Author Interview – “Squids In” by Matthew Poat on Inkshares

Squids_In_Cover_01_RedoTell us all a little about Squids In

Squids In is a feel good, adult oriented story about a stoner called Toby and this octopus which gets stolen from a military animal testing lab by activists and dumped into Toby’s pool. It turns out that the octopus is a demon at playing video-games and so Toby creates an online account for the creature to play on and they take part in an assortment of player versus player death matches for cash prizes, with Toby amassing quite a fortune and becoming an online gaming celebrity. This all comes back to bite him however when Hendrix  (the octopus) gets stolen from him AND the military animal testing lab pull him in for intense interrogation over the animal lab break in. The last portion of the book revolves around Toby’s search to get Hendrix back. It’s very much written in a “Pineapple Express” style so if you like that kind of thing, this is definitely the book for you.

Where did you get the idea for the book? Real life experiences (LOL)?

My seven month old son was given a “Hank” cuddly orange octopus, one of the sea creatures that appears in the upcoming Disney film “Finding Dory”. When the topic for the Nerdist June writing competition was announced on Inkshares as being video-game related, I just sat on my sofa looking around for inspiration and Hank caught my eye. It was as simple as that.child_squidWhy did you decide to use Inkshares – a crowdfunded publishing site?

I was first brought to Inkshares via an article that appeared on the Geek and Sundry website, when they announced they were running a competition for hard sci-fi novels. Now, I don’t write hard sci-fi and rarely read anything that fits in that genre but I followed the link anyway and discovered this wonderful community of writers who were helping each other to achieve their goals, offered support and motivation. I think that was something I needed in order to get on and write and probably the reason I stuck around. There are some truly great people on Inkshares.

Why do you write?

I write purely as a form of distraction. My work and home life are very hectic and stressful. As a creative person, I am constantly in need of things that fire up that side of my brain and keep me balanced and sane, otherwise who knows what sort of person I will become. I would love to become a full time writer, but my writing skills need to develop in order for this to happen. The more I write, the better I write. It really is as simple as that.

What are your plans for the future with your writing?

My ultimate short-term goal is to finish in the top 3 in the Nerdist video-game contest with Squids In, which would guarantee publication. If the book does not finish that high, I’m not sure if I really want to limp on to Quill. That’s something I need to figure out in a few weeks’ time depending on how things go. I would love to publish the book properly however just so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy some of the artwork my illustrator Eugene Karasz from DeviantArt has done for it.

Why should readers help support your book?

My story is pretty different to everything else in the Nerdist video-game competition and because of this, Squids In is kind of the underdog of the top ten (along with the excellent Mothering: The Game by Regina McMenomy.) The other entries at the sharp end are there for a multitude of reasons of course, they are great ideas and books (shout out to “Destiny Imperfect” by Peter Ryan) but I like a good injection of comedy in the things I read and Squids In has ink loads of that.

Squids In on Inkshares

 

Writer Income: Big 5 Publishing Authors vs. Indie Authors – from Author Earnings

comparing-50k-trad-vs-100k-indies-768x443I was reviewing this exhaustive report from Author Earnings and found these statistics to be extremely interesting – indeed, the publishing industry has been turned on its head:

“…As of May 5, 2016, only 3 Big Five authors who debuted in the past 5 years are currently making a seven figure run rate from their Amazon sales — print, audio, and ebook combined. On the other hand, 14 indies who debuted in the same time period are right now doing the same.

But what about those “invisible” authors earning $100,000+ per year…?
The ones we keep anecdotally hearing about (and hearing from), who don’t show up on any Amazon category best seller lists?

Well, we found them. They were hiding in plain sight, in our million-title May data set.

Turns out there were 43 of them lurking unseen in the dark spaces between Amazon’s bestseller lists, including one author invisibly earning more than $250,000 a year. Unsurprisingly, 30 of the 43 invisible six-figure earners — including the top earner — were self-published indie authors. Most were writing in the Romance Fiction genres, but there was also an indie author of editor’s-choice Cozy Mystery Fiction, and even more surprising, a traditional-award-winning indie writer of Literary Fiction. We happen to think that’s pretty cool.

When we lowered the author earnings bar to $50,000 a year, we found 142 invisible authors that were earning that much or more on Amazon.com, without any of their titles appearing on any category best-seller lists. 105 of those 142 were self-published indies.

We live in exciting times. Today it’s possible to be a full-time professional author, quietly earning $50,000+ a year — even six figures a year — without ever sending a query letter to anyone. On Amazon alone, the data shows over a thousand indie authors earning a full-time living right now with their self-published titles.

The only gatekeepers that matter now are readers….”

 

AND IT IS ABOUT TIME……The thought of never, ever sending a query letter again – what bliss!

Complete report can be viewed here:  http://authorearnings.com/report/may-2016-report/

 

Book Review – The Life Engineered

life engineered Overall review:3 Stars (3 / 5)

The Life Engineered, by J.F. Dubeau is a story revolving around the trials and tribulations of a group of sentient robots, called Capeks.  The Capeks live in space, and their prime mission is to rebuild a destroyed Milky Way Galaxy.  Capeks have been created by humans just for this purpose.  But, when creatures are sentient, of course they develop their own ideas about things!

This book is a winner of the Sword and Laser Collection contest run on the Inkshares publishing site early last year.

I so wanted to like this book. I mean, sentient robots who get to live in space in a utopian society, not bound by nuisances like absolute zero, lack of gravity, no atmosphere, solar radiation etc.  What’s not to like? I read the first page, completely ready to be pleased.

But, about halfway through, I just had to put it aside.

I spent quite a bit of time in analysis on what it was I didn’t like about it, and my final conclusion it was just for too much to cover in one book.

There are basically three completely different settings, two of which need some real worldbuilding finesse to make them believable.  There are dozens of characters, and none of them are given the depth that is required to make them interesting and make the reader CARE about them.

The story line itself was muddled and the first three chapters were so diverse in settings and poorly transitioned, I had trouble piecing the threads of connection together, even half way through the book.  As I said before, the characterization was superficial, there were some nuances brought out in the protagonist at various points, which I thought were worthy of more expansion.  And there was a real bright and charming moment with one of the robot constructs that I enjoyed thoroughly.

And, as I said before the worldbuilding left a lot to be desired, in all three settings.  As far as craft, I think the talent is there, certainly the imagination is.  But, more work needs to be done to improve these skills.

Copy and line editing was excellent, I didn’t find any errors to stumble over.

The cover art was well done, rendered well on a computer and reflected the plot of the book very nicely.

And just as a side note, I think that this entire concept would have worked VERY well in a Weir/Howey model – i.e. short stories serialized over a period of time to give the author time to build a readership, develop a complex “storyverse,” and create real depth in the characters.  And those types of exercises always give an author the chance for improvements in crafting.

Story Line:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Characterization:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Readability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Writing Craft:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Cover Art:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Worldbuilding:2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

Book Review – Isle of Winds

isle of windsOverall review:2 Stars (2 / 5)

I chose this book, Isle of Winds by James Fahy on the strength of good reviews (for independently published works) on Goodreads.  I didn’t realize at the time that it was a middle grade/young adult book (with the emphasis on middle grade).  But, it was an interesting story line so I went ahead and decided to review it.

It is a coming of age story of the protagonist, Robin Fellows, a twelve year old boy with relatives that are either dead or extremely eccentric.  He develops friends (both human, “fae,” “panthea,” and other) who help him along in his quest to develop hidden magical abilities.  He also has evil denizens of the Netherworlde who are out to control him for their own nefarious purposes.

Character development is really geared towards a middle grade audience, and adult readers will find them a bit flat.  Harry Potter fans will probably like the book, but the characters do not have the depth of Rowling’s main characters.

The book is desperately in need of good copy and line editing.  There were numerous grammatical and punctuation errors, and some sentences that just did not make sense.

As far as writing craft, the book had a good pace I felt, with interesting and varied characters and enough conflict to keep the story moving forward and the reader engaged.  Again, the straightforward prose is fine for a middle grade audience, but older readers will find it somewhat predictable.

The cover art was not impressive, and said little about the story line.  It displayed well enough on a computer screen, which is something that I am going to be adding into the cover art critiques.

Like the other review points, worldbuilding is suitable for a middle grade audience.  But older readers will find it a bit thin.

So – overall, I think this is a good story suitable for young people 6-14 years old.

Story Line:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Characterization:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Readability:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Writing Craft:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Cover Art:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Worldbuilding:3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

Asteroid Made of Dragons

asteroid made of dragonsOverall review:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Imagine a tea party.  Frank Zappa is the host, and he makes some “special” mushroom tea.  Attendees at the party include William Goldman (of The Princess Bride fame), Lewis Carroll (Looking Glass fame [of course]), and Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide) and they are told to collaborate on a novel.

I have to say even THEY would have had a tough time coming up with a book as entertaining as Asteroid Made of Dragons.

It has been many years since I have enjoyed any book as much AMOD.  Granted, during the first couple of chapters I was in a flashing brain state of WTF is going on??, but by Chapter 3, I was totally hooked.  And laughing.

I dearly love mashups as a rule, and this book was the mashup to end all mashups.  Just about every mythological, fairylogical, pixielogical, archetypal, supernatural and general magical creature/thing made an appearance at some point (I didn’t see unicorns or Orcs, that I recall – but I could have just overlooked them).  And, there were also steampunk-type airships, ghost-pirate zombies, at least one vampire (I think – all signs point to that fact), a seer and of course, the dragon asteroid.

The story itself (once I fully committed to the ride) was an entertaining Wild Mouse twister.  I never knew WHAT was going to happen next.  Characterization was neatly and skillfully done – especially considering the gamut of creatures that appeared at nearly every turn of the page.

Editing was outstanding.  At the end of the book, the author gives credit to “Lindsay Robinson for her blistering developmental edit.”  I have a feeling that this book was not the easiest book to edit – so more power to Lindsay!

I just had one small gripe – there was a sentence in about horses/riders “looping” which made no sense (horses lope).  I am a long time horsewoman – and when I run across inaccuracies like this I always get a sour face.

The cover art is very good, accurately portraying the lighthearted feel of the book itself.  Writing craft – I would say that Adams is well on his way to journeyman status.  And, worldbuilding – pretty good – considering there was so many worlds mashed together.

All in all – a classic and a must read.

Story Line:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Characterization:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Readability:4.75 Stars (4.75 / 5)
Writing Craft:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Cover Art:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Worldbuilding:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Why oh why do people like to talk to me?

ranting-homer2_1I cannot go anywhere without random strangers feeling obligated to strike up a conversation with me.  Today in two short visits (one to Wal-Mart and one to the women’s bathroom at Lowe’s) I was treated to A) a rant about people leaving milk and other perishables in carts to be “rooint” which makes “dah prices” go up for all of us and B) a loud exclamation and instructive comments on “THANK GOD THE BATHROOM HAS BEEN CLEANED!  You would not BELIEVE what it smelled like before…” (and more details that don’t even bear mentioning).

I have no idea why this is.  If these people knew what I was actually thinking they would probably fall dead in offended shock.

 

Book Review – Abomination

abomination

Overall review:4.25 Stars (4.25 / 5)

Abomination is a intricate tale of two troubled spirits both in desperate struggles against a merciless occupying army, class and gender biases. hordes of man eating horrors and overwhelming inner demons.  Set in 9th century England during the reign of Alfred the Great, it begins as a classic monster(s) hunt by noble and less than noble knights, then it becomes something much more meaningful and rewarding.

The two protagonists, Wulfric and Indra, both are believable as  typical characters in a fantasy novel but still complex enough to be interesting. And while there is some one-dimensionality in their roles as warriors, it is forgivable, because they have such tangled interior conflicts.

What I found I liked best about the book though was its unexpected message of the true meaning of compassion and forgiveness.  Not something you usually expect to find in a fantasy/horror book.  It made for an interesting and satisfying read.

The author, Gary Whitta, is best known as a screenwriter.  He has many notable credits to his name, including the original screenplay for The Book of Eli, the major feature film starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis.  So, as could be expected,  Abomination’s dialog was strong and amusing at times, I just wish there had been more of it.

Whitta’s writing style put me in mind of Ken Follett’s popular work, The Pillars of the Earth.  The story line was fresh and interesting, with enough plot twists to keep me up reading late into the night.  The readability (editing) was excellent – I only found one problem – a missed period.  There might have been other problems but it wasn’t enough to make me stumble while reading.  What a treat!

The cover art, done by Jason Gurley, is outstanding, that accurately reflects the story line and draws in the reader.

The book did lack in the worldbuilding aspect – I would have liked to have seen richer descriptions of England during this period, and those lack of details made the visualization of the story backdrop a bit on the muddy side.

All in all an excellent effort for a first novel.

Story Line:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Characterization:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Readability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Writing Craft:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)
Cover Art:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Worldbuilding:3 Stars (3 / 5)

Buy on Inkshares here:

Abomination by Gary Whitta

 

Buy on Amazon here:

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