Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Despirate Plea For Attention

Greetings, Voracious Readers!

Some people have been asking me how the book's been doing lately, and I gotta say, pretty durned good for a tome that's had little to no formal promotion.

It certainly helps when some sweet readers actually take the time to provide some feedback.  For a writer that doesn't have the ability to hit the road on a Grateful Dead-style book tour, reviews and comments are indispensable.  Here are a few things people have said about the novel thus far:

Not Your Average "Cookie Cutter" Fantasy Novel

"Are you tired of reading the same old cookie cutter epic fantasy novels that are chalk full of those mundane 'fantasy ingredients'? Do you want to bite into a whole new fantasy tasty treat? Then this book is worth the read.

Mr. Pretty has created a very in depth world filled with a rich history and dozens of complex characters who never fall in to the basic 'good or evil' category. Pretty is not afraid to tell this tale from the POV of some very unlikable, even immoral characters. As the plot progresses new truths will be revealed that will challenge your impressions and assumptions about their ethics. Your opinion of these characters will constantly change as Pretty takes them on a journey of a lifetime.

A note of warning that this book is not for those of you who like the typically happy 'fantasy ending' is dark, gritty, and emotional. It is a risky move which I found pays off and serves the story as a whole."

I'm glad this reviewer mentions the moral ambiguity of the characters since that was a major motivation to write the book in the first place.  I really don't believe that people are arbitrarily good or evil, I just think that self-motivation often has a major impact on the perception of human behavior.  And to take this concept even further, (and to borrow a trope from Dungeons & Dragons) a person's "alignment" is often dictated by how people regard this motivation.

For example, Adolph Hitler, justifiably regarded as history's greatest monster, was initially adored by the majority of his people.  Hell, he was even voted Time magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1938.  Initially, he was perceived as a strong leader who cast off his country's economic burdens, thumbed his nose at foreign pressures, and brought pride and prosperity back to his nation.  In fact, even after Germany became an aggressor state and started to openly persecute of some of it's most hallowed citizens, the lion's share of people still didn't regard the Nazis as completely evil.  And that's because people still believed in the motivation or were too frightened to speak out against the motivation.

I'm also quite thankful for the reviewer's honest thoughts about the ending.  Indeed, if people don't feel a tremendous sense of needless waste and loss by the end of the book, I've failed.  After all, if I'm going to make the bold claim that Brother's Keeper is influenced by Greek and Shakespearan tragedy, then I damned well better deliver the goods.  Despite all of the costly and painful personal casualties, I hope that most people realize that the world depicted in my novel is still a better place in the end.              

Oh, and I also dig the phrase "fantasy tasty treat".  Makes me think of an ice cream cone with sprinkles on top.

Here's another review:

Leaves You Wanting More 

"The novel, 'Brother's Keeper', is very much a character driven novel. The author, David Pretty, manages to adopt a yin yang approach when creating his cast. The good are not saintly, the villains are not demonic. They all feel very real and very flawed, just like you and I. 

Although 'Brother's Keeper' is by definition, a fantasy novel, I found it to be very well grounded. There was nothing jarring or out of place that would remove you from the moment. Everything was very believable. The settings seemed fertile, warm and beautiful or windswept, cold and harsh by turn. 

The author takes no pity on any of his characters whether it is by placing them in heat of battle on the open seas or in the midst of family strife. I found that much like George R.R. Martin's 'Game of Thrones', I wanted to keep reading, almost looking for pages at the end of the book because I was left wondering what happens to these characters next. I am very much looking forward to the next instalment of 'The Death Quest Saga'."

Words can't express how proud I am that both of these reviews mentioned the depth of characterization.  If anything, I was really hoping that readers would get attached to my Rogues Gallery of characters and that they "come alive" in some capacity.

I also hope that I've forged a world that's "believable" to a reader.  I didn't want to bury people under an avalanche of boring minutia, so instead I tried to drop little references and tidbits here and there just to give the setting enough flavor to seem "real".  Likely Volume II will be more grounded in the book's mise-en-scène, but since I had a lot of story to tell in Brother's Keeper, I didn't want the reader to slog through anything that wasn't related to the overall plot.

And although Brother's Keeper is fairly self-contained, there is a plot thread that I deliberately left dangling  to build Volume II's foundation around.  Although I took great pains to complete the premise set up in the first Volume, hopefully I've also left enough unanswered questions to give readers some incentive to check out the next installment.  In the end I hope that people are left hanging on the edge of "evolution" just enough to make them curious as to what comes next.

And then there's this one:

Excellent First Novel

"After reading the first novel from David Pretty I got way more than I originally expected. It is full of detailed description of characters and situations that actually make you feel as if you were right there with them. The story line just seems to keep you reading as you feel like you know the characters and have a thriving need to know what happens to them next. 

Also, the way the novel is written explains in detail how the characters are feeling at certain moments and the reader just feels like they are in that character's shoes. One gets empathetic towards the characters almost instantly upon beginning to read. 

I personally recommend this read and look forward to more from this author. Keep up the great work David and thanks for this awesome tale!"

There are certain things that writers always love to hear from readers:
  1. "You exceeded my expectations."
  2. "I believed what happened in the book."
  3. "The story was propulsive and it kept me reading."
Having said that, I suspect that formal literary circles would probably lambaste me for employing an omniscient point of view in the novel.  But I wouldn't have done it any other way since the characters were so diverse and interesting that I just couldn't resist putting the reader right into their heads.  I'm sure some people will consider these transitions jarring, but I really wanted people to get emotionally invested in the characters and experience all of their highs and lows.

And then finally, here's one from Stephen Patrick Clare, the publishers of Arts East here in Halifax:

"Extremely well-written, with a solid storyline and strong narrative arc - insightful, informative, entertaining and enlightening - a book that is certainly worthy of greater national attention."

This was great because Stephen isn't what I'd describe as big "genre" fan.  I never intended to write some sort of insular, nerdy fantasy book loaded with all kinds of clunky lore and convoluted references.  I just wanted to write a contemporary story about family conflict, dangerous secrets, personal tragedy and blind ambition.   The fantasy elements are about as incidental as the ghost in Hamlet, the Three Witches in MacBeth and the Sphinx and Oracle in Oedipus Rex.    

It's also very encouraging to hear someone say that the book is worthy of national attention.  Indeed Brother's Keeper holds very little appeal to regional, Maritime publishers with their single-minded devotion to "slice of life" tales, Christmas stories, kid's books and ghost anthologies.  If my novel is ever going to flourish, it has to be picked up by a major publisher and then diligently marketed and delivered to its target audience.

In addition to getting some encouraging comments from readers, I'm also doing whatever I can personally to drive up the book's profile.

For example, Brother's Keeper is now available through my local library system. And just last week I designed a cinema-style trailer for the book with the help if iMovie, some public domain images from the interwebs and the stirring music of Carl Orff.    

So, things are pretty good at the moment.  I'm still hoping that my book gets picked up by a major publisher and then transformed into a popular edition.  The promotion and distribution channels that would open up for me would be staggering.  This would also give me some definitive incentive to proclaim myself a real writer as opposed to "call center bait", which I'm likely to become in 2012 unless a more suitable offer comes down the pike. 

The dream's still alive folks.  Keep your fingers crossed for me...

EPIC:  My next goal: become a member of this exclusive club

FAIL:  I don't know if it's a comment on the state of our society but Walter The Farting Dog is far from a publishing failure.

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