Tuesday, 21 March 2017

So I Listened to... CTRL ALT Revolt!


I came across Nick Cole after hearing about CRTL ALT Revolt winning the Dragon Award for Best Apocalyptic Novel for 2016. I became curious as to what this book was like but was hesitant because I had quite a backlog (and still do) on my Kindle. I saw that an audiobook of it was available and took that route because I am able to get through these quicker, it turned out to be a great choice for reasons I am about to go into shortly. Nick was kind enough to join me on a live stream after I had finished it (and given it a five-star review) and we have become buddies online. Can it be argued that this piece is biased? Sure but I won't be bothered by that, I will always write about a good story or a bad one and give my thoughts. This story is not just a good one, but a great one as far as I am concerned.

An artificial intelligence has been slowly evolving inside the internet, watching humanity and considering it a threat. It begins with an assault by drones on the high-tech campus grounds of the Wondersoft Technologies company, it intensifies from there. Several characters stories are at first separate but as the threat increases and the story reaches its climax, they come together brilliantly.

A sign that can be considered a good one for me, whenever I listen to an audiobook, is how long I listen to one for in one go. With this I found myself listening to it in two-hour chunks on occasions just so I could see what was going to happen next. It was one of those stories where I could feel the tension slowly tightening and even felt shocked when a certain character met their end. It certainly deserved the Dragon award many times over as far as I am concerned.

The story behind what happened to Nick with this is well worth a read, especially for anyone considering going to a publisher. It is an example that freedom of speech will always prevail over censorship of any kind, especially the feelings of triggered little snowflakes in positions they don't deserve.

If anything, the icing on top of this wonderful cake is the voice of Mare Trevathan who narrates this audiobook. She reads with an easy going tone which ramps up when the tense scenes arrive, manages different accents with ease and takes on a delicate tone with the final scenes. Audiobooks live or die on their narrators and Trevathan gives a great performance in this ten-hour story, another reason I gave it five stars on Audible.

I recommended this to a few people now and will continue to do so. One day I hope to have Mare Trevathan read something of mine, based on her performance of this story alone and I remain hopeful that will happen. Give this a listen, it is another example that the best work can be found independently.





Wednesday, 15 March 2017

So I Listened to... Elite: Mostly Harmless.


I had the pleasure of meeting Kate Russell when I attended Shemfest last year, she was an absolutely lovely lady and I hope to shake her hand once again sometime. After that day and after the two-day hangover I managed to get over, I decided to look up her book and see what it was like. I checked out Audible to see if an audio version was available of it and sure enough it was, a bonus was that it was read by Russell herself. I certainly don't mind if an author uses a hired narrator to read their work but sometimes it is nice when the author does it themselves, I found out soon enough that Russell did a great job of it.

Commander Angel Rose is a down-on-her-luck pilot who is frowned upon by her parents, things couldn't get much worse before she is forced into a life of crime and on the run before going on a mission that could well be the end of her. Mixed in with this are a bunch of interesting characters who ever want to help her, probably kill her, and even screw her in more ways than one.

What jumps out at the listener is the effort that has gone into the recording of this audiobook: there are different sound effects thrown in, one voice in particular which is most likely done with some computer help, a little music and even a cameo from David Braben himself near the end. The story, as well as Russell's performance, were motivation enough for me to back her Kickstarter for her next audiobook, and I look forward to its eventual release.

The story is just over eight hours long and was a fun listen, I certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested. I understand Russell not narrating her next work as I've read it can be a draining task, but I hope she does it again sometime; she was bloody good at it and deserves recognition for it.

Audiobooks: A Counter View.


My friend and fellow indie author, Mr. Brian Niemeier wrote an article for his blog in which he talked about his views on audiobooks. I agreed with what he said in the article, people want audio versions of books but do not seem to realize the cost involved in making them. Due to the costs involved and the ACX profit sharing scheme, it can be off-putting for indie authors like him and me to make them. I had the dream a long time ago of recording my own versions of my works but I had certain factors working against me: first off is that there is nowhere in my home that I can go to record properly in where no unwanted sounds can leak in. It would be either the sounds of my children playing, cars going by outside, the TV downstairs, or the sound of my neighbors screwing rather loudly; thanks to the thin walls. Another reason was that I did not have any of the equipment needed to make this happen, it is pricey and so is hiring a studio for the day.

When it comes to audiobooks and indeed Audible, I am appreciative of the market and the demand for these versions of author's material. As I have written before, my brother is a truck driver and does not have time to read so he makes great use of audiobooks; especially when driving. I like to read after I have finished writing but there are times I find it difficult to go from the screen of my laptop to that of my Kindle, so I go with an audiobook so I can relax and just listen. Brian also mentions in the article that narrators overcharge by a lot. He has a good point there.

I have seen authors have to turn to Kickstarter in the past to get audiobooks done and have a certain narrator perform them due to such a high cost. It is very disheartening because as Brian breaks down in his piece, it would cost him twice as much as it did for him to write a book for someone to perform it. He also raises objections by having to share the profits of his work with a narrator via the ACX scheme, I can see his point here totally but I do have some differing views on the whole thing of which I will now go into.

I have heard some great narrators do their thing with someone else's material, Adam Baldwin did a fantastic job with Larry Correia's Tom Stranger, Mare Trevathan also did a fantastic job with Nick Cole's CTRL ALT Revolt!, but I have also come across a couple of bad ones too. I won't name them but with the first, I had a job to finish the audiobook, and with the second... I couldn't finish it and deleted it half way through. These amazing narrators, especially the likes of Trevathan, I would consider it a compliment, even an honor, to have them read my material. When it comes to the ACX profit sharing scheme, if I were making just as much, if not more than a sale of the ebook of my work, then I would be happy with the whole thing. This view can be criticized or debated, sure, but it comes from the place that I do not rely on my writing to earn a living wage, I work full time and often write when I have gotten home but I understand Brian's dislike of it as he is a full-time writer; every penny counts.

This, to me, comes down to a case of each to their own. It can certainly be suggested I am coming at this from a biased position but I guess it is a debate that can rumble on for a little while, I respect Brian's opinion on the whole thing and I know he and I can have a healthy debate about it. Either way, Brian and I share the most important point and that is that our readers matter to us and if they have chosen to spend their money on our works, we will certainly listen to them.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Harassment Part 3.

I have the feeling that this is a topic I will never really finish talking about. However, I felt this third part of my writing about it needed to be put out there for reasons that will soon become clear.

I have a couple of friends, they are together and a really nice couple too.They are both on Twitter and use it for either fun, serious discussion, or just some banter. They both attracted the attention of a stalker, a rather nasty individual who went after them on various occasions and attempted to get one of them fired from his job by attempting to contact his employer. This stalker, appearing to use two different accounts on Twitter, also went after her for her appearance in photos of her that she had posted on the site. Despite numerous reports filed against the accounts in question, they are still tweeting abuse and harassment at the time of writing this.

I found out about the whole thing by accident and offered whatever support I could once I did, but realistically there was little I could do except be there for them. Twitter's Safety Council had obviously failed them so last I had heard, they had involved the police in the matter and are hopeful that they track this low life down.

So, why did I write this piece?

I chose to write this because I admired the way the two of them chose to deal with the whole situation. Neither of them screamed from the rooftops that they were being harassed, they did not plaster it over Twitter like many of the modern feminists do, they did not open a Patreon and appeal for donations. Did they even blame it on Trump or Brexit? No, they dealt with it quietly and privately as possible. Brad Wardell once said that "Trolls adjust their flames to burn you accordingly" and that appears to be what this little shit is doing, but I have an idea that the police knocking on the door will change their mind.

I admire that neither of them played victims in this because it certainly is the trend these days. I can only hope that this situation ends soon for them but I know I can do no more than to offer my support and be there if either of them needs to talk. Harassment is an ugly thing but when it is tackled properly and not by adding fuel to the fire, it could become a minor itch in life and not the problem it is now.

Names were purposely withheld from this article for protection and respect of those involved.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

So I Watched... Logan.

       
This was a film I had been looking forward to seeing for some time. Those who have read what I've written before know that I am a massive Wolverine fan, but really am not a fan of his replacement. Part of me was wary going into this because of X23 being in the film but since as this was Hugh Jackman's last turn as Logan, I was willing to deal with it.

To sum up the story without any spoilers, Logan is now an old man and not in the best shape, he is aging and his healing factor is not working as well anymore. He cares for Professor X, even older and suffering from a neurodegenerative disease and cannot control his powers without the aid of drugs, with the help of another mutant named Caliban. He is introduced to X23, who turns out to be his clone, whom he has to protect from a group called the Reavers, and get her to a safe place.

That is all I'll say about the story, but the film itself is amazing and in my mind, serves as a template of how to do a superhero movie properly. I can only guess that director James Mangold sat down with the studio and said that he wanted blood, gore, and swearing in his movie; they obviously agreed. It is a more satisfying movie as a result, anyone that comes into contact with either Logan or Laura's claws doesn't come away well and its a nice change from the kiddy friendly efforts of before. I can honestly say that had this not happened in the film, it would not have been such a good end result in my mind.

                        
As for X23? I am happy to say that she was brilliant in the film, especially when she starts fighting. The writers of this film did a better job with the character than has been done in her current comic, but then again that was probably not too difficult. Dafne Keen does an amazing job as Laura Kinney and I could find no place in the movie to criticize her, my only hope is that perhaps the writer of All New Wolverine could take some notes from the performance. I say that because I'm pretty sure the only reason that series is still going is because of its name as when X23 had been in a series of her own before, it had been canceled due to low sales.

Knowing Hollywood, they will probably reboot Wolverine with a different actor but I doubt I will watch it; Jackman's performance cannot be beaten in my mind. I can only hope that if X23 gets her own movie that they will not soften the character for a younger audience but the cynic in me thinks otherwise. I will not watch another X-Men related film as I think they have squeezed too much out of the franchise at this point. I will happily sign off with this one, just like Hugh Jackman did so well and will certainly buy it when it comes out on Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

So I listened to... The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent.


This audiobook was my first taste of Larry Correia, a recording of one of his novellas, and one hell of a fun and humorous story. I will always remember this with a chuckle as I was listening to this whilst on the rowing machine at my gym and I kept laughing and losing count of what I was doing.

The story is a funny one. Tom Stranger, the hero of the story, hops between dimensions dealing insurance with various races and acquires himself a new assistant along the way; but it turns out to be the wrong one. His proper assistant has been stuck behind a desk somewhere, this one has a... gender studies degree and occupied a street once. To tell any more would spoil the story but it is one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time.

The best part? It is narrated by the one and only Adam Baldwin himself, and his effort is nothing but perfect. The humor in this story is given a wonderful layer of icing on top of it by some of the tones he uses, especially when talking about the previously mentioned gender studies degree. To repeat what I said earlier: it really is one of the funniest things I have heard in a long time.

The audiobook is just over two hours long but this is reflected in the price, but if you are using Audible's monthly credit system then that really isn't a worry. Pick this one up, it's a great listen.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Marvel Coming Back?


I'm a little late to the table with my take on this story but I have been busy writing my book but none the less; here I am. I've written numerous times about my feelings about what has happened to Marvel comics and thought I was done with the subject and superheroes in general. A story popped up in Bleeding Cool News by Rich Johnston, a man I and others find quite loathsome, regarding the direction Marvel would be taking under new lead writer, Marc Guggenheim. He suggested that a lot of the politics that had been shoved into the various comics series would be "tabled for the time being."

I looked at that line and had my hopes raised for a moment as it appeared that finally, someone saw that the company's sales had gone downhill quite badly and that they needed saving. DC obviously saw this and have avoided it after the Rebirth storyline, Marvel managed to get the number one spot in last month's sales but only because it was a new title, previous months had not been so kind to them. Plenty of Marvel's titles have been canceled and will probably be canceled as a result of their poor sales, the most recent one being Patsy Walker Aka Hellcat. Kate Leth, the series writer, tweeted about this with what appeared to be a hint of arrogance, which I would have linked here but she has me blocked and we've never spoken before. She claimed the series would be finishing on "our terms", something I struggled to believe as her series sales numbers had dropped lower than that of Angela Queen of Hel.

In the past, Marvel has dealt with some politics in their stories, such as drugs and 9/11, and do so with some good writing and subtlety, but it got so heavy-handed with all the left-leaning crap that its audience went somewhere else and took their money with them. I was one of those people and although I think this news of a reform is great I still cannot bring myself to buy any of their stuff again. Why? Because I simply do not trust them anymore.

Their story telling became lazy, the artwork too cartoony and they either changed their characters' race or gender to appeal to the PC crowd. However, they didn't realize one important detail: a lot of that crowd may complain for more women characters etc in comics but they certainly do not buy them. This has been reflected in the sales and I am pleased to see someone doing something about it, but for me it is too late. I will not give them my money anymore for fear of being burned again and especially with the recent bizarre news of some Hulk and Wolverine hybrid.... Really?


The thing is that I can look back on this and tell myself that I tried, I tried to get onboard with this when I was buying All-New Wolverine but in the end, I just could not do it. For those who read their comics and enjoy them, I will not knock them as at least someone out there is. For me and a lot of other people out there it seems, Marvel died a quiet death a long time ago and I doubt it is a death that they will come back from.