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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Giveaway for ‘The Fool’s’ First Year Anniversary

I can’t believe it will have already been one year this Monday, September 22nd, since the publishing of The Fool’s Illusion! Although the self-publishing process felt like it took several years.

I was new to self-publishing when I started FI on its journey to publication two years ago and so knew very little about what was coming up after each step or two of the process. When I thought I had come to the final destination, it turned out that I had several more miles to go. For example, once I finished the book cover, I didn’t realise until after that I couldn’t just submit my manuscript to Amazon’s Create Space so they could format it for print. I had to format it myself. Fortunately, by that time, Create Space offered their free print format template and so I didn’t have to worry about taking measurements or setting tabs. However, because of relatively slight compatibility issues between my version of Word and the template’s, I still had to grope my way through the darkness of the template of no return (as it seemed to be).

I stuck with it, though, and got through. I have to give credit to Amazon for making the conversion from print to electronic format easy with their Kindle Select service. Without it, FI would probably not have the distribution it has had.  I also give credit to fellow author friends who gave me advice and encouragement.

I learned about self-publishing through some of the authors who have been great inspiration to me. These have been namely Nicholas Grabowsky of Black Bed Sheet Books and Emerian Rich, hostess of HorrorAddicts.net podcast and creator of great vampire novels such as Night’s Knights. It was their panels at some of the many cons I attended that gave us unknown and aspiring authors of the time hope in publishing our work that traditional publishers would not want. And so I thank them greatly for it. I also thank family and friends who have been encouraging with my publishing of FI, some of who were my book’s earliest buyers and readers.

Speaking of buyers, Fool’s Illusion has not done bad in distribution considering it’s been on the market only a year. Within just two weeks after its release more than 200 copies sold worldwide! Besides that, it received two great reviews including one from HorrorAddicts.net. And its print version will be making its first brick-and-mortar bookstore appearance on the shelves of the Avid Reader in Davis, CA within, hopefully, the next week. (I need to work out the pricing.)
   
To celebrate this first anniversary, I decided to give away ebook copies of The Fool’s Illusion. From now until September 22nd, you can download your free ebook of Fool’s Illusion at Amazon! This is especially great if you want to get a head start on your Halloween book shopping since FI has plenty of vampires, ghosts and zombie-type characters in its stories. If you don’t have a Kindle device, no need to be left out of the celebration. You don’t even need a Kindle to read FI. All you need is a Kindle app in which you can download for free on your smart phone, tablet or computer! Just go to the box that reads “Free Kindle Reading App” on my ebook’s Amazon page and follow the instructions.


Until next time . . . 



Grim Reaper presents a birthday cake while warrior makes a toast on pile of skulls
Photo Credit: Openclipart.org






Sunday, September 14, 2014

Science fiction Art for 'The Assassin'

I didn’t finish the science fiction art for “The Assassin in time for when I posted the story early last month. If you haven’t read it yet, you should check it out. It’s still up and, of course, it’s free! I’m just now posting the illustration here this evening. I’m not replacing it for the clip art (which is not mine) I provided the story with because it isn’t really complete to serve as an illustration. In other words, I screwed up on it. And here's how:






Pen and ink drawing of an atom punk laser gun

This pen and ink drawing for “The Assassin” is supposed to be of a laser gun in semi atom age/space age, 1950s style. This style is what we now call atom punk for newer work based on the sci fi of that period (roughly the 1950s through mid ‘60s, but it’s often debatable). Most of this subgenre of science fiction is based on the idea of an alternative history (also referred to as "alternative timeline") which my story involves. To learn more about this far out subgenre, check out author Philip Reeve’s article

The problem I had with this drawing was the butt of the laser rifle. The butt is supposed to be elongated in order to support the person’s arm that’s holding it. I posed the rifle at a kind of diagonal angle as you can see (and if you can’t see, then I must’ve really screwed up with this picture, eh?). And of course, at such an angle you would not be able to see the full butt and so it should appear smaller than if the gun was shown from a side view. Somehow, the butt came out to look more like the smaller, more knob-like handle of a 17th or 18th century pistol! Talk about an alternative history story! That would be a real time clash wouldn’t it?

I made the oval object at the top of the gun for the target monitor which is a camera in this retro-futuristic weapon as opposed to a scope like that of an older gun. The tiny circle in the centre is the lens. If that whole front of the camera looks like an eye it’s because I intended it to in order to add a kind of surreal effect. The “eye” represents two qualities. It represents the protagonist’s ambition to kill the ruler, UCoNet, who is a living interplanetary computer network. The "eye" also stands for the tyrannical UCoNet’s omniscience, and so UCoNet is a kind of mock biblical God in this story.





Atom punk laser gun pencil drawings

These are practice and brainstorm pencil drawings for the above picture.



Want to see some real atom punk art? Check out the links below!







As you may have noticed, I’ve been making a few changes to the blog, mostly with pages, to make it easier for you people to navigate my site to the topics you want. I hope it will help. If not then please let me know in the comments box or drop me an email at strosejr@gmail.com (please put "Comments for Far Out Fantastic Site" in the subject line). I want your experience here at the Far Out Fantastic Site to be as easy yet as exciting as possible. Just to let you know, however, I’m still in the process of adding pages so it may be another week or so before I get them all up. (I’m not a web design expert, as much as I love working with web design.)

Also, September 22nd will be the first anniversary of The Fool’s Illusion! And to celebrate, I may have something special such as a freebie! So check back here often between now and next weekend.


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: Across the Universe

Of course, The Fool's Illusion isn't the only speculative fiction book that centres around the theme of deceit. Author Beth Revis's Across the Universe is set on a star ship that seems to run on lies and therefore illusions some of which are very literal. I recently finished reading this YA novel which was part of my summer reading. My review of it is below. Is it a book you would consider putting on your own reading list? Feel free to provide your answer in the box below.  






YA novel
Photo Credit: Razorbill/Penguin


Book's Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe Trilogy
Volume: Book 1 (of 3)
Year of Publication: 2011
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

With young adult science fiction  rising in popularity, especially since The Hunger Games craze, Beth Revis’s Across the Universe carries on this trend. Part space opera, part murder mystery, it’s the first book of a trilogy. Even so, it holds up good as its own story and so doesn’t leave the reader hanging at the end. The book’s theme of deceit runs through not only the villainous characters but all the major characters no matter how virtuous and loving they’re made to be. And so this theme of lies is used realistically, making the characters and situations more life-like. However, as well written this YA novel is, its setting and its characterization of the main antagonist fall short of what they can be.



Synopsis

Teenager Amy Martin awakes from a cryogenic freese on the spaceship Godspeed fifty years earlier than she’s supposed to. She discovers that the reason for her early revival is that someone tried to kill her. With the help of her new friend, Elder who is of the generation presently running the ship, she tries to track down her would-be murderer before the killer can get other frozen passengers, especially her parents.

Novel’s Structure

Across the Universe holds up good in its structure. The chapters regularly alternate between the two main characters’, Amy and Elder’s, point of views making it easy for the reader to follow the story. At the same time, the organization of the sequence of events time the suspense, foreshadowing and irony good which is a big accomplishment since the author has to be careful not to reveal too much too soon through either character who also serve as narrators.

Characterization 

Both Amy and Elder’s characters are well developed. We can sympathise with both but especially Amy’s who the novel centres around. We feel her loneliness and anger as well as her love for her parents, especially her father. We feel the struggles and fears she goes through while she's forced to adapt to a new generation of passengers who, unlike her, have never seen either outer space or the surface of any planet and so have lived on the Godspeed’s windowless farm deck their whole lives. She wrestles with the homesickness for the Earth she leaves behind and with her loneliness of not being able to communicate with her cryogenically frozen parents. We sense Elder’s struggle with and rebellion against Eldest, the ship’s administrator who raised him since birth and who Elder is to succeed. We feel the anger and uncertainty of both Amy and Elder when they discover more and more that they and the other passengers have been living off of lies conspired by the administration.

In one aspect of the character interaction, the old fashioned love triangle is used between Amy, Elder and Elder’s friend, Harley. Even though such a literary device may typify the story a bit too much in certain respects, it's done convincingly here taking us into the emotions of the two male characters showing the reader their jealousy and anxiety for Amy. Yet we also see these two struggling to hang onto their friendship and so trying to rise above the jealousy. So the way this love triangle is handled portrays clearly the extreme emotions of adolescence.

The antagonist’s character, Eldest’s, could have been better developed. He comes across as caring and friendly to his common subjects, a deceitful method on his part to control the ship and its population. The only problem with this trait of his is that it's more told than shown let alone not revealed to us until around halfway through the book. So Eldest comes across too much as the typical fairy tale villain, all evil and cruel, both in his ambitions and actions, including his manner of speaking.

Setting 

The Godspeed’s interior is portrayed okay but takes a while to convey clearly in the reader’s head. This is especially so with the farming level of the ship where much of the novel takes place. Even though there is a landscape in this vast part of the ship, there is no simulated sky, only “the steel-grey metal of the walls that curve over this level of the ship ” as Amy explains it (page 141). However, the other major setting within the ship, the cryogenic freeze chamber, is described really good giving the likeness to that of a mausoleum and so works perfectly for a murder mystery/space opera cross-genre story such as Across the Universe.

While the science and technology are plausible enough overall, there are some flaws for the distant future this book is set in. Today’s technology seems to be more reflected at certain points in the novel. For example, there are doors on the ship that have to be opened manually. Another example is a fake outer space that a simulated window looks out on in which the stars are described as light bulbs. I wouldn't call that too futuristic of tech when so many of today's simulations are digital or VR. 




The relatively simple structure of Across the Universe, the story’s tension and the realism of Amy and Elder’s characters make Bevis’s YA novel worth reading. This isn’t only so for the teen audience that the book targets, but for an adult one too. That is, if adult readers can get past a too typical villain character and a few devices that would be outdated in a far-future setting. Not to mention euphemisms for typical teenage cuss words, probably used so school districts and libraries don’t get sued by certain parents. 


Until next time . . . 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Free Fiction Friday: 'The Assassin'

It may have been a sizzling hot Fried Day here in the Sacramento area, but it's also a Free Fiction Friday! And so I have a story for you (written by your's truly). I consider it an atom punk story even though it may be lightly so. Which is okay, because it causes a big portion of the story to reflect more where our own timeline is going which is one of the most important things of science fiction--to show where society may be in the future. If you aren't familiar with the atom punk subgenre of sci fi, then check out my earlier post here. If you get tired of hearing me talk, then a person who is really an expert on the subgenre is Philip Reeve who has a great article on it and so you might want to check that out.  

About the formatting of my story's text: I copied the story from a file that I had formatted for submission to a magazine. Even though I changed the font from Courier to New Times Roman so it would reflect the style of the blog more, other manuscript style formatting may be in there. Some of that formatting may be underlined text as opposed to italicised text. That's because standard formatting for emphasised words in manuscripts for submissions, especially for fiction, is underlining. Also there are some pound symbols ("hash" symbols as they're referred to for social media linking) between paragraphs to represent breaks or lapses in time. 

As some of you may have realised I write according to British spelling (e.g. "realise" as opposed to the American "realize"). You won't find that in this story. I changed the spelling to American because I'm more likely to submit the piece to American publications as much as I prefer British spelling. I truly believe British English is the more correct English. Part of that reason is the most obvious (or at least it should be obvious, except to those pea brains who loafed off back in their high school history classes and never grew up): English originated in England. Now as far as it being the more correct version, that's just my personal opinion. I'm not even British. In fact, I'm not even of British ancestry (I'm Mexican and Portuguese, but born here in the U.S. of course). But I love British culture. I'm not getting into other reasons why I prefer British English over American. If you want to know more why, then ask me in the comments box below and I'll be more than happy to explain. 

I hope you enjoy this story. Please let me know what you think, including what could be improved. You won't hurt my feelings; you would actually be helping me. Come on now! Not even the top best-selling authors are perfect! Not even the Noble Prize winning ones are, for that matter. 

Until next time . . . 





The Assassin
by  Steven Rose, Jr.



Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/OpenClipArt.org

            

“How many credits have I worked?” asked Albert McArthur as he hopelessly stared at Kariith’s digital body that was sealed inside the giant vacuum tube.

“Five hundred,” said the metallic voice of UConet. 

Shit, Albert thought.  He didn’t dare not say it out loud.  UCoNet sees everything, Albert always remembered as did everybody of both Earth and the known universe.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At Trash Film Orgy's Carnival of the Dead

I attended the Trash Film Orgy's first Carnival of the Dead this Saturday and it was a blast! For those of you who don't know what Trash Film Orgy is, TFO is a production studio that makes both their own B-rated sci fi and horror movies as well as holds screenings of classic B-rated flicks by other production companies. That night was TFO's scream screening of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead held at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento. The movie was preceded by a zombie walk through the vicinity and their Carnival of the Dead at Roosevelt Park before that. I got to meet several great people there, dead and alive (okay, they were dressed as dead, as in the living dead) and I took pictures of some people who were in some really groovy ghoulie costumes, including the Sac City Roller girls who are a women's roller derby team and who I had the pleasure to met for the first time.Check out the photos below!






Kind of resembles a cross between Uncle Fester and one of the Plan 9 ghouls.





That's mwa shadow snapiiiiing a photo! (To do a play on an Andy Gibb song from the '70s! You can call this a shadow selfie, I guess.)




Three of the Sac City Rollers with yours truly (and another undead dude in the background who just happened to decide to jump into the photo). I'm holding up the Rollers' promo sign, though it didn't come out too clearly in the photo. 



The works of a carnival. 



Yours truly made sure he got a head shot of this, uh, head shot! 





 Michael Jackson's back! (From the grave, of course.) No, really: God, rest his soul.




This soothsayer was nice enough to give me a free reading, though it didn't turn out to be true: I didn't attend the zombie walk or screening that night like she said I would. Well, nobody's perfect. But the fortune cookie strip she gave me held true: "All facts are true." But it came without the cookie; a Tootsie Roll lolly pop came with it instead! I can go for that. (No, the strip was not at the centre of the Tootsie Pop.)



And here's the fortune teller going into her mystical trance. (Okay, so it's just the blazing sun light radiating on her devilish horns.)




And a mad scientist picking up after those sloppy zombies. (Didn't their parents teach them any table manners and not to litter?)




Until next time . . .






Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hot Summer Reading

We are officially one week into summer, even though in some parts of the nation, here in Sacramento, California included, the season’s sizzling weather had already begun weeks ago. And like those ancient societies that centered their actions around the seasons and made festivals to please their deities, summer, as with the other seasons, is a time to make plans and goals. One of these for me is in the form of a reading list. Summer provides most of us extra time to catch up on those books that we said we would read, passionately wanted to read but didn’t because we didn’t get around to it. It’s also a time of new book releases, which are equivalent to the flickers’ summer movie releases. This is the time to plan a list of what we would like to read on the pool deck, on a long trip or at the local AC’d cafĂ© or library on those dragon breath weather days when we just don’t want to go out yet don’t want to pile up on the energy bill running the air conditioner in our houses. Here’s my summer sci fi/fantasy reading list below (not necessarily in any particular order)!


Across the Universe,   Beth Revis (currently reading): a YA space opera-mystery involving an unseen killer on board a generation ship.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman: This involves a pond in which one of the characters imagines to be an ocean. Wherever there’s an ocean there’s a beach. Therefore this book is perfect for summer reading!

Jack Glass, Adam Roberts: another science fiction mystery tale involving a murderer but with a more atom punk touch in that it uses elements of golden age sci fi.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood: The critically acclaimed novel about women in the near future whose rights have been taken away.

The Manitou, Graham Masterton: This novel about the evil spirit of a medicine man was made into a movie only three years after its 1975 publication. I’ve seen the movie which was made really good as underrated as it was. Now I would like to see how much more is in the book bearing in mind that most movie adaptations of novels don’t include all scenes or even all characters from the original stories. 

Batman comics: This includes both Batman and Detective Comics, particularly from the ‘70s. For me summer has always been Batman season because that’s when I got to know Batman most when I was a kid around six or seven years old. This was particularly through reruns of the campy ‘60s TV series, and even though today I feel like it never did the Dark Knight Detective justice with its rainbow/Technicolor sets and daylight dominant settings it’s what started me on Batman. Today, I’m trying to catch up with the true Dark Knight by reading the comics from just about every era except the ‘50s and ‘60s when Batman became more of a cut and dry trusted hero of the people, like Superman, rather than that questionable more-or-less anti-hero. Lately, I’ve been trying to collect and read the ‘70s comics, since they’re more in my current budget and also because that’s the decade Batman was returned to his true dark hero role.

1001 Arabian Nights (Author anonymous): This is a thick book that’s pages can add up to almost the number in the title. Being a slow reader, I know I couldn’t read it in one summer but since it consists of several tales the ones I would like to read before the summer’s out are “Aladdin” and one or two of the Sinbad tales. “Aladdin” has influenced Hollywood films since the 1940s at least, including a Disney animated feature in the ‘90s, and Sinbad has been adapted to a series of movies whose special effects were done by one of my long time sci fi/fantasy Hollywood special effects heroes, the late Ray Harryhausen. Now it’s time to read the original stories, and if I read Arabic I would read the story in its original language but, unfortunately, I don’t.

Galactic Energies,Luca Rossi:   A short story collection, and again not that I’ll read them all during the summer, but I’d like to get started on a few.

A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The first of Burroughs’s Mars series of novels. I read a couple of his Tarzan books, one each of the past two summers. Now this summer I’d like to give his Mars series a chance.

That’s my summer reading list, at least for sci fi fantasy reading. What’s your reading list for the summer? Need help getting started? Let me suggest yours truly’s short story collection, The Fool’s Illusion. In fact, there’s a great story in there that may just be perfect for the pool deck, or for reading at the beach or lake. It’s about the search for a legendary sea monster (not the Loch Ness monster, this one’s in the Mediterranean). If you like simulating your surroundings to a great horror-sci fi story, then this is the one to read in one of the above settings I just mentioned. Better yet, you may even want to read it on the water! That is, if you’re not faint of heart or prone to fear-based accidents.

You can purchase Fool’s Illusion at Amazon, and if you do so between now and Tuesday July 1st you can take advantage of the special Kindle Matchbox deal! And you don’t even need a Kindle device to read the Kindle version! Just go to The Fool’s Illusion’s Amazon page and click the “free app” link underneath the Kindle price. What is the Kindle Matchbox deal? It’s a special where if you buy a print copy of my book you can have a Kindle copy of it for free! If you don’t like reading print or can’t think of anybody who does who you can give the print version to as a gift, then you can purchase the Kindle copy alone for only 99 cents! Again, you don’t need a Kindle device to read the Kindle copy; you can read it on any Windows, Apple or Android device. Just visit the Kindle free app store!

Until next time . . .







Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Author Supporting His Local Bookstore on a Budget


Photo Credit: Amazon

Saturday I was at The Avid Reader in Davis considering buying Neil Gaiman’s newly released paperback version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I had told myself, since the day of Gaiman’s novel’s original hardcover release a year ago, that I would purchase Ocean as soon as it released in paperback keeping in mind the $8 “pocket” size mass market version. When I saw that the paperback was a $16 trade version, I had second thoughts. I thought that if I’m going to pay $16 for a trade version of Ocean, then I’ll just try to get it used on Amazon. I could probably purchase a hardcover version of it on there for less than the paperback version offered at brick-and–mortar stores. However, while considering my budget, I try to purchase my books at my local independently owned bookstore, in which Avid Reader is, as much as possible. So I ended up buying another author’s book I had been considering, Beth Revis’ YA space opera, Acrossthe Universe. Even though that was a trade edition itself, it only cost me 10 bucks. Buying at an independently owned book store will not only keep much of the money in the local community but will also strengthen the local literary culture.

Photo Credit: Amazon

As a person who believes in contributing to community and local culture, I try to keep the money at home. By this I mean that when I purchase at locally owned stores, the money for those purchases are going back into those stores’ community. I admit that I’m not an economics expert, but I don’t want all my money for a purchase to go to some suit in a corporate tower across state or even on the opposite side of the nation (I’m on the West coast) who doesn’t give a damn about who purchases the products they distribute but just want the money from those purchases. Generally, the CEOs don’t give a damn about the individual communities they’re selling or distributing  to yet never see. They don’t care about the culture surrounding their products, in this case books. They don’t care who’s who in the various branches of their business across the nation and the world over. Those branches are just units of a machine to them, an impersonal network that pumps in the cash.

The locally owned, independent bookstores, the few that are left at least, don’t only care about the books they sell but also the people they are selling them to who are often avid readers. They are enthused about the books and the literary culture surrounding them, wanting to enhance that culture, and so are ready to promote local authors especially newer ones. That’s why you’ll see book signing events at these indie stores that feature authors who may be known around the community but often not worldwide via a best seller’s list. They tend to cater to the people in the local area and are less worried about how they‘re going to market a particularly book or service in a branch in Australia. Like the public library, they sponsor programs for both adults and children, often book reading clubs for the adults and storytelling time for the children and thematic arts and crafts to go along with it. They support community-wide events such as art walks and will often display local fine artists’ work in their stores. And so you can almost be sure that even when you purchase a big publisher’s book, such as Harper’s, at a locally owned bookstore, a significant portion of the money is going to go to the community at least through city, or maybe even county, revenue if nothing else. It, or the majority of it at least, won’t go to some big chain store’s headquarters that most shoppers haven’t even seen.

It’s true that chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble (which I heard has not been doing too well with their sales and may go the way of Borders) have their book culture events, such as book club meet-ups. But they’re often for the reason of selling a single book or series of books such as the Harry Potter or The Hunger Games series and so these clubs or their individual meet-ups often are based on big selling titles such as these two. And so big chain bookstores centering their literary cultural events around these best sellers is more of the agenda of pumping more money out of more consumers to go into the company rather than the local community. It’s an agenda that cares little about the culture of books in general, even within certain genres such as sci fi/fantasy, romance or thriller and more about the individual product being sold and the increase (as opposed to the simple maintenance) of profits.


I’m not saying I don’t want to see my books, currently TheFool’s Illusion, sold beyond my local community. Most of us writers want to make sufficient money off our books and those of us who are lesser known can only do it by distributing our work beyond our home areas. I’m just saying that I want my books to be sold for the love of books themselves rather than to simply make ever increasing profits off of them. If those profits continue to increase inevitably then good, I can definitely go for that! But I’m going to make my books products of the local community rather than of the impersonal corporate system that many best sellers too often get caught up in and, when they do, the major publishing houses rather than the authors have too much control of how their sequels (if any) and the authors’ future works are written.

I’m a member of my home community of Sacramento, not a member of the global corporate system and so I’m going to market my books among the locally owned stores here way before I do to big chain stores elsewhere. I want people the world over to buy my books, sure. But I want people in my home area to also buy and read them and so I want to support the local literary culture. Like I was born here, Fool’s Illusion was also born here. We’re both members of the local community and so we’ll support that community first and foremost.


I’m in the process of pitching Fool’s Illusion to locally owned bookstores. Expect to see live signings by me in the Sacramento area soon. Exactly where and when, I’ll mention in upcoming blog entries. So keep tuning in.

Until next time . . .