Saturday, February 26, 2011

Indie Book Review: The Magpie's Secret

I'll start this review off with a bit of a backstage peak into the reviewing process.  I get stories.  I read the sample and based on that decide whether or not to review them.  I sent Lau my usual note saying that based on the sample, his grammar was so bad that, even if the story was perfect, I couldn't give the book more than three stars.  Did he still want me to review?  This is where most authors send me a polite note saying, no.  He sent me a note back saying, yes.  No matter what I think about The Magpie's Secret, I respect Lau as a man immensely.

There are two main skills the fiction author needs: the ability to tell a good story and the ability to write.  Lau is a competent story teller, one who, with some help and time may become a great one.  As a writer he's harder to characterize.  Some bits of his story are beautifully written.  Some bits have lazy errors.  Some bits make me wonder if he ever learned the basics of grammar.  The Magpie's Secret really needed professional editing, both for story development and copy editing.

On the good side: the ending has a twist that is simultaneously unexpected and well set up.  Usually "twists" are either telegraphed so far in advance that you know it's going to happen by a third of the way through the story or they come from so far off in left field there is literally no way to anticipate it.  Lau did a very nice job of setting up his twist so that it was unexpected but not impossible. 

Also on the good side:  Frank, the main character, is immensely well done.  He's as real as anyone made of words can be.  And, if you are a fan of deeply flawed, yet still sympathetic characters, he's the man for you.   

On the bad side: Frank is too stupid to live.  Too stupid to live doesn't mean that he's dumb, at least not in a book smarts sense.  In story terms it means a character who acts in a manner totally incongruous with real life expectations so the plot can continue on.  An old army buddy, who is now a hit man, drops by to tell you you've got a hit man on your tail.  Upon checking this out, you find out the old army buddy really is a hit man, and if anyone would know about a contract on your life, he would.  So, what do you do?  Go to the cops?  Hide?  Start carrying a gun?  Start wearing a bullet proof vest?  Vary your routine so you're a little harder to predict?

Frank does pretty much exactly what he had been doing before he got the heads up.  He doesn't go the cops.  He doesn't hide.  He does try to figure out what someone might want to kill him for, but he does nothing to try and protect his life.  He tries to figure out who might want to kill him, too, but he never develops any plan for what to do should he actually find out who that person is.  And, in true too stupid to live fashion, upon coming up with an idea of who might want him dead, he cozies up to the guy, tries to make friends, and goes off alone with him.  Lucky for Frank, he's wrong about who wants him dead. 

Also on the bad side: grammar.  The version of the story you read will hopefully be better looking than the version I got.  That said: I review the copy in front of me, not a potential future version. Now, I'm not the greatest grammarian in the history of English.  Nor am I the kind of reader who just can't read a story with grammar issues.  For the most part, if the story is good, I just don't notice them.  But I noticed a lot of issues with this story.  Usually when I read I don't so much see the words as the story, but there were grammar errors bad enough they jerked me out of the story and got me focusing on the actual words in front of me.

Final bad bit: story repetition.  Lau tells us the same stuff over and over again.  I'd call The Magpie's Secret a fairly short novel.  It's 98,000 words.  I'm thinking five to ten thousand of them cover things we'd already been told.  As a reader I like the occasional reminder of what is going on, especially in long novels.  But this novel isn't that long, and the reader doesn't need that many reminders.   

The in between: Frank is telling the story.  It's not just written in first person past tense, but written so Frank is having a conversation with the reader.  He breaks the fourth wall several times throughout the book.  I have no issue with that as a technique.  It fits Frank's character.  It's what he tells us that's problematic.   He tells us he's terribly depressed and more or less just going through the motions between the day his daughter vanished and the day he gets the news a hit man is looking for him.   The good thing is he's not nearly as depressed as he lets on.  (His actions don't match his description of himself.)  This is good because reading terribly depressed characters isn't much fun.  But then, as he begins to wake up and decide he likes being alive, (once again, he tells us this is how he's feeling) he does nothing to protect this life he's suddenly interested in living again.  Frank tells us things about himself that make him look very self aware, but then he acts in a manner at odds with what he's telling us.  The term unreliable narrator springs to mind.  The kicker is, I'm not sure if this is intentional, Frank tells us one thing, tells himself one thing, but the truth is different, or sloppy writing.
Frank is a very detail oriented character.  He tells us about everywhere he goes.  He tells us about what he eats.  We know about everyone he comes in contact with.  While this is good to know about Frank, it can make for boring reading.  What's especially problematic is that in many cases Lau does his best technical writing, his best use of imagery and word choice, while telling us about things that have nothing to do with the plot.  (Like the bar he's sitting in, or one of the character's homes, or what the weather is like, etc...)  I'll admit that I'm not much of a visually oriented person, and I'm a fan of minimalist setting if the setting is not important to the plot, so it could be other readers would love this level of detail.  But, I often found myself skimming through the description of whatever new place Frank was.      

Character voice was another uneven aspect of this story.  Frank has a vibrant, in character voice.  You can almost guess his back story just from listening to him talk.  The downside is that pretty much everyone else sounds like Frank, too.  There's a brilliant movie out called The Gamers: Dorkness Rising.  It's about a bunch of role players.  One of the characters is a male gamer who plays a female wizard in the game.  When the gamer remembers he's playing a female wizard, the scenes are done by a female actor.  When he forgets and plays his wizard as himself, you see him in the girl's costume.  Lau's non-Frank characters have a similar feel.  Frank's voice is Lau's default speech pattern, and his characters slip into it from time to time.    

All in all, I found reading The Magpie's Secret painfully disappointing.  There are so many good things about this story, and so many bad ones.  It's easy to see the bones of a very good story here, there's even some flesh on those bones, but that's not enough.  With any luck this is a first novel issue for Lau, and that the books that follow this one will be much better.   

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indie Book Review: The Doom Guardian

This review features spoilers.  Read at your own risk.

Say you go for a walk and find a milky-gray translucent pebble.  It's all knobby and cloudy and encrusted with dirt.  If you take it home, wash it off, polish it up, and cut it, you may have a diamond.  You may have some nicely cut and polished quartz.  Just like with pebbles, a rough story makes it hard to tell if you've got a diamond or quartz in your hands.

The Doom Guardian is rough.  When I review stories I make notes of the grammar errors, typos, formatting issues, and then send them off to the author.  One of the great things about Indie books, if you send the author a list like that, a new, improved version of the story is usually up in a day or two.  So, by the time any of you get to it, The Doom Guardian should be less rough.  Making those changes effectively washes the pebble.  It's still unpolished.

Sometimes writers are puzzled when reviewers focus on the grammar.  "But, it's a good story!"  The Doom Guardian is a good story. I genuinely liked it and will very happily read the sequels.  But the typos and incorrectly used homonyms in the version I got are a symbol for the story as well.  Everything in the story just needs a bit of polishing.

Take the characters:  they're a little too, whatever it is they're supposed to be.   A little too smarmy.   A little too wise-old-dwarf.  A little too self-loathing.  They aren't bad characters.  They're fun to read.  They're interesting people.  But they're just a little too broad.  They're a bit like watching the CGI in the first Star Wars.  It looks good, but you know it's not real.  

The love story is a good example of how the characters don't quite feel right.  In less than ten days Nigel and Nadia go from barely tolerating each other to undying love.  And, while Nigel's transformation of wary amusement into affection isn't too hard to believe, Nadia goes from trying to kill Nigel to in love with him in about three days.   

The kicker is that speed of a love story is actually in character for Nadia.  She's got no middle gears.  This is part of the being 'too' whatever it is.  In her case she's too emotional, too uncontrolled.  Usually when someone talks about a woman character that's too emotional they mean she cries at the drop of the hat. Nadia stabs at the drop of a hat.  The emotions in question are usually guilt and rage.  

I like Nigel and Nadia.  I want them to get together and be happy together.  But the romance didn't need to happen that quickly.  It's wrapped up well before the climax of the book.  The love story could be drawn out further to let Nigel and Nadia get to know each other before professing love.   I would have been very pleased to see both characters just fool around, build a relationship, and then, when faced with having to actually act on that relationship, decide it's really love. 

The real plot of The Doom Guardian was character change.  We watch Nadia go from an angry, destructive, unhappy woman, focused only on killing the undead, into a person.  Nigel turns into Alexandros, (Yes, he literally changes his name.) deciding caring only for himself is a hallow life.  I was pleased to see, even though the actual change happens pretty quickly, that Nadia doesn't immediately turn into a well adjusted person.  She stays highly variable as to her mood, which is in character.  Nigel turns into Alexandros pretty quickly and then stays Alexandros.  We don't see him backsliding into the man he had been before.

The "plot" is probably the roughest element of the story.  It's high quest fantasy, but Dawson makes it pretty clear that the quest doesn't really matter.  The Necromancers are out to unleash the power of Vagruth, the god of the undead, and break the mystical spirit wall that's keeping the undead in hell.  Darsideon, the wise old dwarf/comic relief/cleric of the earth, heads off to find the Chaos Diamonds so the wall can be reinforced and the world saved from Undead Apocylapse.  He runs into Nadia, a dhampir paladin who hunts down the undead, and the maret (dark elf) thief she's captured, Nigel.  Both of them look like they'll come in handy on the adventure, so he takes them along.  But, while off on this vitally important mission that will save the entire world from being destroyed by necromancers, they'll go on a series of side adventures.  Then when they finally get the Chaos Diamonds they're questing for, it will be written off in less than two pages and we don't get to see how it works or saves the world. 

The Doom Guardian needed to decide if it was high quest fantasy with a romance, or a romance set in a fantasy world.  I'm really not sure which it is, either.  The climax of a romance is overcoming whatever and getting the characters together.  Well, that's taken care of by halfway through the story.  The climax of High Quest Fantasy is getting whatever you're questing for, and then using it to do whatever.  It's not enough to get the Ring to Mordor, you've got to actually write the bit where it gets tossed into the fire.  With The Doom Guardian, we got to Mordor, but skipped over the tossing it in bit.       

Just like theology for the irreverent and well versed will make me squee with delight, sloppy moral thinking makes me want to cry.  And unfortunately The Doom Guardian ran headlong into it.  It's all throughout the plot.  They are on a quest to save the world; time is of the essence.  They have to get the Chaos Diamonds before the undead hordes ravage the world, so they take four days to save one boy. Then another few days to save the slaves they used as a ruse.  I often found myself wanting to yell, THE ENTIRE WORLD IS AT STAKE HERE, FOCUS!

Nadia is tested.  The gods themselves arrange it so that she'll be forced to decide who she is and what she truly wants.  She's placed in a lake of molten iron and told by a magical/demi-god/fire elemental Salamander to pick one of her companions for death.  If she picks one of them, she is cured of dhampirism and she and the other one get to live.  If she refuses to pick, both will be killed, and she goes free.  So instead of rationally going through it and choosing one of the guys, she refuses to chose, triggering the condition for both of their deaths, and jumps in the lake of molten iron to kill herself.  Now, it is true that she may think this is all a dream (it's not entirely clear from the writing if she's decided one way or the other about that) even so, by the conditions set in the dream, her choice kills all three of them.   Fortunately, the Salamander was lying and let them all live.

As Nadia slowly recovers, (Stepping into a lake of molten iron hurts!) unable to continue on the quest to save the world until she heals up, The Wise Old Dwarf King talked about her choice.  How she decided she was going to keep fighting the good fight and hold onto her dhampirism so she'd have the strength fight more effectively.  Um... no.  That's not what she did.  She killed herself.  She gave up the fight.  By the Salamander's conditions all three of them and, because they are on a quest to save the world from Undead Apocalypse, the entire world should have died because she couldn't bear to pick between her two companions. 

Standing in the lake of molten iron would have been a great point for Nadia to decide she loved Nigel/Alexandros.  It would have been a great moment to see her decide saving the world was worth living without him because he's not the one she has to keep alive if she wants to see the world saved.  I would have loved to see her tell him after (because we learn Nigel and Darsideon were never in any danger) that she chose Darsideon because she needed him to get to the Chaos Diamonds and save the world.  It would have been beautiful to see him, now as Alexandros, accept that choice, know it was the right one, and tell her he loved her because she had the strength to make it.  Alas, we got crispy dhampir and an unimpressive speech trying to justify her actions.

More sloppy moral thinking: Darsideon and Alexandros capture a thief.  They can't take him with them.  They can't let him go.  So they punt and let the sentient demon horse, who's joined them on their journey, chose.  The demon horse (a felsteed, aka nightmare) kicks in the thief's head, and off they go.  What are you saying about your characters when the clearest moral thinker in the entire group is a barely tame demon horse?  Let me add this though, the felsteed, Firefly, is a great addition to the book, a lot of fun to read, and a truly nice touch.  He's a little spark indicating maybe this story is a diamond and not quartz.

And he's not the only one.  The world building is especially rich in The Doom Guardian.  Much of it looks like typical Dungeons and Dragons fantasy, but it all has thoughtful little twists and turns to make it more real and vibrant.  Quick example: the local vampires are looking into the gnomish discovery, electricity, to keep their herds of humans warm and comfortable.  After all, fire is a huge risk for vampires, and if there's any way to reduce the risk of that, they're on top of it.

The dialog in this book is another spark.  It's a pleasure to see these characters speak.  All three of the main characters have very distinct voices that never stray.  This entire book could have no dialog tags and you'd never be confused about who is speaking when.  That's a very hard technique to pull off, and Dawson does it elegantly. 

So, this little pebble I hold in my hand, is it a diamond or a quartz?  I don't know.  But I hold high hopes the sequel will be a diamond. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Indie Book Review: Chasing Tail

I'd like you to click on the image of the cover of Chasing Tail.  Look at the big version.  Notice how it's just a bit off?  There's nothing wrong with it, but there's also nothing really grabbing about it either.  Unfortunately this is a case where the cover really is a good predictor of the book inside.

I read a lot of erotic fiction.  I've read a lot of just fantastically beautiful erotic fiction that so good it makes you want to hunt down the author and kiss them for benefiting the world with these stories.   As a result this is a genre where I'm picky.   Here's what I want in erotic fiction: decent plot, character development, dialog, and red hot sex.  To add to that I'm also a firm believer that if you're going to write a fantasy set story the magic has to make sense, by which I don't mean it needs to be within the bounds of the normal world, but it has to be consistent.

So, let's start with plot.  Chasing Tail is a collection of six short stories, all bound by one central plot.  The central plot is a great idea; one I've never seen in erotic fiction before: a small community of shape shifters in northern Arkansas dealing with an unknown menace that is kidnapping shifters.  So, we've got a set up with a mystery, magic, the promise of rescue oriented heroics, and the clarity of purpose and thought that comes when your home is threatened.   But the execution of that plot didn't deliver.  It really needed an extra fifty pages to develop the ideas and spend more time on the villain.

Next up: character development.  Cox does a fine job of this.  Her characters are unique.  Playful, geeky, polished, sophisticated, comfortable, whatever the character is, he is well.  There are never any bits of this story where you find yourself thinking, "Nope, I don't buy that.  No one does that!"  Likewise if you take the names off of the characters, you won't find yourself mixing them up. 

The only weakness here is the villain.  He's basically not there.  If he had gotten his own story, this book would have been a lot stronger.  If he had spent more time in any of the other six stories, this would have been a stronger book.   Unfortunately, he's more like a character sketch than an actual character. 

Dialog:  This is probably the most uneven bit of the story.  Some of the characters sound right.  Some of them are perfect in their words.  And some of them sound wrong: it's never anything glaringly off, just bits and pieces that are a bit out of kilter.   Just like the cover of the book, when it's off, it's just not quite right, a touch too archaic or just slightly clunky, as opposed to a nun busting out a tirade of f bombs. 

Smoking hot sex:  I thought the sex was well done.  Playful when playful made sense.  Romantic when it needed to be romantic.  Rough and fast where that worked.  I've only got one quibble with it: too many characters use the same moves.  Sex is like dialog, when you have a bunch of people who live in close proximity, it makes sense that they start to talk like each other.  However, unless the majority of her characters have slept with each other, they're a little too similar in the sack.

Magic:  This is probably the aspect of the book that most disappointed me.  Let me give a little background here, I've read several of Cox's other works, so I know she can write beautiful, magical, Gaimanish fairytales.  I know she can weave magic into the real world and do it elegantly.  That came up short in this work.  All the characters are shape shifters.  But, why?  They could have been any group of not easily identifiable minorities, gays or Jews for example.  In fact, this story probably would have worked better if it had been set in a Jewish community facing a pogrom or the Nazis.  (The lack of well developed villain would have been less glaring if it had been some random Nazi.  We're all familiar enough with that concept to fill in the holes on our own.)  There's no aspect of this story that won't work if the characters are just humans doing the human analog to whatever the animals did. 
The magic also has continuity issues.  If you shift from a human into a significantly bigger animal, your clothing rips to bits.  Good, that makes sense, it's a nice detail.  Then one character shifts into a bear (listed as 8 feet tall) and is suddenly dressed again when he shifts back.  Another example, we learn that the shifters choose their animal.   But the second story is all about a horse shifter who is deeply uncomfortable with the sexual nature of horse magic.  Well, why did he choose to become a horse?  If you can't stand being part of a herd, why pick a herd animal?  (I get the bigger point, a study of a man learning how to balance his libido with his work, but still...)  That story would have made more sense if shifters were born shifters. 

So, all in all, it's not a bad work, the characters are worth getting to know, but there's better out there.  Some of it written by Cox herself. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ye Gods! You Want How Much? Self Publishing with Outskirt Press

So, as a concientious blogger, I decided investigating the sites that advertise on my blog is a good idea.  The first on the list of self publishers I decided to check out was Outskirts Press (  They often have a nice, large ad at the bottom of my posts.

Here's my first impression:  Run Away!  Run away fast.  Do not look back.

You know how in horror movies you get a hint that something bad is going to happen as a way to build tension, like the flash of light off the menacing blade or the creepy soundtrack ramps up?  Well, because of the contract with Google, I can't click on the ads on my on blog.  So I googled Outskirts Press.  As I was typing the letters in, Google showed me the second most popular search, Outskirts Press Complaints.  (For comparison purposes Smashwords doesn't turn up anything bad, Scam is the second term, and CreateSpace Scam is the fourth search term on Google.)

I checked the complaints out.  Alas, I really couldn't tell if they were just authors who didn't read the instructions carefully enough and were unhappy about a mess they got themselves into or were genuinely bilked.  Until I got to the Outskirts Press page, I was leaning in the 'author didn't read the fine print' direction.  Because, honestly, a lot of complaints tend to be people who are upset at a company that did exactly what they said they were going to do, in the fine print.

Then I actually visited Outskirts Press.  Maybe it was serendipity.  Maybe God was guiding my hands in an effort to show me the light.  Either way, the first thing I clicked on was the Marketing Solutions tab.  And what is at the top of that?  Amazon Extreme Marketing at the bargain price of $299.  Wow, let's see what you get for that $299.  Look Inside (where Amazon lets viewers see the inside of your book), a Kindle edition of your book, and ten tags.  Okay folks, we've been over this, you can do all of this for free, for yourself, in less than ten minutes.  This service would have been overpriced at $29.00 and probably just about right at about $15.00.  But, hey, if you just want a Kindle edition of your book or just want the Look Inside feature, they'll be happy to charge you $135 (each) to set that up as well.  Here, let me make any of you who find this idea even remotely tempting an offer: send me a note and I'll do it for half that price. 

Okay, so as my eyes bled with disgust at the exorbitant price gouging on Amazon, I headed over to see about their paper books.

At the top of that list is the ability to call and talk live to one of their sales people, er..."publishing consultants" about which publishing option would suit you best, for $35.  Now, I've noticed that other services also charge to talk with publishing consultants, about formatting, and book design, and getting your manuscript set up to turn into an ebook.  They don't charge you money to talk to the person who sells you the service in the first place!

Once you get past that there are different tiers of publishing services.  For a basic novel, the most expensive version, "the Diamond Plan," at $999 gets you a soft cover book with either your own cover or one of their "customizable" pre-designed ones.  (You can pick from 21 designs and then customize.)  You get an ISBN and a bar code.   They do the inside formatting for you.  You get an author's webpage.  A manuscript review (basically is the book salable) is part of the deal.  Your book is available to be sold (if you can track down someone at the book store and get them to put copies of your book on his shelves) at many bookstores.  You get an ebook edition (Their ebook.  You've got to pay them more money to get on the Kindle store).  You can list your book with Books In Print (though you have to do it yourself.)  And you get ten free copies of your book.

And I gave up.  This is total crap.  $999.00 for ten books.  Because you're paying that $999 before you sell a single book.  Then after you've paid your $999, you can set your book up as POD, and when someone orders it, they print a copy and send it off.  You set the price and the royalty, so they apply however much to your account.  How nice of them.

Once again here's a comparison:  For ten books I paid CreateSpace $117 and change (the costs of my books, their Pro Plan, and the cost of shipping the books to me).  Now that didn't get me a free copy of How To Sell Your Book on Amazon, or a manuscript evaluation, or my very own marketing package (No they don't do the marketing for you, you get a list of helpful instructions to do the marketing yourself.), or weekly marketing email (all part of the Diamond Package).  And CreateSpace just covered the print version of my book, I did have to take an extra step to get my ebook set up.  But I also didn't have to spend close to a thousand dollars to do it.  Ten books on would have cost me about double that amount, and once again, I wouldn't have had the marketing stuff, and I would have had to pay extra for the ebook, but the total would have been closer to $500 than $1000. 

Hey, Outskirts Press will get your book on Barnes and Noble!  CreateSpace doesn't do that!  That's true.  They do seem to get the book on the Barnes and Noble website.  Now, you can do that with your ebook for yourself for free.  And I haven't yet figured out how to do it for a paper back book.  So, that's one thing Outskirts can get you.  Is it worth $1000? will do it for you, too, and they'll charge a whole lot less for it.

But that's the super-duper deluxe package.  How about the low end one?  At their low end, you pay them $199, and they print you up a book.  That's it.  You get one "free" copy.  And it's just a book, no barcode, no ISBN.  You can't even upload your own cover.  You have to use one of the two options they offer you. You can get that at Lulu and CreateSpace for just the cost of the book (and neither of those options would think of charging you extra to upload your own cover!)

Please, by all that is good and holy, stay away from Outskirts.  They are charging vastly more for their services than anyone ever should.  For $999 you can go over to and get a custom (as in designed specifically for you) cover or possibly some editing, plus almost everything offered by the "Diamond Package."  Go to, lay down $999 and you'll get vastly more for your money as well.  

As for me, as the next thing on my list is to figure out how to block Outskirts Press as an advertiser on my blog.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Author Interview: Commander Pants

I tracked down Commander Pants in his fortress of solitude, and he was willing to answer some questions for me.

KR: Why did you decide to self-publish?

CP: When the first draft was done, I convinced Luke Rhinehart, author of The Dice Man - an American author who is virtually unknown here in the States, but a cult hero in England and elsewhere - to take a look at it. He loved it, and when I had no success interesting an agent, he insisted on paying for me to self-publish. I hemmed and hawed for a while, fearful that self-publishing would be a mistake, but in the end I jumped in the pool.

KR: Who did you use?

CP: I started with a place that shall remain nameless. We had our disagreements. For example, they kept reformatting the book in ways that I did not like. This led to my SENDING THEM ONE EMAIL IN ALL CAPS, and that led to them “firing” me on the spot (and refunding all of my money).

This was actually great, since working with them had taught me all about formatting and formats for
publication, which gave me the confidence to go to the source. The source being Lightning Source.

I don’t know if your readership is aware, but most POD books ultimately come from one of two sources: Amazon, which does Create Space, and Lightning Source, which is owned by Ingrams, the largest wholesale book distributor in the world. Most of the other POD publishers use Lightning Source for their printing. Well, it seems that Lightning Source has no problem with little fish like you or me setting up our own imprints and using them for printing and fulfillment. I started Pantsateria with Luke’s kind gift, and off I went. Yes, it’s a bit more work. You have to do all of your own formatting, make your own cover and get your own bar code and ISBN number. But in the end, I think it’s worth it; the profit margin is better, and you get to maintain more control of the finished product.

KR: Will you go with them again?

CP:  Definitely. (I mean “Pantsateria” has a great reputation - and blood is thicker that water).

KR: What marketing are you doing?

CP: So far I have been giving books to reviewers, doing give-aways with bloggers, guest blogging and interviews like this. I have also been “trolling” by sending out the book to big names, hoping that someone would sit up and take notice. I would like to do more, but I just don’t know what (I seem to be much better at the creation end than the marketing one).

KR: What's worked well so far?

CP: To be honest, not much. Although the book has had many extremely nice reviews, it languishes. It’s sad really. I am finding that there’s an attitude out there akin to the “Irish need not apply” for self-published authors. If you self-publish, then your product must be crap. It’s interesting, because when it comes to music or let’s say, board games (I also created the board game, Acronymble), there’s a perception that going it alone is respectable, but not in publishing. The irony is that traditional publishing these days is much less open to anything that might not make a buck, and I suspect that many of the classics out there might end up self-published if their authors brought them to market today. That said, I do think that self-publishing is the
future, it just needs some time for people to get past that “Vanity Press” image.

KR: What was a waste of time?

CP: I can’t say that any of it is a waste of time, but as I implied, none of it has been very fruitful in terms of sales. It is a wonderful feeling though, when you read a glowing review, to know that someone out there appreciates what you’re doing.

KR:  Who did your cover?

CP: That would be me. I had a lot of trouble with getting the stars to show up crisply (it’s actually a bunch of starscapes stacked up. The “1st edition” of the book came out pretty awful. My savior was my brother-in-law, a professional photographer, who actually talked me through some Photoshop techniques while he was waiting for a table at a restaurant. It was amazing! He had no computer in front of him, yet still talked me through all sorts of different menus and settings. I swear, He must dream about Photoshop!

KR: Why "Commander Pants?" It's a rather *ahem* unique, pen name. I noticed another reviewer saw it and had the same gut reaction I did, that anyone using that name had to be an amateur.

CP: I like to think of myself as a Pseuper Hero (you know, a Super Hero without all of those pesky superpowers).

Seriously though, I already write music and do “found image” music videos under the moniker Commander Pants. And although all of my agent queries went out using the vanilla, dime-a-dozen, name that my parents bestowed upon me, when it came time to put a name on the book, I figured what the hell? and went with the one that I thought would be more memorable.

KR: What's the best advice you can give new self-publishers?

CP: Don’t give up, and believe in yourself. Oh, and go with the technology. I do believe that Kindles and Nooks are only going to get bigger as time goes on.

KR:  Anything else you'd like to say?
CP: Thanks for giving me this opportunity. It’s been fun. Over and out.