Monthly Archives: July 2011

Progress Report #5 — Week 5

This is actually Progress Report #4, but I was sick last week and didn’t get around to it.  This last week, I had three sales that I can’t account for (always a good thing).  Progress is slow, but I am progressing on the novel.  I hope it will be ready in a few weeks.  More on that process and my co-author very soon!

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Grandfather & the Raven Book Review

I’m pleased to recommend a book I just read by George Polley.  Mr. Polley lives in Hokkaido, Japan and has written two books (I haven’t read the other one yet) in a style reminiscent of Japanese folk tales–mukashi banashi.  Sort of.  It is written in a way that both children and adults would find charming.  Download the free preview to get a taste of his writing to see what I mean.

The Raven is Grandfather’s friend and mentor.  Through the eyes of these two, be prepared to experience a universe where good is vindicated and the world just seems like it is a better place–and after reading this book, I think it is.

I loved the language and style.  It was perfect for a story about a gentle and loving ojiisan, Grandfather in Japanese.  It reminds me of the best of Thornton Burgess’ stories about Ready Fox but with a Japanese twist.  Even more striking is how Mr. Polley smoothly transitioned from “reality” (humans don’t understand ravens–of course not!) to even the policeman hearing the raven in perfect Japanese. 

There are morals to the stories that are sometimes obvious, usually not.  But in every case, the stories do not hit the reader over the head with a message.  Different readers may take away different things from the book.  

The language is simple and accessible.  Each story is short enough to be read in a single sitting or during bed-time storytime.  This could easily be one of the top five to ten books to keep on your child’s bed stand.  

Get it for .99 for your Kindle or as a book for $9.99.

Adrian Magson’s Red Station Review on Kindle

I mentioned in the previous post that I had read a book by Adrian Magson.  I meant to write this on Sunday, but life and work… well, you know.

It has great pacing, not a boring page that I can remember.  I was able to “get into” the characters quickly and that greatly added to the enjoyment.  I’m looking forward to the sequel! (see bottom)

I’d rather look at it from a writer’s point of view so I’ll just quote one line from the book to describe Harry Tate and copy the editorial review found on Amazon to describe the basic story:

Men like Harry Tate were wild cards in the intelligence community, quiet and diligent most of the time, but apt to go off like a firecracker if something got under their skin.

And from the Amazon product page:

When a drug bust on the Essex coast commanded by MI5 agent Harry Tate goes bad, resulting in the deaths of a member of his team and two civilians, Harry’s superiors post him to Red Station (located in Georgia near South Ossetia), where agents who have committed serious errors are tucked away from the eyes of the press. Harry soon figures out that the job is a sham and that those agents who decide to try to return to England wind up dead. He manages to escape Red Station with some of his fellow black sheep just as the Russian army moves into the area, as it did in real life in August 2008.

It is a fun story as you can imagine.  Think Patrick Mcgoohan’s The Prisoner but without the weirdness; “Red Station” is very believable.

OK, so on to the language.  There were moments where Mr. Magson’s descriptive language made a good story great.  For example, Harry is in a meeting with his bad-guy boss and there is a stranger in the corner listening.  He isn’t introduced to Harry but it is obvious he is someone important — he does learn who he is toward the end.  (No, I won’t tell you.)

‘Why?’ Harry stared at his superior, then flicked a glance at a heavy figure standing in one corner.  The man, nameless and grey as battleship paint, had said nothing when Harry had entered the room, and there had been no introductions.

“Nameless and grey as battleship paint” — Now, that’s great.  It painted an image in my head that stayed throughout the novel.  When Harry figured out who he was, I knew he was the battleship paint guy.

Another place describes the American “journalist” Higgins’ suit: “His suit looked as if it had been used to bed down a donkey.”

One thing I look for in a novel now is how chapters begin and end.  Here is a good opener:

George Paulton eyed the bodies assembled in the large room and sensed his spirits stirring.  An emergency meeting had been called and the air of excitement was palpable.  He noticed a number of eyes normally dulled by the mundane, gleaming with an inner fire.

“Spirits stirring,” “air of excitement palpable,” dull eyes now “gleaming with an inner fire.”  Oh, yes. I’m there.

Another great passage is when Harry Tate is interrogating his prisoner (a man who broke into his house and had been following him).  He was tied up in the bathroom:

He took his coffee to the bathroom.  There was nothing like the aroma of best roasted to make a man feel uncomfortable.  A classic softening-up technique, mostly recommended now to people selling houses.

I remember being advised that I should brew a pot for potential buyers when we were getting our house ready for sale.  This is a nice tie-in with something normal people can relate to.

The book should have wide appeal. No major profanity.  No graphic description of violence.  For example, this is about the most graphic it gets:

He dropped to one knee, a stone gouging sharply against the bone, and felt the first wave of agony stitch across his upper body.  A flesh wound, he told himself, and felt an impulse to giggle.  A Monty Python movie.  Only a flesh wound.  Bloody hell, it was still flesh–and it hurt!

I could go on showing examples of phrases I liked, but I think this gives a good sampling of his style and excellent handling of the English language.

Lastly, I think his chapter spacing is perfect (for my tastes, anyway).  I guess each chapter is about 1,500-2,000 words long, just enough to enjoy during a quick sitting and leave you wanting more (which means I will probably keep reading even when I should be washing the dishes).

The negatives are really trivialities:

No table of contents for the Kindle.  I really shouldn’t even mention this since a novel is meant to be read in order page-by-page, but I do like to review chapter headings (if so named) before reading a novel.  It sometimes helps to become familiar with a story.

I didn’t see any other formatting issues on the Kindle.

Then there is the almost $10 (USD) price.  It is a little cheaper than the paper back but not much.  I think he would sell a lot more with a lower price.  But I’m sure that is out of his control.

In short, it was a great spy-thriller and I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in that genre. I like Harry Tate (the hero) and want to read more of him.  The author told me the next book, Tracers, will be on Kindle in August.  It is available now as a hardback.

Progress Report #3 — Week Three

I had three sales this week for Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter.  Whohoo!

Kind of.

Two of those sales are acquaintances.  One is the daughter of a neighbor of mine.  She was in town last week so I told her about the story; she told me she would buy it.  A few days later, I was overjoyed to see an organic sale on Amazon.com!  Seeing her yesterday, I figured out that that “organic” sale was her. 🙂

Still, it was very good.  She said she thoroughly enjoyed it and even went so far as to tell me that she felt like she was actually in the story.  That was nice.  Plus she said to expect a good review from her on Amazon.  (Best news of the day.)

The other sale was from a British author whom I met via Twitter.  I bought his book and although I told him not to buy my ebook (I even sent him a link to download it for free), he did anyway.  That was very kind of him.

The author is Adrian Magson and the book I read was Red Station.  I’ll write a review (glowing to be sure) probably this coming Sunday.

He is very kind and surprisingly responsive on Twitter.