Posts filed under 'Reviews'

Update: of books and backs

It’s been a while.

The last few months have seen a resurgence of my back pain, as bad as it first was. To cut a long story short, I’ve opted for surgery this time, and I go under the knife next week. Spine surgery is never something to be undertaken lightly, but everyone’s case is different and unique.

To books. Being laid-up gave me the opportunity to catch up on some things. One of those things was to advance the promotion of Broken Evolution, to cross those last things off the indie-author’s to-do list.

Firstly, I set about getting some reviews from real readers – readers I don’t know and who have no vested interest in sparing my feelings. Friends and family and fellow authors are all well and good, but they will veer towards encouragement. I had the niggling sensation that I never really knew what I had with Broken Evolution and that I would have to get real at some point to find out. I would have to get actual reader reviews. The result: average. Broken Evolution is not brilliant; it’s not a disaster either. It’s an ok read. And I’m convinced now that “well-written” in a review is a euphemism. Anyone who has ever used it or received it will know what that means! However, I have learned from them all, and could carry what I’ve learned through to my writing in future.

The second goal was to get the novel into as many readers hands as possible, to start building a readership. Here’s what I’ve learned. Paperback is a waste of time for an Indie author. EBook is the only way to go to start with. Amazon have the indie author market sewn up. With the introduction of KDP Select, it is the only reliable way of pushing your eBook up in the search results and differentiating it from the millions (and counting) of eBooks just sitting in the Amazon catalogue. If you’re an unknown author, 99 cent eBooks do actually work to get some sales (better sales than at 2.99). Free is even better (assuming you are more interesting in starting a readership than making money. If your goal is to make money out of it – start something else). With the latest ebook price fixing ruling, it seems certain that Amazon now set the terms of indie publishing (and even trade publishing) and for many years to come. Indie authors will need to be familiar with Amazon’s rules of the game – albeit the visible rules only.

For now, I now have a novel read by thousands of readers – what any starting author needs.

It’s been a ride. On the other side of recovery I’ll decide whether it’s a ride I should return to. Chronic pain alters you. It drags your spirit down. Concentration is lost. Motivation becomes a struggle. Motivating to write is hard even at the best of times; this isn’t the best of times. You teeter on the edge of depression – and the view from there is ghastly, let me tell you. Pain is very personal journey that can not be shared. Only those who have experienced severe unremitting pain understand. I can only hope mine is now near an end.

Raw, but real.

Add comment April 27th, 2012

A Welcome Review

I got word of the first of the pre-publication reviews to come back for Broken Evolution. I must say it was one thing to get good feedback from beta readers, friends and family, but it takes it to a whole different level when the opinion comes from a person I’ve never met – and a person with a high profile in the field of bioethics.

To read about my own work things like “enjoyable and a very good read” and “the author does seem to have done his homework both from an ethical and scientific perspective” and “I really believe this book should be made into a film” is wonderful and great validation of the years of work in getting it to this stage.

But the nicest surprise is this: a totally independent view of the meaning of this story.

Of late, I had been so mired just getting it all right, making a good thriller, tweaking the pace, or editing the grammer and punctuation, or fixing typos, or submitting to agents, or receiving the obligatory agent rejections and false starts, only to be left spinning and wondering what I actually had in this story at all. How nice to get this assessment – pinpointing with laser precision – the true meaning of this tale: “this book raises the fundamental bioethical questions about the definition of human dignity, how it is conferred and the manner in which a person understands his or her identity.”

Thank you Dr. MacKellar; you have reminded me why I sat down to write this book in the first place.

Add comment August 11th, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

With my new year’s impetus I dived into my backlog of books to read. Top of the list (because it was thinnest) is a book I’d intended to read for a while, a book I’d heard much about: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I knew nothing about it, but was determined to find out what all the fuss was about. I still haven’t found out. I have, however, read the book. I can cross it off my list.

I can understand that it may have been controversial at the time it was published, especially in a time where the memory of the harsh sacrifices war was still fresh in the adult generation, and a time when the teenager generation had not yet been given their iconic advocate of James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. But today, perhaps a youth that is disillusioned, confused, and truant is no longer a worrying pointer of the future, but is now an engrained issue in society. When we hear regular news bulletins of happy-slapping, drug and alcohol abusing teenagers, teenage gangs, knife crimes, etc., then Holden Caulfield’s peccadillos seem tame by modern society’s standards.

The voice of the protagonist was certainly strong and convincing and of its time, but everything “killed” him. That killed me … after a while. While reading it, I wondered if a modern equivalent novel of disillusioned youth, laced with OMG!s and Whatevaar!s would attract as much interest as this book.

The biggest disappointment for me was, while the character voice was strong, the story was weak. It meandered. It went nowhere. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it was a clever way to show the lack of any purpose or trajectory in Caulfield’s life. Ok. I get that. But, I didn’t think it was very well done. Look at Karoo as an example. It had a similar type of meandering tale with a strong character voice. Karoo, in a way, is a middle-aged version of Caulfield’s character. I think the big difference was humour and irony. Caulfield’s was a humourless character. Karoo had a wry way of looking at the world and things happened to him. Aren’t things supposed to happen to a protagonist? Karoo certainly had a definitive ending. And something happened. Something that made you realise how much the character had grown on you. Holden Caulfield? I was glad to say goodbye to him. His story didn’t end, it just stopped, where it stopped. Not because it had arrived anywhere. It just stopped. So did I. It was a disappointment that (in my view) didn’t live up to the hype. Maybe it’s just not my taste.

So onto the next classic. I might try a little Dostoevsky this time.

Add comment January 26th, 2010


I was ambivalent about going to watch Avatar. The trailer, as with many Hollywood trailers nowadays, doesn’t leave a taste of mystery, but rather exposes too much of the thrust of the story, and revealed it to be a fairly standard, even cliched, tale.

And so it was.

Dances with Smurfs, as South Park lampooned it.

The story wasn’t a surprise, but the visuals were. The sheer amount of them. They were endemic in the film. In 3D, the film certainly looked 300 million dollars (or whatever it cost). With a budget like that I suppose the last thing they could afford to do was take risks with the story. It ticked all the psychological boxes, straight out of film-writing school: hero with a goal that changes half way through, meets beautiful girl, falls in love, earns the hand of said young blue maiden, big battle with the baddies at the end, good prevail over evil.

The themes of the story are surprisingly prescient, considering the story must have been written years earlier. James Cameron tapped into the zeitgeist of the time, and it seems even stronger now. Like many American films, the military figures dominantly, but this time they are the bad guys (or rather the unquestioning warmongering mentally is the enemy). It has a strong ecological theme too. It reminded me, in many ways of Final Fantasy. Remember that one? The last great reinvention of film, before Avatar. How quickly we forget reinventions!

One of the striking differences of the visuals in Avatar is the use of colour and light. Why is it that CGI has always been to represent dark a gloomly things thus far? It was nice to see something artificial realized so vivaciously. It enhances the themes too – the good guys full of colour and light, and their militaristic counterfoils in bland steel greys and muted khakis.

Is it the groundbreaking reinvention of cinema claimed by the hype? No: after all, how many films will have a budget like that? Perhaps it is a milestone though, a landmark consolidation of the state of CGI, thanks again largely to Weta Digital. The reinvention will come when such quality visuals become even more affordable for the average film budget of a non-blockbuster film that can afford to take risks with more original stories.

My expectations were low, but I did enjoy it more than I expected I would. At the very least, Avatar is a fantastic, immersive, vibrant, and entertaining sojourn from the real. Much needed in these times.

Add comment December 18th, 2009

Pimp my netbook

I heard good things about Windows 7 on netbooks. So I took advantage of my MSDN professional subscription to download it and install it on my Eee PC netbook. There were a few tweaks necessary to install it on the netbook, but hey, after thirty years doing this stuff, I’m used to that! Netbook specific install quirks aside, it installed fairly easily.


I must say, first hand, that Windows 7 has surprisingly good performance on a netbook. Microsoft got worried about loss of market share to Linux on netbooks and so took the netbook market very seriously in Windows 7, and it seems to have worked. It performs at least as fast as my old Linux installation, and faster in some ways. Running Google Chrome on Windows 7 responds faster than Firefox on Linux (Chrome has a very fast JavaScript engine – Google’s speciality). The new OpenOffice 3.1 boots up faster on it too. Writing should be a breeze – no excuses now. Lets see how fast it stays when I install the software development tools on it!

They have improved some of the problems Vista had. The annoying UAC pop-ups seem to have gone, now only asking me when it really needs to check access permissions (like the first time a new device driver is installed). The user interface feels a lot “smarter” – the result of lots of little tweaks to it. Cleaner too. Everything seems to be easy to find, where you need it, when you need it, and no clutter. The only downside so far is that shutdown takes a long, long time on my relatively slow SSD drive. But, I’ve set it to hibernate instead of shutdown all the time, which is quicker, and means it can start-up much faster too.

So overall, I’m happy with Windows 7 … so far!

2 comments October 8th, 2009

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