Wendy J. Fox: Reconciling book sales as a debut author

Very interesting read! Reminds me that books are creative works not content to sell. “How many books have you written?” would also be a frightful question, as if we “only” write one, it has less value…

Read Her Like an Open Book

Wendy_J_Fox  The_Seven_Stages_of_Anger_cover

When I found out my first book had been accepted for publication, I did not have dreams of a bestseller or fame; I mostly experienced relief. While I’d published in magazines and anthologies, suddenly there was a book of my own.

There was the sheer, beginning thrill of finally feeling like an author, and then there was the reality of how other folks, people who are not writers, ask about it.

“So, how many books have you sold?” a typical conversation might start.

It’s a hard question to answer. It’s tempting to tell the truth (south of a thousand), and it’s tempting to dodge, oh, it’s not so much about sales, and it’s also tempting to outright lie and say something about how the publisher handles all that, how you’re not really involved, how you only think about it when you get a royalty check.


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A few more YA book series – A short review and a list

Some time ago, I wrote a couple of review articles on books: Book series and Young adult books. Since then I read a few more series and books which I believe could go in either of these lists. Here are these books, in a list, and a short review of them:

  • House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast: The first book is called Marked, there are 6 books in the series. Story is about a vampire school in the modern world where teenagers suddenly turn into vampires without any warning. I liked the books, though I started losing interest after the fourth and didn’t actually finish the sixth… I also read complaints from people who say that this series is very close to Vampire Academy. I didn’t read that series so I wouldn’t know…
  • Legend trilogy by Marie Lu: Set in the future with two class of people and two teenagers from each side of the “fence” who meet due to circumstances. I liked the first book and it got good reviews. But I lost interest in the second…
  • The Earth and Sky trilogy by Megan Crewe: I really liked these books! Set in our time with a teenager who can see wrong elements in our world. These elements turn out to be modifications made to our world from space. Lots of surprises, it was interesting. I almost lost interest during the second book – it is a bit long sometimes – but I’m glad I finished it.
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (trilogy): Again, I really liked these books. Also set in the future, though far, far in the future of the Earth after a disaster. Some humans hid while others were left to the elements. I got into the story and liked the main characters.

I also downloaded a lot of samples on my kindle and try to get through them to find other books to read. And I re-read some that I liked 🙂 Good reading!

Agatha Christie’s fault

I started reading Agatha Christie’s books when I was about 15 years old, I loved them and read all the ones I could find – right until I started to know who did it…

I then read a few more of her books, just to be sure that I could actually guess who the murderer was, before I finally stopped looking for new ones. Turned out I could guess, every time (although I’d already read Murder on the Orient Express & And Then There Were None, so I couldn’t test my new ability with these great books), and the stories became a bit less appealing.

John Keogh, flickr
John Keogh, flickr

Maybe I also realized that my education was done – though to be fair The Famous Five probably helped there too, a few years back, to lay some good foundations 🙂

Anyway, the other day I realized how these books may be the culprit for the strange look I can have on things. They appear to have given me a strong taste for deduction and the envy to solve mysteries, or maybe even to see mysteries everywhere…!

In fact, I’m always looking for questions and oddities to solve. I’m always noticing things. Who is that child’s mum? How many people live in that house, based on their groceries? Why is that man standing there? Is she actually a hippie or is it a style-for-the-day? Is she successful in her apparently high level job? Could she be a mum in disguise? Etc…

It makes me quite aware of my surroundings in ways that (it seems) most people are not, or just don’t care. In truth it also does make a fair bit of background noise when I’m grocery-shopping, and there are days where I just try to turn it off.

But when I’ve got the time and the inclination, I go for it (it annoys my husband sometimes “who cares what she does for life?”). I look for clues, look at the clothes, the type of food people buy, the hair style, the state of their hands (if I’m close enough), the general look and feeling you get out of people from their posture, eyes and expression (and if I don’t like the answer I come up with, like for the man standing alone in the middle of the square, I take my distance). I suppose that I can be quite curious and observant about people, when I’m focused. Though you could also say nosy 😉 Agatha Christie is to blame for that, I’m sure!

Highway bikers

So the other day, we were on the highway/motorway/snelweg when I noticed a motorbike passing me by. Nice motorbike, rider wearing very thick leather trousers and jacket fitted at the thighs (it gave her nice thighs!) and at the waist. Waist-fitted yellow shirt for safety – I was actually impressed, I never thought it was possible to find yellows that could be tightened at the waist! Nice helmet. A woman I believe.

Behind her, another bike, skinny person, trousers super-loose, yellow super-loose. Young lady or young lad, I’d vote for a lad, but you can’t be sure.

Third bike, large one with one of these boxes at the back. Tall, broad shoulders and straight waist. Very nice, thick and tight fitted leathers too. A man, I think.

No signs on the bikes. They were driving carefully, right in the middle of their (busy) lane, their speed the same as all the cars around them.

From what I saw, what do you think?

My theory is that it was a lesson (great and fascinating deduction, Miss Marple!): three bikes, two experienced bikers, one in front and one in the back (hence the -probably- expensive thick and tight fitted leathers: you don’t buy that kind of leathers and yellow shirts when you’re just learning to ride), and a younger, learning, biker in the middle.

The fact that there were no signs on the bikes (no L for “learner” on the middle bike either) could mean that the young one already had his licence and was practising on the highway, or even going on holidays with mum and dad? I suppose it could also mean nothing, I can’t be sure that they’re supposed to have signs.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter and we don’t really care, in the end. But still, I find it fun, it keeps me occupied for a few minutes here and there and it trains my powers of deduction… Maybe it could be useful, one day?

Though now that I think of it, hopefully not…

My personal favourite. Source: Jeremy Crawshaw, flickr
My personal favourite! Source: Jeremy Crawshaw, flickr

Book series – A review and a list

Series are great. The characters can grow over time and they can stay with you for a long time, sometimes years. Following the post on Young Adults books, I thought I could write another post on the series of books that I’ve enjoyed reading and re-reading, in English (though not all of them were initially written in English) and a few in French, over the years.

A series is defined here as a group of a minimum of 2 books with follow-up stories.

In this list, I only include the series I liked and remember well. All the books I listed in the previous post were part of series, but to avoid making this list redundant and even longer, I don’t include the ones I liked from this list.

I try to organize the titles according to the themes or genres, but a lot of them cross the different categories, so I hope that the descriptions will help to provide more information on the books.

Fantasy books:

  • The Royal Assassin and Liveship/Rain Wild series by Robin Hobb: The Farseer trilogy, the Tawny Man trilogy and the new Fitz and the Fool trilogy (which is only starting and which I haven’t read yet, and might not because of the reviews). These books are intertwined with the Liveship trilogy (to read after the Farseer trilogy), and the Rain Wild chronicles (4 books, to read after the Tawny Man trilogy). It is an amazing series, if complex and violent at times, and I did prefer the books on the assassin compared to the other trilogies. From the same author, I also read the Forest Mage series, nice but I didn’t get into the characters as much.
  • Tamir Tríad (trilogy) by Lynn Flewelling: magic, different cultures, a prophecy, and 2 children. Wonderfully written!
  • The Cursed Kingdoms trilogy by Emily Glee: also really great! The third book is coming out this year, I cannot wait!
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien: of course… It is magnificently written. I actually find the story quite heartbreaking. Also I feel a bit bad but I had troubles reading all the songs and descriptions, so I passed…

Science fiction:

  • The Freedom series (tetralogy) by Anne McCaffrey: set in our time but on an another world after an alien invasion. Loved it!
  • The Greatwinter trilogy by Sean McMullen: it was good, though a bit complex. I’m making an exception for this one: I realized recently that I never read the other books of the series though I liked the first book! It’s on my list…

Magic and/or fairies:

  • Alex Craft novels by Kalayna Price (3 books so far): amazingly imaginative with magic, fairies, Death (in person) and a tendency towards horror, all in the future about a hundred years from now!
  • The Caledonia Fae series by India Drummond (6 books so far): fairies in a side world to ours, druids and magic. Great read!
  • A Modern Witch series (7 books and 2 short stories) by Debora Geary, interlinked with the Witchlight trilogy, and followed by the Witch Central series (3 books and a short story), and a prequel (To Have and To Code): set in our day with a highly lovable community and family of witches, it is mostly light and fun. I had a great time reading and re-reading these books! The only sad point is that the author stopped writing the books for personal reasons, really too bad…

Historical with just a hint of magic:

  • The Outlander series and The Lord John Grey series by Diana Gabaldon: both series are mostly set in 18th century. I love these books, the characters and the stories, though it can be extremely violent. Unfortunately, in the last 2 books, the author started to mix the 2 series and it’s becoming difficult to follow and read. I actually didn’t finish the last one (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) after one of the characters was killed (I was pregnant and the character that died was a child). The Outlander series is currently being filmed as a very nice TV series.

“Children”’s books – I don’t agree with the label, most of them can have quite dark topics. I think they could also be put under “Young Adult”:

  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: I just love these books…
  • Northern Lights/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass trilogy by Philip Pullman: not a child’s book at all, though the characters are children/young teenagers. The story is about magic and parallel worlds, but also death, loss and despair. It is an amazing read.
  • The Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke: what would happen if we could make the characters of our favourite books come to life? Amazing story and characters!

Love and more “girly” books: rarely seen as series but…

  • Love virtually and Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer: I loved them! Two people get to know each other via email…

In that section I also have a couple of follow-ups to read from Jenny Colgan. Also, I’ve never really enjoyed the shopaholic books from Sophie Kinsella, but I like most of her single books stories. I read them again and again when I was pregnant 🙂

Egalement, en Francais, parce que je les ai vraiment aimés / Also, in French, because I really liked them:

  • E=MC2 mon amour et Pythagore je t’adore de Patrick Cauvin : livres sur deux jeunes surdoués qui tombent amoureux à 11 ans. Le premier livre est mieux que le deuxième, mais ca m’a fait bien plaisir de lire la suite !
  • Le Bossu, le roman de Lagardère de Paul Féval Père et Fils : je les ai lu jeune et j’ai adoré !

I have started, or read, quite a few other series but, or I didn’t get into the stories so much, or I just haven’t finished reading them yet (which sometimes is the same)… Also, since there are most certainly titles missing from this list, I might make a follow-up article later on if I remember other, and enough, titles and find them worthy of it 😉

To conclude, I’d be really really interested in propositions for good series, especially in science fiction, fantasy, magic, or a mix of those! Thanks!

Young adults books – A review and a list

I’m in my thirties and I like YA books, I read them on my e-reader as “light” reading (nothing negative here, they’re not light, I just find them easier to read than biographies or historical books) in the evening or when I find a moment. I have less time on my hands since I became a mum, but I always find time for books 🙂

There must be something in YA with the youth, the discoveries (and let’s be honest there’s always a cute guy or two somewhere), and the background – dark science fiction, vampire/werewolf/shapeshifting stories (though I’m less fond of these), magic, and/or fantasy – that appeal to me and give me matter to think about.

To be honest it is often also violent and disturbing, but actually less so to me than in more “real” books you find in award-winning lists. You’ll find some of the same topics than in these books (bad childhoods, domestic violence, etc.) but sugar-coated with sometimes very clever science fiction or fantasy 🙂

There has been some very good YA books lately, but also a lot of not-so-good ones – though it is also possible that I’m just too old for them. Here is a list, classified by the order in which I read the books:

  • I liked the Twilight series (shoot me) by Stephenie Meyer: was it because it was the first I read? Don’t know but I really enjoyed the books;
  • Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare: good books with vampires, werewolves, fairies, angels and the like. I got bored in the 5th one though (there are 6), I’ll see if I can continue to read them, but I’m afraid the characters and the story lost their appeal…
  • The All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness: the main character is a bit older than your average YA protagonist but apparently it still qualifies as YA. It is a good story, and though not always well written, I found it enjoyable;
  • Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter: strong shapeshifting female lead. Still, I liked the first, got bored in the second…
  • Penryn & the End of Days book 1 and 2 (for now) by Susan Ee: seriously good books! The setting is incredibly original, it’s well written if sometimes disturbing;
  • The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins: interesting setting, though very violent. The story goes really quite far, showing, I believe, that you don’t really need to kill your characters to destroy them;
  • Graceling/Fire/Bitterblue trilogy by Kristin Cashore: very good books, completely hooked me with the first one. A rarely found fantasy background in YA, with some seriously disturbing aspects in the third book – I might not read the series again because of that last one;
  • The Divergent series by Veronica Roth: I seriously liked the first two books, though again violent, and I find the setting and the characters interesting (strong female lead again!). I’m fascinated with the idea of facing our worst fears. So far I found over 15 potential fears for myself, and though it’s difficult to know which ones would appear in my “fear landscape”, at least 8 of those plague me on an almost daily basis. I’m clearly no Four 😉 I’m guessing that someone who would find a way to make this come true would make a lot of money in games and psychological treatments… Anyway, the third book of the series (Allegiant) is a disaster. If you intend to read this series, I advise to skip the last book and read the fanfiction by Windchimed instead (Determinant: One choice will change everything, it is also possible to find it in pdf or e-reader format), it’s truly how this series should have ended.

After reading the Divergent series I looked for other YA books, found a few ones but started checking the reviews of all the books before starting with a series. As such, I checked – and didn’t buy:

  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver: nice setting, third book got bad reviews so after the first few pages of the sample I stopped reading it;
  • The Guardian trilogy by Laura Falter: ok reviews though some of the bad ones ring true to me. I actually read the first book of this series, and there is a possibility that I’m just too old for this one… There are a few good moments, but she is supposed to be a strong lead while spending most of her time moping about the guy. It is also strangely prude and some of the sentences on the guy (“He swaggered toward me, thumbs tucked into the pockets of his dark jeans – jeans that fit him perfectly in all the right places.”) just give me the hiccup 🙂

To conclude, I found some YA books I read to be really good. But there seems to be a pattern with trilogies and series where the last one, or the following ones, are just not as good as the first book. I was so disappointed by Allegiant that from now on I’ll always check the reviews for all the books of the series before starting one.

I expect the reason for this pattern is quite straightforward: the authors must have put a lot of effort in the first book in order to be published and to afford to write the following books. Once published though, they probably don’t have as much time and incentive to really work on the next novels. Another theory is that some of these books were meant to be single-books, not series, and the editors asked the authors to stretch the stories to make more money… Really too bad.