Why I Love Audio Books

Why I Love Audio Books

Greetings all,

HPI love to read. It’s relaxing, and a good book can captivate even a whole generation. Just look at Harry Potter. That series flat out made reading “cool” again, but time is just too short. I read before work. I read before bed. I read in the bath just to give myself time to read.

But I don’t get through my TBR list nearly as quickly as I’d like. This leads me to audio books. The main reason I love audio book is that they let me read more. I listen to audiobooks when I drive to and from work and pretty much whenever I drive around. This gives me about two to three hours of reading more than I would have. I like a good car karaoke on occasion, but I inevitably want to find out what happens next in whatever story I’m reading at the moment. This extra time can help me either blast through a book I’m reading or get through another book I wouldn’t normally have time to read.

Here are a few other reasons audio books really make my day:

1: It lets me re-read books I love: A number of the sagas I love are large. I think the shortest series I like is four (main) books. So audiobooks let me refresh my mind on previous books before the newest book comes out. It also lets me go back and read entire sagas I love.

Eye2: A good narrator can make a story even better: I have favorite narrators. James Marsters, Kate Reading, Michael Kramer, and Wil Wheaton to name a few. They bring the story to life. Now, I have friends who assert the voice actors in their head are better than the other narrators, but I just love hearing a story come to life. Now, when I read Wheel of Time, I hear Michael and Kate’s voices.

2a. A good narrator can make a book I wouldn’t like a book I loved. I did a review on The Chaos Walking Trilogy. It’s written in first-person present tense, which I would have never read (let alone written) in a book. But when a friend recommended the series, I fell in love with it mostly because of the voice actors. I later was inspired by that series to try writing in that style (Sojourn in Captivity).

3. It’s a safe way to try a book you wouldn’t normally try: So one complaint I get with audiobooks is that, “I can’t pay attention to it.” I’ve found that a good one can really hold my attention. But a boring (or even bad) book can be made far less painful in audio form because I can mentally check out here and there. Then there are the other books. I tried the first book in the Demon Cycle because I liked a short story Peter V. Brett did in an anthology. I tried it via audio because if I didn’t like it, I could just tune out here and there, and listen for the highlights. But I loved it!

BobThese are the main reasons I love audiobooks, and, since I didn’t know what else I wanted to ramble about in today’s post, I thought I’d try to convince readers to give them a try. May I humbly suggest The Journals of Bob Drifter, Caught, The Power of Words, or Repressed? If you sign up for Audible, you get a free credit, and I can’t do more than offer you a free book.

Thanks for reading listening.

Matt

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Betrayed: The Discovery Draft of Oneiros 2 Is Done!

Betrayed: The Discovery Draft of Oneiros 2 Is Done!

Greetings all,

caught-front-coverI’m happy to report that the discovery draft to Betrayed: Book Two of the Oneiros Log is finally finished!  I’m genuinely sorry for the delay on this project. Things got pushed around, and then some life stuff happened, and it just feels like I kept being pulled into other projects. I’m happy that part is done.

So what’s next? Well, Betrayed is gonna sit for a while. I can’t just jump into editing. I’m already too close to my own work, and if I don’t let a manuscript sit for a while, I tend to be blind to certain issues. I need to be objective when editing my work, and that means giving it some time.

While that goes on, the first thing I’m going to do is finish listening to the audio version of Sojourn in Captivity, which is going well. Courtney did some revisions, and now I need to just give everything a check to make sure it’s ready to go. I’m hoping to have that out in the world before I go to Shore Leave next month.

45003791_10156740898697460_7981328569286524928_nCollin is working pretty hard on Issue 2 of Hazel, and I’ll get the dialogue polished off for him when he needs. There’s some exciting news in that regard, but nothing is final yet, so I’m waiting until I have real facts rather than high hopes, but I am hopeful this project is progressing well.

I plan on doing the first draft of Betrayed starting in July. Yes, that’s a month away, and this book was supposed to be out last year, but a month is typically how long I let a project of that length sit. What that time will also let me do is outline Discovered: Book Three of the Oneiros Log.  Not only will getting that done mean the trilogy will be finished in time, it might help me reconsider certain things from this book.  There’s a huge gap between books one and two, but two and three are only a few weeks (or so) apart. Getting a good feel for the last book should help me make sure everything wraps up nicely.

Betrayed currently clocks in at 57,768 words. I think the gaps between writing and my own tendency to be a little lacking in description hurt me here.  The book should have been about 80,000 words. I know one character needs a bit more screen time, and I know I need some better description. So this revision will probably be a bit more work than the last few titles have been. The good news is the major framework is done, and I’m content with where the story is. Yes, it needs work, but I feel pretty confident that I know what I need to do.

I want to thank all of you for your patience in this. I’m so happy that I can write these stories and share them with people. I’d be lying if I said this book was anticipated, but I do know there are people waiting for this story, and I hope that Repressed did enough to tie you over. We’ll get Betrayed to you as soon as I can get it through the editorial process.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning
Mordecai
This cover for Mordecai was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Mordecai is the first book of The Riven Gates series, which is the fourth series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the first the last book in the previous series is here. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mordecai has seen the passing of the Dark Gods. He’s saved Lothion, placed kings on thrones. His children have done similar things. However, now his past, and the past of the She’Har, are coming together to put him in a position he’s never been in. Tyrion, the progenitor of human mages and Mordecai’s distant ancestor, has returned to the flesh. The ancient enemy of the She’Har has also set it’s sites on Mordecai’s home. The ensuing conflict will cost Mordecai more than ever.

Character:  Mordecai is as wonderful as ever in this story. To me, this book sort of put the series back on track. Any series this large and this old is going to have ebbs and flows. While this book wasn’t as good as some others, it was one of the better ones in my opinion, and Mordecai’s story is why. I loved seeing Tyrion again, and most of the cast get’s some good screen time. The thing that has always elevated the series to me has been its characters, and they remain the driving force behind this outstanding saga.

Exposition: Previous books gave us the background and context we needed, so now we can get right into the drama and the action. Sure, I remember some scenes that might have slowed down a bit, but I’d say this was some of the better exposition I’ve seen in the series in a while.

Dialogue: I’ll admit that this is probably Manning’s weakest area. A lot of the dialogue feels like exposition sometimes. We get told things rather than listening to other characters talk. It’s not honestly such a problem. A lot of writers (including myself) tend to lean on this. So you’ll read conversations that feel more like plot outlines here or there, but it’s still conversational and engaging.

Description:  Any Manning book feels like watching a 3D film in iMAX. This story is no different.

Overall:  This book takes everything you know about Mordecai and his world and flips it on its head. Everything that’s been building for more than ten books comes to a satisfying climax in what’s only the start to what I hope is the most amazing series yet. I’m not going to pretend this is the best book, that right is still reserved for Betrayer’s Bane. However, this book was a shot of adrenaline after a more youth-reader-centered trilogy from the younger heroes in the story. I already think this series is better than the last, and it has potential to evolve into one that rivals the first (chronologically).

Thanks for reading

Matt

The Need For Pain: Why Happy Characters Are Boring

The Need For Pain: Why Happy Characters Are Boring

Greetings all,

First a few notes:  For starters, I have the files for the Sojourn in Captivity audio book. I’m reviewing them now. The (very early) results seem wonderful.

Next: My wife an I are officially trying to have a child. This required a surgery to reconnect her tubes (which had been done during her previous marriage). The surgery went well, and I’d just like to take a moment and thank God for that. She and I both truly wanted to have more children, and we’re grateful the door is open. Her recovery has us both growing (code word for frustrated, which is actually why I’m doing this topic today). She’s stir crazy, and my routine is shot. Her number one comfort is being outgoing and doing things, which she can’t. My number one comfort is routine and consistency, which is nonexistent when I’m working and running a house.

But I truly mean it when I say this helps us grow.  You see, I aspire to have a boring life. I love the idea that tomorrow will be just like today. (Not at all my wife’s idea of a good day, but in this case opposites attract).  It’s all fine and good for a person to like what he likes, but if we don’t experience pain, we don’t grow. No one wants to read about the guy who encountered no stress and overcame nothing.

When we encounter struggles, it changes us. Pain  helps us grow. No, I don’t look forward to it, but I’m better when it’s over. Our characters are the same way.

Rand
Image taken from A Wheel of Time Wiki for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

A lot of my favorite characters are characters who suffered plenty: Rand from Wheel of Time suffered a ton (as did my favorite character in that series, Perrin). I’d say these characters are the extremes in terms of my top three series ever. Still, all my favorite books (personally) feature characters who truly struggled.

Here’s the next part to why this is so important. The readers or viewers must believe the characters might fail. I often have playful (yet also serious) arguments with a friend of mine (Hi Terry!) regarding why I honestly don’t care for DC. The characters are too powerful.  They have near Olympian power. Sure, Marvel has some OP characters, but most DC characters are of a ridiculous power level. I’m not afraid for them. I’m not in the least bit worried they won’t win the fight or meet their goal. This makes the story boring. If you want readers interested in your story, you need to convince the reader that character might fail.  This is all the more difficult to do because most readers expect a happy ending. They anticipate that, so it’s such an art to instill an honest sense of fear of failure for the character.

The wife and I don’t hate Jodie Whittaker or her Doctor, but we really couldn’t get into her first season. Now, other than Matt Smith (who remains the greatest Doctor ever), I hated every first season of every doctor. I think the writers take time to figure out the new Doctor just like the new Doctor (in the story) takes a minute to figure him or herself out. But we couldn’t get into it. Then something occurred to me: She never lost. Yes, the grandma died (was it the first episode?), but there wasn’t a connection. In fact, I’m of the opinion that character was pretty expendable. Why? Guess:

She was happy.

Doctor
Image taken from BBC.com for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

The only good thing a happy character can do in a story is die. They have no struggle, and therefore they have no interest. The most interesting thing that could happen is to see this wonderful, happy character die, thus causing all the other characters to become even more interesting as they try to adjust to life after happy character.

Most of my readers who I talk to during conventions often ask me about the characters who die. We talk about this a little. The one character I get the most (playful) anger with killing (no spoilers) was the character who was happy. But that character’s death shook the readers and gave them an emotional jolt. This loss affected not only the readers, but the characters around the the dearly departed.

So I had some interest, but then life got consistent for the Doctor. Then things got easy. I can think of a few instances when there was great opportunity for this Doctor to face true loss on a couple different stages, and the writers didn’t take the plunge. But you can only put Lois Lane on the train tracks so many times before the readers don’t even care anymore.  Sooner or later, that engine needs to plow over Lois, or the “act” gets boring. That’s what I feel happened with this latest season of Doctor Who.

So I wanted to throw out those ideas when I had a moment. Hopefully things calm down for me. (I really do appreciate growth, but I miss my routine something fierce right now, and my wife is going to go out of her mind if I can’t take her out next week.)

What do you all think? Do you have a story you realize you didn’t like so much for this reason? Do you disagree?

Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The Curse of Greatness

The Curse of Greatness

Greetings all,

I thought I might take a moment to discuss a topic near and dear to me. I love stories. They’re just so amazing, and each one is special for it’s own reason. But what happens when someone truly creates something exceptional? A trend I’m noticing these days is that the greater a creation someone has, the more demand that artist is to create something greater, but that’s not a consistent measurement for any number of reasons. Lately, I’ve seen a number of people talk about how awful something is. I’d be in the middle of asking why they didn’t like it, and, inevitably, the other person would say something like, “His first book was so much better!”

OHHHHhhhhh! You’re not evaluating this story on it’s own merit, you’re comparing it to something else. Is it a completely unreasonable thing? Maybe not. I mean, every author and artist I know truly wants the next project to be better than the last. But I don’t know that I’d want to be judged on my last work, especially if I were ever lucky enough to create something amazing.

So what I’m going to do is look at a few projects to hopefully show what I mean.

downloadThe Star Wars saga: This might honestly be the most beloved story of all time. Even people who hate Star Wars (like, from 1980-something and beyond) still know it. They still get the jokes and memes. The original trilogy was lightning in a bottle. It does so many things well, and it hit people and culture at a perfect point in history. Here’s my statement though, no follow up, ever, could hope to hold up against it. First, we’ve had some 30 years to romanticize that story. We grew up, loving it, watching it, and reaffirming our love for it.

I don’t have statistics to measure this, but I’d be willing to bet money a guy is more likely to meet and marry a second wife before he’d be willing to let anyone touch is beloved Star Wars. Bold statement right? Is it? God forbid, if I lost Julie, I’d be devastated. I love her. I truly believe God made her just for me in the same way he made Eve for Adam.  Still, I’ve already asked her to try and find someone new if I die, and, after time, I might find someone new for myself. But whoever I meet, I’d meet and get to know on an individual level. How fair would this hypothetical situation be if I compared my second wife to Julie? Even more, people don’t really even consider it. Sure, they may recognize things or appreciate things that remind them of their original spouse, but they don’t hold the previous spouse against  the current one.

But make a prequel movie that doesn’t meet the twenty years of expectations I’ve placed on it, and we’ll riot. Make a sequel that doesn’t line up with my fan theory, and I’ll start a petition demanding Disney retcon the movie, and then I’ll lose my stuff because the director lacked the courage to stand behind his conviction of starting an original story line. This isn’t opinion, search #StarWars on social media and look at the hate. My sons actually said, “The sequels ruined Star Wars.”

Star_Wars_The_Last_Jedi.jpgThat gave me pause. “Did you even watch it?”

“Yes.”

“Did you like it?”

“Yeah.”

“Then how did it ruin it?”

“My teacher said so.”

First off, my kids are supposed to be learning skills, not being force fed your own personal opinion on art and cultural issues, teachers. No my sons are TAUGHT to hate a thing just because they want to fit in. (Tangent over.)

Here’s my point. You can say you like Star Wars, or you can hate it. But I wonder, if we had someone watch Episode 8, and make sure that person never saw the originals. What would that person think?  What would happen if we watched that movie just for that movie? Is it a part of a whole, sure, but fans today are measuring against decades of romanticized expectations and anticipation. Disney doesn’t stand a chance. I’m not saying 8 was the greatest ever, but it’s nowhere near the worst, and no amount of Jar Jar Binx can honestly ruin A New Hope.

So why talk about this? Am I trying to justify 8 vs the other episodes? No, like Disney, I don’t stand a chance. Neither does 9. Fans have chosen to love or hate that movie already, and they’ll love it or hate it regardless of the content because they’ve chosen to love it or hate it. It’s like politics. I could say the most hateful things, do the most horrible stuff in accordance to anyone’s opinions, but if I label myself a republican, republicans everywhere love me. Do the SAME stuff, and label myself a democrat and democrats everywhere will embrace me. It’s honestly the same with these transcendent works.

Harry_Potter_Cursed_Child_PlayThe Cursed Child: People everywhere are pretty polarized about this story as well.  I loved it. Now, fans didn’t have the same amount of time to romanticize this story, and I’ve noticed the dissatisfaction is way down. Do a survey, and I’d bet money those who hate it are those who grew up with Harry. I mean that literally. If they started it at 12 and finished it at 20-something, they probably hate Child.  Find those older readers who were more discerning and less impressionable, and at the very least I bet money that group will have a much more standard Bell curve.  Why do they like Beasts? They went away from all those main characters.  Why don’t they like Grimwald? They made editorial decisions on Dumbledore.  The only real way to stay in a universe and not get flack would be to  create a new story with new characters who don’t alter or affect the ones people fell in love with. Solo might be the most hated Star Wars movie (maybe).  But Solo doesn’t stand a chance. We love Han, and if the Han we see doesn’t fit into our romanticized view, we hate him. Frankly, no one can meet your romanticized view of a character.

So I fear ever writing that transcendent story. Because people forget what it means to truly create something transcendent. It’s notable specifically because it’s unique and original. I think a lot of directors, writers, and creators are unfairly held to a transcendent standard, and it takes away one’s ability to simply enjoy a story on it’s own merit.

books-1245690_960_720I very carefully didn’t give too many opinions on what I thought of these things because that’s my point. There is not fair comparison. There is no fair opinion. The very nature of an opinion is based on emotion and thought more than any measurable standard. I challenge readers and viewers to think about this the next time you watch or read something. I’ve seen things I didn’t enjoy as much. My wife asked if I’d watch a remake of Krull or a sequel.  I’d probably see the sequel, but I’d have to work very hard not to be unreasonable. I’ve had decades to imagine how I thought the story would go. My life as a writer even began with my work to pen a sequel to the story. So anyone else’s vision would just be insulting to me on a personal level because of my own filter and not because of the actual work, which really isn’t fair.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Do you disagree? I’d really like to have a civil discussion on this.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Mud by E.J. Wenstrom

Book Review: Mud by E.J. Wenstrom
mud
This book cover was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mud by E. J. Wenstrom is the first book in the first book in the Chronicles of the Third Realm War.  Adem is a gholam, a mud creature, who was created to protect a mysterious box.  Adem must kill Anyone who comes for it or too near it.  When a little boy is the frist not supernaturally drawn to the box, Adem begins to curiously follow the child until he and his sister are forced to flee the city.  At the same time, an angel offers Adem freedom in exchange for bringing back the angel’s long lost love from the dead.

Driven by his desire to be human and free of the box, Adem shatters the barrier between realms, unwittingly setting of a chain of events that only places the world in even more danger.

Character:  Adem felt like this well meaning giant to me. Imagine Wreck-It Ralph meets Ludo from Labyrinth. He does a lot of cool stuff, and he’s pretty sympathetic. It’s been some time since I’ve read this book, and I still clearly remember the character and the bulk of the plot. That’s a great sign.  Wenstrom does a great job letting Adem’s motivations drive the story.

Exposition: This was told through first-person narrative, but the story moved pretty quickly. I only vaguely remember one or two spots where the pace slowed down because of Exposition, and even then, the story moved along well.

EJWenstrom2
Image taken from Wenstrom’s website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This was probably my least favorite part. There were parts where I felt I was being spoken to rather than listening to conversation. I don’t mean that the writer broke the fourth wall; I just mean there were some long verbal explanations that slowed the story a touch.

Description:  I was happy with this. I was able to visualize the scenes and characters pretty well. I got the mental pictures I needed without being forced to slog through bulky paragraphs of description.

World Building: This story is right out of Greek mythology. It’s a journey to the underworld, complete with all the common trials. Some may feel that sort of storytelling is a bit old, but I felt the right mix of nostalgia and interest. I was particularly interested in the broader lore of the series.

Overall: This was a pretty interesting twist on classic Greek myth storylines. Interesting setup. It has some artistically stylistic things I think people will find hit or miss (you’ll either like the style or not), but if you like Greek myths, you’ll probably enjoy this. If I didn’t have a couple handfuls of books to get through, I’d probably read the second book just to see how things develop. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

99 Cent Deals for AwesomeCon!

99 Cent Deals for AwesomeCon!

Greetings all,

AwesomeCon starts today, and I’m thrilled to say I have three books for just 99 cents each while the convention lasts.

An Unusual Occupation, Repressed, and my newest title Sojourn in Captivity are available at the discount. I hope you’ll choose to give one or all of them a try.

Three_Book_99_Cent.jpg

Thanks for reading,

Matt