Story Review: Aokigahara by John A. Pitts from Unfettered II

Story Review: Aokigahara by John A. Pitts from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Aokigahara by John A. Pitts is the sixth story in the Unfettered II Anthology.  A math genius spends her days working to earn an income via social media when she receives a strange encoded message that begins unweaving a mystery that will end in a development no one could ever imagine.

Character:  The characters in this story were sympathetic. There’s actually an interesting arc that connects closely to the to the plot. This piece (speculative in nature) does a nice job investigating the nature of conscience and thought. 

Exposition: Like a lot of speculative scifi, there is a lot of author musing here hidden behind the mind of the character. However, one should honestly expect that sort of thing in a story like this. While I noticed it, I don’t think the exposition dragged the story down. The whole thing only takes about 30 minutes to read, and it’s a fast pace despite the introspective nature of the story. 

Worldbuilding: This is deceptively good. The story opens, and each line and event opens up the futuristic world. Each time something happens, we understand the world better, and it feels natural. This was the strongest part of this story. Again, several of the stories in this anthology really do an amazing job of maximizing worldbuilding in short fiction. This story is no different.

Dialogue: There’s just not a lot of it in this story. What is there would probably lead to spoilers, which I work very hard to avoid. This is probably why the story didn’t resonate so much with me. I need some dialogue in my stories. It speeds the pace and gives me another way to connect with characters. However, that’s just a personal preference. This story is still well told. It’s just hyper focused on one character and doesn’t use dialogue.

Description: I’d say this is exactly where it needed to be. The scenes were the most vivid. I don’t quite remember the physical descriptions of the characters. I think the author was wise to minimize this since there was already a lot of detail invested in the speculative nature of the story. To add another 1,000 words or so of description would probably have only served slow the story down more. 

Overall: This is an interesting piece of speculative science fiction. It doesn’t have the charm most stories I like have. However, this story is really more about provoking thought and introspection, which this story does. If you’re looking for a quick story to get your brain going, give this story a shot.    

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

What Authors Owe Readers

What Authors Owe Readers

Greetings all,

I was just thinking about books I’ve been waiting forever for, and that led me to this post.

caught-front-coverFirst, I’m very guilty. I was supposed to have the entire Oneiros Log done by now (Hey! I’m getting there). I got derailed on quite a few projects, and while I still produced books, I didn’t publish the titles some of you are waiting for.

The thing is, authors owe readers stories. More importantly, they owe readers the stories they’re waiting for. Now, the author doesn’t owe the reader the stories the reader wants in terms of I want Kaladin to marry Shallan, but they do owe readers the next chapter in the story.

There should be some grace in this. For instance, any Stormlight book is some 700 pages. They’re huge, so waiting two years for 500,000 words is probably fair. But what about three, four?

Readers should be patient. I think Towers of Midnight had some issues here and there because they were working so hard to get it out there. So there’s a balance between the fact that the author owes the reader another story and the reader needing to be patient.

I dream of the day someone gets mad at me for not having this book or that book done. It hasn’t come yet, though I do have a few readers who are indeed waiting for Betrayed. Thinking about how angry I was waiting for word on the next Dresden book gave me some perspective on that.

Why is this important? Well for starters, it’s very hard to gain momentum when you’re not putting out product. A guy like George R. R. Martin can make anyone wait as long as he wants because he has his money. The worst readers can do to him is say, “Well, HBO ended it, so I’m good.” Please know that I don’t think that’s the case; I’m only saying if it was, no one could really do anything about it.

However, a guy like me trying to earn a living doing this needs to make sure that he’s always ready with the next book.

I get a lot of questions about being an author, and in the context of this post, I always say, “If you’re writing a story, don’t publish book one until you have the other two books in the series ready.”

Caught and the rest of Oneiros taught me that. For starters, when you publish books in quick succession, you give yourself more visibility. We’re in a binge age, and people want that next series. However, they want that series readily available. Even as I mention the need for readers to have at least some degree of patience, I understand that people want to marathon a whole season of television. I do the same with books. I don’t want to read one book in a series; I want to read the whole series, and I don’t want to wait a year to move to the next book.

Sojourn_Ebook_CoverDoes that mean authors are evil if they don’t release books in quick succession? No. I confess Power of Words, Repressed, and Sojourn all distracted me from the book I probably should have written. Sometimes an artist has to go where the muse takes him.  You may want a book quickly, but you don’t want a quick turd. Again, there’s  a balance. I finally got Betrayed ready and COVID obliterated the chance for conventions (and therefore the opportunity to make what I need to get edits done).

That led me to start working on Discovered, and I even had the chance to return to Images of Truth. I have so many things I want to release, but I live on a budget. Yes, I owe you the rest of Oneiros, and I’m getting it done as quickly as I’m able with that budget.

What about the big guys? Well, I don’t think they’re being rude either. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes wonder what Martin is up to (probably editing another series). It doesn’t mean I didn’t wonder what Butcher was up to. As a reader, I found myself frustrated at the wait. As an author, I feel convicted about not having stuff ready to print.

So maybe you’re not personally waiting for Betrayed, but you might be waiting for the next Ice and Fire book or something of that sort. I agree, it is frustrating to wait. You have a right to that emotion. Authors owe readers stories, and they should be produced in a timely fashion.

On my end, I’ll start drafting Discovered on the first. Once I’ve saved up enough money, I’ll send Betrayed to Sara for edits.

So I’m curious. How long do you feel it is appropriate to wait for “the next book?” Are you satisfied if an author at least publishes something in that time?

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 5-Star Review for Stealing Freedom!

A 5-Star Review for Stealing Freedom!

Greetings all,

StealingFreedomI love sharing reviews when I get them, and someone was kind enough to leave a brief but glowing five-star review for Stealing Freedom.

I really do appreciate feedback of any kind, and when it’s positive, I’m all the more grateful.

You can find the review here.

If you’ve read any of my books, I’d really appreciate a rating or review on Amazon, Goodreads, or both.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Story Review: There Goes the Neighborhood by Vivian Kasley from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: There Goes the Neighborhood by Vivian Kasley from Alien Days Anthology

 

 

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  There Goes the Neighborhood by Vivian Kasley is the final story in the Alien Days Anthology. The Konnover family bought a lavish bunker for a random apocalyptic event. The bunker came in handy when a strange group of beings arrive on Earth. The only thing more horrible than the secrets the Konnover father keeps are the origins of the beings who’ve arrived.

Character:  The characters had trouble being proactive because they were crammed in that bunker/condo. This made the story feel like it was dragging at times. There are some wonderfully dramatic moments. This story relies on the drama between the members of the family. I don’t think it worked so well for me, but the elements are there. 

Exposition: This story is pretty solid in this regard. There is a  soliloquy of exposition near the end, but the story flows well. The pacing is also solid. I’ve already mentioned the only reason the story drags, but I’d have to say it wasn’t bad at all. 

Worldbuilding: There isn’t really enough in this story to evaluate. The story takes place on modern-day Earth. The above-mentioned soliloquy is pretty much all the world building we get.

Kasley
Image taken from the author’s Amazon page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Dialogue: I think this is where the story didn’t work for me. When a story relies on its drama, the dialogue is critical. Here, the dialogue was simply “not bad.” If this book had more action and activity, this dialogue would be fine. However, since there wasn’t much for the characters to do, this needed to be outstanding, and it wasn’t. 

Description: This was a strength to the story. The story engaged all of my senses and I had a pretty solid picture for things around me. I could have used more character description, especially with the creatures, but this story did a good job of activating my imagination. 

Overall: This story is a solid drama. If you like psychological stories, you’ll probably think this one is ok. I wasn’t a fan because the drama didn’t pay off and the characters didn’t make a connection with me. It wasn’t boring by any stretch of the imagination, but it felt like a lot of unfulfilled potential to me. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

The Red City Review For Sojourn In Captivity!

The Red City Review For Sojourn In Captivity!

Greetings all,

Sojourn_Ebook_CoverA while back I sent Sojourn in Captivity to be reviewed by Red City Review. The five-star feedback was humbling and kind.  You can find the official link here.

What I’d like to do most is take a moment to talk about one particular compliment.

“Essential plot pieces are set in place here for future series entries, but the real attraction is Weech’s world-building. Animals, trees and plants, domestic customs, and planetary weather phenomena are all described in detail, giving a well-formed view of life on Oron.”

The Perception of War series is huge, and my goal is to provide a truly universal story. This means the planets need to feel real. The aliens need to feel authentic. Is that what everyone will think? No. But it is my goal to help a number of readers feel like they’re on different planets interacting with creatures.

That comment from Red City Review was particularly validating because it showed that the effort I put into making Oron and the Seferam feel authentic worked, at least for that reviewer.

Honestly, I would have been elated for them to say that the world building was good, so to have the reviewer say the world building was the real attraction was actually a surprise, but a welcome one.

WeechLogoColorI’ve said a few times that I always strive first to have compelling characters. My new logo proclaims, “Great Characters. Clever Plots.” I want to stand behind that, but I also strive to grow with each project I work on. If I’m going to grow as a science fiction / fantasy author, I need to have immersive worlds, and this review indicates I’m off to a good start.

In related news, Sojourn is entered into the 2019 Red City Review Book Awards. I haven’t heard anything regarding whether or not it’s a finalist, but I’m hopeful. I truly do think Sojourn is a fantastic story (even if it’s short).

My hope is the review might convince you to give it a try if you haven’t already. If you have, even if you hated it, I’d sure appreciate a rating and review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thank you for reading,

Matt

Story Review: Songs Sweeter Still by David M. Hoenig from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Songs Sweeter Still by David M. Hoenig from Alien Days Anthology

 

 

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Songs Sweeter Still by David M. Hoenig is the nineteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Fim is an alien creature the humans thought was incapable of higher thinking. When a strange voice from her planet calls on her, everything begins to change. Will the humans continue to ravage Fim’s planet for resources, or will Fim become something more than anyone had ever expected.

Character:  I liked Fim. She’s not competent, but she’s sympathetic and proactive, and that combination of traits is my favorite. This story had solid character development and foreshadowing. Everything plays of Fim as she grows and learns. The author did a nice job of making me want to know more about her and what would happen next. 

Exposition: This story is formatted a little more like I’m used to. It jumped from character to character, staying in that being’s life and mind for the duration of the scene. That allowed the author to provide details without revealing too much. Nothing in the story dragged or made the story seem boring.  

Worldbuilding: The world building is ok, but I wish I had more. I will say I got what I needed, but this story would have been far more impressive with a thousand or so more descriptions or details about how this planet works and what resource the humans are after (Fim only calls them rocks).  More attention to the culture and atmosphere of the planet would have elevated this story a lot.

Dialogue: The dialogue in this story worked. It wasn’t overly impressive, but it wasn’t wooden or even poorly-veiled  exposition.

Description: I probably could have used a bit more here for the same reasons as I mentioned while talking about the story’s world building. I can’t begin to tell you what Fim looks like or what the “rocks” look like either. I’m glad the author didn’t go to the other extreme, but this story was a bit hard to get lost in without the descriptors that bring it to life. 

Overall: This story is pretty good. No, it didn’t make my top three for the anthology, but that was because of an incomplete ending and lack of description. Plot wise, this story may have been the best concept out of the 20 stories in the anthology. The interesting premise and compelling character definitely make it worth the time to read it. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Within the Storm by Beth Frost from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Within the Storm by Beth Frost from Alien Days Anthology

 

 

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Within The Storm by Beth Frost is the eighteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. A grandmother sits her children down to tell the story of when an alien came to get shelter from a storm.

Character:  There wasn’t really any conflict in this story. I can say the main character is sympathetic. But without anything to struggle against, there wasn’t much pulling the story along. If you’ve ever helped someone get shelter from a storm, you know how this story goes. 

Exposition: This was better than the greater majority of the stories in this anthology. Despite being told in first person, this story doesn’t slow down to explain much.  

Worldbuilding: The story takes place on a farm on Earth, so there simply isn’t much world building.

Dialogue: The dialogue is conversational, but without any conflict, it felt mundane. It was like eavesdropping on the Waltons. 

Description: This was the strongest aspect of the story. The description was vivid with great attention to detail without forcing the story to come to a screeching halt. The characters received an equal amount of attention as the setting. All the senses got some sort of trigger.

Overall: This story just had no conflict. There was nothing pulling the story along. There was no danger. I can understand if the author intended to have an alien encounter story that didn’t involve some sort of invasion angle, but I had no reason to read other than I had paid for the book. For me, stories need something. No, the alien didn’t need to be hostile. We didn’t even need some sort of rush to save the alien from human experiments, but I certainly needed something. Maybe a “Keep him hidden” angle. Without a conflict to drive the story, I couldn’t get into it.

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Altered by Alexander Harrington from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Altered by Alexander Harrington from Alien Days Anthology

 

 

Hey all, quick admin note: I have an Instagram @m.l.s.weech_and_FeistyLeisty.  You can follow book stuff as well as the new art stuff we’re doing (mostly my wife).  I’ll talk more about that art stuff on Saturday, but I’d appreciate a follow if you’re on that platform.

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Altered by Alexander Harrington is the seventeenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. You are the character in an alien invasion story where body snatchers come in through the rain.

Character:  You read that correctly. This is the first story in I-don’t-know-how-long that has been written in second person. For this reason, I really couldn’t connect withe character because we’re too dissimilar. It was just too hard to connect a person who was nothing like me to myself. I think if second-person narrative is going to make a comeback, it would have to do so with choose-your-own-adventure stories. That way, the choices I make are mine, and it’s easier to connect with the character in the story. 

Exposition: The other down-side to second person narrative is that it forces everything to be exposition. I’m being told what’s happening to me while it’s happening. This combined with choices I’d never make cause me to really not associate well with the character. 

Worldbuilding: This story takes place on a modern-day Earth. There really isn’t much in the way of world building. It would probably be alright as a Twilight Zone episode, but there just isn’t enough character to make this story work for me.

Dialogue: There isn’t any dialogue. 

Description: There’s a lot of description for scene, but that’s where all the description is. The author couldn’t really tell you what you look like, so he couldn’t connect the reader to the character using personal features. 

Overall: I really do applaud the author for using second-person narrative. It’s important for authors to stretch themselves, and I can imagine this did a lot for Harrington in terms of growing a skill set. However, choosing that narrative boxed Harrington in. There was no dialogue to speak of or a chance to connect to a character we’re supposed to feel belongs to us. This problem made the story forgettable. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Another Day, Another Dollar by Juleigh Howard-Hobson from Alien Days Anthology

 

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Another Day, Another Dollar by Juleigh Howard-Hobson is the sixteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. During an alien version of a zombie apocalypse, one man finds a way to make a few bucks.

Character:  I re-scanned the story a few times and didn’t even find a name. So he’s got a “House, M.D.” sort of jerk-face appeal to him, but other than establishing he hates people and likes money, there’s no real character development in this story. 

Exposition: This story was told in first person, so that will always increase the amount of exposition, but I still feel there was a lot more exposition than necessary. I think if this were the first chapter in a story with character development, I’d love it. As a stand-alone story, it’s just a guy complaining about things while he kills alien zombies. Some people will love that. I’m just not one of them. 

Worldbuilding: This story takes place on an alternate Earth. There isn’t much more to it that that. We get some details on how this world came to be, but even that was buried in the aforementioned exposition.

Howard-Hobson
Image of Howard-Hobson was taken from her Amazon author page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This is not applicable as it’s just an internal monologue. 

Description: This is probably the best part of the story. Howard-Hobson’s description is very good. It’s detailed without being overwhelming. It’s strongest in describing the action and the aliens, but there is attention paid to all the senses, and that’s a positive. 

Overall: So this was a decent zombie scene. If you like a bit of zombie-killing mayhem, you probably won’t regret picking it up. It feels a bit out of place in the anthology, but it’s a nice little character scene. It drags a bit here or there, but it wasn’t boring. I personally need a bit more from the character than I got (or more of something), but it was ok. I’d say this is sort of like a pop-corn movie for readers.  

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: A Mission of Mercy by Mark Lynch from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: A Mission of Mercy by Mark Lynch from Alien Days Anthology

 

AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  A Mission of Mercy by Mark Lynch is the fifteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Christopher Taylor, struggling with memories of his time as a POW, is about to investigate the most unusual crash ever. But when faced with putting a creature through treatment he’d previously faced, Taylor has to make a decision on what to do.

 

Character:  Taylor is sympathetic and absolutely proactive. The author did a fine job of helping us understand Taylor’s motivation, which is a step up from most of the other stories in this anthology. 

Exposition: This is still a big area of improvement for Lynch as well as for a lot of the other authors in this anthology. There was a lot of telling in this story. I’ll concede this exposition at least established something important, but the story dragged because I read a lot of backstory. 

Worldbuilding: This story is historical fiction. There’s not a lot of world building other than scene and location.

Dialogue: The dialogue in this story was also limited (another reason the story dragged for me). What dialogue I remembered and reviewed seemed at least natural, but it was a very small aspect of the story. 

Description: I think the reader gets what he needs, but even I didn’t get as much as I wanted. There was attention spent on sight, but little other senses, so the story lacked a visceral quality for me. 

Overall: A readers opinion on this story is going to depend entirely on what they think of the ending. I didn’t like it, but I did understand it. I would have preferred a different decision for the same motivation. The story wasn’t bad, but it did drag a lot. Taylor makes the story worth checking out if you like character studies. People who both understand and like the ending will think much more highly of it. 

Thanks for reading

Matt