Friday, January 25, 2013

Rakesh's Story by Malika Gandhi

I was asked to review this book, and I was happy to do so. Amazon lists this book at 48 pages so it's a short read, but it took me more than just a couple hours to read it. Getting my own book ready to go was a major obstacle to reading anything here recently.

But here it is, my review, finally:

Malika, the author, was born in India, but she has spent the vast majority of her life in the UK. It is obvious the ties to her homeland are still strong. She is a very talented story-teller, but I feel she could do better. One gets better with practice and it is my belief that she will go far with practice and the proper feedback.

The story is about a young man named Rakesh who follows his brother, Dilip, on a revolt against the white occupiers. The date is August 1942.  I can't tell for sure, but I think this might be a true story. Don't quote me on that though.

I have never been to India and I don't really know anything about the country or its people or customs. Not really. I've seen pictures and such, but really, aside from being able to point to it on the map, I'm pretty clueless about it all.

I rated this book with only 3 stars because I feel it could have been so much better. It is a beautifully written tale with a lot of tears, but I  didn't feel any passion. These men, these families were passionate about freeing their country from their oppressors; I could tell, but I just couldn't feel it. They went from secret place to secret place to meet and plan what to do and when. And therein is another thing missing from this book - background - scenery - sights - sounds - smells. Like I said, I don't know much about India and Malika failed to take me there.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Speed of Dreams - a sample

Since I'm working on what the editor sent back to me, I'm going to forgo a witty post and give you a sample instead. This is from about a quarter of the way into the book. I hope you like it.

Due out next month

A box will be mailed out to me at the same time. 
Stop by my event or go straight to my website to order your copy of any of my books and I'll sign it for you. Hope to see you there.

They entered the bay and saw a girl sitting on the floor in front of the hatch. She had short black hair and dark eyes. Kaz recognized her at once and he wasn’t all that pleased to see her here.

She rose to her feet at their appearance. “Kaz,” she said with a smile. She was acting as if he was a long lost, old and dear friend.

“What are you doing here, Jat’Lyn?” asked Kaz, his voice cold.

“Kaz, aren’t you pleased to see me?”

Rice looked surprised. “I’ll be going now.”

“No, please, Rice. Stay a while, I would like to talk with you more,” said Kaz.

Rice nodded and stood aside.

“Is this one of your little friends?” asked Jat’Lyn.

Kaz didn’t reply; he thought the remark ludicrous considering the fact that Rice was nearly twice her size.

“Come on Kaz, I thought you would be pleased to see that I was one of the pilots who were chosen for this mission, and one of the few who survived. Aren’t you pleased? I didn’t know you were here too, until Nathyn came back and told me. He was in such a fuss.”

“So Hae’Nathyn sent you to see what I was doing,” said Kaz coldly.

“How can you say that?” she asked indignantly.

“I can say it very easily. Ever since he let you know who my parents were and you left me to go with him.” Kaz’s voice grew even colder if that were possible.

“Oh Kaz, you don’t think I have feelings for him, do you?”

“I don’t think you have feelings for anyone. You just stood to gain more rank from matching with him than if you had stayed with me. And now that we’re here, you think you’ll do better by matching back with me, don’t you? Go back to Hae’Nathyn; you’ll not get another chance with me.”

“I’m sorry to hear you say that, Kaz.” She backed away. “Oh no!” She moved quickly away from him.

The rest of the pilots entered quickly through the hatch and then spread out; one of them lingered long enough to make sure the hatch was locked. Hae’Nathyn grabbed Jat’Lyn by the arm and thrust her violently away and to the rear of their group.

Kaz went to his ship’s hatch and slapped the panel. “Rice, get inside.” He helped his words by thrusting him into the ship. “Ship, don’t let him out until the fight’s over.”

* * * *

Before the hatch closed, Rice saw two of the others close in on Kaz’s back and then just as quickly, one of them lost at least half of his face and the other just dropped out of view. “Ship, what’s going on out there? Let me out. He doesn’t stand a chance against all of them alone.”

The quiet voice of the computer frustrated Rice in his near panic. “Pilot Aaitt’Kaz’s fighting record is exceptional and he has sparred against almost all of the pilots that are here. There is a twenty-nine point four percent probability that he will be able to deal out enough initial damage to cause the others to back down and acknowledge his superiority.”

“Let me call the bridge and get security down here.”

“I am sorry, Corporal Rice. This fight must be settled here and now. If this fight was to be interrupted, and another encounter was to occur, his odds of success would be much less.”

“What are you talking about? If he gets killed out there, who will be your pilot then? Who will rank then?”

“You are correct; my next pilot will be the victor of this fight and will therefore rank among this group.”

Rice thought about that for a moment during which time he heard someone slam against the bulkhead near the hatch. “If Kaz dies, then I declare myself your next pilot.”

“You are not a pilot. You do not know how to fly.”

“You’ll just have to teach me.” Rice paced the three steps available for such an activity.

“As you wish, Pilot Rice, but you should know that it is likely one or more of these pilots will challenge you for that right.” Another body met the bulkhead and a muffled cry of pain could be heard through the hull.

“Oh, well then, let’s just pray he survives. What’s going on out there? Isn’t there some way I can see?”

The screen came to life and a high view of the docking bay floor could be seen. A few steps from the hatch stood a tattered and bleeding Kaz with his right hand tucked into his waistband. Around him lay several bodies; it was impossible to tell if any of them were still alive. As he looked, three more closed in with him while other tattered fighters hung on the perimeter waiting to see the outcome.

Rice watched in astonishment as Kaz met one of his attackers with a foot in the throat. Another attacker received his hand in his chest—Rice had to look closer. Yes the left hand actually entered the man’s chest. The third attacker was forced to hesitate when his eyes were filled with blood… Where did the blood come from? …and then his feet were swept from under him. Kaz then leaped to straddle him and drove his hand down onto the man’s chest hard enough to break every rib; Rice could see the man’s chest flatten and bulge unnaturally. The others backed away to the bay doors. As the bay door opened, a flood of men entered.
Thirty pages to go - might have it done tonight - and then it's back to the editor.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kindle Fire

Here I am, a week later, and I've already read a book and a half. In case you haven't guessed by that, I'm doing a lot more reading than I am working on new stuff. The internet and Facebook are such an irresistible attraction.

Way back in May, I talked about document appearance, and frankly I like even my eBooks to look good. I won't go buy my Fortunes of Magic eBook just so I can see how it looks, but I hope it looks just as good as it did during the proofing. I went through and looked at every single page. I looked for paragraph indents being lined up, for chapters beginning on the top of a page, and for them to be centered. I even went back and redid it once because of that and also ended up dimming the heading and making it smaller. Between the two, being full color black, it was hard to tell the difference between the header and the chapter title.

The first time I was checking through it, there was this one little line that snuck in out of place. All it was, was "__" where it didn't belong; in fact it didn't belong at all, but it was over on the side, not in anyone's way. I don't even know how it got there. I was going to let it slide, though you know it would nag at me, but then I saw that apparently the chapter headings were indented, putting them five points off center. It would have been completely unnoticeable if it weren't for the header text having no indent so they weren't lined up. That's when I noticed how hard it was to tell the difference between those two elements. Sigh - time to start over - completely. These issues, though found while going through my eReader proof, were in the hard copy book too.

I fixed all that and reloaded the document. It didn't take very long, a chunk of an afternoon is all. Now I have a book and an eBook up on Amazon, and I did it all myself.

During my online writing research to this end, I've had the pleasure of seeing several different formatting strategies different publishers take to make a document eBook friendly. I do believe it's SmashWords where you go through an entire process to remove all the things Word does automatically, and then you put them all back in manually. I've done it. It's a pain but it's possible. Maybe one day I'll go that route too, because they do hit a different market. I'll have to think about it.

Because of all these different formatting issues a writer puts their document through, of the now two books I've seen on my Kindle Fire, the formatting is all messed up. Paragraph indents are all over the place, anywhere from no indent to up to three. A Kindle viewer window is pretty narrow; tab over three times and suddenly your first line indent is half way across the page. It would bug me no end if my books were like that, sadly I was only able to proof one of my books, so if my formatting is all messed up in my other two, please tell me so I can yell at someone.

For me, the appearance of my work is very important. You spend good money to read my work, I want nothing there to take away from your enjoying the story. Paragraphs that don't line up, or chapters that start on the last line of the previous page are a distraction.

If you ask me, if you want sales, don't let your work go before it LOOKS as good as it reads. No one's perfect. The occasional typo or homonym, might slip by the best of us, but if that's all they manage to find, it's not going to piss your reader off much, if they even notice it. Unfortunately, we all judge by appearances, and I want my reader to love my story, not shake their head at how messy the page looks.

How much attention do you pay to your document's appearance?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Taking the Plunge

Into self publishing.

Yep - I did it.

As many of you know, I have made the trip into Eagle River to spend a few weeks, or maybe months (not too many) with my son and his wife. It's been a plan since summer. We tried to make it by Christmas, but that didn't quite work out, so we aimed for New Years, but that didn't quite work out either - then again, I'm only a few days late, not bad really. Living where I live, it's hard to just go somewhere for an extended visit. If it's going to snow a lot, there's roofs to worry about. And then there's the worry about how we're going to get back out there. Without someone there, there's no one to keep the runway packed and the trails broken out. But, those are just the standard worries that go along with my chosen lifestyle.

My chosen lifestyle does tend to get in the way of my publishing career once in a while, so part of the plunge is simply the trip to town. We'll work out the worries when we have to, plus I'm sure there's local help if I need it. We will make it; it's all logistics.

The best part of my plunge was when we got here to my son's apartment. They presented me with my long overdue Christmas present, A KINDLE FIRE!!! Now, I had planned on ordering a kindle and buying a bunch of books to put on it, but I was looking at the nice little fifty dollar one they had on Amazon; I was hoping to be able to find one here in a store.

The next part of my plunge was to successfully buy something from Amazon. For some bizarre reason Amazon wouldn't accept my credit card, so this morning, I broke down and used a different one, and what do you know, it worked. So now, not only is my husband going to get his Christmas present, but I've already loaded a few books onto my kindle.

Do you have any idea what that means???

That means that, not only do I get the privilege of posting a review or two in Amazon itself, but I also get to PUBLISH my blog novel.

Guess what I've been doing all afternoon, just guess. I'll even give you three guesses, but the first two don't count.

The Fortunes of Magic has been submitted for Amazon Review. All that remains is to wait for their email, they say twenty-four hours, so hopefully tomorrow. I started digging into doing it in Kindle too, but I think it needs to be on Amazon first, plus I'm tired, and I simply HAD to tell you all about my plunge into self-publishing.

I have been SO careful with this document, so I hope it's error free. I apologize profusely for setting a price, but I had to - publication costs and all that - so I set it to the lowest price I could. I'll only make pennies per copy. Best part is that it'll be available all over the world. I had no idea how far Amazon reached. It'll be available for less than $10.00 wherever you see it, but if that's too much, I do have a nice pdf with the cover picture as the first page, all you gotta do is ask for it.

Anyway, I'm so excited about it. Wish me luck