Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review - Hour of the Beast

4 Star rating – recommended for genre fans
Since it is the month of Halloween, I thought I would go with a horror story. I guess you could say Hollowland was also, but fighting zombies tends to be more fun than scary.
Werewolves are one of my favorite classic monsters. The cover was more than enough to entice me to read this story. From the very first chapter you learn that this is a story that does not mind the labels "dark" or "gritty." In the very first chapter, a woman has a disturbing encounter with a werewolf. If you need to know more, the cover should give you plenty of hints. The rest of the story follows her two children as they enter collage for the first time and have to cope with being who they are. This story however is not just another generic blood and guts rack up the body count horror story. There is also a good sense of mystery and mythology thrown into the mix. Science and history come into play while explaining the possible origins of werewolves. The ending has a good twist. This book is definitely not for young children, but if you like, a good horror story with some real meat to it, then you will want to give this a read.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale

One of the most popular stories of our times is The Hunger Games. It is destined to become a classic, the first book is already a movie, and even the more casual readers could have a long discussion on its impact in society. Yet despite how great it is, there is a dark cloud looming over it. Many people are saying it is just an imitation of the story Battle Royale. battle royale with cheese

 I have read both books, and have seen both movies. It would be stupid to say that they do not at least invite comparison. In fact if you have read Catching Fire, there is even more room for it. While I do believe there is plenty of room for both stories in our world, I do feel a need to address this idea of Hunger Games just being Suzanne Collins version of a story that has already been done, and if so, does it deserve the praise and accolades it receives.
First, we will look at the basic premises. Hunger Games is a dystopian future in which children are chosen from twelve distinct districts to meet in an arena where they must fight to the death. Once a year each district holds a public “reaping,” where one boy and one girl are chosen at random by drawing their name out of a hat (or glass bowl if you want to get technical.) At this point, another child may volunteer to take his or her place assuming the volunteer is the same gender. This option to volunteer becomes a major plot point for both the protagonist and some antagonists.

Battle Royale also takes place in a dystopian future in which children are chosen at random to go to the arena and fight to the death. There is no public reaping. Instead a class of students are chosen by the government. They are kidnapped and taken to the secrete arena while they are unconscious. There is no volunteering, and you are giving no warning. blow up blow up

In the case of the Hunger Games, the reason for the tournament, or pageant as they like to call it, is to keep the districts in line. They pay this penance for rebelling against the capitol many years prior. In Battle Royale, there is no real set reason for it. The beginning of the book mentions experiments run by the government. The movie talks about a law that was passed to try to weed out who, in the government’s eyes, are week. I have read rumors about population control coming into play. The truth is there is no real logic behind it. When it comes to premise, I say Hunger Games get the nod.
love that

Next, let us compare our two protagonists. First, we have Katniss Everdeen, a young woman from the poorest district who struggles to survive while taking care of her younger sister and mother. She volunteers to participate in the Hunger Games when her sister is chosen. Battle Royale we have Shuya Nanahara. He does not volunteer. He is there because his class is. He does care about his fellow classmates, many of the girls have a crush on him, but in the end, he is just there to survive. If not for an alliance he forms, he would probably be dead. Point goes to Hunger Games. thank you

Now lets look at some antagonists. I guess you could call each respective government the real antagonists. The immediate threats though are the people who the protagonists have to face in their respective arenas. In Hunger Games, Katniss must go up against volunteers who have been training their whole life to compete in the game. They are known as “careers”. To be honest, they are not the real threat they could be. They die quickly and when two of them are allowed to team up, they do not take advantage of it.
 lover boy

Battle Royale is about kids that are all from the same class. They have known each other for most of their lives and they had time to form friendships, relationships, and rivalries. The most dangerous classmate though is Mitsuko Souma. Oh shit She is the beautiful mean girl that takes her game up about ten notches and kills a good portion of the class before she is taken out. Two students have been through the program before the story takes place. One is Shuya’s ally; the other is the most feared male antagonist who dies last. In the book, it is his first tournament. All of these enemies are far more threatening than anything the Hunger Games has to offer. The point goes to Battle Royale.
no whisper everyone kills
The Hunger Games has a love triangle in it…. Yeah okay, point to Battle Royale on that one.

I think what it really comes down to is which is really the better story? I think one needs to look at the two authors and ask which one did what he or she set out to do. Suzanne Collins is a television writer, so she has extensive knowledge on how television stories go. She is also an American. Many Americans think the Hunger Games is where we are headed, or at least could see us going there. The Hunger Games are televised for all of the districts and the capital. It is made public so there is a lot of pageantry and forced drama. Are today’s television shows very different? Nobody actually dies in them, but with shock value becoming more sought after, and yet harder to come by, real deaths may be the path we are headed down. Koushun Takami, the author of Battle Royale has a background in journalism before he became a novelist. He has lived in Japan his whole life. In his personal interview at the back of the book, he talks about how Japan has always felt constricting to him and how nothing ever changes because nobody ever demands it. The government makes a law that nobody likes, the people do nothing about it. Keep in mind these are the opinions of the author and not me. He has actually lived in Japan though and I have not. I guess his point was that traditions are going to lead to people being sacrificed by the government for no discernible reason. He also has a great history of being a horror fan. He is a fan of both Stephen King and HP Lovecraft. Battle Royale may not be a scary book, but it is dark and Takami is not shy about violence. As far as my original question of does the Hunger Games deserve to escape the shadow of Battle Royale, let me ask a question. How many of you would have heard of Battle Royale if not for this controversy. scarred face

Yes, Battle Royale did have a following before the Hunger Games came out. Yes, I am sure it was very big in Japan and that particular region of the world. Hunger Games though has reached a world audience. It is because of that sphere of influence that people are comparing it to Battle Royale. While Battle Royale, may have a deeper meaning, and more of an emotional impact as far as how the characters are effected, the Hunger Games is better written, is better at holding a reader’s attention, and has a more focused premise. Battle Royal may have done it first, but Hunger Games did it better.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review - Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

Recommended for: Teenage girls who like kick ass females
4 Star Rating - Recommended for genre fans

Here you have it. A blog dedicated to independent publishing and mythology. I had red all these independent books and on day it suddenly occurred to me: I have not read anything by Amanda Hocking. She is epitome of what all independent authors stride to become. It seems fitting I do one of her books first.

The book is your basic post zombie outbreak story with a female protagonist on a quest to find her brother. She runs into the basic myriad of post-apocalyptic villains including, psycho cult leaders, marauders trying to kill everyone to take their food, and of course, plenty of zombies.

It is written in first person perspective from the female protagonist named Remy. A fast-paced book is even shorter than it looks.

If you are looking for a fresh new take on the zombie phenomenon, you will not find it here. However, there is enough action and the characters are likeable enough to get behind. The story though generic, is well written and has good use of internal dialogue.

This book was not written with young children in mind, as there is plenty of gore and a pinch of sex thrown in at the last moment. They are appropriate for the story though. I would recommend this for people who love their strong female protagonists, and for people who can never get enough zombie stories.

My advice to new writers

Every time I see interviews with writers or read about them on blogs or any other type of printed media, they always have to address the same question: What advise do you have for young writers? They always answer with a mixture of the “try harder” pep talk and some tips on how to improve writing. Having published three novels and going through the trials and tribulations that come with that, I can tell you that they are selling the young writers short with that answer.
I am not saying that improving your writing and perseverance are not necessary. Those are two very solid principles that need to be adopted. My main concern is some key points neglected by authors in these interviews. To be fair, most interviews you read are from the big name authors that have little to worry about at this point in their careers. The publishing world is a lot different from when Stephen King or Richard Patterson started. When they first got started, they wrote their manuscripts, sent them out to publishers, kept doing this until a publisher decided to buy their manuscript and publish. The process is a lot more complicated these days.
Today, new authors need a skill they did not in the days before the internet. They must have a working knowledge of marketing. Even if you go the traditional route of sending off manuscripts until one publisher understands what you are doing or can find a way to turn the story into something they consider marketable. Authors today are expected to set up their own blogs, have websites for their books, and have a presence in the social networking scene. The Stephen Kings, and J.K. Rowlings of the world can hire other people to do these things, but they still have to be done.
Knowing all this, I decided to do this entry to give new writers advice that you will not hear in normal circles. Please remember that I am basing this list on my own personal experiences so other people may have different opinions. I think a wise thing to do is get different perspectives on everything you do.

1. Learn how the language works.

This may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people start writing without a solid foundation of how to. If you are serious about being a writer and want to make your living that way, you have to know sentence structure, punctuation, know how much dialogue is appropriate, and for God’s sake, do not use texting language. Also, learn the difference between passive and active language, and use active as much as possible.

2. Become a master of editing, and then find someone to help you.

Spell check is a great tool. Do not rely on it. One problem I have is that I keep interchanging the words they and the. Spell check will not find things like this. Editing is a skill you must learn, practice, and hone to perfection. No matter how good you get though, it is still imperative that you get a second pair of eyes to keep you honest. It is always hardest to critique your own work. Find somebody you trust to read your manuscript and find things that you could not. One thing I do is print out the whole manuscript on paper so that I can read the hard copy and write out corrections. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT send your manuscript out to a professional script editor and pay for them to do it. If you want a solid example of what happens when you do this, buy my first two books Modern Disciples Volumes 1 and 2. This may sound like a cheap plug, but when you read them, you will see what I mean. I sent Volume 1 to a professional editor. Volume 2 I edited myself, then my father edited it, and I edited it again. Take it from a guy who had to pay over $1000 to learn the hard way. Do the editing yourself.

3. Know the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing.

Let me give you a brief summary of the two. Traditional publishing is finishing your manuscript, sending it off to a publisher, getting many rejections until one finally takes it. These days you have to send it to agents until one is willing to take you on, and then they send it to publishers until one takes it. Self-publishing is you send your manuscript to a company that does this, and you pay them to publish it for you. You can also just upload it to and just sell it in E-book for if you want to do it that way. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I will include a link to a video that explains them both very well. When you do learn the differences between them, you will have to make a decision as to which one is better for you.

4. Learn about marketing, learn about marketing, and then learn about marketing.

As authors, we do not want to worry about setting up websites, author profiles, and several different social networks. The cyber age no longer allows us to rest on our morals. We have to be good writers, and good marketers, or know people who are good marketers willing to help for a reasonable fee. If you are planning to go to college, choose marketing as one of your courses of study. You do not have to make it your major, but do not take just one class. At the very least, make marketing your minor. If you are not planning on college, there are plenty of resources on marketing books. You can start on Youtube. There are also plenty of books on how to do market your book. Get an account on Goodreads and make as many friends as possible.

5. And yes, read.

Even if you are lucky enough to take some formal classes on the art of creative writing, there is no substitute for experiencing the real thing yourself. For writers, this entails reading books yourself. When you do read them though, seriously think about what you find good and bad about the book. This will help you develop your own style. Another important aspect is to move out of your comfort zone now and again. Read something other than what you usually read. Read some independently published books also.
I hope I have given you all something to think about for your future endeavors. If you find this discouraging, that shows wisdom on your part. If you really do want to be a writer, take what I have said to heart, but do not let it weigh on you. Please leave a comment if you have one.

Here is the link: