VidCon Australia 2017

Ticket Categories:
~Community
~Creator
~Industry

Cost: Community Ticket = AU $125.00
Duration: 08/09/2017 – 10/09/2017
Schedule: The Agenda

Community Events I’ve Attended:
Saturday 09/09/2017:
~Crafting a Community

Image Description: a large display screen with five circles featuring picture-icons, from left to right, Stephanie Patrick, Jake Bley, Matthew Patrick, Danielle Mansutti and Tyler Oakley

Crafting a Community

Image Description: a large display screen with five circles featuring picture-icons, from left to right: Stephanie Patrick, Jake Bley, Matthew Patrick, Danielle Mansutti and Tyler Oakley

Image Description: Matthew Patrick and Jake Bley sitting on a small black leather couch, Stephanie Patrick sitting in a single arm-chair

Crafting a Community

Image Description: from left to right, Matthew Patrick and Jake Bley sitting on a small black leather couch, a small white table, Stephanie Patrick sitting in a single arm-chair in the middle, another small white table, another small black leather couch with Tyler Oakley and Danielle Mansutti sitting on it.

What I Thought of the Event:
This panel was interesting and funny, however, having a group of people I’ve never heard from before giving me advice on how to build a community did feel a little weird, but I suppose it just highlighted how little I know about content creators on YouTube (definitely need to do some more research). For example: Tyler Oakley is super popular and has been involved with YouTube for about ten years now. As a result, Jake Bley and Matthew Patrick could play six degrees of separation with Tyler Oakley.

So while I don’t have an interest in Gaming, Journal Style YouTube Channels or Make-up Tutorials, I did get some advice on building a community (“It’s a conversation, not a one way street.” and “if you’re selling product, make it the best you can be, if you wouldn’t buy it, don’t sell it”), however, it didn’t feel like it was anything more than the generic advice I’d already heard. While Jake Bley and Danielle Mansutti were the only two Australians on the panel, it was good to see these two Australian YouTubers up there on equal footing with successful American YouTubers.

As a whole, I enjoyed the panel, and the panelists were all entertaining, however, I didn’t really connect with the panelists. Although, considering that nearly all the panelists have millions of subscribers, clearly they connect to other people (just not me) and I doubt they’re concerned.

~Hank, Grace & Mamrie Power Hour

Hank, Grace & Mamrie Power Hour

Image Description: a large display screen with the following text displayed: “What’s Next: 2:30 PM – Hank, Grace, and Mamrie Power Hour”. Beneath the text are three circles with pictures of (in order) Hank Green, Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart.

Hank, Grace & Mamrie Power Hour

Image Description: from left to right, Mamrie Hart sitting on a small black leather arm-chair, Hank Green sitting on a small black leather arm-chair (with his arm across his forehead to shield his eyes), and Grace Helbig sitting on a small black leather arm-chair.

What I Thought of the Event:
This event was super popular and I really enjoyed it. Hank, Mamrie, and Grace sat around and talked about their lives and answered questions and when Hank felt the crowd was getting too rowdy, he would unite us with the nationalistic chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie (Oi, Oi, Oi)”. Grace felt it got a little militaristic towards the end and, I must admit, she may have had a valid point there.

Hank seemed very confused at this, he was also confused by the fact that we all managed to stand up and sing the short version of our national anthem (seriously, that happened, not entirely sure why). But then again, this is the same gay who created songs such as I Fucking Love Science and Accio Deathly Hallows, so Hank really shouldn’t be that surprised that he has the capacity to inspire the audience to sing and chant upon request.

Grace and Mamrie were super funny together, I saw panels were they were separated and while they were good on their own, I felt that they were better together. I think the best kind of comedy is bouncing off people or people working as a team, although I’m sure other people will disagree. To be honest, I haven’t seen lot of My Drunk Kitchen, which is something I aim to rectify.

~Laugh It Up

Laugh It Up

Image Description: a large display screen with the following text displayed: “Laugh It Up” with five pictures in circles with names displayed beneath the corresponding picture. From left to right: Caris Bizzaca, Neel Kolhatkar, Tanya Hennessy, Ian Hecock, Grace Helbig.

What I Thought of the Event:
It was interesting to hear Tanya and Neel speak about how it was difficult to switch off, that nearly all social interactions were considered “I can use this for content”, however, it was a little depressing that both Tanya and Neel have to be involved in multiple projects (for example: Tanya has a show on Radio, she also does a separate podcast and does stuff on Facebook) in order to support themselves.

In saying that, I did find it interesting how Neel used a local pub as his feedback station/sounding board on which jokes worked or didn’t, regardless of the medium he used. On the other hand, Grace (while being very popular) said she had begun to feel less funny over time due to creative burn-out.

Unfortunately, Grace’s situation is becoming all too common in the creative arts community. It was a diverse group of people and they all brought something different to the table, so overall, while I wasn’t familiar with most of the panelist’s work, I enjoyed myself and took away some valuable advice.

Sunday 10/09/2017:
~Nerding Out

Nerding Out

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Nerding Out”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Pamela Horton, Lee Naimo, Jayden Rodrigues, Stephanie Hames (SasEffects), and Louna Maroun.

Nerding Out

Image Description: five people sitting down in orange chairs in from a plain black table, from left to right: Pamela Horton, Stephanie Hames (SasEffects), Louna Maroun (wearing black cat-ears), Lee Naimo, and Jayden Rodrigues (cosplaying as Son Goku from Dragonball Z).

What I Thought of the Event:
Unfortunately this was another panel where I didn’t know a lot about the panelists attending, however, I would like to point out that the room was mostly filled, so clearly I’m in the minority here. The panel had a strong focus on gaming and conventions (Jayden Rodrigues is very passionate about cosplay) and while I don’t have a strong interest in Gaming, this panel was entertaining and engaging.

As I’m a big fan of the Axis of Awesome, it was great to hear about Lee and Jordan’s new project Insert Coin, it sounds like Lee and Jordan are having a blast working on it, I had to struggle to contain my urge to yell out “Read A Book!” when Lee mentioned Axis of Awesome’s song Rage of Thrones.

Just as all of the panellists were united in their mutual interest of Gaming, there was some division of experience between Pamela, Stephanie, and Louna in comparison to Lee and Jayden. Pamela, Stephanie, and Louna often felt as though they constantly had to prove their “Nerd Credentials” and Expert Status in a way that their male colleagues never have to.

For example, Pamela was often interviewed (or interrogated) by gaming magazines, who asked questions about obscure video games. Pamela, as a well-informed expert in her field, could answer the questions, but it was obvious that she shouldn’t have had to answer them in the first place.

Stephanie, a special effects make-up artist specialising in Horror, was often questioned on the basis that as girl it was “unusual” for her to like horror at all, and was often asked what her favourite horror movie was. The problem with questions like “what’s you’re favourite horror movie?” is that there aren’t any right answers, so Stephanie felt she was always being set up to fail regardless of what movie she said she enjoyed.

I think it’s also important to point out that Lee and Jayden, while confessing that they didn’t have similar experiences, never dismissed the other ladies on the panel and they were quick to offer their support and sympathies for such unacceptable behaviour.

~How Do You EDU?

How Do You EDU?

Image Description: a large display screen with five circles featuring picture-icons, from left to right: Jessica Holdman (Study With Jess), Hank Green, Armando Hasudungan, Dagogo Altraide (Cold Fusion), and Kati Morton.

How Do You EDU?

Image Description: five people sitting in orange seats at a plain black table, from left to right: Jessica Holdman (Study With Jess), Kati Morton, Dagogo Altraide (Cold Fusion), Armando Hasudungan, and Hank Green.

What I Thought of the Event:
One of the few panels were I actually knew who the panelists were, as a result, I really enjoyed this panel, it was entertaining, and I found it helpful with regards to helping me construct my next big project (although it still has a long way to go). The great thing about this panel was hearing about how all the panelists were passionate about their subject of choice, and how they originally created their channels.

Kati Morton created her channel because there was a gap between Mental Health services that were provided at institutionalised clinics (like a rehab centre or an eating disorder clinic) and services available to the public outside the confines of these clinics.Kati created her videos to act a free resource for those who may not be able to afford access to Mental Health services in the USA, and she created videos specifically for parents so that they could have a better understanding of the struggles that people with mental illness face.

Jessica Holdman and Armando Hasudungan are similar in that both created their channels as a way of helping themselves to study and to remember important information regarding their area of expertise, however, these videos also ended up helping other people as well.

Hank Green and Dagogo Altraide are similar in that they both possess an interest in a subject (Dagogo is interested in learning about new technology, while Hank is more orientated towards learning about science-based subjects), they have the desire to research it, and then share it with the rest of us.

In all cases, there was a subject of interest, there was a gap in the access to knowledge on said interest, and these people figured out how to fill that gap. It’s super impressive to be honest, although, Hank was quick to point out that a big part of why projects like Crash Course has been so successful was because YouTube gave them the money and the opportunity to help them embark on this particular project. Unfortunately, money is one of many big factors that can stand in way of a creator making good content.

~Out Online

Out Online

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Out Online”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Rohan Salmond, Patrick Starrr, Damian Parker, Jake Bley, and AJ Clementine.

Out Online

Image Description: from left to right: Jake Bley and Patrick Starrr sitting on a small black couch, Rohan Salmond is sitting in a small black arm-chair in the middle, and AJ Clementine and Damian Parker sitting on a small black couch on the right.

What I Thought of the Event:
Yet another panel where I have no idea who the people are, with the exception of AJ Clementine because I researched them in connection to the Mental Health panel, however, I’m glad I attended. Patrick Starrr gave excellent advice for people wanting to be media creators, “Everybody says just be yourself, and that’s great but, you also need to make some friends, make some connections.”.

Even though I don’t have an interest in YouTube Channels that focuses on make-up (like Patrick’s does), I enjoyed his advice (“Be gentle, Be kind, Make friends”), I also admired how confident he was, and how he encouraged the audience to work with their strengths when it came to content creating (“are you a writer or a talker? I’m a talker.”).

Unlike with other panels, most of the panelists were Australian, it was great to see Australian representation, a result of this was that a large portion of the session was dedicated to talking about Marriage Equality debate in Australia and how to handle it with family members.

Jake was also passionate about how the LGBTQIA+ community needs to come together to support themselves and to protect themselves from outside forces. That we all need to be paying attention and become more active with regards to civil rights movement and civil rights protest-marches (if possible). Jake Bley was very passionate about the civil rights movement and civil rights protests, he encouraged audience members to go out and vote and to get involved.

I liked how AJ Clementine encouraged people to take their time to get to know themselves and that the only one had the right to label you, was you. In fact, AJ was very much against labels, unless they were helpful for your journey and growth.

~Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Let’s Talk About Mental Health”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Kati Morton, Nathan ZedJessica Holdman (Study With Jess), AJ Clementine, Dodie, and Annika Victoria

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Image Description: From left to right: Annika Victoria and Jessica Holdman (Study With Jess) sitting on small black couch,  Kati Morton and Dodie sitting on a small black couch in the middle, and AJ Clementine and Nathan Zed sitting on a small black couch on the right.

What I Thought of the Event:
This was the event I have been looking forward to for months. I know it will sound strange but I was nervous, anxious and excited all at once. I mean, it was a huge room and I was a distance from the stage, but it was thrilling to see Kati Morton, a person I had only watched within the safe confines of my living room, talk about Mental Health issues with other people.

I know it will sound silly, but the undeniable proof that Kati is a real person and had come all the way to Australia talk about this super important topic, it was a little overwhelming. Which is why I found it difficult to take notes, and thus remember what happened in detail, but I’ll give it a go.

Nathan Zed, being a person of colour and a man, spoke of how he felt the stigma and pressure not to talk about Mental Health problems and how he did want to be seen as a racial ambassador for mental health or that mental health was the only thing he was able to talk about. But Nathan did mention that once he did start talking about his mental illness struggles with his family, it gave his father permission to speak of his own struggles with mental illness.

Dodie talked about her struggles with derealisation and depersonalisation, depression, and anxiety. Something that makes Dodie feel better or bring herself back to her body is comforting physical contact, which is why Kati was occasionally patting Dodie on the back through out the panel. Dodie spoke about her busy schedule and how going on tour and to so many public events like VidCon within the year had taken a big toll on her mental health. Self-care was super important as well as being able to recognise when she was falling back into her depressive cycles and her bad habit of over-sharing.

Annika Victoria, a vlogger with a primary focus on sewing and DIY sewing projects, spoke about her chronic illness and the consequential mental health issues that arose from her chronic illness. Originally, Annika didn’t want to talk about her chronic illness and mental illness problems, she avoided talking about them on her YouTube channel until it was no longer possible to pretend the situation wasn’t occurring. Annika spoke of how important it was to take care of one’s mental health, alongside one’s physical health, and that talking to a therapist was not just a good idea but essential. Annika also spoke of the difficulties that people had with displaying empathy with regards to mental health and invisible disabilities.

AJ Clementine and Jessica Holdman spoke of their issues regarding anxiety, but, in all honesty, I can’t remember much. AJ spoke about how they felt mental illness wasn’t taken seriously enough and how people struggled display empathy and accept the situation. I vaguely remember that Jessica hesitantly spoke of her issues with anxiety (at first) and used her videos of a way of explaining the problem to her friends and family without having to discuss the situation face-to-face. Jessica also spoke of how common mental illness was and that Jessica made the videos she wished she had been able watch when she was a student.

~Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves

Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Sister’s Doin’ It For Themselves”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Erin May Henry, Kiana Jones (FreakMo), Damielou Shavelle, Danielle Mansutti, and Mamrie Hart.

Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves

Image Description: five people sitting in orange chairs at a plain black table, from left to right: Erin May Henry, Damielou Shavelle, Kiana Jones (she is holding up a fake hand to display to the audience), Mamrie Hart, and Danielle Mansutti.

What I Thought of the Event: 
This was the last panel of VidCon, so the panel members were distracted and tired (which was understandable), and it resulted in an awkward pauses and short answers to questions. Mamrie Hart, as a more experienced and perhaps more successful vlogger (in comparison to the other ladies on the panel), took the lead on most of the questions and set the tone for the panel.

Mamrie Hart’s experience was that YouTube was a platform that allowed women to be on equal footing and she believed that she wasn’t treated worse because she was a woman online. Although Mamrie did acknowledge the presence of trolls and gross commentators, however, she did not dwell or expand on this. She truly felt that women may even have the advantage with regards to platforms such as YouTube. This felt rather contrary to what the Ladies on the “Nerding Out” panel had discussed, who felt they often had to prove themselves as “Real Nerds” to other men in order to be taken seriously.

The idea that gender might not be a big of a factor as I first thought sounded too good to be true. Just because sexism on YouTube (or harassment in general) doesn’t occur on one particular channel or a specific online community, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen at all.

Kiana Jones did speak of how within the industry, the special-effects make-up artists were mostly female, but the managers were mostly male or that men owned a lot of the special-effects companies. There were occasionally moments where female make-up artists were hired for dubious reasons, such as objectification purposes, rather than for their artistry skills.

Danielle Mansutti handled audience questions really well and, with Mamrie’s assistance, advised an audience member on how to not feel jealous or envious of other people’s success and how you should use those moments to inspire yourself to create better content. Danielle also recommended making the best videos you can make, but also acknowledged that the videos she was most passionate about (like her compilation video A Day With You) wouldn’t necessarily be popular with her audience.

All the ladies on the panel encouraged audience members to embrace their creativity, they encouraged the “Do it Today, Not Tomorrow” attitude, the only problem with this is that the “Just Do It” method is what I have been doing my entire life and it hasn’t been that successful thus far. If anything, VidCon had proven to me that I have a lot more research to do and a lot more planning to put in place.

Writing Update: A Request for Beta Readers

Image Description: a vertical pile of leather-bound hardback books with differently coloured leather jackets.

I’m going to be honest, my writing isn’t doing well these days, I just… feel really lost and meh about pretty much everything related to Novel Writing. I’m considering taking Canis Major down from Smashwords, I probably should have done this already, but everything feels overwhelmingly difficult right now. The idea of committing to another novel project at this point in time just feels draining and I seriously lacking in motivation. I suspect this is largely to due to the fact that Canis Major feels largely unfinished, which has resulted in a lack of feedback from Readers.

I have requested people I know to read Canis Major and give me some feedback on it, but thus far, they have all failed to respond. So, I’ve decided to branch out and ask people on The Internets if they can help me out. I’d like to put out a request for Beta Readers and, before you all rush out and volunteer, here are the terms and conditions.

~Condition One: Time. I know we’re all busy, I know we all have lives, we all have commitments and obligations, but there’s no point volunteering to go through my book with me, chapter by chapter, if you don’t have the time to do so. And this is fine, there’s no judgement in that, but I will judge you on the inside if you say can and then fail to follow through (most writers are going to do this), please don’t waste my time.

~Condition Two: Interaction and Interviewing. The Beta Reader process will be something along these lines – Beta Reader reads chapter, Beta Reader informs me they have finished reading the chapter, I will ask the Beta Readers lots of questions and I’ll need the responses to be more than “it’s nice” or “it was good”. On the other hand, statements like “I don’t have an opinion about this” or “I don’t feel anything for this character” are legitimate answers.

~Condition Three: Genre. The Pushing Boundaries trilogy belongs in the Contemporary Crime genre, at this stage, Canis Major is more Contemporary than Crime, but the Crime elements are going to be more prominent in Orion. While you don’t need to be an expert on the Crime genre, if you don’t have an interest in Contemporary or Crime novels, you’re probably not going to enjoy Canis Major.

So, just in case you’re not familiar with what Canis Major is all about, here’s some basic information about it.
Word Count: 46,610
Blurb:
“James McKenzie, a computer programmer and karate enthusiast, with the help of his best friend and private investigator, Justine Jones, is tracking down local corrupt police officers. Together, they convinced the Gangs and Organised Crime Unit of Specialist Crime & Operations that the Acker family are worth investigating. With a little luck, James and Justine may meet their goal for an arrest and conviction.

Except there has been a snag. James’s grandmother Rosemary decided to lease out their spare room in a university exchange student program, and there’s a possibility that the student may be caught in the crossfire.

Beth Smith, a future primary school teacher, is travelling to the UK for the first time. She just wants to leave her family drama back home in Australia, especially since her family has only a theoretical concept of personal boundaries. She wants nothing to do with James’ complicated family drama or his and Justine’s under-cover drug investigation.

Nobody knows the Ackers like James and, in his experience, bullies don’t go down without a fight and he’s not convinced that it isn’t going to go horribly wrong. After all, it isn’t paranoia if everyone really is out to get you.”

Here’s a Link to Smashwords – you can download a sample from there.
Here’s a Link to the Canis Major Prologue – you can read it and leave a comment if you want to

If you’re a fellow indie author like myself, we may be able to exchange Beta Reader feedback, leave a link to your book in the comment section below and I’ll check it out (although I recommend indie authors check out my book review policy first before offering). So, if you’re interested in volunteering your time as a Beta Reader for my novel, let me know in the comments section below and you can also email me brkyle.author@gmail.com

PSA For Indie Authors – Part 3: Genres and Cover-art

Image Description: a picture of a wooden table with (from left to right in a clock-wise circle) a piece of paper, a pair of thick-framed black glasses, a pine cone, a dusty green-leather bound book, a green vintage type-writer, an open blank notebook, a wooden stick, a small tan-coloured rectangle with black writing on it and an empty glass ink-well.
This post is about self-promotion and marketing for Beginner Writers who want to write Genre Fiction or Genre novels, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, fair enough, feel free to pass on this post. This post will be covering basic tips and advice so this post may come across as stating the obvious, however, we all have to start somewhere.

I would recommend watching these YouTube Videos by Jenna Moreci
~How to Choose a Genre for your Book
~Marketing Basics for Writers
~Skills You Never Thought You’d Need as a Writer

I think one of the most important elements of writing is figuring out what type of book you’re writing, as the genre of your book will determine a lot about what type of book-marketing you’ll be engaging in, and which agents and/or publishers you plan to pitch to. Like Publishing houses, Literary Agents will usually have submission guidelines on available on their websites, so you should check those out first before you contact them.

One of the things that Literary Agents advise is to investigate the genre of books an Author is writing in. This is where the advice “read widely within your genre” comes into play, you need to read the good and bad books within your genre, and you need to be informed of the visual art-style that is associated with your genre.

For example: My Work-In-Progress novel series Pushing Boundaries comes under a hybrid category of Genre, it fits into the Contemporary Crime genre, so lets break those categories down and have a look at what type of Cover-art Style is involved in the Crime, Mystery and Contemporary genres.

~Goodreads: Crime

~Goodreads: Mystery

~Goodreads: Contemporary

When you examine certain genres, especially Crime and Mystery together, there’s a distinct trend of book-cover art displayed on the most popular novels. For example:

Crime:
~a vague silhouette of a person, usually from a distance
~empty wide-shot landscape pictures with One Point Perspective
~Large, bold, and brightly coloured book-title and author title
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Mystery:
~There’s a lot of overlap between Crime and Mystery, but Mystery covers tend to be more colourful in design, Crime tends to be a dark/bland cover with colourful text displayed on it to act as contrast.
~Partially obscured faces
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Contemporary:
~There’s strong and liberal use of colours to make the covers pop-out, the cover and title text are usually bright contrasting colours
~Models on covers are predominately female-coded or a cishet-coded male and female couple.
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.
~The predominate sub-genre of Contemporary is Young Adult, so the use of live models on covers are of 14-18 age-group.

Personally, I dislike the popular book-cover designs of Crime and Mystery, I think the Contemporary covers are much more eye-catching and engaging. In saying that, I have no idea what to make in the rising trend of displaying the back of a woman’s head, I have no idea how that could possibly convey to the reader what that particular book is about. I can only presume that The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Goddesses, and Everything We Keep are all very different books.

Now, it could be argued that best-selling authors like Chris Brookmyre and James Patterson can get away with unappealing book covers involving shadowy silhouettes, people are going to buy their books regardless, unfortunately not all aspiring writers will achieve James Patterson-level of success, so I would recommend putting some effort into the thought-process behind what the book cover should look like.

I’ll use my book-cover for Canis Major as a case-study (Kim made this for me, aren’t they amazing? Of course they’re amazing! You should check out their stuff).

Image Description: book cover of Canis Major - Volume I of the Pushing Boundaries series. The cover is picture of the constellation of Canis Major, as depicted in the Southern Hemisphere (the nose of Canis Major is positioned in a downward direction).

Canis Major:
~Point One: The design is a simple black and white colour scheme, easy for the reader to look at and comprehend

~Point Two: I’ve chosen the constellation of Canis Major (the Great Dog) for multiple reasons. Constellations are seasonal, so the constellation of Canis Major will look different in Southern Hemisphere countries, like Australia, than in comparison to Northern Hemisphere countries like the UK.

~Point Three: James, one of the main characters of my novel, has a special interest in Astronomy, he shares this special interest with his step-father Robert, it’s a bonding thing they have.

~Point Four: Another reason for the choice of Canis Major is because a big inspiration for writing this book was to address a lot of the problems and objections I had with the novel The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon (here’s a review by Disability in Kidlit that goes into why this book is super problematic).

~Point Five: The theme of Constellations as book-cover art will apply to all the books in the Pushing Boundaries series, Volume II will be Orion (the constellation of Orion is right next to the constellation Canis Major) and Volume III will be Scorpius. I plan for Pushing Boundaries to be a trilogy but I’m aware that every time an Author declares their project a trilogy, it somehow turns into a trilogy of four.

~Point Six: My novel is a Contemporary Crime novel, so just like with a crime, you have to put together all the small points in order to see the bigger picture. See? It’s Deep and Meaningful.

Here’s the thing though, while I think this cover is great and it’s exactly what I wanted, is this particular book-cover design marketable? It’s generally recommended that authors get feedback from their target audience, which was something I didn’t do. Another element to consider is that, while I think Kim did a great job, I do need to acknowledge that Kim doesn’t specialise in Graphic Design, and that it’s generally recommended to authors that they hire a professional (here’s a list of book cover designers via The Creative Penn).

So, authors need to figure out what their genre is and research what books within that particular genre look like, however, just because a visual idea is popular within a particular genre, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good. Get some feed-back from your target audience and be willing to shell out some money for a professional book-cover designer.

If you’re an indie-author and you’ve got a .jpeg of a book cover, drop a link to the book-cover image in the comments section below and we can have a chat about the pros and cons of visual design.

Links:
~9 Tips to Building the Book Cover Design You Always Wanted by Jane Friedman

Stim Toy Review: Knock-Off Fuzzy Tangle Jr

Image Description: a rose-pink Fuzzy Tangle Jr curled up on top of a couch cushion, which is navy blue with gold-coloured fleur-de-lis pattern printed on it.

Image Description: a rose-pink Fuzzy Tangle Jr expanded to resemble a circle, lying flat on top of a couch cushion, which is navy blue with gold-coloured fleur-de-lis pattern printed on it.

Item: Knock-Off Fuzzy Tangle Jr  – Rose Pink

Category: Review/Feedback

Cost: US $2.49 (Shipping Fees: US $0.00) = US $2.49 or AU $3.25 (at the time of conversion)

Date of Purchase: 01/08/2017

Date of Delivery: 17/08/2017

Store: eBay

Store Location: Hong Kong

Review:
I was so excited when I when I opened the package (which contained a small amount of bubble wrap on the inside of the packaging) and began playing with it immediately. For half an hour, I repeated the phrase “It’s Fuzzy!” over and over again, which (given its name) should not have come as a surprise, but hey. I insisted that my partner (who normally has no interest in Stim Toys) feel the Fuzz for himself, naturally he approves.

I completely underestimated just how good the fuzzy flocking on the Fuzzy Tangle Jr would feel, for Fuzzy Factor alone, I would totally recommend. I also got the rose-pink coloured one, which was the one I wanted, so I’m super happy with that. There was a small problem, I think the links might be a little looser than what I’m used to, but I’m willing to put up with that in exchange for a cheap knock-off Fuzzy Tangle. Must obtain more in various colours.

Links:
~Stim Toy Box: Knock-Off Fuzzy Tangle Jr Collection

Want You Gone by Christopher Brookmyre

Image Description: book cover of Want You Gone by Christopher Brookmyre. The book-cover depicts a shadowy silhouette in the mid-background standing on a long concrete driveway/runway, behind the shadowy silhouette is a CBD landscape (lots of differently shaped buildings). The cover looks like it was a photo taken from the passenger seat of a car. The cover also has a blue tint over the whole cover with the title of the book in yellow text and white text for the author title.
Title: Want You Gone (Book #8 of the Jack Parlabane Series)
Author: Christopher Brookmyre
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Format and Price: Audiobook at $14.95
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Christopher Brookmyre is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author. His debut novel was Quite Ugly One Morning, and subsequent works have included One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, which he said “was just the sort of book he needed to write before he turned 30”, and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye (2005).

About The Book:
Sam Morpeth is growing up way too fast, left to fend for a younger sister with learning difficulties when their mother goes to prison and watching her dreams of university evaporate. But Sam learns what it is to be truly powerless when a stranger begins to blackmail her online, drawing her into a trap she may not escape alive.
Meanwhile, reporter Jack Parlabane has finally got his career back on track, but his success has left him indebted to a volatile source on the wrong side of the law. Now that debt is being called in, and it could cost him everything. Thrown together by a mutual enemy, Sam and Jack are about to discover they have more in common than they realise – and might be each other’s only hope.

General Observations:
~Engaging Plot: The plot is excellent, the pacing is brilliant, and the chapters are revealing enough but not too much. Those last few chapters with Sam and Jack separating had me enthralled, I just had to how they resolved the issue and what happened next.

~Dual Narration: This audio-book has two narrators, a female voice-actor for chapters from Sam’s point of view and a male voice-actor for chapters from Jack’s point of view, I felt that the two voice-actors working together captured the two distinct characters view-points and worked well together.

~Character Development: Sam is a character who spends a lot of time inside her own head,
chapters exploring her character could have been boring, but the interesting thing about Sam is that how she is online is very different to her IRL experience, something Sam has a keen awareness of. It’s great to see such a young woman of colour presented as flawed but relatable dealing with realistic problems and under goes a huge amount of positive character development. I don’t want to spoil too much but Sam definitely earns her happy ending.

By contrast, it’s kind of enjoyable to see a character like Jack brought down to normal, one of the joys of Adulthood is the level of freedom an adult has, and it’s good that Jack is reminded over the course of the novel that freedom may be a right, but it’s also a privilege. I really enjoyed Jack’s partnership with Sam, they fed off each other’s strengths and (once they put their egos and personal feelings aside) they worked well together and were engaging to read.

~Problematic Elements – Bullying: Through out the novel, Sam is regularly bullied by a group of girls, predominately the leader of the pack which is Keisha. After a bad bullying session, Sam gets revenge on Keisha, which results in an incident of major public humiliation for Keisha, this results in Keisha making a suicide attempt and ends up hospitalised.

When Sam finds out what Keisha has done because of her actions, Sam feels bad about it (because she’s not a terrible person), Sam feels remorseful for her actions. But Keisha is never really held accountable for her shitty behaviour. What Sam did was not okay and definitely unacceptable behaviour, but it’s presented in an unequal manner, the character resolution between Sam and Keisha is a False Equivalence.

I had planned to do a YouTube Video about this particular problematic element of the book, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I disliked how the situation was resolved between Keisha and Sam, and I’ll leave it at that.

All in all, a contemporary crime novel solved by combining hacking skills and investigative journalism, the plot is intriguing and has good development, and if it wasn’t for the problematic bullying issues, I’d have given this five stars.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible| Book Depository | Kobo Books

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin


Title: Knots and Crosses (Book #1 of the Inspector Rebus Series)
Author: Ian Rankin
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Limited
Format and Price: Audiobook at $14.95
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987; the Rebus books are now translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, and opted to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

About The Book:
Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders…and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain’s elite SAS. Now he’s an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer, he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle…

General Observation:
~Two Lines, No Waiting: There are two main plots going on this novel: the first one is the missing persons/murder case and the second plot is the drug trade operation that Rebus’s brother is involved in. From the beginning, the two plots don’t seem related at all, but as the novel progresses, the reader discovers just how interconnected these two plots are.
The plotting in general is phenomenal, all of the flashbacks and things mentioned link back to each other. In saying that, I do feel as though Rebus’s confusion and hesitation to seek out a hypnotist in the first place was a little drawn out, it could have been sped up a little.

~Multiple Points of View: Ian Rankin, while excellent at plot, is very character-orientated and If there is one detraction from this novel is that there are so many points of view. Some of them are necessary to further the plot, but some of the alternative points of view (like the reporter) helped to slow down the pace of the plot, rather than make the story more complicated and interesting, however, I’m willing to recognise that this could just be me. Maybe the reporter character has more relevance in later books.

~A Product of It’s Time: While it’s pretty clear early on that Inspector John Rebus is suffering from PTSD, the reader isn’t privy to all the details at first, but over the course of the novel, the PTSD and Dissociation that Rebus has been experiencing is explained (let’s just say, shit gets dark very quickly).
Nowadays, there are rules and procedures put in place to prevent this sort of situation from occurring. People in Rebus’s line of work (including social workers and nurses) would be given regular psyche evaluations and regular therapy sessions to manage PTSD (or at least this is the case in Australia).

All in all, it has a great plot, combined with an in-depth look at an interesting main-character, which has resulted in a great start to an interesting Scottish Crime series, I’m looking forward to Hide and Seek, the second book in the series.

Trigger Warnings: This book contains scenes I would describe as torture and military violence, as two characters are treated like Prisoners of War in a Terrorist Camp, the actions in those scenes are described in graphic detail.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Bleach – Volume 1 by Tite Kubo

Image Description: the book-cover of Bleach Volume 1 by Tite Kubo. The cover is a mostly white background with an adolescent male with orange hair wearing a black robe and pulling a sword out of a sheath.
Title: Bleach – Volume 1
Author: Tite Kubo
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Viz Media
Format and Price: Paperback at $10.56
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Tite Kubo, the son of a town council member in Fuchu, Aki District, Hiroshima. He never took drawing seriously until he was 17; after reading Dragon Ball he knew he wanted to be a manga artist. At the age of 18 he submitted his first concept for the series Zombiepowder but it got rejected. Zombiepowder was rejected multiple times until Kubo was 22, when it finally was accepted by Shonen Jump. It did not last long; it was cancelled after four volumes in late 2000. His next series, Bleach, about a high school student who becomes a shinigami and fights hollows, was not such a failure. Bleach began regular publication in 2001. It has been running in Weekly Shonen Jump ever since.

About The Book:
Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach , has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.

General Observations:
~Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: The series Bleach is very Action orientated (lots of fight scenes) but the story itself is more Character orientated, when Tite Kubo focuses on specific characters, he does a great job, but the plot is slow. In fact, with Bleach, there are a lot of subtle hints and clues that a first-time reader might not necessarily pick up. There’s also a lot of back-story and character history that is only hinted at within the first three volumes, but it does get explained and does make sense.

~I Found This Humerus: While there are lots of good fight scenes (if that’s what you’re into), it’s the wide range of humour that I enjoy the most about this series. As the series progresses, it does get Darker and Edgier, so the humour balances things out.

~Long Term Commitment: While I think highly of the Bleach Manga series, I did stop reading the series half-way through The Lost Agent Arc. This is for multiple reasons, the primary reason being Arc Fatigue and the fact that the reader in dumped right into the middle of a time-skip and I was introduced to a whole bunch of new characters (via an organization called “Xcution”) that I cared very little for (mind you, this is at least 50 volumes into a 74 Volume series). I’m going to attempt to read it from the beginning.

All in all, it’s a good action urban fantasy with a super intricate plot, and I am happy to recommend.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

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