Making Dialogue Feel Real

Dialogue

I read a book recently, The Settlers, by Jason Gurley, that had fantastic dialogue. I wrote about it in my review. It was powerful and, more importantly, made me feel like it was REAL dialogue. Have you ever read a book in which the dialogue fell flat? Maybe like the words spoken between characters just didn’t seem right? Heck, maybe you’ve written some pretty bad dialogue yourself; I know I have.

When I’m reading a book, I love the dialogue. That’s what makes me feel involved in the process. With conversation, it opens up the characters to one another. As readers, we are gods. We’re omnipotent observers because we get to read the back stories. We know the characters thoughts. The other characters don’t know these things, so when the dialogue comes along, the characters are letting out the secrets that we already know. You know how hard it is to keep a secret!

I’ve said that the hardest thing for me has been character development. I think I have a decent handle on that now, but the second hardest thing for me is dialogue. In my opinion, dialogue is a very important part of character development, if for no other reason than it is what makes them seem real. I mean, Ian Fleming could have filled our heads with great backdrops, stories, and thoughts of James Bond, but it really is the suave way that Bond talks to others (particularly the women) that make us love him. Unless your story is going to be set up based around the life of a mime, then you have to practice your dialogue skills. It certainly took a good bit of practice for me.

Assuming that you already know and understand the rules of punctuation surrounding dialogue (no small feat if you are new to it or are not an avid reader), you have to have a certain flow. I almost don’t know how to explain it. Coming from an academic, research based writing background, my dialogue flow was rough. Contractions were so non-existent in my head that I didn’t know where the apostrophe button was. Unless you are writing a Commander Data or Spoke fan fic, you really need to know where it is. People usually don’t talk in proper English. We are all about some contractions.

Making the dialogue real is important, but you know it can go overboard. Very rarely can an author go full on slang and get away with it. Mark Twain could manage it, but I certainly can’t. Could you imagine reading a book base on characters from Boston or How about southern Louisiana in which the author tried to get every word phonetically correct? You can throw most accents and slang out the window, especially if you are new at writing fiction (like me).

Most of the time, dialogue can’t simply be the spoken words (I know that it pretty much the definition though). What you put around the spoken words is just as important. Conversations between real people usually are accompanied by some kind of hand or head movement. Real conversations are also filled with thought in the heads of the participants. That has to be shown through the dialogue. Here is a brief snipet of dialogue that I just wrote for two of the characters in my new book, but completely stripped down and flow inept:

“I still have not opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him a few months ago.

“I did not ask if you had,” said Raymond.

“I know, but I did not want you to get your hopes up,” said Benjamin.

“You will open it when and if you are ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Now, to me, that is about as ugly as it gets. Let’s look at what I really wrote:

“I still haven’t opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him three months prior, probably hoping that Benjamin would gain a better understanding of faith.

“I didn’t ask if you had,” replied Raymond.

“I know,” said Benjamin, “but I didn’t want you to get your hopes up.” Benjamin smiled a little, hoping he could keep the pastor’s patience in check. He knew he didn’t have to worry about it, though. Pastor Raymond was the most patient person he knew.

“You’ll open it up when and if you’re ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Mechanically, everything that could be contracted is. That’s just how we talk. We’re not writing a research paper, we’re writing fiction. Also new to the second part it the filler between the characters speaking to one another. It tells you that they are not simply robots, but people that are having their own individual thoughts and feelings. In real conversation, this is stuff we do. We think about what the other person it saying and we wonder what they are thinking. Often what we are thinking is not what we say, and that has to be shown to the reader in fiction dialogue. If you want your audience to connect with the characters, you have to make them real. OH! Yes, I was hoping I could circle this back around to character development and there it is (I’m feeling a bit like the Doctor today thanks to my new sonic screwdriver).

New fiction writers, like myself, often rely on too little dialogue because it scares them. Sure, descriptions of the scenes are nice, and who doesn’t love to take a trip into a character’s past via flashbacks? But dialogue is where it’s at. I like to think of all the words in the book as parts of speech, with the dialogue being the action verbs. It adds the excitement and ups the tempo. Everything else is important, just not as much.

What do you think about dialogue? If you disagree, please let me know. On this blog, I just write things down regardless of whether or not it is right. Do you have your own way of making dialogue work? Put some of your own dialogue in the comments!

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The Boston Bombings and a Path of Uncertainty

I consider myself a writer now, but before that I was a teacher. I have a degree in political science and international studies, and at one point I was sure that my life would take me into a career in diplomacy or counter terrorism. Most people see those two fields as contradictory. Diplomacy deals with developing good relations with other nations and major world players. It necessitates skills in the use of power, both soft and hard. Wielding that power is the key to a successful outcome. Usually, diplomacy is the path taken when one wants to avoid conflict, and overall, is usually successful.

Counter terrorism officials deal with intelligence and strategy. Their goal is to uncover non-state actors that post a great threat to the state, in my case, the US. The power they wield is the power of secrecy and arms, a powerful combination that is necessary when hunting enemies that have no end-game other than pure destruction.

Both diplomacy and counter terror efforts take place without much fanfare. Officials for both do their work in the background, ensuring a smooth global operation. One needs the other, whether we as Americans admit it or not. There is no such thing as the possibility of isolationism, nor should there be. The world is filled with humans just like us, and we have to acknowledge that.

I bring this up because of what happened at the Boston Marathon. Both our diplomats and security specialists are in overdrive, and they are at the helm of a pissed off nation. With 3 dead and over a hundred seriously injured, we find ourselves asking questions. We want to know who did it and why. We want to know why our intelligence officials didn’t know about it. But most of all, and perhaps more telling of who we are, is our need to know who we will kill in retaliation.

Scanning the blogs, tweets, and other social media postings, it is clear that people need someone to hit back. It reminds me of when I was four. A classmate hit me so I hit him back. It’s a natural response. Human response. Even though we as adults tell our kids not to hit back, we don’t really mean it. In fact, I imagine it’s hard not to be proud of your kid for sticking up for himself.

The US has usually followed what is a policy of proportional response. The terrorists kill ten of our people, we respond by taking out a “reasonable” amount of theirs. The US has the capability to destroy any enemy that they want, but we temper our anger and strike, not with our full capabilities, but with the equivalent of a toothpick into a watermelon. In reality, we could just take our baseball bat and destroy it, but we don’t.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Boston, especially the eight year old boy, Martin Richard, that was killed. His mother had to have brain surgery and his sister lost a leg. They were watching their dad run the marathon. Reading that, if your first reaction isn’t to find everyone involved and kill them, then you are a better person than me. However, I know that finding everyone involved and killing them would lead to innocent people getting killed as well. That is something I don’t want and something that is hard to a nation of people to understand.

As a nation, it is easy to strike with our weapons. A nation is all of us combined. All individuals. But it is also a thing. With everyone combined, we become a collective, no longer individuals. Why is that important? Because, as a collective we can suspend our concept of appropriate retaliation. Forgiveness is hard enough for individuals, but nearly impossible for a nation. We have to have blood.

I was not there in Boston, and if I was, if my family had been hurt, I would probably not be calling for patience and calm. For most people, this is not a situation that deserves either. I just don’t want to make a mistake and let loose the weapons of fury on innocent people because we demand someone pay. Don’t get me wrong; I want those that did this to be punished severely and quickly. Somebody will pay. But I do not want innocent people to die because of it. I’ve come a long way in my views of other people, religions, and cultures. In the end, we are indeed all humans. Some of us were lucky enough to be born in free nations, some unlucky enough to be born under the watchful eyes of oppressors and terrorists. Those are the people that I feel sorry for, just as much as I feel sorry for the victims of the bombings.

The photo that almost everyone has seen of the little boy that died is one in which he is holding up a sign that says “No more hurting people” followed by “Peace.” It is hard to look at now, but we should take heed of the message. The hardest times to find peace are times like this. For the sake of Martin Richard, let’s try.

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– Reaching out to an enemy in kindness often changes the enemy into a friend. – Don Miller

My Review of “The Settlers” by Jason Gurley

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Now that I have finished reading The Settlers, I am glad I didn’t stop. I say that because I did initially stop. In fact, I made it known on Twitter that I stopped. There were no quotation marks around the dialogue. I’ve never read any book without them, so I got nervous. I decided I had to continue, and I am sure glad I did because the dialogue in this book was fantastic. I mean, it made the book.

The Settlers is a story about a group of people that are facing the greatest challenge that humans have faced. Sure, the premise is one that we’ve hear before, but it is nonetheless still based in reality. We are damaging Earth. In this book, it seems that that damage hit a tipping point and our world is rapidly spiraling out of control. Entire landmasses are underwater, and the Earth is falling apart. At least, the parts that we have inhabited for so long. Something has to be done to preserve humanity.

So humans start to build large space stations that orbit around the Earth. At first, the stations are thrown together rapidly, owing to the nature of the emergency on the planet. Gradually though, humans begin to perfect these stations. They become complex and extravagant. At some point, the crisis on Earth is solved and it seems that the planet is still habitable, but people keep coming to the new stations. Might as well, they are like small countries floating around up there.

Where The Settlers really gets interesting, and where Gurley shows his obvious love of sci-fi classics, is how these stations operate, particularly with the Argus station. This large space colony is set up to operate based on a governing system that rings familiar with elements from 1984, Brave New World, and many others. Heck, I couldn’t help but drift back to my ancient Greek philosophy class from college. It was as if Plato himself had written a modern version of The Republic. There is a sanctioned class system that includes who works what type of job as well as reproductive rights. The station goes as far as admitting that they are creating a different type of human; a smarter type of human.

Gurley does a fantastic job with the characters, though we only get to follow a few through the entire book. I found myself getting to know each one, which is no small feat considering how little time he actually gives you with each character. What made me feel particularly involved was his use of dialogue. Once you figure out how easy it is to read without quotation marks, the words flow through your mind as if you are actually talking to the characters. The dialogue was beautiful, and I actually made that exact note at one point in my Kindle. Here is one line that I highlighted that stuck out to me

Rivers are like thread…They stitch place together. They are seams that connect very different lands. I think it is lovely that you are an anthropologist. What better name for a woman who might herself be a river through time?

I’m not sure why that stuck out to me early on, but I knew that the rest would be amazing. Gurley relies on character dialogue to carry the book, which is very hard to do. Aside from character development, I think dialogue is the next hardest thing to perfect in a book. The job is accomplished here.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to start the next book. The Settlers ends with two of the main characters encountering a pretty bad situation, and I can’t help but think back to an earlier part of the book when one character said

Equality, he would sometimes say, is a myth even in cultures that acknowledge and promote it.

The entire book is set on the backdrop of equality, or lack thereof. Gurley experiments with the concept, and leaves the book heading in a direction that makes me want more. Sitting here now, he has made me wonder if it is better to live in a place where the government openly denies equality, or one that says everyone is equal but in fact they never will be. Basically, would you rather someone lie to your face, or do it behind your back?

Thanks for putting out such a great book, Jason Gurley. I look forward to the rest.

Click here to see his book on Amazon!

Reconciling Science Fiction and My Faith

Dr. David Powers, who I mention in this post, is continuing the other half of this discussion on his blog. Here is the link to his page. Dr. David Powers – http://coffeescholar.wordpress.com/

I’m a sci-fi nut. Seriously, if I didn’t have to ever work again, I would likely spend my time watching sci-fi on TV, reading sci-fi, and writing more sci-fi novels. I’d be lucky to get out of bed. Why do I love science fiction? We all have our reasons, but I love that it envisions something other than what is here. I have a degree in political science. Talk about a quick way to get depressed about reality. Turn on CNN or Fox News and you get pounded with stories about how bad everything is and how its the fault of one political party or another. Sure, I recognize there are important things we have to take care of, but sometimes I want to transport somewhere else. That’s what science fiction does for me. It allows me to read and write about things that help others forget, if only for a little while, about the mess here on Earth.

Before I delve into a potentially explosive theological issue, I should disclose that I am by no means qualified to write about anything religious. It has taken me years to open my heart to Christ and it has been a recent development. I essentially know nothing.

So, what do we have to talk about? When I was teaching, religion was a touchy subject. In the public school system, the topic becomes the third rail in which you just don’t touch. I’m fine with that, but I know many that aren’t. I did get to talk to some students that were worried about their biology class. They worried because the concepts and issues that they had to learn contradicted their beliefs. Since this blog rotates around writing, I won’t get into my views on science more than saying that I was actually a science major in school for two years (before I realized how much I hated physical oceanography). I mention the science and religion issues because I think there are some parallels to religion and science fiction.

Look at the major themes in science fiction: space, aliens, time travel, habitable planets, warp speed, the afterlife, etc. Every science fiction show I have watched has some element that is contradictory to any number of religious beliefs.

Let’s look at some questions that are meant to make you uncomfortable, no matter which God you worship. My love of science fiction almost demands that these questions be asked when facing my Christianity (Please don’t take these questions as my challenging your religion(s). I am challenging myself more than anything).

  1. The galaxy is bigger than any of us can begin to comprehend, so how could we possibly be the only planet with life?
  1. If there is other life out there, which every statistical probability would say there is, who put it there? If God did, is it the same one that you believe in?
  1. So you believe in Genesis, huh? If God created the Earth and everything on it in six days, does that make us gods for writing about terraforming on other planets? (Looking at you Trekkies and Whovians)
  1. On that note, how many days did it take God to create those other planets? Do you even believe there are other planets out there? (I ask because many people don’t believe the dinosaur fossils are real)
  1. If God created us in his image, who’s image are Klingons created after? Wookies? Vulcans? The Q Continuum? (Now there’s a loaded one)
  1. If we leave the planet and expand, as so much of sci-fi portrays, then will Revelation only affect Earth?

Those are just some of the many questions I have though of. I’m positive you have some of your own.

If you are a fan of any series of sci-fi shows, you will have noticed that each of them undoubtedly brushes the ideas of religion. Try as they might to not slander any religion, they almost have to question the beliefs without saying that’s what they are doing.

There have been plenty of science fiction authors and creators that have dabbled in what is obviously a faith based concept. Lost, one of the most popular shows in the last decade, made it abundantly clear that the whole show revolved around spirituality.

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There are a few routes that I think science fiction fans can take regarding this topic.

  1. Don’t worry about your religious beliefs while you are watching and reading the material. It is, by definition, fiction and you are allowed to treat it as such.
  2. Pose the same questions above to yourself and (uh oh) to your spiritual confidant. Let’s face it, if is hard to watch and enjoy the genre without wondering if what they present could be true. By doing so, the next logical step it to face your beliefs.
  3. Pull out your Bible (Torah, Koran) and try to wipe your mind of all science fiction. Ask for forgiveness for ever enjoying such things. Turn on Touched by an Angel reruns.

My great friend and mentor, Dr. David Powers, is also a sci-fi crazy. Seriously, check out his blog here. He owns one of the largest private collections of comic books on the East Coast. He eats, sleeps, and breaths all things sci-fi. Here is the kicker – he is also my pastor. On the surface, this may not seem to be a contradiction, but the way I see it, it certainly could be. He is not one to shy away from potential contradictions. Somewhere you will find a photo of him at the Myrtle Beach Xcon convention leading the Sunday service in the middle of the floor. Click this sentence to check out his response and, as I see it, a continuation of the discussion (There is also a link to his blog at the top).

The title of this blog post tells you where I am on the topic. I am trying to reconcile my Christian beliefs (which are infantile and growing) with my love of this genre. I want nothing more than to jump on a colonial ship and head out of the galaxy to explore, but I wonder if just wanting such things makes me less of a Christian. What if I run into an alien with a different god?

Please join in the discussion in the comments section. I would love to know what some of you think about this. (Be respectful…I don’t feel like putting my comments on moderation)

My Review of “Longevity” by S.J. Hunter

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Longevity perked my interest because of my minimal background in law enforcement. In fact, the first page really had me interested. Chris, the main character, is about to run into a burning building and says, “I’m responsible for anything that might be lying around intact enough to tell us if there is a ‘why,’ even if it hasn’t happened yet.” My first thoughts went to Minority Report, so I decided I had to keep reading.

Longevity is set about a hundred years from now and early on in the book we can see that something has radically altered how humans live. Turns out, we have discovered how to stop aging, at least as far as our looks and health are concerned. People still count their chronological age, but continue to look and feel like they did at whatever age they were when they began their “resets.” The problem, and the main focus of the book, is the Laws surrounding the process. Apparently it was decided early on that there had to be set limits to how many times a person could reset themselves before they eventually had to age normally. Making the choice to have children also lowered the amount of years you could have as well.

As would be expected in such a situation, some of the wealthy people in the world would be able to afford to live indefinitely, and think that they should have the right to do so. Most rational people know that this would lead to a very privileged society and that those people would pretty much become the world leaders – and stay that way. It really paralleled some future version of what we see in society today – the wealthy get whatever they want at the expense of everyone else.

Chris has worked in Longevity Law Enforcement (tasked with enforcing the longevity laws) since its inception (he’s been on the job for eighty years or so) and does not particularly like having partners. Unfortunately for him, Livvy transfers into the department just to learn from him. Her background in tactical and homicide is very different from LLE and she has some issues adjusting to Chris’s style as a partner.

Both Chris and Livvy are thrust into a case dealing with an old nemesis and that is when the book really takes off. From the moment they realize who is involved, they are continually chased by the bad guy and every time I turned the page I was waiting for gunshots. It was fast paced, and took place over the course of only a few days.

The concepts Longevity brings up may seem to be far-fetched, but with the way medical science is progressing, it is only a matter of time until something similar happens. Heck, plastic surgery and pharmaceuticals do a decent job of making the rich look younger. I can definitely see Hunter’s vision here, and I hope he takes it farther. I love dystopian books, and I could see him taking this story that route.

The only issues I have with this book are relative minor. Hunter’s paragraph structure was odd for me, but I recognize that every author has a different writing style, so I didn’t care. Also, there was a lot of repetition of the concepts surrounding the law enforcement methods and a few other things. Truth be told, this may come in handy for some readers who have a hard time picking up on some of the concepts, but I understood after the first few times. By no means should either of those things keep you from buying a copy of this book. It is good and is another example of why I love self-publishing. In fact, I already bought the second book in the series!

Check out the book here

I want characters that I can sleep with…

Well, I know what you’re expecting. Maybe you think I’ve switched to the erotica genre overnight. As tempting as it sounds to try, I have to admit that I’ve never read anything erotica. Unless you count my inner thoughts as reading. Honestly, if I tried to write it, I would be looking over my shoulder making sure nobody was looking.

Here’s the deal. I’ve been super stressed about character development for my book. It is with four different editors right now, so I’m holding my breath until it comes back. Until then, I’m just trying to figure out what kind of attributes people want in a character and how they want them introduced and developed. I read a blog yesterday of someone that said they had to connect with the main character in some special way within the first few pages or they put it down. Uh oh. I started wondering if my main character could do that. Well, I have two main characters and the other one does not come in until about page twenty. Guess I lost that reader before my book is even published.

So, I did something that I should have done a long time ago. I got all of my favorite books off the shelf and put them on my bed. I’m not talking about the ones that I kind of liked. I’m talking about the ones that stayed with me. The ones that had characters that I felt like I knew as well as the ‘real’ people around me. You know what kind of book I’m talking about. For me, the list was somewhat big and included Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, James Bond, 1984, and ENDER’S GAME. Well, as you can see, I’m mostly a sci-fi guy with a little thriller thrown in, but what made these and a few others so special to me? I cleared off the books and went back to writing, but as I was about to go to sleep, the answer hit me. My head was on the pillow and I was in that “about to fall asleep, so lets go on a thought adventure” state. My adventure included a lightsaber and some sith.

I want characters that I can sleep with! Literally all of the books that I love and cherish made me put myself into their world as I was falling asleep. I have always thrown myself into books I’m reading or have read and added chapters to them with me as a new character. If it’s Star Trek, then I’m right beside Picard and Janeway battling the Borg as Commander Captain Watson. If it’s a Bond book, then I’m 008, fighting the villain right along side 007 (Watson, Allen Watson). All of my favorite characters were ones that I could see myself becoming friends or colleagues with. I lull myself to sleep with the fantasies of becoming one of the major characters beside them.

Now that I know how to recognize my favorite characters, I need to know how to accomplish that as a writer. I want to get readers so involved with the people in my book that the characters stay with them until they open the book again. I want my readers to end a chapter and try to create the next chapter in their mind. Readers have need to find their best friends and greatest enemies inside of books.

So now I’ll be inserting myself into my own book. Before I fall asleep, I’ll become a new character in my own book. I’ll have conversations with the other characters and ask them what they would do next and what they think of developments so far. I’ll find out what their lives are like and how they would like to grow up.

There is no better way to write a book than to get your characters to help you out.

The Stigma of Self-Publishing – An Indie Problem

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Indie authors are dirty, sloppy, and worthless. Their covers are crappy and you should just look at their writing skills – makes you wince even thinking about it. Character development? Self-publishers have no clue. Their work does not deserve to be displayed anywhere near the work that has been vetted and edited by actual publishers.

Anyone who has followed me for any length of time probably just had a heart attack. You know that I clearly don’t feel that way about self-publishers. My first book will be out in a month or so and it will be self-published. 

I’m proud of it. Not because it’s fantastic (that’s for you to decide), but because I actually got a book written. Not only did I get it written, but I am following the right steps towards getting it published. I pounded out a first draft and then took my time completing a second draft. I printed multiple hard copies of that second draft and gave it out for editing from serious professionals that I have networked with for years around my area. They are marking it up now and I will get those copies back soon. I will then complete a third draft and get some of my gracious beta readers to give it a test drive. In the mean time, I have contacted a great friend and spectacular artist that I know to begin work on my cover. She has an MFA from the University of SC and our creative visions are similar. I know that I will get what I want from her and more.

The stigma that surrounds self-publishers is not going to go away any time soon. No matter how many success stories come out of the indie author circle, it seems that so many people refuse to pick up an indie book. They are convinced that nothing good can come from anyone that didn’t go through a traditional publisher. I just read a review of Hugh Howey’s Wool that I think was tainted by the reviewer’s disdain of self-publishing. I honestly wondered if we had read the same book, because I loved the book.

Like it or not, many of the problems are on the shoulders of snobby self-publishers. You know who they are, so don’t pretend you to have no clue. They put their work out well before it is ready. I’m not talking about having a bad story, that can happen to published authors (come on, sometimes Stephen King’s stories need a little help). I’m talking about work that an author might have let their spouse read and that’s it. Right, your spouse if going to tell you the truth…

I’m talking about the indie authors that never had to write a single paper in college, if they even had a college class. There is nothing wrong with that. Heck, some high schoolers are successful self-publishers now, but guess what? Someone helped them! Someone looked over their work and took a big red pen to almost EVERYTHING. I’m talking about the ones that are published and then given reviews from friends and family as the rest of us look at it and say, “Sure, we self-pub to avoid the almighty gatekeepers and slush piles, but damn, that piece of writing is really not good.”

Professionalism and Discipline

Just because we self-publish and call ourselves indies does not give us the right to skip vital parts of the publishing process. Professionalism and discipline has to be our mantra. Sure, write a sloppy first draft. Write a sloppy, if somewhat better, second draft. Then give it to someone smarter than you. Give it to many people that are smarter than you (preferably with some editing experience). Give them free reign to rip it apart. Let them know that your feelings won’t be hurt. Get those copies back, cry a little, then pound out another draft. Then, if you think you need it, get a good group of beta readers. There are many people willing to trade work back and forth online. All you have to do it network and be nice in the right circles online to find them. Please don’t skip the cover. It has to be professional to be taken seriously. I’m getting someone with a master’s degree in fine art to work on mine. It doesn’t get more professional than that. The cover will be the thing people see first, so make sure it is great!

Does it all sound hard? Of course it does. Is it a ton of steps to take? YES. It does take serious discipline to take the professional route, but it has to be done. You took the time to put your awesome ideas down on paper, so treat them with respect. If you don’t, the readers will respond accordingly.

This is the only way to rid ourselves of the stigma surrounding indie authors. We have to become our own gatekeepers. Just because we chose to not take the traditional route does not mean we get to skimp on our work, and that is unfortunately what has happened to much of it. Sure, there will always be bad work out there. We will never be able to fix that. In fact, I don’t want to fix it because it shows the freedom that we have as authors. But, with some hard work and serious perseverance, we can get the good work to rise to the top. We can break even more indie authors out into the world. We have great stories to share so let’s make sure they don’t drown in laziness and complacency.  

**I know some of you will take offense at me saying college is necessary for good writing. I know it isn’t. I will say this – college and grad school forced me to really analyze my writing and ensure that what I wrote was quality work. It also made me realize that everyone does indeed need someone to read over their work.

My Review of “Poor Man’s Flight” by Elliott Kay

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In my quest to review other self-published works, I came across Poor Man’s Flight by Elliott Kay. I know nothing about the author, but he sure did have me intrigued within the first few minutes of reading it. I will do my best to not have too many spoilers.

Poor Man’s Flight, set in a future realm in which humans have spread across the galaxy to other systems, parallels many problems plaguing us today. The main antagonist, Tanner Malone, is finishing high school and hopes to head off to a university soon thereafter like the rest of his friends. Unfortunately, he is not able to pass the big culminating test to place him high enough to enter school without having to gain an excruciating amount of debt. For this society, it seems like going to a good university, on loans, and getting a good job with the loan holders is the only way to make a decent living. People get stuck in a perpetual circle of debt-payments-more debt. Talk about similarities today’s world. Every kid nowadays is told they have to go off to college or they won’t succeed. Average student loan debt crushes modern day grads. In the book, Tanner, on the advice of a friend of his, enlists in the Navy to assist with some debt and help get himself reset to enter a university.

On the other side of this book, we have a ruthless, yet sometimes likable set of pirates that prey on the rich and treat their own crew members with respect. On one hand, they are much more fair than the ‘democratic’ society that they rob. The head pirate has the same rights as everyone else and they do nothing unless the majority agree that it’s the right move. Kay makes me actually think it would be cool to join this band of criminals who have managed to escape the loan and debt system while living what seems like a gluttonous lifestyle. On the other hand, my morals kicked in. While the pirates are fair to one another, they certainly have no regard for anyone outside of their circle. They are true killers.

Kay takes us through Tanner’s boot camp as we watch him transform from a true book smart kid to a trained soldier. We see him get assigned to a group of ill prepared soldiers on a patrol ship, and watch proudly as he rises to the occasion to pull them through a serious mess. Kay does a good job of relaying the different realities of military life They just happen to be in space. For all you former military people, and those interested in the military, you’ll love Tanner’s role and experiences.

This story is really a reflection of our current state of affairs. We live in a world that tells us that we have to go to college to get a good job, but neglects to prepare us for the cost. We then go on to accrue more and more debt while the same corporations gain more and more money from our debt. The book highlights the frustrations that are currently building in our society. We can almost see ourselves in the pirates. Maybe not the ruthless and murderous parts, but certainly in the part that wants to live free of the debt forced upon society. In almost every character in the book, I found a part of me. It was like looking in a mirror and having the reflection show these characters. I think you’ll find the same thing if you read it. The ending is fantastic and I know you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did!

The thing that made this book even better was the way his characters interacted. One thing that I struggled with in writing my first book was giving the characters dialogue that seemed natural and engaged the reader. Kay does that well in this book. The characters interacted realistically and I appreciate that.

This book has sold fairly well on Amazon and is selling for $2.99. It is definitely worth the price and, as I like to say now, is less than a cup of coffee. Pick up a copy and help support this fellow self-published author. From what I gathered on his blog, he recently had surgery, so that’s even more of a reason to buy his book – let’s cheer him up!

Here is the link to his book on Amazon

Here is a link to his blog 

*The only disclaimer I give is for language. I personally have no problem with foul language in books. To me, it more closely mirrors reality. Just know that it is present in this book.

Why Indies HAVE to Read and Review Self-Published Work

Karma

If you’ve self published, you know that the hardest part of the process is certainly not writing the book. In fact, writing it is the enjoyable part. Marketing it is the bane of indie author existence. After all, you’re authors, not professional marketers. Most self-published authors certainly aren’t rich and definitely can’t finance a marketing campaign, but we all know that without people finding out about your writing, simply hitting the ‘publish’ button online won’t mean a thing. You could have a work of art. You may have written the next Harry Potter series, but if nobody reads it, you’re done. Your work gets buried in the glut of other books. It will be hidden in between the work by a ninth grader and some fitness book that your thousand pound yoga instructor wrote.

That is where other self-published authors come in. Since trying to merge into the scene, I have met some incredibly great people that read, review, and share other people’s work when it comes out. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. It takes more than simply spamming my Twitter with yours or somebody else’s work (more than 10 spams an hour gets an unfollow). It takes a commitment on the part of all of us. I would like to think of the indie author scene as a group of colleagues. We can be the gatekeepers of the self-published world.

The first step is actually buying other colleagues work. Come on, will $2.99 really kill you? You spend more than that in gas to get in your car to go to the store. It will certainly make the day of the author when they see the sale. Second, if you like the work, review it and let everyone else know why you liked it. A book won’t sell without reviews, and we have to review each others work. Karma. Don’t expect your book to get read and reviewed if you snob it into the digital without bothering to help others out along the way. If you don’t like a book you’ve read, simply don’t leave a review. I know this is controversial, but guess what, someone outside of the self-published world will leave a bad review. As colleagues, we don’t need to hurt each others sales figured by posting bad reviews in public forums. My take on this is a key leadership principle – praise in public, criticize in private.

My personal goal is going to be to read and review one self-published book a week. If I like it, I’ll make sure to let everyone know. I’ll tell them on Twitter, Facebook, and I’ll post the review here on my blog. If I don’t like it, well, then I’ll let it slip quietly into the Delta Quadrant (maybe the crew of Voyager can check it out). We need to leave the bad reviews to the professionals, which most of us aren’t. The thing is, once we see good reviews, we should take the time to buy the book. Again, as Hugh Howey would say, they cost less than a cup of coffee. Anyone willing to put serious work into writing an entire book deserves at least that much. I have not published my own book yet, but when I do, I hope people take time to do the same. Take care!