Search This Blog

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hey! Look at me! Over here . . . Guys?

This is a guest post by Michael Bernhart. 

POV: First person

That’s me on the right. Some kind folks at a new age festival captured my aura on their aura-cam. They gushed that it was an exceedingly auspicious aura, and they sounded sincere when they said it. They didn’t seem to be looking for money.
In truth, I was having a good day. Young women returned my smiles; small children did not retreat behind their nannies at my approach; I’d scored two free massages; and my significant other had found – to that point – comparatively little to criticize.
Maybe it was an auspicious aura.
Not every day is a good day for authors; most days our auras can be printed in monochrome, gradations of grey. Look at the odds: One million new novels are published annually in the US alone – 2,700/day. Half of these are self-published, and the average number of copies sold doesn’t reach 250. Writing a book is a losing proposition, financially and psychically. Why do we do it? Easy. We’re narcissists, shouting, “Look at me!” Those author photos, the subject oozing self-confidence and worldliness? Don’t be taken in.
Of those 1,000,000 books, almost all are bad. The ‘quality filter’ that traditional publishers boast of still allows James Patterson on the shelves. Insane, right? In fairness to James, he reportedly has distanced himself from the production end of the operation. That dreck is the work of his minions.
The only quality filter on self-published books is set by the author’s capacity for self-deception. Since this capacity appears boundless, the filter is usually inoperative but, self-published books do have one advantage: Thanks to permissive policies of CreateSpace, Nook, etc. an author can upload a revised/improved version daily and, through successive approximations, eventually grind out something readable. That assumes the author acts on constructive feedback. In contrast with the steadily improving indie book, the traditional publishers are stuck with the original, no matter how flawed, until the last remainders table has been cleared.
Despite the odds against finding a quality book, you should try to read. It’s good for you, and here’s the proof: Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health published their findings in Social Science & Medicine (a reputable journal) that people who read a book – not a periodical – for half an hour a day lived 23 months longer. We can all agree; that beats dieting and exercise.
To obtain those additional 23 months at the most agreeable price, here are some suggestions on how to avoid bad books:
1. Blogs, such as this one, provide one filter. The downside is that many bloggers are reluctant to stick it to an aspiring author and either pull their punches or don’t post a review of a book they didn’t like.
2. Avoid debut novels. Usually overwritten, ambitious, and precious. Mine is. I’ve been struggling for months to turn it into something that a majority of readers who start will finish.
3. Prize winners? Something has gone wrong with the Pulitzer. You should view a literary prize as fair warning that a few pretentious snobs in self-anointed centers of exceeding refinement have bestowed their grace upon a) an author most like themselves, or b) an author least like themselves (think third world, desperately poor, a gritty survivor).
4. Psychological thrillers. Avoid these too. I’m nominating this as the most promiscuously over-used genre of the decade. I studied psychology for a while (at Harvard! so you know it’s good stuff) and what authors dub as a psychological thriller is almost always short on both thrills and psychological insight. At best you’ll find a few groaningly lame stabs at the perp’s motives.
5. Authors who draw heavily on their profession are hit and miss. Yes, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals are not dependent on Wikipedia for context and problem, but Jonathon Kellerman has shown us that a PhD in psych is not a guarantee of consistent quality or psychological insight.
But read. For openers, read the third and forth in my series. (Not the first and second; not yet. Still playing the successive approximations game.) Check out the evergreens, the heavyweights, the classics, the new stuff. If only one percent of the annual production of new novels is any good, that’s 200 quality books each week. Hey! You just learned you’ve added two years to your life of quiet desperation; you have plenty of time to read.
Get to it.
POV: Third person

Michael Bernhart is an award-winning author who has published extensively on international development and public health – primarily service quality. His credentials for this written outpouring are a PhD (from MIT!) and four decades of international work – currently 50 countries and counting.
The journey from writing funding proposals to writing pure fiction was short and easy. The result is the Max Brown tetralogy, which traces the arc (from age 10 through 66) of a smartass who earnestly wants to avoid trouble, but whose own behavior – or events – repeatedly drops him into it. Each of the four novels finds Max struggling with a new life-stage crisis – or crises – as he grows up in these trying times. Manhood used to be a birthright; now it seems to be an unending series of challenges. Each novel also finds Max confronting a new face of evil.
Dr. (why not use it?) Bernhart started this project before the internet could serve up virtual experiences to authors. The contextual information and situations come from service as a pilot in the USAF, living in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and inexplicable success at snaring women well out of his league. These remarkable similarities with the main character noted, he insists the work is not autobiographical. It’s wish fulfillment.

If the foregoing has sparked interest – or at least mild curiosity – the Max Brown tetralogy is available here.

Here is a website that describes the series – when not lavishing praise on the author.

Bernhart currently lives in a yurt on a mountaintop in northern Georgia with one ex-wife, two daughters, and three cats. He still flies his vintage plane, although more cautiously than before, and he’s unshakeable in his conviction that he’s God’s Gift to Aviation.
This is what he looks like to a portraitist. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Perfect Stranger | Megan Miranda

"The bad guy, the one we could only imagine in the mask, in the shadows - it was always closer than we liked to imagine.”

Genre: Thriller.
Number of Pages: 337.
Perspective: Third.
Location: Rural Pennsylvania. 

The Perfect Stranger is about an ex-journalist who runs away from a controversy by moving to a rural town with an old friend that recently reappeared. Something is not right when that friend goes missing and there’s no evidence of her ever existing. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I love a good thriller with a twist. I was  certain that I figured out the twist early on, so I was annoyed by how obvious it seemed. But, fortunately, I was wrong and didn’t guess exactly how the mystery ended. 

This was a quick read because it caught my attention and I wanted to keep reading. The characters were all flawed, and maybe even a little creepy. You don’t usually meet that many creepy people, so that aspect was a little unbelievable for me. I would say that this book was enjoyable, but not fantastic. It’s not up there with the great thrillers that have become popular over the past few years, but it holds its own and is worth a read. Like most thrillers, I can't say too much about this book without giving away some of the mystery. 

I have not read Miranda’s bestselling book, All The Missing Girls, which is probably an advantage that I had, since many people were so hyped up about this book because of how good the first book was. I have it on my shelf and will be reading that one very soon! We’ll see if that one lives up to its reputation… 

I definitely recommend this book to people who love thriller mysteries. It somewhat reminded me of The Luckiest Girl Alive and The Girl on the Train, but not as epic as either of them. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think!

“You can get there and not like the truth you find…when you realize that no one was who you thought.”

4/5 Stars

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What Makes a Good Travel Writer?

This is a guest post by Dave Tomlinson.

For me, the most obvious requirement of a good travel writer is that they write about real-life, true experiences. If people are reading fictional accounts of something that never happened written by someone who’s never been there it suddenly all becomes rather meaningless. My travel stories are completely true and related exactly as they happened; nothing has been contrived or exaggerated.

As the reader of a travel book, you want to feel that you’re taking the journey with the writer. In your mind’s eye, you want to see the sights and people being described, hear the sounds and even sense the smells. Words need to bring scenes and experiences vibrantly to life to leave the reader amused and amazed. Dull travel writing does nothing to inspire anyone!  

Writing about travel destinations or experiences is different to a fictional novel. A good travel writer will keep the story moving instead of losing the reader in superfluous detail. All the tales in my recent book have been related and edited to 500 words. This decision was made to keep readers engaged and captivated through each adventure and hopefully from cover to cover!

Good travel writing should be informative. Aside from being entertaining, I want my readers to learn something about places they’ve never been. So aside from relating my exploits, I also include many relevant or quirky facts and historical information in my writing. This creates a more interesting and fulfilling reading experience while also leaving the reader more knowledgeable and enlightened.

Travel, in the true sense is not simply seeing things. It is a unique cultural experience that includes people, places, food and so much more. The best travel writing captures this diversity and offers it to the reader with energy and passion. It’s entertaining and stirs wanderlust. After reading a good travel story, you’ll probably sit back and think “wow, I’d love to go there and do that!”

Dave Tomlinson is originally from beautiful New Zealand and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. His passion for travel, outdoor adventure, and cultural understanding has seen him explore over 50 countries across 5 continents of the world. He’s used his love of travel to create a website and write two books. Travel Unravelled is a guidebook for traveling the world on a budget and Around the World in 80 Tales is a collection of his experiences doing exactly that! 


Monday, May 1, 2017

Hacked by Book Characters

This is a guest post by Nicholas Bridgman.

Detective Robert Gladstone looked around his new environment, bleary eyed from both his transition between literary worlds and from the tie-dyed background of the webpage. The tie-dye looked familiar, coming as he did from San Francisco. But other than that, the page did not look at all recognizable.
So, Robert sought the narrator’s help, as he often did when he needed information and had nowhere else to turn.  He addressed him directly, asking, “Where am I now, you control freak?”
The narrator responded with a laugh, “You’re in a webpage, or more accurately, a literary blog.”
“Why do I want to be there?”
“I’m just testing you, seeing how you react to new stimuli.  I need to know you’re going to be responsible if I take you from fiction into the real world.”
“So this isn’t the real world?”
“No, it’s a website created by a woman named Amber Gregg, for people to come to who like to read and talk about books.”
“Well that’s a good thing, at least. I like books. I should, since I’m a character in one. But if Amber created the page, then how come you are narrating it? Don’t tell me she wanted you to do the narrating for her.”
“As it turns out, no she didn’t, I hacked my way in.”
“You hacked some writer’s website?”
“Yes, it wasn’t that hard to do given the simplicity of her passwords. And anyway, I hacked for a good cause, I wanted to see what you would do if I took you partway into the real world—a website is a good place to start, virtual enough to be harmless, but connected enough to somewhat represent the real world.”
“I see. Well I hope you learn what you’re after.  You’re doing enough damage in the process—both to this woman’s site and to me and my life.”
“Right, yes of course. Why don’t you just take a look around? Familiarize yourself with this website, and when you’re done, we’ll see about taking you from your novel into my writing studio in my house.”
“Okay. I see she offers Editing Services. Things like line editing, developmental editing, and proofreading. Maybe that could have helped you, my narrator friend. It’s not like you write the most seamless plots.”
“Hey, I wrote you, didn’t I? You should thank me.”
“I know, you’re right. I guess I’m just tired of the fictional world. I want more: I want to live, I want to see and do things under my own volition, not because of your control. I want to know what it’s like to choose my own destiny, and to see things just because, just because they happen to be occurring around me, not because they are planned by you to advance your plot.”
“And you will, I promise, with time. If people want to know more about how you fare with this, they should read Nicholas Bridgman’s novel, A Character in Reality. This will describe all of Detective Gladstone’s adventures in reality, and how his journey leads him to learn insights about what it means to be human. Bye for now, see you in the real world.”

Nicholas holds B.A.’s in Rhetoric and Ecology from U.C. Berkeley.  His fiction has appeared in Pilcrow & Dagger and Indiana Voice Journal.  His debut novel is A Character in Reality. For more info, go here.