Freebies, Update 2: The Hook Strikes Back

So, if you’ve read my previous update, you’ll know I’ve been reading through the free fantasy ebooks I’ve been hoarding on my kindle over the past few years. Most of these I picked up, not just because they were free, but because they also had something that caught my attention. That means I rejected a whole bunch of books with generic, badly-written, and/or derivative blurbs, but still only took a chance on them because they were free.

Free is obviously a popular marketing strategy from indie authors (and, actually, I’ve picked up a few e-copies of older traditionally published books recently as well), hoping to get their work to new readers in hopes of reviews and future sales. While this does work, especially if the freebie is the first in a long series, the sheer volume of free books means that a lot of them are collected and never read, and that they must be affecting sales of non-free books of similar quality.

My conclusion from the first batch was that, while mostly perfectly decent books, only a few of them had the extra elements that hold a reader’s attention (or mine, at least). The first is voice – a confident, unique style that works – and the second is a hook – an early signpost in the plot that piques your interest and hints at what to expect. These are things every editor or agent will be looking for, too, so part of why  I’m doing this is to examine what works and what doesn’t (for me) in these books.

So here’s the next group:

Fire & Ice – Patty Jansen – Still reading!

25379898Why I picked it up: I think this is from Twitter, and at the time I believed the author was hybrid, but now I’m not sure.

Verdict: Straight away, this books smacks you with authoritative voice. There is none of the wordy exposition or muddled pacing I found in other books. The world is also quite unique, with intriguing characters and immediate, obvious peril. This just about constitutes an effective hook, though the immediacy of it maybe means the reader won’t yet care about the characters enough – though they will certainly be curious. I may put it down for now for the sake of the project, and also because it is not exactly my sub-genre (on that point, I have no idea why the cover has a medieval sword!), but it definitely has me hooked!

On the downside: Fans of post-apocalyptic sci-fantasy (Wolfe, etc.) should definitely check it out, but the world may be a bit to brutal (especially sexually) for some judging by early hints.

 

Red Axe, Black Sun – Michael Karner19571425  – 51% (a while ago, before I started this blog series)

Why I picked it up: The blurb made it seem interesting, the cover was arresting.

Verdict: The writing is a bit clunky, the plot is very confused and the setting is vague and generic (with some shocking anachronisms!). The presence of stock characters and factions, combined with the way the action unfolds, makes it feel like a transcribed RPG – and not in a good way. I pushed on with it because it did seem to be going somewhere, but more and more issues cropped up, and things just got more confusing, not less.

On the plus side: Plenty of action and the promise of more, with a functional hook.

 

The Dreamer and the Deceiver – Alex Villavasso – 21% (it’s short)

21394671Why I picked it up: Sounded a bit trope-y, but liked idea of the revenge tale.

Verdict: Really, two prologues? Prologues can either work as a hook, promising the larger conflict that an otherwise slow start works up to, or just serve to confuse. In this case, it was more the latter, and the clunky start to the actual book proved the turn off. Odd choice of adjectives also, which a Goodreads reviewer described as “having a thesaurus but not a dictionary”.

On the plus side: Not sure I read long enough to find any, I’m afraid.

 

The Key – Jennifer Anne Davis18631388 – 5%

Why I picked it up: Said it was “no fairy tale”.

Verdict: Potentially interesting elements let down by clunky, improbable dialogue and too much telling in between.

On the plus side: Could get better if you can get on with the prose.

 

Chronicles of Den’dra: A Land Torn – Spencer Johnson – 6%

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Why I picked it up: Teenage boy and princess had me worried, but dragon and assassin gave me a bit of hope.

Verdict: Another farmboy in another rustic village, no doubt with special powers. Even more cliche is the wordy language, improbable dialogue and pace-killing exposition. Even the dragon didn’t save it, never got to the assassin.

On the plus side: There was an attempt at a hook…but it turned out to be a dream..

 

Magic of Thieves – C Greenwood – 23%16282824

Why I picked it up: Arresting cover, hints of Robin Hood and a female protagonist.

Verdict: A voice at last! First person is compelling, and the pace is good, but events are somewhat unbelievable – the MC has very thick “plot armour” already and that turned me off. (Also, people are “hanged” not “hung”.)

On the plus side: Not quite Robin Hood, but has potential in that direction, and you can see why it has quite a large following/readership.

 

City of Rogues – Ty Johnston – 6%

6568326Why I picked it up: Rogues-in-cities yarns can go two ways, but I liked the sound of the revenge angle as well as the secrets/mystery promised.

Verdict: It’s actually got a decent hook, but lacks the mature voice of some of the others. Also, the magic is a bit…lame as introduced so far, and the POV shifts so much I’m not sure who the book is about. No sign of any women so far, either.

On the plus side: The hook is pretty effective, promising more action and adventure.

 

The Last Priestess – Elizabeth Baxter – still reading!21852250

Why I picked it up: Had read a short story/novella by the author and found the blurb of this compelling.

Verdict: Compelling indeed, and with a confident voice and style. At first it felt like a very generic medieval world (with some French flavours) but before long you are hit with a complex and intriguing cosmology/theology and powerful magic. Suitably enigmatic characters and plenty of potential threats on the horizon promise mystery and adventure. Despite it not really matching my preferences, I didn’t want to stop reading. And I’m partial to POV discipline, so this two-hander was great.

On the down side: The story is already set up for an “unexpected” romance, if you dislike that trope. The author has a predilection for onomatopoeia as well, which you don’t often see – I found it quite fun in the end.

 

What I’ve learned

Well, I did find a few more hooks here, and a few books I would recommend, but also some more of what I’ve come to expect – generic, unpolished, not-quite-there books. Along with this, there is often an acceptance of traditional gender roles and flawed assumptions about historic realism. This occurs even in published work, but I’d like to think self-publishing was a chance to challenge and break the moulds that traditional publishing is unwilling to. Instead, I suppose a lot of these would not be traditionally published because they are not unique enough – though there’s clearly a market for the comfortable tropes and familiar stories that almost define the genre.

For example, I kept coming across is rape or threats of rape quite. I know a lot of people have strong feelings about the often off-hand use of rape in genre, especially (but not always) from the male gaze. After reading a few of these, I’m starting to see their point. It often seems that the only fate for women is sex – whether rape, marriage or seduction (and the latter two are often basically rape due to the power dynamics involved) – and I’m at a point where I want to read something more imaginative than that.  That’s not to say books can’t have sex – sex that might shock modern readers is key to Fire & Ice, but it’s by no means gratuitous – but I suppose I’m quite sensitive about how it’s used. Who knew?

 

Already read (see Update 1):

Twisted Fate – Jeremy Laszlo – 16%

City of Blaze – H O Charles – 13%

The Last King’s Amulet – Chris Northern – 19%

Shadowborn – Moira Katson – 8%

Fell Winter – A J Cooper – 4%

Song of the Fairy Queen – Valerie Douglas – 7%

Enchantment’s Reach – Martin Ash – 20% so far

The Light of Theolan – Nick Marsden – 24%

Still to read:

Glimmer Vale – Michael Kingswood

When Women Were Warriors Book I: The Warrior’s Path – Catherine M Wilson

The Seventh Horse: Shader Origins – D. P. Prior

The Weight of the Crown – Tavish Kaeden (also in the SPFBO)

Stormsinger – Stephanie A Cain – not medieval but not punk, so ok.

Skip – Perrin Briar – Clockpunk? We’ll see…

The Kinshield Legacy – K C May

A Dance of Dragons – Kaitlyn Davis

The Unwilling Adventurer – Heidi Willard

New World: A Frontier Fantasy Novel – Steven W White

The Book of Deacon – Joseph Lallo – big seller, this one

Firehurler – J S Morin

Sorcerer’s Code – Christopher Kellen

The White Tree – Edward W Robertson – another bigger indie name

Dawn of War – Tim Marquitz – and another, associated with Ragnarok Pub.

Writing: What’s Next?

Now that I’ve finished my third fantasy book (of a series set around the same events but each standing alone), I have to figure out what to do next! I’m going to let the fresh draft rest for a while, so in the meantime I can…

1) Edit and republish my old sci-fi book (my indie publisher is closing and handing us back our rights). I used it as a test before and maybe using it again to test whatever platform I use will be worth it. It’s a fun story, and I’m really fond of it, but it’s not sold really well and I haven’t put a lot of energy into it.

2) Do a final, final edit on the Book 1 (in writing order) of this fantasy set, and decide wwcoverwhether to publish or submit. It’s been out to a few beta readers, got good feedback, but I’m not sure it’s ready – how do you know? On the other hand, it’s probably as ready as it will ever be and at some point I have to let it loose. I have a cover, after all!

  • I could submit, but I worry it’s too niche and particular to my own tastes to attract much interest (I don’t like a lot of ‘popular’ books, so I don’t imagine I have written one!).
  • If I self-publish right away, am I putting an inferior product out there that just shouldn’t be seen, or admitting defeat without even trying? I have reasons for saying “No” to both of these, but I understand why it could be seen that way.

3) Do a first revision on Book 2, which I drafted a while ago and does not need a lot of work as far as I could tell from a first read-through. I’m really happy with it, and with minimal work it could be ready for beta readers (volunteers always welcome!). But “minimal work” could spiral out of control, and I still haven’t got a book out there.

4) Start writing something new. I’ve got a few more books planned for this “non-sequential series” I’ve got going, but neither is calling out to me at this point. I had to wait for a key bit of inspiration to fall into place to start the Book 3, and perhaps with a little brainstorming I could get the kernels in place to bash out another first draft. However, the last one has wiped me out a bit, and a change of gears would be welcome.

What do people think – time to finally get a book out there? Wait until I have two books ready before publishing either? Is there any value to refurbishing the old sci-fi space opera that never sold? Is it worth the trauma of a few rejections before self-publishing, just in case? Anyone interested in a beta read?

Freebies, Update 1: In Search of the Hook

So, I decided to make a start on my virtual pile of free ebooks as-and-when I could rather than all at once. I must admit, it was hard to know which one to pick up without anything to base it on beyond the cover, title, and the knowledge that I’d “bought” them at some point because something caught my interest. And I know it’s different picking something up like this rather than reading with anticipation and excitement already stoked by recommendation or reputation, but I suppose that’s what a slush pile is like, and what all of us who operate on the margins have to contend with.

So, in no roughly the order I tried them, here are the first tranche of ebooks and how I found them:

Twisted Fate – Jeremy Laszlo – 16% (must be quite short)

18700780Why I picked it up: It’s about orcs, which is unusual, and it had a few good reviews.

Verdict: Unfortunately, I found the wordy prose lacked a necessary spark. The almost-exclusive use of “was” meant too much telling, too little showing, and this may have been the reason for lack of a compelling hook, despite action. In the end, some sloppy astronomy and anachronism turned me off, and the subsequent episode with the bear-ball lost me…

On the plus side: It’s a bit like Conan with an Orc, which could work for someone.

 

City of Blaze – H O Charles – 13%24827197

Why I picked it up: Premise seemed more original than most.

Verdict: The writing is competent but, as with the below, often wordy and expository, lets down the interesting worldbuilding (largely explained in the Glossary at the beginning – not always a good sign). Unfortunately, two dudes leering at all the women is a trope I’m not into anymore (even if women also ogle men), and along with the fact that people can die both by having and not having sex, I thought perhaps it was going in a direction I was no longer interested in.

On the plus side: Those who like dangerous sex/magic and fantastic cities might find this up their street.

 

The Last King’s Amulet – Chris Northern – 19%

11946131Why I picked it up: The blurb.

Verdict: A promising start: the clear voice from the blurb, a style I happen to like, and action that moved along well for a while. I could bear with the offhand acceptance of slavery, but I became somewhat frustrated by the historical vagueness (coal, armour, books, ~18th C manners, Roman flavours, and one anachronism – back burner). The protagonist is charming but hard to like, perhaps because he is incredibly selfish and privileged. This would be okay if there was any signal the book was going to deliver his comeuppance and force him to be a better person. However, when the former layabout simply discards his former self and starts cheerfully raising an army I began to fear the Gary Stu.  Also, the exposition started to drag, crossing the line from wordy asides in keeping with the style to extraneous detail. Shame.

On the plus side: The writing is engaging, and I may yet press on to find if there are bumps in the road – it just took a different direction than I was hoping from the start.

 

Shadowborn – Moira Katson – 8%17855442

Why I picked it up: Despite suspicions it could be a bit YA for me, I’ve enjoyed the outsider-at-court intrigue before.

Verdict: Waif becomes assassin but it’s no Farseer (and I found the start of that slow). Even for a first-person account, there was still too much “telling”, and even for a YA some elements are too simplistic.

On the plus side: One of the few books on the list not about dudes.

 

Fell Winter – A J Cooper – 4%

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]Why I picked it up: I recognised the cover from another book and found the promise of Norse-influenced adventure appealing.

Verdict: Whores, check. Bard, check. Bastard, check. Foaming mead…um, what? Made it three pages through this trope-fest and knew it was not for me.

On the plus side: If you miss Skyrim, this may be for you.

 

Song of the Fairy Queen – Valerie Douglas – 7%23198511

Why I picked it up: There are lots of memorable books about fairies and fae…

Verdict: …but this is not one of them. Of all these books, this had the poorest prose, with descriptions I would expect to find in romance writing and constant point-of-view shifts within paragraphs, which bothers me. Overall seemed very confused and generic, not sure what it wanted to be or how to pull it off.

On the plus side: Definitely not a cute fairy-tale, plenty of blood and betrayal to start. And, somewhat ironically, this is about the only one that has established a plot up front!

 

Enchantment’s Reach – Martin Ash – Finished!

17695514Why I picked it up: Probably the blurb, which doesn’t really prepare you for what it actually is (though the title and cover made me slightly suspicious).

Verdict: A stylistic throw-back to the very early days of fantasy and adventure, recalling E R Eddison or Dunsany in the way Vance’s Lyonesse and others have tried. Though not quite reaching those heights of authenticity (and with a bit more ogling), it’s a pretty good effort, and even with the antiquated approach manages to get in just enough tension and mystery to be considered a hook. I will probably keep reading this one for a while longer…

Update: Almost bounced off the first (somewhat graphic) sex scene. Feminists, turn away…

On the plus side: Once you get into the style, very readable, and will find a (small) market.

 

The Light of Theolan – Nick Marsden – 24%25146664

Why I picked it up: Strong, original theology looked intriguing.

Verdict: Quite a generic, familiar beginning – children of mysterious outcast grow up in tranquil farming village – which took a while to distinguish itself. Slightly disappointing that while the boy is looking forward to choosing a profession, the girl is looking forward to choosing…a husband. Still searching for the hook…

Update: Read the first quarter in the end, which built up pretty well to a climax I just couldn’t get on with at all, so that’s where I’ll stop I’m afraid. To say more would be spoiling, but it wasn’t what happened, but how and why

On the plus side: Strong, natural voice; mixed-race protagonists; and an arresting prologue – I could certainly see this appealing to plenty of folks.

 

What I’ve learned so far…

As you might expect, most of the books so far have lacked that captivating spark of either originality or voice. They all present something intriguing (which is why I downloaded them), but struggle to deliver on it (up front, anyway). Quite a few fall into familiar tropes – bro-buddy books featuring whoring or wenching; obsession with shapely busts or buttocks; orphans destined for great things; generic, imprecise worldbuilding. Tropes have their place, but at this point I’m looking for something a bit different, and too many familiar signposts early on turn me off.

On the plus side, the quality of writing was quite competent with only a few proofing errors. However, many slipped into the trap of heavy exposition which bogged down the pacing. I might well have kept reading some of them if I had heard good things from recommendations or reviews, but without that added boost they just did not do enough to hook me (and again, I’ll emphasize the “me” in that).  It’s telling that, even 20% through some of them, in most cases I have no idea what the central conflict of the plot is!

Also, people writing fantasy seem to think a certain ornamented, wordy style is required. If you look at the published fantasy these days, that is not the case – and may give a clue why these books are not traditionally published. Ironically, the ones I liked best were the ones that wholly embraced this Edwardian style, and just about pulled it off.  However, if it’s only a few awkward archaic phrases here and there, or a fancy word for something mundane, then it’s not going to work, I reckon.

 

Update 2 now up!

The remaining list:

Glimmer Vale – Michael Kingswood

When Women Were Warriors Book I: The Warrior’s Path – Catherine M Wilson

The Seventh Horse: Shader Origins – D. P. Prior

Fire & Ice – Patty Jansen (trad published also?)

Chronicles of Den’dra: A Land Torn – Spencer Johnson

The Weight of the Crown – Tavish Kaeden (also in the SPFBO)

Stormsinger – Stephanie A Cain – not medieval but not punk, so ok.

Magic of Thieves – C Greenwood

The Key – Jennifer Anne Davis – too YA

Skip – Perrin Briar – Clockpunk? We’ll see…

The Kinshield Legacy – K C May

The Last Priestess – Elizabeth Baxter

The Dreamer and the Deceiver – Alex Villavasso

A Dance of Dragons – Kaitlyn Davis

Red Axe, Black Sun – Michael Karner

The Unwilling Adventurer – Heidi Willard

New World: A Frontier Fantasy Novel – Steven W White

The Book of Deacon – Joseph Lallo – big seller, this one

Firehurler – J S Morin

City of Rogues – Ty Johnston

Sorcerer’s Code – Christopher Kellen

The White Tree – Edward W Robertson – another bigger indie name

Dawn of War – Tim Marquitz – and another, associated with Ragnarok Pub.

The Freebies: The Contenders

So, last time I mentioned I had a lot of free ebooks on my Kindle, and I thought it about time that I did something with them. These are books that have passed my (admittedly, somewhat low) standards for free books, having something interesting about them but probably not enough that I would have paid for them without anything else to recommend them. My plan was to devote some time to reading them like a slush pile – i.e. reading them until something made me give up, and then moving on to the next.

This is, obviously, not going to be completely fair. I imagine quite a few of the books I normally read (and enjoy, even love) would fail a process like this. Some just start slowly, some have particular peeves of mine early on, and I’ve put down more than a few only to press on later due to the twin motivations of money spent and peer pressure.  From my experience, this is even more likely with self-published books, so I’m predicting quite a few of these won’t last long. I’m not really looking for a new read right now, anyway, as my TBR is enormous as it is!

That said, I have found good books and new authors this way, and I’m hoping one or two surprise me…but not incredibly optimistic. So, why am I doing this?

First, because I did “buy” the books, and feel somewhat obliged to the authors to have a look in them. Free books are used as promotions, after all, but the strategy is foiled by the tendency of readers (like me) collecting lots of free books but never having much motivation to read them. So this is my motivation.

Second, because I’m hoping to get an idea of what does catch a reader into a story, and whether this can inform my own writing. The first chapter or so of a book is vital to catch the reader’s attention, whether that’s an agent or publisher you are querying, or a potential customer checking out the Amazon sample or flipping through the first few pages while browsing in a bookstore. Sure, a lot of the time I buy a book just on reputation/recommendation, but even then those first few pages have to convince me to actually read it (which leads to me reviewing/rating it, and potentially spreading the good word and helping the author to further sales).

And thirdly, perhaps my mini-reviews of the first few pages will help the authors of these books realise what may not be working. I intend to try to be kind, and of course a lot of this will be my personal preference. I’m sure a lot of these books will find readers who absolutely love them, even if I don’t. But I’m equally sure some of them have some common problems and maybe identifying those will help.

So, without further ado (ok, one ado – I’m starting with pretty mainstream fantasy only, as it’s my taste and anything else would be at a disadvantage), here’s the list, with a few comments (disclaimer: some may no longer be free):

Glimmer Vale – Michael Kingswood

The Bite on the Line – Simon Kantan – Eye-catching but steampunk

Twisted Fate – Jeremy Laszlo (Update 1)

When Women Were Warriors Book I: The Warrior’s Path – Catherine M Wilson

The Seventh Horse: Shader Origins – D. P. Prior

Fire & Ice – Patty Jansen (Update 2)

Chronicles of Den’dra: A Land Torn – Spencer Johnson (Update 2)

The Weight of the Crown – Tavish Kaeden (also in the SPFBO)

Fell Winter – AJ Cooper (Update 1)

Shadowborn – Moira Katson (Update 1)

Stormsinger – Stephanie A Cain – not medieval but not punk, so ok.

Magic of Thieves – C Greenwood (Update 2)

The Key – Jennifer Anne Davis (Update 2)

Skip – Perrin Briar – Clockpunk? We’ll see…

The Kinshield Legacy – K C May

The Last Priestess – Elizabeth Baxter (Update 2)

Enchantment’s Reach – Martin Ash (Update 1)

City of Blaze – H O Charles (Update 1)

The Light of Theolan – Nick Marsden (Update 1)

The Dreamer and the Deceiver – Alex Villavasso (Update 2)

A Dance of Dragons – Kaitlyn Davis

Red Axe, Black Sun – Michael Karner (Update 2)

Song of the Fairy Queen – Valerie Douglas (Update 1)

The Unwilling Adventurer – Heidi Willard

The Last King’s Amulet – Chris Northern (Update 1)

New World: A Frontier Fantasy Novel – Steven W White

The Book of Deacon – Joseph Lallo – big seller, this one

Firehurler – J S Morin

City of Rogues – Ty Johnston (Update 2)

Sorcerer’s Code – Christopher Kellen

The White Tree – Edward W Robertson – another bigger indie name

Dawn of War – Tim Marquitz – and another, associated with Ragnarok Pub.

That takes us through 2014…time to stop! I’ve left off books that I’ve either read or know I’m definitely going to, a few by authors I’ve read, and quite a few sci-fi/dystopian/urban fantasies. I think there’s more than enough to get my teeth into though…now to find the time!

Update 1: In Search of the Hook – First 8 (randomly selected)

Update 2: The Hook Strikes Back – Next 8.

Indie Books I’ve Read

As I said in a previous post, I thought I’d list some of the self-published and small-press fantasy I’ve read over the past few years that have been a cut above the rest. By this I mean good writing, effective storytelling and something that sets them apart from the masses – including some big-publisher fantasy – and makes them worth reading.

I’ll say up-front that I still think the best books out there are traditionally published. Brilliant writers with exceptional ideas and execution usually get through, at least in fantasy. They also get the benefit of professional editing, proofreading, cover art and the rest, so the final product is almost always of higher quality, in my experience. However, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore indie fantasy. A slick package isn’t the primary criteria in a lot of our choices – film, music, art, clothing, cars, houses, lovers – and if everybody agreed on the best book there’d only be a handful of acceptable authors out there, after all.

As I’ve said before, indie fantasy can be a great source of new ideas and fresh voices; it can provide something you’ve never seen before, or something you’ve wanted to see again (but the mainstream has left behind); and it might just allow you to find a story that is just what you wanted to read, even if it’s not perfectly polished. There are plenty of traditionally published books I don’t want to read, and many a self-published effort that whets my appetite where mainstream fare has failed.

So, with that in mind, here’s a collection of books I’ve enjoyed and which, while none of them are 100% perfect, I’d thoroughly recommend.

Eternal Knight – Matt Heppe

T51fnvdgsc5l-_sx323_bo1204203200_his series is one of few that I read as soon as I can get my hands on the next book. It’s a great adventure in a well-realised world with memorable characters. The scope has expanded with the third book, but it’s a small-scale epic with a manageable cast of characters, fast-paced and easy to read.

What sets it apart? For me, the combination of tight focus, historic realism and honest heroes hooked me, and the third book is the best yet.

A bit like: it’s hard to say, but maybe somewhere between Tamora Pierce and Robin Hobb?

Traitor Blade – Richard Crawford

10814742I’ve mentioned this one before, but it was the book that originally convinced me of the worth of indie fantasy, especially the concept of being able to find something different that was just what you were looking for. This is set in a fantasy version of 14-15th C France, with very little (but critical) fantasy elements, and a personal rather than epic plot. The three books are very much a single narrative (one long book, even), and are far better than the covers (ironically, what first caught my eye!).

What sets it apart? The realism and scale, again, but also the fact that the characters are frustratingly imperfect yet you keep caring, and keep reading.

A bit like: another favourite of mine, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Curse of Chalion. But with a bit more angst.

Edit: it looks like a New Omnibus Edition of the book/series came out last year!

The Stone Road – G R Matthews

21996457

Inspired by Chinese legends rather than the usual western-medieval stuff, this also takes and interesting perspective on the major events. You might have guessed I prefer a tight tale to a sprawling epic, and this alternates between two characters on opposite sides of a tense peace negotiation.

What sets it apart? Besides the above, I think fact that the story concentrates on other things than fighting or magic (though there are bits of both) was particularly refreshing.

A bit like: again, hard to say – I’m not sure I’ve read anything quite like it!

 

And here are some honourable mentions:

Black Cross – J P Ashman

The Heresy Within – Rob J Hayes (since picked up by Ragnarok, unsurprisingly)

Stealer of Flesh – William King (he writes for Warhammer, and this is his own series, in a similar vein).

The Tower of Endless Worlds – Jonathan Moeller (prolific)

The Black God’s War – Moses Siregar

Scrapplings – Amelia Smith

 

Happy New Year

Well, the blog’s been dead for a while, eh? Some of that is because I’ve been spending time trying to finish my NaNo book (word-count-per-week is way down, natch, but we’re getting there), and some of it is due to the holidays (also coming to an end). I’ve also been trying to read more, which leads to the idea I had recently: why not blog about reading a bit more?

Well, mostly because I don’t think it’s a great habit for a writer (even one such as myself) to get into the reviewing habit – publicly anyway. Reviews are very important to writers, and it’s hard to hit the balance between just cheerleading your friends or contacts and genuinely pushing good books. Even if you do it, readers aren’t going to know the difference. And it’s not usually a good idea to write a heavily critical review, again for many reasons.

However, this is tensioned against the fact that as an ‘undiscovered’ author, I know the value of exposure and I am also passionate about a bunch of good books that a lot of people may not have heard about. I’ve mentioned some of them before, and I tend to share them on twitter and reddit and Goodreads as well. These books deserve to find an audience.

So, while I won’t be starting a regular review column or anything, I have a few ideas how to share some of the books I’ve found. The first is straightforward, but the second is a bit of an experiment…

First, I’ll make a list of all the indie books I can recommend, some of which are by people I know (some as a result of reading their books). I’ll admit right away that they aren’t necessarily the best books ever, but they definitely all have something about them to recommend them and are well worth a read.

Second, I’ve been collecting a lot of books on my kindle, because there are a lot of books available on Amazon for FREE. Now, we all should know the theory of the free ebook by now – it’s a sample  designed to hook readers into the rest of a series, and by many accounts it works. It doesn’t necessarily work for me: one, because I don’t read series very often; and two, because when you collect them almost purely on price, there’s not a lot of motivation to actually open them and read.

Now, I don’t collect EVERY free book I see, obviously, just the ones with a blurb or premise that catches my eye, and perhaps a few interesting reviews. However, I have a huge pile of books on my TBR anyway – recommended, reputed, professionally-published books – and I’m not sure when I’m ever going to get around to reading the freebies…unless I do something.

So, I’ve decided to devote a day (or maybe as many hours over a week) to the freebies on my kindle, reading until I lose interest, and blogging the results. This is a bit like the format for Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO, or like slush reading. Hopefully it will be interesting and illuminating, and I might even find myself a new book and author to enjoy!