Book Review – Ready Player One

It’s been close to a year or so, that I first heard about Ready Player One. Ladies of Nerditude (shameless plug for these girls – Episode #25: Book Review #2) reviewed it on one of their podcasts. I didn’t listen to the whole episode at that time. They warned of SPOILERS, but I didn’t know anything about the book, so I listened on for a little before I thought I might enjoy it. (I’ve now listened to the whole thing. It’s fun. You should check it out.)

Then… I moved on, forgetting about it entirely until I saw a trailer for the movie. Okay, maybe I should look into this book again.

…but I’ve been rather busy with edits and writing and redoing my house, so I didn’t think I had time to read. BUT… I did have some Audible credits… and WHAT?? Wil Wheaton reads it??? I hit BUY before I really thought it through, and regret nothing.

….and this is another reason why authors should love me, because I don’t just like to listen, I like to read it. Reading is experiencing, using my eyes, so I started to listen, but then had to go buy the book too, so I could read it at night all snuggly in my bed. So, I basically bought the book twice! You’re welcome, Ernest.

This review is on BOTH!

Ready Player One is – one word – FUN! This book appealed to my nerdy soul. I had asked a few friends about reading it and I got mixed reviews. Some thought it was awesome, some couldn’t get into it. I now understand why. There is a very deep-rooted level of nerd that this book reaches, not only gamers or RETRO gamers, but those growing in the early experimental personal consoles and arcade venturing folk. This book hits so many pop culture references that I felt like I was transported back in time watching commercial after commercial. Toys in cereal, Family Ties, Holy Grail, Votron, Rush… every genre-defining 80’s reference was crammed into this book. I feel the author channeling Halliday’s nerd obsession. I can see how some of my gentler down-to-earth friends couldn’t get into it. It’s not for them… but, this book was definitely for me.

The eighties were my fundamental growth years, living in a small home with three older brothers. We didn’t have much, but we did have a ColecoVision.

I remember the year we got it. It was Christmas and we were all so excited. When we opened it, inside was a brick, not the game system at all. My dad returned the brick back to the store and exchanged it just to find another brick in the box. It took us DAYS to finally get our ColecoVision, but once we did, it was MAGIC! The only games we had were Donkey Kong, Venture, and Smurfs – but seriously, they were SO much fun. We grew in our collection and I get pretty good. (My sister STILL has most of our Coleco Vision games and we retro game sometimes. Any time my nephew starts talking smack about being better at video games than me, I pull out Q*Bert and make him play. Games without cheat codes, save spots, and online buddies to co-op.)

This was just the start. I grew up surrounded by games: Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Playstation… my favorites are still on the Dreamcast (Revolt) and PS2 (Timesplitters 2 is still SO MUCH FUN!) and I’m stupidly good at the Sega Genesis original Sonic and Sonic 2. (The world of Sonic has exploded beyond my gaming rations, but I’ve got those two down.)

My gaming has waned over the years, devoting time to book writing and kid rearing, but some of my best times and memories surround sitting at a console and playing with my family and friends.

So… when I first started listening the Wil read Ready Player One, I really had no idea how deep in my childhood it would reach.

Ready Player One is set in a virtual reality-based world placed in a bleak future. The best way to escape is through plugging into the OASIS. Wade Watts is written after my brother Nathan, the BEST video gamer there is, so you know. We would watch him for hours, and he’s still has amazing dexterity and can cream you easily at any game.

So, when I started reading this cyberpunk dystopia, the last thing I expected was a trip back in time. The entire book is jammed with references to every 80’s nerd pop culture reference there is.

When I was listening to it, usually in the car, I had a good time capturing back memories that I had completely forgotten about. This became a problem, since I would get lost in headspace and not pay attention. But, I got to a point where I didn’t want to miss anything, so that’s where I bought the book. I would revisit the chapters I had heard, bonding with the pages and the reading on. It probably took me longer because I reread a bunch. But I loved both ways.

Wil Wheaton does a great job at reading the book. He is perfectly cast. And any time Star Trek: NG was mentioned, I giggled, like all the rest of the listeners. AND nice job too, as the Vice President in 2045! I laughed out loud. The only thing that started to bug me were the ‘then’s. Wil would pause his reading and an excited upturn of the word ‘then’ would happen. It began to hear a ding of a bell every time he did this, like ‘incredulous’ did in the Twilight series. When I looked through the book, the ‘then’s weren’t as noticeable. I will say this… I was in the car when listening to Wil Wheaton recite all the early video game systems. When I heard “Coleco Vision” said with such reverence, I yelled and raised my fist in the air! I was being represented.

But as much as I loved listening, I enjoyed reading it more. The type and font is thoughtful and the graphics for the scoreboard are really fun. And that’s where my memories were made, late at night reading a book and pressing the pages with my tired fingers. It was still a time travel trip through life in the 1980’s. The way Cline described the typical 1980’s home, the gold carpet, the paneled walls to the vintage 80’s arcade with accompanying pizza joint, was spot on to my memories.

I’d like to think Cline did his homework, but I’m leaning more toward Cline knew his stuff. Like my brother, there are so many nerdy gamers that recognize what he’s talking about, and the fact that I caught a lot of the references tells me enough that Cline wanted to write a book that honored his upbringing and something he’d want to read himself. The writer in me forgave his rookie novel because of the sheer fun of it. But it was easy to read, and so much fun, I’ll probably let me teen read it, if not just for the history lesson it teaches.

I don’t know how the Ready Player One movie will compare, but I already know I will need to view them differently– Book AND Movie not Book V.S. Movie. I can see Spielberg’s draw to this, I see it fitting well with his E.T. , Close Encounters, and authentic 80’s cinematography. But, I doubt very much that he could capture the nerd nostalgia that you get from the book. I personally think that to take the words in the book and recreated it would be confusing to a third of the audience. I can see that being a factor in the screenplay. But what I think will be something to look forward to is just how visually stunning the virtual reality world of the OASIS has to be. I’m beyond excited to see that.

This book not only is a good trip down memory lane, but a good retrospective glance to all Millennials that have it tech-easy. Some days in my house we play 1989, and remind my kids how it was to live without instant download or Wikipedia. It’s also a comment on our current videogame culture and how social interaction has become more online than in person. Cline’s vision of the future is not so distant and that is terrifying. We really have an amazing world around us. Yes, Skyrim is also, amazing, I will admit that, but sometimes I just like to go outside, smell fresh air, feel wind, and lay on the real grass and just be.

I recommend Ready Player One to anyone who knows this deep culture and wants the 80’s flashback. For those who don’t understand what I’m talking about but want an 80’s culture fix without watching old John Hughes films, try Stranger Things.

Follow Ladies of Nerditude on Twitter at: @ladiesofnerditude

 

Vampire-ish Cover Reveal – Hypochondria and a Hybrid Author

Big News! I Got Rejected!

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Monica is amazing. Ampersand Book Covers

Before you all start crying for me, don’t. Rejection happens a LOT as a writer. And it’s something you truly never get over. Artists tend to be protective of their creations, and it takes a lot of bravery to release it – every single time. So, to be knocked down and kicked in the stomach repeatedly starts to ware on the spirit.

But, there is a point when you need to come to grips with the rejections you get. Each one you can learn from, so there is a process of improvement, but sometimes, it has nothing to do with your writing, and everything to do with personal preference.

I submitted to an open submission in January. In March, they requested the entire manuscript. Then June 1st, I received their polite rejection and how it doesn’t fit with their current readership.

In my current case, it comes down to genre. And let’s be specific. . . VAMPIRES.

People hear Vampire and automatically turn away. “I don’t read Vampire fiction.” “I’m not into Twilight.” “Vampires. Why are you writing about vampires? That’s ten years ago.” I get rejections from agents strictly because of this. So, I researched who would want vampire fiction. And you know what I heard back? “This is not a vampire story. This is a story that happens to be about a vampire.”

Yep. All true. And I won’t lie, I’m not a vampire reader either. So, why did I write a story about a vampire? Well, sit down and let me tell you a story about me, and also, introduce you to Oliver Brixby.

Stories have origins from someplace. Right? That’s why I always carry a notebook, because I never know when I’ll be inspired. I got the idea of Oliver when, in my day job at the time, a co-worker got splashed in the mouth with platelets.

What in the world kind of job is this? Well, I have spent the last several years working IN a Blood Bank. Who better qualified to write vampire fiction then a vampire.

“Oh, are you a nurse?” No. I work in a laboratory.

“Do you draw blood?” Nope, that’s a phlebotomist.

The short of it, I prepare blood for the nurses and doctors to transfuse. It’s not like the medical dramas that you see stream. Blood is a tricky and highly regulated substance. I understand the mechanics that go into saving a live. It’s really a rewarding and unusual job.

So, going back to my friend and being splashed. Platelets are the white cells that swim in plasma that initiate clotting (oh no, big words). The bag of platelets had ripped during transport and somehow (still don’t know how) splashed him. We all gagged at the thought. But he smiled and said, “Actually, it wasn’t so bad. It tasted like condensed milk.” And me being a total smarty pants commented, “Oh, if vampires only knew.” We giggle at the thought of high society vamps with swirling platelets in their champagne flutes (because they need to be continually moving, eh? Blood Bankers, anyone?) And this single idea led me to Oliver Brixby, the world’s worst vampire.

Socrates once stated,

“No human condition is ever permanent.”

I never comprehended these words. I figured he talked about death or about the improvement of one’s self, but now, I consider an alternative, he actually knew something the rest of us didn’t.

My love for the philosophies of life, which I’ve studied over my epigrammatic college career, led me to a new conclusion, “Socrates must have known about vampires.”

I began writing Vampire-ish 5 or so years ago. The idea of a hypochondriac getting bit by a vampire and learning how to deal with his everyday existence, when squeamish at the sight of blood, absolutely delighted me. I thought for sure it would get picked up. During that time my fantasy series DID get picked up and has since sent me head first into a writer’s life. I remembered Oliver every so often, and sent him off to see if he could do anything good in the world, but as I stated before, no one was interested in vampire fiction.

On June 1st, after another disappointing rejection, something inside me snapped. Several things collided at the same time, my third in the Everstar series had been sent to the editor, as well as a new collaboration with a talented writer, so I really didn’t have time to focus on Ollie and his band of NY vamps. But, I couldn’t leave my disappointment alone. This story needed to be out. Every time I talked about it, people would say, “Oh, I’d totally read that.” So, then the thought came to me even stronger than before – why wait? Oliver’s story needs to be read. And the best publisher is me.

I quickly contacted some of my self-published friends about what I needed to do – cover artists, ISBNs, formatters, marketing. By noon, I had already talked to someone about a cover (Ampersands Book Covers), I had set up a self-publishing profile, I had figured out my marketing strategy, a possible formatter lined up, and I felt encouraged by other writers around me that I was doing the right thing. This was really going to happen. But, now…. I had to actually READ it and see if it was as funny as I remember.

I hadn’t touched this thing in years, so I really needed to do some serious editing. I laughed out loud at some of the things that happen. It plays out in moments, like a situational comedy. And what a tremendous joy I felt when I read THE END. Oliver is coming, and I couldn’t be happier.

Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale will be released at the 8th Annual Northwest Book Festival in Portland, Oregon July 30th. You will find it on Amazon and coming to Salt Lake Comic Con Sept. 1. If anyone is willing to do a book review on Amazon or Goodreads, or even a blogpost – fill out the form below. ARCs will be available shortly.

The world needs to know Oliver Brixby. He needs to know you. And I’m ready to share him with you.

Rejection – not such a bad thing sometimes.

 

Reviewers – An Author’s BFF

Honey Lemon and one of my favorite fans – Daniela

Whenever you meet authors at conferences or conventions, what is one thing we always say, besides the heart-felt THANK YOU? I think it goes something like this:

“I hope you love it. And here’s my card and information, so you can follow what I’m doing. If you can, write a review. I’d love to know what you think.”

I like to take time and thank those who invest in me as an author. I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation for choosing my series over the sea of other authors – and I mean every word. As crazy as this sounds, I didn’t start in this business to sell books, but to create art and find readers and keep them coming back. However, selling is the inevitability, or authors will cease to exist. Books are art, a creative expression and collaboration, but they are also a business, and artists like myself are losing.

There is a price with selling, and not just the cost of the book. I’ve said many times that authors are the worst at selling their books. Unless they have a knock-out elevator pitch, they frankly know too much about the story. Where should we start? What would grab their attention? What part would they like most? I think they’d like all the parts. And like Tommy Boy, we inevitably, kill the sale.

So, when I have someone interested, and I know they will absolutely love it, and YES, they bought a book – it’s a celebration. I have a new best friend, a fan, and they are so precious to me.

Many of my readers I meet at cons or author events, where I’m present to sign their books and talk with the readers one-on-one. Many are teens and aspiring writers. I love that interaction. I’d never trade it.

12039499_10101364253906231_2632341432076338814_nBut, here is the problem that I have, it doesn’t translate to sales on Amazon.

Amazon is a juggernaut, driving sales of our products and controlling a lot of what we can do as authors. The truth is we have to play the Amazon game in order to show PROOF we are a validated author. The main way on Amazon to prove our validity is through reviews. If someone buys my book on Amazon, an email will be generated and asks for a customer review. If you buy an ebook, it’s an easy click to review and you’re done.

So, as much as I love meeting and talking with readers, it doesn’t turn my rating on Amazon.

Amazon is so big that a small fish like me is not going to matter that much to them. I am in the invisible bottom-feeding ocean, along with the other creative creatures that flounder, making their own way to survive. I’ve been swimming in the ratings around hundreds of thousands for a while, until I learned a few secrets. There is a magic number of reviews, if you didn’t know, that needs to be met in order for Amazon to pay attention to you. Once you hit that number Amazon is like, “Hey, this might make us money. Let’s pair it with this and see if we can get more hits?” Do you get those emails or bottom scrolls that show you this? It’s a game of numbers. As an author, I have zero control over this. It’s completely in reviewers’ hands.

Goodreads, owned by Amazon, has become a good friend. Readers love networking with other readers and authors- it’s a symbiotic relationship existing in an internet realm all about books. Several of my readers are a part of this world as well and celebrate their thoughts in this cyber-community. But, I’m having the same kind of breakdown with my readers, not because of the cultivation, but because of the age – several of my readers are not on Goodreads or Amazon, because, candidly, they are not old enough.

Isn’t that a funny conundrum?

There are other ways to break the Amazon code, but several I don’t have control over. Sell a lot in one day, Amazon pays attention. Kindle-Unlimited is an amazing tool if you have control of your books. Setting up a FREE book through them could spike your rating to INFINITY, but being with a small press, I don’t have that freedom or control either. There are so many circumstantial variations to this game, what works for some, doesn’t always work for others. Nothing is going to work the same for everyone, so please don’t hurry and run out and sign up for these programs thinking you’ll be an overnight success. But what I am coming to understand is my limitations with control when it comes to Amazon – you have to play or you drown.

So, I’ve come up with a plan…

As a reward for finishing the hardest book I’ve ever written, my third and concluding novel to my series, EVERSTAR, I thought about rewarding myself. I wanted an art piece, something I could frame and display in my home, a reminder of this staggering accomplishment. I contacted Khai Vinh of Ghost Illustrations.com and commissioned a painting of my world. What he came up with is beyond stunning. He drew for me Southwick, the southern most point and the capital in my world of Parbraven. He captured it at the most pivotal point in the series, simply put – at the end. The artwork is full of secrets only a fan would notice and I decided that this couldn’t be just for me, this needs to be shared.

And this is where all of you come in.

I’m giving a print of this beautiful painting exclusively to those who place a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It seriously is something I’m so proud of and special to me. To share it with you makes me all warm inside. I had a parent post for her son, who loved my books, but didn’t have an amazon account, so it’s still possible if you want your kids to have some wall art in their room.

Click here: WRITE A REVIEW

This link will take you to my page where you can fill out your name, email, and where you posted. I’ll follow up and send you one of these posters FREE! I’ll even sign it if you like. I’m looking for honest reviews, of course. Fives stars are wonderful, but I know that my book is not everyone’s taste. Readers needs to know if this book is for them. This is my THANK YOU for taking your time and sharing your thoughts on my art.

Authors need you. Regardless of where you bought the book, reviews are IMPORTANT. They are an essential part of a delicate author ecosystem, like algae to coral reef, a sustainable resource that can keep us creating, producing, and gifted back to you. The only way we survive in such a huge ocean is with a little help from our friends – you, our readers.