Category Archives: Reading

How the Death of Barnes and Noble Could Affect Writers and Readers

Hi everyone,

Recently the news exploded with the announcement that Barnes and Noble laid off almost every single full-time employee.  Worse than that, they gave no notice – employees came in on a Monday to start their week, and were told to go home.

Hearing this news, the very first thought I had was “They’re following Wal-Mart’s employment change from years ago: only hire part-time so that you don’t have to give them benefits or insurance.”  I almost wouldn’t even blame them if that was the case, given how terrible things have become in the United States for medical insurance.

But to let everyone go with no notice, pitiful if any severance, and ‘a chance to apply in a couple months as a part-time, minimum wage employee.’  If that isn’t a slap in the face to those who worked it as a career, I don’t know what is.

However, it gets worse.  Many seem to think that this is another sign of the coming end of Barnes and Noble.  This article is just one of many I’ve found that posits this inevitable future.  The going thought is that Barnes and Noble are trying to liquidate as much money as they can as quickly as they can prior to closing down.

If that’s true, if Barnes and Noble is about to die…what does that mean for writers?  Especially self-published writers?  What does that mean for readers?

Is this the end of print books?  I don’t think so, I still believe that the balance that seems to have been found between print and eBook will remain relatively stable.  Especially with the fact that Amazon is opening physical book stores.

But then…where do we go to get books?  In many larger cities as well as small touristy towns, there are independent book stores, but their offerings rarely match what Barnes and Noble used to have, or what Waldenbook/Borders used to have before they died.

Which kind of leaves it all on Amazon.  Possibly the best place for authors to sell from, and the best place for readers to buy from.

…which gives Amazon an incredible power.  They can single-handedly shape the future of reading and writing, if they choose to.  There has already been anti-competetive controversies surrounding Amazon (there’s even a dedicated wikipedia page about those practices!)

Granted there are a lot of other choices out there for eBook selling besides B&N and Amazon, but then Amazon doesn’t want you to go to them, so they offer benefits of remaining exclusive to them for eBook sales, on top of the fact that they have a greater reach than most, if not all other venues.

I’ve heard it many times from other Self-published authors, they despise some of Amazon’s practices, but publish through them because they feel it is the only realistic way to get their product out to the most people.  Whether or not that is actually accurate is up for debate, I know at least one of my friends who is really good with spreadsheets and numbers has experimented a lot with exclusivity vs. casting as wide a net as possible.

But the fact remains that if B&N dies, which seems likely, it will give Amazon greater power over both print books and eBooks.

I honestly don’t know at this point if that is good news or bad news for writers and readers…

What do you think?

-Jon Wasik

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Self-Publishing and the Importance of Editing

Hey everyone!

As I’ve read a few self-published books in-between traditionally-published books over the past year and a half, I’ve learned something that greatly surprises me.  Many of the self-published authors I’ve read have done a better job with editing than traditionally published novels.

spock-skepticalWhaaaaaat?!  No, that can’t be.  Publishing houses have teams of editors at their disposal!  How could they possibly have missed obvious mistakes??

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how or why that happens.  And it is very true, not all books are edited/created equally.  I’ve read some traditionally published novels that were near-flawless in their editing, and others that had handfuls of mistakes.

riders-revengeHowever, that divide is pretty narrow.  With very few exceptions, traditionally published novels usually aren’t all that bad.  However, self-published novels are another story…

I’ve read some that are almost flawless in their editing (Alessandra Clarke’s novel Rider’s Revenge had maybe one or two mistakes, and none of them were glaring) and then I’ve read some where it seemed like the author hadn’t even tried to edit their own book, let alone get anyone else to edit them…

Why It Matters So Much

To all of my fellow self-published authors out there, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the editing part right.  For more than one reason.

Firstly, and this is a personal observation that has no statistics to back it up, people generally seem to be more critical of mistakes in self-published novels.  Even a couple of mistakes in a self-published novel, and the people I’ve talked to tend to say something like, “This is why I only read professional writers!”  No joke, I’ve heard someone say that.

Take your work seriously, or others won’t take you seriously.  Go through multiple edits, and if you can, get someone else to edit as well.  Get a friend or family member who’s good with English to edit.  Or better yet, if you can afford it, hire someone!  (I’m strongly considering offering my services as a freelance editor…)

In fact, getting someone else to edit your work is probably your best bet as the highest quality, because I’ve noticed too often that if it’s your own work, it’s much, much easier to miss mistakes.  Just look at the mistakes in my blog articles for evidence of that ;)

What it ultimately comes down to is this: glaring errors in your novel will stop the reader flat in their tracks.

Image source - http://il9.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/10259909/thumb/1.jpg
Image source – http://il9.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/10259909/thumb/1.jpg

To give an analogy, imagine you’re out on a romantic sunset walk with your significant other.  The trail you’re on is beautiful, the sky is alight with oranges and reds and purples.  Hand in hand with your love, you are enjoying the journey that is so perfect and so…

And then you come across a dead body on the trail.

….Well, that certainly made you stop, and go “Wait, what?!”  Suddenly the romance is gone, the walk is over, and how do you move on from there?  This is the sort of jarring effect a typo or misspelled word has on many, many readers.  We’re yanked out of the story, and it becomes very, very difficult to recapture the mood.

Ultimately, I’ve never found a single novel, traditionally published or self published, that had zero errors, so don’t stress so much over it that you never publish your work.  But please do take editing seriously, for your benefit and the benefit of your readers.

And for the record, editing can save lives.  Commas can save lives.  Because the difference between, “Let’s eat Grandma!” and “Let’s eat, Grandma!” is huge!!  ;)

Image Source - www.dailytelegraph.com.au
Image Source – http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Book Review – Rider’s Revenge

Hi everyone!

Although this was the week I had chosen to take off from writing, I decided to write a usual Saturday blog anyway…especially because I wanted to write a review for the novel Rider’s Revenge :)

Rider’s Revenge by Alessandra Clarke

riders-revengeRider’s Revenge is a novel about K’lrsa (pronounced killrisa), a young woman in the desert tribe known as the White Horse Tribe.  She is a rider, one of the best up-and-coming riders of her tribe, who is torn between her responsibilities to her tribe as a First Daughter and her desire to be a full-fledged rider.

However, when she is struck by tragedy, she vows an oath to seek vengeance on those responsible, and leaves her tribe, her family, everything she knew and loved behind to fulfill her oath.  Along the way, she will make startling discoveries about the world outside of the desert, find something she never thought she could, and will be faced with the most difficult decisions of her life.

…Is love worth sacrificing your oath to vengeance?

My Thoughts

K’lrsa was a great character to read!  She is a very strong, independent woman who suddenly finds herself in a world where those very traits that define her are forbidden.  Imagine a strong, independent woman today being thrust back into Victorian England, the struggles she might go through as everyone around her, men and women alike, cast her down and try to restrain her from exercising basic freedom.

There were also several surprises along the way that I rather enjoyed, some I figured out just ahead of their revelation, and some I never saw coming.  I enjoy both kinds, because I get excited for the ones I figure out, and I love the surprise of the ones I didn’t :)

I also like how so much of K’lrsa’s struggle became mired in grays, rather than it being a black and white struggle.  It made for an engaging story, and helped me learn more about just what kind of woman K’lrsa really is.

While considered a fantasy, the fantastical elements in Rider’s isn’t overt in most cases.  You won’t find Wizard’s casting magic like you would in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.  Yet it exists just underneath the surface everywhere you look, and if you keep your eyes open and your mind open, you’ll see it everywhere :)

Recommendation – yay or nay?

I’d definitely give this one a thumbs up.  Anyone who enjoys a strong female protagonist, fun adventures, and exploring the differences between two polar cultures (with a touch of magic thrown in), check it out! The writing style is strong and enjoyable, too, so that makes it an even more enjoyable read :)

Also, the continuation, Rider’s Rescue, just came out!!  :D

Where to Find It

All over the place!!  Ms. Clarke has made it available through so many mediums.  The easiest would be on Amazon.com for either print or Kindle…

Click Here to find Rider’s Revenge on Amazon.com

Also, for anyone local to the Denver, CO area, you can find Rider’s Revenge on the shelves of Tattered Cover!  :D

That’s all for today.  Thanks for reading, everyone!

-Jon Wasik

Why I Think Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Should Read Star Wars

Hey everyone!

So one of the things I’ve been trying to make more time for lately is reading.  Yes, the guy who loves books, loves to read, and writes as often as he can, has been a total slacker about reading.

No kidding, I have a gigantic backlog of books I’ve bought and haven’t read, probably around 40 or so.  And some of those are books that have been piling up since my college days.

Image Source - http://www.joblo.com
Image Source – http://www.joblo.com

Well ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been reading Star Wars novels.  The Expanded Universe, as it is called, is incredibly huge and robust, with hundreds of novels written by dozens of authors!

And that is why I think every Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer should read novels from the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  These are stories all written in the same universe, with the same ‘rules’ to how the universe works, and the same characters…but each book or series of books by each author is so wonderfully unique!

Favorites and Least Favorites

heir-to-the-empire-legendsOne of my favorites of the EU is perhaps the most well-known trilogy, the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zhan.  Not only does the story capture the spirit of Star Wars, but it is very well written, in my opinion.

Another of my favorites is the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole.  This in particular is because I really enjoy his writing style, very character-driven, and he does an incredible job of describing action/battle scenes.  Just enough detail to give a vivid picture of what’s going on, but not so much that it slows down the story or the action.

On the other hand, my least favorite trilogy so far is easily the Black Fleet Crisis.  In fact book 1 of this series is what originally killed my interest in continuing the Star Wars EU almost a decade ago.  Grudgingly, I forced myself to finish it this year, and got myself back into the series again.  Or so I’d hoped.

Now I’m on the last book of the Corellian Trilogy, and finding that I also am not a huge fan of this trilogy, though I like it considerably better than the Black Fleet Crisis.

Before anyone cries fowl on me, I am not saying they are poorly written books, or that the authors are rubbish.  If that was the case, they wouldn’t have been asked to write these stories.  Rather they just aren’t my taste.  Why?  Well, that leads me to why I think Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers should read the EU.

Take it or Leave it

Each author brings something different to the table.  And for an author, that sort of exposure to varying writing styles is incredibly invaluable.

Because developing our writing ‘voice’ is perhaps the most important thing an author can do.  Now that’s just my opinion, but as a reader, it is the author’s writing style, the way they tell the story, their ‘voice’ that either makes or breaks it for me.

i-jediSome authors, like Stackpole, write characters and events in the right amount of detail.  He describes the universe just enough that I can see it, filling in what he doesn’t describe with my imagination, and so making it a part of me.

Others, like Roger Allen (Corellian Trilogy) spend waaaay too much time describing the environment or, more often than not, the technology, how it works, why, even though 90% of what he describes is not essential to the story.  And it frustrates me.

But that is me.  For some, that is the whole point of sci-fi – the technology.

And so reading this multitude of authors, I can figure out what I like, and what I don’t like, and decide which parts to integrate into my writing.  It also helps me identify what I consider to be flaws in my own writing style, or perhaps it is better to say aspects of my style I want to change.  Aspects I don’t always catch when reading my own stories, but which I catch when I see it in other writers’ stories.

Image Source - starwars.com
Image Source – starwars.com

What’s Your Story?

So what about all of you?  Star Wars or not, what are some of your favorite novels or authors? (If you say that it’s my book, well flattery will get you everywhere ;) )  What are some of your least favorite?  Why?  What kind of story telling do you enjoy the most or fiercely hate?  I really would love to hear from all of you :D

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik