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Monday, January 30, 2006

Quote: "Phony Review Writers Are The Dumbest On The Planet"

The above quote is taken from a discussion thread on the ASIMOV's Messageboard.

Phony book-reviews on Amazon.com are legion - but they are easy to spot. So why are they so badly written, so tacky, so transparently fake?

Because of stupidity. If a writer is so dumb as to not see the faults of his self-published books, he will be more than dumb enough to think he can write fake self-praise and get away with it.

It's like the old joke: "Why did the idiot jump from the Empire State Building? He wanted to be a big hit on Broadway."

How to spot phony reviews:
* Look for absurd comparisons like "Better than Harry Potter!", "up there with the Bible!";

* Fakers use weird phrasings like "the conclusion is implosive" or "this year's classic" or "philosophically action-packed";

* ANY book review that trumpets a book's great philosophical breakthroughs is a bit suspect;

* Fake or dubious credentials (i.e. referring to non-existent magazines or critics);

* Aggressive attacks on negative reviews;

* If you compare the reviewer's OTHER reviews, they are the same inflated praise of one single writer;

* The reviewer uses reviews of famous writers (such as J.K. Rowling) to sneak in "plugs" for the writer he fakes for (i.e. "Harry Potter is not as good as this book by X");

* The reviewer's name sounds phony, or he uses a pseudonym;

* He consistently gives 5 stars out of 5 for every book by a single writer.

If you are even THINKING of writing phony reviews of your own stuff... get out of my blog right now!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Should I Do This? VOTE Your Opinion!

I am in a publishing quandary, and I need your advice. So I set up a Mini Poll here, so people could vote their opinion in the matter.
(Tech note: To see the poll, you need to have Javascript turned on -- i.e. Internet Explorer should be in "default" running mode.)

The backstory: In the 1990s, I wrote a long science-fiction novel called DARC AGES. (Actually, it began as the script for a comic-book, with lots of character and concept art. )

I passed it around to publishers, and nothing happened. So I started to post the book chapters as a web-serial on my first homepage, with illustrations based on the concept/character sketches for the aborted comic-book version.

I got several positive reader e-mails about the first DARC AGES Web serial... but that version had flaws: typos and language errors. So when I took the offer from Xlibris to publish it as a Print-On-Demand paperback for free, it was an unwise decision. (But hey, it sounded so great then, and I was young and hungry.) It was released in 2000.

Unsurprisingly, the 2000 Xlibris print-on-demand edition sold a very small number of copies, and I made virtually no money at all. I tried to forget about it, and concentrated on writing other novels. Skip forward to 2004-2005, when I decided to revise the DARC AGES manuscript as a new Web-serial -- weed out typos, inconsistencies, bad language, make it really polished this time.

As this is being written, the revised DARC AGES serial is soon complete. I'm thinking: "Bury the Xlibris edition. Find a real publisher this time, or just leave the Web edition as it is."

And then, another print-on-demand opportunity comes a-knocking... and there's my dilemma.
I could release the revised DARC AGES as a print-on-demand book through CafePress.com. I tried it before, with a collection of previously published short stories.

But should I do this? Remember your disappointment last time you tried to self-publish DARC AGES, my Inner Yoda tells me. And I try to reason with my doubts: "But this time it could work! The script has been fixed. CafePress is reliable and recommended, I have more freedom to edit the book's layout and design. I am more experienced now. And this time I could include the illustrations, like I always wanted to.
Besides, it's too late to get that book published in the "traditional" way. You self-published it once, so it's tainted forever.

What to do? Please cast your vote: Click "No", "Yes", or "Don't Know" in the Mini Poll.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The BONANZA Plot Problem

I'm sitting here by the computer, while the TV is showing an old BONANZA episode in the background... and suddenly it hits me:

The Cartwright Family is living in the most violent place on Earth.
I mean, people there get shot to death or otherwise killed EVERY WEEK! And it all happens in one small region of Nevada between Virginia City and the Ponderosa ranch.

Their ranch is supposed to be near Virginia City, Nevada, in the late 19th century.... but it looks much more like Bogota, Colombia, today. The Cartwrights are a regular death squad! They must have killed more people than Wyatt Earp. (If you're in a morbid mood, search on Wikipedia how many characters got killed over the course of the entire BONANZA series...)

If one watches a whole season of BONANZA, one gets the impression that every dysfunctional family with a violent patriarch, every gang of bank-robbers and cattle-thieves, every rapist, cutthroat, lowlife and scumbag, is just flocking to the Cartwrights' spacious back yard.
(Which begs the question: why don't the Cartwrights move to a more peaceful county?)

And if we were to take the BONANZA Situation realistically, all this violence would have consequences:
1. Law-abiding families and businesses would move out in droves, making Virginia City an
impoverished slum -- or worse, a ghost town;

2. The local Congressman would go to Washington, D.C. and ask for Federal intervention: "Every seven days it's the same -- The Cartwrights kill people! We need a permanent U.S. Cavalry base to keep the order in this den of crime and gunfire!"

3. Someone would start a criminal investigation of the Cartwrights: "The whole area is littered with spent casings from Colt cartridges. A firing test shows that they match the guns of the Cartwright brothers. Take'em in for questioning!"

4. The psychological stress of living in this world of almost constant shootings, beatings and deaths would cause the brothers to go crazy, suicidally depressed, or psychopathic. But considering the ease with which they kill people and shrug it off -- plus the fact that all their girlfriends get killed or escape -- they may always have been psychopaths.

Jokes aside... this is a generic plot problem with almost any TV series, and sometimes shows up in novels too. If you concentrate too many dramatic events in a very small time and space, the plot becomes too far-fetched. (*COUGH*24*COUGH*)
(The exception is if the story is meant to be comedy, spoof, send-up, camp or satire.)

Now, the real reason why TV shows have too little "space" for the action is that locations and sets cost money. Money is the big "hidden variable" of television, and causes TV scriptwriters great headaches:
"How can we afford to send our heroes to Paris this week? I know: Let's skip new locations and travel entirely! We'll have everything happen in L.A. in realtime!"
(And thus, 24 was born...)

Written fiction, on the other hand, can afford its characters to travel around a lot more. And travel itself extends the time of the story, which eliminates much of the "time-compression" problem seen in BONANZA and other shows. (*COUGH*24*COUGH*).

Even so: novel writers watch TV (I do -- way too much ;-)), and thus they might pick up some bad plotting habits from television writers.
You shouldn't compress too much action and plot into too little space and time.
In the real world, the space of a normal human lifetime includes very few dramatic events like fights, violent deaths, dramatic accidents and such.


If you want to write a plot full of action, you must set up a situation in which this makes sense. (War is one such situation where lots of drama and violence is credible. Other situations with dramatic potential are revolution, social upheaval, or natural disasters.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Listen To Jonathan Sherwood..

Jonathan Sherwood, an American writer who's been published in ASIMOV's, has a great column on writing. If you are the least bit serious about writing fiction, read it.

Here is a quote from Sherwood's column "Forget the Audience, Who Are You Writing For?" which ought to be required reading:
------------------------
1) You’re writing so readers will say, “You’re cool.”
2) You’re writing so readers will say, “This story is cool.”
3) You’re writing so readers will say, “Life is cool.”

------------------------
The 3 levels of a writer's maturity. Read the rest.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The A.R.Yngve Homepage Featuring READ MY BOOKS FOR FREE has been updated

Since 1999, I have posted unsold fiction and fiction samples on my homepage. It is updated on weekends.

The Jan.21 update includes:
- CHAPTER 45 of the space-opera THE ARGUS PROJECT (a serialized 98,000-word novel)
The previous update (Jan.14) included:
- A.R.Yngve's READING BOOK, Part 11 (humorous verse)
- THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE, Chapter 1.1. (a new sample chapter from a novel in progress)
- DARC AGES, Chapter 53 (an epic adventure serial featuring brave heroes, demented villains, feisty damsels, strange mutants, knights in shining armor, nonstop adventure, tragedy, romance... and talking robots)

And if you are into Web-surfing on your spiffy new mobile phone, there is my mobile site... with lots of reading and free mobile wallpapers.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006

THE FACE IN THE DOOR And Other Stories: Released!

I have this bunch of short and long stories which have been published in various venues -- magazines, semiprozines, e-zines and webzines -- and I wanted to collect them in a handy little book, just for fun. This book, THE FACE IN THE DOOR And Other Stories, is now available in my CafePress shop !

Several of the stories are still available to read -- for free! -- in these webzines:

-"Nightmare Number Six"
-"A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Valhalla"
-"Lonely Planets"
-"Physical Terror"
-"Sins Of Our Fathers"
-"Grisham's World"

Other stories in the collection are "The Face In The Door", "See", "The War", "Landscape With Sententers", "Telephone Conversations", "K.C. And the Sunshine World"... plus a previously unpublished bonus story. "See" has been published three times in 2004-2005, which is my personal best.

And in case you're wondering: I made the cover image myself. The door looks pretty much like the door in the bedroom of my childhood. (You can find inspiration in the most trivial things...)

ADDENDUM (Release day, Jan.19, 2006):
I sat up until 10 in the evening proofreading the damned thing -- I thought it would never end! - -- but now it's done. My first collection of previously published stories is released, and available to buy.

I have greater respect for editors now. Proofreading and preparing a manuscript for printing is HARD work. Just when you think you're done, you find a new error somewhere.

And of course you'll remember at the last moment that you forgot putting in page numbers. At the end you'll hate your own writing. Argh!

The title story "THE FACE IN THE DOOR" is a sort of Lovecraft pastiche set in the present-day world. (The cover image should give you a good idea of what horrors that story has to offer.) Some of the stories can still be read for free on the Internet -- see the links here.

(NOTE: If you find typos in the stories on the Internet, please do not email me about them -- I have thoroughly corrected them all for this short-story collection.)

Enjoy... and please send me review quotes if you want to (I need a few!).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

Tell you a secret: I don't really write stories.

I make music videos in my mind.

Then I try to transfer them into written text. (It doesn't always succeed.) The result is a novel, or short story.

That's why I almost never write a longer story or novel without listening to inspirational music. It's the soundtrack of the video I'm composing in my head.

(You should ask other people who write, if they also work this way... I'd really like to know.)

Right now I'm listening to Robyn's latest album, and thinking: "Now, what stories would go with these songs...?" I'm sure I'll think of something. (Thanks, Robyn.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Actual Quotes From The Slushpile...

Whenever my confidence in my writing abilities gets low (such as when I proofread my own stuff), it helps to think that many others are more confident but less talented...

Look at these actual quotes from the slushpile of magazine ASIMOV's Science Fiction. You can't make this stuff up! (From the blog of Miss Snark, the literary agent.)

My favorite quotes from the collection:

"Weston was known for the firm but genital hold he had on his men. It was one of the reasons he was chosen for this mission over six other equally qualified men. "
(Ouch!)

"The two naked bodies, which were lying beneath the satin sheets, were no longer the people whom everyone, who was anyone, knew whenever reality was in existance. "

(Say what??)

"Sudenly, all the eyes in the room rose from their fixed positions on the floor to stare at him. "
(That last one MIGHT have been quoted from a science-fiction story about a planet of living floors... but I'm not sure. ;-))

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Perfect Clock For Writers Who Procrastinate...


I designed this novelty item for my CafePress shop: the Wall Clock For Lazy People. Perfect for writers who procrastine! Instead of numbers, it has captions like "LUNCH", "TOO EARLY..." and "TOO LATE FOR IMPORTANT THINGS."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Humiliation Of Writers

Writers who are experiencing their first success must be prepared for humiliating experiences.

Well-meaning persons will ask you things like, "So you'll be rich now?" (Though I think that's thinly disguised sarcasm.)

Tobias S. Buckell and Justine Larbalestier share their humiliations with us. I salute their courage.

A.R.Yngve Gets BLOGGASM

(sorry, couldn't resist making a lousy pun. ;))

I've been interviewed in BLOGGASM.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Gotta Have More Moychandise!


This CafePress business is really getting addictive. I simply fell in love with the idea of having my own little online shop of souvenirs for people who read my stuff. (Or don't read my stuff. It doesn't matter. It's moychandise, and it's mine! Wo-hoo!)

Today I added more great moychandise of my own design:
-DARC AGES black t-shirts, logo sweaters, beer mugs, caps, and a calendar.
-ALIEN BEACH logo buttons, postcards and stickers.

It's all in my Moychandise Shop. Have a look -- or start your own shop! It's free!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

My 2006 New Year's resolutions:

1. Lose 10 kilos overweight.
2. Finish my first "military SF" novel, THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE.
3. Get more fiction published in China.
4. Start working on my third TERRA HEXA novel to come out in Sweden.
5. Sell my first TERRA HEXA novel to a publisher outside Sweden (perhaps China???)
6. Sell my SF movie script, THE FATHER MACHINE.
7. Start working on an SF novel for the India market.
8. Piss on Saddam Hussein's grave. ;-)
9. Get a new girlfriend.

Aaand...
10. Read through my pile of unread books and magazines.

Happy New Year, folks!