Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Greetings all,

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All stock images are from Pixabay.

I sincerely hope you are all happy and healthy today. It’s an implausible hope, but isn’t the point of hope to believe in the unlikely? I wanted to spend a few moments to consider the things for which I am thankful.

The first thing for which I am thankful must be my relationship with God. I’ve spoken on Christianity a few times. I’m frankly not as close to God as I should be, not by a long shot. But I’m working in that direction, and that’s important to me. I honestly believe that everything is possible when he is by your side. I don’t speak about this a lot for a few reasons, but everything else I’m thankful for is possible because of him. This is my belief.

Next is my family. It’s an odd patchwork of my life, like a quilt comprised of my blood, friendship, and shipmates. I love them all, and if they know this, I’ve done the most important thing one can do in his life.

The rest are in no particular order. I’m equally grateful, and equally pleased by all of these things.

150922-N-PJ310-002I love my job. More importantly, I love my students. Seeing them graduate is satisfying, but seeing them become successful leaders in the Navy is a feeling that’s worth more than any amount of money. No job is perfect, but as long as I get to teach, it’s all it needs to be.

I have a home. This isn’t a place I stay. It’s not a place someone allows me to live it. It’s mine. I’ve had it for a year now. I don’t treat it the way I should, and I hope to improve on that somehow. Still, this place is mine. It’s where I imagine I’ll spend the rest of my life unless some unforeseen blessings or trials come my way.

20245535_1081963961948376_2724749083115162963_nIt’s easy in this line of work to get lost in aspiration, especially when one is as goal oriented as I am. However, if I take a step back, I see something quite amazing: people read my books and my blog. I’m grateful for each and every one of you. I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old. I’ve known I would pursue this dream since I was 17. I’m grateful for this particular gift. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made over the year and those before it, but just knowing anyone has an even remote interest in my crazy ideas is something I’ll always be honored by.

So please, enjoy your turkey and football. Spend time with those you love. If it means anything, please know that I appreciate you for being in any way involved with my life. I hope you have a mountain of blessings for which to be thankful, but if you find yourself struggling, please try to remember that the very life you have is a blessing, even if it isn’t exactly how you want it to be.

I invite you to share what you’re thankful for in the comments below. I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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Book Review: The Door Keeper by Steen Jones

Book Review: The Door Keeper by Steen Jones
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This image was taken from Goodreads.com for review purposes under fair use doctrine. The banner and author’s image were taken from her blog for the same purposes.

Character:  Eden has some sympathy to her, and she’s proactive. Honestly, my knock on her is she’s a bit too proactive. I found myself wishing she’d thought of a few things more carefully before she found herself in danger. This seemed like an intentional character flaw to me as she habitually acts first and then considers those consequences later. Some of those impulsive decisions didn’t necessarily sit well with me, but her actions lead to more interesting conflicts which have higher stakes. Some of these characters were interesting, but unexplored. Marek, is a character I would’ve liked to have seen explored more. His arc was probably the most interesting, but it wasn’t honestly pursued.

Exposition: If I’m being honest, it’s been too long for me to remember much about the exposition. It was first person narrative, but I don’t honestly recall too much exposition. It could be the amount of time it’s been, but I don’t think so. I’d remember being slowed down by a ton of exposition, and this book didn’t slow me down that much. I have to be honest about the time though. I’d say it was done only when necessary if I was forced to comment on it.

Description:  If the worldbuilding is the best aspect of the book, this is the next closest. Jones makes each setting and location feel visceral. I honestly think her magical realms feel more real sometimes than her Earth realm settings. I think her worldbuilding and description work together brilliantly. This means if wondrous landscapes and brilliant details are priorities for you, this book is probably right up your alley.

Overall: This was an ambitiously optimistic novel with a fascinating world to explore. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for stories jam-packed with conflict. The problems and challenges are quickly overcome without a lot of effort or sacrifice. (Some may argue the sacrifice part, but I’m willing to have it with whoever wants.) That said, some readers appreciate a story that’s happy and hopeful throughout. The entertainment of the story is in the experience of the worlds, not the evolution of it’s characters. Fans of wondrous landscapes and interesting settings will love it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Writing Update: The Alpha Draft of Repressed is finished!

Writing Update: The Alpha Draft of Repressed is finished!

Greetings all,

kaitlynAs the title indicates, I met my goal and finished this draft of Repressed. I’m happy with how it turned out. Before I go over some administrative notes, I want to make sure I thank my Alpha Readers.

First is Ben. He’s always first. He’s my best friend, and reads every first draft I throw his way, even while working a full-time job and helping my sister raise two wonderful, but active, children. Well…the Senior is all grown up, but I digress. Ben pointed out a few of the logistical conundrums this story had, and offered some advice I’ll account for when the book is completely finished.

Next is Grace, who I met at a convention. She liked Caught and wanted more. She was kind enough to not only send some general comments, but she also sent a document that highlighted some of the more egregious typos. She could have just sent an email, but she took time out of her life to give something I wrote a degree of detail I felt was above and beyond. I can’t thank her enough.

Whenever I write something, I try to stretch my abilities.  I knew that since this book featured Kaitlyn, who’s 16 at the time of this story, the novella would fall into the YA category, which I’m honestly not a huge fan of. But art and entertainment can do so many wonderful things. I’ve always believed that not liking a person or thing has more to do with understanding it than it being bad. So trying to write this story was a way of approach the genre. However, I’m not going to pretend I know everything about everything. I reached out to the Slush Brain, and Chess DeSalls answered the call. She was my “YA” expert, and I was very happy with her feedback. She’s a successful YA author, and I’ve even reviewed one of her books.

caught-front-coverPeggy has not only read every book I’ve published, she’s also helped me sell more books than anyone else. She read my call for alpha readers, and decided to get some advanced reading done. Peggy, Grace, and Ben were particularly helpful because they’ve all read Caught, which I’m honored to say spent a few days on the Top 100 for its category (psychics) for a few days this weekend, and I was very concerned about keeping these elements together.

The reality is anyone can write up a book and get it published. I don’t want to just throw crap on the digital wall. I want stories that inspire and entertain. I want to write stories people enjoy. These alpha and beta (two drafts away) readers are critical to making that happen. They provide honest, direct feedback that lets me make the stories better.  I can’t do this without them.  Thank you!

So what’s next? Well, I’m going to take the rest of this weekend to watch football and read Oathbringer (probably not the whole book, but a LOT).

Monday, I’ll begin the First Draft of The Worth of Words, my contribution to The Power of Words anthology (Happy to report I’ve received yet another submission by the way). I’ll update you all via Twitter and Facebook on my progress there. Sara and I have began talking about how long she’ll need for developmental edits. If I finish the First Draft of The Worth of Words, I’ll start world building and outlining Betrayed (Oneiros Book 2).

That’s what I’ll be up to through December. Again, I want you all to know what a blessing it is to have anyone even remotely interested in my ramblings. It’s amazing! I’ll keep working hard to believe blogs you enjoy and books you can’t put down. As always…

Thanks for reading,
Matt

A Quick Power of Words Update

A Quick Power of Words Update

Power of Words Cover_FRONTGreetings all,

I’m hard at work on the Alpha Draft of Repressed, which is a little more than halfway done. I’m going to make a huge effort to finish this draft and get it sent to Sara by the end of the weekend. That’s honestly an ambitious goal, but it is feasible.

Finishing that will mean I get to do another draft of Worth of Words, which means it’s time to just keep the word going about the Power of Words anthology.

I’m happy to say I’ve received a few submissions already. I honestly didn’t expect many to come in this early, but they have. I’m still hopeful to get a lot more. My intent is for the anthology to have seven stories. What I imagine is a lot of you are like me. You have the tendency to submit closer to the deadline.

I want you to know that’s completely fine. I’ve told those who’ve already submitted that I won’t start reading until the deadline. This is so I can give this project the attention it deserves. I’m a man of momentum, and I don’t do well when I have to shift gears that quickly. I like to have a project “in waiting” and a project “in progress.” For instance, right now Repressed is “in progress,” and Worth of Words is “in waiting.” This keeps me busy while I’m waiting for edits. I might have to deal with shifting gears, but if I’m reading submissions, I’m more likely to be able to do that than if I’m editing my own work. My hope is to read submissions while drafting Betrayed, Oneiros Book 2.

I hope you’re all having a proactive month of writing, and I truly hope to see your submissions during the end of the month.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Both My Books Are 99 Cents In Nov.

Greetings all,

Bob_Caught_99_SaleJust making the announcement that from now until Nov. 30, both ebooks of Caught and The Journals of Bob Drifter are only 99 cents. I figure this would make an easy digital stocking stuffer or holiday gift for the readers in your family.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Announcing the October Book Cover of the Month!

Hello everyone,

The October Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. I’m happy to report we’re off the snide we were on.  This month had a solid amount of support, and I’m so grateful to everyone for helping make that happen. These brackets are special to me, and they grow more legitimate and meaningful each time we keep heading forward.

We had 4,007 votes this month.

We had another one of those months where someone leaps out and charges ahead of the crowd. Let’s here it!

The October Book Cover of the Month is…

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This image was taken from Amazon.com to critique and advertise the author and artist.

 

 

 

 

Demonhome by Michael G. Manning! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Manning received 297 total votes. He jumped out in front around Day 2, and never looked back.

OCT_Cover_CollageChosen by R.S. Broadhead finished second, which means that’ll have another chance to be the Book Cover of the Month for November.  Since November only has 30 days, The Fallen Queen by Janie Marie, who fell to third, also get’s a shot at another bracket. This is actually critical (see below).

That said, Manning is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.

 

 

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

Matthew is the first human wizard to possess the true heritage of the Illeniels, a secret gift no one fully understands. Alone, he travels to another world, seeking the source of their mysterious enemies. There he will discover the origin of their ancient foe, the mysteries of the past, and possibly the future of humankind.

If he can survive long enough.

In a land beyond death and suffering, he finds the true source of evil, within the heart of humanity, and their newest creation. In the search for knowledge, some doors, once opened, can never be closed.

(END BLURB)

Confession one, this wasn’t the cover I personally voted all he way through. It’s beautiful, it just wasn’t my favorite. (For the record, no book I voted number one never actually won.) Confession two, I’m still glad this book won because I had already intended to read it, so while my TBR pile still goes up by one, it doesn’t double the way it normally does around this time. I’ll buy the audio edition of this book (my preferred medium with this saga).

5215279Manning is the first author to have two winning book covers, which is also cool. I’ve added Demonhome to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought Manning’s first cover, Howard’s cover, Deyo’s coverJones’s CoverHubert’s Cover,  MacNiven’s cover,  Jon del Arroz’sRob J. Hayes’sChris Philbrook’s, and R.L. Week’sThey are also on my TBR. Manning’s review is here.  Howard’s review is here. Deyo’s review is here. I’ve read Jones’s book, and I’ll post a review for it next week.


Here’s
 Manning’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

I wonder if Amalia Chitulescu (who did Manning’s other BCOTM winning cover) was the artist for this one. I’m not sure.  I’ll try to find out. If so, she’d be only the second artist to win BCOTM. Shawn King has credit (or partial credit) for two covers as well.

The November bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Dec. 1.

Now, that brings up some additional news. My first ever BOOK COVER OF THE YEAR tournament is coming. This will feature all 12 BCTOM winners and four “Wild Card” covers.

The Wild Card Round: This will be a one-week bracket featuring covers that performed well, but just didn’t ever win. It will have eight covers, and the top four will earn places in the BCOTM bracket.

The Book Cover of the Year Bracket (for which I’m purchasing an actual trophy to send to the artist) will launch Jan. 1. It will be a two-week tournament. Then, I’ll laugh the December Book Cover of the Month, which will start off a new year. Honestly, I haven’t decided weather or not I will do another year. At this moment, as I type this, I’m leaning toward doing it, but it takes a ton of energy to do this. (For the record, a lot of participation in the brackets motivates me). I promise I’ll close out the year because that had always been my plan. I’ll make a decision on next year at the end of the November bracket.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

How to Format an Ebook Using Pages!

How to Format an Ebook Using Pages!

Greetings all,

The Journals of Bob Drifter Front CoverAs I mentioned yesterday, The Journals of Bob Drifter (2nd Edition) is live (and currently that ebook is only 99 cents). What it took to get there is something that frustrated me. All my life, I’ve believed in learning. I think the best way to learn is to teach. My mentor (hi Chip!) told me the obligation of someone who is taught is to “pass on what you’ve learned as freely as it was given.”

Well I paid for what I learned. I paid in time, and a lot of money I didn’t need to spend. So what I’d like to do is save a lot of you a lot of money.

First, the funny part: I thought my design skill would be a great asset to the process. Well, for the paperback, it was. But the ebook was another story. You see, e-readers aren’t design readers, they’re text readers. So if the reason you’re pay anywhere between $200 and $2,000 to publish your book is, “I never designed before,” you needn’t worry.

I’m actually not against people paying the $200 price. What you’re buying isn’t the fancy design, it’s the time you could spend writing. I, on the other hand, don’t have enough capital to pay for something I know how to do myself. If you need to save money, this is one heck of an easy way to do it. You can publish your book for free, saving that money to do things like pay a better cover artist, edit the book again, or invest in tables at conventions.

The basic trick of it is, is to think about your book the same way you would about formatting an essay.  I’m still figuring out the best way to get that table of contents working, but I found a way around that too.

First, if you use Pages, just know most people don’t like it. If you want to know how to do this using Word, I can’t tell you. I bought a Mac. It has Pages. It’s what I use. But, if you’re a Mac/Pages guy like me, and you want to publish your book, it’s far easier than I made it.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 11.54.57 PM
Also note the Table of Contents item. When you’re done formatting your headers (see below) go to the front of your book, insert another page break, and then insert that ToC. Select the same header and DONE!

Design Trick 1: Use page breaks.  I use them between chapters, and this is a very common thing. Doing this allows you to edit in previous chapters while guaranteeing the next chapter will still start on a new page. So, when you’re done writing one chapter, don’t hit enter until you get to a new pages. Instead, go to the top menu bar, select Insert > Page Break.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 11.55.37 PMDesign Trick 2: Use a heading or create one. I won’t go into how to create one in this blog because I’m trying to keep it short, but it’s not hard. You want to use a heading though because that will make your table of contents clickable. (I also won’t go into my back door to a clickable TOC. I found a thing that works, but I want to find the tool that makes Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 11.55.48 PMit easy.) You want to do this though.  When you type up the chapter’s name, highlight it. On the right side of your window, you should see a “document” panel. If you don’t, click the “Document” icon on the top-right of your menu bar. Once you see it, go to the “Style” tab. At the top of that tab is a dropdown box. Use this to select whatever heading you want. Pages has at least three pre-made headings. If you really want to make your own, just format it however you want, and click the “+” sign in that dropdown box. Name it whatever you want, and then use that item for the rest of your book.

Design Trick 3: Photos.  This was the part that really took me a while to figure out. I would “place” my photos, but then use the wrap text feature. Placing photos (going to the top menu bar, selecting “Insert > Choose” is absolutely the right way to do that. Then, click on your photo.  Get the size the way you want. Once that’s done, click on the photo again just to make sure it’s selected. That will change the panel to your right to the photo’s options. You’ll have three tabs: “style,” “image,” and “arrange.”  Click the “arrange” tab.  Ensure that “Move With Text” is selected.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 11.56.33 PMThen, go to the “Text Wrap” dropdown menu and, believe it or not design folks, select “In line with text.”  This is frankly counter to everything every designer was ever taught, but if you don’t do this, your photos will look skewed and out of place.   If you want to center the image or align it right, click just to the right of the photo. Make sure your cursor is blinking to the left of the image, then click “center” or “right” just as if you were moving text. That will make sure your images stay high quality and where you want them. If you want the image anywhere but the left, center, or right of the frame, I’m afraid I can’t help you there. That said, I’ve never seen anyone want to place their images in those sorts of places. My books have chapter icons and “scene-break” icons.  Those are all centered.

Design Trick 4: Export as a Word document. Then upload.

The point is, KDP has made their ebook conversion process so that you don’t actually have to do much more than you would if you were formatting a high-school essay. If you need help, just shoot me an email or PM on Twitter or Facebook, and I’ll be happy to help. Just make sure that you only pay money for design services because you have the extra money or lack the time. (I’d make the time if I were you, paying someone to do this simple a task is just throwing money away). I’m not a master at it yet, and I may have a glitch or two to work out, but the point is I can go to one more convention a year than I previously could because I don’t have to budget $200-$400 for design.

I hope this helps.

Thanks for reading,

Matt