Downloading books for free is wrong, right? It devalues books and doesn’t give an author his/her due for their work, right?
Not always. I want my name out there, but the biggest ebook site in the world won’t let me give it away (without me waiting for them to price match), so here it is. You can download it as a pdf from Slideshare. Or you can get it as an ebook on Smashwords.
It’s a collection of flash fiction that I posted on this site before anyway.
**Note: These are books that I read in 2013, not books that were published this year**
Since I read a ton and it is the end of the year, I thought I’d come out with an obligatory best of 2013 list of books that I’ve read. I’ve broken it up into fiction and nonfiction because I read way more fiction. The small descriptions don’t contain spoilers–just a few thoughts and reasons why I liked the book.
3. Finally Free by Michael Vick
Despite what you think about Michael Vick, I feel this is a good book for anyone to read. His autobiography maps how he lost everything, and the actions leading up to his fall. He talks about growing up in a bad part of town, football, prison, and so much more.
2. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig’s writing books are fantastic. If you’re a writer looking for a pat on the back, this isn’t for you. Wendig’s style is more of a kick you in the rear sort of thing. He uses humor to keep your attention, all while stuffing your brain with great writing knowledge.
1. Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer
If you’re a writer and you don’t have this book, you’re doing yourself a disservice. I only had to flip through a few pages to know that I’d get my money’s worth. Its diagrams and flowcharts are only the beginning to what the book has to offer. When you get into the text, you realize it is a book for the serious writer who is truly looking to tell a great story. The book serves as a large fountain of ideas to think about as you’re writing/editing your book.
7. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
This is a fun book based on a simple but unique idea. The idea is that any human can pick a specific Deity as if it were an item at a department store. You get the benefits from having said deity, but it also comes with a cost.
6. Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
I went on a big Stephen King reading binge this year, and this book was one of my favorites. It’s actually a collection of novellas. I know what you’re thinking ‘Yeah Ben, I saw Hearts in Atlantis, and the movie was terrible’. Yes, the movie was terrible. The book, however, is very entertaining–especially if you’re familiar with The Dark Tower series.
5. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
I was surprised by how much I liked 11/22/63. It’s a book where the main character travels back into time to stop the Kennedy assassination. Life gets harder for him the closer it comes to 11/22/63. King does a great job in keeping with the feel that you’re really in the past.
4. The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Although I’ve yet to finish the series (it’s on my to-do list), The Emperor’s Edge was a pleasant surprise. It follows a young woman and her crew of misfits as they try to stop people from killing the Emperor. Best thing about this book: it’s free on Amazon as an ebook. Check it out…you won’t regret it.
3. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman/Stephen King
I love reading Stephen King novels, but they don’t scare me like they do other people. It’s not that I’m not afraid of anything, but his classic novels (IT, Carrie, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, etc.) deal with things that could never happen. That doesn’t scare me. However, this book does. Why? Because it’s a dystopian fiction novel centered around a very simple premise similar to The Hunger Games. Each year 100 kids are chosen to go on the long walk. When you can’t walk any longer, they shoot you. The walk goes on until only one person is left.
2. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
I heard of Wendig through his blog, and it was earlier this year when I decided to check out Blackbirds. This book is fantastic. It follows an unlikable yet compelling character Miriam as she struggles with her ‘gift’ of seeing how everyone she comes into contact with will die.
1. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
This is my favorite book that I’ve read all year–one of my favorite SK books outside of the Dark Tower series. I initially wanted to compare it to The Shining, but found early on that the story was completely different. Yes, it follows Dan, but this time, he’s trying to save a little girl, all while battling with his own deep character flaws. I didn’t want King to follow up any of his classic books, but after reading this, I’d love to see more of them.
I hate it. I really do. You write for months, edit for longer, struggle to get legit beta readers, pay for editing, then realize that people only take chances on new authors if they can get a book for super cheap–if not free.
I listened to authors say that KDP select was the way to go. Make your book free, shoot up the rankings, then sell a bunch of books when you come off of the free promotion. It didn’t happen like that. I was number one or two in many free categories, and gave away 2,500 total, but that didn’t translate to sales after the promotion. I’m hoping that It’ll translate to reviews, but you never know.
99 cents is a frustrating price when you’ve worked hard to put out a professional quality book, but if it’s the only way to get an audience, it’s something that you have to do. I plan on writing many more books, so gaining an audience is my #1 priority right now. As much as I hate the fact that writing, music, and art in general is devalued these days, I concede to the strategy of giving some work away in order to gain an audience.
For now, I’m taking the drug dealer approach–the first one is free (or almost free).
Well, I’m either getting brave or just too pissed off at my computer to edit the flash fiction story that I completed yesterday.
Call me lazy but I can’t get anything done on my computer without it freezing every ten minutes (I’m writing this post from my phone right now).
OR I could be getting braver because I’m letting more than a handful of people see this for once. Why not open it up to the world if I plan on publishing it next month anyway?
I’m going to go with option number two because it makes me sound better.
Without further ado, here’s an excerpt from my first novel, Deadly Colors! If you find it interesting, shoot me an email or contact me through my (duh) contact page, and I’ll email you a free review copy. Visit my ‘Books’ page to get a full[er] description of the book.
Deadly Colors Excerpt
Garrett’s desire to change the past led him astray. When he walked through Rashaud’s office door, butterflies rummaged through his stomach.
Through the doorway, he surveyed the man that would be his new leader; soon, his new father figure.
Rashaud’s six foot three, muscular figure was an intimidation factor in and of itself; but it was his leadership of the Krown Bloods of Cedar Ridge that intimidated those around him the most.
That being said, Rashaud’s smile seemed welcoming enough.
But those eyes, Garrett thought. He could see Rashaud didn’t smile with his eyes. The cold, dark caves gazed holes into Garrett’s soul. Those are a killer’s eyes.
“Thanks for coming through, Garrett. Go ahead and take a seat,” Rashaud said, gesturing to the flat-black leather chair facing his desk. Even Garrett could tell the desk was something special. The exquisite patterns across its shiny dark brown surface suggested luxury and value. Garrett took note of the desk’s color—the wood was stained the exact shade of Rashaud’s piercing eyes.
“So how’s the eye?” Rashaud asked, pointing at the dark edges that circled Garrett’s left eye.
Speaking of eyes, he thought, and then shrugged the idea away. “It’s fine—a little sore—but okay.”
Rashaud nodded. “Yeah I know it’s hard to go through that. But it’s part of the process, you know? Everyone has to get jumped in—even me. You wanna wear that color, you gotta do what it takes to earn it, ya got me?”
The color Rashaud referred to was red. Below Garrett’s bloody forehead, black eye and busted lip, a red bandana hung from the front of his neck like a cowboy would wear in an old western.
“Yes sir, I got ya. Ya know I’d—” Garrett broke off. He tried to think of the best way to complete his thought without breaking down in his new boss’s office. “I’d do anything to follow in my brother’s footsteps, man. He was my hero.”
“I understand that, but he’s gone. If you need someone to look up to now, let it be me.”
“Yeah, for sure,” Garrett said
Nobody ever accused Rashaud of being modest. Garrett didn’t know too much about the dangerous man sitting in front of him, but his arrogance, he knew all too well.
Garrett was anxious to get his real question answered, but couldn’t think of a good way to ask. He looked all around and saw art, expensive furniture, flat screen T.V.’s and numerous other items littering the room that screamed wealth. He couldn’t help himself, he had to know.
“So what made you call me in here? I mean…I know you don’t like most of the guys hanging around your business. Kevin told me that—” he trailed off once again thinking of his brother. The wounds embedded themselves too deep in his psyche for him to think about it without feeling the hurt that inevitably followed.
For the first time Garrett saw Rashaud’s eyes soften. He saw the understanding and sympathy in them.
“That’s exactly why I called you in here. Kevin was one of my best men. I’m sure you already know what he brought to the Bloods—he was your hero after all. Let me fill you in on even more detail if ya don’t mind.”
Garrett nodded in approval.
“Kev was one of my top guys. He ran kilos and did a few bank jobs. I’m not sure how much of the story you know, but he died doing a bank job. Some guy he had run ins with in the past set the whole thing up.
“I just want you to know, when the Crips killed your brother, I shed a few tears. He meant as much to me as he did you—I believe that,” Rashaud gestured all around the room, “without your brother I’m not sure all this would be possible.”
No fucking way. My brother was everything to me, Garrett thought, but of course he didn’t say; couldn’t say.
“When I saw you at his funeral, I saw him in you. The spirit of Kevin Moore is in you, Garrett. I believe that. I need you to fill his shoes. When I need a man to push grams on the street, I’m calling you. When I need someone to make a deal with the cartels for kilos, I’m calling you. When we need to erase a Crip—” Rashaud paused to emphasize the magnitude of what that meant, “—I’m calling you. You got it? You’re gonna be the new Kevin. Why? Because I need you to. Or in terms one might understand better, because you need you to.
“Your mom ain’t gonna be able to support you and your little brother by doing hair. You’re gonna have to grind for it, G. If you want your family to eat, it’s on you now. How does it feel to be the man of the house?”
Garrett tried to think of a strong, masculine answer, but came up with nothing. He decided on the truth instead.
“It’s hard, sir. I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to keep it going, ya know?”
“See this place? This was nothing before me. Now this is the top high-end furniture store in Cedar Ridge because of me. You know how that feels?” He paused to take a sip of the whiskey in front of him.
Garrett assumed the question was rhetorical, so he kept silent.
“You’ll learn how it feels to build something in time. Truth be told, I hate this place. Its main use is to pump drug money into the system.”
Garrett squinted, showing the slightest look of misunderstanding. Rashaud decided to go into more detail after sensing Garrett’s confusion.
“How it works is—my runners pay me. I buy some furniture and sell it for a higher price. To the IRS it looks like a legit furniture store, you see? That’s all it’s there for. I don’t like selling couches to rich snobs, but I’m proud of this, Garrett. I built it. If you build a better life for your family, you’ll know the feeling I have. You don’t have to like what you do. You just have to be damn good at it. If you put everything into it, you’ll see all the benefits in the end.”
“I understand, sir. I wanna see my little brother in college, and my mom in the suburbs.”
“And what about you?”
“I don’t know,” Garrett said. He told the truth again. He cared about what happened to his family, but didn’t have a care in the world about what happened to himself. His brother’s murder numbed him. It took his innocence in a way.
“Well, you need to figure it out. That’s a choice you’re gonna have to make.”
I’ve been sitting on my novel; Editing, and re-writing, and more editing; for the last four months. I did everything I could before getting a professional opinion. I thought it had to be the best I could do, so I tried to make it just that.
Finally, last month I thought it was ready. The problem was—submitting my first full novel to anyone for the first time was a terrifying proposition. Why? Because I had no idea if it was up to par.
Are there any plot holes? Does the plot make any f***ing sense!? Are my characters believable? Does my novel say anything about me or the human condition? Do I know how to put together a proper sentence–let alone thousands of them? Based on this blog post, I’m afraid not. Is this interesting?
These were all questions that reverberated over and over in my thick skull. I don’t know if it’s like this for seasoned authors, but the thought of someone answering those questions before I did was horrifying.
Yes, I’ve had edits in the past on school papers, short stories, research papers, etc. but a novel? Absolutely not!
When I finally got the review back, my heart pounded in my chest.
But, low and behold I got a positive response back:
What? Someone actually liked what I had to say? They found meaning in a book that I couldn’t!
The coincidences and themes the editor brought up about my book that I wasn’t aware of blew my mind.
The editor also gave me many things that I need to change regarding POV and tense issues—which is making for a very productive re-write.
So…what’s the point of this post? To pat myself on the back?
The point I’m trying to make is that when you create a story from scratch, you have no idea if it’s up to snuff until you relinquish the control and let somebody else get their hands on it.
Is it scary? Yes.
Does it suck seeing errors in your work? You bet!
Will it ultimately make you a better writer, and make your story better? Also, a resounding YES.
I know, I know. It’s no fun letting someone else see what you’ve been working on for months…alone…hidden.
That being said, it’s the only way to give you the confidence to move on and finish the project. As artists (yes, I like to think writing makes me an artist) we’re often the worst judge of our own work, so until we let other eyes see what we’ve done—we truly have no idea what we have sitting in front of us.