The ramblings and musings of author and musician Geoffrey Young Haney.
Much more coherent and loveable fare from his wife, Michelle.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Currently Reading:

Evening, readers!

So I'm on vacation again this weekend and I thought that while I have a free moment tonight, I'd share with you some of what I've been reading as of late. All the links of the book's titles will take you to their Goodreads page where you can read more about them. (FYI, Goodreads is slowly becoming one of my favorite sites on the web. You can find me on there, so friend away!)


Kindle Edition
Published May 1st 2011 by Harlequin Teen


Got this for free on a total whim. It is a novella prequel to a book called The Girl In The Steel Corset, which came out May 24th. Its a quick little read that introduces us to the titular "Girl" Finley Jane and her special abilities. I'm about halfway through it and really have no idea how this prequel ties into the events of Steel Corset, an apparent part one in a planned series called the Steampunk Chronicles. It has my attention so far, though, and has done what it was most likely intended to do: pique my interest in the series. And despite Steampunk Chronicles #1 suffering from one of my least favorite title tropes ("The Girl With The/The Girl In The/The Girl Who ... ") I believe I would enjoy reading subsequent tales about Finley Jane, after finishing this tasty little prequel.

Find the author, Kady Cross, on Twitter @KadyCross
Purchase The Strange Case of Finley Jane on Amazon - and guess what, it's still FREE!



I Wish... by Wren Emerson
Kindle Edition
Published May 14th 2011 by Lakehouse Press


I'm only about a chapter into this story of a young girl who must embrace her destiny as a witch, but so far it's enjoyable. Wren Emerson (aka Author With The Coolest Name Ever) gives Thistle Nettlebottom, the young witch in question, a natural, breezy voice and a biting, somewhat self-depreciating humor. And that works for me. If I'm going to read a story told in a first-person perspective - of which I'm usually not a fan - I'd like my female lead to be more Katniss Everdeen and less Bella Swan (no offense to my Twilight-obsessed wife...) Thistle and Emerson are an entertaining match and I look forward to reading more.

Find the author, Wren Emerson, on Twitter @wrenem
Purchase I Wish... on Amazon



Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Published May 26th 2009 by Books on Tape, Inc. (first published 2000)


Yep, this is my current audio book selection. I picked this one up after falling head-over-heels in love with Kraken, Mieville's 2010 offering that took the buzz-genre "urban fantasy" and showed all the chumps how it could be done. Holy crap I love Kraken. All kinds of love. Anyways, Perdido has not grabbed me quite how Kraken did. There's a reason for that. Though Kraken's plot is twisty and its cast a bit larger, it had a rather straight-forward narrative flow. Perdido Street Station is a whirlwind of imagery, much of it dedicated to the setting - New Cronbuzon, home of the titular Station - and a bit less of it spent on the emotional make-up of characters and their motivations, of what drives them. At least that's what I've felt so far. I'm not as connected yet to the characters of Perdido as I am connected straight into Mieville's amazingly creative mind. And that's enough for me, for now. One of the things I love most about, well, the writers I love the most (Gaiman, Doctorow, Poe, Tolkien, Lewis, Mieville) is their vast creativity - the worlds they can shape with their words; the music they make with their rhythm and phrase and vocabulary. I look forward to listening to this book more (I'm about 12 chapters in.) And props to the narrator, John Lee. He also read Kraken and is phenomenal.

Find the author, China Mieville, on Goodreads.
Purchase Perdido Street Station from Amazon.



The Gathering Dead by Stephen Knight
Kindle Edition
Published March 19th 2011


And so we go from girls in corsets to Special Ops soldiers slaughtering the walking dead. That about sums up the scope of what I could be reading at any given time! This is the most recent book I've finished and it was also the subject of my first Goodreads review. So here it is!
***minor spoilers***

Stephen Knight's The Gathering Dead is an exciting tale about a group of special forces members trapped in a zombie-ridden New York City. Their chopper goes down while trying to extract a VIP, Dr. Wolf Safire, who has valuable knowledge of the zombie virus and may be able to produce a cure. They are forced to hole up in an office building while they try to figure out another plan to get Dr. Safire and his daughter, Regina, out of the crumbling city.

For the most part, I found the book very entertaining, fast-paced, with well-rounded characters and tensions between them. Even those more "stock" characters one often finds in a-team-of-military-men fiction each had some trait that made you root for them and made them stick out in your mind. However, the book could have greatly benefited from a solid editor. There are quite a few grammatical errors, some repetitive phrasing, and even one or two inconsistencies in continuity (at one point a soldier trades guns with another, then his old one is described in his hand a sentence later, then its back to the new one he just acquired.) But these, for me, did not distract from the page-turning enjoyment of this book. It may bother other readers, but I'm not distracted by the occasional typo. If it bothers you, this book could be irksome.

The detail in the story's technical aspects is what I enjoyed a lot. All the military weapons and gear is well identified and used properly, the tactics of the soldiers seem well thought out and realistic (not being a soldier myself, though, I can't speak to their accuracy; it just made sense to me as a reader,) and the layout of New York was solid and lent itself to an easy visual of the setting. There are also some really original scenarios presented. The scene when the team must descend 26 stories down an elevator shaft I found riveting, as well as the ensuing battle out in the streets. One presented idea about soldiers who have been reanimating retaining some of their training was a nice twist, something explored a bit in the film Day of The Dead. Still, the idea of the intelligent zombie hasn't been fleshed out much, and I think Knight handled it was a pretty solid plausibility.

All in all I enjoyed this book, and it was action-packed enough that I could easily picture it as a solid zombie movie. I recommend The Gathering Dead for the casual reader and fan of zombie and survival fiction.
Find the author, Stephen Knight, on Goodreads.
Purchase The Gathering Dead from Amazon.


So there's a look at what I'm reading. What books are you currently enjoying?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Call For Beta Readers - Zombie Fiction

People of the internet!

I am looking to lock down the first issue of Dead Living by the end of the month and I'm seeking out some beta readers to give it a look and offer some feedback! It's a really quick read - a novella coming in at about 13,500 words - and is pretty action packed. Not a lot to it! Just point out some obvious grammar crap and let me know if you connect to the format and characters. Its a series of multiple POV accounts detailing the first moments of the zombie invasion. Tell me what you like. Tell me what you hate. Tell me anything at all! No one has read this beast yet (its sort of my "pet" project) so I'm really looking forward to bouncing it off some skilled and interested eyes.

If you're intrigued, leave a comment here or shoot an e-mail to bookofmatchesmedia@gmail.com and I will send you a copy of the most recent draft by the end of the month/early June.

For more info on the project, click here.

Thanks!

G

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sing It Loud Saturdays: Four Year Strong

Sing It Loud Saturdays is a new weekly feature here at Creating Life that will introduce you to bands, songs, albums, and artists who I really dig. Some of them you may have heard of, many you will not have.

This week's featured group is: Four Year Strong

Click here to check out the title track off their 2010 release Until We Surrender.

And don't forget to check out last week's featured artist, Heartsounds.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Don't Take Your Eyes Off The Ball

What's the major goal for most writers?

Publish a book, of course.

But there's a pot of gold at the end the rainbow that is publishing. Its gaining fans, making money, selling J.K. numbers, signing the movie deal, approving the Happy Meal toy tie-in, retiring at 40 a millionaire.

Let's be honest, we've all had these daydreams. Many of us won't reach those pinnacles of fame. But in today's digital world, many of us can publish a novel, and make money, and gain fans, and have our stories heard. This is a very groovy thing.

But it all starts before the book is published. First you have to write it and learn to write it well.

To go all sports analogy up in this b, earlier this week the Miami Heat lost the NBA finals to an underdog Dallas Mavericks team. Of course, Heat superstar and perpetual media sideshow LeBron James was heavily scrutinized for his performance during the series, especially in the final quarter of each game when, frankly, his numbers were dismal at best.

So what happened to James and the Heat? Why couldn't they win the game?

LeBron has made it no secret that his one and only goal is to win an NBA championship. Yet he can't seem to close the deal. Is he not talented enough? Not a chance. Is he on a bad team? Absolutely not. So what's the deal? To win championships, you have to win games. To win games, you have to hit shots. To hit shots, you have to be focused on the act of the shot, not the end result of good shooting.

Allow me to switch things over to a sport much closer to my heart. I recall way back in the day when I played football, one of my coaches shared with me some good advice. I played defense, mainly cornerback. (For those of you who don't know, that's the player that runs with the receiver and tries to break up a potential pass play.) Once during a game I had a perfect read on the ball and went up to intercept it. That puppy was mine, but at the last second I glanced down the field. I saw before me wide open real estate. With the end zone looming in my vision and 6 points already on the scoreboard in my head, I lost the briefest moment of concentration on the ball and subsequently dropped it. It was in my grasp, and I dropped it. No interception, no TD, no victory lap.

When I got off the field after our defensive series, the couch knew exactly what had happened. It happens all the time. I had put my eyes on the PRIZE and took my eyes off the BALL. He said to me, "that was a good play, but it could've been better. You can't score the touchdown until you catch the ball."

This might be what LeBron James is experiencing. Can he truly have the mental fortitude necessary to win big games and take big shots when his mind seems so all-consumed with wearing that championship ring? He talks only about how bad he wants it and makes excuses when he doesn't get it. He can't be the leader he is supposed to be because his head's not in the game. He can't be relied on in the 4th quarter because he's already thinking about the win.

Our goals of publication can suffer in the same way. If we think too much of the publication, too much of the potential rewards and the potential fans and the potential money (even a small amount,) we can lose sight of that most important step: writing the book. Catching the ball. This is the difference between the haves and have-nots. Those that can do the work, those that can finish the play, are the ones who finish the book and get it out into the world. Those that can't, no matter how insanely talented they are, are left to dream and makes excuses.

I don't want to make excuses anymore. In today's digital world releasing a piece of work is as simple as clicking a few buttons. You have to do solid work for it to be a LASTING piece of actual art, and you'll probably have to log a ton of hours to achieve that. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying simply GETTING something out there and in front of people is a breeze. And yet I struggle with doing the work. In my mind, sometimes, I'm already in the winner's circle and I have yet to catch the ball.

The LeBron in me can look down on that insanely God-awful song on YouTube or that e-book with a hideous cover written by a clueless-in-the-ways-of-the-internet author and say "why is that out there? Why that trash and not my masterpiece? Why them and not me?" and get so wrapped up that petty game of haves and have-nots. But it has to be recognized that they at least took the shot and made it, sloppy as it was. For better or worse, their work is available to the masses. And that's my goal, for people to see (and hopefully actually enjoy) my work.

It's time to keep my eye on the ball. As the great Wayne Gretzky said, "you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." So do the hard part - control the puck, skate down the ice, and take the shot. Getting the goal, the basket, the touchdown - that's just the result of solid planning and solid work. If you practice the steps hard enough, the scoring becomes easy. And once you're winning games - reaching those goals - the championship rings will pile up.

But it all starts with keeping your eye on the ball.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Twitter: Too Much Static


So going by the date of the announcement on this blog (April 14th), it has been two months to the day since I first got my Twitter account. I will say that it is a lot more useful and more fun than I ever thought possible.

I am, however, running into some questions.

I have 128 followers, which is pretty cool. I get a couple every day and I've been chatting and making some good connections with fellow writers. So, obviously, there's no such thing as too many followers.

But what about "Followings?"

I currently follow 258 accounts. Most of the time it isn't a problem to handle, but I've noticed something in the last few days. When I write - the most time I ever spend on the computer - I usually have the internet up, on dictionary.com or wiki or other such sites. And usually there's a tab with my Twitter feed in it. I find my brain constantly being distracted when a little (insert number here) pops up in parenthesis in the Twitter tab. It could be 1 or 2, sometimes even 8 or 10. All new tweets, all popping up since the last time I looked, all calling out to me to be scanned over and explored. This is an easy enough problem to overcome - a little bit of will-power and a little closing of the Twitter tabs, or the browser altogether.

But like I said, I don't spend much time on a computer NOT writing. So I feel that if I step away from the Twitter, that when I get back to it, even in a day, its bogged down with tweets - call it static in the airwaves. I never know what's new and I can never find where I left off. I can never join in on current chats or conversation because I don't know where it started! Is this just one of the side-effects of Twitterdom, something that must be mastered using #hashtags and saved searches and the like...

Or am I following too many people?

Let me throw it out to you, since I'm still only 2 months into this game. What do you do? How many people do you currently follow? Do you weed out poisonous tweeters who tweet constantly and repetitively, even when some of its good stuff? Do you have certain time set aside JUST to tweet and social network? Do you feel overwhelmed keeping up with all this stuff??? I've found a lot of great links, met a lot of great people on Twitter, and got turned on to some really cool books. But I'm beginning to think its time that a dialed the signal in a little better; got rid of some of the static.

So, friends, how do you do it?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sing It Loud Saturdays: Heartsounds

Sing It Loud Saturdays is a new weekly feature here at Creating Life that will introduce you to bands, songs, albums, and artists who I really dig. Some of them you may have heard of, many you will not have.

This week's featured group is Heartsounds

Click here to check out the title track off their 2010 release Until We Surrender.

And don't forget to check out last week's featured artist, Cartel.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sing It Loud Saturdays: Cartel

Sing It Loud Saturdays is a new weekly feature here at Creating Life that will introduce you to bands, songs, albums, and artists who I really dig. Some of them you may have heard of, many you will not have.

This week's featured group is Cartel

Click here to check out Faster Ride off their 2009 release Cycles.

And don't forget to check out last week's featured artist, AM Taxi.