Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: Ebook Publishing Secrets

This is a good book for beginners in the ebook publishing industry. The author uses an easy to follow, conversational tone throughout, which makes it a quick read and a great book for those not already familiar with ebooks.

In the back pages, there is a list of fifty other marketing and ebook related books--a great resource for those who want to dive deeper into these subjects.

The book itself doesn't go very deep. As someone who has already published multiple ebooks, and is well into the marketing process, this book didn't tell me much I hadn't learned elsewhere or through experience.

Some of the suggestions the author gives are not the best options out there. For instance, I have found more affordable (and arguably better quality) bookmarks and business cards than Vistaprint offers. I also pay a minimal, yearly fee for my professional website, while he suggests a host with a much larger monthly fee.

A little more research is needed--either by the author or by the reader--but I do recommend this for those just starting to publish ebooks.

This book was given to me in exchange for this unbiased review.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Author Interview: Don Richardson

Today we have an interview with Rivershore Books' author, Don Richardson, with a focus on his first book, Spiritual Invented Creation. His second, Scripts to Recovery, was published earlier this month.

What are the names of your books?

Spiritual Invented Creation and Scripts to Recovery.

Can you give a short summary of your book?

My book is about seven years of my life that defined who I am today. How I’ve survived cancer, additions, family deaths and tragedies, and witnessing my best friend’s death. 

What genre is your book?

Who is your book’s audience?
I believe the book is for anyone who is in a hopeless place. It’s for anyone who needs help. It’s for people who can relate to all or any of what I’ve gone through. It’s for people who need motivation to stand and fight for their life and who they are in God.

What first inspired your book?

Not to sound cliché, but God. He’s given me a testimony that has taken me to many places most people don’t know how to deal with. I didn’t write the book for my own fame and fortune, but for God’s hope and truth.

How long have you been writing, and why did you start?

I wrote on and off since about the age of 10. I started writing seriously a little over three years ago (January 2010). When I started writing seriously I was in the midst of quitting drinking. I went from drinking and running away to writing, which taught me to face problems head on. I rarely saw any clear answers, but venting was my newfound freedom.

Where do you write most often?

In my room at my desk with a bright light on, computer on, piles of new paper near, and a box with dozens of pens nearby.

What are your ‘author quirks’?

My quirks probably include too many pens and way too much paper. I know that I’ll use them all and work on it every day, but I like having an arsenal of both. Also, I always have a pen and paper on me wherever I go. If I don’t, I feel naked.

What advice do you have for other authors?

Write any and everything that’s on your mind and heart. Write if you think it’s good or bad. Write for yourself, if you’re angry then write angry, if you’re sad then write sad. There are no rules, no laws, no rhyme, and no reason.

What do you do when you lack motivation?

When I lack motivation I take a break from it, I’ve forced poems and writings before, and am never happy with them. When I get writer’s block I accept it, and realize it’s just a part of being a writer.

What do you most want your readers to know?

I wrote this book to show God’s love, grace, and hope that He has in His children. Also, I personally wrote the book for myself, to sum up several years of pain in a written testimony so I could see the unwritten chapters I have left to live, and books I have left to write.

And finally, where can we find your books?

Warning: Scripts to Recovery contains swearing.

Create Space:

Rivershore Books:

Spiritual Invented Creation is also available in the bookstore at North Heights Lutheran Church, Arden Hills campus.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Grammarly Review

Grammarly offers a 7-day free trial of their premium service, so I tried it earlier this month. As a professional editor, I know the value of human judgment when it comes to editing and proofreading. I was wary about an online, impersonal editing service but wanted to actually use it before making a judgment. As is often the case, there are some parts I really like, and some I don't.

  • It is thorough and finds several different types of errors, including commonly misused words (to, too, two).
  • There is a plagiarism check option. This helps not only to be certain your writing is your own (if you wrote it, it is), but also to be sure your phrasing is unique and you are avoiding cliches.
  • Every error found includes an explanation about why it's wrong. Grammarly doesn't change the document but gives suggestions for improvement.
  • You can download a PDF of the corrections to save for later.

  • You can only review small sections of text at a time (so, novels are out unless you're willing to take the time to separate them).
  • Naturally, each section takes several minutes to review. (Still much faster than the turnaround time of an editor but feels long when you're sitting and waiting.)
  • The plagiarism check doesn't help when you use the same terms in blog posts. For example, a section of my Grammar Day post was marked as "plagiarism," since I always start and end with certain phrases.
  • The misused words are often incorrectly labeled. ("I had to go to the store" might be marked wrong, and "too" given as a replacement - even though in that context the original was correct.)
  • The above can also be said about any errors it catches...which reaffirms the need for human judgment.

Conclusion: Grammarly is a good proofreading tool. It shouldn't replace an editor, and in fact could become the cause of grammatical errors. If I didn't know grammar rules already, I might have taken all the suggestions Grammarly gave, believing they were correct in the context of my post. Some weren't.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Author Interview: Elizabeth K.

As part of her blog tour in honor of her most recent book (Traitor's Knife), today we have an interview with author of the Five Gems series, Elizabeth Kaiser.

Can you give short summaries of your books?

I've finished two so far, both in the same series. In the first, Jeweler's Apprentice, a bookish country lass, Fia, stumbles onto a court secret while trying to save the princess (and the princess turns out to be in no danger at all). To get her out of the way, the Chancellor sends her on an apprenticeship to a high mountain jeweler, but he is unaware that the civil war in the neighboring kingdom is spilling over into the jeweler's house.

The sequel, Traitor's Knife, picks up where JA left off. When the loyalist cause enlists the mountain house into a weaponry, we find our apprentice Fia confronted with refugee children, a disturbingly upstart former messenger, and accidents happening everywhere. Are saboteurs out to nix the weapons works, or is it the incognito crown prince they're after?

I'll be reviewing Traitor's Knife soon. So far I'm enjoying it!

What genre are your books?

I'd classify them as Fantasy, though they're very Low-Fantasy, and a lot of feedback I receive says that they feel like Historical Fiction. I love that, since I want to bring a lot of realism and down-to-earthiness to the Fantasy genre.

In fact, readers say they wish my settings were real, 'cause they want to visit! Super love that!
Who is your books’ audience?

I'd like to say everyone with an imagination! Primarily I'm targeting the older YA crowd, (teens-to-twenties,) but I think Fia's books would be great to read aloud to the whole family. They're a clean, streamlined narrative with enough action to appeal to a broad audience, while still being "thinking books" with great vocabulary and scope of experiences.

What first inspired your books?

I wrote the first book for my sister as she turned 16. I wanted to give her a story about an ordinary girl who, by doing ordinary things very well, ends up in extraordinary places. My sis is a stickler for cliches, so I tried to avoid them altogether in the first book. The plot heats up in the second, and it could be argued that it has a few more cliches than JA, but I think I successfully tilted them on their head enough to make them fresh again.

How long have you been writing, and why did you start?

I wrote my first piece at seven; it was from a dream I'd had. I have always had an active imagination, and active dreams, and my family didn't always want to hear about them. That particular day Mom said, "Why don't you write it down?" just to get me out of her hair, I suppose. So I did.
Where do you write most often?

I write on a computer, and I try to keep it down to one computer because things just get too confusing if I've got multiple drafts scattered hither and yon. I recently scored a great laptop off e-bay, and I'm looking forward to concentrating on that. I like silence when I write, so my room is often a great place for that. If there's too much noise coming through the wall, I can always put in a CD, though I tune out the music.
What are your ‘author quirks’?

Hmm... author quirks? I'm not sure I have any interesting author quirks. I do not write every day. Is that a quirk? My creativity runs dry, and I have to let it rest up. Then when it's good to go I can churn out the words in amazing quantities... my personal best is 13k in one day. (It did take all day. )

When I work like this I find I don't end up with much junk, so it works best for me.
What advice do you have for other authors?

I'd really like to see more realism in authors offerings... It just seems like there's so much basically "sappy" writing going on, especially by first timers, but even by people getting traditionally published. Fiction should be a mirror of real life, so that we can see things clearer after reading it.

It shouldn't be a muddling effect.

If I ruled the writing world I'd give three decrees:
1) Every writer must take in-depth psychology classes, and also undergo sessions themselves. Two reasons: you can't write real characters unless you understand what motivates 'em, and character consistency would be increased with this. I think it'd help with recognizing the writer's own breakdowns in logic as well as wish fulfillment, and leave both in the therapists office.

2) Every writer must spend at least a day and a night out in the wild, with no tech support. There is nothing that "gets real" faster than sore feet, scary noises in the dark, and sleeping on the ground while the temps drop. 

3) I'd give them a bad tempered horse to help them get back to civilization. That'd wipe out the "cute horse loves people" trope, and anybody who can work themselves around a selfish steed can now write a book I'm interested in reading.

What do you do when you lack motivation?

Sleep. Or take an iron supplement. (Every morning, except when I forget! Which I do.) Or I also read...which is lower on my priority list than I'd like it, but Real Life is very demanding at this stage. So I cope as best I can.

I also talk with my youngest sis, who is my brainstorm group, muse, and in-house editor all in one. (I know! I'm so lucky to have her!)
What do you most want your readers to know?

Wow! That's a big one. I'm not sure what to say to that. Maybe I'll just share something that books have taught me... I believe that the Lord is writing my life just as surely as I am able to write fiction, and by exploring the steps necessary for a good story I'm able to come to grips with my real life better.

Loss? Increases depth and character development.

Disappointments? Building up for the payoff later on.

That crushing moment when everything seems hopeless? You guessed it, False Defeat!

Ha! Gotcha buddy! I know my Author only writes victories. So go False Defeat on somebody else... while I pull myself together.

After all, I do want to be the best story I possibly can, right?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Scripts to Recovery: The Origin by Don Richardson

Rivershore Books is excited to share our newest book, Scripts to Recovery: The Origin by Don Richardson!

This book of poetry (by previously published author of Spiritual Invented Creation) shows in stark honesty the highs and lows of the author's struggles with alcohol, tragedy, cancer, and faith.

Warning: This book contains swearing.

Available on Amazon for $18

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: Monster

I approached this book with a little trepidation. Monster sounds like the title of a thriller—a genre I tend to avoid. The actual genre of this book is something like dystopian, realistic fiction, with perhaps a little science fiction. It’s difficult to place it, since I hadn’t read anything quite like it before.

Set in 2053, Neal paints a realistic (if undesirable) future. The story begins in a medical facility in Alaska, and follows a brilliant young scientist, Eva, as she receives a promotion in WorldCure and is given a chance to run tests and experiments on one of the facility’s subjects. Her goal, and the supposed goal of her employer, is to find cures for diseases. There are darker motivations at play, however.

For a book that takes place in the future, Neal did a great job of keeping the advancements (or regressions) believable. Nothing seemed too far-fetched, from the technology to the declining morals.

Although it’s not my favorite genre, I’ve read and seen enough futuristic fiction to know authors are easily tempted to exaggerate some of the advancements we’ll have. For example, the hover cars in Back to the Future are supposed to be here in 2015. I suspect that after these next two years pass, I’ll still be waiting for mine.

There wasn’t anything like hovering cars in Monster. The new technologies Neal introduced were very small, subtle differences from what we currently have: things I can picture actually occurring in the next forty years.

It wasn’t the technology that drew me into the novel, though. There is a depth to her characters that was immediately noticeable. She has a talent for observing little but important details: those pieces of a person that give you a glimpse into who they are. The way she captured the quirks, flaws, and beauty of the characters was wonderful. I fell in love with her characters—Mir in particular—and they kept my attention through all 400+ pages.

A little warning: there are some violent parts throughout the book, and descriptions of unpleasant medical procedures, mainly within the first half. The scenes themselves are short, but for me they left a lasting impression.

Neal is skilled at descriptions. No matter where her characters went or what they were doing, I could clearly picture the scene. I have never been in a medical research facility (hospitals don’t count), but if I had any artistic talent, I could draw WorldCure. The way the scenes are painted gives the reader something to imagine without bogging us down with too many unimportant facts.

But arguably the best part of the book—at least, the part that has me replaying it over again in my mind days after I’ve reached “the end”—is the fact that the topics within it are far from “fluff”. Monster brings up deep, thoughtful subjects such as faith, humanity, and how to balance scientific facts with improvable beliefs. Neal handles each one of these excellently and naturally, with realistic discussions, mainly in the form of debates between Eva and her professor friend and mentor, Pocky. None of it seems forced, and none of it seems “preachy”.

Every once in a while, there comes a book that captures the reader so much, it stays with them long after they’ve put it down. These are rare but wonderful. Monster is one of those books.

The paperback and Kindle versions are both available on Amazon.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review.