6 Reasons I Stopped Reading Daily Science Fiction

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Long time readers of the North Alabama Writers’ Group blog may know I started a monthly series called “The Best of Daily Science Fiction”. For this series, I read every story Daily Science Fiction published each month and featured the works I enjoyed.  I stopped the series after Feb even though I read all the stories through April.  I stopped posting the series because:

1. Creating a post with so many links and references was a hassle.  It takes a long time to write, edit, and find a photo for most posts.  What takes 20 minutes to write ends up taking an hour and a half to get set up for publication.  These Daily Science Fiction posts took FAR longer because I would research the authors of stories I featured and link to other works/sites where readers could find them.  The feedback I got wasn’t worth the time.  

2. I didn’t enjoy reading Daily Science Fiction.  It pains me to type this, but the truth is: most of the stories Daily Science Fiction aren’t fun, interesting, or unique.  And I want to like Daily Science Fiction, but I can’t. 

 3. Reading the stories there and trying to pick “good ones” was lowering my standards.  While I compiled stories for March’s post, I included anything that “was a story” even if I thought that story was cliche.  Reviewing the stories to post spiralled me into a depression.  Where were my standards?  Since when has “almost having a conclusion” good enough?  I would never accept something so sloppy in my work or in the work of my fellows.  Why was I recommending work that didn‘t inspire emotion or new thoughts?  To fill out a blog post, no I wouldn‘t do it.

4. Daily Science Fiction has a terrible website.  It‘s slow and often crashes.  This is annoying when one is trying to comb through it for cross links.  It’s also pretty frustrating when I would try to rate the stories only to have the site continually crash.  I suspected the site craps out intentionally if you‘re giving a low score to a story most people seem to like.  This conspiracy theory is probably not true, but it‘s hard to keep pleasant thoughts for a site that refused to load consistently.  It is a professional paid market, get some web support!  

5. I hate the layout of Daily Science Fiction’s website.  I would try to search for ALL the stories from authors I enjoyed or from authors I was “on the fence” to read more, and the search engine was super clunky.  Also Daily Science Fiction lets repeat published authors write very different bios for each story they submit so I often had to read through as many stories as possible, read the story AND the author bio again looking for hints.  They should just have a directory with the most up-to-date bio of each published author in alphabetical order and include links to any publications they‘ve ever had within Daily Science Fiction.  This is website networking 101.  If the goal of your publication is to offer short scifi work to readers and feature writers others might otherwise never read, make it easier for readers to find more from these writers!

6. The website is ugly.  This is petty and not worth mentioning when a site is easy to navigate, but Daily Science Fiction isn’t well laid out.  Being on a site that crashes often, takes a while to load, and doesn‘t search well, gives a person a long time to see how unpleasant the whole experience is.  The over all aesthetic quality matters a lot more.  Guess what, Daily Science Fiction isn‘t winning any awards in color scheme or intuitive navigation.  

Tell me about your experiences.  What turns you off to a website?  What do you look for in a flash or in recurring newsletters?  Do you read Daily Science fiction and if so, what’s your experience as a reader?  Have you published through Daily Science Fiction and what was that experience like?

7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

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1. Wait a few days.  Sometimes the initial rage a book gives me fades.  Cooler heads prevail and some stuff that made me angry was subjective and not a reason to slam a book. 


2. Reread the summary.  Did the summary match what I read?  Sometimes I expect things from a book it didn’t deliver.  Was that me or was it the summary that made my perceptions not line up with reality? 


3. Check the genre.  I am looking for fantasy reads, preferably Urban Fantasy for an adult audience.  I spend a lot of time settling for Young Adult, Paranormal Romance and so on.  Sometimes what I hated is a genre standard, and I try not to hate on a book because it’s a romance with fantasy elements and I wanted the reverse.  


4. Look at what else the author published.  A book catalog sometimes puts a book in perspective and allows me to be kinder.


5.  Read another book by that author.  Sometimes I need to live in that writer’s style for over one book before I relate to what he or she is doing.


6. Read other people’s reviews.  Did someone else enjoy something I missed?  Was this book just not meant for me?  Others perspectives can help. 


7. I focus on what I liked about the book.  What kept me reading?  If I finished the work there must be some redeemable qualities, what drove me forward and is that more powerful than what annoyed me?


Tell me about your process.  Do you refrain from commenting on bad work?  Do you dive into a bad review without pause?  Do you try to be balanced or lean in to your personal views?  Tell me anything related book reviews or what you love/hate in books.

 

Looking for more posts about the reviews process?  Check out my personal blog where I wonder: “Does writing a bad review hurt me as a writer?”  Or read more with the North Alabama Writers’ Group with “Would You Rather?” a question on which kind of negative feedback you’d prefer to see.

If you’re looking for positive reviews try my Kindle Unlimited series.  So far I recommend the Secondborn Series and the Dragon Ridden Series.  Let me know if you have other thoughts or suggestions.  And as always, feel free to check out my Goodreads profile to see all the good and bad reviews.

Best of Kindle Unlimited: Amy A. Bartol “Secondborn Series”

    

Cover Art from Goodreads

Along my reading, I picked up Amy A. Bartol’s Secondborn.  Even as someone who thrives on the drama of a YA post apocalypse world, I didn’t expect to like this book.  I’d just been burned by the likes of Death Thieves and The Hundredth Queen.  All three YA books trying to take advantage of my love of The Hunger Games and all three of books have 4 star reviews in Amazon and Goodreads.  When will these writers get that what made Hunger Games amazing wasn’t just the kids fighting in the arena?  So, curious despite myself, I picked up Secondborn expecting it to either disappoint or be a guilty pleasure.

Instead  Secondborn and it’s sequel Traitor Born were a joy read and touch on larger conversations we need to have in today’s world. Bartol focuses on the heart of what’s great in post apocalypse YA: the transformation of the main character and their perception of the world around them.  First, I appreciated Roselle as a savvy character who avoids the “ignorant for the sake of exposition” trope.  From the beginning, Roselle shows she is a smart character aware of differing undercurrents even if she’s not sure of how deep those waters flow.  Her thoughts and feelings change as she has new experiences and uncovers more schemes in the world around her.

Through Roselle the reader learns to empathize with many perspectives.  By the time I finished the second book, Traitor Born, I was no longer sure there was a “good side” or “bad side”.  It’s a rare risk for a writer to twist the bad characters into ones we might understand and to muddy the water so we despite the good characters.  I read plenty ambiguous characters or where one “side” transforms into not the villain/not the hero, but leaving a reader with no character to trust or side with is bold and exciting.  Even as I can’t “support” or “root” for any one outcome, I empathize with them.  I want relief for these characters, but it’s not to accomplish their goals.

Amid this shifting terrain, Roselle sinks, struggling with PTSD, and a series of complicated interpersonal relationships.  Her flashbacks, the way she falls to pieces in key moments and rises in others, and how she struggles with drugs feels authentic and relevant.  I thought I’d decided about who I wanted with Roselle as allies or friends, who Roselle should work with and who she should keep at arm’s length, but Traitorborn makes me question the decisions I made.  There’re dangerous edges on everyone and redeeming qualities.  I resented my favorite ally from the last book, forgot how evil/distasteful another character was because he has these moments of genuine connection, and I thought someone who was once a snake in the grass might become a true ally.

And I haven’t even gotten to the science fiction.  Unlike The Giver or The Hunger Games, that keep technology vague and only available to isolated pockets of society, Secondborn distributes the technology to everyone.  The gadgets themselves aren’t innovative, chips in webbing or right hands to track and grant access, hover vehicles and airships, robots who are servants/guards/trackers/medics, and a weapon that seems a cross between a light sabre and a plasma gun.  All ideas I’ve seen before right?  Bartol re-images these ideas to give a fresh unique society.  The world and the devices of it feel lived in and true.  Beyond the existing tech, Bartol continues to introduce upgrades and improvements to her tech.  It starts in one spot with these flaws and then a patch comes out.  The upgrades make her world feel more real and provide new challenges for her characters to overcome.

I’m glad I read the first two books (even if both endings are cliffhangers) and am looking forward to the third installment.  If you like a future society where teens and young adults have to fight for their lives, you will enjoy this series.  While a simple premise, the layers of nuance make it enjoyable and thought provoking to many age groups.

Take Aways From Bartol’s Success:

1. Don’t be afraid to market an idea another book/work made famous just BRING VALUE, don’t expect other’s success to sell a sub par work

2. Have complicated dynamic characters and don’t limit quantity.  Readers can keep up with you as long at each character has a personality-and embrace the baggage being in traumatic situations leaves these characters.  Let them have flashbacks, PTSD, aggressive or tearful reactions to simple daily events.

3. Don’t shy away from near future tech in your science fiction.  Embrace the evolution of these systems to make them feel real and dynamic within your world.

4. Female leads can be emotional and strong/combat oriented.  Roselle is a great balance of action/battle training and intelligent emotional thinking.

5. Have a kick-ass looking personal website.  Just look at Bartol’s website, the graphics and layout make me want to read her work more than her covers!  She’s inviting her readers’ imagination to tackle fan fiction for her characters, and through their fannish excitement, spread her work to new audiences.

Looking for more to read? Check out the next in this series: T. A. White’s “Dragon Ridden Series”  or Sara C. Roethle’s “Tree of Ages”

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited? Here’s 7 reasons I read this way.

Looking for more conversation on reviews? Try “Would you Rather…” or “Does Being Critical in Reviews Hurt me as a Writer?” or consider “9 Things That Make a Book Good (For Me)” or “7 Steps I take Before Writing a Bad Review.”

Would You Rather….

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Fellow writers: would you rather a reviewer tell you that the book’s story and characters were amazing but the writing quality didn’t meet expectations or that your book’s writing was mind blowing but the characters and story were cliche retreaded territory?  Follow up bonus question: are your feelings hurt by either or these critiques?

 

I’m asking because I write a lot of book reviews (check me out on Goodreads/shameless plug) and they are critical, even on books I like. I wonder like many aspiring writers might, what effects if any of my reviews have on the authors and on my ability to reach out/break into their world of publication.  Am I speaking to other readers or do authors also follow discussions on their books?  Am I closing doors by breaking a book down or am I showcasing a thoughtful and attentive mind by considering so many facets?  For me these answers break down to whether my comments are offensive and insults are often in the eye of the beholder.

 

Assuming for the moment that critical discussion on aspects of a book don’t automatically equal injury, I want to know what specific kinds of critical discussion would be fair to discuss with an author.

 

Personally, I’d rather have characters and plot that a reader falls in love with than pitch perfect writing.  Things I want to hear include: “The characters felt very real,”, “I felt like I knew everything about these characters,”, “I needed to know more,”, “I’ve never seen this kind of story explored this way.”

 

That said, I have a distinctive sing song almost poetic style in all my writing.  I have an unique “tone.”  If someone compared my writing to another person’s style, I’d be curious to read more of that person’s work and excited to meet a kindred spirit.  If someone doesn’t like my style, I get that too.  It’s heavy in description, relies on alliteration, and is simile/metaphor heavy.  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

 

Grammatically, I know I need serious help.  Critiques to that effect can dishearten me after I’ve gone through editing that relates to correcting grammar, but it doesn’t cut me.  Either I can go back in and correct the grammatical errors (a bonus to electronic publishing), or I’ve made the error in favor of how a phrase flows or draws out a feeling fragmented instead of a full detailed thought.

 

Does it all boil down to where we as writers are insecure?  My confidence in writing style makes me believe problems in my book must be character/plot related, and therefor I’m more concerned with feedback from those quarters.  I still want the feedback.  For me there is never enough feedback or feedback that’s too harsh as long as it comes with specific examples so I can follow another’s thoughts.

 

Please give me your thoughts.  Do you fear another kind of feedback?  If someone published you would negative or mixed reviews hurt your feelings?  And how do you rate books/media?

The 10 Best of Dailyscienefiction.com’s February Stories

1. “Motherland” by Jasmine Ang started Feb strong.  Emotionally charged, the work explores the theme of separation.  The “science fiction” angle comes in, I believe, by providing an example of how technology both lessens the sense of separation and intensifies it.  Feb is the coldest month of the year here in Alabama so feelings of isolation and sorrow seem to dovetail my weather perfectly.

 

2. “Lingua Flanka”  by David M. Armstrong was heavy handed.  The opening and the middle felt intellectually insulting.  I’m including it because it covers themes that I think are important to discuss but even then, the work feels muddied.  Like Armstrong wanted to be controversial but didn’t understand how to do even that basic part well.  I appreciate the attempt for artists by interspersing different narrative elements, but the execution left a lot to be desired.  Great theming and ambition.

 

3. “Dispell” by Preston E Dennett was cute.  The fantasy theme was notable, and given my preferences, made me more likely to enjoy it.   There were elements that I found distasteful.  The female voice, in particular, felt stilted, as if the author had never spoken for very long with a woman or as if the author has only known and women in very shallow ways.  But I thought the punch line at the end was worth the read.  And I want to give the author some props for trying to explore an element of society it seems clear he doesn’t get.  There’s both a thoughtful and boorish execution to it.

 

4. I really love Mary E. Lowd’s work.    “Heart of the Gas Giant”  is a continuations of her other stories.  I’m beginning to see a larger picture where her characters go to the same places in space to achieve different goals, or where we will focus on a different main character but still get an update on the last main character.  Her ability to summarize the last stories in a line or two, are pretty inspiring.  I’d like a  collection of all her little works in a larger work.  She brings a childlike joy and wonder to the vast array and variation of space.  But her stories are written in a way I think all ages could appreciate them.

 

5. “Resolve, in Four Heartbeats”  by Kell Rajasalu is great.  The work is confusing in several angles, but by the end, I understood the basics of what had happened and felt like I’d read a longer arch than she’d offered.  She had deeper characters in her short than make authors achieve in novel length works.

 

6. I really enjoyed “Kicking the Football” by Margaret Sessa-Hawkins.  It’s sweet and very tightly written.  While it has a huge advantage because it’s about characters we are all largely familiar with, it still successfully captivates it’s own unique concept.  This to me, is the spirit of excellent fan fiction and what elevates something from copyright infringement to it’s own concept.

 

7. “The Ones Who Chose the Rain” by George Edwards Murray  was a sad story.  I don’t know exactly what I liked, possibly the genre, but the work struck me.  It’s filled with ennui and pain.  Don’t read if you’re depressed.

 

8. “Introducing Your Parents to the Spoils of Adventure” by Bryan McNab was funny, told in second person, and fantasy genre.  What more do you need?

 

9. “The Sword” by Mari Ness  was a fun update on a “classic” medieval scenario.  I didn’t love it, but it was a cute short story with a reasonable close.  There was a story earlier this month that I waffled on whether in include and ultimately dismissed it because there wasn’t enough going on and this one made it in because there was a “diverse voice” and I am swayed by scenes I see less if even when I think they lacked some indefinable element.

 

10. “Fight for the Stars” by Shannon Fay was a well constructed complete world.  She took a story that I’d have hated to see play out in the three hour movie and boiled it down to an enjoyable 1000 words.  The story kept me engaged in each word.  Instead of liking it “in spite of it’s length” as I do many short stories, I actually think the format os part of what allowed me to be taken in and really become enchanted by it.

 

Overall, February was an interesting month for Daily Science Fiction.  The works I chose were by authors who had a lot less on their resumes than last month’s authors.  I wonder if there is a trend to how Daily Science Fiction groups it’s works.  It has felt random as a reader, but collecting through collecting all the works I found value in, I hope to find patterns.  Impatience is a major fault of mine though, so I’ll have to see what next month brings!

 

Want to check out January’s Science Fiction picks?  Check it out here

Best of DailyScienceFiction.com’s January Stories

Daily Science Fiction’s   name is deceiving.  They are an online site that send subscribers a daily short in all varieties of science fiction and fantasy.  The short stories are held online in an archive and some are also published in their anthologies.  When I first came to the North Alabama Writers’ Group, it was one of the first resources suggested to me.  As writers we are encouraged to read others in the genre, stay current, but we are also encouraged to submit, submit, submit!  Daily Science Fiction can help an ambitious writer with both those goals.

 

In my year long relationship with Daily Science Fiction, it has turned into one of the white whales of the North Alabama Writers’ Group.  In a state of constant call for submission, but no matter how many of us offer dribbles, quite a few hand crafted for the medium, none of us have been accepted.  At the same time, we’re reading what feels like a bunch of garbage.  We find ourselves saying “I could do better” or “I have written better”, but we must be missing some quality or reoccurring theme.

 

In an effort to crack the Drabble code, I’m reading all the stories they send me.  Instead of bemoaning the terrible, I thought I’d just offer a monthly round up of what was good and why it worked for me.  These are ordered how I received them (excluding one I’ll get to).

 

“A Villian Considers His Options” by James Beamon—It’s funny and it has an almost meta quality.  Love his use of an acronym to name his A.I.  This is Beamon’s fifth publication to Daily Science Fiction.  I was able to find two previous submissions. One, “17 Amazing Plot Elements… When You See #11, You’ll Be Astounded” was terrible.  I’ve yet to read a list from Daily Science Fiction I like, so I’m thinking that even though there’s an obvious market for this type of writing, it’s just never going to be to my tastes.    The other “Settling Beef” was excellent.  Still sharp and funny like “A Villian Consider’s His Options” but also heavy with a relevant message in today’s world.  Of the three, it was the most successful store, though I still prefer “A Villian Considers His Options” best because is was the most amusing.  All three show a signature humorous voice and style.  Two do so in a way I found successful.  Beamon has a Goodreads page that shows he contributes to themed story collections and has one stand alone short story published, all showing high Goodreads ratings.

 

Emily Post’s Guide to Alien Encounters” by Audrey A. Hollis — excellent story telling.  It gave me a complete and deep arc in very few words.  I’m delighted one of the authors I like is female and I’m following her on twitter https://twitter.com/audreyrhollis.

 

Winged Fold Only” by Mary E. Load—a fun feel good story with a simple moral.  Her bio is just as entertaining as her story, and it gives me a new goal of what I want to aspire to in my own bio.

 

The BEST part about Mary E. Lowd’s work is that she wrote a sequel to “Winged Folk Only” also published this month in Daily Science Fiction called “Go High” —It was also on my list of good reads.  I really like Evben and hope to get more 1000 words on her.  This sequel was probably middle of the road for me.  Still cute and descriptive but with less of an emotional appeal.  What I loved what it’s connection to her earlier story.

 

Mary. E Lowd was published by Daily Science Fiction a total of 4 times this month, and I enjoyed three of her stories and was on the fence about one of them.  In the case of her other two, also connected, stories I wasn’t fond of the first “Queen Doripauli and the Sproutlings”. To me it lacked emotional depth and the action seemed to bland.  However, I loved the follow up “Waking up in the Genie Shop”.  What can I say, I’m a sucker for those sweet little moments in a story, and “Waking up in the Genie Shop” delivers.

 

Mary Lowd finished my January Daily Science Fiction experiment strong, but delivering one more wonderful story.  “Of Starwhals and Spaceships” is a fun short.  It has a childlike innocence and a general wonder for the universe.  It delivers on at least four complex thoughts, ones that would take me more than 1000 words to explain, which gives the work depth and almost mystic quality.

 

I found another 6 stories by Mary E Lowd on Daily Science Fiction, and I intend to read all of them.  For those curious they are “The Empty Empire,” “One Alien’s Wreckage,”  “Crowds on the Crossroad Station,” “Principles Over Profit,” “Inalienable Rights,” and “Cresent Horns and Tall Ears.”  I hope to find Evben in one of them and maybe a better backstory for Sloane and the sproutlings that makes me appreciate Queen Doripauli more.   Lowd is also a novelist, her books appear quirky, for a younger audience, and animal centric with a scifi twist.  Her books don’t seem quite right for me, but they were still neat to look at. Check her page out at Goodreads .

 

I’ve just finished reading “The book of the Unnamed Midwife” by Meg Elison, so when Daily Science Fiction brought me “The Library is Open” by Beth Cato, I had the opening scenes ready to go.  A peaceful bubble in the apocalypse where the normal becomes abnormal.  I liked how Cato played with tension.  Even in humanity’s darkest hour, her short left the reader feeling hopeful.

 

I found 6 other works on Daily Science Fiction for Cato.  They include: “Bear-Bear Speaks,”  “The Quest You Have Chosen Defies Your Fate,” “From the Ashes,” “Hatchlings,”  “10 Things Newly Manifested Wizards Should never do” (because everyone needs a list apparently), and “Measures and Counter Measures”.  She’s got a way with the titles, that make me very excited to find time to read these. Cato is also a prolific writer with a complete novel series and a new one started.  She’s also contributed to many Chicken Soup for the Soul editions.  Goodreads shows middle of the road reviews, but based off of her Daily Science Fiction contribution, I’m intrigued to read more.  I wish she were on kindle unlimited, but since I’d have to pay extra outside of my current book budget, I’ll just have to wait till I see a sale.

 

Maestro” by Neal A. Cline—is an example of a story that just barely makes my list and it’s for purely personal reasons.  First, I love tigers, so much that it caused me to do a lot of research on humanity’s relationship with wild animals and the process of domestication.  All of which lead me to believe that owning any wild animal in a pet like capacity will lead to tragedy 98% of the time.  Second, this story is about a mind link between human and animal, which I’m fascinated by.  Third, Cline brings up modern concerns over conservation of species and whether we can think it’s a success if we can only find some species of animal in a zoo (or in this case genetically modified to provide service for people).  Since I wanted to write a long opinion piece regarding what true conservation is and the value of a being outside of human use was, I decided to include this story.  “Like” is too strong an word for my feelings, but it did make me react, and that’s valuable.

 

Bone White” by Patrick Sullivan is an example of a work trying to blend a lot of working pieces and doing it with partial success.  I like the half of the story told in the past, it has a very “Emperor’s new Clothes” feel if the fairy tale included murder and depravity.  I love dark fairy tales.  The modern part, while possessing a chilling close, generally doesn’t work for me.  How come this cloak still exists?  Why wasn’t it destroyed or kept closely guarded?  It’s too much of a jump for me.   Still, a quick search shows Sullivan is new to publication and perhaps new to writing stories (publication =/= story experience). It’s a promising start and I’ll keep an eye out for more.

 

The Adjunct Professor’s Alien Girlfriend” by Marge Simon —was borderline for me too.  Description wise, there’s some elements about the male/female relationship I found concerning and annoying.  It’s further compounded in my mind because the woman is an alien and some of the “visa” description harkens back to “mail order brides”.  The sweetness of the ending helped me overlook a host of elements I didn’t appreciate.  Like “Maestro” it’s a great conversation starter, but not my favorite.

 

Simon is an accomplished writer.  Her work includes several award winning poems.  They seem to have an element of fantasy or scifi as well as romance.  Her Goodreads profile.  She also has 6 easily searchable publications in Daily Science Fiction.  They include: “The Sinner,” “Serving the Blind Girl,” “The Shutdown,”  “Found in the Wreckage,” The Human Guest,” and “Susan 3342 A.D.

 

Small Sacks of Children” by Andrew Kozma was a work I immediately disliked.  I almost skipped it only to find myself completely taken by the end.  Have to respect a writer who can instill such immediate emotion and then completely change the feeling in 1000 words.

 

I’m following him on Goodreads , though nothing up right now strikes my interest.  I found another 4 of his works in Daily Science Fiction: “Company Man,”  “When We Last Left,” “The Judges,”  and “The Mountain.”

 

That’s 10 out of 23 stories or a 43% success rate.  Do I think other people should subscribe to Daily Science Fiction and read all the stories—maybe?  What I liked, I really liked and introduced me to new writers I want to follow and keep and eye on.  It also gave me access to another 24 short stories to look at.  Will this help me be more brief in my own writing or open publication paths for me—I don’t know.  What I can say was that the process was fun and didn’t take a lot of time.  If you’re trying to get back into reading and not sure who to follow or what to pick up, Daily Science Fiction might be just the place to give you some leads.