Movember – A call for your support

Hey, everyone, Justin here. Today marks the start of Movember, and I’m hoping you’ll want to join me. What’s Movember, you ask? Well, I’ll let the site who organizes the event fill you in:

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world. With their Mo’s, these men raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men.

Once registered at www.movember.com, men start Movember 1st clean shaven. For the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts.

Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.

At the end of the month, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas celebrate their gallantry and valor by either throwing their own Movember party or attending one of the infamous Gala Partés held around the world by Movember, for Movember.

And, to make sure that I do my part to help this worthy cause, I’ve shaved off my goatee, signed up with the site, and am now asking people to donate. If you’d care to lend your dollars to this effort, please go to http://mobro.co/JustinMacumber and make your donation. We can use every dollar you’d be so generous to give. Thank you in advance.

Oh, here’s what I look like tonight, just so you know I’m on the up and up:

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ThrillerCast and Books You Want To Be Buried With

Hey, folks, Justin here. A little while ago the guys over at ThrillerCast put out a call for people to tell them what books they would want to be buried with, and I was more than happy to throw my thoughts out to them. They came back and asked me to join them on the air, and I was honored to do so. If you want to hear what book I’d like to be buried with, please give this a listen. I hope you enjoy it.

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Terry’s Review of “The Overtaking”, by Victorine E. Lieske

Author’s Product Description

Shayne Bartlet has been kidnapped, his powers disabled and his memory altered. He’s not having a good day. And he doesn’t even know it.

When Shayne’s telepathic abilities surface, he finds out Danielle isn’t the normal teenager she appears to be. In fact, she’s not even from his world. And when he finds out her race is responsible for the overtaking of his entire planet, he sets out to uncover the truth about her.

Danielle didn’t mean to fall in love with a Maslonian boy. Her job was to observe and report. But when Shayne’s well being is at stake she goes against orders to help him, putting her own self in danger.

Together, Danielle and Shayne discover that things are not as they seem. They must stop Danielle’s race from destroying the Maslonian planet, and free Shayne’s people.

** SPOILER ALERT ** Be advised I have included some minor spoilers below.

Since I don’t haunt the Young Adult romance aisle of the bookstore, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read this novel. What I got was an enjoyable read and characters I truly cared for. Shayne and Danielle are strong, likeable characters put into an interesting and twisty situation. Danielle and her people have been kidnapping people from Shayne’s world for a long time. Now Danielle is hunting for Shayne while he is trying to stop them.

In the process of them dealing with their divergent goals, they fall in love. They also encounter other honorable people and villains. These secondary characters didn’t have the same depth and development as the primary characters. For the most part that isn’t a major problem, however I would have liked to have seen them more fleshed out.

Since this story is a romance and not science fiction, I kept a more open mind when it came to some of the futuristic plot elements. A few of them had me raising an eyebrow, they didn’t detract from the romance storyline.

I would have liked to see a bit more ambiguity when figuring out who the bad guys were. I think that would’ve helped ratchet up the action and conflict. Maybe that is not the way Young Adult Romance handles things. Again, this really didn’t detract from the story for me.

I liked this book a lot and none of the issues I mentioned really slowed me down as I read the story.

I’ll have my eye on Victorine and will grab the her next book when it comes out.

I give this book four out of five stars.

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Terry’s Review of “I Am Not A Serial Killer”, by Dan Wells

I Am Not A Serial Killer

From Publishers Weekly

The teenage (and innocent) John Wayne Cleaver swears he is not the serial killer that has emerged in his small town–despite his grisly name and a series of unpleasant and eerie similarities. His fascination with the killer leads him to launch his own investigation of sorts–one that leads him to the identity of the murderer.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is the first of three novels revolving around John Wayne Cleaver.

** SPOILER ALERT** Be advised I have some minor spoilers below.

John Wayne Cleaver has known something is different about him his entire life. The interactions of others rarely make sense and he doesn’t connect emotionally with anyone, not even his own family. He had many things in common with serial killers. They shared the same behaviors, urges, and hungers. Not good in a fifteen year old boy in high school.

The only difference between them and him was that he refused to let the monster out to play.

Most wouldn’t call his life normal. By trial and error, he formed a set of rules to lock the monster behind a wall. Working in his family’s mortuary provided him with a safe way to channel his fascination with the dead. Another outcast boy at school became his shield there. He wasn’t the eccentric loner, rather just one of the odd kids. One that kept writing homework assignments about serial killers, sure, but not dangerous.

Then a local man was disemboweled. The monster inside John stirred at the news and he had to go see the place where it had happened, even if it wasn’t safe for him or those around him. He told his therapist, who promptly told his mother. She didn’t know what a sociopath was, but she was pretty sure working with dead bodies wasn’t healthy for John, so she banished him from the mortuary.

That hurt, and made the monster harder to control, but he found a new hobby–tracking down and identifying the serial killer. As the death toll mounted, he pieced together a profile. When a chance encounter revealed everything, he called the police.

That didn’t turn out so well for the police, because the killer was literally a demon.

More determined than ever, John wasn’t going to let that minor detail stop him from bringing the killer down. He set his rules aside and started plotting to kill the otherworldly being. Unfortunately, that also freed the monster within him.

Could a fifteen year old boy fight a supernatural force and his own psyche? And would the people he should have cared about pay for his lapse, either at the claws of the demon or at his own hands?

This book wasn’t at all what I expected when I started reading it. I had heard it was horror, but I didn’t feel horrified. The sense of dread I expected of a horror novel never appeared. While it had serious similarities to watching an episode of Dexter, it is not a rip-off, just similar.

I’d almost call this an urban fantasy with an unusual protagonist. The ending satisfied me and I will read the other books in this series as time permits.

I’ll give it four out of five stars.

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2011, The Year of the Indie Author

Today, I read that the Association of American Publishers had reported e-books had grown to be the number one format among all trade categories for February of 2011. As a percentage, they accounted for 29.5% in the combined print and e-book sales group. Considering they only garnered 8.32% in February 2010, that is nothing short of astonishing to me.

The salient facts quoted straight from the report are:

1. e-Books grew 169.4% to $164.1M.
2. the combined categories of print books fell 24.8% to $441.7M.

The full report can be found here.

Credit goes to Robin Sullivan for parsing the data here.

This surge may be because of the large number Kindles, iPads, iPhones, and other e-book capable devices sold for Christmas, so I’m not proclaiming the demise of print. What I am going to do, in my own outspoken way, is declare 2011 the year of the Indie author.

Okay, many other people have said much the same thing, but it’s my turn. I’ll share some figures, but mainly this is my gut feeling. If nothing else, this will make for a great discussion. If I seem a bit unfocused and rambly, I appologize. I forgot I needed to write this until the last moment.

In this last year, I’ve heard sales figures from a number of indie authors that should make everyone sit up and take notice. Let me share some of the numbers as quoted by Robin Sullivan on J.A. Konrath’s blog. I’ve plucked the exact listing and links from his blog so as not to screw them up, so all the credit on them is theirs.

Blake Crouch – 2500+
Nathan Lowell – 2500+
Beth Orsoff – 2500+
Sandra Edwards – 2500+
Vianka Van Bokkem – 2500+
Maria Hooley – 2500+
C.S. Marks – 2500+
Lee Goldberg – 2500+
Lexi Revellian – 4000+
Zoe Winters – 4000+
Aaron Patterson – 4000+
Bella Andre – 5000+
Imogen Rose – 5000+
Ellen Fisher – 5000+
Tina Folsom – 5000+
Terri Reid – 5000+
David Dalglish – 5000+
Scott Nicholson – 10,000+
J.A. Konrath 10,000+
Victorine Lieske – 10,000+
L.J. Sellers – 10,000+
Michael R. Sullivan – 10,000+
H.P. Mallory – 20,000+
Selena Kitt – 20,000+
Stephen Leather – 40,000+
Amanda Hocking – 100,000+

The link to their full post is here.
A more detailed analysis by Derek J. Canyon is here.

I know what you’re saying.

Those are just a few people and we don’t even know how much they’re making. True, but even if we posited they sold for $0.99 and only reaped $0.35 a copy, that would be $10,000 in their pocket for a year at the lowest volume mentioned. Some of these folks made substantially more. Amanda Hocking made almost two million dollars before she got a print offer. Selena Kitt is on track to come close to a million dollars in sales this year.

How many people were making anything like those kinds of sales on their own a few years ago? And that’s certainly not a comprehensive list, either.

Okay, I’ll agree that these folks are at the upper end of the spectrum. The thing is that unlike traditional print, their books never fall off the shelf. As they add books to those shelves, their sales numbers continue to rise. Every month, more people hit that list and with the growing number of e-book sales, it will continue to grow.

With millions of e-reader devices out there, it isn’t a stretch to imagine selling a thousand books a month after working at putting books out for a few years. And the thing about same e-book sales is that they aren’t trailing off with time. They’re ramping up. Each title is selling more every month on average and the trend is accelerating.

You could still be selling that title with good numbers for decades. No print run can match that.

I’m not saying it is as simple as just tossing an e-book out there. You need to do the same things a traditional publisher does. Make sure the story is entertaining. Edit it. Get a professional looking cover. Get it formatted. Crap books won’t sell. Make yours the best it can be and it will find an audience.

All that said, there could be good business reasons to seek a print deal. It just won’t be for the money. It’ll be for things like reaching a new audience and building name recognition. If dirty, filthy lucre is your end goal, traditional publishing isn’t your best bet.

In future installments, I’ll be talking about this topic in more detail. I’ll also be taking your howls of outrage into account, so tell me where I blew it in the comments.

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Terry’s Review of Treachery In Death, by J.D. Robb

Treachery In Death Cover Large

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lt. Eve Dallas and her squad take on corrupt cops in Robb’s 33rd full-length novel featuring the New York Police and Security Dept. homicide detective (after Indulgence in Death), a fast-paced, intricate, and deadly dance of well-matched opponents. When Dallas’s partner, Det. Delia Peabody, overhears an angry exchange between Lt. Rene Oberman and Det. William Garnet that reveals an unlawful killing and ongoing skimming, Dallas’s reaction to this news is decisive: “the blue line breaks for wrong cops.” The setting may be slightly futuristic, but the procedures are familiar: Dallas puts together a solid team that meets in her home to avoid leaks as they compile evidence. At the same time, she initiates confrontations with the dangerous Oberman, whom she begins pushing toward a trap. From this pure good guys versus bad guys scenario, Robb (aka Nora Roberts) wrings plenty of exciting strokes and counterstrokes before reaching the satisfying climax. (Feb.)

As said above, Treachery in Death is the thirty-third full-length book in the In Death series.

Be advised, there might be some minor spoilers below.

Set about fifty years in our future, the world that Eve Dallas lives and works in as a Homicide Lieutenant in the Big Apple is noticeably different from ours, yet very much the same when it comes to the kind of criminals the police protect society from. Society has outlawed lethal weapons, but that hardly seems to slow the bad guys down. Forensics has improved to an astonishing degree, yet the smart criminals always seem to be a step ahead.

In this book, the criminal elements wear badges just like Dallas does. When her partner, Peabody, overhears a conversation she shouldn’t have, the wheels start spinning to stop the bad cops before they kill again. The cast of characters readers of this series know well once more leaps into action to get the evidence they need to stop the bad guys.

This book, unlike the earlier ones in the series, starts off with Dallas (and the reader) knowing exactly who is guilty and of what. All they have to do is prove it. That quickly becomes very predictable. Not one single thing in this book caught me off guard. I spotted all the turns long before they make their foregone appearance. I can’t say twists really as there were none. The book is well written structurally, but the story is flat.

It’s sad for me, really. The lack of tension left me totally unconcerned for anyone’s safety. There was no threat to keep the tension high. In fact, there really wasn’t much tension. Perhaps the author was trying to break the formula of the long running series to get a change of pace. She did that, just not to her benefit.

I’ll be waiting for her next book in this series, but with the expectation that it has to be better.

I give Treachery in Death three stars.

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I got to meet a writing idol recently

There are several writers whom I idolize. There’s of course Stephen King, my love for which I’ve spoken of many times in the past, and there’s Joss Whedon, whose work on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly has thrilled and chilled me many times over. But, to that list has to be added Kevin Smith. For those who don’t know him, Kevin Smith is the writer/director of such films as CLERKS, CHASING AMY, and ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO. If you’ve never heard of those films, I don’t blame you, but I do judge you. His films have always slanted to the comedic, and they’re usually dialogue heavy, with said dialogue coming from hip, young characters. CLERKS, his first film, came out nearly twenty years ago, and he’s been entertaining me since then. He’s also known for his comic book writing, but for me that’s really just the icing on top of his already amazing film career cake. The guy is just a damn good writer. In fact, I idolize him so much I own an action figure of him, and I have it sitting on my desk like a patron saint of writing so that he can watch over me and give me inspiration when I need it. Photographic evidence has been provided to the right. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Smith’s burgeoning podcast network. He has several great shows, and soon it’ll be growing into an actual internet radio station. My week would be pretty dull without listening to him and his friends talk about their lives and loves and work. If you’ve never listened to SModcast, then you’re seriously missing out.

But, all of that isn’t why I’m writing this blog entry. No, I’m writing this because I recently got to meet Kevin Smith, and it was a fantastic experience. You see, his next film is RED STATE, and it is very much unlike his usual fare in that it’s a horror movie. And, not only is it his first horror movie, but it’s also a movie that he didn’t want to sell the distribution rights to, so he’s been going around the country to show it to audiences himself. Luckily for me, one of his stops was Austin, which is about three to four hours south of me. Now, I have to say, when my brother first brought up the idea of going to Austin to see the movie and Kevin Smith, I was hesitant. I am a creature of habit to the extreme, and the idea of going so far to do something so other than what I’d normally be doing made me itchy. Even though I love Smith’s work, I didn’t want to go. Were it not for my wife saying she wanted to go too, I probably would have stayed home. But, she did want to go, as did my brother’s wife, so we decided to make a little trip out of it. We’d get tickets, drive together to Austin, see the movie, and then drive home the next day. It would a simple, fun time. Knowing we’d all be together made it easier for me to want to go. So, we made plans.

Cut to a couple of weeks ago, and my brother telling me that not only were we going to see the movie, but he’d also gotten us backstage passes to MEET Kevin Smith. How had my brother performed this incredible feat? After cyber-stalking Kevin for what seemed like months, finally he broke through, and Kevin said my brother could have the passes if Scott could give him something in return. Well, as luck would have it, my brother had a short song he’d created awhile ago, and he sent it to Kevin to see if he liked it. Indeed he did, and four backstage passes were issued for us. Joy! Fast-forward to a few days ago, and we all drove to Austin. My wife loves the city, as do I, so it was a pleasure to be there anyway, but knowing we’d get to meet Kevin Smith AND see the movie made it that much sweeter.

Now, if you don’t know who Kevin Smith is, I can only assume you also don’t know what RED STATE is about. RED STATE is a rather simple film, all things considered, but it is a brutal film as well. RED STATE tells the tale of three boys who think they’re going to drive to an internet hookup and get laid, only to have their little sexual sojourn turn into a horrifying ordeal at the hands of a congregation of religious zealots made in the mold of the famous Phelps family, but taken to an extreme. Soon the ATF is called in, and all hell breaks loose at the Five Points Trinity Church compound, which is part Westboro Baptist Church and part Branch Davidian Complex. It’s a short movie, but every second of it counts, and there is no fat to be had. We all really enjoyed it. I wish I had a copy of it so that I could watch it again. If you get a chance, go see it for yourselves. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

After the film, as he’s done at every stop on the tour, Kevin likes to come out and do a little Q&A with the audience. I say little, but really it ended up being about an hour and a half of him talking about the film and his plans for the future (which includes making one more movie — HIT SOMEBODY — before he retires from the film industry and concentrates on his writing, his internet radio show, and developing an independent film distribution company). I loved hearing him talk, but after an hour or so my legs were killing me, I was sweating like crazy, and I needed to go to the bathroom. When it was over, it was bittersweet. Fortunately we knew we were going to meet Kevin soon, so it really wasn’t over at all.

I’ve been lucky, in that because of my podcast and writing I’ve gotten to meet a lot of celebrities I look up to, either in person or over the phone while interviewing them. I’ve met Kevin Anderson (writer of more books than I’ll ever be able to produce from my meager fingers), Nathan Fillion (star of such TV shows as Firefly and Castle), Ray Park (his greatest claim to fame was playing the roll of Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, and you need to hear my wife tell the story of that meeting), and Tracy Hickman (one of the authors of the Dragon Lance series, which when I was kid I thought was better than The Lord Of The Rings) amongst others. Meeting Kevin Smith might have been better than them all, because not only did I get to shake his hand and tell him how much I liked his work, but for those few moments he was really engaged with me on a personal level. Thanks to my brother I was able to talk to and touch a person I idolize. Thank you, Scott. And thank you, too, to Kevin Smith. I really hope you kept my business card, and that you call me. I know you’d have fun on my podcast, and getting to talk more with you would be a dream come true.

Anyway, that’s it from me. The trip to Austin was great, the movie was amazing, and I’m still kind of floating on the high of it. Now if only I could figure out a way to meet Stephen King and Joss Whedon…

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Congratulations to P.G. Holyfield!

A huge congratulations is in order for author and podcaster (not to mention hall-of-fame Dead Robot) P.G. Holyfield. Today he announced that Murder at Avedon Hill has won the inaugural Dr. John William Polidori Award for Best Vampire Novel of 2010. If you’d like to listen to the awards and hear his brief acceptance speech, please go to the Out of the Coffin podcast and check out episode 70.

Well done, Mr. Holyfield! I feel like we had a hand in getting you this honor (we didn’t, but I want to feel like we did anyway). I really hope you enjoy this award, and that it helps take some of the sting out of never winning a Parsec. 😉

In all seriousness, congratulations! We Dead Robots are very very proud of you.

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Terry’s Review of River Marked, by Patricia Briggs

River Marked Cover

Publisher’s Summary: “Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She’s never known any others of her kind. Until now.

An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-one that her father’s people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help…”

River Marked is the sixth book in the Mercedes Thompson urban fantasy series.

Be advised there may be some minor spoilers below.

It may just be me, but one of the big draws in good urban fantasy is a strong female protagonist. Patricia Briggs delivers in spades with Mercy Thompson. She’s tough, independent, smart, and a truly good person. That makes her very easy to root for and makes for an emotional ride when she hits a rough spot. And the author isn’t shy about putting her through the wringer on occasion, either. That makes this series one of the best in the urban fantasy genre.

In this book, Mercy finally ties the knot with sexy Adam Hauptman, the Alpha of the werewolf pack that lives behind her lot, and they’re off on their honeymoon. Their relationship has been moving this way for quite some time, and seeing her making her personal life work was very satisfying.

Of course, being off on their own without any of the secondary characters I’ve come to love made for a different tone. There was a bit more romance, which I liked, and fewer subplots, which I didn’t like so much. That lack hurt my enjoyment of the book a little.

We did get to see a few new secondary characters, though, and some of them look like they might be recurring. The main one was Coyote of Indian legend. As one would expect, he both helps and hinders her as she tries to stop a monster that has been killing people. He also provided some surprising and interesting insight into her mysterious father, a man who died before she was born. I’m hoping he makes further appearances later in the series.

The tone in River Marked was a bit different from the earlier books in the series, and it detracted from my enjoyment. While I welcomed the added focus on her relationship and the romance, the pressure seemed too light on Mercy, which slowed the pace more than I liked. I really think not including the established cast of characters also hurt the story a little.

Even so, it was a good read and a solid addition to the series. I’ll eagerly be awaiting the next book to see what happens next. I’ll give it four stars and recommend it strongly.

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Episode 166 – Brainstorming Horror With Paul Cooley

This week the Robots are joined by Paul E. Cooley to help Justin brainstorm his next book, STILL WATER. This one will be a horror novel, and who better to help us out than Paul, the FiendMaster himself? Please enjoy and send along your own thoughts!

Paul’s Website

Terry’s New Website

The Radiolab episode Eli mentioned

This week’s promo – Ministry of Peculiar Ooccurrences

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