Happy Friday everyone! It’s nearly the end of another week and the weekend is well on the way! As ever, I’m back again with my (mostly) regular fortnightly feature post – First Lines Friday. If you want to sample something new without the bias of a front cover, then you have come to the right place!
Which book am I featuring today? Here are the first few lines from today’s featured book: –
Imagine we could see the damage inside ourselves. Imagine it showed through us like contraband on an airport scanner. What would it be like, to walk around the city with it all on view – all the hurts and the betrayals and the things that diminished us; all the crushed dreams and broken hearts? What would it be like to see the people our lives have made us? The people we are, under our skin.
I thought about that when I saw you on the news just now. I recognised you right away. ‘Such an ordinary person,’ those people said. ‘I can’t believe someone like that could do something so terrible.’
I was supposed to read this for last month’s Book Club at work, but… yeah. I didn’t get the chance. I still want to though, so if I get ahead of this month’s reading then I am going to try to read this on holiday. I’m not really all that enamoured with this month’s book choice, so if I have to pick one of the two to read, it’s this one!
Shall we find out what it is?
When She Was Bad – Tammy Cohen
You see the people you work with every day.
But what can’t you see?
Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ….
Now, there’s something chilling in the air.
Who secretly hates everyone?
Who is tortured by their past?
Who is capable of murder?
So, what do you think? Will you add this to the TBR? Is it on already?
I’ve often wondered whether forking out my hard-earned money to pay for advertising on Facebook/Instagram was worth it. I decided to run a little experiment at the end of September to see whether it made a difference to my regular traffic and if I would get the promised 86-240 odd viewers a day for my advert.
To try and maximise the potential, I tried to choose a very neutral post – one that would appeal to as many people as possible. I wanted to stay away from reviews to avoid genre bias. In the end, I opted for my recent Book Blogger Problems tag. I paid $5 for the advert to last five days, which reached viewers on both Facebook and Instagram. Shall we see how both did?
Facebook indicated that I could expect between 80 and 240 odd viewers a day for this advert. I was grossly disappointed with it. At the end of the five days, these are the stats.
Yes, I got a measly 37 engagements. I didn’t even get the suggested minimum per day over the span of the advert! I dread to think how an advert performed if you picked more selective content. The more niche you go then in theory you’ll get less viewers. I barely got any as it is.
As of writing this post, I have had just over 4,550 views in the 900 days since beginning my blog. That averages at 5 views a day. In the five day advert period, my page views varied from 3 – 21.
Comparing this advert period with the first few days of October, I’ve had nearly as many page views and interactions organically compared with the advert period. Okay, Blogtober will be having a bit of an effect on the figures as I have fresh content every day, but still, not massive. Only 7 of 37 actually went on to look at my blog, and I have no new subscribers for the trouble.
Could do better, Facebook.
The stats for Instagram don’t look any better either, I am sad to say. The post received 21 likes in the period.
I would say that normally isn’t to be sniffed at… but this is how my posts perform normally WITHOUT advertising. In fact, I have posts which have performed better, such as my post about winning a signed copy of The Testaments.
My promoted post didn’t refer anyone to my blog, either. I didn’t expect as many from Instagram as Facebook, but as it happens I got none at all.
So – Is it worth it?
In my experience and opinion, absolutely not! I won’t be bothering again. I know for a fact that if I put the effort into blog hopping and reading new blogs etc, I could get more viewers to my blog and my content myself.
Sure, I am sure advertising is great if you don’t have the time to do this. Maybe if I had spent more it would have had a bigger impact. As it stands, the traffic to my blog and the “boost” my content got was so paltry that it isn’t even worth it.
I’ll save my money to buy something else more exciting in future… like more books!
Have you or would you ever paid for advertising? Did it work for you?
It has been some time since I finished listening to Peter Brett’s The Painted Man, so it’s about time that I shared my review of this audiobook! I listened to this back in May/June this year. I started with some mixed feelings, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It grew on me the more I listened to it and the story progressed.
As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.
I really enjoyed this audiobook overall, but I do confess that I found the beginning slow. The early chapters of the book introduce Arlen, Leesha and Rojer and their respective lives in the small towns of their birth. The reason I found the book slow-going is because each character perspective reiterates the same idea for each of these individuals (okay, in slightly different ways), but we’re basically told the same thing three times. This took at least a few hours to set the scene (and set it again, and again…), so I think it makes up the first 20% of the book.
What do we learn from that first 20%? Humans are dependent on magical wards to protect them from dark creatures, known as corelings at night. Those who live in the small towns and outskirts of the cities have primitive technology. Disaster lies only around the corner for them. And finally, humans are as good as enslaved by their fear.
Then Arlen decides to do something about it and the whole book significantly improves from there. He has seen the devastation these beasts can cause but seeks to find a way to fight back. Arlen is the most developed character of the book, followed by Leesha. Unfortunately, Rojer felt like a late and underdeveloped addition. I wanted a little more from him to balance the story out.
I really enjoyed the concept of the magic and the wards to protect, or fight, against the corelings. It’s only a simple one, but it was executed well. There is sufficient development from the fear-ridden society present at the start of the book, both sufficient to pad out the storyline of the Painted Man, but also to lay the foundations for the remainder of the series.
Despite the slow start I will continue with the series. I think there is a lot of potential to explore the vast world constructed in The Painted Man even more, which the second book seems to do.
It’s Tuesday and Day 8 of Blogtober… so that can only mean one thing – it’s time for a Top Ten Tuesday Post!
Today’s post is all about celebrating my top ten achievements since starting my blog. It’s good to give ourselves a pat on the back sometimes. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about my blogging journey so far!
Starting a blog… and then sticking with it!
I will be the first person to hold my hands up and admit that I am TERRIBLE for starting projects and never seeing them through. I like to try new things and before I found my feet blogging, I was always abandoning one project or another.
Blogging is the exception to the rule! It was a slow start in the first four months or so whilst I got to grips with it. Once I had established a routine though, the whole experience became a lot easier and I have never looked back! Having never really done it before, it was a huge leap of faith. I think it helped that back then I was only doing it for me. It was my outlet to talk about books. Now, I still do it for me, but I do enjoy getting a like now and again! I can’t lie…
Getting onto Social Media
I have always been terrible at using social media. On a personal level, I hardly use it at all except to look at silly cat videos on the internet and the like. My Facebook profile picture gets updated maybe once a year. Yeah, it’s like that.
I never liked Twitter for a personal account. I had nothing to post, nothing to say. My blog changed that. I’m not the kind of person to take photographs all that often either… unless it’s books. That is a blog influence as well though. My personal Instagram account never took off either.
I wouldn’t call myself an expert – far from it! I have a reason to make an effort with it now, and that is the difference!
Engaging with a fabulous community of book bloggers
I started my blog as a means to talk about the books I love; it was primarily for me. By starting it, a new world opened up to me. Other bloggers with the same interests as me suddenly came to my attention and I had an audience to write to. Through bloggers, I have been introduced to more books, genres and authors.
Two and a half years on I still enjoy getting a like or a comment on my blog. I don’t think that will ever change. It’s nice to know that somebody cares to take the time to read something you have put effort into.
Switching to Self Hosting
Probably one of the biggest things I did last year was move my blog and domain name to a self-hosted site. I have never done anything like it before, so it was a total learning curve. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources on the internet to make the process as straight-forward as possible!
It wasn’t hiccup-free, but I got there. Eventually. Those few days whilst my domain was being re-registered were the longest ever!
Going “public” to friends/family
I only did this a few months ago. For a long time, I kept my blog private from friends and family. I had no idea how they would react to my hobby (and having kept it quiet so long). In hindsight, I was daft to worry. I guess I was worried about how they would react to it, or that they wouldn’t and I’d be met with a wall of indifference. My family have been very supportive and I feel a lot better for being able to talk about what I am doing more openly. There were some happy moments but also some disappointments when it comes to friends. I had some great reactions from some friends I didn’t expect to back me at all. There are also friends that haven’t acknowledged it or supported me when I really thought they would. It was bound to happen I guess.
Getting onto Publisher Mailing lists
Receiving copies of books in exchange for a review is always an exciting time! Who doesn’t love book mail? When I first started my blog I struck up relationships with some smaller publishers. As I was relatively new to the scene, they were more willing to give me a chance. After about a year of blogging, I decided to chance my luck and contact Gollancz about a new release they were advertising having ARCs for. And I got one! I was expecting my request to go ignored, but no. I have received several other books since then and I am always looking forward to the next one that catches my eye.
Also… working with indie authors!
Working with indie authors is a completely different experience, but I would argue that it is a lot more rewarding. I have struck up some good relationships with indie authors for whom I have written reviews. Many have come back to me with new books to review as well. Indie authors offer a far more personal experience to the book reviewing process. Many of them don’t have the representation others benefit from, so anything you can do is so much more appreciated and ultimately, grants a greater sense of achievement in helping them.
It may seem like a small thing, but I have noticed an improvement in my writing. Not only is it a lot easier to take those first steps and start a post, but they flow a lot better too. I have found my voice. It’s an invaluable skill and one I use a lot at work. Even my work colleagues have commented on how well I can draft an email.
Completing my Goodreads Reading Challenges
I don’t quite know how I have managed to complete every challenge I have set myself (so far)! Maybe it is because I can be stubborn when I want to be. In fact, for two years I have increased the number of books in my reading challenge, in 2017 and again this year. Equally, it could be that I am just getting quicker at reading or better at managing my time. I can’t pinpoint any one thing that decides how I manage, but it works, somehow.
This has been saved for last because I think it is the most important achievement. It’s also been the longest journey as it starts in my childhood. I used to wear my heart on my sleeve; I couldn’t take criticism at all. Friend or stranger alike, I took people’s opinions to heart. In high school, I started Performing Arts lessons as a way of putting myself under scrutiny. It was a safe way of doing it and it taught me, gradually, to accept constructive criticism as advice, rather than someone being hurtful.
Look at me now; I couldn’t stand out any more on account of my green hair and how I pour my passion onto the internet, practically inviting people to disagree with me.
Confidence isn’t something you wake up with one day, but it builds with time. In its own way, starting my blog, sticking with it and sharing my love of reading has helped me discover a greater sense of self. I am happiest when talking about my blog, or what I am reading. I wouldn’t say I am reliant on it, but the acceptance and inclusion of many has helped. There has been the odd time when I have met with less favourable opinions (or a lack of opinion when I expected one) of my hobby. It doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things, because I am doing what I love to do.
I still wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes, proven by the fact that I have gotten a little emotional writing this section. I’m not invincible, as much as I try to be. So whilst I am feeling soppy, let me say thank you. Thank you to everyone who reads my posts and drops likes or comments. Thank you to the friends and family who listen to my rambling, whether you are interested or not. And lastly, thank you to those that reminded me that those who mind don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.
Everyone has their own way of approaching the task – there really is no right or wrong way to do it. Naturally, you are taking the opportunity to express your opinion, so it’s a completely personal experience.
I like reading other bloggers reviews. I love the variety of style and structure to other bloggers writing, compared to my own. There are the same underpinning conventions, but we all have creative licence to do things our own way.
In today’s post, I want to touch on some of the things I do (and don’t do!) when writing my book reviews. So, shall we get into it?
Make Notes Beforehand?
I don’t really make notes as I read. I have tried, but I never stick to it. It interrupts my reading flow and does more harm than good in the end.
If I don’t wait too long to write my reviews then usually my thoughts are fresh in my head and the review is easy to write. That’s also the case if a book makes a good impression on me. I do struggle occasionally. I’ll freely admit in that case that I’ll look at other people’s thoughts and reviews. I would never copy a review, but I’ll shamelessly admit that I’ll use it as a prompt to ask myself what I thought about the same subject. It works!
Describe the Plot
I am not a big fan of reading detailed, lengthy plot descriptions, hashing out 80% of the book before reading a person’s review. I do read posts by bloggers who do this, and to be honest I just skip this section. I’ll have already read the synopsis of the book. If I read a post that summarises the vast majority of a book (minus the spoiler /ending), do I want to read the book then? Honestly, no. You may not have given the ending away, but the plotline and enjoyment of the rest of the book has been taken away from me. Why waste several hours reading something I already know?
Sometimes review points need a little context and I don’t have a problem with that. There is a balance, however.
I always write my reviews as honestly as I can. That is the point, after all. Reviewsfeed is my place to express my views. As a reviewer, I couldn’t in good conscience lie about my experience of a book. How could readers ever trust me to be honest again? It’s probably one of the easiest ways for others to lose their respect for you… and yet, it’s so easy to feel pressured into not saying something that may not be popular.
I’m not saying all bloggers should be brutally honest about their opinions. Saying that a book that an author has poured hundreds of hours into to publish is **** is uncouth. That doesn’t mean you have to lie or even gloss over the fact in your review; there is a way to be tactful about it. If I thought a book was that bad and I had nothing good to say about it, truthfully, I just wouldn’t review it.
I once gifted a handmade jumper to a family member for Christmas. It is one of the very first big crochet projects I completed, and I am really proud of it! That jumper has remained in that person’s wardrobe to the present day, unworn. They’re being tactful; they won’t get rid of it but they haven’t worn it either. I know I love it more than they do because I know how much time and effort went into it, and that’s okay.
That said, I really wouldn’t mind if they got rid of it now. It is several years old.
Some bloggers like to breakdown their ratings based on various aspects of a book and then average the ratings. From other bloggers, I actually quite like reading these. It’s not something I will ever do though. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite an organised and orderly person (mostly), but I find this approach a bit too regimented.
In a sense I do take this approach, but I am a lot more flexible with it. I would describe myself as more of a mood reviewer. In my mind, sometimes character development may be more important than world-building. Personally, narrative style is a make-or-break thing with me and books. The story could be fantastic, but if I don’t enjoy the way a story is written it will hamper my enjoyment of it. I like to rate the overall experience of the book in a less rigid manner.
Also, I rarely put star ratings on my blog. I have used them in my Throwback Review posts, but I try to avoid them. In my opinion, star ratings are well and good, but the more important bit is the explanation of why I have rated a book a certain way. So, that’s what I focus on in my reviews on my blog. My star ratings are for Goodreads.
How do you write a review? What do you do differently? Do you agree with me?
My Sunday Summary posts are going to be quite busy for the next few weeks on account of Blogtober. I’m actually feeling quite good about it. At the beginning of the month it felt like a huge challenge, but I have made good progress with it already. That’s not to say it has been easy, but it’s proven how much more productive I can be when I push myself.
Blogtober officially kicked off on Tuesday, and how better than to start the month by sharing my October TBR? It’s one of my longest lists to date, but I am going on holiday shortly and I should be able to get plenty of reading done!
On Wednesday, I shared my thoughts on Thran Book I: The Birth by Brian McLaughlin. I discovered this book through Voracious Readers Only. Then, on Thursday, I published an interview with the author Brian, which accompanies the book well and gives some detail on Brian’s writing process and his advice when it comes to publishing.
Friday’s post is hardly surprising – it was a Shelf Control post featuring a book co-authored by one of my favourite authors. I have already read eighteen of this particular author’s books, compared to only two of his co-author. I am hoping the writing styles of the two complement each other. There’s only one way to find out, right?
In last week’s Sunday Summary post I vowed that I was going to really try to finish Elantris before month-end and that I was going to start listening to Visions of Zarua in the mornings. Well, I achieved one of those things. I finished Elantris on the 1st October, and it did not disappoint! I have loved every Brandon Sanderson novel I have read to date. This was his fifth book, so he’s basically an auto-buy author at this point.
After reading such a lengthy epic, I really fancied picking up something short. To that end, I picked up the shortest book on October’s TBR – To Snare a Witch by Jay Raven. At just over 80 pages, I read this in pretty much one sitting on the 1st October as well.
I picked up Hallowed Ground on Wednesday, the first book on my TBR. I’m still quite a way off my tour date, but I wanted to have it read in good time. All my review tours fall at the end of the month so I had to bear this in mind. I finished Hallowed Ground last night, well in time for the tour date (which makes a change)! Since I am so early, I am tempted to make some notes whilst it is fresh in my head. I also need to add this read to Goodreads, as a record for the book isn’t actually on the site yet.
I have also made a cursory start on The Haunting of Paradise House by Killian Wolf. We’re only talking about 12% off the top of my head. It’s a good start, especially since I am not normally on my third book of the TBR in the first week.
I really need to give myself a kick up the backside when it comes to audiobook progress. Last week I said I was going to start listening to it more, particularly in the morning. That hasn’t consistently happened though. I think I did one day, and that’s it. My review date is getting quite close now, so I am going to have to start listening for an hour a day to have it finished in time to draft my review. Rather than mornings, I’ll see if I can listen to it whilst I am cooking tea, or in the evening before bed. I have to find a way to make it work.
Thankfully I have been too busy to see or hear of anything new. My TBR can breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that it isn’t going to collapse under its own weight for another week.
I feel really good about next week since I have blog posts prepared and scheduled up to and including Friday already! Here is the line up for next week’s posts: –
Monday 7th October – How to Write Reviews… and how I write mine!
Tuesday 8th October – Top Ten Tuesday: Achievements
Wednesday 9th October – Book Review: The Painted Man – Peter Brett
Thursday 10th October – Advertising: Is it worth it?
Friday 11th October – First Lines Friday
Saturday 12th October – Books I wish I had never read
Sunday 13th October – Sunday Summary
So, that’s all from me in today’s Sunday Summary post. What have you been up to this week? Are you participating in Blogtober? Let me know in the comments!
For day 5 of Blogtober I wanted to write a blog post I have never even considered before. Have you ever wondered how a book blogger juggles their days to make this wonderfully time-consuming hobby work? If so, then you have come to the right place! Everyone has their own schedules and ways of making it work. Ultimately, it’s about finding what suits me and to the day I still experiment with adaptations to routine as and when required.
In the typical working week, I wake up at 6:40 am. After maybe 5 or 10 minutes of sulking, I drag myself out of bed and make myself look at least a little human. Sometimes I like to do this in complete silence, or I’ll listen to music as I get ready. If I am a little time-pressured or keen to get to the end of an audiobook I will listen to that instead. It depends if I am tired though; I can’t concentrate first thing if I am tired.
I get to work at around 8:25 am; I car-share with a lady that starts work at 8:30 am, whereas I don’t start until 9:00 am. I’ll typically spend as much of this half an hour reading as possible before I have to get ready for the working day.
I try to get out of the office, even for a little bit over lunchtime. When I am not out and about or meeting friends for lunch, I can typically be found with my head in the latest book on my TBR. Sometimes I can be preparing some content for a blog post instead, depending on my schedule.
After work, I give myself a break of a couple of hours before I really do anything in earnest that contributes to my blog. This is the time I typically draft blog posts if I have one coming up. It’s the most time I have to sit down and think, although it isn’t as distraction-free as I’d like. I have had to adapt to that though; I used to be terrible at working whilst listening to music. I am a little better at that now, although not perfect…
After blog posts are written or on my evenings off I will be catching up with my reading or talking to friends and family. It varies night by night, but I can be reading at any time in between 7:30 pm and 12:30 am, when I go to bed. I can’t read for that long without breaks, but I make a cup of tea or coffee or my lunch for the next day etc. I potter around in between spells.
At the weekend, I can always rely on my good friend, the housework, to be there for me. It doesn’t take me that long though and doing bits at a time suits my preference to read in shorter bursts. If I am not doing one, you can guarantee I am looking after the other. Saturday evenings are always dedicated to reading, so in the right frame of mind, I can get a lot read on those days.
Sunday is a complete flipside to that. It’s the day I spend with family. With the exception of a quick read while having my breakfast, I typically won’t look at anything reading or blog related until at least 8:30 pm, when it is time to start drafting my Sunday Summary post! If I have any time after that, I’ll be hitting the books until it’s time for my head to hit the pillow.
So, that’s how I manage to work my hobby around my full-time job and life in general.
Is there anything you do differently? What works for you? Do you need set hours to do something or can you be flexible? Do you feel like you have to sacrifice anything in lieu of your hobby?
Welcome to day 4 of Blogtober and today’s regular feature post, Shelf Control! I am going to be sharing both Shelf Control and First Lines Friday posts throughout October. In light of the recent hiatus I have had to take from these posts due to other blogging commitments, it will be good to get back on track!
As a refresher, Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies – a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves! Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!
For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.
I am using Shelf Control to look in further detail at the books I have added to the TBR and then listed as keepers in my Down the TBR Hole posts. I talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I won’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them.
It’s week five, so let’s look at the next book on the TBR!
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .
I love Terry Pratchett’s writing – a fact I think I have already established having read no less than eighteen books of his now. Yeah, that many…
I have more mixed feelings about Neil Gaiman. I have read two books of his to date and whilst one was okay, I really didn’t like another. It’s probably the most popular book he has published too. I can see elements of American Gods in Good Omens, like the stand-off between good and evil etc. I think Pratchett will provide the humour in this partnership; something I felt was missing in American Gods. The lighter tone will sit a lot better with me, or so I am hoping.
Despite my mixed feelings about one of the co-authors, I am still looking forward to reading this book. Many of my friends have read the book and rated it highly, so I am sure I will enjoy it too!
Have you read Good Omens or is it on your TBR? What do you think of it?
Hi everyone and welcome to today’s interview post with Brian McLaughlin! If you haven’t already checked out yesterday’s book review of Thran Book 1: The Birth, here is a link so you can do so!
I want to hand over to Brian without any preamble, so, shall we get stuck in?!
How did you discover writing as a passion?
Brian – It goes back a quite a long time, but didn’t take the form of writing, per se. It started around the age of 13 when a friend introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. By age 15 I had evolved into the dungeon master role and never really relinquished it. I had a solid group of friends and we played through high school and college which lasted almost 9 years. As a dungeon master I wasn’t writing prose, but I was creating adventures all the time which required worlds, creativity, and the art of “telling” a story: describing situations and features to the players, building tension and managing outcomes. I look back at that time as training to become a writer. Towards the end of that period I did begin writing a story, but I only managed 50 pages or so before I moved on to other things in life. However, it planted a seed. From there adult life took over and I embarked on an 18-year hiatus from D&D and anything close to writing. So that leads me to the true answer to your question. I’ve had a great career in business (mostly supply chain), but there was a brief time in 2012 where I found myself in a job that I didn’t find very challenging or rewarding. I remember consciously deciding that if I couldn’t get fulfillment from my work, then I would try to get fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment from some other activity. So, in June of 2012 I literally dusted off the old manuals and began creating the world of Thran with the intent of writing a novel and solving my fulfillment/accomplishment void.
Rebecca – I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons. I spent my teenage years playing Dragon Quest, which is much like the format of the group in Thran. More recently than that though, I played countless hours on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s essentially a single player version, but you pick your character type and traits which are similar to the characters and factions in the book too.
Brian –When it comes to fantasy role playing games, I think you could make an argument that Gary Gygax and TSR really pioneered the genre. Each variation that came after it embellished and tweaked the basic system. The classes and monsters were all familar. In a way it’s not much different than Thran or any work of fantasy fiction after 1970; they all were inspired by D&D.
Obviously, Thran has alot of overlaps with modern fantasy role-playing games. Are you an avid gamer? What did you play growing up?
Brian –Well, I think I answered this question above, but we dabbled in all sorts of role-playing games. The Middle Earth role playing game comes to mind and there were a variety of games we played sporadically but we always returned to D&D. I would still classify myself as an avid gamer as I like to play chess and other strategy-based games on the computer or an app. I even play DDO (Dungeons & Dragons Online) with my adult children which works our great since we can do it from wherever we are!
Rebecca – As I mentioned above, I’ve been a gamer since a teenager really, although I have a lot less time for it now with working full-time and managing my blog in my free time. When I do get a spare hour or two, my current game of choice is Minecraft! It’s quite easy to play as there isn’t too much in the way of storyline or quests, but you can be creative and stop/start as and when.
Brian – I’ve dabbled with Minecraft, but world building makes a fun game and Minecraft obviously fits that niche nicely. I grew up on games like pools of radiance which is like the great-great grandmother to Baldurs gate which is a turn based game. So I’m partial to turn based games to this day. Hearthstone has been a favored past time and recently I’ve been playing Dota Underlords. Both are addicting!
The story has a split narrative between present day and historical events. Which did you enjoy writing more and why?
Brian –That’s like asking which of your kids you love more! 😊 Of course, I enjoyed writing both narratives, but for different reasons. If you pressed me, I will say the Anthall narrative, in book one, is more compelling for the reader because it’s a tragic story and focuses on one individual (rather than a group) and his dark journey. We feel for him, or at least I do, because of the choices he’s forced to make and his struggle with his identity. I’ll also say this: in book II I have really enjoyed writing about the “current” narrative because some of the twists and surprises I set up, but probably weren’t obvious or appreciated in book one, are starting to get revealed which draws you more deeply into that narrative. Okay, I love them both! 😊
Rebecca – If I had to pick a favourite, I would say I enjoyed the Anthall storyline a little more than the present day. It gives a lot of context to what’s going on… and well, I’m a sucker for all things that contribute to epic world-building.
Brian – I’ll be interested to see what you and other readers think of Book two. As you know, when I tell people Thran is an epic story, I’m not kidding. It’s 650 pages long, and I spend a lot of time building the characters and planting seeds. If I can get an ah-ha moment or two from readers, or even better: an “I didn’t see that coming” moment, I’ll feel really good! The world and characters are complex – they just don’t know it yet…the readers AND he characters!
There is a very extensive map of the world of Thran on your website, https://www.worldofthran.com. How far along in the narrative did this come into creation? Has it helped you with your writing?
Brian – Actually, the first thing I did was create the world. Before I wrote the first word, I drew the map with the detail you see today. I also created the pantheon of gods, the calendar, and how I wanted magic to work. Speaking of magic, a lot of people forego the material requirements when they play D&D (we did back in the day) because it’s a little burdensome, but for the world of Thran, I thought the material component would add a nice level of detail and also tied in with the concept of the gods granting the spells – so the material component acted like a sacrifice when required. Another aspect I determined from the start was the dialog. I didn’t want the dialog to be too “fantastical”. I felt that in order to keep the passion of the dialog relevant, I would sacrifice the “historical” aspect and go with more of a modern diction, including the curse-words which I felt strongly needed to stay current. When someone curses, it’s usually trying to convey a deeper context to the situation. It makes serious and tense situations more serious and tense while also making lighter moments even lighter. Using a “made up” or substitute curse could never convey to the modern reader the nuances of the situation and might just feel cheesy. However, in order to make the dialog feel a little different, aged so-to-speak, I used a little trick I came up with: never use contractions. The reader might not have noticed, but if the dialog was read out loud, it would become obvious. The map and all the other foundations I created up front helped me conceptualize the story.
As an author, what advice would you give to anyone looking to write a book and get published?
Brian – Funny you should ask! The journey for writing, editing, marketing, and publishing has been such an educational journey that I started organizing what I’ve learned and seriously considering writing another (much shorter!) book about it. My advice for writers:
Create an environment that inspires you and limits distractions. The routine will help you establish a rhythm and promote creativity.
Give yourself a word count to hit each day or each week, depending on how often you can write. Give yourself a little reward for hitting the count, and if you can blow it away – even better! There are gonna be many days when you can’t hit the count. Find the right balance – where it’s achievable, but not a gimme.
Find software for writing a novel. I used Scrivener and that has been very good. It helps me keep everything organized and easy to find for reference, not to mention it can create all the file types you need for your ebook. There are other software choices out there, so just do a little research.
Editing is a money game. It depends what you can afford. If you have the money a good editor can help you immensely, but for most Indie writers that’s not going to be an option, it wasn’t for me.
If having an editor is not an option, you will almost certainly need help proof-reading and correcting grammar. I hired a professional to proofread Book I and they corrected a ton of stuff. I used a service called Reedsy, and it worked out fine.
Family and friends. Let anyone who wants to read help with editing. I still find issues with Thran Book One today, so it feels like a never-ending process.
It will never be perfect, so eventually you will have to publish the book!
Marketing – How do you get anyone to actually read your book!? That’s such a difficult task! LOL.
This is a great way to build a following but doesn’t translate into sales very well. It’s also time intensive. You need to post once per day, but not too much more than that, and so building a following takes time unless you have a celebrity connection.
Book reviews & Bloggers
Getting your book reviewed is very important. Paying for reviews is less impressive, but if you have to it’s better than nothing.
Voracious Readers Only
I found this to be a very good platform. It connects readers and authors and is how I am building a solid email list
Amazon, Barns & Nobel, others
This comes down to money. My experience is that Amazon has the cheapest advertising, essentially free if you do KDP, and best tools for promoting your book.
I have been in KDP (amazon exclusive) so I have access to the promotional tools, but I am going to try without it for a bit and work other platforms in order to reach a wider audience.
I didn’t go down the traditional path, but it involves finding an agent and then submitting your work to a lot of publishing houses.
I do know this:
You’ll need to hook up with an artist unless you can create a cover yourself, which I think would be rare. Today’s art world is ruled by digital art, and depending on the size of your book and the number of pages, it’s not an easy job getting the cover just right.
If you decide to go the traditional route – DO NOT self-publish first. Everything I read, most publishers won’t work with manuscripts that are already published. So if you go the traditional route – find an agent and go from there.
These are pretty straight forward, you just submit them to the site, pick a royalty program and you’re off…well, you still need a cover.
You definitely need a cover and it needs to be very exact in the dimensions of the cover which includes the spine and the back art.
Actually printing books.
I haven’t cracked the code yet on this. Printed copies are very expensive unless you’re willing to invest in quite a bit of inventory.
Amazon is the best. They print on-demand and ship it direct, so no inventory and their printing costs are 30% lower than any other place I found searching the internet.
Rebecca – You have already covered a lot of ground in your experience and it’s invaluable to other hopeful authors out there! I really hope you do publish your advice. No doubt it will come in useful for a lot of people!
Brian – Amazon, like they have in so many other ways, has broken down the traditional walls to getting a book published. Which is great, but there isn’t any great manual for new writers to reference. So when someone writes a book, the feeling is like: “now what?” There are soooo many choices out there it creates an analysis paralysis. I hope I can help a few people out!
Thanks again to Brian for taking the time to conduct this interview! If you are interested in getting a copy of Thran Book 1: The Birth, the links to purchase are available in my review post!
For day 2 of Blogtober I am sharing a book review of Thran Book 1: The Birth, which was sent to me by Voracious Readers Only in exchange for review. Thank you to them and to the author, Brian McLaughlin, who I have been working closely with lately. In addition to today’s review, I will also be sharing an interview with Brian tomorrow. In that post we talk about the fictional world of Thran, the influences behind the book and Brian also shares some of his knowledge and experiences in publishing.
That’s for you to look forward to tomorrow! Today’s post is all about the book, and my honest thoughts on it.
Set in the mythical world of Thran, a young warrior named Brutal Mixnor sets out on an adventure to uncover the truth about his father’s mysterious disappearance after a battle years earlier. Some longtime friends and new acquaintances join him in his search, each with their own reasons for braving the danger-filled wilds of the Cruel Pass. Follow the young adventurers and watch as their powers grow, along with the strength of the enemies they encounter. Discover the complex, imperfect, characters of all races, comprising the full spectrum of alignments (good, neutral, and evil) that weave their way into and out of the story, leaving their mark on the reader as the world of Thran is pushed towards cataclysmic war and suffering.
For readers familiar with the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons(R), Thran Book I: The Birth will feel like a warm wave of nostalgia washing over you, and the unfamiliar will get a glimpse of what it’s like to be immersed into the heart of an adventure that transports you into a world where magic abounds and almost anything is possible, but nothing is certain. Visit https: //www.worldofthran.com/ to learn more about the world of Thran, including: character portraits, the world map, the pantheon of deities, and more!
When I say Thran is an epic fantasy book, I am not kidding! At 655 pages, this novel stands its ground in the fantasy genre. If you enjoy role-playing games you will recognise the format of the narrative and character types. The structure of the narrative is like Dungeons and Dragons, or perhaps a more modern example, Dragon Quest.
One of the biggest factors that I judge fantasy novels on is the world-building. It was very clear to me from the beginning that a lot of work has gone into developing the world and framing the narrative. The detail illustrates an advanced world, without being excessive or stalling the storyline at any point. This is consistent throughout so the pace of the narrative and balance between action/information is achieved.
The only place I would suggest that there was a little too much detail for me is in the combat scenes. It’s probably a matter of personal preference, but I envisage these as being a little punchier (excuse the pun!) What I will say is that evidently Brian has sequenced these out before committing pen to paper. I was a lot more interested in the continuation of the plot and development of the storyline, so I confess I started to skim-read some of these.
I really enjoyed the dual timeline structure and the narrative of Anthall, perhaps slightly more than the present-day narrative. This contributes to a lot of the historical side of the world-building, and there are subtle ties to the present-day if you can pick up the clues! Having the two intertwining storylines breaks up each storyline so as not to become too lengthy. It makes a refreshing change to read the different perspective. It is too early for what I think will be a complex storyline to be experienced by one set of characters without a rushed conclusion.
I am interested to see how the storyline will pan out throughout the rest of the series. Thran Book 1 provides a strong foundation to a unique fantasy tale and there is plenty more to explore in the world of Thran.