Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting Reviews From Me: How I decide what to review

I love to read and review stories by independent writers.  I want to support writers, especially since I’m still trying to write stories of my own.  I know how appreciative independent writers can be when they earn a good review.  That said, this blog entry is to let writers (and readers) know a little bit more about how, and what, I choose to review.  Also, I will let you know the best ways to work with me to get a review.  My indie reviews seem to bring the most traffic to my blog, so I’d love to keep doing them.

I’ve reviewed independent books, independent games, and I’ve even reviewed a non-independent game as part of a nostalgic blog entry, because it was something that inspired me.  My focus, however, is on independent stories.

Since my art of choice is writing, I like to support other independent writers.  The biggest issue with writing reviews for independent writers is time.  It takes time to read a story, and it takes time to write the review.  If I want to keep my personal standard of writing at least one new blog entry every week, I’m not going to be able to make each entry a book review.  Sometimes, I might be able to write a review based on something I’ve already read, watched, or played, but I couldn’t possibly keep up with reading/writing reviews, and still continue with my own projects.

Therefore, I try to be picky when it comes to writing reviews.  You might be saying, “Gee, you sure don’t seem very picky.  You review some of the same writers over and over again.”  That’s true; one reason, is simply because I know these writers have good content.  I network with them, know their potential, and choose to support them.  Another reason is financial availability.  I will not choose to review a book that I think might be overpriced.  People go to independent writers because they want value, and good content.  If I spend more money reviewing books than I make selling them, I’m not making a smart financial decision.  More often, I only choose to review independent books that are given to me free.

This is where something should be made clear:  I do not give good reviews in exchange for free reads.  I have read books full of errors, and that’s a deal-breaker for me.  Did I write a bad review of that book?  No, I didn’t.  Although I don’t exchange reviews for free books, I don’t choose to write bad reviews, either.  It’s a choice I made early on.  I write reviews to help independent writers, so for me, writing negative reviews is a waste of time.  On the other hand, I believe there is a potential reader for every book.  If your book makes sense, doesn’t contain tons of grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, isn't confusing, and is interesting enough to hold my attention, I'll probably give it a review.

There is a reason why I always write, “Who will like this book.”  It’s because certain books aren’t for everyone.  Instead of bashing the story because it doesn’t fall into the category of my normal reading material, I let readers know who would enjoy the book.  It’s safe to say that, if a book has kept me entertained enough to finish reading it, and I write a review for it, it was worth the time I spent with it.
I’m also fond of saying, “Personally,” and then following that up with why I was entertained enough to finish the book and write a review.  With this section, I usually try to shed some insight on why I chose to review a particular book, and what personally kept me entertained.  It’s about my personal taste in stories, and what I think other people might also enjoy.

Have a story that you want reviewed?  Get in touch with me.  I’ll let you know if your book is something I might like, and I’ll make sure to let you know if I can review it.  If there are numerous errors in your book, I’ll let you know.  You have the option of fixing the mistakes, and I have the option of reviewing something else.  It’s that simple.

Also, I can’t promise to write a review by a certain day, but I’m willing to discuss postponing a review if it helps your marketing strategy.  I’d like to have some reviews stored away just in case I get too busy to write one.  It feels good to have a backlog, just in case.

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Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Nostalgic review: Dragon Warrior and Turn-Based RPGs

When I was growing up, video games were played on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  When I try to think back to the first games I ever played, I remember Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Duck Hunt, Adventure Island, and… Dragon Warrior.

Dragon Warrior didn’t go straight to the top on my list of great games.  That achievement went to Super Mario Bros.  Adventure Island was pretty cool too, but I wasn’t very good at it.  I wasn’t very good at most games, actually.  The Legend of Zelda made me feel downright incompetent, and I had to stand right next to the television to accomplish anything on Duck Hunt… Despite my love of video games, I’m obviously not a gamer.

So imagine my surprise when I started playing Dragon Warrior, my first turn-based RPG experience, which allowed me to train my character, and to get more powerful after every victory.  Well, honestly, I didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to do.  The character couldn’t jump, and I couldn’t even see the bad guys until the screen suddenly transported me into battle.  Then, I couldn’t even swing a sword; I had to choose an option to swing a sword (actually, it was a club to start off with… Actually, I’m pretty sure I went into battle without buying any weapons at all when I first played the game.  It never occurred to me that I would be responsible to purchasing my own gear).  All that I knew, was that my dad’s character was completely awesome, and mine could be killed by slime balls.

It wasn’t until later, in my teens, that I realized how great Dragon Warrior really was.  The memory of the game had stayed with me; how I had to win battles to make my character stronger, and how the focus of the game was on role-playing, instead of the actual gameplay.  Dragon Warrior was like being involved in a book.  I had to pay attention to the non-playable characters, and use critical thinking to figure out what I was supposed to do.  My character would gain experience whenever I won in battle, and occasionally, would level up.  Leveling up is a great feeling of accomplishment.  It’s accompanied by a grandiose melody, and a list of improved stats.  Buying better weapons and armor is also a satisfying part of playing the game.

I’ve used Dragon Warrior as an example, simply because it’s one of my turn-based RPGs.  It really is the most basic example of the things I enjoy about these kinds of games.  It’s a simple back-and-forth between fighting battles, resting your character, buying new weapons and armor, and pushing forward into harder areas of the game once you think you can handle the challenge.

So… Who would like Dragon Warrior?  Even though this isn’t my usual template for reviews, I wanted to give some background for this specific genre of game.  My blog is mainly about writing, but I think it should also focus on storytelling.  Playing a turn-based RPG is like taking part of a story.  If you would like to play a game where you can take your time, experience a story, and aren’t necessarily looking for a big challenge, this game might be for you.  There will be times when you have to spend a lot of your time raising your character’s level in order to get strong enough to progress.

Personally, I enjoy leveling up.  Like I said previously, I’m not a hardcore gamer.  When a game gives me the opportunity to make my character(s) stronger, I take it.  I want my character to overpower the competition, or at least give me an advantage.  Games like Dragon Warrior, and other turn-based RPGs give me the opportunity to fight weaker enemies to gain experience, and the time to save up money in order to buy the best weapons and armor.

Of course, there is always the story.  Stories have made a lot of progress since Dragon Warrior, but the game is still immersive enough to keep players involved.  You have to talk to the other non-playable characters in the game, and actually pay attention to what’s going on.  Games, like books, put participants inside of an imagined world, and hope the delusion is strong enough, vivid enough, and well-constructed enough to be entertaining.  Books offer very specific paths for taking a journey.  Games drop you into the world where the adventure takes place, and offer a variety of different paths to completion (sometimes, to different results).

Stories can be found almost anywhere:  Books, video games, movies, comic books, and even music.  When we can enjoy a world so full of stories, it would be a shame to limit ourselves to just one specific interest.  I have many interests, and they all influence my writing, because they all influence my personality.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Update: 07/12/2013

I wanted to fill everyone in on what’s going on with me right now.  One of the managers where I’m employed was impressed enough with my work to offer me a job in his department.  It’s not a huge promotion, but it gets me out of the rain and heat and gives me a small raise and a set schedule.  I’ve already worked two days in the new department.  It’s like having an entirely different job.

I had some trouble getting my transcripts from the college I graduated from to college I’m trying to attend, but finally got them there.  Now, the new school is going to process my application, and I hope to hear something from them very soon.  I can’t even explain how much I want to go back to school.  This time, I have a clear understanding of what I want to be:  A teacher.  Like many first-time students, I went through college not really knowing what I wanted out of life.  By the time I was done, I had a degree that I didn’t know what to do with, and a pile of student loans to pay off.  I want to do it right this time.

I received the final test results of my Praxis I test, and writing was actually my lowest score… lower than my math score… lower than my reading score… Hmm, I figured math would have been my lowest, but at least I still had a score high enough to meet the requirements.  The only thing I’m not sure about is financial aid.  I applied for financial aid before I did anything else, but my understanding is that have to be accepted to a school before I’ll know exactly how much to expect.  I guess I’ll find out soon, one way or the other.

I hope everyone had a good Fourth of July.  We took our two-year-old daughter to see fireworks.  She was in awe of them.  She wouldn’t look away from them, but she wouldn’t let me put her down, either.  She was afraid of them, because she didn’t understand them, but she kept talking about them in that excited way toddlers use to express their interests.

I finished reading Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry last week.  I’ve always enjoyed the TV miniseries, and found the book at a thrift shop for a few bucks.  Took forever to read, but I enjoyed every bit of it.  I think it might be the first western-genre book I’ve ever finished reading, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.  Currently, I’m reading Roadwork, by Stephen King.  I’ve read plenty by him.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be back next week with something new.  Make sure to check back frequently for new reviews and discussions.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Indie Review: Pirates, Pirates! (A Rogue's Tale Part III), by Saoirse O'Mara

A Rogues Tale Part III is probably my favorite of the series.  Saoirse O’Mara continues to deliver enjoyable fantasy-fiction for young adults, in Pirates, Pirates!

Who will like this book?  Fans of the first two books will enjoy the continuation of this series.  As I was reading this third installment, I realized that it took me back to a time when I used to read The Hardy Boys.  A Rogue’s Tale takes place in a world of fantasy, but each story involves solving a mystery, and saving the day.  If you enjoy mystery, you should download a free sample of this book, as well as the previous two.

Personally, I enjoyed the focus on the female character of the series, Tayla.  She’s been my favorite character since the first book, and this book devotes at least 80% of its time to her.  Tayla is a young girl who has made drastic changes in her in life since the first book of the series.  Watching this character develop, prosper, and struggle is a pleasure to witness.

Pirates, Pirates! is the third book in the A Rogues Tale trilogy, but hopefully we haven’t seen the last of these characters.  Saoirse O’Mara has created a world with plenty of potential for new characters, locations, and stories.  Like its predecessors, Pirates, Pirates! is geared toward young adults.  It’s easy for kids to read, and still entertaining enough for adults.  As always, free samples of all the stories are available.  Check out the links below to learn more about the A Rogue’s Tale series, and Saoirse O’Mara.

Download a free sample of:  Pirates, Pirates! (A Rogue's Tale Part III)
Download a free sample of:  The Lost Diadem (A Rogue's Tale Part I)

Learn more about A Rouge's Tale and Saoirse O'Mara, here
You can find Saoirse O'Mara's contact information, here

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