Mathias by C.C.Cole June 25, 2011

Ace author Michael Robb Mathias reaches out to new authors in this short, concise, how-to book about promotion tactics for new authors.  It’s a fast simple read that makes sense, without the “how to get published and become a millionaire” instructions I’ve seen in many other books.  He does not under-emphasize how much time and dedication promotion takes, and also acknowledges the importance of having a good story to start with.  For simple promotional tips and realistic expectations, I highly recommend this book to new authors.  Congratulations, five stars!

Review of “Vandalism of Words” by Derek Haines by C.C.Cole June 25, 2011

“Vandalism of Words” by Derek Haines reads like a collection of opinion columns by Derek on many things we experience in our everyday lives.  He’s cynical, but carries his message with humor and clarity.  I found it interesting that an Australian living in Switzerland has so much in common with others living a hemisphere away.  He addresses everything to politics to usual family living acknowledging the imperfections of the world but at the same time not taking everything for granted.  Heaven love him, he’s got an opinion and doesn’t mind saying so.  Rock on, Derek, and congratulations, four stars!

Edward Cullen alternative: VAMPIRES written & performed by TheRobglass

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Migraine Headaches and the New Author by C.C.Cole June 22, 2011

Many people that do what they love find obstacles in their health to overcome, sometimes driving them to success, or at least, consistency at what they do.  I think of athletes with asthma, and actors (or anyone) with rheumatoid arthritis.  My mother taught school 25 years with a severe inoperable spinal deformity and continues to struggle in retirement. 

So with me, as a new author, I’ve dealt with the affliction of migraine headaches for twenty years.  It’s part of my life, like diabetics who follow their blood sugar and give themselves insulin.  I’m not a neurological specialist, but have seen my share of neurologists and thankfully have one that takes good care of me.

Migraines are very common, though the percentages are variable depending on which article/book you read.  Women tend to have them more often, but men are not left out.  I know all-too-well the advice about avoiding red wines, certain cheeses, and any monosodium glutamate product. Like bad weather, they are triggers, but I inherited mine from my mother and grandmother.  Instead of having the ‘auras’ I just get the pain and sometimes intractable vomiting during the especially bad ones.

So how does a chronic illness, whether it be migraines, diabetes, arthritis, amongst others affect the new author?  Answer:  A lot.  My illness explains a lot of why I watch so many films, as during a headache it’s easier to rest and watch instead of type a manuscript.  Fortunately, my good days are more often than bad, so I read/review books, and write my own stories when my head does not feel like a grenade going off inside.  In theory, my illness could explain why I write short novellas, but I believe it’s more of a style that I feel comfortable writing.  I used to get in cyberspace and read about the migraines others are going through, and had to stop because the stories were so devastating I got depressed, but my heart goes out to those in pain. 

When a friend tells me they have a headache, I ask, “Is it a migraine?”  The answer is usually “no,” thinking its sinus or tension related.  I hope for them they’re correct, but I remember when I was diagnosed; I couldn’t believe such a thing was happening to me.  But bad things happen to us regardless of how we try to prevent it.  My best recommendation is for he/she to see a neurologist for recurring headaches, as the disease affects everything you do, including work, social life, private life, and reading/writing.  Of my novellas, a Facebook friend posted “with the characters Shevata and Zermon in my head, it’s a small wonder I get migraines.”  I appreciate the laugh.

So, new authors, if you have a chronic illness don’t let something that won’t go away stop you from writing.  It may limit the pace; you’ll need breaks, but move forward and don’t let the disease ruin your life.  A great example is the author Laura Hillenbrand who wrote “Seabiscuit.”  In her interview in the back of the book she discusses her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome, causing her to take breaks of sometimes weeks at a time. 

For me, so I can’t drink red wine?  No problem.  I’m sick once a quarter for work, that’s doable.  I’m fortunate to have a brilliant, caring doctor.  When I see/hear about what some people are going through, like malignancies, strokes, heart disease, or missing children I realize that some people in this world actually have problems, and though I have a few bad days, overall I’m blessed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review of “Neiko’s Five Land Adventure” by A.K. Taylor by C.C.Cole June 19, 2011

“Neiko’s Five Land Adventure” is an imaginative journey that is as much of an adventure for the reader as it is for the lead character, Neiko.  Imagination leads to reality as Neiko transcends from playing a game with action figures to a world where the figures come to life.  The author entwines the story with Native American and Egyptian historical elements adding amazing creativity to Neiko’s journey.  While the story is light, danger still exists, which make this story an excellent read for young audiences.  I highly recommend this story to anyone who pretended to be in alternative worlds as kids.  Though the large cast of characters makes for a bit of confusion, this does not take away from this excellent, well-written story.  Congratulations, four stars!

On Comedy and Tragedy by C.C.Cole June 19, 2011

As a pre-teen, I became a Shakespeare fan after watching “MacBeth” on educational television.  I’ll never forget the part when MacDuff gets his revenge.  Another favorite was “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”  It took days to stop laughing the first time I saw it.  This comparison brings in the  “Comedy vs. Tragedy” theme used to describe plays for centuries.  These days, these definitions live on in modern plays, films, and books. 

When I think about timeless classic books, films and plays, which message stays with us the longest?  To me, drama, in the most general sense, creates the eternally lingering message.  For example, Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” is considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, is a tragedy.  “Moby Dick” is obviously is a tragedy.  With comedies, though the Shakespearean play, “Much Ado About Nothing” is brilliant, if one were to ask me my favorite, I’d say “MacBeth” without a second thought.  “Henry V” is also on my short list (like there can be a short list of Shakespeare?)

Let’s not discount comedies.  As the saying goes, “Tragedy is easy, comedy is hard.”  My favorite “A Confederacy of Dunces” by William K. Toole, is a true masterpiece.  Any time I pick it up, I’m howling with laughter every time.  To take a collection of offbeat characters and have them converge in a bar in New Orleans was a stroke of genius by Toole, who unfortunately committed suicide, never seeing the appreciation of his work.  (See the preface written by Walker Percy).  Successful comedy requires the audience to laugh, which is a spontaneous response not easy to induce, just ask any stand-up comedians.  Comedic actors make a almost effortless transcendence into drama; for example, Mary Tyler Moore in “Ordinary People” and Robin Williams in “Awakenings.” 

To bring us back to new authors, how can we craft successful comedy or tragedy?  Sadness, though it strikes the reader’s soft spot, is easier to predict.  (Don’t get me started on “Where the Red Fern Grows”).   For comedy, it may/may not hit, so it poses greater challenge to write, but speaks much of the author’s ability to create laughter out of words.   My own preference as a new author is to create a dramatic story with comedic elements; for example, in “Act of Redemption” Shevata and Zermon’s banter gives readers a bit of comic relief to an otherwise dramatic story.  (Shevata and Zermon’s dialogue is based upon conversations with my older brother.)  I don’t expect the audience to roll in the floor laughing, but the comedic dialogue gives a little release in the tension of a dark fantasy action story.

So new authors, as always, go forth and write.  Experiment with comedy and tragedy and see what works for you.  Whether it’s all comedy, all tragedy, or a bit of both, remember that it’s up to the author to deliver the message.  It is up to the audience to decide the duration of the message.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Twitter and the New Author by C.C.Cole June 18,2011

As a new author, I admit being slow to catch on to Twitter.  As I watched TV and saw Twitter quoted on numerous occasions, all I could figure it was the same as telephone text messaging, but many (thousands) at once.  With the help of an expensive publicist when my first book “Act of Redemption” came out in 2009, I had a Twitter account.  With a complete misunderstanding of how it worked, I successfully “tweeted” myself for almost a year.  Clueless doesn’t begin to describe my ignorance of what grade school youngsters perfect in minutes.

Then one day, the light bulb flashed.  I can’t explain it, but after months of Twitter frustration, I learned what “tweets” mean.  Not that I’m an expert; I'm learning something new about it every day.  Some tweets give me a laugh, many are thought provoking, but for the new author, Twitter brings you to people like you and me…other writers and readers. 

How does a new author build up Twitter?  To start, you’ve got to follow some people; I started with friends on Goodreads that decided to tweet together.  Pick up followers that share a similar interest.  Most Tweeps have a blog so you can learn more about them, and I shy away from those that don’t.  Most Tweeps want more followers, so they will follow back.  I follow back Tweeps in the reading/writing/entertainment industry, and some that make me laugh.  Caution for the new Tweeter:  Some Tweeps don’t want people following them that they don’t know.  In the beginning, I followed a guy because he was funny and featured a comic book that interested me.  One day he slammed profanities at me for following! So much for that!  Not everyone is looking for fans, obviously.

While I stay out of FB apps, some Twitter apps are useful, especially for the beginner.  Many are out there; these are just the ones I found.  I used Tweepi, so I could see who’s not following back, and ‘flush’ the non-followers.  I didn’t do this out of spite, but I don’t want to follow Tweeps that don’t want me following. (once burned, you know)  Tweepi also allows you to see Tweeps you’re not following back, so you can return the favor.  Sometimes I use ‘who unfollowed me’ to see who’s dropping me.  Most of the time, these are Tweeps I didn’t follow in the first place.  While on the topic of Tweeps, I’ve been irked more than once for offensive tweetpics.  Twitter will help you with this; while you cannot stop it all, you can block them from following.  Think twice before opening a link tweeted to you by one you’re not following.

How to tweet?  I don’t have a simple answer; but the best way to learn is read what people are tweeting.  For new authors, this is important because the tweets lead you to blogs where information on writing techniques, publishing, and readers/reviewers that can make a lot of difference in your promotion of you work.  I like to take time out and read what’s posted and sometimes, let the Tweep know if the article is helpful.  Everyone likes positivity. Generally, people will treat you like they are being treated; with respect and encouragement. 

So, again new authors go forth and tweet away!!  The social experts are correct when it comes to Twitter.   Remember, this is a public forum, so imagine your Tweets on the NYT front page.  To me, it’s fun, informative, and is a great source for contacts that other sites don’t allow.  Caution with the self-promo, yes, promote, just don’t promote only yourself.   I’m “Gastarbooks” and hope to see you there, new authors!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review of “The Trust” by Sean Keefer by C.C.Cole June 15, 2011

“The Trust” by Sean Keefer is a fast, interesting read about a lawyer named to take part in closing an estate by a person completely unknown to him.  The story escalates into his relationship with an employee, a mysterious beneficiary, and the remaining beneficiaries into a story with many twists and turns that immerse the reader into the world of the rich and the corrupt.  The plot picks up early, slows down in the middle, and ends dramatically keeping the reader well in step.  I recommend this book to fiction readers, especially legal fiction.  Though I am reminded of John Grisham’s novels, the story is well written and worth a read.  Congratulations, four stars!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review of “Seed” by Ania Ahlborn by C.C.Cole June 9, 2011

“Seed” by Ania Ahlborn is a short, horrific journey into the life of Jack Winter, a family man with a dark past that catches up with him. Following an automobile accident, he, his wife, and his older daughter see disturbing behavioral changes in the youngest daughter that intensify over a few days.  Jack recognizes what his daughter is experiencing is a terrifying secret he kept from his own childhood.  As each day passes, he gets closer to remembering what happened to him, taking the reader on a ride between two decades ago and present time, creating a page-turner that is almost impossible to put down.  Horror fans don’t want to miss this superbly written story with an eerie backdrop of the Deep South.  Five stars!

Review of “Women and Other Monsters” by Bernard Schaffer by C.C.Cole June 10, 2011

“Women and Other Monsters” is an interesting collection of horror tales that begin in historic colonial Africa, early America, World War I, World War II, present time, and the under and outer worlds.  While some of the stories were intriguing, others are humorous. In general, this is a good, fast read that is entertaining and fun. Four stars!

Review of Marriages & Miscarriages by author Kathleen Smith by C.C.Cole June 9, 2011

Marriages & Miscarriages is a warm, thoughtful insight from the author who experienced the pain of miscarriages and finds resolution through her faith and her marriage.  It’s a simple read that shows the difficulties with relationships with friends, loved ones, and her inner self in the setting of loss of an unborn child.  When life events take a hard turn for reasons beyond our control, inner peace can be found.  Thank you for sharing your story.  Four stars!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Derek Haines Vandalism of Words: How To Write A Book

Derek Haines Vandalism of Words: How To Write A Book: "I was reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ for about the unteenth time recently and it occurred to me that although a great read and ful..."

Derek Haines Vandalism of Words: The Confidence Man and Me

Derek Haines Vandalism of Words: The Confidence Man and Me: "Years ago, I came across a copy of Herman Melville’s final novel, ‘The Confidence Man’. The description on the back told me about a str..."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Review: “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen by C.C.Cole June 7, 2011

All right, here goes nothing; I’ve tweeted, blogged, posted, and finally I’ve gone the distance to post my formal review of mega-novel “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen.  The hype of this book is exemplary; including endorsements from a high profile celebrity, reportedly our highest elected official, and lots of smart people in the media that are so kind to tell us which books to read.  I don’t mind the smart people, but when they say this author can predict the future, that’s a bit much.  BTW, if you’re worried about spoilers, then you may not want to read this tome-synopsis.  Feel free to experience this load of fiction on your own.  For any that question my “place” as a new author of genre self-published fiction to review this mainstream bestseller, I’ll give a gentle reminder that I’m not reviewing this as a writer.  I purchased this novel; which promotes me to a member of Franzen’s audience.  The readers decide.

The novel begins with the long, detailed description of middle-class married couple Patty and Walter Berglund.  The earlier part of the novel focuses largely on Patty’s life.  She is the daughter of a very rich family with Democrat party connections; her mother is into politics and her father gets obnoxious when he drinks too much.  During a party, Patty gets date-raped and is understandably upset for many years following the incident, especially when her parents didn’t agree to press charges because Patty and her assailant were under the influence of alcohol.  Aside that, she is miserable for reasons not easily understood.  Later on, there’s reminiscence with an ‘autobiographer’ about Patty’s youth, when she was a star basketball player, attended college, had a druggie amoral friend, met “cool guy” Richard Katz, and meets Walter, who becomes her husband following a weird road trip she made with Richard Katz and had no intimate relations with him at the time. 

Somewhere later, the story moves to Walter, about his background, coming from a poor family, alcoholic father, deadbeat brothers, and a hard-working mother.  Walter is described as “wanting to be the good guy” and his roommate is Richard Katz.  Though having some political ideas that his friends don’t take seriously, Walter graduates from college and weds Patty.

The Berglunds have two children, Joey and Jessica.  Joey begins an intimate relationship with Connie, the neighbor’s daughter since adolescence.  Following their completion of high school and entry into college, the marriage of Patty and Walter begins to crumble; as Patty has chronic depression and alcohol use, and Walter has become a zealot in the fight for the bird cerulean warbler and against overpopulation.  He befriends his twenty-something assistant of Asian-Indian descent, who is his disciple and his latter love interest.  

Somewhere later, the novel moves to Joey, who becomes enamored with his college roommate’s sister, while keeping his relationship with Connie, who loves him unconditionally.  They elope but keep their marriage secret.  Joey takes advantage of the opportunity to take a trip with the girl he has a crush on, but since it didn’t go as expected, he resumed his relationship with Connie and later Walter and Patty are informed.  Jessica is mentioned on-and-off as the child with no major hang-ups, did well in school, became a good youthful Democrat, but didn’t do as well after college as Joey, a Republican, who got a large salary by working as little as possible and making shady business deals. 

Walter and Patty re-locate to Washington, DC, where Walter earns a nice salary directing a trust to save the endangered avian the cerulean warbler.  Patty finally gets a job for the first time in her life in a gym, and though she is wary of Walter’s young assistant, she does not leave him.  Richard Katz re-enters their life, and when Richard revealed to Walter that he and Patty had been intimate in the past, Walter throws Patty out and begins his romance with his assistant.  Patty lives with Richard for a while, then moves to New York City and becomes independent.

Walter’s obsession with the warbler leads him to speak to groups, make deals with coal companies, and sees his ideals get embraced by his assistant, who wants a tubal ligation because he’s convinced her so well of the problem of world overpopulation.  Later Walter’s bird trust falls apart, and he travels the US in a van with his new lover (his assistant).  They have a disagreement because Walter wants to return to an old lake house left by his mother, and she travels on to West Virginia for a Woodstock-type program that ends tragically.  Walter’s efforts to change the world to the manner he sees fit grinds to a halt.

When Patty’s father dies, more details about her family and how they divide the inheritance comes up, and somewhere, details of Walter’s grandparents that died in a car accident are explained. Walter holds up in the lake house and is considered by his neighbors to be a loner and a weirdo.  Patty finally visits him six years after their separation, and neither filed for divorce.  After working out their problems, they re-locate to New York and establish relationships with their family.  Oh, and the autobiographer later gets older and menopausal.

This is not a work of literature that reads smoothly; actual it’s been the most labored read I’ve done since the novella “Heart of Darkness.”  The beginning narrates a story of a middle-class American family, with each member with their own detailed personalities, hang-ups, and obsessions.  I didn’t really dislike the characters, but their stories are told in a negative viewpoint of the author.  So what, a woman that just wanted to be a stay at home Mom has a low self-esteem?  Does that make her evil?  No. She’s whiny, but matures later on, and to me she’s no more self-obsessed than most people.  Walter is a hard-working man who strives for integrity, which is admirable.  His political zealously gets strange, as worked so hard to take care of his family, but looks upon others with disdain because they are poor and have children.  If people would just think like him, then the world would have no problems.  Well, OK; he’s eccentric, but not someone I’d go out of my way to dislike.  The kids Joey and Jessica are different brands of generation X; one is lazy but clever enough to get ahead early in life, and the other is idealistic and doesn’t gain the same degree of financial independence.  Neither of these kids is horrific; some infidelity seen in young people not overly surprising.  Richard Katz, the successful rock star-gone-has been is mentioned in many reviews of this book.  Many readers dislike him, but to me he is straightforward, doesn’t give love to others, and doesn’t pretend to, believe in himself and nothing else, so well, what you see is what you get.  I didn’t dislike Richard; I just felt the same indifference to him that he showed everyone else.

But let’s not leave out the most important character of this novel, pictured on the book’s cover and on this review: the cerulean warbler.  Now I like pretty blue birds as much as the next person; I don’t go out of my way to harm birds; albeit if one relieves itself on my car, I’m not appreciative.  I’m also a Hitchcock fan and appreciate “too much of a good thing” in the famous film “The Birds.”  This, to me, is where the author chops up the story into huge icebergs.  The politics seem to be thrown in and do not glide with the book as a whole.  In his interviews I watched, he expressed to my dismay that the environmental issues were not satire; for if it had been, I’d have called it clever.  This doesn’t mean I don’t care about these issues, but to me it’s awkward in his prose.  It’s unfortunate that this author’s passion actually weakens instead of strengthening the novel.  If he had just stayed on message, about the family’s life and experiences, and weaved the political issues into the story with subtlety instead of “in your face” it may have made more sense.  This is where Richard Yates’ “Revolutionary Road” beats “Freedom” hands down.  If not for that, this would be an interesting parallel; to have “Freedom” be the “suburban-esque” novel with a positive message in lieu of the negative message of “Revolutionary Road.”

So, my final verdict of “Freedom” is three stars.  Most of his reviews are one-two or four-five.  There’s no doubt this author can write, and just ask him in an interview, he’ll tell you.  I’ll tell you there’s no way an editor would let me get away with that many adverbs and run-on sentences; but when one’s earned a National Book Award, I suppose he’s earned the right to make the manuscript as laborious to read as possible.  What’s good about this book is the positive note in which it ends.

Mr. Franzen, congratulations on “Freedom.”  I understand it’s not easy to follow-up an award-winning piece “The Corrections,” which I’d like to read some day.  I think you’re a good writer, and possibly a great writer.  With this particular book, you settled for good instead of great.  If the ghost of Richard Yates visits you, say hi to him, as he remains the master storyteller of the American suburban family. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

On “Bang!” “Revolution,” and “Freedom:” Novels and Marriage by C.C.Cole June 6, 2011

When several weeks ago I decided to take on and do a full analysis of the bestseller “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen, typical me, I took a large bite.  By declaring that I intended to analyze and review this mega-novel, I made myself accountable to doing what I gripe about other reviewers not doing:  posting a review without reading the book.  I’ve read it, first to final page.  The full review is to follow soon.

When I began reading “Freedom” another novel sprang into my mind during the first chapter; the famous critically-hyper-acclaimed “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates.  (The film, though done reasonably well, does not compare well to the novel).  Writers herald Yates’ masterpiece more than readers, which is understandable due to the disturbing subject matter.  As I was thinking about making this comparison, I went to Google and immediately found an article that read my mind, but back in February 2011.  While at first dismayed because someone else snagged my idea, on thinking further I believe this prior comparison helps to certify my own impression of these two books.

The third book in this comparative analysis is the stylish noir “Bang!” by new author William Butler.  Like the two above, this novel is not for all audiences. However, Butler’s excellent writing skills stand up to many multi-published authors. 

What does this trio of novels have in common?  They are all set in modern American suburbia.  They all are about marriage, what the relationship means to the couple, and how that close relationship motivates each partner. 

How do these books compare, other than famous author (Franzen), almost forgotten author (Yates), and relatively unknown author (Butler)?  My ranking of the three novels, least to best, with my interpretation of the message regarding marriage below each in italics:

Third place:  “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen.  To be fair, this book is not as terrible as some are saying.  I don’t believe Franzen hates his characters; on the contrary, he saves them in the end, thus showing the reader how important the relationships of family and marriage are to people, regardless of a lifetime’s events.  Problems happen during the couple’s marriage, people separate, but for reasons beyond deep love, they find their way back together.  (I’m leaving out the political issues in “Freedom” for the review).

Message:  Regardless of what life hits us with, the people we love deep down are always with us, and the fortunate ones can find their way back to happiness after separation.

Second place:  “Bang!” by William Butler.  He’s stated he’s been writing for much of his life, so to compare this unknown author to me is not an insult to the other two.  The married couple in this noir story begins with serious problems with each other and themselves and by their best efforts to make everything in their lives worse, they succeed in derailing their lives to tragic ends, as no other destiny is possible.

Message:  Married people living moment-to-moment with twisting emotions of love/hate for each other carry self-destructive behavior to disastrous ends.

First place:  “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates.  The married couple thinks of themselves as special and capable of doing more fantastic things with their life than suburban family living.  Because of the inability of giving love from one partner, and the unwavering love from the other partner, their fantasy free-falls into a tragic reality.

Message:  We all think we’re special.  If not for these desires we would be rocks, but to act on our desires without maturity can be our undoing.

Why are these “blame it on suburbia” books so popular?  Most Americans live in the suburbs, and these stories reflect what many of us witness in our everyday lives.  While I like many genres of fiction, stories about everyday people hits us deep down, and be it a happy or tragic end, the message stays with us. 

My Review of “Learning to Fly” by author Gina Penn by C.C.Cole

I downloaded “Learning to Fly” a few weeks ago and somehow by my own disorganization the excellent writing was temporarily wandering deep in the catacombs of my laptop.  When Smashwords was kind enough to remind me that I need to read this fabulous ebook and post a review, I managed to locate it and it’s the first book I tried on my new Sony e-reader. (I’m going through a phase of trying different e-readers…one of my many hang-ups).

I devoured this very interesting, compelling written work within three hours (I reference my article on book-eating).  Penn tells a series of unrelated stories with a single fascinating, but horrifying theme: death.  I tend to back away from a detailed synopsis on book to avoid spoilers, but this book draws the reader into many ways people experience death; from knowing it’s coming soon by another’s hand, by accident, and from the standpoint of another witnessing the death of another. 

Anyone that likes a short, deep, compelling read should definitely check this work out.  It’s not comedy, and isn’t meant to be.  What it does is expose the inner fears we all carry about the end of our lives, and the affect the loss of life has on others.  Congratulations, five out of five stars!

On Finding the Comfort Zone of Erotica by C.C.Cole June 6, 2011

Like I've stated in prior articles, I've been reading Bestseller mainstream books since my pre-teen years. My educator-family favored reading period, as long as it didn't go too far off the edge. Therefore, I read a lot that I really didn't understand until many years later. I found new words that I had to find out they were "bad words" the hard way. Because this is a sensitive subject to the parents out there, let me declare I'm using the term "erotic" meaning between adults in the novel read by adult readers.

So what is the "edge" of erotic scenes in novels? Is it an adult intimate scene between two people, three, or ten people? Do the acts express what we see in R-rated films or what is imagined in Penthouse Forum? What is the purpose of vivid sexual scenes in novels, which is almost a cornerstone for most adult fiction books for the past many years?

I don't get offended by much of what I read regarding sexual content. I read it, see it for what it is, and move on. While I don't gravitate to books centered around an erotic theme, I don't see the need as an adult to drop the book into flames and run down the street screaming. To me, adding these scenes to stories brings out a significant part of relationships between adults. If people are in love/lust it's understandable to have the physical part described. Some say adult scenes in adult novels make the story more realistic, so if emotions/relationships break down, the reader absorbs more by knowing the physical aspect of the relationship.

So what of us new authors and writing erotic scenes? I describe myself as reading like an adult and writing like a young adolescent. In the Gastar series, the closest I get to an erotic scene is the kidnapping of girls for the antagonist Zermon's evil plans, and an attempted "ravishing" of Shevata by Behemeth, Zermon's half-demon-half human son (for those who have not read my novellas, let's just say he chose his victim poorly).

So am I just a prude stuffed-shirt because I don't write heavy physical adult scenes? Perhaps. But every writer has his or her comfort zone in writing the material. For me, it's easier to read it than to write it. For others, some writers try it and find they have a talent in writing adult content and have big careers. Does writing this material reflect on the character in the writer? No. The same could be said for the bladed violence in my stories, writing violent material doesn't mean that I'm stalking the alleys for bad guys to slam a dagger into.

So, new authors, again, go forth and write in your comfort zone. Erotic? If it works with the story, it's up to you. Only the author can create the story, and only the audience can give feedback to the relevance of the content.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

On Sequel Sympathy by C.C.Cole June 4, 2011

When thinking of great series of fictional books, like LOTR (which reads more like one big book to me), Harry Potter, or films like "Star Wars," when the sequel is announced, I get mixed feelings. First, I'm elated, wanting more of what the first story gave me. But, the concern of sequel let-down hovers over as well, when expectations are high. For films, a memorable ad was "Caddyshack: Better than Caddyshack 2" (something like that).

I used to scoff at sequel Hollywood films, as so many didn't stand up to the original; for example, "The Ring 2," and countless comedies. Exceptions are out there, as I'm a fan of "Empire Strikes Back." In novels, "Dune" sequels were a let-down, but "Harry Potter" stood up well. Let me define "sequel" as the second story. That's important because hindsight is always 20/20 looking back on a trilogy or more. The second book can drive the series into mainstream readers or over a cliff.

My first positive reviews for my first book, "Act of Redemption," cited the rapid-action of the story, the intense battle scenes, and the dark humor between Shevata and Zermon. So when writing the second of the four novellas, "Children of Discord," the reality of The Sequel Syndrome hit me like a stack of bricks. Obviously, I didn't want to let my fans down, but I dislike re-runs. So to keep the story moving, I took a different approach. Instead of in-sequence, I fractured the story and titled the chapters to keep the reader on track. Also, instead of the big battles, I narrowed the cast (the humans change with every novella) and used more intrigue and cloak-and-dagger sequences. The lead character Shevata is introduced at the beginning of the story instead of entering as a side character. I added a first-person narrative by Shevata to give the reader opportunity of this complex protagonist with a very dark past.

When the second book came out, my original fans were more lukewarm. What? Did I do something wrong? Were you bored, confused, offended, or all of the above? The replies were every bit as fractured as the story. Some fans wanted more big battles, some wanted the original human characters back, and others wanted more of the humorous banter between Shevata and Zermon. None of my fans said it was terrible, but each had there own idea of what the sequel should be like.

Which brings us back to the point of sequels, namely the second book. As a new author, I've learned to sympathize more with Hollywood, something I never thought I'd do. A follow-up to a popular story is every bit, if not more difficult, than the first. Sequels are a big challenge for the new author, as we walk a fine line between wanting to please everyone, but afraid of pleasing no one. What can the new author do? Make the sequel like you want to guide the story. It's your instincts as a writer to put your imagination into print, so write, let it stand, because the audience decides its worth. As the series grows, so does the audience, and while some fans may be lukewarm, others will lock in, waiting for the next installment.

So now, when Hollywood brings out "Saw XXIV" it may not be my thing, but I now appreciate the challenge of sequels.

Friday, June 3, 2011

On The Three-Star Review by C.C.Cole June 3,2011

Like other authors, I get anxiety when I know a review's coming up. While elated that someone's taking the time to read my work (with ignoring the worst outcome), I know there's a "make or break" with reviews. The dream is all five-star glowing opinions, with the nightmarish one or two stars while the reviewer admits to not finishing the book!

I've read the articles that mention the "shill (or shrill...my blog lingo is off) reviews" when friends and family do glowing reviews with no other reviews on amazon. I do understand the point, but for a new author, think about if friends/family didn't do a review for you? Outside of not wanting to post a review, if your mom doesn't like your work, it can't be good for the psyche of the new author. I've learned with time, proper promotion, and networking, reviewers are out there and do great work. Helping hands are hard to find at first for the new author, so what if your mom, best friend, or co-workers post a review? What does one expect, NYT?

Four and five star reviews are as easy to understand as the one and two star ratings. What about three stars? Does that mean "it's good, the author needs to grow some" or " it's good , but for a specific audience" or " it's really not that bad." This may sound petty, but for the new author, everything said about the work the writers feels every word. I don't know if the hyper-sensitivity goes away, but hope to find out on my writing journey.

Reviewing books has helped me understand the standpoint of reviewers, and I highly recommend it to new authors. Not only is the new author giving an opinion, ge/she is reading more. I've found reading to be the most helpful way to improve writing skills, and some experts say doing reviews gives new authors some of the credibility they need.

So when I get a three-star review, I try to think of why I give a three star review. Usually it's something about the content that didn't snag me I to the story, though the step-back, big picture the work is good enough not to label "bad.". As I've stated before, I'm a content reader, but other readers are very grammar-sensitive, which can cost a star. Some of my three star reviews, the reviewer clearly states that some of the story is confusing, too short, to fractured. A reviewer shouldn't be attacked period, unless they admit not finishing the book. (I could go into Ms Howlett's on-line meltdown, but whoever hasn't seen that should see what NOT to do with a negative opinion).

I appreciate my three star reviews. Sure, I'd like it to rate higher, but reality is we're all different, with variable interests which keeps humans from being mindless rocks. When the experts say authors should expect a scatter of ratings, and that only makes sense, how can one novel impress everyone? The same could be said of music, art, and other creative endeavors. So, new authors, keep writing, and if your worst review is three stars, consider yourself blessed. If your mom posts a nice review, thank her for the support. And last, thank the reviewer for doing unpaid work that's not as easy as it sounds. The world is no more perfect than the new author.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bang Noir: Act of Redemption: The First Gastar Book by C. C. ...

Bang Noir: Act of Redemption: The First Gastar Book by C. C. ...: "Two hundred years has passed since assassin Shevata killed the last of the Abbian priests. As a result, Zermon, a demonic foe of Sheva..."