Posts Tagged ‘audio book’

There’s a reason why one of the first lessons in the art/business of fiction writing is to read, read, read. Long or short, in or out of your preferred genre, good or terrible. Reading the works of others, even if the story is not to your taste, can give you new ideas, show you what to avoid in your own stories (*cough* the orgy scene in It *cough*), and sometimes how to write something you didn’t know how to write before.

Let me tell you a story right now: as many of you know, I’ve become a big ballet fan since last year. Consequently, a lot of ballerinas and dancers have been showing up in my story ideas lately. It wouldn’t be too crazy if I had to write a dance scene or dancing someday in the future. I figured it would be a good idea to find other stories where dance features prominently, in the hope that from reading about dance there, I might pick something up. I asked one of my writers groups on Facebook if they had any suggestions, and one woman recommended a book to me that sounded good, so I downloaded the audio book onto my phone and started listening this week.

The book, Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson, follows a young ballerina’s trip into the world of professional dance, while at the same time she encounters a particular aspect of that world’s dark side that changes things for her forever. It’s not horror, but it’s decent so far. And I have gleaned a bit about describing dance steps in prose, while at the same time learning a bit more about ballet culture (I had no idea ballerinas were called “bunheads.” Seems obvious now, but I didn’t know it until this week). And while I expected those, one thing I didn’t expect to find is a lesson in a type of character:

The story’s protagonist, Mira, seems on the outside to have it all. Her family doesn’t abuse her, she’s talented at ballet and has an upward-moving career. She even has a sort of mentor/sponsor in the form of Maurice, an older balletomane. She also seems to be mentally and emotionally all there. However, ballet and Maurice are really an escape for her. Her parents divorced rather suddenly; her airhead mother is a mess who can’t pay bills and takes in a creepy boarder; her dad is in a relationship with another woman who’s also in a divorce, and it’s moving a little too fast; and all this occurs after seeing her parents’ marriage erode for who knows how long. All that can really mess a kid up.

I’m sure even more will mess her up as the story goes on.

Mira’s a type of character I don’t see very often: one whom no one, not even themselves, would see as troubled, but is deeply troubled nonetheless. She’s a perfect example of this character type, the “seemingly untroubled troubled person.” I don’t know if there’s a proper name for this type of character like there is for others, but that’s the one I’m going to go with. And she’s teaching me quite a bit about writing this sort of character.

So like I said, reading a diverse amount of work can teach you all sorts of things that you can apply to your own writing. Sometimes you even learn things you weren’t expecting to learn, like how to write a certain type of character, or writing about a complex war in another world, or even just some random facts about Spanish history, religion, evolution, art, and technology (looking at you, Dan Brown). Sure, you might find some stories you’ll hate or that will teach you absolutely nothing, but then there’s a lesson to derive from those stories as well: what not to do when you’re writing your own work. I’m certainly learning a lot from Girl Through Glass and the other stories I’ve been reading lately. And I can’t wait to learn more.

Have you ever gotten an unexpected lesson from a story you read/are reading? What was it?

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Halfway there! And woo-boy, is it going well. I haven’t missed a single day, somehow. Let’s hope I can keep up the pace!

So once again, I’m doing the Ten Day Book Challenge, which started on Facebook and should’ve stayed on Facebook, but why should I do what everyone else is doing? I never have, unless other horror authors are suddenly collecting dolls and going to the ballet while also supporting the Ohio State Buckeyes and practicing Judaism to the best of their ability, and I probably never will. So thank my cousin Matthew for getting me started on this, and let’s get onto the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

I wasn’t sure whether to do the other Stephen King novel or something else today, but in the end, I decided to get the second novel out of the way and save a particular novel for Day Six. For Day Five, I’m going with another example of quintessential Stephen King: Needful Things.

This is a novel that is both terrifying and hilarious, campy yet deep, and full of all the weirdness that we love about King. It’s also one of those thousand-page whoppers he churns out every couple of years, and I absolutely love it! The story takes place in Castle Rock, the same little town that’s the setting for King’s new show on Hulu, Castle Rock. A man named Leland Gaunt opens up a shop called Needful Things and starts selling the most amazing products to his customers…in exchange for a favor. And each favor exposes a darker side of the town, a domino in a Rube Goldberg machine, all leading to one inevitable conclusion.

I’ve had the chance to reread this book several times since I first read it about three years ago. To be more precise, I listen to the audio book, which is narrated by His Royal Scariness Stephen King himself. And it gets me every time. On the one hand, you have all the scares that you’d expect from King: a villain that appears human but soon reveals himself to be so much more, a spider-creature that Gaunt uses to great effect in the novel, people who are just assholes on a bad day but under Gaunt’s influences become psychopaths and murderers, full of rage and jealousy. On the other hand, you have weird ad hilarious moments like two overweight housewives both believing they’re having very intense romantic/sexual affairs with Elvis Presley, a woman who gets off on having feuds and fights, and a town sheriff whose love of magic tricks proves important to saving the day! And somehow, it all works wonderfully! I hope someday I can write as well as that, because let me tell you, it might come in handy for some of my weirder ideas.

Sadly, this novel has not gotten the same amount of love as some of King’s other works. Hell, the only adaptation is one terrible movie that came out a little over two months after I was born. I think it’s due for a graphic novel or a TV adaptation (which is why I hope it somehow features more prominently in Castle Rock season 2)., but then again, Hollywood doesn’t listen to me that much. They certainly haven’t heard my pleas for an adaptation of The Library Policeman as of yet.

Still, if you’re in the mood for an unusual horror novel with weird and hilarious moments peppered here and there, you can’t go wrong with Needful Things.

And now to tag someone. I hereby nominate my good friend Kat Impossible from the blog Life and Other Disasters. I know you’re busy starting a new job in Berlin, Kat, but I hope you’re able to find the time to do this. Especially since you tend to enjoy book related tags and challenges.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

So that lovely and occasionally terrifying thing known as the Internet has informed me that April is Autism Awareness Month, and as someone who is on the spectrum, I felt I should contribute something.

The only question is, what should I contribute? I haven’t had any experiences like when I was asked to give advice on how to help someone’s autistic relative; I haven’t been prompted to record a video or anything like the one below, detailing a specific issue involving disability (by the way, that video recently passed the one-year anniversary of when it was uploaded, and also passed five-hundred views soon afterwards. I find that pretty cool); I haven’t had any revelations about my relationship with my autism; and no one’s asked me point-blank if I’m autistic recently. What’s there to talk about? What can I say that not only needs to be said, but I feel strongly speaking my mind about?

 

Well, I guess one subject I can broach is how autism affects adults, especially in terms of job searching and job security.

A lot of people associate autism with children. When they associate it with adults, I think the popular image is low-functioning adults who are being taken care of by their parents or at facilities. And while there is a segment of the adult autistic population that do need that sort of care, the popular image ignores the segment of the population who don’t require full-time care from facilities or parents, those who can and seek to live independently. And they face their own unique challenges and issues.

Now, I”m just going off my own experience and the experiences of others who have or are related to people with ASD, but the fact that we’re either experiencing or hearing about this says something.

I’ve mentioned before how, between October 2015 and about March or April 2016, I was on the worst job search I’ve ever experienced. Every day I would send out resumes and applications, only to either not hear anything back or to be passed over after being interviewed. One reason this may have happened is because I was open to my potential employers about the fact that I have ASD, and that it sometimes made social situations awkward. I have no proof, but it’s possible that knowing my diagnosis may have scared them off. People have this association with people with disabilities in general that we’re unable to do anything. And even if we’re skilled at something (sciences, writing, mathematics, painting, music, whatever), our needs are too much for them to handle as employers.

The reality, I assure you, is much different. At work, part of my job is being a disability advocate, and I can attest that people with disabilities not only do things, they do them very well. Not only that, but employers who treat disabled employees well find that not only are these employees hard-working and loyal, but several times less likely to turn over than the general population. Not only that, but accommodations for their disability usually aren’t burdensome: a quiet or obstacle-free workspace, or flexible schedules, or leave for medical appointments. And when it does cost money for accommodations, it’s usually not expensive. Seriously, I help handle accommodations at work. I rarely see the cost get anywhere near five-hundred dollars.  My own accommodations cost the organization nothing: I just listen to my iPod or audio books while I work (I pay for any new music or audio books) and I have a chair designed to ease my back pain (we already had the chair to begin with, so it didn’t cost any money to give it to me).

But still, a lot of employers are wary of employing the disabled, especially folks with ASD. They have this idea of a Rain Man-type character, someone who may excel at one very special skill, but needs all sorts of help in every other area of life and can’t do anything but certain tasks. For many autistic adults, this simply isn’t the case. Each of us may present our diagnosis differently, but it doesn’t affect each and every one of us that badly, and we are suited for a variety of tasks.

I’m lucky that I was able to get a job in an office where everyone is kind and gets that I’m not always the savviest person socially, in an organization that emphasizes disability hiring, accommodation, and inclusion. But not many people like me are that lucky. They have trouble finding jobs because employers see their disabilities as a huge barrier. I’ve heard from friends who’ve had this experience, as well as from others. And not just with jobs: I’ve heard from people who have told me that they or their relatives had had trouble finding services that help them cope with their ASD once they reach adulthood or when they’re diagnosed in adulthood. There’s plenty of help for minors, but for adults, it can be a challenge.

So this Autism Awareness Month, I’m writing a post urging people not only to support autism awareness, research, and therapy, but also to rethink how we approach adults with autism (and disabilities in general). The majority of us aren’t helpless individuals. We’re hardworking and want to be part of society. You just have to give us the opportunity, whether that be funding for programs that offer counseling, education, and job training to autistic adults, or actually giving a job to someone with autism. Quite possibly, you’ll be amazed at what you receive in return.

Thank you for reading, and have a good month of April.

I discovered this novel, which came out on Halloween last year, on Audible as an audio book while looking for my next listen/read. It sounded interesting, and nothing else I was finding in the catalog was really grabbing my attention, so I decided to listen to it. I’m really happy I made the decision to do so: this is probably one of the best scary stories and one of the best novels I’ve come across in a while.

Kill Creek follows four famous horror novelists: Sam McGarver, a writer with a past who’s struggling to start his fifth book; TC Moore, an abrasive novelist who likes to explore the blurring of pain and pleasure in her stories; Daniel Slaughter, a religious man who writes Christian horror fiction aimed at teens; and Sebastian Cole, a veteran horror writer who’s considered the King of Modern Horror. They’re invited to Kill Creek, a house in the middle of rural Kansas that’s considered one of the most haunted houses in America, for a Halloween publicity event. This results in the awakening of a powerful entity, one with plans for the authors. Plans that will not only jeopardize their sanity, but their very lives.

I loved this story. For one thing, the book’s language. Thomas doesn’t spend time floating around with flowery language or writing confusing passages. Every word is there because it’s meant to be, which keeps the reader (or listener) invested in the story. I never once felt lost, wondering what the heck just happened or thinking that this or that word or paragraph was unnecessary. And that also helps create the unsettling atmosphere: when they’re at the house, you feel like you’re there with the characters, and you’re feeling every uneasy feeling they’re feeling. For horror fanatics, that’s a great feeling.

I also like how the story is unpredictable. Plenty of times I was sure that I knew where the story was going to go, only to be proven wrong a chapter later. And I’m the guy who prides himself on being able to predict where movies are going to go couldn’t predict each twist or the change of direction the story goes, so that says something about how well-written and unique this story is. The story itself is even a cool and clever twist on the haunted house trope!

But my favorite part was the main characters. They all felt like real people, and we’re given enough time with each of them to reveal their hidden depths. My favorite character of the bunch was TC Moore. My God, was she entertaining! I always looked forward to the narration switching to her perspective, when she would swear like a sailor and just eviscerate anyone who rubbed her the wrong way (which was everyone). I doubt I’d get along with her if she was a real person, but as a character, you just have to love her (kind of like Sheldon Cooper, but even harder to get along with).

And by the way, I count the house as a character. And it is a freaky character, let’s leave it at that.

On the whole, I only had two real problem with the story: one was there’s a minor character who appeared in the story for maybe two or three pages. Honestly, you could’ve kept them entirely off-stage, mentioned only in flashbacks or in exposition, and I would’ve been fine. They really didn’t add anything when they were in the story. The second is that there’s a scene in the first half of the book that I felt was kind of gratuitous and unnecessary. It could have been left out and the novel would’ve been fine.

Other than that, I absolutely loved the story, and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas is a wonderful example of modern Gothic horror. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.5. A great debut novel from an author I hope to read more from in the future. Check it out and get lost in the madness.

And if you get it in audio book, you’re in for a treat. Bernard Setaro Clark is a great narrator who gives each character their own particular sound and whose voice goes great with the book’s language.

I’ve mentioned it before, but short stories are often hard for me. And one aspect of writing those that I often have trouble with is the very first part of any short story. Openings. They give me grief.

With novels, I have a lot of room to maneuver around. After all, even a short novel is around sixty-thousand words (and mine are never that short). With all those words, I can take a lot of time and space just setting up the scenario of the story. Take my novel Rose, for example: if we count Chapter One as the opening, that’s sixteen pages and nearly five-thousand words just devoted to setting up the story. And I’m very used to writing this way. I like long, expansive stories. I grew up on a diet of Harry Potter, and in my teens delved into the novels of Anne Rice, Stephen King, and Dan Brown. No one could accuse those guys of being short.

But if I’m writing a short story, the highest word count to still count as a short story is ten-thousand. And if I want to get published in most magazines, the limit is usually around six-thousand. So while I’m used to opening a story with about five-thousand words, or half the length of the longest short story, I now have to try to contain my openings into a much shorter length.

The struggle is real.

Because of this need for brevity, one of the things I sometimes end up doing when I write a short story, at least in the beginning, is to use a lot of exposition. And in some stories, exposition is good. It helps fill in essential information. But in other cases, exposition is just…bad. Instead of actually presenting the story,  the author is just explaining things. Telling you stuff. It’d be like if instead of actually showing Harry Potter growing up, learning about his heritage, and going to Hogwarts, it’d be like JK Rowling wrote, “There was a boy named Harry Potter. One day he found out he was a wizard, his parents died saving him from an evil wizard, who disappeared and gave him a scar in a process, and then he went off to wizard school.”

I often worry that when I do exposition in short stories, it’s the latter kind. Which probably means it is the latter kind. That may be cynicism on my part, but when you’re still inexperienced at something, you’re prone to making mistakes. So perhaps I really am using exposition, and in all the wrong ways too.

Luckily, there are a few things I’m trying to remedy that. One is that I’m keeping in mind something important: I’m writing first drafts. And first drafts are always terrible. Even if they contain intriguing stories, they’re rife with issues that require lots of fixing. This is why we writers edit, multiple times if necessary, before we publish. Heck, Rose had to go through four drafts before I felt it was ready to be sent out to a publisher. And likely if a publisher does like it, they’ll probably have me do a fifth or even a sixth draft before they’re ready to publish.

So if I feel an opening needs work, I can edit it in the next draft, and remove any bad exposition or other problems with the opening I spot.

Hopefully I can improve this part of short stories.

And sometimes, I don’t even need to wait (and this is my second method, by the way). Sometimes a way to fix a short story’s opening comes to you just while you’re writing it. On Friday, I started a new short story that I think has potential. I think I got four hundred words in before I stopped, but then I was like, “Is this really the opening I want?” And as I thought about it, it wasn’t. But how to fix it? And yesterday at some point–I think it was right before I saw Winchester–a way to change the opening occurred to me.  I think this is the right way to open the story without going into exposition. So the next time I work on the story, I’m going go back and rewrite the opening, see if this produces better results. And if it doesn’t, there’s always something new to try. Or I can go back to my original opening. After all, it’s a first draft. I can make as many adjustments as needed.

And finally, I’m reading a lot more short stories than I’m used to. I learned how to write novels partly from reading novels, so reading short stories should help me get an idea on how to write them. I’ve already listened to two anthologies on audio book, and I just started reading the Stephen King collection Night Shift on Friday. So far, they’ve been very helpful, but I’ll need to read a lot more to get a better sense of short story writing.

And finally, I just need more practice. After all, you become a writer by writing in the first place, and continuing to write no matter what. With any luck, more practice with short stories will lead to better ones. Hopefully, anyway.

I’m still trying to be a better short story writer, and openings are still hard for me. But with practice and exposure to good ones, I can hopefully make some progress on that. And who knows? Maybe even produce some stories that a magazine will be proud to publish. Anything’s possible, right?

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve been looking at a screen for most of the day, so I’m going to take a break and read something. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’m going to start this post by stating for the record that I have not read any of the Dark Tower books, or the audiobooks, or the graphic novels. I’m coming at this as an outside fan, someone who likes Stephen King a lot but has yet to try his fantasy series because, as even King puts it, it’s an acquired taste.* I also realize that this is a movie, so they’re going to have to make many adjustments between getting the story from the page to the screen. I’m okay with that, because I’m pretty sure a straight adaptation would be longer than Titanic (and that’s three hours long!). And I somehow managed to keep away from reviews from other sources, so I went into the theater with a clear mind in order to judge this film on my own terms.

That being said, I liked this film.

The Dark Tower follows Jake Chambers, a teenager from New York who is having dreams about this strange world, a man dressed in black who is trying to destroy a gigantic tower, and a man called the gunslinger who hunts him. While the rest of his family and even some of his friends think he’s crazy, Jake manages to find a gateway to the mythical Mid-World, and becomes an important piece in the battle between Roland the gunslinger and Walter O’Dim the Man in Black, as well as an important piece in the battle to keep all of reality from becoming destroyed.

So like I said, this film worked for me. The visuals were very beautiful, giving us this huge world with strange features and breathtaking views. The actors were all great, especially the main three, Idris Elba as Roland, Matthew McConaughey as Walter, and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers. My favorite was McConaughey, his take on Walter was terrifying. You could sense the psychopathy in this character, the indifference to death and love of destruction. It’s really creepy. Elba was also commanding as Roland, making you feel this intensity, and Taylor as Jake was a believable character who finds himself in this strange world and is trying to make the best of it.

*shudder* Scary dude.

Also, shout out to Fran Kranz as a bad guy. Did not know he was in the film, so it was so cool to see the guy who played Topher in Dollhouse there.

I also thought the fight scenes were choreographed very well. They didn’t look silly or hard to make out, and the camera work wasn’t shaky or anything. And for a series well-known for being complicated and bizarre, I actually felt like it was easy to follow. Sure, some things didn’t make sense or weren’t explained, but I was able to follow it for the most part.

That being said, there were two things that I didn’t like: one was there was this minor character called Timmy, who is supposed to be a friend of Jake’s, and he’s in the film for maybe three minutes and really doesn’t serve a purpose. If you took him out of the story, the film wouldn’t be missing anything. I also thought that the story was kind of by-the-numbers. There wasn’t any sort of point where I was surprised by what happened, or the filmmakers threw me for a loop. Was I thrilled? Yes. Did I was like, “Oh hey, I didn’t see that coming”? No.

But all in all, I think this is the best adaptation of The Dark Tower series we’re going to get without being overly complicated or bogged down in details. I know it’s not going to please everyone, especially hardcore fans, but it was a good film for me, and I would be interested to see a sequel and/or the television series in development based on the movie.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Dark Tower a 4.4 out of 5. Go see it, and find yourself reciting the Gunslinger’s Creed for the rest of the day.

*And if the books anything like their probable inspiration, HP Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle, particularly The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, I’m willing to wait.

Reborn City and Video Rage, side by side.

Reborn City and Video Rage, side by side.

So it’s been a month since Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City and the second book in the Reborn City series, came out. And I’m happy to say that it’s doing not too badly. In fact, some of the copies that have been sold have been bought by people other than me or my family. That’s a new one, LOL (in all seriousness though, a lot of copies have been sold. And I think my parents and my sister are the only people in my family who have copies besides me, so that says something). I think an author friend or two have been reading the books. And even Reborn City has had an uptick in sales, which I think says some good things.

And even better, I already have one review, which I encourage you to check out.

So with that in mind, I’ve got a few announcements I hope you’ll take the time to read. I’m certainly excited about them:

1. Some price changes on the e-books. I’ve expressed my regrets on this subject before, but I only have so much control over the price of the paperbacks (otherwise each paperback would be between eight and ten dollars, so they’d be a bit more affordable). However, I have plenty of control over the e-books, and I’m glad to say that I’m doing something different with the e-books of Reborn City and Video Rage that I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time.

VR CS front cover

Previously, all my e-books, with the exception of The Quiet Game, have retailed at $2.99. However, from now on, on all the platforms, the e-book of Reborn City will be $0.99, and the e-book of Video Rage will be $1.99. I’m hoping that this will make it a bit easier for people to get their hands on the books and enjoy them. I’ve heard from other authors who have used this method and have had very good results from this, but I’ve never had the chance to try this until now. And now that the opportunity has arrived, I thought I’d give it a try, see what happens.

So if you’ve wanted to read my science-fiction novels on your Kindle or Kobo or whatever but price has been a problem, I hope this helps.

2. The final book in the series will be my NaNoWriMo project this year. I know I said I was going to do a ghost story as my project for National Novel Writing Month, but I changed my mind for two reasons. One was that I wanted a bit more time for me to figure out the best way to tell this particular ghost story (I don’t normally write ghost stories, and I want to get it somewhat right when I do the first draft). The other is that I don’t want three more years to pass before I get out the next book in the series. Unless you’re writing Harry Potter, I don’t think that’s a good gap between books if you can help it. So I’m putting the final book ahead of the queue, with the hope that maybe I can get out maybe ten or twenty-thousand words this winter (I doubt with my schedule I’ll get close to fifty-thousand, though I can certainly try. And I got thirty-thousand of Snake written out back in the day, so who knows?).

I’ve actually done a little work already on the third book, which I intend to call Full Circle (my newest tag). I’ve come up with a bunch of new characters, including the villain(s) of the new book (if you haven’t read VR yet, I do give hints on who that might be, so go check it out so you can start theorizing), and written out the first couple chapters on an early draft of an outline. I also know some of the events that will come later, and I’ll be doing some research later this year so I can get some aspects of Islam right (it’s amazing how often Zahara’s religion comes up in the story).

Get excited, because this is probably my most ambitious novel yet, especially with all I have planned with this story.

RC cover

3. The Reborn City audio book is going to take some more time to bring about. Back in November, I said the audio book was on the way and I had a narrator. And since then, I really haven’t had any updates on this. Well, that’s because of embarrassment. You see, my narrator and I had to dissolve our contract due to some problems on both our ends. Since then, I’ve been trying to find a new narrator, and I may have one, but it depends on her schedule when she finishes her current projects early next month. I didn’t say anything because…well, who wants to admit that the audio book they were so enthusiastic about and which they were saying was going to be done as soon as possible is having technical difficulties?

I do still hope to have a Reborn City audio book out someday (and Snake, I’m working on that as well), though it may take a bit more time. Hopefully though, they will happen, and those among you who enjoy audio books will be able to enjoy them.

 

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. Shabbat is coming in, so I have to get ready for that. You all have a wonderful weekend, and I hope I can check in at some point soon. In the meantime, the links for both books are below. Make sure to check them out if you’re interested. And if you do decide to read them, please do me a favor and leave a review so I know what you thought. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it makes me a better writer too.

Until next time, then!

Reborn City: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks,Smashwords, and Kobo