Hope For Aspiring Authors (and a Book Review of “The Killing Clause” by Gregg Hurwitz)

Gregg Hurwitz is an author I deeply admire, a writer who goes to painstaking lengths in his research and carefully constructed prose. His settings (often my beloved California) take on a life of their own, and he knows how to keep a reader turning the pages. In my opinion, he’s one of the best thriller writers working today and it’s great to see the success his new Orphan X series is having.

kill clause.jpgThe Kill Clause is the first in his Tim Rackley series, and while the setting and characters and research are all there, it’s also obvious this is one of his earlier books. This novel is heavy on the grief, with the main character and his wife losing their daughter in a savage murder, but for a reason I can’t fully comprehend I never connected with their loss. Maybe I’m just a jaded and heartless individual, but the emotions never went beyond the words for me and I struggled to want to come back to this book. There were some major character decisions that were more plot driven than something the characters would have actually done as well as some very obvious by-the-book twists that were far too predictable. Again, read the whole jaded admission.

Interestingly, I purchased and started reading Hurwitz’s first two novels a while back and never could complete them. As an author myself, and someone who knows many novelists and would-be-writers, I find this incredibly encouraging. It really is the act of doing something that enables you to grow and learn from your mistakes and hone your craft and move on to the next project, and then the next and the next, hopefully improving every step along the way.

You don’t start off as a marathon runner, you tackle a single mile, and then as you condition yourself you keep pushing those boundaries you’ve already hit until soon you’re running further than you could have ever thought possible. Writing is no different, and sadly I see a lot of authors put out a single book and then spend the next several years marketing that one book, trying to grow their readership and market without ever doing the legwork of completing their next project. This would be like running a 5-K race and then repeatedly sharing your results with everyone you know, showing videos, putting new music tracks to clips, trying to get one more view on your Youtube channel, while giving up running! An actor doesn’t talk about the movie they were in two years ago. They promote the one that’s about to come out, creating buzz where they can while then moving on to the next project and the one after that.

So if you’re a writer or dream of one day being a writer, stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. Stop spamming people with ads for what you’ve already created. Instead, write your next project. If you’re doing it correctly, challenging yourself with each project and not just repeating the same formula, you WILL get better. You WILL grow your marketshare. You WILL make a name for yourself. You might not be able to support yourself with your writing — less than 1% of authors do — but you will find joy in what you’re doing. And who knows, maybe like Gregg Hurwitz, you’ll break out with international success. Just know it’s a long road to get there and if you’re not enjoying the ride, you’re missing the point.

Enough of my ramblings. 2.5 stars for “The Kill Clause” – at least I finished this one, though my journey with Tim Rackley and company has come to an end.

Book Review: “The Sound of Broken Ribs” by Edward Lorn

broken ribsThere’s been a plague lately, in my opinion, of great authors striving for subtlety in their writing. Taking a premise and, rather than allowing it to grow into something monstrous and completely unique, trimming it back so that you barely see the buds where there could have been roses. Or thorns. Big nasty thorns. I understand the reasoning behind it, in trying to make their work less fantastical, but I often disagree with the end results, left wanting more.

The Sound of Broken Ribs by Edward Lorn is the first book I’ve read that nails this concept. There’s a maturity here to Lorn’s writing that I haven’t seen before — and I consider myself a fan of his work. But while he lets this dark tale grow its wings he also doesn’t inflate them into balloons that fizzle and go flying around the room before petering out. Writing requires incredible balance, allowing your imagination to run wild while also pulling it back before it becomes unmanageable and ruins your story. I kept waiting for this to derail but Lorn rides that razor’s edge the entire story, teasing the fantastic while keeping you grounded.

And man, are there some big nasty thorns.

Breathing, flawed characters you come to sympathize with and a perfect balance of moments that make you cringe and others that will make your jaw drop, this is on my top 5 list for sure so far for the year. The premise may be simple, but the execution is what makes this book sing. Hats off E on a great story well told.

** Please note this book is currently only available as a special limited hard-cover edition from Thunderstorm Books. I received an advanced review copy of the book. This in no way influenced by review. **

GiveAway Results / Housebroken Reaches 100 Reviews (Sort of)

Housebroken Reaches 100 Reviews!

Well, we did it! Over the past week Kindle Press put my novel on sale, we had that final pesky review come in to push Housebroken into the triple digits for reviews.

And I say “we” here purposefully. Writing is an extremely solitary venture, but once that book is published it becomes a collective experience, and it’s only through word-of-mouth and the attention readers give to that experience (whether good or bad) through which a book can grow legs and live past its initial pub date. So thank you to everyone of you — those who have been with me from the start, and those of you who are still trying to figure out whether it’s worth cracking open a book by that “Behrg” guy.

Two steps forward, one step back

HousebrokenSo while Amazon giveth, Amazon also taketh away. The short and sweet review that was #100 for Housebroken has now become review #99 as in the past 24 hours Amazon kicked a review off of my book. It happens quite often, actually, and there’s not much an author can do about it. Part of the danger in friending people who reach out socially after reading your book is that at some point Amazon can eliminate any reviews from said person, thinking they’re just friends or family attempting to skew review results.

Thankfully it’s not something I stress over, and to me having reached that milestone — even if it was temporary — is still worth celebrating. After all, whenever the next review lands, we’ll be right back at the hundred mark (until the next one gets booted, that is!). Plus, what I count as my greatest rewards from writing novels has come through the interactions of those who reach out — the acquaintances that turn into friendships, on so many different levels. In my book that is something far more worthy of celebration. Though, to be fair, in my books there often isn’t a lot of gleeful celebrating taking place … 🙂

Winners Announced – 2 Signed Copies of Housebroken

Congratulations.jpgSo as promised, in reaching 100 reviews on Amazon I’m giving away 2 signed copies of Housebroken. In order to be completely fair, I’ve run the contest through an online random number generator, plugging in every person who’s signed up for my newsletter and adding additional entries for those who emailed me a link to one of their reviews or proof of purchase of one of my books (Thank you, by the way — see what I mean when I say we can only do this as a team?!?)

In order to protect the identity of the winners, I’ll only refer to them by their First Name and last initial, but here are the winners of the signed books:

  • Ken X
  • Pete K

An email has been sent to each of the winners and books will be shipped once addresses are confirmed.

Thank You Readers!

This has been a fun experiment, and I’m looking to do more give-aways and contests with my newsletter subscribers in the near future, so if you haven’t signed up you can do so here: Behrg’s Newsletter. You’ll also pick up 3 free ebooks for joining the cool kid’s club (even if we ride on the short yellow bus).

Lastly, as you can see reviews mean a ton to authors, especially those of us who are hybrid / indie. You don’t need to write an essay or include some deep prognosis on the hidden themes interwoven throughout the underlying current of the story. Just share your thoughts — a quick note about what you enjoyed (or even what you didn’t) takes less than a minute of your time, but to that author it will mean the world. And it may even influence some other random reader to give that book a try.

** If you missed the $0.99 sale for Housebroken, for some reason the novel is still discounted on Amazon and you can pick it up for $1.00 less than cover price. **

News, Updates & Give-Aways

Housebroken - Banner

Pleased to share that Kindle Press is putting my novel Housebroken on sale July 5th – 11th for just $0.99!

If you haven’t yet had a chance to read this one, these sales are few and far between so grab it while you can for less than a buck!

In other news, Housebroken is now hovering at 99 reviews on Amazon! Once it reaches 100, I’ve decided to offer a Give-Away for 2 signed copies of Housebroken. This give-away will be exclusively available to my mailing list only, so if you haven’t yet signed up, you can do so here: Behrg’s mailing list

No purchase is necessary. You’ll be automatically entered just by participating as a subscriber. But if you’d like more chances to win, shoot me an email (thebehrg at gmail.com) with a link to one (or more) of the following:

  • A screenshot of your purchase of Housebroken (or another of my titles)
  • A screenshot of your posted review on Amazon for Housebroken
  • A screenshot of your posted review on Amazon for another of my titles

You’ll receive an extra entry into the contest for each additional proof of purchase / review.

Thanks again for your support! Winners will be announced within 2 weeks (or as soon as we reach 100 reviews on Amazon).

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Book Reviews – Ketchum & Strand

Two more reviews of some quite non-traditional novels. Both of these have a ton of staying power to them and are ones you’ll carry with you for quite some time after the final page has turned.


The Secret Life Of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

souls

The Secret Life of Souls is a cleverly spun tragedy piece, and your heart will be breaking by the end of it. A window into a functioning dysfunctional family and the small decisions that lead to unimaginable consequences.

The characterizations were strong and believable and, having grown up as a “child actor”, I loved the glimpse into the entertainment industry and the quiet implications of what it does to people. The other thing I loved about this was that there was no real villain, only wounded individuals making poor decisions and then doing what they must to cover them.

Which, of course, only leads to more poor decisions.

Stylistically, I’m not a huge fan of using an animal’s POV as third or first person narrator. It’s a choice that, for whatever reason, just drives me out of the story and I always feel the author writing rather than the persona of the intended animal. I got worried at first that much of the story would be told this way but, thankfully, it was used sparingly.

Beyond that, this was a sharp story simply but effectively told. Well worth checking out.


Dweller by Jeff Strand

dwellerIf there’s one thing you can expect when reading a Jeff Strand novel it’s that the story isn’t going to go where you would expect.

But wait, if you’re expecting it not to go where you expect, does that mean it actually will go where you expect since your expectations are that it won’t go where you would normally assume? Or do your expectations cancel out the unexpected deviations of a “traditional” story (read: “Non”-Jeff Strand story), thereby making the unexpected rather blase, turning cherry blossom caramel-swirl candy corn ice cream into imitation vanilla?

Thankfully, this tasted nothing like vanilla. (Though Owen probably wouldn’t complain either way).

A simple story about an unlikely friendship made all the more interesting by the unique way in which it was told. This is a book no other author could have written. Come on, Jeff Strand and Sasquatch? What more are you waiting for?

Catching up on Book Reviews – Prentiss & Janz

Man, I’m behind on my book reviews. Life has really gotten in the way lately of … well, I guess … living. In the next day or two I’ll be trying to catch up here so stay tuned as there have been some fantastic reads.

Here are two to start with: “Life in a Haunted House” by Norman Prentiss, and “Children of the Dark” by Johnathan Janz, two coming of age stories that are both brilliant, yet couldn’t be more different from each other.


Life In A Haunted House – Norman Prentiss

 

Haunted House“We all want magic of some kind.”

Life in a Haunted House is a multi-layered marvel, as intricate a novel as one could hope to conjure, and yet despite its carefully constructed narrative it reads as a simple coming-of-age story, something Prentiss has long mastered. Paying tribute to B-horror movies and the nostalgia that children these days will never fully appreciate, Prentiss plays a quite clever sleight-of-hand, keeping our attention focused where he wants it while the real story develops around us, engulfing the reader before they’re aware of what’s occurred.

Beautifully drawn characters, full of heart and courage but also flawed in a way that make them real, combined with an unconventional telling and unreliable narrator. It all adds up to an experience you won’t soon forget. This is a story you won’t want to end.

Norman has several tie-in stories as well available on Amazon that capture the movies discussed throughout this book – just one more layer to add to make this experience so unique.

 

 


 

Children of the Dark – Johnathan Janz

childrenMy first trip down Janz halls. Children of the Dark starts as a coming-of-age tale that is masterfully spun. If you don’t come to care about these characters in the first half of this novel, there’s something wrong with you. (But don’t worry, there’s something wrong with me too).

One of my biggest gripes with the horror genre is that gore and scares often tend to overshadow character development, and yet without giving us a reason to care about the characters it’s impossible for us to feel afraid for them. Janz takes his time setting up a great cast that feel remarkably real, so that when the horror begins you have a reason to sit up and take notice.

The second half of this novel was a completely different beast from the first, and while this is where the payoff comes for us horror junkies, there were moments where it felt a little too much and dipped into familiar tropes that could have been avoided. Still a quite stellar experience, and a book I would definitely recommend. Looking forward to revisiting more of the Janz hallways soon.

Book Review: “The Red Church” by Scott Nicholson

Haven’t been posting as many of my reviews here on the blog, but here’s one for a novel I thought was quite unique. Definitely worth checking out.

red church.jpgThe Red Church is a book that’s been on my radar for years, finally had the chance to dig into it, and glad I did. Instead of just uncovering a quick treasure that’s been buried underground and has maybe lost some of it’s shine, this was like unearthing a fossil only to realize that you’re standing not over a single specimen but an entire burial ground that could fill museums. Reminiscent of early King, Nicholson is a master wordsmith, and his imagery is as haunting as it is poignant. At times the religious aspects of the book felt a little heavy handed, but the final picture painted is worth every stroke of the artist’s brush.

Far from your run-of-the-mill supernatural horror story, this is one that will sit with you long after you’ve digested it. Will be looking into more of Nicholson’s work for sure.

“When you have one of those waking nightmares, when you think bad things in the dark and can’t go to sleep, you think happy thoughts. Cartoon dogs, fat clowns, things like that. Except sometimes the cartoon dogs bite and the fat clowns grow sharp smiles.”