BOOK REVIEW: Day By Day Armageddon: Ghost Run

This review is long overdue, but better late than never.

 

51s0etzxtylIt was about two years ago when I first picked up a copy of Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne. Being a red-blooded American, I’ve always enjoyed zombie movies/games, but thanks to Max Brooks I became quite enthralled with zombie literature, as well. So, when I came across DBDA on sale, I thought I would give it a whirl. After all, the author is in the US armed forces, which already warrants a great deal of respect from me. I figured the worst that could happen was that I didn’t like it, and one of the men protecting this nation has a few extra bucks in his pocket. Suffice it to say, my socks were full and properly blown off with this series—I was hooked.

I’m considering doing another, lengthier review on books 1-3, but this review will be about book 4, subtitled Ghost Run. While this review will be best read by people who have gone through the previous books, I will do my best to avoid significant spoilers for someone who hasn’t read all (or some) of the prior books in the series.

Book 3 (Shattered Hourglass) deviates from the rest of the series and is written (mostly) in third person following several different people/groups. At first this was a bit difficult to chew, and I questioned why Bourne made that decision. However, by the end of the book I had seen a story—a much deeper story—develop. And while the move to third person was a bit jarring, it advanced the story in a way that would just not have been possible to do from the first person perspective of the main character. This is not to say the book was bad, just that it was different. But, I realized that it was a necessary choice for Bourne to make to take the plot the direction he did. And I am glad he did it, because it set up the story for Ghost Run—the best book of the series!

Ghost Run returns to the first person perspective of Kilroy (Kil), the protagonist, and starts off a short time after Shattered Hourglass ends. And it doesn’t take long for Kil to find himself out on the road, again, facing hordes of the undead who are hellbent on having him for dinner. Picking up a faint distress signal from a familiar group with significant news, Kil quickly decides to take on the suicidal task of locating and extracting the group located inside a major city. It’s worth the risk.

One of the first things I want point out about this book that I love is that Kil is alone. Sure, he interacts with a few people here and there (many of which don’t take too kindly to strangers), but in this book he is by himself more than he is in any of the other books. And, as I read through the book, I think I felt more anxious and empathetic for the hero than at any other point in the series (with perhaps the exception of a stretch of chapters in book 2). And even though Kil has a companion of sorts in Ghost Run, for all intents and purposes it’s him versus the world. And it’s great!

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was getting to know Kil more on a personal level—on a more vulnerable level. In the interest of those who haven’t read the other books, I won’t go into details, but the concerns and worries that plague Kil’s thoughts at times, for the people he cares about, brought a new depth to his character in this book. One that I can personally relate to. I am quite sure these thoughts came straight from Bourne’s heart, and was not just an attempt to pull at the heart strings of the reader. I found it easy to laugh when Kil laughed, get choked up when Kil got choked up, and get frustrated for him when the crap kept piling on. In this book, Kil has to climb a mountain of struggles while slaying more demons than just the undead.

As if there was any question to it, Bourne delivers brilliantly on the intense action front. There are some chapters in the book that I found myself so tensed up that my fingers began to hurt from clutching my Kindle, and it would take me several minutes after powering down my e-reader to come out of the story and back to reality. For some readers, reaching this point comes a bit easier, but not so much for me. I can count on one hand the books that have impacted me that way, and Ghost Run, by far, did it the most.

J.L. Bourne, like myself, is a gun enthusiast. And, like me, inserts much of that enthusiasm into his writing. For me personally, I loved reading the details about weapons and supplies Kil came across over the course his journey. Some people might get a bit bogged down with this information if their knowledge of the subject is limited, but Bourne does a good job of keeping the story flowing even during these situations. And proper context is usually offered to explain the technical talk. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and assume most of his readers won’t have any problems in this department.

Ghost Run is written in a way that I feel someone who has not read any of the prior books in the series could pick this one up and read it standalone. There’s enough information given to explain characters and past situations that it wouldn’t leave you completely confused. Having said that, you will get so much more out of this book if you read the first three. So, do it.

I’d be lying if I said J.L. Bourne wasn’t one of my favorite (if not my favorite) author. His craft improves with each story told, and each one of those stories is even more compelling than the last. Without a shadow of a doubt, J.L. Bourne has gained me as a reader for life. I look forward to his next release, whatever and whenever it may be.

 

You can pick up Day by Day Armageddon: Ghost Run (along with the other DBDA books in the series) over at Amazon and other book retailers. You can also check out his standalone doomsday/prepper novel, Tomorrow War, which was my favorite novel of his until Ghost Run released.

You can also learn more about this author at his website http://jlbourne.com/

 

-AJ

Kindle Unlimited 2.0—Fair? Or Conniving Plan?

At the beginning of the month Amazon switched over to what many authors are referring to as Kindle Unlimited 2.0 or (KU 2.0). The change was simple, but significant: instead of a flat royalty rate when someone borrows your book, you now get royalties for every page of your book that is read. See? Simple. But also significant.

I admit, when I received the e-mail alerting me to this new plan I was very skeptical at first. Even though I was only making about half the amount on a borrow as I would on a sale, it was still nice that this was a guaranteed royalty rate(so long as the reader made it past the sample 10% of the book). So when I saw they were changing it to be pages read, I got nervous. With the old plan, if someone borrows my book, but doesn’t like it, I still made the money on it. But now, if someone borrows my book and reads only a few pages before tossing it, I might get a couple pennies. This would drastically change my royalties earned being enrolled in KDP Select, which made me decide that I was not going to re-enroll in the program for another 90 days. But then the strangest thing happened—I stepped back, looked at this change after my knee-jerk response had settled, and realized it’s actually not only fair, but if my books are good then it has the potential to pay far better than the old plan.

Though I was skeptical of KU 2.0 after reading the email, I think I really got jaded after I saw the reaction from many in the indie author community. A reaction that seemed to be filled with nothing but moans and groans about how Amazon was screwing them over again. It was then I realized how we were complaining about the very company that made it possible for authors of all types of skill sets and stories to actually get their work in front of readers. When I started looking at it that way, I was shocked (and still am) at how much some folks complain about Amazon. How Amazon doesn’t care about indie authors, how they are greedy, conniving, yadda yadda yadda. These people have already seem to have forgotten that Amazon has not only given us all publishing deals (deals far more favorable than most traditional publishing deals), but that they are the pioneers for this indie author boom we live in. Without Amazon, many of us would have a lot of words written in a file that is collecting digital dust for no one to enjoy. So to those people, I say show a little appreciation for what Amazon has done, and stop expecting them to just give you more. Which leads me to this stunning realization…

Amazon is giving indie authors more! But there’s a caveat—you have to give more. The people pitching the biggest fits (at least from what I observed) were those who have quite a few short stories published, many of which were listed at 99 cents, and taking advantage of the blanketed borrow royalty. Weren’t we just talking about conniving? Time to do some math (don’t worry, it’s not too hard).

When you list a book at 99 cents on Amazon, you earn about 35 cents per sale. However, under the old KU plan, all borrowed books, regardless of sale price or length, earned the same amount or royalty. Amazon KDP select has a pot of money each month (KDP Select Global Fund), and the amount of borrowed books was divided up against that pot. The average was around $1.35 per borrow. That meant a book that would normally yield the author 35 cents per sale (if listed at 99 cents) would make them a dollar more if it was borrowed. And since the only requirement to earn a borrow royalty was for the reader to get past the sample 10%, this method was quite effective for books that were 40-50 pages long (meaning the reader just needed to get through 4-5 pages in order to earn the author the $1.35). Do you see where this starts to become a little lopsided for novelists? So someone who writes a 40 page short story or novella in a month or less would earn the same amount my nearly 700 page book, As the Ash Fell, would earn on a borrow. But all of that has changed. Now, if the estimates are accurate, and Amazon will pay $.005 per page read (that’s a half a penny), then my book would earn $3.5 for a borrow that someone reads cover to cover, while that 50 page book would earn a quarter. So, as I said, a simple, but significant change in how things work.

My biggest worry about this, in terms of negative impact, is: what if my book stinks, and every time it gets borrowed only a few pages are being read? Well, if that’s the case then I have bigger problems to worry about. If people are buying/borrowing my book, but not reading it, then fixing that issue is my biggest priority as a writer. Thus far, I have been pleased with the results from the KU page count on As the Ash Fell—in fact, it’s trending to exceed my expectations by nearly double this month. The only thing I wish Amazon would add (and perhaps it’s in there somewhere and I haven’t found it yet) is to let me know how many people make up my total pages read, so I can know how many people finished the book versus how many people stopped halfway through, etc.

Another benefit to KDP select, which hasn’t changed recently, is the Kindle Countdown deal or free giveaway. I recently ran a countdown in the US that ran for a week. And in that week alone I had more sales than my first month total, and darn near cracked the top 100 in Post-Apocalyptic genre (which is no easy task).

So, for the people fussing about Amazon not caring about the indie authors, I would fully disagree. In fact, to me it sounds like they are looking out for the indie authors, keeping things balanced with the people who were capitalizing off of the flat borrow rate from before. They’ve honestly created a platform that has the potential to get out as much as you put in. That’s about as fair as it gets.

So to summarize: write good (ugh, my wife/editor is going to kill me for that one), write long (whether you take a year and write one longer novel, or crank out 10 short stories), do your best to let the world know about your book, and KU 2.0 will benefit you. On the flip side, if you write the literary equivalent of click bait that is only a few dozen pages, it may not pan out so well.

So if you decided not to enroll in KDP select so that your book will be available to other folks like Nook, iBooks, etc, then I salute you—may your book do extremely well on those other platforms. To those who do it just to “get back” at Amazon for making things “so terribly unfair”, I say “Thanks for making the KDP global fund a little bit bigger for the rest of us.”

I will now go hide and wait out the inevitable assault from those I have angered with this post.

Guest Blog and More

Hey everyone,

 

My friend and fellow author, Belinda Frisch, asked me to do a post for her blog. You can view it HERE – The topic is on what to do after publishing your indie book. It’s geared towards authors obviously, but I think a lot of folks might enjoy it (and some of the techniques will apply to endeavors outside of writing).

In other news, I recently was browsing on Amazon UK’s site and I visited As the Ash Fell‘s page. I was shocked when I saw not only was it in the top 10,000 of all Kindle Books, but it was in the top 100 Kindle books in the Post-Apocalyptic genre. I am not sure if that makes the book a best seller or not, but I think that’s pretty cool. Thanks to all the readers out there who have made that possible!

Also, thanks to everyone for making the book’s launch a huge success! I couldn’t have done it with y’all!

I’ve also been busy cranking away on a new book. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it in the not-so-distant future, but until then I will leave you with some promotional pieces I created for As the Ash Fell. 

ataf_pro3

ataf_pro4

 

Until next time

AJ

Book Review: Werewolf Cop

I’ve been following Andrew Klavan’s video commentary since around “Talking Crap with the President” aired. Klavan’s a gifted writer when it comes to making the viewer laugh while teaching some facts. Though I loved watching his videos, I had never read any of his books. Then I saw a tweet about Nightmare City being on sale. I thought I would give it a go. I didn’t realize that it was a YA book, but that didn’t matter. It was no less gripping and intense than what I would expect from a more mature book. I was impressed. So when Andrew started tweeting about his latest upcoming release, Werewolf Cop, I was intrigued.

I made a mistake when I first started reading this new supernatural crime thriller of his. A mistake because I started reading it right as I was launching my own novel, and those efforts demanded I spend much of my time focused on that, and less time reading. I was annoyed with this because after just two chapters of Werewolf Cop, I was hooked, and I didn’t want to stop reading.

Here we are, a month or so later, and I have finished Werewolf Cop. Do I feel the same about it as I did after the first two chapters? Nope. I like it even more.

One of the first things that drew me in with this book was Klavan’s elegant, yet simple writing. I must admit a tinge of jealousy coursed through my veins as I read Werewolf Cop—I only hope to be able to write that well someday. When you’re reading this book it’s very obvious that you are not just reading a police report or blog post recapping some events. However, a casual reader also won’t be reaching for a thesaurus every ten minutes either. Klavan does a great job of using words that aren’t always common, but common enough that the reader will know what he’s saying. And when he uses more obscure words, he does a wonderful job of surrounding it with context that will let you know the definition. Casual and hardcore readers alike will enjoy this book. And while we’re on this topic, Klavan’s ability to create unique, interesting ways to describe everyday things is fantastic! I know on more than one occasion I stopped and read a description and went “I know I have never heard that kind of description before, but it works so perfectly I can’t figure out why no one else had come up with it before.” So all in all, the writing quality is superb in Werewolf Cop.

Now to the story. I will admit, I am not really into supernatural stories, especially something along the lines of a werewolf. Not that I have anything against it, just not my usual cup of tea. Nor do I often read police suspense/thriller/mystery novels. Again, just not my normal genre, but I have nothing against it. After reading this book, though, I think I will be checking out some more police stories. If they are half as good as this one, I know I’ll enjoy them.

I’m not going to get into the specifics about the story. One, I am always afraid I’ll discuss a spoiler that the author didn’t want revealed. And secondly, I can just let the blurb on Amazon tell you what it’s about. I will say, however, that this story is very unique, and will have you on the edge of your seat more than once. Zach Adams certainly finds himself in some tough situations, but never did it feel like “yeah right, that’s unlikely,” when he did. Nor did it feel contrived when he—at times—found ways out of those situations. All in all, a great story that will have you turning each page in anticipation.

Characters are a huge part for me when it comes to a successful book. I believe boring, one dimensional characters can destroy a great story, while well written, deep characters can propel a mediocre story into greatness. Well, Werewolf Cop has a great story and great characters, so it’s win-win. When I am reading a book, I typically find myself watching the characters from an outside perspective. Sure, I get tense for them in stressful scenarios, or I am sad for them when the scene is pulling at the heart strings, but I am always able to stay pretty detached. With Zach Adams, however, I felt as if I was seeing the world through his eyes. I felt his anxiety, I felt his rage…I felt his regret. I felt the intense desire to control the beast that was consuming him. I felt as if I was Zach Adams. I am not sure that any other book I’ve read has had me so invested in the main character. Well done, Mr. Klavan!

No book is perfect, however, and while there is little I would critique about Werewolf Cop, I will warn readers who are looking for something more in line with Klavan’s YA lineup: It ain’t this book. Language in books and movies doesn’t really bother me, though I am not a fan of God’s name being taken in vain—something this book has a fair bit of. There are some relatively mild sexual scenes (mild in comparison with other books and prime time television), it may not be for everyone in that regard. The book is definitely a mature rating, but I suspect that most people would suspect that based on the title.

At the end of the day, this book is certainly among one of my favorites. I was very excited that Klavan’s website says this is book one in a trilogy, and I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the lineup. In the meantime, however, I will be checking out some of Klavan’s older books, and hope that they aren’t too big of a distraction as I dive into writing my next manuscript.

You can buy Werewolf Cop over at Amazon.