Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review -- The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig

My rating: 5/5 stars

This is one of the few novels I've read with a unique voice and an unconventional, stream-of-consciousness writing style that was also easy to read and understand.  The author captured the voice of a young boy perfectly and made it a compelling read.  Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, I stayed up too late on several nights just to read one more chapter.  I loved it.

From Amazon: "When eleven-year-old Philip Noble is confronted by the ghost of his recently deceased father and asked to avenge his death, the boy finds himself in a thorny dilemma. Revenge, after all, is a tricky business-especially when Philip is already distracted by his girlfriend, school bullies, self-doubt, and all the other challenges of adolescence. Viewing the adult world through the eyes of a young boy, The Dead Fathers Club is a brilliant, quirky take on a classic tale."

Everything about Philip is honest and believable.  Philip is a little odd and quirky, but in a way that makes him relatable; from what he observes to what he thinks and how he reacts to the very stressful situations in which he finds himself, the reader understands him, at least in part.  The reader feels for him, and worries about his sanity, as he comes to terms with his frustrations with adults, with classmates, and with the uncertainties, uncontrollability, and unfairness of life.

The ending left something to be desired, but it worked.  Where some books end on a note of indecision that seems to be a fault of the author, this one has a pretty clear point, and it did not detract from the novel at all in my opinion.  Unfortunately I've never read Hamlet, so I can't attest to this story being a retelling as others have, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  Other reviewers have also compared this book to The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime, which I've added to my list of books to be read.

Recommended for probably high school and up, due mainly to some swearing and one sex scene (none of which the 11-year-old main character participated in, fyi).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Look! Nook!

The Death of Torberta Turchin is now available on Nook through Barnes and Noble! Same price as the Kindle version, and you can download a free sample as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hot off the presses!

The Death of Torberta Turchin is now available in print on Amazon.

And just as an fyi, buying two would get you free shipping. ;)  You know.  If you want.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review -- Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1

My rating: 4/5 stars

Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 by PJ Haarsma is a great Young Adult science fiction novel. I'm an adult, but I could barely put my Kindle down while reading it. If anyone is looking for a book that their kids will enjoy, or anyone looking for accessible sci-fi, I definitely recommend this one.

This first book of a four-book series centers on Johnny Turnbull, or JT, one of over 200 orphan children brought to Orbis from Earth. They have never known Earth or their parents, having been born on their seed ship after the adults had already passed away, and look forward to their life on Orbis. However, as in our lives on Earth, the children's new lives are not what they imagined, and JT, his sister, and his friends must fight for their lives and for the very existence of Orbis.

Unlike many sci-fi novel geared towards adults, this book is very accessible, with just the right amount of jargon and background information to keep the reader interested without feeling overwhelmed. An easy, entertaining read.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Publishing on Kindle

Publishing on Kindle is relatively easy, but there are several steps involved.  The following details the steps I took and the resources I used to do so.

1. Save files as .doc format.  (Mine were already in this format, but good to note that this is the best format for creating a Kindle-friendly work.  Also make sure that your file does not have any fancy formatting like footnotes or bulleted lists.)

2. Now save the file as a "Web page, Filtered" (or similar, depending on your word processing software).

3. Open your .html file in Notepad.  (If you've never worked with html before, don't worry; most of it will be ignored anyway. Don't panic. :) )  In some places in my file, instead of a paragraph tag, <p>, at the beginning of every paragraph (and a closing paragraph tag, </p>, at the end), I had two break tags, <br>.  And that won't work for Kindle publishing.  If your file does not have a <p> at the beginning of each paragraph and a </p> at the end, you will have to add them in.  This step was time-consuming for mine, but it was doable.  If you need a blank line, such as after a chapter heading, use <p>&nbsp;</p> .  If you want any text to be centered or right-aligned, use <p align="center"> or <p align="right">.  And if you would like any of your text to be larger than the rest, like chapter titles or the book title, use <h1> at the beginning and </h1> at the end, in place of the paragraph tags.  (Or for even larger text, <h2>, <h3>, etc.)  I also added at the beginning of each chapter a <mbp:pagebreak /> tag, so that each new chapter would start on a new page.

4. Create a cover image.  I created mine in PhotoShop, using an image I found on the website, which I got permission from the photographer to use.  Remember that the image will be in black and white on Kindle but in color on Amazon's site, so try to design your cover to work well in both.  Minimum size should be 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels high.  Save in .jpeg format.  

5.  Download Mobipocket Creator.

6. Open Mobipocket Creator.  Under "Import From Existing File," click on "HTML document." Browse to your .html file, then click "Import."  Once it has finished importing, click on "Cover Image" and add the image you created in step 4.  Be sure to click on the "Update" button at the bottom.  Then click on "Metadata" and fill out the relevant information (title, author, description, etc.).  When finished, click the "Update" button at the bottom, then the "Build" button at the top in the blue navigation bar.  (I left my file at Standard Compression and No encryption.) Then click "Build" at the bottom.  Once it has finished, I recommend choosing to "Open folder containing eBook," so you know exactly where it's located.  And now you have a .prc file, which can be read on a Kindle.

7. Download Kindle Previewer from Amazon.  (Scroll down to Kindle Previewer.)

8. Open Kindle Previewer.  Go to File, Open Book, and navigate to where your .prc file is.  Review your file to make sure it appears how you want it to appear.  If not all of the text is viewable, like it's running off the page to the right, don't worry; this is a problem with the Kindle Previewer, not with your file.  Don't spend an hour trying to figure out what you did wrong like I did.

9. Once you're happy with what you have, sign in to Kindle Direct Publishing.  Here you will add your file and all the relevant information, and you're finished!  Within a day or two, your book will be available for sale.  At the present time, if you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, you will receive a 70% royalty on each sale.  Anything higher or lower will net you only 30%.

I hope this helps, and please feel free to ask questions!  If I can't answer them, someone else may be able to. 

HOW TO: Publish Your Book on Amazon Kindle by Dylan Love
Kindle Formatting by Joshua Tallent
If you want to download a sample of my Kindle book and see how it looks go here: The Death of Torberta Turchin  (If you don't own a Kindle, you can download a Kindle Reading App for iPhone, PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPad, Android, or Windows Phone 7.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Finding an agent

To be clear right off the bat, this is not instructions on how to find a literary agent, or the steps I took to find my agent, because I never found one.  Or, I found several, but none ever wanted to read my manuscript, let alone represent me.  But these are the steps I took in my attempt nonetheless, and I think a lot of other writers will relate.

In 2008, I purchased the latest edition of Novel and Short Stories Writer's Market.  I went through the entire section of agents, highlighted those that might be interested in my book, and began writing queries.  I looked up all the information I could find on how to write the best query letters.  I paid close attention to what each agent wanted, because they all had different requirements.  Some accepted queries via email, some did not and had to be sent through snail mail.  Total, I sent to 15 agents.  Total rejections: 14.  One I never heard back from.

After that, I was discouraged.  I didn't want to give up exactly, but I was seriously questioning the quality of my work and I took a break.  In the next couple of years, I finished grad school and got married, and I edited my manuscript a few times but never made any serious changes.  And in 2010, I tried again.

Again, I used the Writer's Market book, and again I wrote and rewrote my query letter according to the different standards each agent required.  More agents accepted e-queries this time, which was thankfully easier and cheaper.  However I also noticed this time that the majority said specifically that if I did not hear back from them, then the answer was a no.  They wouldn't be sending a courtesy rejection letter.  Total again, I sent to 15 agents, all different than my first round.  Total rejections: 6.  The other 9 I never heard back from.

And so ended my search for an agent.  Typing it out like this, it seems like I didn't try very hard.  30 agents, big deal; surely I could have found more to try.  And probably I could.  But finding agents who specifically represent young adult fantasy novels and who are accepting queries from unpublished authors is more difficult than it sounds.  And navigating all the different requirements of each, which usually I wouldn't mind and almost treat as a challenge, is time-consuming, especially when you're at the point of expecting either no reply at all or a short, canned-response rejection for your efforts.

Though I had read and been told over and over again that finding an agent was the only way to be reputably published, and that self-publishing was for terrible, unreadable writers who couldn't take a hint... I decided that I was tired of having this finished manuscript sit dormant on my computer.  I read that it was easy to publish on Kindle, so, I decided to go for it. 

In my next entry, I'll detail the steps I took to do so.