JS Best Books of 2018

Yesterday, I announced my annual Sign & Ship deal (including my new release, MAROONED), so today I wanted to list some other books that are worth picking up this holiday season.

This is not a critical, scholarly approach to what was released in 2018. These are my favorite reads of the last year, nothing more and nothing less. I usually read 1-2 books per month, and listen to another on audio. These titles are the ones that really stood out.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Be Prepared by by Gary Greenberg & Jeannie Hayden. Yep, big life change happening this year — I’m going to be a dad in 2019. This book uses humor and wit to help inform a father-to-be while combating thoughts of “What am I doing?! I’m not ready for this!” and replacing those fears with something that’s starting to resemble confidence.

51juh2buvtol-_sx316_bo1204203200_

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. The paperback I found had been rechristened Arrival after the titular story was turned into a Hollywood movie, and I didn’t quite realize what I was picking up when I decided to check this short story collection out. But I’m glad I did. It’s an eclectic bit of storytelling, but each story makes you think about the world in a different way, which is the acme of storytelling, IMO.

51u7uvkev3l-_sx322_bo1204203200_

The Serpent’s Fang by Ryan Mullaney. Ryan is another self-published writer I discovered through online writer communities. This book is the start to a Tomb Raider-esque series about a female treasure hunter and makes for a fast-paced light read. If you like “popcorn fiction” maybe give it a go.

51lebfalyyl

Steam Highwayman by Martin Noutch. I met Martin when he was still working on his debut gamebook (Interactive Fiction is a small community), and I’ve had the pleasure of watching the start to his publishing career unfold. This book leans heavily on the “game” side when compared to my own series, but if you like rolling dice and keeping stats with pencil and paper, then I’d suggest grabbing a copy. Immersive story and expansive worldbuilding make for many, many hours of play.

51zrkade9ll-_sx398_bo1204203200_

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. This novella is the basis for the movie The Thing and was a treat to listen to for someone who has written both prose and screenplays. I had a vision in my head from the film, which made it fun to experience in reverse as the original 1938 story. Quite visionary and ahead of its time for early 20th century sci-fi.

51oetkczr2l-_sx322_bo1204203200_


That’s it! What about you? Read anything good this year? Any book recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out my annual Sign & Ship deal before it disappears for another year!

 

The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

This is a blog post that I originally wrote for the website Serious Reading as part of promoting PATHOGENS. Side note/plug: PATHOGENS just received a coveted 5/5 from Awesome Indies reviewers, so if you haven’t checked out my latest book, do that too.

Without further ado:

The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

“Know Thyself” was the command inscribed at Delphi by the ancient Greeks, who arguably invented the drama and the tragedy.

“Pigeonhole Thyself” is the advice given to today’s dramatic writers, words which some would argue are a tragedy.

The idea is to pick a genre, find a niche, and build yourself a lovely summer home there. But is this advice for good or for ill? Let’s flesh out the pros and cons and find out.

branchingout
“Branching Out” by ATWhim on Etsy.

PROS

Marketability. Far and away the biggest tally mark in the “pro” category, setting your writing within the confines of a single genre can help make lifelong fans. After all, readers who loved your heartwarming WWII love story might not enjoy your vampire detective novel. But if you’ve got a Civil War love story waiting in the wings? It’s that much easier for them to click the “buy” button on Amazon. It’s the same logic behind the advice, “write a series, not multiple stand-alone novels.” Brands sell. Agents think this way, publishers think this way, so why not writers? You’ll need to wear all three hats if you’re going to make it in the era of self-publishing.

Honing Your Craft. Writing and reading, that’s what will make you a better writer. Lather, rinse, repeat. And guess what? If you write, read, sleep, eat, and excrete RomComs, you’re going to get better and better at that genre.

Be memorable. Stephen King is a name that can give people goosebumps. Why? He’s a master of horror. That’s what he does, and he does it well and consistently. If you want to make a name for yourself, it might be worth doing the same.  

kyle_-_branching_out
“Branching Out” via Martian Chronicles blog.

CONS

Marketability. Yes, it can be marketable both to stick to one genre or to diversify your portfolio. The market is fickle like that. If you write only Sci-Fi novels, a thriller fan might never discover your books. But if you wow him/her with your murder mystery, they might fall in love with your writing style and seek out your other books, regardless of the genre. By casting a wider net, you open up new possibilities. You want readers to fall in love with your writing, not simply to take advantage of the love they already hold for the genre.

Passion. If you love reading children’s books, slasher fiction, and comedies, why can’t you write all three? Although, to avoid angry parents, you might want to do a nom de plume for one of the first two, lest the kiddos accidentally cross over. But the point is—writing should be fun! That’s why we all do it, or at least why we started. Write what you love and love what you write.

Conclusion

I’m bringing it back full circle here. The right answer? “Know Thyself.” Weigh the pros and cons, discover your own motivations, and pick what’s right for you. What motivates you to put butt to chair and fingers to keyboard? The prospect of sales? If so, you might want to take the hardline marketability approach. Or if you have a story that needs to emerge, but it’s not in your usual genre, write the damn thing. A book written with passion is so much more enjoyable to read than a book written out of duty. Your readers will notice the difference.

As for this author? I’ve tried to do a little of both. My Click Your Poison series hops from genre to genre, yet each book “feels” like it’s part of the same series. My goal is to have fans/readers pining to read what I want to write, not to be a writer who tries to write what I think readers might like. I love writing my books. That’s the first step in finding fans who love to read them.



Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? On the money of off-base?

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!