Lessons learned from a positive review

I’d like to post a review I received a while back and then discuss it for a moment.

(Reprinted with permission)


  •  Pale Winter Sun

    Intriguing, unique, distinctive

    4.4 stars

    Mick Collins’ book Pale Winter Sun synopsis from Good reads:

    Isolation in the cold of winter. That’s all Mark Jensen has as he fights to survive.

    Living in the small Mormon community of Grason, Idaho, Mark and his best

    friend Trevor have no one but themselves. Both are shunned from their families

    for simply trying to live open and honestly as homosexual. Cold and queer, the

    boys make do with what little they can, counting on no one but themselves in

    the stark Idaho countryside.

    Mark’s struggles increase when he becomes afraid of confiding in his last

    friend. The growing realization that he is bisexual confuses and conflicts him.

    It leaves him feeling more alone than ever. Friendships are redefined and

    stretched to the limit as the two young men scratch by and they ask

    themselves; can they survive each other?

     

    It is very rare to read a book that strays from the normal plotline. Collins’ book

    was definitely different from what I normally read, but it was a breath of fresh

    air. The daily struggles the characters face places ideas in a new perspective.

  • People in similar situations as the characters share the same feelings and

    conflicts. To be able to experience that through the characters was intriguing.

    For the most part, people do not realize the struggle that comes for being a

    homosexual. Collins’ was able to show the internal conflict not only between

    the character relationships, but also the individual themselves. The atmosphere

    of the book (winter, cold, isolation) compares with the feelings of the two main

    characters. They are considered queer, people are cold toward them, and they

    feel isolated from their community. The storyline was unique and it made it

    stand out. Mark was a strong character in the book. He stayed true to himself

    and it stood out throughout the book.

    The reason it did not get 5 stars was due to the writing itself. The writing style

    was not as refined as some other books, but there is emotion and the message

    is clear. If the writing style was more fine-tuned, then the book would have

    been even more captivating.

    Emma Hall (The Kindle Book Review)

    The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an

    independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the

    author or Amazon.


Ms. Hall wasn’t able to post this to Amazon because it someone from the Kindle Book Review already posted one, apparently.  Amazon (wisely) won’t let me post it under my own name, so I am posting it here. Which does kinda suck, because I lost a few reviews when I uploaded a new edition a couple months ago.

(Updated – the review has been posted to Amazon.  Thanks to G.W. Wright for showing me what to do)

Sales haven’t been great, especially since the new edition came out, and that is partially my fault.  I haven’t been pushing it much, mainly due to work and trying to get over this damned cold. But then again, sales for books, especially self pubs, are down anyway. I have already put in some time to find new and exciting ways to get the word out, but that takes time and money.  I am stock piling both so I can do it right. That includes a push to get the book into libraries and local stores in Allentown.  I’ll keep you fine folks posted on that as developments happen.

Back to the review:
This review is indicative of a common thread I have come across with Pale Winter Sun.  The message, the story, and the characters are engaging and on point. The narrative isn’t typical to the genre and the overall feel of the story is of isolation. Mark and Trevor’s struggle are not trivialized, and Mark’s journey especially, is clear.

This is what I wanted.  I wanted the points to be clear, non-cliched, and the story to be interesting.  I feel that is mission accomplished.  Go me!

….but…

The other common thread is that the writing lacks.  I had hoped that getting it edited again would relieve that particular problem.  And while it was much needed and certainly helped immensely, it didn’t solve it completely.  And if you know writers, a ship full of compliments can sink with one tiny raft of critisism.  We writers are an emotionally unstable and touchy lot.  So yeah, the last bit kinda bummed me out.  I try not to stay down long, or dwell on the negative, despite my proclivity to so exactly that.  Hell, if a lifetime of battling depression has taught me one thing it is DON’T FEED THE BEAST.

I stood back and looked at this review, and other feedback I’ve received, and put it into perspective. When I wrote PWS, it was message driven.  I had a point to make, dammit, and I was going to make it.  Well that’s great, but in doing so, I let my writing of said message suffer. Another thing I realized; I have only published two books and a few short stories.  Night Shall Overtake was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to. To be honest, I didn’t really expect it to get published in the first place.  Really, I decided to test the field with it while trying to hammer out another project.  While amazing and awesome, it also spoiled me.  Thankful as I am, I’m sure there would have been lessons to learn had I needed to work at getting it published more than I did.  PWS being self published, I think those lack of lessons hurt in terms of the strength of how it is written.

Being the pragmatist that I am, I had to think about what I was going to do about all this. PWS will probably not go though a third edition any time soon.  I’ve too many other projects on the burner right now.  And honestly, I haven’t the heart to rip it apart one more time. (and maybe I’m just a little bit lazy, too) If my writing lacks a little, but the story still holds up, I’ll take it and go with that for now.  I still think it’s a book that can help kids, and parents, dealing with gender, identity, sexuality, and all the components that make up a family.

If PWS is staying put, then where am I employing these learned lessons? The future of course, or really, the present.  Current projects are under severe scrutiny and retooling.  I am still trying to find my voice and become a better writer.  A task that will never end, most likely.  If I focused too much on story, and not enough on style, then I will work hard to get my style down.  Hopping genres probably didn’t help the issue either.  My next novel, A Geography of Purgatory(working title), is back to the dark and gritty and I think it’s the perfect chance to really find myself as the writer I can be. As someone who takes such things seriously, I owe it to myself.  I also feel that I owe it to anyone who decides to take a chance on one of my books.  There is a godawful amount to stuff to read out there, if they do pick up something of mine, I want to make damned sure it’s worth their time.

In case you are wondering: I have no time lines on Geography as it’s still out to the beta readers, but I’ll keep you posted. Going to try the standard publisher route again, then if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll self pub. At least that’s the current plan.

tl;dr – Writer gets a good review, then whines about it.  In the end he learns a very important lesson.

Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and mistakes are good as long as you learn something from it.

 

 

 

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Review – The Final Girl by Brandon Ford

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The Colonial Theater, a single-screen movie house on the edge of town, is holding a special midnight screening of a brand new splatter flick. But before the opening titles make it to the screen, the popcorn-laden aisles run red with blood as a masked killer begins slaughtering the moviegoers with the aid of a spiked meat tenderizer.

Among those filling the torn seats: a movie blogger in search of fodder to appease his limited readers, a victim of a recent betrayal who’ll do just about anything for an escape from a home she no longer feels welcome, a fugitive on the lam looking for sanctuary from the city streets, and a pair of post-adolescent twins who’ve managed to creep into the theater unseen.

I’ve reviewed a couple of works by Brandon Ford already (here & here) so when it came time to dig into The Final Girl, I had a good feeling about it.  Being a part of a horror community, as well as loving old cult flicks, this story centering around a remake of a cult flick piqued my interest from the start.  The narrative centers around a collection of unrelated characters drawn to an aging theater that is playing a special showing of a remake of an old cult slasher movie called ‘Bloodletting’. We jump from one set of characters to another and get to know them as they are heading to the Colonial Theater. As usual Ford does a fantastic job of giving us characters we want to see through until the end.  Or in this case see if they are still standing at the end. You have characters in desperate straits, the normal people just getting through their day, the tragic, and the horny. Will they get to the movie? Will they survive the movie?  Will the popcorn be overpriced?

‘Bloodletting’ being a slasher flick showing in an old and mostly forgotten theater, you can expect there to be some blood.  Oh yes, there is blood.  While not so much a gore fest, it is a bloody tale and gives us the same amount of thrill and excitement that any good movie of the genre would. And like usual, you start taking bets on who gets it, and when. The pacing is right and the action is in all the right spots. I thoroughly enjoyed The Final Girl and definitely recommend it.

Click Here for Buying satisfaction ==> The Final Girl

Click Here for website action ==> Brandon Ford’s Sleepless Nights

Review – Coffee At Midnight by Brandon Ford

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  The clock strikes 12:00. A full moon hangs beyond the windowpane as the fireplace flickers and pops. Time to curl up in your favorite easy chair with a steaming mug and a cozy blanket. It’s going to be a long night.
  Follow a bevy of buxom ex-call girls as they embark on a cross-country road trip and happen upon a crashed UFO. Join a trio of friends as they assemble for a rooftop barbecue and share their darkest secrets. Watch as an intoxicated bridesmaid stumbles her way through a crowded wedding reception to give an impromptu toast, but instead bears her soul. Listen in on a heated telephone conversation between a jealous boyfriend and his coed girlfriend as she shares a strange story concerning a bizarre favor.
  Between the covers of this unusual collection, you’ll find these stories and many more, all guaranteed to tempt, tantalize, titillate the senses. In Brandon Ford’s COFFEE AT MIDNIGHT, you’ll experience a grab bag of ooddball situations and meet an array of quirky characters. So make sure the coffee’s strong, the fire’s warm, and the blanket’s soft. This’ll be a night you won’t soon forget.

When you start out with three hillbilly hookers running from aliens, you know that a story collection is going to take you places. Coffee At Midnight did just that. Stories that were at times slices of poignancy and other bordering on disturbing, they were all entertaining. Each story seemed to be an intimate look at people. From the hidden truths of Confessions On A Tar Beach to the desperation and madness of Elise. Ford also made sure to heap on the dark humor, such as The Claw End. This was a fine collection of stories that kept me going one right after the other.
I appreciated the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) turns the stories would take. By the end I just figured I would just go along for the ride and see where it took me. You might look HERE to see a previous review of another of Brandon Ford’s books that I did; Open Wounds.  Once again he has proven to not only entertain me, but engage me as well.

Click here for buying ==> Amazon

Click here for his websites ==> Brandon Ford’s Sleepless Nights, B-Movie Bonanza

Nightcrawler by John Reinhard Dizon

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Nightcrawler by John Reinhard Dizon

Due to her father’s sudden death, Sabrina Brooks leaves behind her partying ways to take the reins of the Brooks Chemical company.  Working hard to prove herself to those within the company, she can’t completely shake her dream of getting into law enforcement.  Instead Bree decides to take different route; a blending of the two.  Combining her knowledge of chemistry and her drive to help those in need she becomes Nightcrawler; an unwavering force for those in need.  Unfortunately the stakes are raised almost immediately.

Her initial campaign against the drug gangs of New York is put into jeopardy when the police begin a manhunt for the Nightcrawler, whom they deem a dangerous vigilante.  Seeking guidance from her friends and councils, such as Pastor Mitchell, she agrees to put away that part of her life.

Until…

A terrorist group called the Octagon begins a campaign of terror and extortion against the city.  Once again Bree dons her Nightcrawler armor  to stop a tanker filled with chemical agents from releasing into the water.  Bree stops the attack but each time she steps out as her alter ego, she strains not only herself but the relations and trust of those who know her secret.  These relations are strained even further when it turns out the Octagon is extorting one of her own trusted VP’s at Brooks Chemical to launder the money they make through their acts of terror.

While investigating a series of suspicious forest fires as Nightcrawler, Bree finally gets in over her head and is rescued by her good friend Officer Hoyt Wexford.  After finding out her secret, they work together as the Octagon feverishly race to their next diabolical act of terror.

This is an action packed and well mapped thriller that shows a strong heroine fighting against the odds.  It does well to show how Sabrina’s nocturnal activities force her to balance them with her personal life.  Bree’s religious and personal beliefs are one of the central points of the book as she works heavily with the church and Pastor Mitchell.   There was also an interesting infusion of the LGBT community into the main plot.  It was refreshing to not take for granted that every main and minor character was straight.  Though I didn’t personally agree with Pastor Mitchell’s final speech on the subject, it didn’t detract any from who he was as a character or the thrilling ride that I went on with Sabrina and company.

Overall, I’d say that Nightcrawler is a fun and thrilling read that I found hard to put down.

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and it’s all fun and games until someone looses an eye.