30 April 2013

Review: Sweet Money Won

The Book: Sweet Money Won by Mycroft Magnusson

Price: 77p (AKA 99c)

Review Category: Requested via email

The Blurb: Rick and Liam are small-time con artists from the Koreatown section of Los Angeles, who spend much of their time healing from the beatings dished out by disgruntled victims of their scams.

As if the pair’s troubles weren’t serious enough, Rick is addicted to internet pornography and falls in love with Amethyst, a mysterious web-cam girl he meets online. For his part, Liam has a gambling problem, which centers on a lifelong devotion to the New England Patriots.

When Rick learns his new love has been forced into prostitution by a gang of Russian sex-traffickers, he sets out to save her. To do this, he must betray his longtime partner and steal their life savings, which Liam has just bet on his beloved Patriots.

Things go horribly wrong, and the two friends find themselves scrambling for cash to stave off their leg-breaking Korean bookies. With only three days to raise all the money, the partners—along with Amethyst—hatch a desperate scheme to blackmail a philandering US congressman.

Can they pull off their audacious plan, or will jealousy and suspicion tear them apart? Finally, what is the web-cam girl’s dark secret, and can these two screw-ups survive long enough to learn the terrible truth?

It’s all-in for Rick and Liam—the debut novel from Mycroft Magnusson, Sweet Money Won is a sexy, funny crime thriller, balancing character-driven suspense with a comic portrait of masculinity in crisis.

Preview Available: The usual Amazon look inside thing.

Would I buy this (again)? : Possibly.

The Product: Your usual Kindle e-book, pricey paperback also available.

The Nitty Gritty: I'm going to resort to the well known doo-doo sandwich method for reviewing Sweet Money Won. It earned its four stars from me and the reasons for this are numerous. A number of clever, funny comic vignettes. Some energetic card play writing. Sexy scenes that allowed the reader space enough not to feel a cringe coming on, a good variety of situations and character interactions.

Sweet Money Won does its work, it's well edited (often a concern when it comes to indie works even now). The book earns its place in my heart as a collision between murky hard-boiled crime fiction and sexy farce that manages to work despite its extremes.

So Sweet Money Won is well-written and a bit different, both of which qualify it as a worthwhile read. Having said this the book sailed close to the wind for me. It scrapes its four stars rather than being an assured winner. I nearly didn't finish it. If there was one thing that stood out as making the book a chore it was the length.

Don't get me wrong it's only possibly a shade longer than much commercial fiction in the thriller genre. Amazon gives the print length as 405 pages. I did a quick comparison against some other thrillers by Donald E. Westlake, James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler. Sweet Money Won is around the same sort of length as LA Confidential. Raymond Chandler always kept his stuff around the 200 page mark.

Why is this important? I don't think that Chandler consciously kept his stuff brief any more than I think Ellroy beefed up LA Confidential. Let's not forget that the latter title has three intertwining plot strands that shift around and about one another to build up the whole story. Assumedly in both of these cases the authors just kept writing until they ran out of story.

Sweet Money Won does not feel like this. It feels like it has been bulked up, there are at least three subplots which are not strictly speaking necessary to get the story from A  to B.

When a pair of protagonists, such as Magnusson's Liam and Rick, are going to be such exhausting company it is almost certain that less would be more. The novel is obviously a set up for a recurring series of adventures and, as such, some parts of the novel that clearly weren't going anywhere could have done well to fall to the red pencil.

Having said that I could not single out a scene that was poorly written or not at all amusing (the opening section I made a note that I found it quite depressing for about the first 15% of the book but I did keep going). The problem is not with one particular moment or the writing in any one scene it's in the sheer bulk of it. In the end Sweet Money Won is an enormous, violent, smutty shaggy dog story of a book that gets away with not overstaying its welcome just as its protagonists get away with the bundles of cash suggested by the title.

27 April 2013

It's Podcast Time!

Here's the first in what we hope will become a weekly podcast about movies and TV that I've produced with my friend Ian. Hope you enjoy.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/000IntrosEvilDead/000-Intros-Evil-Dead.mp3

24 April 2013

Do It Now, Not Later (I Am A Dandelion)

I have to get used to blogging on the run. That's what the title's all about. That and wanting the title to sound like a track listing from a 70s prog rock opus. :)

I just thought I'd drop off a link to some advice for self publishers from Neil Gaiman via Forbes.

Nice article, if the prospect of reading the whole thing is still tl, so you are tempted to, er, nr, here's a precis:
  1. Be nice: As it says
  2. Readers discover authors they love, they don’t buy them: Linked to Guy Kawasaki's 'Cover The Earth'. People find stuff they like and then they spend money, it is never the other way round. Same for music, same for anything really. I have one CD I bought on sight with no other info. I have over 500 CDs. All the rest came from music conversations, music sharing, memories, emotional attachment. If you're not out there people cannot become emotionally attached to stuff you do. So get people engaged with your stuff, then ask for money.
  3. What is valuable is what is unique: Short version make your product, or versions of your product, special somehow. Innovate.
  4. Make yourself heard: As it says.
  5. Be lucky, be a dandelion, try stuff: Disclosure time, the thing I have learned about Chicago Shadows is that, presently, it is hard for me to get the books out there particularly with respect to item 4. I wouldn't class the current volumes as a failure but my current projects are easier to get out in front of the world, so they are going to take priority.

23 April 2013

A Cliché Question

By which I mean not a question that is a cliché but, rather, a question about a cliché. Not that I even knew that so many writers bopping about in the indie world would give one particular answer to one particular question.

The question is: 'Why do you write?' The clichéd answer: 'Because I must.'

There's a bunch of rhetoric surrounding this notion that writers write because they are compelled to do so. I do know that certain people write certain things because of some sort of nervous tic. I, for example, find it quite hard to tweet constantly, I also find writing this blog hard (although I am attempting to become more disciplined see right now).

This year I have edited one book, written another inadvertently and had time for two 10,000 word experiments which are both being shelved until I know properly what to do with them. My edited book started out somewhere in the region of 131,000 words in length and is now over 140,000 words in length. The total amount of Bridgetown currently committed to paper trots in at a healthy 86,000 words and growing weekly.

You see, that's what I mean when I say I am compelled to write. I do not even consider myself to have written anything particularly heavyweight this year so far. The editing was hard work, if you count the number of words corrected rearranged or changed into the final figure I've probably written about 120,000 words since Jan 1st. That doesn't count blog posts.

I'm enumerating, not boasting, I just wanted to illustrate that this is what it means to me to write because you're compelled to write. I have always likened my writing to some sort of mental disorder and the fact I consider 120,000 words to be "what I wrote while I was trying to clear the deck to get to the actual projects" should illustrate this somewhat. What I have to wonder is if everyone else is the same. There don't actually appear to be enough books floating about per author to support this hypothesis.

So I guess this is my question. Are people really compelled to write? I guess I must be, the numbers speak for themselves. As a wise blogger I once encountered said to me, if you can give it up, then do so at once and go live your life. I'm a lost cause in that case. If you can follow that wise advice, you should get out now. If you can't welcome to the crazy house, let's get to work.

21 April 2013

New Things And Old Problems

Not Books Or Not Not Books? That is
the rather confusing question.
In the spirit of blogging more often but with less verbiage here's a quick one just to set down what's going off in the world of everyone's favourite monkey-themed indie author with the initials LS.

I have been messing about with video content. This has lead to me delaying the release of a review because I wanted to put up a video segment to go with it. I'm beginning to reconsider. Vloggers of all stripes put a lot of effort into their craft and, until I have time, I still can't legitimately partake in this hobby, I just feel I can't produce content of the requisite quality.

I'm considering going back into podcasting again. The No Dice podcast was fun for a couple of years, the Tarot podcast I did with Mrs Monkey worked out great and was really a sort of defined set of content that we were happy to donate to the world. Podfade is always a fear but I have some ideas on that front.

I'd like to do a little more software development, not sure what though, a game? I never wanted to develop a game but I am thinking about it now. A web site? I have some ideas but I do believe a website should support an existing social movement or function, not try to create its own. Manuscript V2? Well, further development on Manuscript is needed. Something will happen. That I'm pretty sure of.

The concerns I have are two fold. One, too much to do, too little time. The other surrounds the assignment of an ISBN to my Smashwords published version of TSM. Although I have done the reading and am satisfied that Smashwords are donating the ISBN in a "non-evil" manner as a service I still have a political issue with ISBNs themselves.

I like the idea that a book type object (electronic or paper) with no ISBN is, according to this ludicrous bureaucracy, not a book. This even has tax implications. I like the fact that the earnings from a book with no ISBN are "product revenue" not "royalties". I am amused by the notion that such a ridiculous technical distinction even exists. I revel in the fact that I publish under the moniker "notbooks".

If I take Smashwords up on the offer of a free ISBN then my Notbook will become a Book. I'm not super bothered about whether certain bookshops won't sell my stuff because it has no ISBN. I would love to frustrate the bureaucracy by producing stuff people want to read that they refuse to buy because of a technical discrepancy in record-keeping.

But still... maybe I'm just being stupid. I genuinely don't know. I would have to come up with a new name for my "publishing house" because the whole point of "Not Books" is that they're well... not books.


18 April 2013

In Other News

The Bridgetown Tales blog has surpassed 1000 hits this week! Which could provide some explanation of why I have not been posting so much. I have some video reviews to put up but while BT is going so well I want to ride the wave of enthusiasm. Besides which it will be November soon enough.

I have sufficient BT in the bank at this stage to ride out eight weeks of non-productiveness. It sounds a lot but in a couple of other busy weeks I managed to chomp through two of my buffer occasioning this mad scramble to get back on top of things. Running a serial is somewhat exhausting.

I am managing to cram in other activities such as reading books for review, reviewing Starfall for gotchas in preparation for beta and even little bits of other new work here and there. Bridgetown Tales has taken precedence in writing time, however, because it's fun to be writing a serial and also fun to be writing something which is proving to be somewhat popular.

Will try to post a bit more often. Have promised this before. Mean it this time. Honest.