Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: UnAlive by Kevin J. Fitzgerald

UnAlive is hailed as “Night of the Living Dead meets The Book of Eli.”  I had to watch Book of Eli after reading UnAlive to see if the comparison fits.  I would have to say that UnAlive is better than the comparison to Night of the Living Dead suggests, but The Book of Eli is not a bad comparison.

UnAlive starts with a decent hook; the mysterious character, Cian of the Nomos, the half-lives.  It sets the tone that something unusual is going to happen in a way that leaves you curious to learn more.

Something is happening in the world and, at first glance, it seems to be some kind of an attack.  General Pitman Grady leads the military investigation.  Dr. Kwom Thomas joined them as an unwilling guest brought in at the suggestion of Susan Grey.

Meanwhile Adam Gardner’s world is turned upside down and destroyed during what would have been a peaceful afternoon in the country with his wife and two sons, if not for the sudden withering death of the vegetation around him, followed by the movement of frightening shapes coming from the woods accompanied by terrible noises.  But this seems to be a dream and Adam awakes in prison.  We soon learn that it is memories, not a dream.

UnAlive jumps between the military’s attempts to find out what is going on in a world that seems to be dying en mass, Dr. Kwon Thomas’ The Two Natures study from his attempts to research the strange mass deaths of flora and fauna and worldwide collapse of life, an old priest, and Adam Gardner’s life in jail and flashbacks to his life before.

When the zombies, dubbed the UnAlive, take over the world, it becomes a race for survival and against extinction of the human species.  Meanwhile the Nomos, or half-lives, have their own agenda.  I would describe the Nomos as vampires before I would call them zombies. 

I was wary when I was asked to review a zombie apocalypse book.  I couldn’t help the inward groan.  I hoped for the best and was ready for the worst.  The obsession with zombies since Walking Dead made its debut has resulted in a saturation of bad zombie everything, and there have been too many bad zombie movies and books before that.  For the record, I do not dislike zombies themselves.  It’s just that the majority of zombie movies  and my few attempts at reading a zombie book have been B movie grade at best - B for B.A.D.  I do, however love The Walking Dead.  So you have some idea where my standards lie in the zombie world.  This book was worth the read.

In UnAlive Kevin J. Fitzgerald gives us a zombie vampire apocalypse with some good descriptions of faces eating themselves from the inside and some scenes that would be Walking Dead worthy if they were adapted to film by a good director and film team.  The book has enough suspense to draw you deeper into the story.



UnAlive is self-published by Kevin J. Fitgerald and is available on Amazon and Goodreads.

You can follow Kevin J. Fitzgerald on Goodreads and Facebook.




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Sunday, March 22, 2015

What Can Be Harder Than Being a Writer?

What can be harder than being a writer?  Being a Canadian Writer.

Of course, there are other countries that similarly have their own challenges when it comes to writing.


As Canadians, much of our experiences are influenced by our neighbors to the South.  Most of our online feeds are filled with U.S. content.  Our world news feeds tend to be dominated by their news events.  Our own Canadian made movies and television content even seems to be lacking in comparison to what is available on U.S. television, with the notable exception of Vikings, which is a Canadian/Ireland co-production filmed in Ireland and written by Michael Hirst, and Englishman.


If you search publishers, both large and small independent publishers, literary agents, book printers catering to the relatively newly accepted (and still growing out of the slop-heap of disdain by non-self published writers into acceptability) self-publishing writers, you get long lists of possibilities.

The problem is that almost all of them will be South of that border that is not only a barrier to free movement of people back and forth (you have to line up and make offerings by way of showing your passport and answer questions that make you feel like you are interviewing to join some special and secret club to pass in either direction to visit your neighboring country), but also is a barrier to the simple and free movement of joining the ranks of going from some guy or chick who wrote a book to being some guy or chick who has a published book.

That’s great if you are a U.S. citizen, not so great if you are Canadian.


The Canadian publishing market in all ways seems almost non-existent compared to our neighbors to the South.

We have a handful of just a few literary agents, compared to the much larger population of them over the border.  Although, in recent years it seems that most of the U.S. agents I followed online have moved on to other forms of employment.  (Could the literary agent be a slowly dying breed?)

Odds are, any attempts to contact and court one of these very few Canadian agents in the hope they will consider you as a client will be met with … nothing.  They won’t even bother to take the time to respond because they are very few.

Similarly, getting a response from a publisher if you are a U.S. citizen sending query letters to a U.S. publisher are about a thousand times more likely to receive no response at all than a polite rejection.  And a thousand times more than that likely to not receive an invitation to send your manuscript.


The Canadian market for authors seeking publishers is the size of one of those little nubby things on a new car tire compared to the number U.S. publishers of various sizes (the whole tire being all the U.S. publishers).

Canadians are notoriously charged more for most things than our U.S. neighbors are too.  Everything from clothing to food to raw materials to services like book printing cost more North of the border.  If it is shipped to Canada, you can pretty safely assume the price was hiked because they can get away with charging more.  That makes the both the cost of living and the cost of doing business higher than it would be otherwise.  Books and other printed material are one of the products where this is obvious.  In Canada, books must list the Canadian price too, which is always considerably higher.

 That means you can expect to pay more for any services associated with publishing and being published, and having to charge more for your books to recover your expenses.


So, what is a Canadian writer to do?

With the added challenges of trying to be a Canadian published writer, your odds of success are likely none to something North of there.  If you have not made a name for yourself to attract the attention of Canadian publishers and agents, it’s going to be like finding intelligent life on another planet, seemingly forever out of your reach.

Your best chance is to open yourself to markets outside of Canada.  But that too has its own set of challenges.  You can be published anywhere in the world, as long as you are not actually being paid for it.


Being a Canadian writer published outside of Canada and being paid for it is a whole new challenge, especially if you prefer to not be taxed by both countries on that income.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Don't Take the Phisherman's Lure

I've noticed a new breed of phishing scammers lately.  They've gotten more sophisticated in their attempts to trick, cajole, and outright scare you into falling into their trap.  The emails are written by someone fluent in English and are even doing a pretty good job of mimicking the company they are pretending to be.

The scammers of old seem to have fallen away, those all too predictable and obvious pathetic attempts with poorly spelled words, atrocious grammar errors, and the glaring obvious that they know very little of the English language and are completely oblivious or just don't care.

As published authors we have to put ourselves out there, always marketing and schmoozing online like the girl at the young teen dance who so desperately wants to be asked to dance, but no one seems to notice her in the corner behind all the other girls desperate to be asked to dance.

The problem with making yourself visible to as many others as possible in the hopes that just one or two might actually buy your book, is that you are also making yourself visible to the spammers, phishers, and hackers.

Apparently a phisherman of this newer breed noticed me on Amazon.  I suddenly am getting all these urgent messages that my Amazon account is in dire peril.

How do I know it phishing?  It's not that hard to figure out, really.  Just be smart and stop and think before you panic and click that link or give any information.  And when in doubt, just back out.  Stand up and take a step back and close that email.  Picking up a phone to call customer service (if they have one!) will sort it all out.  If they have no real people working for them, then go to the actual legitimate website and contact them with all the details.  They will no doubt tell you that you just got phished.

Keys and tips to protect yourself from phishing:
1.       Don't make your email public.  Really, how many of your "fans" need to email you?  There are safer ways to do set that up.  Do you think Stephen King put out his private email to the public?  Not a creepy clown down the sewer chance!  Of course, that's sometimes easier said than done whenever media site defaults to publishing your email.
2.       Use multiple email accounts.  Use a spam email for social networking sites where you know you are likely to get spammed by the site or phishing scams.  Never use the same email that you use for banking and other important business.
3.       If the email is asking for personal information, bank account or credit information, passwords, or for you click a link to log in securely - IT'S A PHISHING SCAM!  As soon as you log in through their link they have your username and password, giving them full access to your account.
4.       It doesn't matter what the account is: your bank, Facebook, Paypal, Amazon, etc  they will never contact you asking for you to click a link and provide information that gives access to your account.  They will instead direct you to visit their legitimate site to access your account securely or contact them.
5.       Check the IP or senders email.  Big red flag: all the Amazon's calling and your account is in grave danger and has been shut down emails are coming from "noreply@amazon.ca".  Now here's the dead giveaway: the sender's email shows up as "noreply@azon.ca".  But that is almost Amazon you say?  Yes, but do you not think a multi billion-dollar corporation would get that right?
6.       Did it even come to the right email address? I've had plenty of warnings that my bank accounts are in imminent danger.  Usually the first giveaway is that it's a bank I don't have an account with, or sent to the wrong email. 


The phishermen may have gotten smarter and more sophisticated, but common sense is pretty smart and sophisticated too.


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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Author Interview: Ben Hale


Ben Hale, author of The Second Draeken War series and The Chronicles of Lumineia series joins us so we can dig a little into the psyche of a writer.

 
Let’s join Ben in this author interview.

 

1. Is there an author or book that inspired you to write, whether to become a writer or just to write a specific story?

Not one specifically. However, when I was a kid I read a lot. One night as I fell asleep I decided to come up with my own character. It turned out to be a relaxing way to fall asleep so I kept doing it. (Twelve year old problems are so stressful, I know.)  This practice became a habit that continued for almost fifteen years. By then I was married and my wife asked me why I fell asleep so fast. I responded by telling her I had a story I thought about. At her request I began to tell it. It was the first time I had voiced the ideas, and I was quite surprised to realize how much there was. In spite of her prompting to write it, I did not feel that writing was within my skill set. Fortunately she overcame my hesitation and the next thing I knew I had started Elseerian. Because I'd imagined it in such detail it was easy for me to write, and within a month I realized that the story I'd thought of would not fit in one book. The Chronicles of Lumineia began with a single idea and now spans ten books, two series, and ten thousand years.

 

2. What is your last story and what made you want to write it? What was the inspiration, the drive that started the idea for it?

The last story I wrote was The Forge of Light, the end of my second series, The White Mage Saga. It could be compared in some respects to Percy Jackson or Harry Potter but there is a marked distinction in its scope. I always liked the stories of magic being hidden in our world, but was curious what would happen if it became public. What could compel mankind to believe that magic was real? Who would be strong enough to unite the magical world with the normal world? I also wanted to explore a blending of a fantasy book with real world military elements. The series contains mages that fly and stunning magic, and yet characters that are navy SEALs and a former marine sniper. The combination is hopefully unique and fun to read.

 

3. It is the age-old debate: scene setters vs. seat writers. What is your writing process like? Do you outline extensively, carefully mapping out your story ahead, or do you just go with the flow writing as it comes to you?

I am certainly a planner over a blurter. My outlines span thousands of years, multiple series, and hundreds of characters. If I didn't outline it I would lose track, and the story would ultimately crumble. I also practice what I call layered writing, which means there are more layers to a plot than are first visible. For example, one of my more subtle plots will ultimately span several multi-book series before finally being tied into the overall story. Hopefully it will make the story exciting on subsequent reads as readers discover hints and connections they had not noticed before.

 

4. We all know names hold a certain amount of power to give us all a pre-judged idea of what a person is like. You want to hate someone just for having the same name as a despised ex, a strong sounding name makes you think they must be strong, and a name like Poindexter, well you get the idea. How important are your character names to you? What resource would you recommend for someone having trouble finding names?

A term I frequently use is, "The impression given is more important the text used". The name does not matter as much as the connotation of the name. I choose names that inspire images of innocence, evil, or morality, to name a few. Since coming up with names on the spot can be difficult I have become a collector of names. When I need one, I go to my list and look for one that fits the character. Google and a thesaurus are always good backups.

 
5. Each writer has their favorite type of scene, the kind of scene that just flows naturally for them. Is there a certain type of scene you find hard to write?

When I started writing, conversation was difficult for me. It was hard for me to write it so it did not feel stilted. Writers that excel in conversation can bring tension and intrigue without drawing on the conflict in the scene, but that was not my strength from the beginning. Part of my problem was due to a lack of vocabulary. As my vocabulary has grown I have found that writing conversation is easier. Now I'm happy to say that writing conversations are much easier after ten books.

 

6. If you could give only one piece of writing advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Write, write, write. Set a goal to write every day and stick to it. It doesn't matter if it's a couple hundred words or a few thousand. Consistency is what matters. Professional writers maintain a pace. Also, if I was to choose a second most important item it would be to edit, edit, edit. My first book I edited 24 times before I published it, and I still think it's not as good as I would like. It's good to remember that there is just as much creation in the editing as there is in the writing.

 

7. What is your best do or don’t marketing tip?

Time is the most precious commodity for a writer, so don't waste it. I've met authors that are engaged in endless marketing of a single book, and end up writing very little. The more you write the more you have to sell, and the more your marketing efforts matter. Keep your marketing time to a minimum by remembering one thing; a book release is the biggest marketing event you can have.


 
8. What is your pet peeve when it comes to writing? It could be about any part from the writing process to publication, marketing, fans, etc.

The perception that it is free. With indie publishing it is now possible to publish for free, but that does not mean the preparation is. Invest in an editor, cover designer, and if needed, a book coach. It costs money to do it right because you are investing into something. The lack of knowledge and quality can cost you a career as a writer.

 

9. Reviews can drive writers to distraction; looking for them, yearning to get them, and scared of getting them. At the same time it takes a certain kind of reader to put themselves out there and actually post a review. How do you go about encouraging your readers to rate your books or stories and post reviews? How do you respond when you get a negative review?

I make an effort not to solicit reviews. That said, I do request one if someone has said they liked my books. The unfortunate truth is that reviews carry a lot of weight—especially the negative ones. Some reviews are given because the reader didn't like you, or they read a couple of pages and tossed your book aside in favor of another interest. The good news is that reviews tell you things, and you should listen to them. Even the bad ones give you an idea of how your writing is perceived. Again, perception is more important that the actual words—and far more important than the idea itself. Your idea as a writer may be stunning, but it will not matter unless it is perceived as such.

 

10. And finally, the question every author’s fan wants to now: What are you working on now? What is your next published project going to be?

I haven't announced it yet, but I have started a new trilogy in the Chronicles of Lumineia. I will say it follows a fan favorite, and that he is a rock troll. Feel free to post a guess on my facebook page! I hope to write and publish his trilogy this year. With five kids and starting a Masters program, it's going to be a busy 2015 for me. Good luck to all of you in your own works, and feel free to contact me if you are looking for a book coach.

 

You can find Ben Hale and his books on his Amazon author page.
Visit Ben Hale’s website at The World of Lumineia








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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis by Lene Andersen





Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis by Lene Andersen is raved as an insightful resource for people living with rheumatoid arthritis.

 

Check out this review  of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis written by Wren on RheumaBLog

 

 

Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo books, iBooks, Smashwords, CreateSpace

 

 

Lene Andersen blogs at  The Seated View


 

Lene and her book can also be found at:
Lene’s Amazon Author Page
And
The Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis website

 


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