Sunday, April 11, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Creature, by Hunter Shea

I normally just post my book reviews at sites like Goodreads and Amazon and BookBub, but it's April and I need to commit to posting an actual something to the blog -- so why not reviews? It makes no sense to not post the reviews to the blog, and I need to make that monthly blog entry that I promised myself I'd get to every month this year.

So, in the spirit of cheating, here's my book review that's also the monthly blog post. I consider it fortunate that I happened to be reading Creature, by Hunter Shea.

This isn't the first Hunter Shea book I've reviewed. The first was Slash, which was a solid piece of creature feature horror writing. But Creature is different. It's more personal for Shea, it doesn't get to the traditional horror elements right away and, in my personal opinion, it's the better read. There, I've already written more than the original quick review itself. And since I'm longing to get back to my own writing, here's the review posted at all the other places mentioned above:

I’ll get straight to what I liked about this book, the time and energy Shea put into building character. Or as some writing gurus will tell you, write what you know. And in Shea's own words, elements of this story are very personal.

It's a slow development of character for a good two thirds of the story. The creature in question doesn’t rear its ugly head until the bitter end, but that's okay. The story isn’t really about the creature itself, but of the creature as a manifestation brought on by the every day horrors of living with a brutal and uncompromising disease. Literally.

Kate is the one who lives in pain every day of her life. Her husband Andrew loves her and just wants her to be well, but her ever constant need for care wears on him as well. So they take a trip to the wilds of Maine hoping to enjoy nature and some alone time for healing.

But the disease isn’t forgiving, and the creature in question is eventually drawn to it.

I’m not going to give away any more spoilers than that. The slow development of the plot to get to the final moments of horror is essential to this story (in my opinion), so stick with it.

I’m glad I did.

 You can find Creature at most of your favorite online book outlets. Or, if you're feeling like supporting the indiebook community, purchase it here, direct from Flame Tree Press.

Monday, March 8, 2021

What's In A Name

 Plenty, apparently. There are a slew of female authors who go by initials. Men have done this too, but for women the reason is often to disguise the fact that they are, in fact, women. J.K. Rowling, J.D. Robb (who is, in fact Nora Roberts, if you didn't know), S.E. Hinton...even Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, started her career as a man--A.M. Barnard. 

I'm sure that not all female writers who go by their initials made the choice because being mistaken for a male author sells more books. But the fact is that many do, and that's a sad account of history. Still, it's not the only reason authors choose initials. Sometimes, it's for a certain anonymity. Authors tend to be an introverted lot--I know I am, and as unlikely as it may be, none of us want to become the victim of our number one fan, as with King's memorable character from Misery, Annie Wilkes. Many authors choose a pseudonym for this reason, among several others too. Stephen King chose to write as Richard Bachman for a time. It has been told that part of the reason King chose to do this was because he wanted to see if his work would sell without his quickly famous name attached to it. Other well known authors have done the same because their name may be synonymous with a genre of book, and they want to branch out. Dean Koontz has done this, as has Anne Rice.

Sometimes an author will choose a pseudonym that rings true to the genre of books they write. Peter B. Germano, for example, wrote under the pseudonyms of Barry Cord, James Kane and Jack Slade. He wrote westerns. The world of romance novels is rife with male authors hiding behind feminine names, because come on. Would you rather read a romance by Bill Spence or by Jessica Blair?

As an author who chose my given name, I have experienced a different problem. Diane Johnson is a well known author. Le Divorce and Flyover Lives are well known best sellers. Some authors might change their name for this reason. I added my middle initial because I wanted to be me and because I wanted to make my mom proud if I ever happened to pen a best seller. Regardless, with or without the M., Diane Johnson is an all too common name. I also have a relative named Anne Perry -- she's not that Anne Perry either.

The one author who I am NOT is Diane Johnson-McFadgen. This may seem like a tangent, but it's true. At the time I write this, if you were to Google any of my books, Google would tell you that they were written by Diane Johnson-McFadgen. I will guarantee you that Stephen King or Anne Rice or Anne Perry do not have this problem. Such is the life of a self published indie author. What's weirder is that Google can't seem to figure out that the search brings up more about Diane M. Johnson than it does Johnson-McFadgen. Google needs to do something about this, and if they have finally taken my request off the back burner, this blog is sure to confuse their algorithms all the more.

Let it be known that I have nothing against the author Johnson-McFadgen. She wrote a book, and if you are looking for some Christian spiritual insight, by all means click on this link: Today's Stones at B&N.

I have an inkling as to why my books might be confused with her book. The sequel to Perfect Prophet, Prophet Reborn has a similar color scheme and a reference to religion. 

But seriously, I'm guessing that Ms. Johnson-McFadgen would be uncomfortable being associated to the first book of the series... Right?

Anyway, I've said my peace. Best of luck to Ms. Johnson-McFadgen with her book on spiritual inspirations. I'm Diane M. Johnson, and I approve this blog post.

Other Links to the Perfect Prophet series by Diane M. Johnson NOT McFadgen:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

As An Author, I Take Time To Leave Reviews

 It's my way of paying it forward for the reviews I receive, because every indie author hopes for honest reviews, but no indie author wants to be trapped by the prospect of being asked to write an honest review as a favor. So, I pay it forward. Don’t ask me to review your book. But appreciate it if I choose to. Screenwriting is a different story, but we had better know each other well enough before you ask.

But that's not entirely why I'm writing this post. I recently reviewed a rather popular self-help book on Amazon, and because of Amazon's rules and regulations about book reviews, my review was denied. Indie authors can offer a litany of complaints about Amazon's policies when it comes to garnering reviews, but this occurrence highlights the company’s ignorance and over reliance on algorithms when it comes to determining what is an acceptable review.

The book I read was The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. Don’t @ me. That's the title. It was a NY Times bestseller, and the title admittedly intrigued me. So I bought it on a whim, and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t earth shattering, revolutionary advice for me, but it resonated when it came to some points that I believe to be true. So I rated it and wrote a review. Here it is, posted on BookBub

It's the exact same review that I tried to post on Amazon, except that Amazon had the option of including a title. I referenced the title of the book in my title of the review (asterisk* included), and the review got declined because of policy issues. The policy? Profanity...

Seriously. Amazon bots "carefully reviewed" my review and found a swear word (asterisk* included) that deemed it inappropriate for people who might have checked out this book. Seriously. Of all the things I could give a f*ck about, this one inspired me to write this blog. Even funnier is that they allowed a one star review from a reader who goes by the name Scumbag... Don’t believe me? Here it is.

Algorithms are incredibly flawed. Bezos, if there's the slimmest chance that you might read this post (humor me here) fix this. Your review policies are flawed and overreaching. And I'm telling you this as a reviewer, not an author!

Okay, rant over. Time for me to leave the past behind and find something better to give a f*ck about.

Here's something that might interest you if you stayed with me to the end of this post. A book giveaway! You can enter a Goodreads giveaway between February 15th and February 28th, 2021 for a free hard copy of my latest, Prophet Reborn, the thrilling sequel to Perfect Prophet. The first book is hard to come by in paperback, but you can purchase it here. It’s widely available at the online retailer of your choice as an ebook. Good luck if you choose to enter, and thanks for your support!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Writing As A Chore

I'll be honest. I'm starting off the new year spinning my wheels on the writing front. maybe it's the arm still being in a sling, the daily ache left from surgery, the one and a half handed hunt and peck across the keyboard. It's a bit of a chore.

Oh, I'm still committed to the write something, anything, every day mantra. I've been working on book thre of the Prophet series, and I've come up with a fun way to antagonize the book one protagonist. I've really committed my focus to it. But it doesn't propel the story forward. There's little traction from it. Spinning wheels.

And that's the problem. I haven't hooked into where I want to go with book three. I've got characters that I want to expand on, whose journeys need to continue. I've got a title! But I've got no goal, no theme. Therefore, writing it has become a chore. I need an outline -- and outlines are chores. A list of things to get done before you can enjoy the getting done part.

I'm also thinking about setting the book three idea aside and returning to the script series. But again, I would need to revisit the old, outline the new and research research research. A list of chores.

Don't get me wrong. I look forward to that spark of achievement that comes with getting the work done. But I believe that it's okay to recognize that the process can be a chore. No one likes chores, but we all know they need to get done. Daily.

So if you too are stuck in your writing endeavors, make a list -- You need to define your main characters, their flaws, their fears. You need to define your ending before you define your beginning. You need to commit to a singular theme and tape it to the top of your computer screen so you don't forget it. You need to stop at the store and  buy some whiskey, because whiskey is key to your writing process... You get the idea.

Whatever your process, remember. If it feels like it's missing something, or becoming a chore, it probably is. Embrace the chores. It's part of the process.

Also, forgive any typos. My shoulder is feeling it. But I got the January blog entry done! A tick off on my list of chores.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Year End Blog Update 2020

 Has it been over a year since I last added to the blog? It has. In my defense, 2020. 

You would think that 2020 would be the kind of year to give more time for the writer to write. While this is probably true for many, it's certainly not true for all. You have the writers who happen to be parents, who may be working remotely from home, or who may have been laid off from the "real job" that pays the bills. Plenty of time to write during a quarantine lockdown, you muse. But then there's the kids. Remote learning means Mom and Dad have become--at minimum--teacher's aides. so, less time writing, more time relearning the things we forgot about from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

Then there's the rest of the family. I have kids at home, and while they're college age, they still have needs. There's online classes and chats that prove our bedroom doors aren't that soundproof. There are spouses who don't write, who don't understand what the big deal is when they see you in front of your computer and they decide to start conversation. I miss my opportunities to hang out in coffee shops to work uninterrupted.

That having been said, my family was fortunate enough to stay employed throughout 2020. With jobs that technically fell under the categories of essential businesses, my spouse and I generally worked a standard workweek from beginning to end. Don't call us heroes. That title is reserved for the medical professionals and frontline grocery store workers. The company I work for cleans boats under water. My husband's job is affiliated with communications and aerospace technology: important services, but not front line essential. I want to thank every front line worker who might be reading this for their service. Also, COVID-19 is no joke. We have lost friends and family, as many others have. I am sorry for your losses.

Which also makes writing harder. Depression, worry, having no time because you're the caregiver of others are all reasons for you writers out there to have had a fruitless year in pursuing the craft. Don't beat yourself up over it. Life happens, and it's messy. Especially in the year 2020.

Which is coming to an end with new hope on the horizon!

I personally did manage to keep writing--slowly, day after day. I am currently typing this update one handed because of recent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. My mantra throughout the year has been, "One sentence a day at minimum is success." And so comes the shameless plug: The latest book is out, Prophet Reborn, a sequel to Perfect Prophet.

If you haven't read it, Perfect Prophet is the story about a death metal atheist with a tortured religious past who becomes the target of his Satan worshipping fans when a religious prophecy written by his father is revealed.

Prophet Reborn continues the story and focuses on the Satanic cult leader antagonist who now seeks redemption for his sins in a Christian commune led by a megalomaniac preacher. 

These are both horror, dark fiction titles and available as ebooks wherever ebooks are sold for $1.99 -- a great price! Feel free to check them out, and please please leave a review. I'm working on a book three slowly--sentence by sentence!

Finally, I wish everyone a better 2021 now that 2020 is almost behind us. There will be challenges, I'm sure, but after this year, we're bound to have learned how to handle them! Thank you all for your support!