Book Review: The Alien You Wish Was Your Sister

I found a free copy of Molly of Mars and the Alien Syndicate by Wyatt Davenport, and I feel like I lucked out finding that lucky treasure.

Plot: Molly Lennox and her step-sister Pirra live on Mars with their mother, Naomi, whom Molly discovers is not her real mother. Molly doesn’t like her step-mother, and eventually Naomi gets the idea to send Molly to school on Neptune in order to get rid of her.

One day she sees an abduction and tries to reason with Naomi and the others on the mars colony, but no one believes she has seen anything unusual. They figure she’s looking to cause problems. She soon learns about the Syndicate, and discovers they are planning something awful. Molly, Pirra, and their mutual friend Vicky travel the colony before learning what the Syndicate is and why it must be stopped.

The book was a good length for 8-12. The characters were fairly well-developed and the plot was well-executed. It will not win points for originality, but that was unnecessary here. The hardest part for any writers is to write characters which readers will care about with a storyline that makes sense. Wyatt nailed it here. 2/2

Style: I like Wyatt’s writing. he writes the way I write MG fiction, with characters who speak naturally, not that much time bantering or filling in space with narration, and characters were not one-dimensional. This is usually a big problem for a lot of authors, but not the author. 2/2

Editing: Absolutely solid. No major errors. 2/2

Book Cover: The style fits a 5th-8th grade level. If I was critiquing it, I think the cover is a little too girl-oriented, and if I were a young boy I might not pick this up by the cover alone. But it fits. 2/2

Intangibles:  The ending is solid. You can feel for Molly as she tries to avoid being sent to Neptune, and we learn more about the deep connection between Molly and Pirra. Adding the Syndicate keeps the element of mystery without being too complicated. 2/2

Overall: 10/10 I don’t know what to say. It is true this book is not as good as Harry Potter, largely because it is shorter and spends less time on character development. Do not buy this book expecting to find the next Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. But I do believe the traditional publishers missed out on a chance to get a solid book by a guy who, like most indies are, outgunned by the big players. Responsible for his own editing, book cover, and writing technique, Wyatt knocked this out. I bought book 2 and I can’t wait to review that one.

download his book free here

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Book Review: Percy Jackson, the All American-Greek God-kid

The Last Olympian " Signed "

For my first book review at the rebranded site Bradan’s World, I want to focus on a hyper popular book which already has so many purchases I doubt Rick Riordan gives a darn if I steer a few more his way. But here is a review for his last book, The Last Olympian.

Where I got it from: I picked up the copy from an indie thrift store, and they just had the last book in the series. I guess I got there before the other fan finished book four.

Scoring: As you know, I give 0, 1, or 2 points for plot, style, editing, book cover, and intangibles. Book Cover replaces belivability, which is hard to be precise about. Instead, I’ll put that towards intangibles. Every review has some spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Plot: You may need to pick up books 1-4 to figure out everything that happened, but Rick’s writing is good enough that I got the plot without needing to go back. At this point, Percy Jackson, the son of Poseidon, is trying to figure out a way to stop Kronos, Lord of Time, from destroying Olympus where the Gods are. Apparently Greek Gods looove Manhattan and so this is where Mount Olympus is, along with the last half of the novel. After a losing battle with Kronos, who is using the body of Luke Castellan to do his bidding, Percy goes to camp Half-Blood to regroup. He and his friends eventually go to Manhattan where a dark battle is brewing. It’s up to Percy and his outmanned friends to stop a very powerful army, led by Kronos, at the feet of Olympus.

I will judge this book as a standalone, and I can see why it hit the bestseller’s list. It’s really good, the plot makes sense, even if the ending is not quite as dramatic as I would like. 2/2

Style: This is where Rick’s writing stands out from every other kid’s book I’ve seen. It’s really funny. The entire thing is a comedy, but he does a great job at making the dramatic scenes dramatic when he needs to. At times his serious parts were weak because of all the jokes, but no complaints with his writing. 2/2

Editing: I am generally lenient with minor spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. If you are an indie author or small publisher, I give a lot of leeway. For a traditionally published dude? Not so much. I found a few typos and punctuation errors. Not enough to ruin the story, but come on, Disney. 1.5/2

Book Cover: I loved the cover of the reprint edition, which is the one I have. So much so, I wanted to find John Rocco (Riordan’s cover artists) and ask how much he charged to do a book cover for a comparable novel. 2/2

Intangibles: This is the “emotional” pitch of the book or other factors. Familiar readers know that if you make me cry or feel something in my stomach, you will hit the bestseller’s list. I want to lock that in as a fact.

This book needed to be a little darker towards the end. While the plot and the romantic angle did work, it just came up short. Much as I hate giving halfsies, I have to. 1.5/2

Overall: 9/10 Only a little too much out-of-place humor and a few typos missed by editors from a big publisher kept this from being a solid 10/10. But this book is really, really good. It’s unique (enough), creative, and fun. I can get why kids love it, and I’m sure a fairly high number of adults loved the book and the series too. Good job Rick.

Be one of over 35 million and buy a copy of his book:

At Amazon

at B&N

Author interview: Francis Powell, the Interesting Chap

If you don’t know Francis Powell, you should. He is an interesting chap, a man who attending a British boarding school NOT named Hogwarts and, like Harry Potter, didn’t have a great time for the most part. He is published by Savant Books and was kind enough to speak with me.

S: First tell us what made you want to be a writer and what prompted you to write Flight of Destiny.

F: I moved to a remote village in Austria. It was not far from Vienna, but a very oppressive and strange environment. I thought I should try writing a book. I launched into it…nothing came of it. I do many creative activities, painting as well as writing music. Writing lay dormant, put to one side. Then later, living in Paris at this point in time, via an advert, I made contact with a man called Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called “Rat Mort” (dead rat).  I submitted four short stories for this magazine, encouraged by Alan, I began to write more and more short stories, and developed a style…When I had a stock of short stories, it seemed logical to try to put them all together and find a publisher.

S: Your novel is actually a collection of 22 short stories, but the kind of world you create is described as “reflections of a parallel, but darker, often fatalistic noir that proceeds quite independently by its own machinations to grind away at the grist of humanity for what appears to be no apparent reason.” I read some of your stories and they just drove me crazy, with how sharp you twist your writing, especially near the end. What was the motivation for your style?

F: I suppose I like the idea of writing  a short story in the same way a fisherman might fish, enticing and luring a reader then hooking them (I am against all forms of hunting by the way).  I suppose with my style I like to play a bit with the reader, lay false trails…to tantalize readers, and then at the end of the story turn the story around with his unexpected twist, which is the ultimate aim with this type of short story.

Like with other creative activities, painting for example, often a painter tries different styles before they truly develop their own style.  Sometimes this style can come about due to an accident, or coming across something that leaves a deep impression on  them…for example the painter Francis Bacon, in his early career had an obsession with Picasso,  his horrific images came about having bought a second hand book of diseases of the mouth, added to the fact that he greatly admired Eisenstein‘s Battleship Potemkin,‪ particularly the scene of the nurse screaming on the Odessa steps.  Why are my stories so dark?  Perhaps writing is for me a bit cathartic and I need to draw out my deep dark thoughts, some of which have been latent over a period of time.  I like creating and developing despicable characters…this seems to quite easily for me.   We live in this horribly cruel world, full of people who are oppressed, for one reason or another …and this runs through my stories.  There is a kind of social commentary that runs through some my short stories…One of the good things that came out of my education was studying Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray  and his character Becky Sharpe, archetypal  social climber. I think my stories are very “British” in character. It is true to say , I have many motivations behind my writing.

S: Would you ever experiment with a style of writing that isn’t dark?

F: I always love a challenge, but it might be hard, I have tried writing Children’s stories and even they turned out a bit “dark” however children seem to like dark stories.  To write a story, with a happy beginning, happy characters, and happy ending, it could be possible, I would have be very disciplined. I do a lot of blogging and enjoy writing factual articles, which require research.  It is great to learn new things.

S: You talked about Roald Dahl’s Kiss Kiss as having an influence on your writing. Was he your favorite British author, or did you have another one who influenced you the most?

F: I love the work of Rupert Thomson, who wrote “Dreams of leaving” as well as other books. I met him when I was a new student at Art College and he and his writing has made a long lasting impression on me.

S: We want to know: Why did you not enjoy your time in boarding school?

F: For me it was a bit like doing a stint in prison…in fact people sent to boarding schools, during the period I was there, easily adapt to prison.  There was twelve in a dormitory, you never have time for yourself.  You had to match all the conventions of such an institution or you would be become an outsider and quickly become the victim of all kinds of abuse.  Most of the boys were destined to join the military, or go into comfortable nine to five jobs…there were a few artistic/creative types, but these were few and far between.  Then there were the punishments, most of which are outlawed in this day and age.  Running up a hill, without a shirt, whatever the weather, then having a cold shower, was supposed to toughen you up.  If you were caught smoking for example you would be caned.  Boarding schools are supposed to be character building, but mine just affected me in this negative way.

S: Was your childhood an easy one, or a rough one, in your view? (minus boarding school)

F: My childhood was dominated by Boarding School, however I had some wonderful holidays in Cornwall. However compared to many childhoods, mine was not an easy one…

S: Have you ever been flattered by a comparison to a well-known author or by a review?*

F: An editor compared my work to a re-incarnated Edgar Alan Poe.

S:You have a traditionally published novel, although with a smaller press. Why did you choose Savant Books to publish your book?

F: I guess I encountered Savant by chance. They showed an interest in my work.

S: For all our readers and writers who never got a book published with an actual publisher, take us through the process from the time they acquired your novel until publication.

F: It is a long drawn out process…for me it was complicated by the fact that I am British, my publisher American, so different spelling, grammar, ideas came into play.  E-Mails were sent over a period of three years, shaping a reshaping the book. I must say I was a real novice concerning this process of editing and polishing and proofing. A writer thinks about stories, and the precious sentences they have put in their book, a book publisher thinks about readers, selling books, reaching a certain market.
S:What are some future projects you’re working on?

F: At the moment it is full on promotion of my book Flight of Destiny.  I would love a follow up to it, I have reserve of stories lying in wait.

Follow Francis on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/flightofdestinyshortstories

Watch his awesome video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlV2tHTnM4Q

Purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Flight-Destiny-Francis-H-Powell/dp/0988664097/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Purchase from Savant books directly: savantbooksandpublications.com

Turning my Blog into a Phoenix

my first year of blogging was not quite what I expected. I thought blogging was really easy, after all I had to do was just punching a bunch of words and somehow people would find out what I was saying. However, blogging takes a lot of work and it requires a lot more. That’s why I am going to change my focus beginning next month and reorient it towards helping my business grow. Essentially, it will be reborn like the phoenix.

I will keep essentially an ongoing diary of what it means to start and run a small business, and on writing fiction for younger people. I will share what I learned, and milestones as well. I will continue with author interviews, but I want to focus more on books for kids and young adults, which is in line with my writing style and on how I intend to market the business. I will honor any interview offers I already made, but when they are done, it’s time to be a little more me, with a real niche, and less scattered all over the place the way i’ve been. I will also adhere to a more consistent weekly schedule.

for those of you who have been loyal readers, I hope you will continue to follow. You will learn something and you will be entertained, because I can already tell you there’s a bunch of things to share. Thank you and looking forward to the new style coming soon.

My Interview With The Wynn Brothers

First, I want to give a big thank-you to Francis Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, for interviewing me for his blog. Check it out, and say hi to Francis! In the meantime, stay tuned for an author interview from him.

I spoke to Todd and Tim Wynn, co-authors of Trespassers, to talk about their sci-fi humor novel. Just picture the premise of aliens landing on earth and searching for that special something…only it’s not quite the something you think it is. Let’s visit the Wynn brothers world:

S: Let’s start with your book. What made you decide to write this book, as opposed to any other concept you and your brother might have had?

WB: Like most writers, we’re always juggling multiple stories and trying to decide which to focus on. In this case, it was as if the novel decided on its own. “Trespassers” didn’t have an outline or any characters in place. It just started with page one and took off from there. It started off so fun to write that we just stuck with it.

S: In Trespassers, you indicate that the real reason aliens might visit us is for vaccination purposes. I LOL’d on this. Give us the in-depth on how you came up with that as the real reason they come here.

WB: Well, the real reason they come here is for vacation, due to Earth’s natural beauty, which is a product of it abundant water supply. The reason they abduct Earthlings is to make vaccines to protect themselves from Earth’s microorganisms, similar to anyone who visits a foreign country. This idea came from simply asking ourselves why visitors from another planet would want to abduct a local. We knew we didn’t want it to be anything that we’d seen before, so the answer was a product of looking for something new and satisfying the needs of the alien vacationer.

S: Is the novel meant to be a stand-alone or part of a larger series?

WB: “Trespassers” is definitely a stand alone, but it’s a world that we could revisit. There are certainly ideas floating around for continuing the story and following these characters. We’ve also gotten many requests from readers for a sequel or even a prequel, so an expansion of this story is not out of the question.

S: What was your favorite/least favorite character to write about?

WB: Our least favorite characters didn’t make the cut for that very reason, and they’re not in the book.

As for our favorite, Bruner was always fun to write, because we were giving him so much to handle—too much for anybody. His success came through his ability to handle failure, and we gave him plenty to handle. But it also showed that he’s driven by his faith to this purpose that he doesn’t even understand, but he can feel it’s there, for better or worse.

S: Did you show this to anyone before publishing it? What was the response to your novel?

WB: We definitely believe in early readers. We don’t rely on them to edit our manuscript, but after we spend so much time with the characters and the story, it’s good to hear the perspective of someone who’s reading it fresh for the very first time.

For “Trespassers,” the response from the early readers was overwhelmingly positive, and we got some very helpful input that made the novel even better in the final edit.

S: If you could have added one thing to your novel that you didn’t in the final version, what would it be?

WB: We’ve learned not to look back on a finished work and not to second guess it. We’re happy with the final version, and we’re looking forward.

S: What’s next for you two?

WB: We’re currently working on a novel set in the Midwest during the mid-1800s. It’s filled with murder, tornadoes, and three strangers who come together to form a search party to track a wanted man into uncharted lands. And anyone familiar with our work will know to expect plenty of twists and turns that change the way we see each of these strangers.

Buy Trespassers here

Your Feedback on my Cover, Please

Jason Riley cover drafts

*update:JRiled image remix

Also, I need to decide if I should write under a pen name or use my real name. This book is different than my kid-friendly series, and has some edgy language or ideas. If I were to pursue traditional publishing at any time, I don’t think they would have a good sense of humor about it. Here are two excerpts from the  book to prove my point (middle of book- which is why you won’t know the characters). Total for both excerpts is five pages.

“Jason Riley?”  A woman’s voice asked.

Jason looked up and saw a woman, no taller than Mom, with dyed blond hair which Jason could see covered jet-black hair. The woman had a small nose like Emily’s, but her face was covered in a lot of makeup, unlike Emily’s. She wore an expensive pantsuit and her heels were so shiny Jason thought he could see his reflection off of them. “Jessica Rose. How are you today?”

“I’m fine,” Jason said. “It’s been wicked insane in here with all the people trying to meet me and say hi.”

Jessica laughed and sat down next to Tomas. She muttered “hello” to him but didn’t pay him any attention. Next to her was a really cute girl, not much older than him, with dyed blond hair and a one-shoulder periwinkle blue dress and a matching handbag.

“This is Lindsay, one of our interns,” Jessica explained. Lindsay got up to shake Jason’s hand. She sat down next to Jessica and to PopPop’s right. Jason noticed PopPop’s eyes drawn to Lindsay’s chest, followed by the obligatory slap from MomMom when she saw where his eyes were. They all began helping themselves to the appetizers.

Jessica handed Jason a business card, reaching across Tomas. She apologized for this. Jason looked at her card; it had a red rose and her company’s name and contact information on it. “I was just looking forward to meeting you. It seems like you became quite the sensation just a short time ago.”

“Yea.”

“You have a lot of new fans, and I have to say, you have a great channel. Clearly, you’re very talented.”

“Thanks,” Jason said. A thought entered his mind- why was she sitting at his table? He didn’t know her. Maybe she was trying to do what Dad warned about: get him to endorse something. He needed to find out. “Which of my videos is your favorite?”

“Honestly? I really like your Hipster Hamster videos. Your pet is very cute and watching her-“

“It’s a him.”

Jessica laughed silently. “It’s okay,” she said. “Anyway, you were gradually building a following and then- FWOOSH! What happened?”

“I got mad at Fat- I mean Thaddeus,” Jason replied. He gave Tomas a look, and he nodded back. “He’s this obnoxious kid at my school. He made some racist comments to a friend of mine and a fellow YouTuber. And he made her cry. So we called him out for his actions and then the deusche-“

“The what?”

“The dude, he retaliated, so Thaddeus came and damaged Tomas’s bike. And that’s what prompted me to make that video.”

“Wow,” Jessica muttered. She didn’t asked why Thaddeus had targeted Tomas.

“So that’s what happened,” Jason continued. The noise got even worse as the appetizer plates were taken away. “That video had over eleven million views but my dad made me take it down because Thaddeus asked me to.  But I still have a lot of followers.”

“And your numbers are really growing, aren’t they?”

“Yea.” Jessica didn’t seem like a hustler; she seemed genuinely interested in his life and his work. “I didn’t do the math, but I think if I can make one more decent video I can hit two hundred thousand YouTube subscribers by the end of the year.”

“Fantastic,” Jessica said happily, with an emphasis on the last syllable. She sounded a lot like Mr. Kraiter. “That’s exactly what we’re looking for, Jason, in an aspiring author.”

“Author?”

“Yes, Jason, I represent people who write books for a living.”

“I can’t write and I’m not an author. Don’t you guys, like, go to book conventions and stuff to find authors?”

“We still do sometimes. But we try to branch out more, you know, meet new potential authors.”

“At ReYouCon?” Jason read maybe one book a year outside of class; he wasn’t dumb, but he knew he was a bad writer. So even he was trying to figure out how his Hipster videos and funny faces would make someone think he wanted to write.

Especially a place like this,” Jessica said. “We’re always looking for people with established, well-developed platforms who might be interested in writing.”

later..

“Hey Jessica, can I ask for a favor?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Do you remember some time ago I mentioned that my dad wrote some books?”

“What about it?” Her voiced tensed, like she knew what Jason was about to ask.

“I wanted to know if now’s a better time for you to, like, look at them, and if they’re any good, get it published.”

There was a moment of silence. “It’s not so easy,” Jessica finally said. “Many books don’t get sold. Most of my clients are already famous, so it’s a little easier.”

“What about the first chapter at least?” Here goes. “I mean, he had a hundred fourteen rejections, I think he deserves like a break-“

“It’s not the same. I’d have to sell his books, and a publisher is unlikely to pay for a manuscript, let along four, from someone whose books have clearly been rejected so many times that he’s asking his teenage son to ask on his behalf.”

“He didn’t tell me to do that.” Bitch, he thought. What’s her problem?  “I asked on my own.”

“Even you can’t help him. We have lots of books and clients to deal with. You may be a celebrity, but you’re not special in the book publishing world.”

“But this is the twenty-first century.” Jason was starting to think less of Jessica. “Apple makes a new phone every three months. Why can’t you guys be like that?”

“Books are not tweets. And just because you kids-“

“Yo!”

“-you kids think everything should be done right now, doesn’t mean the book publishing world’s gonna change. It’s had three major changes in the last six hundred years; and your impatience is not the fourth.”

Jason sighed. “Sorry, forget that I asked.”

“Besides, your father lacks a suitable platform to publish his novel. It’s a tough marketplace, Jason. Between all the books, games, apps, movies, and whatnot, your father needs a built-in fanbase.”

“What about mine? I’ve got millions of fans. I’ll ask them to buy the book.”

“Jason, that won’t work.”

“Why not?” He scratched his forehead. “I can get people to buy it…”

“No you won’t. Think about it. Your fans are mostly what?”

“Teens and young adults.”

“Okay. And what kind of books did your dad write?”

“Horror, contemporary fiction, and a science fiction book.”

“And are his books for teens or older adults?”

“Older adults, I think.”

“Okay. So your fans are not going to buy your dad’s book, because it won’t interest them. Plus they’ll get annoyed if you go overboard to sell something that’s not yours. Selling your cat shirts and ninja book is one thing, this is another. Plus, these kid’s parents have no idea who you are, and if they did, they’d probably avoid your dad’s book like Charlie Sheen avoids rehab (Jason laughed quietly). So you could end up hurting your father, and yourself. He will have to develop his own platform.”

“That just seems dumb. How bad can his books be?”

“You tell me.” There was an awkward pause. Jason hadn’t considered this might happen. “Okay, so I’ve never read it, but my Mom thinks it was pretty dec-“

“So what? Most people’s spouses and friends say that, so they don’t hurt any feelings. The point is, if I go to the publisher with the book, they’ll ask how he’s going to sell it. Jason, there’s not much budget for advertising anymore. It’s all on your own, unless you’re rich and famous, like Stephen King.”

“So then, why promote him?” Jessica wasn’t making sense. Jason wasn’t even sure why he was defending Dorky Dad- with his ugly Station Wagon, old-fashioned work clothes, flabby body, and his penchant for yelling at the TV when the news was on. But after all the things Dad had done for him, this seemed like the least Jason could do. “He’s gotta be worth a billion at least. Why give money to him instead of my dad?”

“Jason, I’m sorry.” Jessica sounded exasperated. “I admire your desire to help your father. I really do. But getting a book published is difficult, and rejected books from an unknown author just isn’t going to interest that many people. Now, if you don’t have any more questions, I’d like to focus on your book and your upcoming tour.”

“Yes, ma’am.”