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Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Don't be a Hero by Chris Strange


Don't be a Hero is by far the best book I've read in years. And I read a lot of books: independent and the big houses.  The last time I was this impressed was Jim Butcher's  Furies of Calderon.

It will draw obvious comparisons between The Watchmen and the television series Heroes. Both show superheroes as "realistic" and "gritty". This is "realistic"; it is serious. Chris treats heroes flying around in spandex or throwing trees around as accepted reality and just tells a great story. The current trend to take the "super" out of superheroes is often works (e.g. The Dark Knight, the television show Arrow, etc.) but it is not what drew me to comics.

This is the book comic fans have been waiting for. It is everything this comic book geek could ever want in a novel.

Storyline:
It is the late 1960s in a world where superheroes are real. But the time of heroes has passed. They were loved by the public during World War II. Once the war ended, they were seen as a threat.

Two former heroes, Niobe and Solomon, work as freelance investigators. Unfortunately for them, they stumble upon the career of a life time...a case upon which the fate of the whole planet depends. All the characters have a very solid arc. Often, this type of book has a glaring cliff hanger begging for a sequel. And while there could be one, there doesn't NEED to be one.

Characters:
Niobe is a joy. She is flawed and heroic with moments of fragility and strength. The same can be said for the main villain. He never sees himself as a bad guy. He is rational, sane and very, very human. And, in some ways, I wanted to him to win. That is the sign of a well-written villain.

Worldbuilding:
A very simple device helps build a fully realized and believable world. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a government file or document that helps establish the past. Chris never wastes your time with needless exposition. Yet you feel as if you know a ton about this world.

Plotting and Pacing:
There is nothing ground breaking about the plot line. Chris Strange uses very familiar comic book tropes. He revels in it. The book is never easy to put down. Every chapter ends at a point that makes you want to keep reading.

Chris Strange

Conclusion:
I was given this book for free to review it. After reading it, I went out and paid for it. I also picked up his other novel, The Man Who Crossed Worlds. Do yourself a favour. Buy this book and tell your friends about it. Truly, an excellent book.

Buy the book on Amazon.com Don't Be a Hero
Buy the book on Amazon.ca Don't be Hero
Chris's website: Chris-Strange.com



You can read the first chapter here on Chris' website: Don't Be a Hero Sneak Peak



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Marketing 101 - Promotion Part 1



When most people think about marketing, all they think about is promotion. And not even all sorts of promotion. The average person just thinks of advertising. Well, there are actually four parts to promotion:
Advertising, sales promotions, publicity and public relations and personal sales

Goal of promotion: information or persuasion.
Some people promote to say “Oh by the way, here’s a book I wrote”. This is the wrong type of marketing for new brands (e.g. new authors). You need to be focused on persuasive promotion. Instead of “telling” the customer to buy your book, convince them.

A - Attention
I -  Interest.Once you have the attention of the audience you have to maintain their interest. 
      Show rather than tell "what's in it for them".
D - Desire. Here comes the convincing. Remember, most people are motivated by emotion, not logic
A - Action. Motivate the customer to actually do something (e.g. buy my book)



More on AIDA can be found at the following links:
AIDA Marketing Model (by Marketing Deviant)

AIDA by Mindtools.com




BOOKS BY M JOSEPH MURPHY:


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marketing 101 - Place (Distribution)



Where can people buy your product? This is an easy one for most authors: book stores and/or online. You may want to consider setting up a Paypal account so that people can buy your book directly from you from your website. Of course, then the challenge becomes getting people to your website to begin with.

For this reason, the easier place to get your book online and into the hands of customer is amazon.com.
If you want your book in the big chain stores my advice is to get an agent and a publisher. That is too much work for a writer to do him or herself. If you want to get to that level of networking you’ll have next to no time to do any actual writing.


As for other places to make your book available, make sure you are at least on Facebook, twitter and Goodreads. You should also have a website or a blog that you update regularly. If you write in a genre, find genre groups and websites online and become an active member. Comment regularly to build your brand. Take part in genre writing contests. Get yourself into genre anthologies - any and all anthologies in your genre. Find writers associations and be an active member.

And if you tell me it’s too much work my answer is suck it up. How much do you want success?

Update: Jan 24, 2013

I've recently become very involved with Smashwords.com. It is extremely user friendly and has an amazing, free guide on formatting your work into an epub. Definitely check it out if you're not on there already.

BOOKS BY M JOSEPH MURPHY:


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review - The Nightlife: New York



Damn you Travis Luedke. Thanks to you I did not sleep tonight.

I woke up at 1:00 and settled into the last half of The Nightlife: New York. It was so much fun I could not stop. And now it`s 4:41. I`m debating getting The Nightlife: Las Vegas or heading to bed.

SUMMARY
A young man, Aaron, meets a sexy vampire named Michelle. After Aaron is mortally wounded Michelle turns him into a vampire to save his life. Hijinks ensue.

REVIEW
The Nightlife: New York is a very solid, fun vampire novel. This is not the scary vampire type of David Wellington nor do these vampires sparkle. What they do is fulfil every fantasy you`ve ever had about wanting to be a vampire. And who hasn`t wanted to be a vampire at some point.

The sex scenes are super hot. You`ll probably need a cold shower or someone to help you work off tension. That`s how good they are. There is also a superhero origin element to add to the fun. The climaxes (no pun intended) of the story also hint at how brutal and violent the vampires can be.

There is also a moment where I had a vampire epiphany. Everyone knows vampires are cool; this book made me realize why they are cool.

At the beginning of Chapter 15 Aaron states:

There is then a few paragraphs where, intended by the author or not, I got very existential. People love vampires because they are not stuck in this rat-race of a life we all seem trapped in. As apex-predators they are, literally, above it all. This type of vampire novel speaks to the part of us that wants to be free, to explore the things we are not supposed to.

My only quibble about the novel is the French.  It sounds like phrases plugged into Google Translate. I tried to rationalize that Michelle was speaking an older form of French because she is over 80 years old. Still, I was taught Parisian French and I speak a bastardized Quebecois French. To my ears, the intermittent phrases Michelle uses do not feel authentic. Having said that, if you don't speak French you won't notice anything amiss.


CONCLUSION
If you like sexy vampires (or if you like sex or vampires) you will enjoy this book. I'm definitely looking forward to their next adventure.

Review for Nightlife: Las Vegas (the sequel)

Info on Travis Luedke
Travis Luedke
Goodreads:                       The Nightlife: New York
Twitter:                             .
Get the book:                    Nightlife: New York on Amazon.ca OR Nightlife: New York on Amazon.com
Get the whole Box Sets: The Nightlife Series Omnibus Books 1-4

Nightlife: 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Why "The Strangers" Pissed Me off


The Strangers (2008)
I just finished watching "The Stranger" on Netflix. I've been meaning to watch if for years now. All my horror-buddies have seen it and love it. And even though I can see why they loved it, my over all feeling is...I'm pissed.

Don't get me wrong. I loved this movie. Sort of. I mean, it's creepy as hell. I sat on the edge of the couch gripping the remote control. When my fiancĂ© pulled into the driveway, I turned on the lights and opened the door. I didn't want to jump when the door opened.  For about an hour I was panting, on the verge of biting my nails. At the end I was crossing my fingers hoping that the great movie didn't end up in the obligatory "torture porn". Mercifully it didn't happen. The end is tasteful, understated and I loved it.

And yet, I numb to the ending. I realized I was actually, strangely, furious.



Why?

I decided to write this blog to help me find out why I was so angry. It worked.

The writing and directing is wonderful. Thank you Bryan Bertino. As a writer I appreciate the prevalence of "show don't tell". There are only a few "jump out of your seat" moments. The real scares are slow. Patient. They get under your skin. The acting is excellent. It's nice to see Liv Tyler showing a different side to her acting skills. Also, Scott Speedman proves to be more than a pretty face. He is vulnerable at times, heroic at others. I like that the director chose actors known for action films and made them more human.The cinematography is excellent and the use of sounds is everything you could look for in a scary movie. Everyone is doing their job well.

None of that explains why it pissed me off so much.

I had a similar reaction way back in 2003 watching Wrong Turn. I liked the movie but there was one part near the beginning that pissed me off. Not annoyed me. It ticked me off so profoundedly I decided to re-write the movie doing and make things work out differently. It was the catelyst for my novel "Council of Peacocks". In the end, the correlation between Wrong Turn and my novel is almost unrecognizable. Just as I'm sure most people would not see the relation between Night of the Comet and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  If you don't believe me on this last connect, Google it. Joss Whedon has talked it about it repeatedly.


The Strangers is a movie based on our fundamental fight or flight instinct. The victims in this movie try to run. I am a fighter. It ticks me off when people don't fight back.

And here's where I think the difference is. There is one part of North American culture that lives a life of ease. It is very rare for them to experience horror. We look at recent events in Connecticut and it fills us with dread. But I live right next door to Detroit. Do you have any idea how often kids are killed in Detroit?  Gun shots and murder are common place. I remember taking a bus late at night heading from Royal Oak to Detroit. A guy walked onto the bus with sawed-off shotgun. Things were tense but, obviously, I made it out alive. In the same area, it was common practice at the time for bored people to shoot at passing buses.

So if "The Strangers" took place in Detroit, it would be a completely different movie. There, if some strangers are harassing you it's game on. You take those suckers down. There is no running. And there is no waiting for the police either. You deal with it.

Story: Man Shot in Bus in Detroit














The characters in this movie are so complacent. And I think that is an intentional part of the movie's subtext.  The opening scenes show well-kept wealthy homes in the country. The only hint of poverty is in the grotesque truck of the bad guys. Part of the underlying dread is the theme "even in your quiet homes bad things can happen." And just as the bad guys here never mention a motivation, in real life you may never know why the bad things happen to you.

No shit.

In large parts of the world, not to mention large areas of the U.S. the bad stuff is the norm; happy, peaceful lives are the exception.

And I think that's why The Stranger's pissed me off. The big scare is that there is no place safe. Maybe if I'd seen the movie back in 2008 I would have a different opinion. Now, after years of riots around the world, natural disasters every time you blink and mass murders happening more and more frequently, the underlying message just seems stupid.

Which makes the ending hollow and empty.

On the plus side, I have extra fuel for my current novel. This is why artists need to experience other work. Learning what we don't like can be just as important as what we do like.

Having said all that, if you like horror or scary movies, I would recommend the movie. I really enjoyed it, even though it made me very, very angry.

BOOKS BY M JOSEPH MURPHY: 


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Marketing 101 - Price Part 2


Another important decision in setting price is understanding market demand. There are four basic types of markets (e.g. perfect competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly and monopoly). I won’t go over each type in detail. Suffice it to say that writing of any sort falls under monopolistic competition.

To qualify as monopolistic competition a good must have:

  1. Many buyers and sellers
  2. There are no barriers preventing sellers to enter or leave the market
  3. Each company makes a product that is different (even if only slightly different) than the competition.
  4. Differentiation can be based on quality, marketing and price

People tend to read genre novels quickly meaning there is a large demand for genre. And there tends to be a large supply to meet this demand.  The downside of having so much supply is that each supplier has a very limited amount of market power (e.g. the ability to set prices). This means selling an ebook for $20 for most authors is going to be impossible. But if you set the price too low? Well, we discuss that in that last post.

So how do you stand out if you’re new? Maybe consider “price bundles” (e.g add some fries to that shake). Perhaps, get together with other indie writers and come up with deals for purchasing multiple books. For example:

  • Buy my book and I’ll send you a few ebook from another writer
  • Buy my book and get a free companion guide
  • Buy my new book and get the first in the series free
  • Buy my book and get free screensavers, mp3 of book being read, etc.
  • Discount for promise of review
  • Discount for published authors

BOOKS BY M JOSEPH MURPHY:


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Review - Light of the Moon by David James


Finally.

I finished this book weeks ago but I haven't been able to write a review yet. Long story short, my mother passed away December 5th. As you can imagine, life has been absolutely bazonka-nuts. Now, back to the book.

In the spirit of disclosure, I met David on Twitter (). He is the nicest, sweetest guy you could ever hope to meet. So I was worried that his book was going to suck. After reading the prologue I stopped, took a breath and read it again.

It's good. Really good.

In fact, it's probably better than it has any right to be. You will not be able to read this book quickly. It forces you to slow down, to take your time. I drank in sections like wine. There are moments when I'm reading David's writing and it feels like I'm witnessing a young  Clive Barker at work. I don't use that comparison lightly either. I dare you to read the prologue and not feel the same way.

It is a YA work and the elements in high school made me feel like I was right back there. And that wasn't the scariest part. Even though it is YA, David throws himself firmly into horrific elements in the final act that made ME cringe.

The action scenes are well-written and frantic with action. The romantic moments are quiet and tender, like the first time you tenderly kiss someone while melting in their arms.

Reading Light of the Moon made me remember that it's okay to be literary and polished artistically even if you're writing genre. I bought the e-book first. After a few chapters I realized I needed to have the physical version too. The physical version is great because it has questions for discussion at the end. And it hit me: why don't more books do this? What a simple and yet amazing idea.


In closing, Light of the Moon is a very solid, enjoyable book. Most amazing for me is the hints of what a stellar (sorry for the pun) writer David James is. We can expect great things from him.

Book on Amazon.com Light of the Moon (Legend of the Dreamer Vol 1)
Book on Amazon.ca    Light of the Moon (Legend of the Dreamer Vol 1)
Book on Goodreads     Light of the Moon on Goodreads
David James Blog        Paper Breaths of David James


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Marketing 101 - Price Part 1



Before I deal with price, let’s come to an agreement about what true value is. What does the customer feel your product is worth? If the price is less than value, they will see it as a win and keep buying your product. If the value is less than the price, the customer is unlikely to ever purchase your product again.

For ebooks you will probably use something called “value-based” pricing.  You cannot price an individual novel based on how much work you put into it. If you count up the number of hours you’ve spent toiling over one specific work and multiple that by an hourly wage…

Well you see the problem. No one is going to pay $1000 for a book.

Instead, focus on what the customer will feel the product is worth. There are so many free ebooks out there that many people will pick it up just for kicks. However, if it’s free, you set an expectation that it is disposable.  The expectation is that nothing very good is free. Because of something called “psychological pricing” you may get higher sales if you actually raise your price.

My mother was an artist before she became too sick to paint. For quite some time she had a great deal of difficulty selling her artwork. Finally, she asked the owner of a gallery why she thought the paintings weren’t selling.  Her advice? You guessed it, raise your price. She added a zero onto the price tag and suddenly her paints were selling quickly. Logical? Not at all. But it works.

BOOKS BY M JOSEPH MURPHY:


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo
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