Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chronicle of the Liberator (Paperback)

Chronicle of the Liberator (Paperback)
By Ronald T. Jones
August 15, 2004
Ronald T. Jones' Chronicle of the Liberator is a thrilling science fiction read. Ronald definitely captured the true essence of a military sci-fi story with this story.
Chronicle of the Liberator is about Thomas Richard Jackson, a mild-manner man living a boring life, who breathes the spirit of low self-esteem. One day, during a horrific episode, which highlights his meekness, he is snatched from Earth and transported across the universe onto a ship. There he befriends an alien, Likir, and Likir's servant, Coowald. Likir tells Thomas that he is destined to save Earth. However to do it, Thomas must assassinate a great and powerful leader of an interstellar empire. Together, in order to build his mind, body and spirit into a warrior, Likir and Coowald train Thomas in military fighting, leadership and strategic planning. Soon after, Likir tests Thomas in a live-fire exercise, which stresses Thomas to the breaking point. The knowledge that he must survive so he can save Earth, fuels him to keep going.
Chronicle of the Liberator is a self-awakening story, showing playing it safe in the journey of life isn't really living. Ronald lightly seeds Thomas' character with internal and external prominence and like a master, magnificently steers the reader through ebbs, swirls and surges of his growth. Ronald designs a powerful backdrop of believable military campaigns, battles and techniques in which Thomas thrives and eventually leads to his rebirth as a battle-tested combat-forged leader. Watching this unfold in the pages of this book was both enjoyable and heart-wrenching at times.
I enjoyed reading the battle scenes and compared the combat strategies to present day teachings. As a military veteran, experience in military planning and strategy, I found this book to be on target. I recommend this book to all sci-fi enthusiasts, but especially those with a penchant for military sci-fi.

Malcolm "RAGE" Petteway


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Traditional vs Self-Publish

Last week I became embroiled in a hot debate over whether it was prudent for authors to self-publish vs. going through the traditional publishing route. The debate was spirited, but it did bring to light the prevailing thought among many why self-publishers are loathed in the writing community. First of all, many I debated referred to the self-publishing business as vanity press and not small press or even self-publishing. This in itself indicates their position that those who self-publish do so just to see their name on a book. In fairness this is probably true for some of the people that take the self-publishing approach, but not all.

Those I debated made many compelling arguments against self-publishing. However, I will boil down their arguments into one issue. The opposing issue I took from the debate is that there is no policing in the self-publishing field. What do I mean? Well, it is simple. Policing assures quality, or at least adherence to the standards of writing. What I call the gatekeepers (e.g. agents, publishers and editors) are conspicuously missing in the self-publishing industry. There is no one to offer critical critique or check your grammar and spelling. To compound the issue, the advent of the computer has given false security to writers that they are producing quality work.

I've learned the hard way, computers and word processing applications can cause more harm than good; especially the auto correct function on most processors. All in all, the lesson learned is, writers cannot rely on the computer or themselves to edit/proofread manuscripts. Unfortunately, many self-published products are a result of self-editing efforts. Thus, those I debated last week concluded, the quality of work of "all" self-published writers could not withstand the scrutiny of the traditional publisher.

My argument is with the scrutiny the gatekeepers are applying. I forward the idea, the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing community use the explosion of the computer as an excuse not to delve into an author's submission and really examine if the story is marketable or not. As soon as they see one spelling or grammatical error in a manuscript, it goes into the reject pile. When I started out writing my manuscripts, I read that the gatekeepers were not looking for pristine work, but for marketable stories written by authors with high potential. Granted the author has to exhibit sufficient writing skills in the manuscript so not to detract from the story. But I think a few misused words, misspelled words, or grammar errors should not kill a manuscripts chance for acceptance. Today's gatekeepers only accept a flawed manuscript when it comes from famous people. Because the famous people have marketable stories, they are willing to attach a slew of editors to those projects. No, I am not advocating that each manuscript that comes through can be riddled with mistakes as long as it is a marketable story. I'm just saying manuscripts should be judged on the story and not on a few…catch what I write here…a few errors. Don't get me wrong, quality is appreciated and warranted by the system. The writer still needs to make every effort to present his best product to the gatekeepers.

With that said many authors with quality projects do become frustrated trying to get passed the gatekeepers and decide to go the self-publishing route. Although, this affords the author more control, it also increases the risks. The author has to act as agent, editor, publisher, advertiser and owner of his own business. With so many hats to wear and probably working only part-time on the book, many errors, problems and mistakes insidiously slip into the final product. This is where those I debated have a solid argument against self-published work. Until there is a mechanism to assure quality work, the self-publishing industry will continue to be spat upon by the so called "writing community" as frustrated no-talent hacks that couldn't withstand the scrutiny of the traditional publishing process. As an independent author, I reject the notion that all that use the small press/self-publishing process are frustrated no-talent hacks. I just believe the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry sometimes get it wrong.

They get it wrong because they have a checklist to follow. This checklist is too rigid and inflexible and not visionary enough to recognize a new voice…a different voice…cutting down the ivory pillars of what the book industry believes is necessary to make a good novel. Today, artists write the same old story, just with a twist, because the gatekeepers stifle imagination. There is a formula and no one can alter it. The formula is (known writer + publisher defined audience = success). Emerging stories do not see the light; new ideas never get to grow; and young writers never mature because of this formula. I promote the formula should be changed to (creative writer + dynamic audience = success). In other words the writer needs to be able to capture the reader's imagination and that the publisher's paradigm of who the audience is, needs to be challenged. The old way of defining an audience by just demographics is outdated. Demographics only work in census taking. Today, reading habits, personal experience and raw attraction is what should define an author's audience.

For example, the gatekeepers regulated my manuscripts/novels, Osguards: Guardians of the Universe, to black readers only, which in their opinion are only attracted to multi-cultural, exotic romance novels. They are wrong on both counts. First, just because my books have black protagonists, doesn't mean I'm writing for a black audience. The audience I'm writing for love to read military adventures, have experience with disciplined organizations, and are attracted to science fiction. Second, regulating the reading habits of one group of people without consideration for anything other than demographics is somewhat offensive. Now, I admit this is not always the case. Steve Barnes, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Tananarive Due, Walter Mosley, Jewell Gomez and Ishmael Reed, to name a few have been very successful in crossing the gatekeepers' threshold. So I have hope that my forage into the writing community was met by an anomaly from the gatekeepers rather than the rule. I may once again make that journey to push my work through the traditional means. But for now I remain an independent author.

However, independent authors like me are at a disadvantage. Because of this notion of being frustrated no-talent hacks, it is difficult to get wholesalers and distributors to carry our work. Foremost it is impossible to attract book reviews from media outlets. To fix this, independent authors need a dedicated book review process embedded in main stream marketing. The industry needs a review process that is able to dive into the trenches and weed the chaff from the wheat. There are reviewers that do so, but they do not stand on the same level as those reviewers that critique traditionally published works. Until this happens, marketing a "quality" self-published book will be like pushing a wet noodle up the hill with your nose.

Finally, I understand the reluctance of many to disregard anything tagged with small press/self-published stink on it, but I feel they are losing out on some of the best contemporary works in writing today. The question I have yet to sufficiently answer is with the stigma surrounding the self-publishing industry how can independent authors assure their quality novels get fair attention in marketing and distribution.



Friday, October 9, 2009

CreateSpace.com Report Card

Bottom line Up Front (BLUF): I released the first book, Homecoming, of my science fiction series Osguards: Guardians of the Universe on 8 Oct 09 through CreateSpace.com. This blog is to respond to a question on how I liked dealing with CreateSpace.com.

I have published three of the four books prior with Iuniverse.com. I thank Iuniverse for extending the opportunity to me, but I felt like I was doing all the work and they were reaping all the benefits. Even though I have severed my relationship with them, I still see my books trading, although slow, on-line. Therefore, I decided to branch out on my own and start my own small print publishing for my books.

A few months ago, I asked the group about CreateSpace.com as a business to produce my books. Responses were mixed, but I decided to go with them anyway. CreateSpace allowed me to publish under my own brand, so I decided to publish my Osguard series under Rage Books.

The process was long, due to my pace. I didn't want to rush into things. I really had only one problem. That was the production of the book cover. I initially was going to use their cover program (which was quick and easy), but since I'm paying for both my daughters to go to college to learn how to do things like that (one is a digital animator and the other is in graphic communication) I charged them with doing the cover. That took more time. Unfortunately, the instructions on how to use their template for self-produced covers were not clear when it came to the bleed zone. It took me five attempts and even after that three proofs to get it right.

Other than that, excellent knowledge of Microsoft word and how to set up a page was most helpful. The interior was accepted on the first try.

However, I must tell you, there is something exciting about putting your book together from all perspectives, rather than just handing someone the manuscript. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So I would have to say I give CreateSpace.com a four out of five so far. Now, let's see how their support will be during marketing. Today, I placed the book live on my websites: www.osguards.com and www.ragebooks.net. The book is also available on the CreateSpace.com website. It will take a few weeks before it gets to www.Amazon.com. The beauty of that is I will also try to market the books on the kindle application.

Oh yeah, if you do it all yourself (writing, production, art etc) it is free. However, I paid about $40 for the pro plan which allowed me to keep more of the sale price as royalty. So if you are a perfectionist...this is the way to go. It can’t do you any harm to check out createspace.com.

Malcolm “RAGE” Petteway

Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review on Meji

Milton Davis has opened the door to African mystical fantasy through his powerful storytelling in his Meji series. Meji is presently a two book ride through African history, folklore and mythology; built around two strong and endearing protagonists, Ndoro and Obaseki. Ndora and Obaseki are twins born to the Sesu Inkosi Dingane. But Sesu tradition frowns upon twins as an abomination. In Book One, Ndoro and Obaseki are separated, in order to spare their lives. Ndoro is raised Sesu, and Obaseki is raised by his mother’s people the Mawena. Each grows into adulthood disgraced and alienated. Ndoro the warrior and Obaseki the mystic use their gifts, given to them by the ancestors to earn respect and cut their own way in a world not quite ready for their brand of doing business. In Book Two, each twins’ gift grows and flourishes, finally placing them as leaders of their own separate kingdoms that rival both the Sesu and the Mawena kingdoms. Eventually, two will become one.

Remarkable Story! I am very excited about what Milton Davis has done with Meji. I ripped through the books and couldn't put them down. Milton Davis is a fantastic and powerful writer. His character building of Ndoro and Obaseki are masterful and magical. The reader rides on their motivations and pushes through each challenge with them. Milton Davis makes the reader feel his characters’ pain and understand their anger. That is truly an amazing talent for a writer. Meji hits all the right cylinders. Great job...I hope there is more!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Are blockbuster book franchises dead?

I went to the local bookstore to do some unscientific research and discovered something. In the Science Fiction section, the number of Star Trek novels had diminished. There were about half a dozen Star Trek books on the shelves, compared to the dozens of books I normally saw a year or so ago. I must admit, it has been a while since I searched the Star Trek area for books, so this phenomenon may have happen over a period of time. I thought with the advent of the new Star Trek movie the franchise would have been re-energized and new books with the improved characters would be out on the shelves. But there was only one book…one book…about the movie. So, I guess it is true, the franchise is dying. Additionally, I noticed the number of Star Wars books declining as well. On a side note, even as these franchise blockbusters are taking a hit, the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres are growing. More and more books are populating the area, with more and more authors. The genres are growing with new and fresh ideas every day. So the question I have for the reader is what writer, series or franchise do you see replacing the dying Star Trek / Star Wars blockbusters on the bookstore shelves? Or do you see the days of blockbuster franchises as dead, to never return again…at least in Science Fiction?