Review: Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing

Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing
Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing by Steven Luna

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing is proof positive that Steven Luna is not a one-trick pony. His Joe Vampire books are paranormal (emphasis on the normal) books that mix mundane day to day tasks like office work with the unexpected challenges of life as a vampire. And boy is that Joe Vampire sarcastic. Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing is not. It’s sincere, heartfelt and while ‘Joe’ made you laugh, ‘Songs’ just might make you cry.

Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing is about 17-year-old Tyler Mills who lost his Mom six months ago. He lives at home with his father who stands in polar opposition of everything Tyler stands for. Tyler is a creative, musical prodigy with dreams of supporting himself on music. Dad is a practical, hard-working mechanic. Dad is roots, while Tyler is wings. It’s a water and oil combination that becomes combustible once Tyler discovers one of his late-mother’s journals with a secret that turns his world upside down and threaten to destroy what remains of his family.

Going much further into the book would only serve to spoil what are some pretty surprising revelations, so I’ll spare you that. What really stands out to me is how well Steven Luna writes a 17-year-old boy; with all of the attitude, frustrating certainty of the world, and piss and vinegar that 17-year-olds display. Tyler is at once likable and a bit of an asshole. He jumps to self-righteous conclusions and sometimes finds that he’s made mistakes that he’s reluctant to admit to anyone but himself. In short, his character flaws should be all too familiar to anyone who’s been there or is currently living with a teenager themselves.

Another thing that really comes to the surface is loss. Make no mistake, this is as much the story of Tyler’s loss of his mother as it is his coming to grips with what her secrets mean. In between the butting heads with his old man he must encounter and deal with this very fresh loss. There is a small part in this book that really kicks me in the gut having lost my dad just shy of two years ago.

“It feels like I’ve been broken and pushed back together in the wrong shape. Like there’ll always be something in me that doesn’t fit together the right way anymore.”

In some ways Ty’s journey is familiar to parts of my own. And that ability for a message within the book to transcend the story – revealing a truth – is what, in my opinion, makes a memorable read. This book is going to stay with me for a while.

Thanks Steven for sending me an advanced readers copy. I guess I’m supposed to disclose that I’ve been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I wasn’t asked to love it. I was only asked to read it and tell y’all what I think, and I have. I really enjoyed it. And I think you will too.

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A TheDustyBlog Guide to Sideloading

So, you have some ebooks that aren’t tied to one of the big ebook retailers out there. Maybe you got an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of a book from TheCheapEbook. Or maybe you bought a book from Smashwords. In any case, here is a – hopefully – helpful guide to get those files to your Android or iOS device of choice for eyeball consumption.

Just click the type of file you have under the type of device you have.

Android (Phone/Tablet)

.mobi & .pdf  – Using the Kindle app to sideload .mobi and .pdf files to your Android device is as simple as email!

.epub (cloud storage) – I use Dropbox to get sideloaded epub files to my Android device. Here’s my process.

.epub (offline) – Not everyone wants to mess with online services. Here’s how to sideload an epub using just your PC and Android device.

.pdf – We’re going to use Dropbox to sideload a PDF file to your Android device.

.pdf (offline) – So you want to move your PDF file without Dropbox? Why? Doesn’t matter. I’ll help.

iOS (iPhone/iPad)

.mobi & .pdf – Using the Kindle app to sideload .mobi and .pdf files to your iOS device is as simple as email!

.epub & pdf – Dropbox and iBooks combine to bring us sideloaded .epubs and .pdfs.

Review: Buried in Angst

Buried in Angst
Buried in Angst by David J. Pedersen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Angst returns and life has not been the sunshine and roses he might have expected after realizing his dreams of becoming a hero of Unsel. In saving those he loved he was forced to separate himself from his magic sword Chryslaenor and it’s killing him. Literally.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a stranger shows up from a recently destroyed coastal city and trouble looms. It soon comes to Angst’s attention that the elements themselves have gone to war. Couple this with his sword being stolen, a friend going missing and the fact that he’s dying and things are bound to be more.. Angsty.

And this title holds especially true in the sequel. While the first book of the series had a lighter tone, the sequel presents a more somber tone. When you consider everything happening to Unsel, Ehrde and even Angst, I suppose that is to be expected. I can’t remember too many laughs, I read a pre-release copy of the book and it’s been a short while but I can remember being very much taken by the story as it rolled out.

It’s a darker fantasy novel than the first book but still satisfying. It’s even better than the first, which is high praise given how much I enjoyed Angst. If you were only interested in Angst due to the comedy, you’ll be disappointed with Buried in Angst. But if you grew to care about Angst, Heather, Victoria, Rose, Tarness, Hector and Dallow then you will be happy to reunite with old friends and learn what has come to pass and what new adventure awaits.

There will be times along the way when you despair for these characters. There will be times when you question what you know. And then you’ll reach the last page and wish to all that is good and holy that Angst 3 comes sooner than Angst 2 did because Buried in Angst ends in a cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the next book. Pedersen has done it again.

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Crowdfunding and the Indie Author

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two very prominent crowdfunding websites. If you’re unfamiliar with crowdfunding; the basic idea is that you lay out an idea for a project or product and basically ask folks to contribute financially to seeing the project through from concept to realization.

Fans of point-and-click adventure gaming are probably familiar with Tim Schafer’s work (Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango). That particular style of game has become something of a niche these days, but Tim decided to test the vocal few who said they’d still buy one. He went to Kickstarter and asked for $400,000. The fans showed up and supported him. 87,142 people, in fact. They gave him the $400,000 he asked for and then an extra 2.9 million just to be sure.

Do you see? He asked for $400,000 and got $3,336,371 dollars.

I can tell I’m losing you. That’s great for video gamers, you’re thinking. How does this relate to books?

There is a young woman from Canada name Blake Northcott. She writes super hero type books. I enjoyed her first two books, Vs. Reality and Vs. Reality: Relapse. If you like super hero books with a little bit of an edgy twist, and you don’t mind a bit of salty language, you’ll probably really enjoy Blake’s books.

Apparently, you wouldn’t be alone.

Blake has a strong social media presence. Her @ComicBookGrrl twitter account has 23k+ followers. Her facebook page has a modest 1,337 likes and her Google+ page boasts 1,575 fans. Not bad, right?

If you noticed Blake’s twitter handle, you’d notice she’s also a fan of comic books. She got an idea to write a book about a superhero equivalent of The Hunger Games. That’s my summary of the concept, not hers.

In any event, she got the idea to write this book about super humans who come to compete in a death match. And then she thought, wouldn’t this book be even cooler if I could get some famous artists to do character drawings in my book? In order to get the level of talent she wanted, it was going to cost $6,500. That’s quite a budget for an Indie author.

So she took her idea to Kickstarter.

Blake asked for $6,500 and her readers came forward and handed her $35,353.

I have to believe these results are extraordinarily atypical. She got big name talent that folks familiar with comic books, and graphic novels, and even cartoons, would be familiar with. Their name, undoubtedly, helped elevate her own. Their names helped sell hers. But now she’s the girl that worked on this project with these folks who drew Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, X-Men and Superman.

She dreamed big. She knocked it out of the park.

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If money wasn’t an option, is there anything you would do with your writing that you haven’t done yet?

Being heard with our wallets…

I’ve never seen Veronica Mars, but I’ve heard great things about it. The guy who created the show, that ran 3 seasons BTW, decided to raise money on Kickstarter to do a movie. His goal was to raise 2 million in a month. He did it in a day. A single day. And the money is still pouring in. I’m excited for fans of the show.

Tim Schafer (of Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter fame) said it best:

“If you’ve ever been told that you are part of a niche market, when you were a kid and you had your favorite TV show cancelled or you hear about your favorite band being dropped by the label for not selling enough and you’ve just been like “Why does a big company get to choose what music I listed to or what movies I watch or TV shows I watch or what game I get to play?” Now you know, they can’t do that anymore. You can choose.”

That’s a pretty exciting position of power to be in. Crowdsourcing is a fantastic means by which to support the products and projects that we love. Hollyweird is a business, and so there is some risk in funding something that has the potential to bomb. That’s why we have 1,000 police shows, and 10,000 “reality” shows.

But the fans of Veronica Mars, and projects just like it, are literally extending their wallets (or purses) and begging SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. Studios would be borderline brain dead to turn them away. With 29 days remaining, The Veronica Mars movie already has $2.6 million dollars in the “startup fund”.

Two point six million reasons to listen to reason. And that number is growing by the minute.

Are you intrigued by the possibilities? I sure am.

Now someone tell Joss Whedon to quit that Avengers TV show nonsense and get on making another Firefly movie. Or Netflix series. Or anything that gives us the further adventures of Mal, Zoe, Jayne, River, etc. Hell, I’ll take a Firefly novel written/co-written by Joss and writers from the show.. but I digress.

Mr. Fillion, I am a big fan of the show Castle. But I will accept your resignation if it’ll place you back onboard your beloved firefly class transport, Serenity.

So congratulations fans of Veronica Mars. It looks like your movie is a sure thing.

I think I can speak for all Browncoats when I say:

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What about you? What cancelled show would you crowd fund?

New book publishing trend? Delayed ebook release.

I think we’re on the verge of a new publishing trend. I think we’re going to see ebooks starting to more frequently get a delayed release.

Stephen King just announced his new book Joyland would be released as paperback first. The press release sports the following text: “That way fans will have to buy ‘the actual book’.” While this probably was more about the fact that he wants people to have the experience of a physical book in their hand, it says a lot when a big time author, especially one who championed the ebook movement, decides to forego ebook publishing. And he’s not the only one.

The Wheel of Time is a very popular fantasy series. A Memory of Light, the final book of the fourteen-book epic concluded on January 8th. It was a print only release. The ebook version will not be released until April 9th, 2013. That’s right. Ebook fans will need to wait three whole months to read the conclusion of the loved franchise. The Wheel of Time is published by TOR, a company that announced it was going DRM-free beginning July 20, 2012.

It isn’t hard to imagine that the fact that the book could be widely distributed in a digital format played a part in the ebook delay. Stephen King’s books have never known DRM freedom, but being one of the most popular authors in the industry probably lends itself to pretty high priority on the ‘books to pirate’ scale.

So what say you? Does King’s decision disappoint you? Or will it put more paper books on your shelf?

Does TOR’s decision to delay the ebook make sense to you given the lack of DRM protection?