Monday, December 22, 2014

Now I'm Hooked on Science Fiction Thanks to Hyperion By Dan Simmons

All I can say is wow.  It has been a long time since I've become so enthralled by the story within a novel that I spend the entire day reading.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I read all the time, my rate being about 100 pages a day, but normally, I can set the book down without a problem after those 100 pages, my reading appetite sated, mind knowing that the story will still be there when I return the next day.  That wasn't the case with HYPERION by Dan Simmons.  From the get go, I was hooked, and had it not been for the fact that I was working during the reading of the first two hundred pages, I probably would have finished the book in two days rather than three.  Even more amazing, this novel is categorized within a genre that I don't typically venture into: science fiction.  In fact, I don't think I have ever sat down with a novel that was categorized as such.  Horror, mystery and sometimes fantasy; those were the sections one could typically find me in during the days of Barnes & Noble and Borders.  Science fiction . . . I can't even picture where that section would have been back in the day when those stores held dominance over the lands.  Now, that is going to change, though not with Barnes & Noble or Borders since they are both gone from my area.  Instead, I will seek out the science fiction section at Half Priced Books, which is, I must say, the greatest bookstore ever.

Note: Stay tuned for a future post on why Half Priced Books is the GREATEST BOOKSTORE EVER!  

Where was I?

Oh yes, Hyperion by Dan Simmons and my enjoyment of a title that would typically be classified as science fiction.

For the record, I've never had any issues with the science fiction genre; I was just never drawn to it.  Starships, planetary exploration, coming in contact with beings from other worlds (unless in a horrific War of the Worlds type of way), mining asteroids and comets . . . none of it appealed to me.  Why?  I don't know.  Instead, I wanted to read about serial killers, haunted houses, vampires (when well done), zombies, and epic fantasies that took place in worlds as seen in Game of Thrones, The Wheel of Time, and The Lord of the Rings.  What I never seemed to realize, or at least acknowledge, was that, while drawn to the elements that made up those genres, it was the characters and the author's writing ability that enthralled me, and, if either was lacking, it wouldn't have mattered how many elements of the horror, mystery or fantasy the book carried, I wouldn't have enjoyed it.

Enter an author named Dan Simmons.  Given my love of horror, I bought one of his novels titled Summer of Night during the my senior year in high school, a period of time that saw me expanding my horror interests beyond the pages of King and Koontz, mostly because . . . well . . . I had read everything by them that was available.  A week later, I was hooked.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find many of his books, the tiny horror section at the local Borders only carrying Summer of Night, Children of the Night, A Winter's Haunting, and Song of Kali.  Once read, I moved on to other authors that I had discovered, ones with names like Clive Barker, Brian Lumley, F. Paul Wilson and Tamara Thorne.

A few years later, while working a security post and reading a book a day while on duty, I found a new Dan Simmons novel titled The Terror at the bookstore, which I loved.  Coincidentally, Christmas was right around the corner, so I mentioned to my mom that Dan Simmons was one of the authors that I enjoyed, and, upon her request, wrote down the titles I already owned so that she wouldn't accidentally double me up on any books come Christmas morning.  List in hand, she went to the local book store and asked a clerk if they could point her toward any Dan Simmons' titles they had.


By asking a clerk where the titles were, she discovered that Dan Simmons' titles could be found in multiple sections and bought me every title she could find, four of which were Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.  

And then I never read them . . .

I don't know why, because by then I was being really adventurous in my explanation of titles that were beyond the genres I typically enjoyed, so it obviously wasn't any issue with the fact that they fell outside of my comfort range.  Instead, I think it was due to that adventurous exploration and because I had gotten so many other titles to read, many being within the fantasy and historical fiction categories, that the Hyperion novels got lost among the stacks.  What's odd is that I did read all the other Dan Simmons titles I had been gifted, so why I didn't grab these during that period is a mystery.  Whatever the reason, I missed them, and then, as happens when you move frequently and have limited bookshelf space, boxed and buried them.

Until last week . . .

Hungry for something new to read, I contemplated venturing out into the holiday crowds before work one day (I do a 12:30 - 9:00 shift at a roadside help hotline when not writing), but then, realizing that such a setting would drive me mad, decided to see if I could find anything within my boxes of books that have been longing for the days when I will once again have bookshelves (I'm in the process of buying a house with my brother that will hopefully allow for such shelves come mid winter of 2015), and, what do you know, discovered my Hyperion collection.

Intrigued and thinking such a book would fit perfectly into that 'something new' category I had been longing for, I brought it to work and, once the calls died down after my dinner break, began reading, and, with the exception of when calls came in during that evening and the next, and the need for sleep, didn't stop until I was finished with the book.  The story was, simply put, amazing.  I loved everything about it, the futuristic aspect, the humans that, while having explored and colonized other planets, still felt like people I could meet on the everyday streets of the present world, the mixing of technology old and new, the familiar conflicts between religions that have evolved with time while still harboring the story-lines and myths that remain at their core, and the mystery surrounding the Time Tombs and creature known as the Shrike on a lightly colonized planet known as Hyperion.  Most important, I wanted to know why the main characters were all chosen to go on a pilgrimage to the Time Tombs to see the Shrike and what their meeting, if they survived the journey, would mean for future of humanity.

And now, I must dive into the next title, The Fall of Hyperion, which will continue the story began in Hyperion, many of my questions having yet to be answered.

I also must find more books and story-lines with the science fiction world, because, given how fantastic this one was, I now feel as if there are hundreds of worlds and story-lines awaiting my exploration, worlds and story-lines . . .

. . . that I will share and recommend on this site when they enthrall me the way Hyperion by Dan Simmons did.  Also, if you all have recommendations on authors and series, I'm all ears.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Guess The Author Behind the Pseudonym - The Sniper by Jack Cannon

Okay, so I'm guessing this little game I'm going to start playing with my website viewers will be fairly easy given that you can just Google the name, but, what the heck, I still think it will be fun.  It might also help steer readers toward books they didn't know existed that were written by authors who they enjoy.  In fact, that is really the point of all this, because, if you're like me, you love reading everything an author has written, even if it is something they published long before they became popular; something they may even cringe about now.

I have no idea if Nel . . um . .I mean . . . the author . . . behind this novel cringes when seeing this title.  In an introduction for another novel that introduces one of his most beloved characters, he wrote: I never wanted to use a continuing character in my novels, though I did start my writing career that way with a homicide detective who appeared in a number of paperback originals that I wrote for fun and not profit.  Hmm . . . does that mean he cringes?  Maybe, maybe not.  All that really matters is that he had fun while writing them.  That, after all, is the main purpose behind writing.  Having fun.  Of course, the money that it can bring is nice too.  Knowing someone else enjoyed something you created is also great and always brings about a warm glow.

Speaking of fun, I think I'm going to have fun reading this one, and the novels that follow within this continuing character story line.  With a cover like this, how can I not enjoy it?  Even better, here is the back cover description:


As sirens wail in the heat of a city night, an over-burdened police department is up against a crime wave that's spreading like blood from an open wound.  Joe Ryker is a cop from the old school.  Homicide is his job.  Murder is his life.

He's one man with a rifle, choosing his victims at random, killing with the cold skill of a pro.  Detective Sergeant Ryer is going in after him: into the sleaze and decay, into the night.  Somewhere in the panic-stricken city the killer and the cop will come face to face -- and a last deadly battle will be waged . . .

Oh yeah, I'm totally sold.

So . . . any guesses as to who the author behind these Joe Ryker novels is?


Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Covers, New Imprint, New Website (Coming Soon)

Print editions are now here!  That's right, having spent the last three years making a living from the ebook versions of my novels, I finally decided it was time to get print editions available for those that like something to hold.  Okay, actually, I made that decision last year, but then, time and time again was horrified by how horrible the print editions looked every time Amazon sent me a proof, which is when I decided it was time to hire a professional book artist and designer to take over and produce printed editions that I would be happy, rather than embarrassed, to see sitting on a bookshelf.  The results so far:    

Now, a big part of making those printed editions look right was the need for there to be some sort of logo or imprint name on the spine, which resulted in the creation of Darker Dreams Media.  At first, the name and the logo that I had designed was just that, a name and logo, but now, after seeing what so many other independent authors have done, I've decided to make that imprint official by buying the domain name, registering the company, and, once it is completed, having a website.  At the moment, the imprint will be for my work only, but, in time, I may expand it to include works by other authors who want to join in.  All that is for another day, however.  Right now, the main focus is getting the site up and running.  I would also like to get a distribution plan in place so that stores can easily stock my titles.

In addition to that site, I'm also going to be having my author site (this one) completely revamped, starting with the banner, which, given the type of writing I do, should have more of a horror next door feel to it rather than a supernatural one.  I would also like it to be more social media friendly, while not being so over the top social media friendly that it looks like I'm begging people to share every little aspect of the site onto their own social media pages.  Such displays are really annoying, in my opinion, and something I just don't want.

So, those are the things I've been working on during these past several months, things that are finally nearing completion.  In addition to that, I'm also doing the rewrites for my next novel BLIND EYE, and working on the first draft for CRYSTAL CREEK.  In fact, just yesterday I finished the first read through of BLIND EYE and was really pleased with the narrative flow, and how it all played out.  Work still needs to be done on that title, but not as much as has needed to be done on previous titles that were in first draft form, which is great.  Even better, I can totally see several more books following the characters of that novel, one of which is already completely laid out in my mind and will be written following my completion of CRYSTAL CREEK.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

BLIND EYE - First Read Through Completed

Finished my first read through of my new novel BLIND EYE and really enjoyed it. After spending nearly a year writing this one, with several stops and starts due to that new 'working a job' thingy, I was a bit worried about the narrative flow, but, aside from three spots that need to be tweaked, it clipped along nicely and all came together perfectly at the end, which is always a relief.
Now, from here, the next step will be to tighten those three spots that dragged, followed by a second read through, all while working with my cover artist on a look for this one, a look that will help set this title and the two others that will follow, apart from my other, stand alone titles.
Of course, given that I'm also courting publishers with this one, I may not end up using the cover my artist will design for me, but hey, I like to be prepared to do it all myself if things fall apart . . . cough Dorchester cough JIMMY cough . . .

Monday, November 24, 2014

German Edition of JIMMY Ebook Available; Print to Follow

For those that have been eagerly awaiting the release of the German language edition of JIMMY, I have good news.  It is available!  Actually, it has been for about ten days now, in ebook form, the print edition to follow on December 10.  Click here to be taken to the Amazon German edition page for JIMMY, and click here to go to the Festa, the German publisher that released the German language edition.

Now, for those of you who are interested in how this edition came to be, let me share with you a few details.  A little over a year ago, I received a Facebook message from the editor of Festa asking if I would be interested in working with Festa on releasing a German language ebook and print edition of JIMMY.  Facebook message, that's unusual for such a query.  As it turns out, Festa had tried to contact me earlier via my regular email, but, for some reason, my spam filters marked it as, well, spam, which I didn't realize until I went digging around my various email folders looking for the original message (this also happened with an inquiry about being an extra in a movie that I would have loved to work on, which is why I now check that folder everyday).  Looking at the Festa website, and seeing the list of horror authors they've published, I was instantly interested.  A few weeks later, contracts were signed, advance against royalties paid, and the translation process initiated.

Wait, all this happened last year?

Publishing a book is not something that happens overnight, even when the manuscript is completed and ready for publication.  Add in the process of translation, it can take quite some time.  Thus, a year passed before a date was set for the publication, one that was set for December 10, 2014.  Little did I know, the ebook edition would come out a month before that (Google translate doesn't always give me the best details), and before I knew it, I was tagged in a post announcing the release of the German language ebook edition of JIMMY, a post that received more likes and comments than any announcement on my own Facebook page when my titles are released (hmm . . .).

Seeing all those likes, I crossed my fingers that sales would be good, and then, before the day was done, saw that the German language edition of JIMMY was ranked within the top 100 for horror on the German language Amazon site.  That was on November 14, and it has been within that top 100 category this entire time.  Even better, it has slowly but surely climbed toward the top during that period, and while it hasn't yet cracked the top 10 (number one - fingers crossed), it has been hovering between the 30 and 50 ranking, which is fantastic.

Even better, Festa has expressed interest in my other titles, manuscripts of which have gone out.  Whether or not they will want to buy the rights to them remains to be seen, but if they don't, I'm sure I'll be able to find other foreign market publishers for them given the success JIMMY is showing.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I Wish Amazon Would . . .

You know what is one thing that I really wish Amazon would implement into its publication platform: the ability to see how many unique visitors come to my book pages everyday. With this information I could better understand how effective the marketing for my work outside of Amazon is compared to the book page itself. For instance, if I saw that I averaged 100 potential readers visiting the page a day, while only averaging 10 sales a day, then I would know something needed to be changed on the page itself to make the book more attractive to those who visit the page. However, if only 15 potential readers were visiting the page everyday, and 10 of them were buying the book, then I would know that the elements on the page were effective while the marking beyond Amazon needed to be addressed.  Such statistics are not difficult to implement; in fact, Amazon already has them in place for members of the affiliate programs, which I use, so why something like this is not available through the publication platform seems a bit odd.        

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Did You Know . . .

Did you know, if someone is sliced open while being electrocuted, the blood will continuously spray out from the wound rather than just giving an initial spurt followed by the trickle as it oozes out due to the way the heart reacts when being zapped.