Book Review: Mervyn vs. Dennis by Niels Saunders

 

Video Version:

 

 

 

I’d listed wholesome hobbies like gardening and Pilates while my real interests were horror films and binge drinking. Lies upon lies, it didn’t end there…”

I first discovered Niels Saunders on my WordPress Reader. He had few blog posts on his site nielssaunders.com and at the time, he was promoting his new book. What really caught my eye was the cover of this gem right here. I know, super vain right? It reminded me a bit of Andy Warhol and as I read the story inside, the cover made even more sense.

This was in the spring, and Niels had just released his second book Grand Theft Octo which sounded hilarious as well, but I wanted to check out Mervyn vs. Dennis first.

This was part of my summer reading list and I shamelessly asked Niels for an ARC, something I don’t normally do. Really, I was just testing to see if he would respond to my poke and he did. Never fear though, I bought the paperback version as I think it is a wonderful design and as it turns out, I enjoyed his writing.

 

Book Description:

Deep in debt, Mervyn Kirby gets a job he doesn’t want by pretending to be racist. His new boss Dennis Lane thinks he’s found a kindred spirit. When Mervyn confesses he’s not really racist, Dennis thinks it’s just part of the act. Day by day, to Mervyn’s horror, Dennis worms his way into Mervyn’s private life. Despite his fears, Mervyn is torn: his new job pays well but he despises Dennis and everything he stands for. How far will Mervyn go to free himself? How far will Dennis go to become friends? Will they settle their differences or end up killing each other? And why are so many shifty people carrying pineapples around town?

Ah, the pineapples. Love that part of the story and I believe Niels could do a lot with this concept as far as social media is concerned. If only I were his publicists…

 

What I liked about this Book:

The characters are hilarious. From the self-depreciating author to the near stalker Dennis, and all the co-workers at the video game testing lab. The girlfriend and the banter with sandwiches was great too. By far, my most favorite character was Braithwaite, the elusive and super-star CEO that knows just how to rocket a party. At nearly every turn, Saunders introduces a strange quirk or reveals hilarious humanity with candid dialogue between the troop.

The book also starts with something I am all too familiar with: Check out the dark absurdity in my  Letter to a Prospective Employer or The poem The Dreaded Interview in Worked Stiff: Poetry and Prose for the Common.

Niels takes this sentiment a step further and is superb in his presentation. That grumbling voice that holds back a loud shout in the street. Whether you are in America or England, if you are a young man, you are likely underemployed and pissed off.

I saw a 1-Star review on Amazon that cited that they liked the story but were lost with the young male language. Well, that is who this book is about, go figure, and I appreciate it very much. His protagonist Mervyn Kirby (1st person POV) begins dazzling prospective employers with ridiculous fonts and clip-art(!), of all things, on his CV. I will now have to try this. All of his experiences are lies and he has been led into this desperation, did not choose it for himself. The final straw is pretending to be racist and it actually worked! Brilliant, Saunders captures the frustration of our generation in only a few chapters.

The author’s snarky description of setting is great as well:

His office was so normal, it looked like a porn set. His face was so generic, it looked like a disguise.

Such a great line and an economy of words.

There are so many funny quotes in this book. The three nights it took me to read it, my wife was startled on several occasions by my laughing out loud in the darkness of our lair. I have not done this is quite some time and it felt great:

Don’t you dare call me a homophobe. This is the friendliest gay-friendly non-gaybar in town. 

Then I saw the fridge. It was one of those monstrous American ones with double doors and its own ice maker…

What? Niels, what kind of fridge do you have? I must have a British fridge because it is boring, scratched up, and makes awful noises in the night.

Besides golfing with Braithwaite, my favorite (that is how you spell it) scene is the party scene. The mayhem, the drugs, the free booze, the music, the girls, and Dennis with his music were the perfect mixture of chaotic debauchery and adventure.

Again, characterization and setting were masterful in this book. Every time I open a page, I am reminded of another funny character with their quirks. Mervyn’s brother is a great example. They are all mixing it up together and a true human side of life is shown throughout the dialogue.

 

What I Didn’t Like About this Book:

 

I enjoyed the ending sure enough, and I am not going to spoil anything here because I do think it is worth a read, or I wouldn’t be doing this review. I’m not a fan of how it unfolded, how the author lifted the veil and explained the origin of the story. This was the author’s choice. Since he is Mervyn in a way, I can’t blame him for taking the story in that quite natural direction. I was all caught up, until the author told me to stop being caught up so I could learn how it all went down. It’s a tactic, just not one that I was thrilled with.

This is not for the faint of heart. I know, all us Americans are Puritan prudes on the outside while we wag our finger and oppress in public. Get us behind closed doors, though, and we’re all like Dennis’ sister, whips and chains and naughty games. I am only saying this as a disclaimer to my readers who may not be ready for a sexually charged roller-coaster that includes low-brow humor as an appetizer. There are some surprises which I found funny, but some may not.

 

What this Does for My Writing:

 

Saunders rarely lagged and has a penchant for the concept that less means more. He believes in periods, I do not, but should. I read WAY too much Edgar Allen Poe and Faulkner growing up and I spend a great deal of editing time trying to tone it down. Saunders does not have this problem, or if he does, he hides it well behind good editing. I can learn something from his style of writing as he is straight to the funny point, no frills. He does not meander or go far off course even though the book is a decent size (264 pages print).

 

I feel like I got through this review and didn’t talk enough about Dennis. He reminds me of a more harmless version of The Cable Guy, played by Jim Carey, who worms his way into the life of another through undying friendship that just doesn’t exist. I wanted him to be there, forever pestering, assuming, denying, and demanding of Mervyn.

4 out of 5 Pineapple Stars

This was a fun summer read. I will be buying his other book Grand Theft Octo as well and reviewing later this fall.

I also think Niels could write a great letter…

Where is your pineapple? I’ve got mine right here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 Tips for Writing Your Own Letters Never Meant to be Read

The deadline for Letters Never Meant to be Read Volume II is upon us and I thought it might be good to open the dialogue for those of you out there who are ready to take the plunge.

Don’t be afraid, if you get in your letters a little past the deadline but before final layout, it may still make it in this edition. If not, I will be publishing many, many more of these books in the future. We are always accepting submissions…

Letters for this series can be to anybody, even yourself if the need be. In that effort, I have created the following Top 10 Tips for Writing Your Own Letters Never Meant to be Read.

 

10. Think of your favorite Government or Private entity

Come on, we’ve all got that favorite line that we have to stand in or please hold music we enjoy. Take a shot across the bow to that DMV office or customer service representative. Tell them you want to speak with their manager. Put them on hold for once and write your letter.

9. We all get Ripped Off

Ok, so it happens. Swindlers and confidence people are out there to get you, and sometimes, you cave and lose. Feel like you’ve been done wrong? Cheated? Get your revenge in words, write them a letter!

8. Think fondly on that Unrequited Love

Wonder what could have been? Wish you found those words years ago? Want to speak the truth? That man you met at that restaurant in Madrid waits for your words. Write a letter to your true, unrequited lover.

7. Go to a Cemetery

A little creepy for some, but I happen to live by one. This often provides countless hours and pages on what could have been. Find your own family plot, or even better, someone else’s family plot. Write letters, don’t take your thoughts to the grave.

6. Think Outside the Box

A letter to the owner of that hotel that gave you bedbugs? How about a letter to a broken, public toilet? Your stubborn uni-brow hair? That fish you caught and let go or ate? The ideas and words are endless.

5. Write a Letter for Someone Else to Someone Else

Seen atrocity in your time? Want to do something about it? Have a friend that is cheating on another friend? You can easily disengage your own feelings and put yourself in another person’s shoes. Go ahead, practice true empathy.

4. For Your Younger Self to Open

Think of a letter that you wished you could send back in time to your younger self. Examine the hard truths and fun lessons you’ve learned along the way. Date it: Open by ______ ____ if that helps.

3. Think about all the Money

Yes, you could make money just by getting things off your chest. This provides a wholesome way to air your grievances anonymously while making a little side cash. Rusty Wheels Media, LLC. pays generous royalties by contract to writers who contribute three or more letters in the collection.

2. Dance More, Worry Less.

Music can really get the juices flowing when it comes to writing letters. Blast your favorite oldies or modern hip-hop right into the next room. Dance to your heart’s desire while dictating letters to your personal assistant.

1. Keep Your Thoughts Organized

Letters should tell a story and be complete, nothing left on the table (or under). Grab those gems from under the rug and hold them in the light. Describe them, feel them, make others understand. To do that, you must be clear and concise. Go crazy if the need be, but make it a planned crazy. One way to plan your letters is to jot down the key points you want to address, leaving room on the page for your interwoven thoughts and transitions. Go on the journey yourself and take others along with the finished product, a letter I’m sure you’ll be proud of.

 

Happy Writing and We Look Forward to Hearing From You!

 

 

Book Review: Lust, Money & Murder Books 1-3.

Video Version:

 

 

WARNING- I received a free Audible credit from the author Mike Wells to review this book (bribery). Well, not exactly because I COULD have used the credit on ANYTHING to include Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology that I’ve had my ear on…

But I did the right thing. Besides, I enjoyed Mike’s last book that I reviewed Passion, Power & Sin so much that I gave his work another go. I burned through these 10 hours in about 2 days while getting ready. driving, and cooking dinner.

 

Book Description:

Born in the worst suburb in Pittsburgh, Elaine Brogan is bright, beautiful and bold. When her father is falsely arrested for passing counterfeit $100 bills, Elaine vows to become a Secret Service agent and track down the man responsible. After barely surviving the arduous Secret Service Training Academy in Laurel, Maryland, she is transferred to bleak and blustery Great Falls, Montana.

But things do not go as planned, and Elaine soon finds herself betrayed and thrown into an adventure that takes her halfway around the world, from dark and mysterious Sofia, Bulgaria, to Moscow Russia, and finally, to Milan, Italy. In the end, will Elaine find the love and happiness she truly seeks…or will she turn to a life of obscene wealth, power and corruption?

 

What I Liked About this Book:

 

I want to talk to you about crime…NOT the ones that I am thinking of committing but counterfeit to the 100th degree, murder, two-timing, and espionage.

Mike Wells has an uncanny ability to take a crime such as counterfeiting, research the heck out of it, and tell a believable, worldly tale that spans several years and country borders.

Both books are led by a strong female heroine who is cute, has some grit, and contains enough moral ambiguity within her small body to get the job done. Elaine Brogan is a great character and I especially enjoyed her origin story to include her college years and her time spent at the secret service academy.

I also enjoyed the concept of counterfeit operations. These went beyond money, and into the realms of dress and apparel. The premier villain, Cattoretti, has a great backstory with humble beginnings in Italy to knock-off and counterfeit tycoon.

Does Mike Wells know what he is talking about? Are the machines and processes he describes real? SURE. I have no idea, but the story-line, again, is so believable that I don’t even care. Truly Entertaining.

The Audible performance was once again superb.

 

What I Didn’t Like About this Book:

 

Formula much? The formula for this plot is almost identical to the last book.

Let me throw together the recipe for you:

  1. Female heroine with troubled past who is so driven that obstacles blow themselves up in her undying path.
  2. Main Villain with everything. He is clever, charming, comes from a poor background, but is also a killer.
  3. A regular guy hero with special attributes.
  4. High Crime that spans national borders- in this case, counterfeit.
  5. An awkward side-villain who has some strange bedroom behaviors and his even weirder partner.
  6. Ancillary characters that sometimes have deep background info, sometimes die, but always play a role in the progression of the story.
  7. It all works out in the end. Or does it?

 

Voila! You have both of these books. I’m not going to lie, this is quite entertaining. Even though it is formulaic, plenty of the top sellers that are going like hotcakes in the airport right now are the same way. Can’t exactly knock a good thing, and I figure Mike has plenty of tricks up his sleeve a this one goes on until newly released book 11.

Hard to knock something that works.

But I don’t think that I can read Baby Talk, sorry Mike. I am interested in Wild Child and The Wrong Side of the Tracks though, both from around 2014.

 

What this Does for My Writing:

I thought I wrote a crime novella, Modern Waste, and am working on the next Worked Stiff: Crime Does Pay, but my little meth-driven capers in the backwoods and petty thieves of North Georgia couldn’t hold a candle to the criminal empire building that Mike creates.

I do like these books and it makes me think about my own formulas. I took some jabs at it above, but if it pays the bills and people are happy and entertained, who cares?

Again, Mike Wells has so many series and books that he probably wrote one while I was filming and writing this silly blog.

His common use of strong female leads also provide inspiration for my own.

 

4- Stars. 

I certainly recommend these books to anyone who just wants to sit on the beach this summer and chill with a good yarn. You can span a lot of time and territory with Mike’s work and you don’t even have to get locked up!

 

 

Book Review: The Way of Men by Jack Donovan

 

“It’s tragic to think that heroic man’s great destiny is to become economic man, that men will be reduced to craven creatures who crawl across the globe competing for money, who spend their nights dreaming up new ways to swindle each other. That’s the path we’re on now. What a withering, ignoble end…”
―Jack Donovan, The Way of Men

 

Video Version:

 

Who is Jack Donovan? I didn’t know and that was fine. Then, I stumbled upon his work, a conceptual analysis of masculinity. I wondered: How did I get so far off course? Where did I go wrong? Where are my friends? My brothers? Why am I ashamed of The Way of Men?

I have to admit that for most of my life, I have been searching for something. A group, a religion, a cause, somewhere to belong, somewhere to be. This is one of the reasons I joined the Army, to be a part of a brotherhood. For the comradery, the mutual respect, the guidance, the paratrooping, and the sacrifice. I am not saying that I found what I was looking for in this book, but perhaps I’ve been looking in the wrong places.

“If you are never truly challenged in a meaningful way and are only required to perform idiot-proofed corporate processes to get your meat and shelter, can you ever truly be engaged enough to call yourself alive, let alone a man?”

―Jack Donovan, The Way of Men

I want to be the first to tell you that this is NOT a feminist-bashing book or a guide to be a cool jerk and pick up women. This book, like most analyses of life, WILL NOT tell you what to do to be successful. Instead, it offers a hard slap that reveals reality after the headache subsides. It awakens us to the dangerous path that men face should we tramp along, maintaining the gaze at our shoes. This book also stresses the importance of being a part of a tribe.

Description:

What is masculinity? Ask ten men and you’ll get ten vague, conflicting answers. Unlike any book of its kind, The Way of Men offers a simple, straightforward answer-without getting bogged down in religion, morality, or politics. It’s a guide for understanding who men have been and the challenges men face today. The Way of Men captures the silent, stifling rage of men everywhere who find themselves at odds with the over-regulated, over-civilized, politically correct modern world. If you’ve ever closed your eyes and wished for one day as a lion, this book is for you.

 

What I Liked About This Book:

I could quote Donovan for days. This is the kind of book that one reads which makes you highlight entire sections and say: You Know What? He’s Right.

The author takes on the challenge of describing the difference between being a good man and being good at being a man.

“Being good at being a man isn’t a quest for moral perfection, it’s about fighting to survive. Good men admire or respect bad men when they demonstrate strength, courage, mastery or a commitment to the men of their own renegade tribes. A concern with being good at being a man is what good guys and bad guys have in common.”  

―Jack Donovan, The Way of Men

Donovan’s keen observations on the turning of our society is not just backed by jargon alone. His use of quotes and research is relentless. He provides historical examples in context but gives the reader enough to chew on without being arrogant.

Where do I go from here? What do I do? Are these simply things to keep in mind, a new mode of being, a way of looking at the world? This book has enlightened me enough to be proud of who I am. It has taught me to be less apologetic, less explanatory, and therefore, less problematic.

 

What I Didn’t Like About This Book:

I still don’t know who Jack Donovan is and I remain uncertain. Yet, I am intensely intrigued and scared at what I may find. An illusion? A better Man?

I think that some may pick this book up believing that it will tell them what to do. It does not. To be fair, it starts to at the end when Donovan suggests to Form a Gang. His other books, also on my Summer Reading List, may be more practical in nature but this is more food for thought on the meaning of masculinity in our time.

I had to break this book up over a few weeks as I found his style of writing and citation both intense and overbearing. Why? I often read three books at a time with such eagerness. I read magazines, newspapers, and blogs. How could this book throw such a wrench in my reading machine? Easy, because it made me think too much.

It’s hard to knock a book for making you think. This book was too short and very dangerous. I will read it again.

This made me question a great deal, yet still I wonder who is the man behind the book? A complicated man, to be sure.

His controversial book Androphilia was reportedly “…required reading for young homosexual men looking for an alternative to disco balls, rainbow flags and celebrity gossip.” – Just Out, Portland. What? Jack Donovan is gay? Might be. Ok, fine.

How has he come to such conclusions? Is he for real? How does he live these principles he describes? I have no doubt that a day with Jack Donovan would change me forever, which is a tad scary.

This brings me to another point: accessibility.

“Western men are supposed to constantly ask women for permission and make sure women don’t feel threatened or undermined in any way.”

―Jack Donovan, The Way of Men

I know what he means and I see myself fall into certain traps with regards to my interpersonal relationships. Yet, I wonder how many would be turned off? How many men with daughters like me would have difficulty swallowing a hard truth?

This is no way means that I think Donovan should have made this work more accessible or watered down. Bitter pills are best swallowed whole.

“Honor Diversity” is an interesting slogan, because it essentially means “honor everyone and everything.” If everyone is honored equally, and everyone’s way of life is honored equally, honor has no hierarchy, and therefore honor has little value according to the economics of supply and demand. “Honor diversity” doesn’t mean much more than “be nice.”

―Jack Donovan, The Way of Men

 

 

What this Does for My Writing:

This tops the charts with Branding. From cover design, to his small press, to his social media, Jack is a work of art. This makes sense, it is what he studied. His covers are instant T-shirts and highly recognizable. I actually tried to emulate his simple yet tragic style on my Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss cover. He himself is a masculine figure which commands idolization. I would follow him into a jungle, I think. Is that where we are going Jack? 

Reading this book has made me want to write a guide for young men. I think that men ages 13-22 could do well learning some of these principles, especially with regards to honor.

Earlier, I reviewed The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green. The diction in that book makes me narrate my life as I live it and want to write. I do not get the same effect from The Way of Men. Instead, I think hard and long about my own plight, and that of the universe. This is one of the reasons this relatively short book took me so long to read.

 5-Stars

Be careful friend, should you tread down this wild path.

Jack Donovan’s website

Jack Donovan’s podcast Start The World

Jack Donovan on YouTube

 

More Books by Jack Donovan:

 

Book Review: Passion, Power & Sin – Books 1-5: The Victim of a Global Internet Scam Plots Her Revenge by Mike Wells

 

I feverishly listened to this title by Mike Wells after finding him on Twitter. I had several posts where I called upon my fellow indie authors for suggestions on what to listen to and review next on Audible. Nobody loves me, as it were, and I was left to my own devices.

Author Bio:

Mike Wells is an American bestselling author of over 20 “unputdownable” thriller and suspense novels, including Lust, Money & Murder and Passion, Power & Sin. He is also known for his young adult books, such as The Mysterious Disappearance of Kurt Kramer, The Wrong Side of the Tracks, and Wild Child, which are used by English teachers in high schools and colleges worldwide. Formerly a screenwriter, Wells has a fast-paced, cinematic writing style. His work is often compared to that of the late Sidney Sheldon, with strong and inspiring female heroes, tightly-written scenes, engaging action/dialogue, and numerous plot twists. He currently lives in Europe and has taught in the Creative Writing program at the University of Oxford.

 

Talk about branding! And “unputdownable” is right. I blew through the 20+ hours of these five books in less than a week (partly thanks to commute and stakeouts). Mike Wells’ work is his own brand, complete with predictable cover design and profitable categories. He has got his thing here and he does it well. I’m glad to have stumbled upon his work.

 

Book Description:

One spectacular financial scheme. One woman alone against the world. Young, beautiful, and yearning for love, Heather Bancroft meets the “perfect” man…and is lured into a game in which she begins to make more money than she ever imagined. Betrayed by her own innocence, she loses all that is dear to her and discovers that she has been mercilessly used. Defeated and broken, but surviving with sheer persistence and ingenuity, Heather emerges from her trying ordeal, determined to punish the ruthless man who destroyed her life. Her thirst for revenge takes her halfway around the globe, to the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, where her nemesis secludes himself in obscene wealth that he’s gained from the financial ruin of others. Heather is playing for the highest stakes in a lethal game. Only one man loves her – he’s handsome, confident, and just as determined as she is. Only one man can stop her – a criminal mastermind who is intent on her destruction.

 

What I Liked about this Book:

 

I sometimes look for value when using my precious Audible credits. At a run time of 21 hours and 4 minutes, this book provided a lot of air time and is jam packed with twists and turns. I loved the opening scene which showed the antagonist and his doings first before going to the protagonist Heather Bancroft.

Characterization was great in this book, even minor characters had a soul and some dark secrets to boot. The protagonist Heather Bancroft is morally ambiguous yet somehow centered. She is both pretty and practical, driven by emotion, while still cunning. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the redhead just a little.

I absolutely love books and movies that span a great deal of time and space. Up for some international travel? Well, you can surely find it here. Heather tramps across New York, France, the old Soviet block, Turkey, the Mediterranean, and Japan.

If you are looking for a good beach read or need to kill time on an international flight, this will do the trick. You’ll be entertained, you’ll commit some white collar crimes, and you’ll have fun along the way.

 

What I didn’t like about this book:

 

Some of the twists were unbelievable, even for Heather Bancroft, but it is entertaining. The author also seems to have an imbalance of “show verses tell” but maybe that’s the point. If he didn’t tell some of the scenes, this book would be twice as long which might not fit into Mike’s audience.

The ending. Without giving anything away, I feel the ending was abrupt and unexplained a bit. How did she have a reunion in France without the authorities ruining the party? I asked this of myself and made a note.

 

What this does for My Writing:

 

Yet another author that I feel could write circles around me and is probably doing so as we speak. He spans a lot of time, covers a good bit of ground, and makes me wonder in sickening delight, just how long it took him to write these books. Everything is reasonably believable, and straight to the point. I would love to take some lessons from him and cringe as he crosses out in red all of my useless explanations and garbage.

I believe his branding style could be adapted to my gritty crime novel Modern Waste, a book I have mostly written a sequel for but I am worried that nobody cares about.

I will need to investigate Mike Wells further to figure out how he sells books, as it is certainly worth noting. He seems to have book 1 in every series as free with some configuration of package deals.

 

This book is an easy read and can be picked up and put down on your beach blanket over and over again. You won’t avert your eyes or ears long as it keeps you enticed, just to see what Heather encounters next.

4- Stars

Mike’s blog

Connect with Mike on Twitter and Facebook

Book Review: New Horizons by Joanne Van Leerdam

 

 

I first got serious about Joanne’s work on Twitter when I halted my incessant scrolling for answers. I was stopped short by the cover of her poetry book titled Stained Glass– This is the best cover I’ve seen in like forever so Joanne has to tell me who designed it.

 

 

 

 

I’m not in the poetry mood yet. as I am about to release my own short story collection (whenever the cover design is done), and, I am really into writing the short form right now. So, I checked out everything else by Joanne and bought New Horizons instead. I will read and review Stained Glass in a few weeks though.

Description:

A change of scenery. A new direction. A break in the weather.
Who hasn’t hoped for something different at some point in their life?

These sixteen short stories offer insights into how people respond when they encounter experiences and events they have not foreseen, or when they discover new horizons in their lives.

 

What I liked about New Horizons:

This book was settling and comforting in a way that I was not expecting. She must be a decent poet because her word choice and melody in this short form is astounding. No story is more than a handful of pages, and without counting, I’m sure some of them might be considered flash. One could read this book in under an hour as I did, or a story a day with your morning coffee.

I felt most of her tales were inspiring and left me wanting to know more about the characters, even the secondary. Each focuses on one character facing some kind of new beginning. Yawn all you want now, but there is some real depth here, and a kind of tease into the satisfaction of gossip or living vicariously.

Even small, supporting roles have their place and form here. Check out this excerpt from “Time Will Tell”:

A nurse works at her station on the corner of the small, cool room, making notes: a silent witness of every dreadful moment.

 

I teach English at an orphanage and work with children who are often in and out of foster homes. The story “Rube” really hit home for me and I believe it to be my favorite. Sorry Joanne, that’s favourite. This is the last line:

Heading for the railway station, Rube’s stride was brash and confident, but the tune he hummed was melancholy.

 

“The Karma Train” was another good one and it had me thinking for a moment that these were all parables in a way, life lessons for the willing. There is a steady theme of starting over and moving on that is hard to get away from.

Then, I found it. The dark and twisted side of reality shown through and I was in my special, evil place. “Coward” knocked my socks off with its form and economy of words:

They all think I’m a coward. That I couldn’t have done it. That I’d never fight back. But they’re wrong.

“A Most Educational Quiz” was very clever in the telling, I even read it twice, once to my wife out loud.

“Lucy” was another tasty treat as we danced in the dark once again, sin and ambition.

 

What I didn’t like:

Layout issued are paramount but should be an easy fix for the author. I’m reading on a Kindle Fire HD 8″ . This was so short that I didn’t read it on anything else as I sometimes do at work.

I’ll pay 2.99 because I write everything off like a wild bandit but I’m not sure everyone else would. My mom will after she reads this post. The author would do best by writing more and more and posting this for .99 cents. Kindle Unlimited wouldn’t do much for this title because of length but who am I to know such things?

“Revelation” should be a Letter in Letters Never Meant to be Read. It was more of a rant and didn’t quite have a place after “Lucy”.

It was strange to end with “Late Fall” because there was no suspense or cliff to hang, but that may be the point considering the subject matter. Still, in a house full of tease, I wanted more of that kind.

 

What this does for my writing:

It is so nice to bask in the real once again and feel the morphing and twisting of human nature. I can’t thank Joanne for all the evil thoughts either, it was the parlor crowd inside my head and their commentary. Sometimes, you have to go home and mix it up a little. Don’t know what I mean, do you? No, you wouldn’t.

When I was reading “Rube” I stumbled on this passage:

He didn’t want to go to the pokey country town school with all the farmers’ kids who couldn’t think of anything better than to grow up and work on the farm with their dads.

Oh the mayhem that occurred in my brain and the evil laugh I am giving off right now. Thank you Joanne for giving me the fuel to douse my barn with. Not really, but let’s just say that I have the perfect story idea that involves a steep body count and a poor farmer’s son. I made a few scribbles in my notepad before reading on and I am happy for the lead.

5-Stars

So I’m pretty much going to read everything by Joanne Van Leerdam but she better tell me where I can get a physical copy of Stained Glass or I will pitch a fit and blame the local banker for the trouble. Her work is soothing, calm, yet it packs a punch that leaves you waiting for another turn at the potter’s wheel.

Joanne van Leerdam’s blog: https://wordynerdbird.com/

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Review- Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book by Derek Murphy

 

 

I know, I am late to the party again with this 2013 release with 2016 forward but… I have a funny story to tell.

First, the Description:

How to sell a ton of books (even if you’re starting with no platform). If you’ve found this book I’m assuming you have or will soon have a book out on the market, and are exploring ways to turn it into a best-selling powerhouse that will slaughter the competition and pay for your retirement. The indie publishing world is thrilling because of the possible returns, and I hope you and your book do well. You’re probably searching for things like “book marketing” and “book promotion” so you can learn how to find readers and convince them to buy your book. But almost everything you read will be wrong.That’s because marketing in general is dead. Advertising is dead. Selling and convincing people to buy: also dead. The new law of book sales is this: if you’re talking about your book, promoting your book, sharing your book… you’re screwing it all up. Don’t make “Old School” marketing mistakes that will sabotage your efforts! This book will help you to…

  • Avoid the common mistakes that kill book sales
  • Set up an author platform quickly that will triple your results
  • Use Social Media (like an expert) without being annoying
  • Advertise for maximum impact (at the lowest cost)
  • Make powerful friends online who can move thousands of books

Before you spend a lot of money on book marketing services or author publicity… Make sure you’ve plugged all the holes in your sales funnel so you’re not throwing money away. If you’re looking for a “Bestseller Campaign” but don’t have a big budget… This book will show you plenty of ways to improve sales without spending a dime.

Now the Funny:

Over the past year, I have seen Derek Murphy on You Tube while searching in a desperate, late-night manner for help with book marketing. His awkwardness and his soothing gravel-voice always put me at ease. I took in and nodded at everything he said.

I’m a good student, I swear. After all, I learned Russian in a year from those ladies at DLI and somehow survived. But I didn’t practice what Derek Murphy preached. While I nodded, agreed, and clicked on more videos, my left hand looked for quick fixes. Those one-time bandits in the book marketing world.

About a month ago, I was on a long stakeout (I moonlight as a Private Investigator) and I had Audible credits burning a hole in my pocket. I searched “book marketing” and found this book.

I did not, however, put the author and the videos I already watched together. Perhaps because I work 3 jobs + writing. Perhaps I am my own worst enemy.

This book is a new template for my Battle Plan. Because I want Letters Never Meant to be Read to be a thing, and because I want Letters pouring in from all over the world, I needed some guidance.

What I Liked:

This book is full of the basic concepts that don’t require an attempt at bludgeoning new readers into advertised submission.

Derek Murphy talks about marketing as we know it far into the actual book. He emphasizes having your pages, cover, reviews, and author platform in place before putting any money up for advertisement.

Also, the concept of stacking marketing efforts is much easier for my military brain to understand and more clever than hoping on those one-offs.

Unlike what most people think of authors, I am an extrovert and I love to make friends.

This is a blessing and a curse. Pitching my book to people is easy in person. Where I have failed in the past with social media is blasting “Buy My Book!” type stuff which Murphy warns against. I now see how silly this is. It’s hard to stop.

Instead, I need to use my talents for making friends and be the all-around likable guy I already am. I NEED to actually meet people on the web, which is awkward for me even though I can talk on the phone for days.

I am doing this, Derek Murphy. I am out there replying to Tweets instead of re-Tweeting after reading articles. I used to read anyway, then just re-Tweet. How dumb. These are difficult habits to break.  I feel awkward sometimes, but I just remind myself that most people are real and will respond similar to what they would in person.

I am also working on my battle plan. I have a 15 short story collection coming out soon, and I will make the stars align just as Mr. Murphy suggested. I will align the free days for Letters Never Meant to be Read, I will run simple Facebook ads for my book page, and I will get reviews. Slowly but surely.

The truth is, I like it better and I get discouraged less by marching the slow ground. The easy solution that my left hand looks for, that quick fix, is always there.

In reality, there is no silver bullet to shoot off when it comes to book marketing. I know that now but I have to remember, daily. Derek Murphy explains so many pitfalls, some I have already toppled into, head-first. I feel silly, but I have to keep moving.

 

What I Don’t Like:

If you’re looking for a “Bestseller Campaign” but don’t have a big budget… This book will show you plenty of ways to improve sales without spending a dime.

Yes, it does this OK. I tallied all of his advice and you would need some chump change. If you want to do it “right” you will need a little more. Every time he mentioned a figure, I cringed when I added it to my total. Not his fault, but I am an unfortunate older millennial with 3+ jobs and “My number is negative, I work for a negative number…” 

Of course, I was looking at it through the goggles of my latest Letters Book and I know what I need to do.

Some tasks I’ve already done since reading this book, like fixing my Amazon page, optimizing keywords, and  adjusting my categories using almostfreemoney on Fiverr. Worth every penny.

I’ve signed up for MailChimp but that is as far as I’ve gone so far, sorry Derek. I HATE pop-ups and I only signed up for yours on CreativIndie because I wanted to. For the most part, I ignore my email. I KNOW that email lists are important and I will come around and find my way eventually.

I also  have a hard time with his other section on reviews. I advertised that I would do book reviews on my blog. I did not solicit or ask for  reviews in return. Most of the books I bought and I will continue to buy with Kindle Unlimited or Audible Credits unless I need an ARC to do the review.

Yesterday, I received a nastygram from Amazon with a warning about reviews which I can only assume are the ones I got from other authors or a marketing campaign. Murphy does warn about this. If authors are in the same category, you can get tripped up. I didn’t think I was in competition with any of the reviewers. The Amazon warning, which is not uncommon, doesn’t give specifics, go figure.

This is less of a knock on Derek Murphy and more of a pleading to Amazon. If I lost access to selling books, I don’t know what I would do. This is my dream, my purpose. Amazon doesn’t care and is likely ran by a robot that has no feelings. Still, I need that mean robot.

I also get the feeling from his latest videos that Derek is getting away from helping authors to work on his fiction. That’s understandable. Perhaps I am reading him wrong here, but I need him to stay with me for a little while longer, or come back someday.

How this Book Changes My Writing:

Collaboration. I am working on a psychological thriller now with AM Hounchell and it is quite exiting. I am also thinking about the next book or series in a different light. I want to write something that will market itself. For some of you that think this is selling out, I don’t care, and neither does Mr. Murphy. I want to be prolific. If that means writing what people want to read for awhile, fine. The Beatles did it, then went on to make what they really wanted. In this case, The Beatles and Derek Murphy can’t be wrong.

5 Stars

Ok. I’ve spent some time here and this is a long post. I love this book and have listened to it 2.5 times in the car and at home. I am making my battle plan and this is my manual of sorts. I will have to buy the print version too so I can circle things and make notes. Derek Murphy does mention in a more recent version that there are some things that might not be valid any longer.

I want to thank Derek Murphy for writing this book. I know he sold a bunch of copies the past four years, but he has given me hope. And that, Dear Reader, is priceless.

Derek’s site: Creativindie  Post after post of helpful guidance.

Watch Derek Murphy on YouTube

Follow Derek Murphy on Twitter @Creativindie

 

 

Check out D.S. Murphy’s latest fiction:

 

 

Buy the Reviewed Book here:

 

My Latest Book:

Book Review: The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

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I recently read, or rather, listened to The 48 Laws of Power on audible. My friend had the physical book and I shuddered at the length in print form, but love long books for my listening pleasure in the car. Enjoy history and powerful quotes? This book is packed full of both.

I must warn you though, most people either love or hate this book. If followed directly, it may turn you into a charlatan, or a politician.

Description:

Robert Greene and Joost Elffers have distilled three thousand years of the history of power into 48 essential laws by drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz and also from the lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.
 
Some laws teach the need for prudence (“Law 1: Never Outshine the Master”), others teach the value of confidence (“Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness”), and many recommend absolute self-preservation (“Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally”). Every law, though, has one thing in common: an interest in total domination. In a bold and arresting two-color package, The 48 Laws of Power is ideal whether your aim is conquest, self-defense, or simply to understand the rules of the game.

 

Powerful Quotes from the book (There are so many)

 

“person who cannot control his words shows that he cannot control himself, and is unworthy of respect.”
― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

“Remember: The best deceivers do everything they can to cloak their roguish qualities. They cultivate an air of honesty in one area to disguise their dishonesty in others. Honesty is merely another decoy in their arsenal of weapons.”
― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

“The key to power, then, is the ability to judge who is best able to further your interests in all situations. Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.”
― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

 

More quotes from Robert Greene can be found and interpreted on Goodreads.

 

What I like about this book:

Historical significance. This is packed with examples from history, quotes, and famous writings. Even if you are not interested in “playing the game”, looking at history in this point of view is quite enticing. If you want to find ways to improve your life as a predator, this book will work for you too.

This is not exactly self-help but applying these tactics with historical backing could really set you apart. To a degree, I believe in this book. I think it is important to take the life lessons from history and apply them to your situation. It is also important to understand how those in power achieve it, and how they maintain. Simply ignoring power plays can leave you feeling stranded and alone. At the very least, one can find a way to watch out for the traps of others.

What I don’t like about this book:

This is for the lone wolf. Yes, it does call for socialization to achieve power, but it does not promote the aspects of teamwork. In this light, everyone is using each other. Not exactly team friendly, right? I’m not always a shark to the people I’m trying to collaborate with. Should I be?

Even though I have the ability to manipulate situations, this book does not address a group mindset unless you are the top dog. You have to be willing to assert yourself and bend the will of others to achieve your goals. What about common goals? What about teammates?

4-Stars

Robert Greene has several books of this genre and over 2000 reviews with 4.6 stars on Amazon for this book alone. Must be doing something right.

Research, I imagine all of his books take years to come to fruition and copious amounts of time spent between other people’s pages. Hats off to him and his work. While I don’t want to read this kind of book every day, I will be reading/listening to more of his work with my Audible credits in the future.

How it applies to writing:

This book is well-written and the narration is gold. This spawned some of my writing marathons the past few weeks that had nothing to do with the content of the book. It is always good to branch out and read another genre, especially a work that is crafted in this way. Might have been the narrator, but the work provoked ideas and a writing fury in me that had nothing to do with the book.

Since I have my own narrator that talks to me too much, it’s always nice when I get a change in voice for the better.

Also, as we are all now Authorpreneurs, it is important to keep a business sense as you go out there in the world. Nothing has to be taken literally, but honing in on some aspects of this book will surely keep you from getting ripped off by the book marketing charlatans, of which there are many.

A hilarious, illustrated summary of the 48 Laws can be found here on YouTube

A blog-style cheat sheet can be found here on Sam Parr’s blog 

A link to buy the book on Amazon here

In Review – Letters Never Meant to be Read

REBLOG: Thank you so much for reading our collection.

Dream Village

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Letters Never Meant to be Read by Marc Crepeaux, Kristi Denker, Joel Dockery, Brandon Lawrence, Meghan Rynn
Published by: Rusty Wheels Media, LLC
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 107
Format: Kindle Edition

4-star


About The Book:

Sometimes angry, occasionally sad and often with humorous quotes, the authors of Letters Never Meant to be Read share their views on life with the power of the written word. In the today’s world of 3 second text messaging, emojis and Facebook, most people don’t know how to write a letter that connects with others. Imagine the effect that you could have on the object of your unrequited love, if you could express yourself through letter writing!

Letters Never Meant to be Read contains a compelling series of writings which have been created by five accomplished authors. Immerse yourself in these amazing letters and allow your full range of emotions to be experienced as you…

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