Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book review: Defining Zach

My friend Vonda Frampton has written a YA novel entitled Defining Zach, and she asked me to review it for Amazon. Writing honest reviews of friends' books can be touchy; how do you write something less than positive without putting your friendship at risk? In this case, the book is fine, though YA isn't what I usually read. My only issue, I told Vonda, is that at times it seemed a tad preachy in spots. She graciously accepted the comment.

Here is the Amazon review:

Zach Patterson wants to dazzle the world. At thirteen, he will try the most daring stunts he can think of, as long as witnesses are on hand to verify his derring-do. Hurtle in his toboggan off a ski jump at the risk of life and limb? You bet. He hopes one day to match the great Evel Knievel. There is the problem of slipping grades in school, though, and the fact that his stunts don't win him all the acclaim he feels is his due. Worse, he must deal with a menacing classmate named Gary, whose personal problems make normal growing pains seem like a picnic. Their mutual hatred drives the plot to a different level than first seems apparent. Author Vonda Frampton understands adolescents well, and she understands how to build the tension in a story. What looks at first like a normal YA tale turns dark and potentially deadly as the underlying conflict becomes clear. But Zach often hears a Voice that no one else can hear, a guardian angel who tries to nudge him away from complete disaster. The angel has his hands full. 

Defining Zach will appeal to mature pre-teens and young teenagers and to their parents. Sometimes the life lessons are laid on a bit thickly, which might put off a few readers, but those lessons are right on. Parents of young children will certainly appreciate this well-written book as a reminder of how hard it is to grow up.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trying out Scrivener

I'm sitting on my sister-in-law's deck in New England, 2400 miles from home, waiting for the mosquitoes to leave and my older brother to arrive from New Jersey. Meanwhile, I have been trying out Scrivener to write my new novel. The actual writing will still be in Word, but Scrivener seems like a nice tool for building the elements, including characters and plot points. Plotting has always been a problem for me; I get it done, but usually the hard way. Let's see if this software makes it any easier. At least I'll know what scenes to write.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Jean Henry Mead's Murder on the Interstate

I just finished reading Jean Henry Mead's Murder on the Interstate on my Kindle today, and I recommend it as a fast-paced, lively read. Two little old ladies--well, they're about 60, which from my vantage point is still the flush of youth--have the rather odd and dangerous hobby of solving murder cases. Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty are toddling along in their RV when they discover a car that's gone off the road. They stop and discover that the driver has been shot dead. Soon they realize that as witnesses they become targets themselves. Eventually Dana's daughter Kerrie gets dragged into the adventure as well, making the case a family enterprise. The women are relentless. Between the fact that "A beautiful young woman died needlessly" and "It got personal when he tried to kill me as well," the bad guys ultimately don't stand a chance.

At the beginning, it looks like an ordinary murder case, but our heroines soon learn that they have uncovered a plot with national implications. What first seems like a relatively light mystery turns dark and tragic, but the women never flinch and remain in the thick of the trouble right to the end.

Mead's road mystery made for a good summer read as I took my own RV road trip this week. It's a nice addition to my Kindle library.

Friday, August 05, 2011

How he sold 1 million ebooks

Today I am re-reading How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! by John Locke. Some of this short book comes across as a salesman's cheerleading, but that's fine with me. He does get down to specifics that seem both possible and sensible, and his book is well worth the $4.99 I forked over. By all means self-publish, he suggests, and decide on your target market before you begin writing (Now he tells me!). Then price your ebook modestly, but at a price where people who don't know you will readily take a chance. His novels are all 99 cents each, which obviously works for him. He claims not to be a great writer, although it's perfectly fine. Writers need for their writing not to "suck" and for their stories to be entertaining; meet those two criteria and follow his marketing advice, and you'll probably sell some books.

There are so many people wanting to make a buck off wannabe authors. The other day I saw an 11-minute video where someone was offering his publication secrets, stuff the big guys supposedly don't want the little guys to know. The video itself offered absolutely nothing of substance, but promoted its $400 package that would tell you everything. When I published with iUniverse, they once tried to sell me a $20,000 publicity package, honest to God. 

You can pay hundreds for email campaigns that blast a message about your book to a half million book buyers, or for advertisements or press releases. As my New Jersey brother would say, fuggedaboutit! Don't waste your time and money. Just buy Locke's book for five bucks. Read it, underline the good stuff, and re-read it. Then go follow his good advice.