Jupiter’s E-Book Sensation: Hugh Howey (From the Palm Beach Post)

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Great article about Hugh Howey with an appearance by Fred Shernoff, both of whom have been influential on my career.

Fredric Shernoff

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By: SCOTT EYMAN – PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER
 
Hugh Howey doesn’t look like someone engaged in changing the world of books.
 
He’s a mild-looking, inquisitive 38-year-old, who enjoys playing with his adored dog Bella in a 900-square-foot house in Jupiter while his psychologist wife is at work.
But in the past five years, he has gone from writing a series of science fiction short stories called “Wool” that he put up for sale on Amazon at 99 cents apiece to becoming a best-selling e-book sensation and landing a print deal for the combined stories with Simon & Schuster. Ridley Scott has even optioned rights for a movie.
 
How big is Howey?
“In terms of Kindle copies sold in the science fiction/fantasy category,” says Jeff Belle, vice president of Amazon Publishing, “Hugh is right up there with George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury…

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Favorite Childhood Books — Choose Your Own Adventure

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The words above the title just brought an excitement to my ears — “Choose Your Own Adventure.” Throughout my childhood, I can’t deny that I LOVED these books. I had a handful and re-read them all the time. 

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What were these terrific books? What weren’t they?

There was action, drama, adventure, science fiction, fantasy, romance and pretty much anything else you’d want in a book as a late-elementary student. As I recall, many seemed to start like Indiana Jones movies with the main character (spoiler alert — the protagonist is YOU) starting some adventure with many possible paths to take. Often times you would read a page or two and then would be given a choice. 

“If you fire a rocket toward the Coast Guard boat, turn to page 25. If you try to think of something else to do, turn to page 77.”

Amazing!

A book that you can tailor to your own choices! I loved it. Now, I’ll admit that perhaps these books have spoiled my generation. As I read book reviews these days, often times the poor reviews are from customers who were upset that the author didn’t write the story how they expected him/her to craft it. Those people need to get over themselves — unless you are in 5th grade and reading a CYOA book, you don’t get to pick how to finish the story. 

Oh…and the finish. Or should I say finishes… In the copy I took off my daughter’s bookshelf, I counted 11 different endings, but some of them may have had upwards of 20 or even 30 different outcomes for you. There were good and happy endings for sure (You catch the bad guys and put them in jail while enjoying the spoils of your conflict), but most of the endings were a variation on you being arrested or dying in some tragic accident or planned conspiracy. These books taught me that more often than not, the ending to your story would not be happy. 

Ultimately, we all have our own adventures that we choose each and every day, but its up to us and our perspective to determine whether that journey was a worthwhile one. As for me, I’m glad I read these books and now that am leafing through one right now, perhaps I ought to try my hand one of my own. Maybe one day you can choose your own adventure from my words. 

 

Write faster = write worse? Maybe…maybe not…

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“RT: hurry up writing, Rick! / (Yoda voice) “There is no ‘hurry up.’ Only ‘get it right.'” Write faster = write worse.”

The tweet above was from Rick Riordan a few days ago…just one tweet in the midst of responding to readers on Twitter. Riordan is the author of the Percy Jackson series — books I have loved and now my daughter has devoured them as well before she turned nine. But about the comment — a throwaway line, sure, but how true is it? 

I definitely haven’t sold as many books as Mr. Riordan and I can only dream of the success he has achieved, but I do take a little exception to the sentiment. What it says to me is this: Don’t write fast…that would be wrong and mistake-filled. That a writer needs to slow down and take their time. 

A few things: 

1. Riordan is now in the class of writers who basically puts one book out a year. One. To him, perfecting the book takes that long and by the time the book has been released, it has been your entire life for 365 days. In fact, I just checked…his newest, House of Hades will be released in hardback on October 8. The previous book in the series, Mark of Athena was released October 2 last year. 

2. Not all writers are in a position to write like that. For a lot of indie authors, we depend on quantity. The more books and stories we have out, the better chance of being discovered and building on the success of each additional title. I don’t want to make it seem like we sacrifice quality for quantity, however. With almost every indie author I know, we spend A LOT of time studying and analyzing each word we write and most of us get many opinions before we publish a single word. But it doesn’t mean we wait a year. I’m fairly new to this and I published a novel, a short story and a novella over the summer with another novella coming next week (I hope). All have over 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and I worked my butt off on each one. 

3. Writing quickly can produce some excellent work. When I was in college, I took a creative writing course and the times that I liked the best were the “free write” times where the professor set a timer for 10 minutes and we just had to write whatever came to mind during that time. True, most of it was junk. But, there was always nuggets of awesomeness buried in the mess. You can always go back and edit. I say write quick and get your thoughts down on paper or on the computer and edit later. The other day I was watching Hugh Howey (Author of the WOOL series) speak at a creativeLIVE event and he said he really preferred to write quicker in a smaller time frame like a month to three months — it keeps the plot more coherent in the writer’s mind and the plot can build on itself quickly and efficiently. 

4. But, I also don’t want to discount Riordan’s words, either. Obviously he knows what works for him and the Percy Jackson success shows it has worked. But, for the casual reader, it might show that writing is a long and laborious process and that is simply not true for all writers. 

So…whatever your writing process is…make sure it works for you. Rick Riordan’s writing process works for him, but it wouldn’t work for me or you. Whatever you do….keep writing.

9/11 — A Date That Will Forever Live

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September 11.

Throughout my life, a number of dates have been important. Only a few have brought about immediate associations and most of them have been happy and pleasant. December 25. January 1. March 17. July 4. October 31.

I’m sure I could come up with a few others, including my birthday, but regardless, there aren’t many dates that leave me feeling anxious and feeling melancholy. December 7 – Pearl Harbor Day. For sure, that was one, but the events in Hawaii were so distant by the time I was growing up, I never associated much with that date, other than the start of WWII.

But, September 11. Already, you’ve got thoughts running through your head. It may be visions of airplanes crashing into supposedly indestructible buildings. Perhaps you see people running through the streets of New York, covered in ash and rubble. Maybe it’s the candlelight vigils that took place all around the country that evening or the visual of firefighters raising an American flag at Ground Zero.

We’ve all got those memories. Thanks to modern-day media, we all can share in the memories of that day.

Me?

I had just graduated from college months earlier, but stayed in the area and worked basically as a graduate assistant at WONU, the college’s radio station outside Chicago. My wife had to finish up her student teaching, so I needed a job and they were wonderful in keeping me on for another year after graduation.

In the fall, of 2001, I was working as a Morning Show Producer – gathering information for the on-air personalities. While our signal went into Chicago, we didn’t have a huge audience. That meant that in September of that year, we were still behind a little technologically. We didn’t have a TV at the station. Not until that day.

As soon as a few listeners called in with the news, the morning weather guy ran to get a TV from his office and hooked it up in the hall just outside the studio. We had it on for a few minutes and then the second plane hit the towers.

We were gutted. How could this be happening?

The rest of the day is a bit of a haze at this point, but I remember we set up a few more TVs and most of the day I found myself stopping to watch the tragedies unfold across the country. We were all amazed that this could be happening – here in our country. Wordless…silent…we watched as the shape of our country changed before our eyes. The early thoughts of a commuter plane or of an accident faded as it became clear that America was under attack.

In the years since, the memories have faded, but the emotions are still vibrant when the anniversary comes around each year. I am a teacher now and every year my students’ memories are more and more distant. This year I have students that were between 2 and 6 on that day. To them, it is now history. To me, it was an important event – a milestone that affected my life forever. 

Review of David Adams’ “Ren of Atikala”

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ImageWhat can I say about Ren?

I could say nothing.

That is, after all, what Ren means in the language of the Kobold – Nothing. Why is she named Nothing? To answer that, you’ll want to read this book, which is an outstanding contribution to the field of Fantasy works. David Adams should be proud of Ren. He expertly created a world with multiple intelligent races – Kobold, Gnome, Elf, Human, Dragon – and has a clear picture he lays out for the reader while telling the story in “Ren of Atikala.”

What I will say instead — I love it.

Immediately after opening the book, the reader can see the love and passion Adams has for the world he created – beautiful maps that paint a picture even before you are engaged in the story. In fact, if you look, the larger map has so many places Adams hasn’t even touched on or referenced in “Ren of Atikala,” leaving you with the impression Adams has much more planned for Ren beyond the initial journey she is forced to take.

I’m a casual fantasy fan, so I wasn’t familiar with kobolds, but Adams has done a fantastic job taking a species usually considered to be evil or inherently violent and turning them into the heroes of the story.

But, let’s get back to Ren, because without her this story wouldn’t exist. Ren is a six-year-old female kobold. She is special – when her egg was tossed in the fire to be destroyed, she was made alive by the flames, a heritage that haunts her throughout the book. Her skin is gold and she is a sorceress – a place above the normal warriors in their culture, even though she still wants to join the warriors as well.

It is on a warrior patrol that Ren and her companion Khavi survive the total destruction of their home – the city Atikala. With no place to return to, they immediately focus on vengeance for the annihilation of their friends and families – aiming for the gnomes.

However, as their journey progresses through the Underworld, their worldview is changed by their experiences and those they meet along the way. Khavi is much more grounded in traditional Kobold culture, but Ren sees more to life – a way of life that Kobold before her have not adopted. It is eventually that way of life that saves her with profound consequences in the end.

There is so much to love about this book. Told from the point of view of a species about half the size of a human, we are treated to a unique perspective on new sights and sounds. For example, when a gnome takes off her shoes – which Ren and Khavi believed to be her actual feet, they were at first disgusted and amazed at her “outer feet” and how she could climb on rocks and walk with them. Then when the same gnome was apparently sweating, to the lizard-like kobold, this was a foreign concept and Ren likened it “body tears” providing for moments of levity for the reader.
I was heavily invested in Ren’s story more and more as the book went on and will be very interested to read the next installment in Ren’s story as soon as Mr. Adams can write it. Excellent book – I highly recommend it to any fantasy fan.

FIVE (That’s right — 5!) Book Reviews

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So, this Labor Day weekend, I didn’t have a lot required of me as I lounged around my in-laws’ home, so I was able to get some books and short stories polished off my TBR Pile (this was before I wrote my list last night). I actually read 6 books, but one isn’t out yet, so I’ll write that one up separately later this week when it is released. Each book is a link to its page on Amazon and I’ve included part of my reviews for each one. Here we go:

The Watcher – WJ Davies

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“I suppose if I was going to sum up the three parts of Davies’ Submerged Series, I would say “Hope Carries On.” In spite of all the darkness present in the silo and the secrets harbored by the innocent and guilty alike, hope carries them through.”

 

Desperate To Escape: Part 1 – Thomas Robins

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“Thomas Robins’ first work outside Hugh Howey’s World of WOOL takes us on a journey into space and a journey from the inner city of Chicago to the International Space Station as our main character, Ineeka, is literally desperate to escape the life she was destined for on earth for the journey of a lifetime in space.”

 

Little Green Men – Peter Cawdron

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“I’m a sucker for science fiction in space, especially first contact-type tales, so I was in for a treat with Little Green Men as Mr. Cawdron takes the reader on a fantastic ride from the get-go. …Cawdron tells a wonderful story with head-fakes and misdirections, all leading to a terrific conclusion”

 

The Disappeared: Part 1 – Logan Thomas Snyder

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“The more and more I read of the continued Silo stories beyond what Hugh Howey originally wrote, I keep expecting a drop-off in terms of quality. What I have found, however, is the opposite. Howey’s legion of fan writers are so devoted to the author and the source material that they sacrifice nothing when they publish their own tales of silo life. The same is true of Mr. Snyder. The story starts slowly as we are introduced to the characters, but by the end, the pace is moving at a swift pace that keeps the reader wanting more…especially when the story ends.”

 

Amber – John Gregory Hancock

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“As a writer, I was enthralled with what Hancock did — made me think. I thought about the implications of the situation he proposed — what really is our relationship with God? Is God benevolent really and how and why is He required to answer our prayers. I thought Mr. Hancock did great with the story, keeping it short, but long enough to put our minds to work.”

 

…and there you go. It was a great weekend for reading, but I did manage to get some significant writing in as well. Hopefully I’ll have an announcement on a new short story/novella in the next few weeks. 

My TBR Pile (I’m working on it!)

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I try to read a lot. I love to read, but here is a problem. When you also write a lot, it leaves you less time to read. I do have a healthy TBR pile built up (of which, these 8 are just the start). When I polish one off, I promise a review.

Books on by TBR (To Be Read) Pile:

*IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

ImageWICK Omnibus by Michael Bunker – This man is quickly becoming a name to be reckoned with in writing, and I am glad to call him my friend. His short story, Pennsylvania, has an Asimov/Heinlein tone to it that is very relatable, in spite of its “Amish Sci-fi” moniker. WICK is the book Bunker sharpened his sci-fi teeth on and I can’t wait to plunge into the post-apocalyptic tale.

Monsters by Peter Cawdron – I was recommended to Peter by Hugh Howey back some months, but I never pulled the trigger. That is, until Little Green Men a few days ago. That book is outstanding and I will recommend that to anyone interested in hard scifi. This was 99 cents at the same time I bought LGM, so I pulled the trigger on this and hope for more of the same magic from Mr. Cawdron.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – I don’t remember where I read about this a while back, but they were saying it would be like the next Harry Potter. Well, we’ve had a few attempts (some more successful than others), but this one looked intriguing. For $4.99, I figured I’d give it a read when I got the chance.

ImageSilo 49 by Ann Christy – If you don’t know already, I am a WOOLite, or member of LOOW or whatever you want to call a devotee to Hugh Howey’s WOOLiverse (or is it WOOLverse). Anyway, I’ve read most of the stories released, but for some reason, I just haven’t gotten to Ann’s tale of Silo 49. My sister read it and loved it, so I will have to dive in at some point.

Earthman Jack and the Ghost Planet by Matthew Kadish – Once again, I deferred to the taste of Hugh Howey on this one. If my memory is correct, I think he posted a story about Kadish and this book and it was compared to Star Wars meets Harry Potter. I’m in for that, especially at 99 cents. Really a big reason why this is on the list, however, is that I am letting my daughter read it right now and I want to talk to her about it later.

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey – the Brilliance of Amazon’s marketing, that is. I saw this advertised for a couple weeks on Amazon’s Kindle page and it looked a lot like a book I would want to read. It wasn’t super-expensive, so I bought it.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – I am a sucker. I love Harry Potter. When I heard about this book conning people, I bought it. Still haven’t had a chance to read it, though.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – What can I say? It’s Neil Freaking Gaiman.