RR: Merkiaari Wars by Mark E. Cooper

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An author friend recommended I check out this title by another of his contacts. I scanned it and thought it seemed really interesting and so I picked up the first three books, plus audible for less than eight bucks. The first book of the Merkiaari Wars (Hard Duty) really does set a broad platform which gives the series a lot of room to play in a hard SF setting. Cooper does a good job with the pieces given the size of the sandbox he’s playing in. Many authors spread things out too thin, trying to be the next George R.R. Martin, Cooper isn’t that guy and all the pieces work independently and cohesively.

I would compare his writing style to Stephen King, though. Some people will like that; it’s the only weakness that I would levy against Cooper’s writing. King tends to wax passive and digressive at times as his way of inserting pages of backstory in the middle of the larger story… Stephen King “Rambles.” That said–Cooper is not so bad and there are many positives to the comparison. Unlike King, Cooper doesn’t slip into an eloquent backstory in the middle of conflict scenes (sorry, I’m still angry over how long the whole Blaine the Train whose a pain initial encounter took to get through in Gunslinger).

I’d recommend picking up the series, starting with Hard Duty–I give it 4/5 stars: Checkout a great deal at the Merkiaari Wars on Amazon!

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State of Writing

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Besides an edit on my sci-fi (Dekker’s Dozen–which I uploaded for reading on Tuesday) I also did finish my requisite chapter this week in Fear in a Land Without Shadow, although I did not write another contribution for John in the John, as I intended. I guess I’ll make it up and write two pieces for JitJ this week. I did finish part 1 of that above fiction novel, however, and so I won’t likely write a chapter this week–my goal instead is to finish clarifying my outline of part two so that I can power through it in the near future…

1st Person POV

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I don’t typically write in this point of view, but some friends have tried it. I typically stick to the third person, but I’ve seen some very good stuff written through the eyes of the main character. That said, most of what I’ve read outside of commercial (highly produced and high quality) works have been done very poorly. It’s not been the quality of the story or even necessarily the writing; I thought about this last week when I came across a great article on the subject (http://www.cayceberryman.com/point-of-view-writing-in-first-person). I think Cayce Berryman really puts a finger on it under the part Your Thoughts vs Their Thoughts.

“If you explain everything to your readers, you’ll likely lose their interest, if not insult them. So what’s the solution? Let the main character be the eyes and ears, and let the reader be the brain… I stared him down, hoping to make my point. “If you ever come near my kids again, I’ll make sure you never see the light of day.” His eyes widened and he backed away in fear. I explained why I stared into his eyes as well as why he backed off. As the reader, you can figure out, for yourself, that I wanted to make a point when I said what I did.”

That seems like a helpful bit of advice if I were to ever explore that POV. It seems natural for us to insert those motivations to 1. make sure our point got across to the reader or 2. because we are used to explaining all sides of the narrative and the lines of this POV get blended when that happens. I think this is what drags down the quality of those stories I mentioned above: we try to engage our readers in that POV, but then begin to silently narrate and push the reader out as we do.

Free Fiction Tuesday

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In this week’s installment, Ezekiel shows up in Dekker’s private sanctum and takes the mercenary on a confusing, time-hopping adventure where he discovers some interesting things about his family’s past, the history of the Reliquary, and has to relive the worst day of his life. But even as he is forced back into that bloody day when Prognon Austicon took everything from him, Dekker holds out hope that he can somehow prevent the murder of his wife and child, averting this entire timeline.

Check it out, and share it around!

https://www.wattpad.com/223100995-dekker’s-dozen-the-last-watchmen-ezekiel

Best Line Ever?

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As an author, it is easy to get discouraged when you have a million dollar sentence, a string of words so amazing that you imagine you were the recipient of some kind of cosmic intervention… and inevitably, as you have peers review your writing and give critiques, everyone hates it.

Over the weekend I glanced down at what my daughter was reading, The Cry of the Icemark, by Stuart Hill (which has been optioned for a movie, even.) Here’s the line that immediately caught my eye:

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It’s encouraging to know, that those off-the-wall sentences do make their way into print. Keep writing and remember that in the end, it’s your story…and that applies to life in general–not just writing. Add all the boiled monkeys you want.

Random Friday

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Some you all know one of my hobbies is cooking… but especially BBQ. I’ve competed with my KCBS team. If you don’t know about the world of competitive BBQing I’d suggest checking it out (here’s a little video).

You might also watch reality TV shows like Barbecue Pitmasters, although the drama for the show is manufactured, it gives you an idea of what is out there. I stick to the Kansas City BBq Society because I like the standardized rules. I might put together a better video about it this summer at a competition which I run annually in my hometown… there’s no real good overview on youtube about what a KCBS really looks like–you kind of just need to go to one and figure it out–and I highly recommend that.

Below are a few shots of some of my teams offerings from last year, and if you want to check out a competition in MN this summer, come check out the Smoke on the Waterfalls

State of Writing

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So I’ve been keeping up to date with everything here and in my spare time (basically, my late evenings and a few early mornings) been hitting my writing goals. If I don’t set weekly goals, I would miss them every time. I report on it mainly as a way to keep myself accountable and mildly excited.

Last week I wrote a devotional piece, finished a chapter in my new horror novel, and edited another chapter for posting on my sci-fi. I also queried a bunch of lit agents for Wolf of the Tesseract around 2am, late in the week. I’m assume email time-stamps like that are pretty common for them… we writers have day-jobs too, ya know.

Sidenote, during this weeks writings, I invented and used the term “Gadarene Baconater.”

Giving Away Free Books? A Best-Practice

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Here’s a great post for all my self-published/indie or even small-press author friends that talks about how to maximize results with book give-aways as a means to promote/advertise, etc.

What’s great about the article (which comes by way of a guestblog) is that it includes real-world data from an author who used his actual model and has some tips to share on how to increase give-aways and which sites tend to work best.

If you’re looking for some good advice on how to use this technique to find some new readers and increase your platform, you really ought to read this.

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2016/01/26/sizing-up-book-giveaway-programs/

Monday Recommendation

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Recently I was asked a question about all-time favorite book suggestions. The prompt got me thinking about books that impacted me throughout my life. I landed on a suggestion: Day off the Triffids by John Wyndham. I read an excerpt of this book in the second or third grade…yeah, I started reading hard SF pretty early. It ignited an immediate love of the apocalypse genre (which was largely uncommon in fiction until the last couple decades). Day off the Triffids is not the best book I ever read, for sure, but something about it caught my attention. It was only an excerpt of an old story, but I mentally cataloged it as something I had to read. In elementary school, I began a search to find and buy this book (this was long before eBay or Amazon, and the Internet was only accessible in my schools library.) My quest led me to frequenting book stores and rummage sales well into my teenage years, always with an eye out for this title. After searching for almost a decade, I happened to find a used copy in a book bin, priced at a quarter in the second-hand bookstore owned by an older gentleman who, of course, had become a friend of mine. Sometimes I forget how much of my youth revolved around my love of story. I still have that paperback copy of Day of the Triffids on my bookshelf, and before my son left the fourth grade, he too read it cover to cover.

What’s a book that you’d consider an all-time favorite, very influential, etc? And tell me why… hit me up with an answer on Twitter or email!