Changes

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As you can see, the leaves are changing colour here in Japan. But there are some other changes happening, and some I need to do.

What’s happening has a lot to do with my daughter. She’s approaching three years old, and the biggest change is her ability to speak. She’s getting more conversational all the time. She’s also getting quite defiant when she doesn’t get what she wants.

There are some things I’d like to change, though.

First, I want to change how and when I write. Any moment I have alone, I should try writing, unless I’m too tired. Mornings when I’m by myself and lunch breaks at work may be the best.

Second, I need to get more reading time in. I tend to read only on the train and sometimes during lunch breaks. I should read at night before I go to bed. I’d get much more read. Maybe I’ll make my 30 book challenge next year.

Another change is that I want to spend more time in the countryside. Trees would be nice.

And so, here are some maple trees for you.

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What do you want to change in your routine?

Hugo and Nebula Award Idea

I have this great idea for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.  It’s an idea that lit up in my mind a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been unable to stop thinking about it.  This is going to take a while to do because there are so many years that these awards have been given out.

Oh, this is such a good idea, I’m gleefully cackling to myself.  Well, not really, but just imagine I am.  Oh, but I won’t be telling you what it is.  I need to protect my idea.  Oh, yes.  My preciousssssss idea.

You’ll see what it is soon.  Those nasty Hobbitses won’t steal my precioussssss.

Journey to Ariadne – Part 3: Dilemmas

It’s finally available for you to read. Part 3 of Journey to Ariadne is here! What you see is not the final version. This is basically a first draft. What will be published will likely look very different than this. I hope you enjoy it!

Jay Dee Archer

May 21, 2163

Ariadne Project Mission Control

Hellas City, Hellas Basin, Mars

 

Paolo read the report for the third time. The news agencies on Earth confirmed it, an attempted coup on the ruling government. However, it had been crushed. People were desperate. I shouldn’t read bad news in the morning, he thought. He turned off the computer screen and saw his reflection. The past two months had been exhilarating, but the dark circles under his eyes reminded him of the stress he was under. He was thinner. He wondered if a person could die of exhaustion. He turned and walked out of the office.

“Breakfast is ready,” said Irina, as he joined her in the dining room. “This should give you the energy you need for today’s meeting.”

Paolo looked at the table and saw the porridge, buttered bread, and fried eggs with a cup of coffee. He…

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Authors Answer 4 – Dream Interview

It’s the final question of the first month, and it has been a big success.  Last week’s question had a great response from both the contributors and readers.  This week, I asked the authors a question about asking authors a question.

microphoneQuestion 4: If you could interview any author, who would it be, and what question would you ask?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

This is actually a tough one because, although I have several authors in mind, I don’t think I would want to meet any of them. You see, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to meet their heroes, because that’s how heroes fall from grace. Call me cynical if you like, but I think that if I met any of my favorite authors I would leave the conversation thinking that they were total jerks, or too crazy even for me to handle.

That said, if I had access to some of the best (in my opinion) authors out there, my question would be: “How do you do it? How do you force yourself to sit down and write every single day, whether you want to or not, regardless of what else is going on in your life?” Because that’s the big thing, I think, the thing that holds many of us back. I have a full-time job, a husband and a daughter, and lots of other responsibilities in my everyday life, so it flummoxes me how some authors find the time to just sit down and not rise again until they have a thousand or more words. That is the wisdom that I would like imparted upon me.

S. R. Carrillo

Anne Rice! She wrote so many dark, disturbing stories, and people love her for it. I’ve only read one or two myself, but the kinds of things this woman’s created make me wanna know more about what goes on in that noggin when she writes.

Paul B. Spence

If I could interview ANY author, I would ask Roger Zelazny, “Do you like the band King Crimson?”

Linda G. Hill

If I could interview any author, I would have to choose Anne Rice. I’d lover to know where her vampires came from, and whether or not she knows them in real life.

Jean Davis

I would ask George RR Martin how he keeps so many plotlines straight through his Song of Ice and Fire series, especially considering all the years it has taken to write them.

H. Anthe Davis

Eek…  I’ve never really thought about this.  Maybe I would interview Robin Hobb, and ask what kind of insane deal she made in order to be able to describe characters’ mundane lives with such skill and grace that they’re as interesting as any cinematic fight scene.  Seriously, there’s magic involved.  I’d swear to it.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Can we hypothetically interview authors from the other side?  Because I would love to interview Isaac Asimov.  The one question I’d want to ask more than anything is “How were you able to write so much?”  It’s been said that he had writer’s block once and it was the worst ten minutes of his life. (Harlan Ellison)  I envy that kind of productivity.  Meanwhile, I’m sitting on a 3 year old manuscript that isn’t finished.

D. T. Nova

There are several dead authors who I’d like ask “What do you think about (adaptation or derivative made after their death)?”, but if I only had one question I think that would be a waste.

Actually, there is something I’ve always wondered. Isaac Asimov famously came up with the Three Laws of Robotics and wrote a lot of stories where they were mentioned, many of them actually based on issues involving the Three Laws. So I would ask him why he seemed to avoid getting any use out of conflicts between the Second and Third Laws, or really, much in general involving any potential problems with the fact that the Second Law requires a robot to follow orders from any human being.

Caren Rich

Really, do I have to narrow it down.  Let me think:  Mary Kay Andrews, J.R.R. Tolkien, ….  I would love to go antiquing with Mary Kay Andrews.  My twisted brain would love to have a tea party with Stephen King to discuss the craft of writing.  I think anything longer than tea would be too much, he really scares me.   Tolkien wins.  That may sound odd to you, because I don’t write epic fantasy.  But I love Tolkien and the world he created.

I can see it now.  The two of us sitting in front of a stone fire place, drinking tea, while a storm rages outside.   Honestly, I don’t have specific questions I would ask him.  I am interested in his process of world building.  I’ve read a little about how or when he was writing Lord of the Rings, but not much. The amount of world building he did is just mind boggling to me, and I want to know more.  I want to know what little secrets he has that aren’t in the books.  Actually, I just want to live in Middle Earth.

Amy Morris-Jones

As any true introvert would have to admit, the thought of interviewing anyone makes me a bit nauseous! I’m just going to pretend this is an email interview so my stomach will relax, if that’s okay with all of you!

With that out of the way, I’m going to reach back into history a bit to interview Charles Dickens. Most people come to Dickens by way of torturous high school English classes, and they’re very glad to be finished with him. Admittedly, I felt that way a bit, too, when I first read A Tale of Two Cities in high school. I couldn’t believe how long it took Dickens to describe the simplest things and just wanted him to get on with it already.

I came to greatly appreciate Dickens’ use of description and his storytelling after that first encounter, but what really captured my interest was the final book he wrote, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens actually died before the novel was complete, leaving the world to wonder who killed the eponymous character.

As with many great mysteries, writers have tried to finish Dickens’ work, choosing from a host of possible suspects described in the book. However, no one knows for sure “whodunnit.” So, if I had the opportunity to have an email interview from beyond the grave with Charles Dickens, I’d begin by asking him to tell me what he had intended the ending of the book to be. I may also have to ask him if he knew a “Princess Puffer” in real life, as she’s the kind of character who sticks in a person’s brain long after the book ends.

Jay Dee Archer

I’ve already interviewed some authors, but if I were to ask a single question to one of my favourite authors, I would ask one who is no longer with us.  I’d like to ask Anne McCaffrey a question.  She’s famous for her Dragonriders of Pern series of novels, and she initially got me interested in worldbuilding.  I’d like to ask her, “How did you come up with the idea for Pern?”  This is something that interests me for any fantasy and sci-fi author, but since she was the one that inspired me to make my own world, I want to ask her.

How about you?

Now on to you, the reader.  Who would you like to interview, and what is the one question you want to ask them? Last week’s responses were great.  I look forward to your answers this week.

Negative Reviews

I know a lot of reviewers won’t give a negative review of a book.  If they didn’t like it, they’d just leave it and review the books they like.  I can understand why they don’t give bad reviews.  They don’t want to hurt the author, they don’t want the author to get angry at them, or they just want a feeling of goodwill and happiness on their blog.  Well, I do reviews of books I don’t like.

In fact, I just wrote a review yesterday and gave it 2 stars.  While 2 stars doesn’t mean I hate it, it means it wasn’t something I enjoyed much.  But you see, I don’t write reviews that are totally negative and go on about how much I hate it.  I state what I thought didn’t work for me, but I also say what is good.  If you’ve read my review from yesterday, you’d see I was positive about some things. And even if I don’t like a book much, I still recommend it to people who might enjoy it.

Book reviews should also be about the book, never about the author.  I don’t talk about what kind of person an author is when I review the book.  They could be a terrible person, but have a great book.  I’ll say the book is great.  It could be a wonderful person, but a book full of problems.  I’ll point out the problems, but also say what went well in the book.  The author is not the book.  It annoys me when I see reviews for books like Ender’s Game that go on and on about Card’s beliefs and because of his stance on homosexuality, his book gets 1 star.  I don’t understand that.  That is flat out lying.  I’m an honest person.  Even though I don’t agree with Card, I still enjoyed Ender’s Game and Speaker for the DeadXenocide not so much.  My reviews show what I felt about the book.

If you are an author of a book I didn’t like, don’t take my review as an attack.  I like to give constructive reviews.  As I said before, I say what I thought worked well for me in the book.  I also say what I thought didn’t work well for me.  There could be improvement.  But I’m pretty sure many authors don’t read reviews.  However, Alastair Reynolds did read my review of Revelation Space. Probably the best-selling author that has read one of my reviews.  He told me so.

I will continue to do reviews of books I don’t like.  I don’t intentionally try to read books I don’t like, I’d prefer to spend my time reading ones that I enjoy.  However, I will continue to be honest about what I felt about the books.  But I will not resort to insults and ridiculing.  That’s not helpful.

What do you think?  If you are an author, do you read reviews of your books?  And if you are a reviewer, do you give negative reviews?  I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.

Book Review – The Somali Doctrine

The Somali Doctrine

Author: James Grenton

Series: Standalone Novel

Genre: Thriller

Published 2011

Review Copy: Free eBook

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

Goodreads Description

A lone man lies disfigured and dying by the roadside in the arid plains of northern Somalia…

Thousands of refugees are found massacred in a camp next to the Ethiopian border…

A convoy vanishes on its way to distribute food aid…

Rumours circulate that Somali militia are responsible, but Interpol agent Jim Galespi suspects the truth is even more sinister. Sent undercover to Somalia to investigate, he soon finds himself pitted against the two madmen who have taken control of Universal Action, the world’s largest NGO.

Galespi’s quest to uncover the truth about Universal Action and the unfolding tragedy in Somalia throws him into the centre of an international conspiracy that threatens to engulf Africa and the Western world.

From the deserts of Somaliland, the slums of Nairobi and the ruins of Mogadishu to the plush hotels of Cape Town all the way to the UK government in London, the race is on to stop disaster from striking again.

And again.

And again.

Intricate and fast paced, The Somali Doctrine is an intelligent action adventure in the vein of Michael Crichton.

Review

The Somali Doctrine is a thriller and the debut novel of James Grenton.  Grenton has a background in international development, so it seems logical he’d choose to write about a non-governmental organisation that is supposed to be helping a poor nation develop.  So, he chose Somalia, which was probably the worst country to be in at the time.  In this case, it’s the NGO that’s gone bad, and Interpol is brought in to try to clean things up.

So, we have Jim Galespi, Interpol agent.  He’s a good guy with a past that haunts him.  He infiltrates Universal Action to try to catch the bad guys, the ones who run the organisation.  He’s an honest person with good knowledge in armed and unarmed combat, a good disposition, and the quintessential hero type.  Let’s say he’s this book’s version of James Bond.  Then we have Harry, the man he’s after.  Harry has no morals.  He doesn’t even have one shred of decency.  He is one hundred percent evil monster.  He is the typical bad guy, like in James Bond.  Then we have Maxine, the beautiful woman employed by the NGO who has taken a liking for Jim, though we’re never quite sure which side she’s on.  She’s the typical Bond girl.  Oh my.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was getting a James Bond type adventure here.  No, they aren’t the same, just seemed a bit stereotypical.  Jim was likeable, Harry was easy to despise, and Maxine tried to be the character we could sympathise with.  Unfortunately, I felt the characters were quite flat.  Jim was okay, but Harry was so stereotypically the evil bad guy that I really didn’t care.  Maxine was so hard to figure out, I didn’t find her developed well enough or consistently enough.  All the other characters in the book were inconsequential in the end, but they did support a bit.  However, these were the three important members.

The setting is all over the place.  Lots of international travel between Somalia, Kenya, South Africa, England, and so on.  Everyone was traveling, actually.  The main location was Somalia (or more specifically Somaliland) and Grenton did a decent job of making it seem dry, dusty, and desolate.  I felt the atmosphere throughout the book, and it was done pretty well.

The story is another matter.  There was a lot of action, of course.  Jim got captured again and again and again.  He got away every time.  It seemed like that’s what most of the story was.  There was a strong hate between Jim and Harry, though neither would tell why until the end (it’s actually quite easy to figure out, as the hints are obvious).  The dynamics between Jim and Maxine hint at a possible romance, but it was difficult to figure out if anything would actually happen.  The part with the French journalist wasn’t my favourite part, mainly because the character himself was a complete asshole, I felt.  He seemed to have no clue about how to behave and completely oblivious to the consequences of his actions.  Realistic this was not.  However, it was full of action, which some people will be happy with.

What do I think overall?  On the positive side, the action was good.  The setting was done well.  On the other hand, the characters were stereotypical and flat.  I felt nothing for them. The story was predictable and filled with cliffhangers that were explained away at the end of the chapters.  That completely killed the suspense.  For the action alone, that may satisfy action fans.  But for me, this wasn’t my cup of tea.  I like more depth in a story.  This book didn’t leave many mysteries, they were just too obvious.

I would give this two out of five stars.  Recommended for fans of action thrillers, but not for others.

Pseudonym or Real Name?

I’m sure every author has to decide this some time.  Do you use a pseudonym or stick with your real name?

I guess there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  If you use a pseudonym, you can have a degree of privacy.  It also allows you to write different genres under different names and keep them separate.  If you’re a best-seller, maybe you won’t be recognised in public.  Disadvantages?  That’s a tough one.  Maybe it feels like it’s separate from yourself, even though it is you.

As for using your real name, I think it’s closer to you.  It is yours, not your pseudonym’s.  And when people meet you, it really is you.  You’re not known as another name, so they can actually address you with your name.  I think it would feel strange if people addressed me with a different name.  But on the other hand, you’re easier to find online.  Less privacy.

In my case, I’m using my real name.  It’s a fairly uncommon name, but not a difficult one.

What do you think?  Do you have a pseudonym?  Or do you prefer to use your real name?