Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blog Hopping 3/30/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. I've been out for a week or so, devoting my blog time to working on some guest posts instead, but those are done with, so I'm back on the trail. Reviews for Bonds of Fenris should start showing up next week, which I'm psyched about! And BTW, there are still ARCs of Bonds of Fenris available for book bloggers, so if you're interested. my e-mail's right there on the sidebar!

This week's ice-breaker for Feature & Follow:

"Do you read one book at a time or do you switch back and forth between two or more?"

One at a time. My time is often short, you see, and one is all that I can handle. Even if I had more time, however, I'd probably still do just one at a time. A lot of book bloggers read two or three books a week. More power to 'em for having the endurance, but I believe that a good book should be savored. Reading too fast is like devouring an ice cream sundae in one minute. You've rushed through the best part of your meal, and now you've probably got a headache, too.

And while we're on the subject, YES YES YES, I am working on getting my review blog back on track. Trust me, I'll have something new for you soon.

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"If you could gather up a handful of book blogger friends to spend a weekend away talking books, where would you go? Tell us about it."

Huh. Well, that's kind of a silly question, isn't it? I mean, if all we're going to be doing is hanging around talking books, then any place is as good as any other, since the fun is in the people we're spending time with. Honestly, I'd have them over at my place, because if we decide to go out some time, I know where the fun is. I live in the area, after all. I know the off-the-beaten path places where interesting things are. I know the great restaurants, and the scenic areas where writers can get inspiration. There's adventure everywhere, you just have to know where to look.

That's all for this week. Have fun hopping!

Stuff coming

If you're worried because I've been quiet around here, you should know that I've actually written quite a few posts lately. You just haven't seen them. I took a week to really work on some guest posts that I promised some fellow bloggers. They're done now, though, and should be showing up soon. I'll link them when they become available.

Early reviews for Bonds of Fenris should start trickling in this Monday. I've asked most of the ARC recipients to hold off until May, if possible, but that to post at their convenience. I expect that there'll be a small pop next week, then a steady trickle up until May, and then it's open season.

BTW, if you're an established book blogger and would like an ARC, they're still available. Just e-mail me.

Going to be a busy April. Better get my taxes done now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Blog Hopping 3/17/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. I continued to have problems this week trying to get the Bonds of Fenris ARCs ready, but things have finally gotten sorted out. In fact, by the time you read this, the ARCs may well have been sent out. I also offered up my opinion on John Carter, which unfortunately hasn't done as well in theaters as it deserves to. Y'all better not forget about it in all the Hunger Games hoopla, y'hear? Before I forget, there are still ARCs of Bonds of Fenris available for book bloggers, so if you're interested. my e-mail's right there on the sidebar!

This week's ice-breaker for Feature & Follow:

"What is the best book you’ve read in the last month? What is the worst book you’ve read in the last month?"

Ugh, for the second time in two weeks, I've been slacking off my reading this year! I'VE BEEN BUSY, OKAY!

Alright, alright, I get the point, I'll get back to my reading. Sheesh. In the meantime, I'll talk a little about something that wasn't exactly bad, but a definite misfire:

That's The Legion of Shadow (as you may have guessed). It's a gamebook. For those of you who weren't around in the 1980's, gamebooks were kind of like the missing link between D&D and the modern cRPG. Interactive adventure stories consisting of branching narratives under control of the player. If you've heard of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, that's the basic form. More advanced books, such as the Fighting Fantasy series, also incorporated RPG mechanics like character statistics, inventory, and combat.

DestinyQuest is a much newer book, self-published by the author. It's been getting a lot of press in the gamebook community, much of it deserved. It's innovative in a lot of ways. For one, it's a huge frakkin' book, roughly the reading length of three or four normal gamebooks. It's got a detailed yet fairly simple combat system. It smooths over the rough edges of the format by incorporating cRPG-like concepts. It's got an epic, if fairly standard plot, carried off with good writing.

It's also, in my honest opinion, no good.

DestinyQuest completely and utterly misses the point of what gamebooks are supposed to be about: challenging the reader's decision-making skills. The story is essentially a maze that you navigate by choosing the protagonist's next action. Your goal is to reach the end. In some books this is easy, others require you to map them out to find a single "true path". But DestinyQuest isn't about decision-making. It's arranged as a series of quests and side-quests around hub locations, similar to a cRPG. Your goal in any given quest is to avoid dying and pick up treasures that will boost your stats and give you additional skills. But rarely in does a quest require you to make any significant choices. You may choose to go left or right, to take one treasure or another, or face the occasional logic puzzle, but for the most part, you don't progress from choosing paths and actions. You progress by winning combats.

In case you don't know, gamebook combat goes something like this: You have your stats, and your opponent has his. You roll some dice to determine the outcome of a combat round. The combatant with the better stats usually wins, but the dice always have their say. Win enough rounds before your health hits zero, and you win the combat and get to continue. Fail, and you have to start the book over, though nearly everyone cheats on this point if they get frustrated enough. (DestinyQuest legalizes this practice by allowing you to just replay the specific combat instead.) Combat is the spice of gamebooks: the right amount gives it just that extra kick. But just like with a real strong spice, too much sends you to the restroom to vomit.

DestinyQuest is almost entirely combat, from start to finish. And it gets annoying really fast. Yes, it's true, there is a lot of stuff you can do in combat: I had a list of dozens of skills by the time I finished. But it doesn't solve the problem that combat in a gamebook is rolling dice until you win. So DestinyQuest is a trudge: you roll dice again and again and again until you get lucky enough to move on, and then you do the same thing in another combat sequence right around the next corner. When you're not fighting, you're mainly reading long-winded non-interactive passages where you're told what your character and his allies do next. It's both deathly dull and frustrating at the same time.

In short, this isn't a gamebook. It's a very shallow dice-rolling game. I won't be buying the sequel.

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Do you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your blog?  How has it benefited your book blogging experience? If not, how do you promote your blog? Share your twitter handle and/or Facebook link!"

No, not really. I was never too keen on Facebook; I'm of an era of the web where you made sure nobody knew anything about you in real life, so the idea is somewhat anathema to me. Plus, after that personal info scandal a while back, I wasn't terribly keen on them as a company. Twitter is okay, but the problem with it is that people expect you to keep up a steady stream of chatter. I'm of the opinion that a man who has nothing to say should keep his mouth shut. I promote my blogs mainly through these hops, cross-posting my reviews to Goodreads/Shelfari, and just trying to write interesting stuff. I also comment to other people's blogs when I can, but like I said, a man who has nothing to say...

That's all for this week. Have fun, and happy hopping!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

This is just a temporary setback.

*loud clangs and a small explosion from the back room*

*LupLun comes in, wearing soot-covered overalls and goggles that he quickly pulls up*

Okay, as mentioned before, we're having some technical problems with the ARCs. I thought I could distribute the Smashwords version for this purpose but Smashwords, in their infinite wisdom, does not allow their authors to set a release date. Just sends everything to the shelves as soon as it's uploaded.

I know, WTF, right?

So anyway, I now have to work things a little differently than I intended. The ARCs should be sent out tomorrow, but they will be .pdf only. I know I promised people I could get it to them in any major e-book format, but... well, shit happens. I have it on good authority that most e-readers, including Kindle, can be set up to read .pdfs, so it shouldn't be a major hassle. If it is a problem for anyone, I'll be glad to offer a review copy in another format, but you'll probably have to wait for release day.

On the subject: I said the release was May 7, but it looks like I can't guarantee that 100% either. I can guarantee that the book will be on Smashwords by then, but it takes time to get through to the other retailers. I'm going to submit the book to Smashwords a week or so early and hope it gets through in time, but support says it could take up to a month. So, the current schedule is, Smashwords on May 7th or somewhat earlier, other places shortly thereafter.

I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion, but this is what happens when you're publishing on a shoestring.

*pulls goggles back down and hefts sledgehammer*

If you'll excuse me...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Movie Night: John Carter

I've been waiting to see this movie ever since I saw the first trailer. I liked it, but twenty-four hours later I didn't remember half of what I saw. The only scene that really stayed with me was the last one, where (Spoiler, but you'll see it coming from the first second of the film:) John shows up alive after all and tells Ned "Find a cause. Fall in love. Write a book. Do something with your life." I don't know why that particular bit had an impact on me, but it did.

The plot feels cliche. This is to be expected: the story is literally one hundred years old, and inspired most of the imitators that made it cliche. That doesn't fix the problem. The filmmakers try to make up the difference with spectacular action scenes. They mostly succeed; this is Burroughs, after all, not Jules Verne. But they're kind of a shallow thrill. Sure, John's wild leaping about is awesome, and the fight choreography is respectable, but there's no investment in them because the characters aren't interesting. John is your standard he-man action hero, add one past tragedy for angst and stir well. The movie does yeoman work trying to break Dejah out of her role as Chief Expositor And Damsel In Distress, but doesn't quite pull it off. The minor characters fare better, but they're... well, minor characters. Sola is sympathetic, but on the sidelines for most of the film. Kantos Kan (Dejah's bodyguard, who helps John escape from captivity,) is the most likeable character in the film, and in it for all of ten minutes.

With that said, though, there's plenty to like here. The worldbuilding is exemplary, and the visuals imaginative. A flying motorcycle is a collection of gears, levers, and solar panels fashioned into something resembling a dragonfly. A suit of armor is polished metal plates arranged in sharp angles, with a splash of bright red or blue. It's cheesy, yes, but it revels in its cheesiness.

They could have done better, but this isn't a bad film by any means. I got my money's worth and will definitely watch a sequel.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blog Hopping 3/10/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. This week I planned to get the first wave of Bonds of Fenris ARCs sent out, but... there were some technical difficulties. Sorry. ;_;  BTW though, there are still ARCs available for book bloggers, so if you're interested I'm just an e-mail away!

This week's ice-breaker for Feature & Follow:

"Have you ever looked at book’s cover and thought, This is going to horrible? But, was instead pleasantly surprised? Show us the cover and tell us about the book."

Well, no. Honestly, if the cover puts me off, and I don't have information from a trusted friend, I'm probably going to just skip the book. Now, mediocre covers that belie good books, I have an example:

As you can see, it's pretty bland stuff. All in shadow, generally unremarkable. And when I picked it up off the library shelves, I was like "Eh, why not? I've got time, I can spend some of it on a disposable YA paranormal.

Boy, was I ever wrong! This turned out to be one of the better books I've read. The old vamps vs. weres cliche gets new life in this tale of racism in an alternate-history America. I gave it a very positive review, and was (and still am) disappointed that it's been largely ignored by readers. You should definitely check it out. Yes, YOU.

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Is there a particular author you wish got more recognition? Pick one author & tell us why we should read their work."

Me, because I'm awesome! ^____^

Alright, alright. I'm going to pick Jennifer Lynn Barnes, because she's awesome too.

I read a lot of werewolf books for my other blog, and there are only three authors I get fanboyish about: Carrie Vaughn and Jennifer Lynn Barnes.* Her Raised by Wolves books are some of the best, if not the best, werewolf fiction out there, and she's only just beginning to get noticed for it. Her writing is witty, her pacing immaculate, and her characters distinct and unique, including a teenage gun bunny and "the world's only metrosexual werewolf." The latest volume, Taken by Storm, is getting some good buzz, and due to make a big splash when it releases on May 22nd...

Two weeks after mine.

Oh dear. We may wind up having to fight to the death...

That's all for this week. Have a good weekend!

*Yes, I know that's only two. I just haven't found the third yet. These things always come in threes.

How do I published e-book?

I had hoped to have good news today about the ARCs. I got the finished proofs yesterday, and looking over them everything seems hunky-dory. Today I headed over to Smashwords to upload and convert them into e-book files. I figured to do the conversion, give them a quick once-over to ensure there were no formatting snafus, and send them out to reviewers tomorrow.

So I'm at the Smashwords site, going through the process and such, and I hit the point where I have to upload the actual book. I fill out all the fields, and finally get down to the big button at the bottom, which says... "Publish."

Not "Upload." Not "Next." Not "Accept." "Publish." As in, "put me on the shelves right now." I am reticent. Surely Smashwords is not going to just take my converted files and send them straight to the store, thus botching my marketing strategy? No, no, that's silly. Just in case, though, I check the FAQ to be sure. I find nothing. I mean, absolutely nil. There is no apparent proviso for uploading your book at one date and releasing it later. Nor is there any forum where such a question can be asked.

Um, okay, WTH, Smashwords? You've been around for years, how has this never come up? Is the entire indie publishing community flying by the seat of their pants at all times? Doesn't anybody do long-range planning anymore?

Well, whatever. Things wouldn't be worth doing if they weren't hard. I've sent them an e-mail to hopefully clear this up. ARCs soon, people, I promise!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cover Reveal: Bonds of Fenris

I've been waiting all week to show you this:

Like it? Because I sure do. It was created by Stephanie Mooney, a fellow aspiring writer who has a side-business designing covers for independent authors. I think this is some of her best work, if I do say so myself. It's simple and uncluttered, yet it catches the eye. And it remains legible whether it's seen full-size, or shrunk to thumbnail size.

Want more? Okay, here's the blurb:

Talia Thornwood's life ended one year ago, when she became a werewolf. She survived the attack, and the horrifying transformation a month later, but the life she has now is barely worth living. She lurks about in a filthy, run-down house, with too many werewolves crammed into too small a space. Every day is a struggle against the stress of human contact, the romantic prodding of her obnoxious packmate Pierce, and the gnawing hunger for flesh in her soul. 

She's all but resigned herself to a dreary existence on the margins of society when she meets Corwin. Corwin is a werewolf like none other. He walks among humans as if it was nothing, and can keep his wolf under control even when the moon is full. Talia's mind is suddenly opened to the possibilities before her, and the realization of how little she really knows about lycanthropy.

Corwin claims that he can teach her how to cope as he does, even how to transcend her affliction. But it will not be easy. It is a hard education that requires her to question everything her pack taught her, and confront exactly what she has become. And, more amazingly, what she never stopped being.

Bonds of Fenris is a paranormal novel by S.J. Bell, due to be released through Smashwords on May 7, 2012. Visit the author's website at . Cover art is by the delightful Stephanie Mooney, at .
And one more thing. As a new author, I of course have to try very hard to make my voice heard, and there's a limit to what I can do alone. I've been working on Bonds of Fenris for a long time, and I'm confident it's the best it can be, and I want to get the message out there. Therefore, any book blogger who wants an ARC of my book to review may request one from me by e-mail. Likewise, anyone who wants to help cross-promote with a guest post, giveaway, interview, or whatever, just drop me a line. You'll find my address over in the left sidebar.

And with this, the two-month lead-up to release begins. If you'll excuse me, I've got a few guest posts to get to work on.

Blog Hopping 3/3/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. This week was a very big week for me: I revealed the cover for my book, Bonds of Fenris!  Check it out on the sidebar! Isn't it awesome? I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. The review blog is currently on hiatus while I work on my own book, but feel free to browse the archived reviews. Have fun hopping!

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"What has been your favorite moment (scene) in a book that you've read so far in 2012? Please be kind & not include spoilers. "
Well, uhhhh... as I noted recently, I haven't had much time for reading this year. Alas. But, stretching the definition of "book" a little, I did find time to play the long-awaited indie game, Katawa Shoujo. If you're not familiar with the title or the genre, it's basically an anime-inspired interactive romance novel set in a high school for the disabled. One of the most memorable scenes is from Emi's path when she and the main character impulsively decide to try anal sex. Amidst great hilarity, they learn that it's not as awesome as the porn industry claims. ^_^

That's all for this week. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

About those announcements...

Okay, so I promised you I'd have at least two things to talk about this week. Number one was supposed to be that I was re-opening Lupines and Lunatics after a three-month hiatus. That's... going to have to wait a little longer, I'm afraid. See, when I put my review blog on hiatus, there were two reasons: one, I was burned out and needed a break, and two, my day job was eating up too much time. Somewhat ironically, I lost my day job just a few weeks later, but rather than going back to reviews while the job-hunt proceeded, I decided to get Bonds of Fenris publication-ready. Now that's mostly done and I've got free time again... and I may have found a new job.

Always at the most inconvenient time...

Anyway, that may or may not affect my plans to go back to reviewing. For one, I don't know if I actually got the job yet. I might not. If I do, depending on how things shake out, I could be able to read on my lunch break. When I was able to do that, my reviewing hobby was very productive. On the other hand, when I had a short lunch it was nearly impossible. So... I'll have to wait and see what happens. Sorry.

Number two, however, is more encouraging. I have a cover for Bonds of Fenris, and the big reveal is slated for tomorrow. I've contacted a bunch of bloggers to do reveals on their websites, and around fifteen have agreed. I'll also be posting it here, and over at Goodreads. Meanwhile, the proofing is coming along, and I'll have ARCs soon. I'll mention this at the reveal tomorrow, but just to emphasize: any blogger that wants to request an ARC of Bonds of Fenris for review purposes, contact me at the link to the left. I might not be able to accommodate everyone, so get your requests in now!