Media Monday: War zones for kids

boy who speaks in numbers coverThe book: Th3 8oy Who 5p3ak5 1n Num83r5 by Mike Masilamani

The music: “When Universes Collide” by Gogol Bordello

A month ago I was browsing through the kids’ books section of a boutique in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India, looking for books for my son. He loves myths and historical stuff, so I thought he’d enjoy kids books from another culture. I stumbled across this week’s book, Th3 8oy Who 5p3ak5 1n Num83r5. I thumbed through it, assumed it was a book about a dyslexic kid or something, and bought it without reading the back. I read it last week, thinking I could discuss it with my kid after he read it – and holy crap. It was not what I expected.

The story follows the unnamed title character as he navigates a refugee camp in war-torn Sri Lanka (I feel horrible for not knowing details about the Sri Lanka civil war; I remember hearing about the Tamil Tigers a few years ago, but I didn’t know much about them.

Well, turns out there was a major war. Tens of thousands killed, more displaced, and, like any war, both sides lying about what happened while blaming the other.

And that’s the best thing about this book – it really could be about a war and refugee camp anywhere in the world, from Latin America to Syria to Liberia, at any time in the last 50 years. Because to a child, the specifics don’t matter. All that matters is that his family and friends are gone, and he doesn’t know why. He had to leave his home, and he doesn’t know why. He’s hungry and scared, and everyone in charge is yelling, and he doesn’t know why.

My focus in my non-writing life is on child trauma in underprivileged populations. I spent a year at an elementary school with a large refugee population, with families from around the world. So when I read a book like this one, I marvel at the strength it took them to make it through alive and safe. And I cry that they had to experience those atrocities.

The song this week is by a gypsy punk band, Gogol Bordello. This song is about war and what happens when you love someone on the wrong side. It’s not a direct match for Th3 8oy Who 5p3ak5 1n Num83r5 , but it’s complementary.

Media Monday: Deus ex machina in the Dark Tower

gunslinger poster

The Gunslinger features Idris Elba as Roland and Matthew McConaughey as Flagg – photo from EW.com

The books: The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

The music: “Bad Company” performed by Five Finger Death Punch

Like many (most? very few?) kids, I picked up my first Stephen King book in middle school. I’d read my way through the entire YA section and most of the sci-fi/fantasy section at my nearby library and branched out to horror with his Eyes of the Dragon, which first introduced me to Flagg, who also appeared in The Stand and, of course, The Dark Tower series.

I vaguely remember reading the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, in high school and not being too impressed. However, I kinda have a thing about reading the rest of a series if I’ve started it (I actually made it to Wheel of Time book 10 – the furthest of just about anyone I know), so I pushed on with The Drawing of the Three – which was pretty good. And they got better after that, with Wizards and Glass being pretty damn amazing, until they suddenly weren’t good at all, but I pushed on and the ending was worth it, because it was one of the best, most appropriate endings the series could have.

And then I got sidetracked to other authors, and into not really having time to read, and didn’t really think much about the series.

Until the powers that be decided to make it into a movie. A real movie, actually cast and happening, and not just rumors. I decided to reread the series.

A quick summary: Roland of Gilead is the last gunslinger, chasing a man in black across the desert in order to learn more about the dark tower and maybe get some revenge. He teams up with three people from our world -Eddie, Susannah, and Jake – and they go on a bunch of side quests while trying to save the tower, which is kinda the linchpin of all universes.

Here’s my thoughts on them (without specific spoilers):

Book I: The Gunslinger – It’s a lot better than I initially thought. It sets up Roland’s world nicely; minimal backstory but it’s still intriguing.

Book II: The Drawing of the Three – I like Eddie. I’m not impressed with Susannah. And I’m confused as to why they fall in love, other than what some kids described to me as “the airport phenomenon” – basically, you’ve been away from viable partners for so long, everyone becomes attractive, including people you’d never hook up with otherwise (1. Yes, I realize this has nothing to do with airports, and 2. We’d been out of the country for 2 weeks at this point). Applied to this book, it seems they fall in love because there’s no one else to have a relationship with. Nothing says “This relationship will last” like desperation.

Book III: The Wastelands – Nothing really happens in this book. A lot of walking. Interactions with new characters. Killing of some of those characters. And Flagg pops in.

Book IV: Wizard and Glass – So maybe King isn’t actually great at the love aspect of storytelling, because Roland and Susan also fall for each other because they’re there (and because of teen hormones). This book is a wonderful flashback to when Roland was a teen with visible emotions, and it nicely sets him up as a badass adult. This book is also probably the best in the series.

Book V: Wolves of the Calla – Much like book 3, there’s a lot of walking. Interactions with new characters. Killing of some of those characters. This is also where the deus ex machina begins to ramp up. “Oh, hey, let’s just time travel and leave ourselves notes so that everything will turn out peachy.” Also, the end of this book starts the “Holy crap, what the hell does he think he’s doing?” reactions.

Book VI: Song of Susannah – More time travel/world hopping. At this point, you’re pretty much reading because you’ve already invested so much, you may as well finish the series. King is starting to tie threads from all his stories together, but then he kinda just craps out. Maybe he’s spent all his creative energy on other books.

Book VII: The Dark Tower – So, you wanted everything wrapped up? Sure. And then let’s throw in a new character in the last 100 pages of a 7-book series spanning over 4000 pages, and let’s give him a magic ability that miraculously saves the day. Ugh. But at least the ending was perfect.

Overall: The series is well worth the read. Sure, it drags at some points. Some of the cameos are beyond stupid (you know who I’m talking about, Stephen King). And there’s a lot of moments where things wrap up too nicely due to “serendipitously” having the right object and being in the right place at the right time, because they went back and warned themselves and planted items. But King’s worldbuilding is second to none, a nice blend of fantasy and post-apocalypse and now for a setting in “a world that has moved on.” I strongly recommend reading the books, before the movies come out.

The music of this is Five Finger Death Punch’s cover of Bad Company’s “Bad Company.” Because Roland and his pals and gunslingers first. They have their own code of honor, but they won’t hesitate to gun you down if you get in the way of their quest for the tour.

Resolutions: 2016 review and 2017 goals

new years mandela

Kolam near my hotel in Puducherry, India

Every year I set goals and then periodically update the world on how I’m not meeting them. Here’s the latest year in review.

1. Write at least 30 minutes a day.

Did not happen – at least not on fiction stuff. This year was crazy busy with school stuff that I wrote on instead.

2. Finish something every month.

Nope. But I did at least start something every month. Now, if only I had time to write every day, maybe I’d finish them.

3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things.

I published “A Place to Die” in January. It’s available for $.99 at Amazon or free if you join my mailing list. And I had a short story, “Three Casseroles, Two More Cookies, and a Pile of Uncles on the Floor,” published in a local holiday anthology. I’m close on some other stuff, but school stuff popped up – comps, research projects, classes, etc.

4. Continue the focus on increased marketing.

Overall this year, I focused a lot on marketing: ads, promos, giveaways, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t say that it’s worked very well. True, I lakh-tupled my newsletter subscribers, but that’s not converting to reviews or sales. I’ll be reevaluating this for 2017 because I can’t afford to keep throwing away money on approaches that don’t work.

5. Read 100 books.

I read 73 – by which I mean I finished them completely; I didn’t count books I started but gave up on. This also doesn’t include books I read for classes.

6. Continue the focus on being healthy.

I joined a gym in November – and have made it twice, due to a very busy end of the semester (I think I pulled more all-nighters this semester than I have in the rest of my life combined). My diet also wasn’t the best towards the end – again, no time to cook so I ate a lot of meals out that weren’t the healthiest.

Overall in 2016

Overall, I failed at my goals. Every one of them. BUT I’m doing awesome academically and am on pace to get my PhD in 3 years instead of 4. I’m focusing a lot on building my career-focused CV, which doesn’t leave much time for much else. However, I seem to be more productive the busier I am, so I should have better time management in 2017 and thus actually meet some of my goals!

Speaking of which…

2017 goals

  1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.
  2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.
  3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.
  4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.
  5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.
  6. Read 100 books.

What are your goals for 2017?

2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza – Day 22

E.D. Martin's 2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza!

Every day from now until Christmas, I’ll be giving away copies of my books (digital AND print), Amazon gift cards, and book-related stuff. A new chance to win, every day!

December 1st: ebook of “Not My Thing” short story
December 2nd: ebook of “Tim and Sara” short story
December 3rd: $5 Amazon gift card
December 4th: signed paperback copy of The Futility of Loving a Soldier (available exclusively through this contest!)
December 5th: prize carried over from the 4th because no one entered that day. C’mon people – it’s free stuff!
December 6th: paperback of Shadow on the Wall by P.K. Tyler
December 7th: three ebook copies of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 8th: three ebook copies of my short story collection, Us, Together
December 9th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 10th: signed paperback of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 12th: print copies of Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun and Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea by Kira A. McFadden
December 13th: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 14th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 16th: one of everything I’ve written!
December 18th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 21st: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 22nd: ebook of “Avendui 5ive” (Jakkattu Shorts Book 1) by P.K. Tyler

Plus, each entry in the daily contests will be carried over to a big prize at the end (I haven’t decided what that will be yet, but it’s definitely something you want to win – more details coming soon)!

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2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza – Day 21

E.D. Martin's 2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza!

This semester is the gift that keeps on giving – every time I think I’m finally done with everything, something new pops up. But everything is now graded and written and submitted and I have 6 days until my winter break class (in India) starts, so I have no excuses not to keep up with my giveaways until Christmas!

Every day from now until Christmas, I’ll be giving away copies of my books (digital AND print), Amazon gift cards, and book-related stuff. A new chance to win, every day!

December 1st: ebook of “Not My Thing” short story
December 2nd: ebook of “Tim and Sara” short story
December 3rd: $5 Amazon gift card
December 4th: signed paperback copy of The Futility of Loving a Soldier (available exclusively through this contest!)
December 5th: prize carried over from the 4th because no one entered that day. C’mon people – it’s free stuff!
December 6th: paperback of Shadow on the Wall by P.K. Tyler
December 7th: three ebook copies of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 8th: three ebook copies of my short story collection, Us, Together
December 9th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 10th: signed paperback of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 12th: print copies of Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun and Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea by Kira A. McFadden
December 13th: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 14th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 16th: one of everything I’ve written!
December 18th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 21st: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside

After her husband’s infidelities are revealed, Kasey Sanford just wants to rediscover who she is. After an abusive childhood and years as a career soldier, Andrew Adams just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing the right thing with his life. When their paths cross, Kasey and Andrew embark on a tumultuous journey that demonstrates just what they’re willing to do to save the ones they love.

Plus, each entry in the daily contests will be carried over to a big prize at the end (I haven’t decided what that will be yet, but it’s definitely something you want to win – more details coming soon)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza – Day 18

E.D. Martin's 2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza!

It’s the most busiest time of the year!

Let’s do another gift card today.

Every day from now until Christmas, I’ll be giving away copies of my books (digital AND print), Amazon gift cards, and book-related stuff. A new chance to win, every day!

December 1st: ebook of “Not My Thing” short story
December 2nd: ebook of “Tim and Sara” short story
December 3rd: $5 Amazon gift card
December 4th: signed paperback copy of The Futility of Loving a Soldier (available exclusively through this contest!)
December 5th: prize carried over from the 4th because no one entered that day. C’mon people – it’s free stuff!
December 6th: paperback of Shadow on the Wall by P.K. Tyler
December 7th: three ebook copies of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 8th: three ebook copies of my short story collection, Us, Together
December 9th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 10th: signed paperback of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 12th: print copies of Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun and Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea by Kira A. McFadden
December 13th: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 14th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 16th: one of everything I’ve written!
December 18th: $5 Amazon gift card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza – Day 16

E.D. Martin's 2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza!

Yesterday was the last day of the fall semester, plus the day I had my comprehensive exam proposal defense (which I passed – yay me!) And then I locked my keys in my car, and there were FOUR accidents on the interstate on the way back so by the time I got home last night at the end of a 15-hour day, I just went to bed – meaning I missed yesterday’s giveaway.

I’ll make up for it today by giving one lucky winner an e-book of everything I’ve written – a novel, 2 short story collections, and 3 short stories.

Every day from now until Christmas, I’ll be giving away copies of my books (digital AND print), Amazon gift cards, and book-related stuff. A new chance to win, every day!

December 1st: ebook of “Not My Thing” short story
December 2nd: ebook of “Tim and Sara” short story
December 3rd: $5 Amazon gift card
December 4th: signed paperback copy of The Futility of Loving a Soldier (available exclusively through this contest!)
December 5th: prize carried over from the 4th because no one entered that day. C’mon people – it’s free stuff!
December 6th: paperback of Shadow on the Wall by P.K. Tyler
December 7th: three ebook copies of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 8th: three ebook copies of my short story collection, Us, Together
December 9th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 10th: signed paperback of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 12th: print copies of Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun and Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea by Kira A. McFadden
December 13th: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 14th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 16th: one of everything I’ve written!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza – Day 14

E.D. Martin's 2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza!

I’m done with school for the semester – no more papers or tests or studying for a month! To celebrate, today’s prize is another $5 Amazon gift card.

Every day from now until Christmas, I’ll be giving away copies of my books (digital AND print), Amazon gift cards, and book-related stuff. A new chance to win, every day!

December 1st: ebook of “Not My Thing” short story
December 2nd: ebook of “Tim and Sara” short story
December 3rd: $5 Amazon gift card
December 4th: signed paperback copy of The Futility of Loving a Soldier (available exclusively through this contest!)
December 5th: prize carried over from the 4th because no one entered that day. C’mon people – it’s free stuff!
December 6th: paperback of Shadow on the Wall by P.K. Tyler
December 7th: three ebook copies of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 8th: three ebook copies of my short story collection, Us, Together
December 9th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 10th: signed paperback of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 12th: print copies of Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun and Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea by Kira A. McFadden
December 13th: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 14th: $5 Amazon gift card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza – Day 13

E.D. Martin's 2016 Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza!

Every day from now until Christmas, I’ll be giving away copies of my books (digital AND print), Amazon gift cards, and book-related stuff. A new chance to win, every day!

December 1st: ebook of “Not My Thing” short story
December 2nd: ebook of “Tim and Sara” short story
December 3rd: $5 Amazon gift card
December 4th: signed paperback copy of The Futility of Loving a Soldier (available exclusively through this contest!)
December 5th: prize carried over from the 4th because no one entered that day. C’mon people – it’s free stuff!
December 6th: paperback of Shadow on the Wall by P.K. Tyler
December 7th: three ebook copies of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 8th: three ebook copies of my short story collection, Us, Together
December 9th: $5 Amazon gift card
December 10th: signed paperback of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside
December 12th: print copies of Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun and Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea by Kira A. McFadden
December 13th: audiobook of my novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside

After her husband’s infidelities are revealed, Kasey Sanford just wants to rediscover who she is. After an abusive childhood and years as a career soldier, Andrew Adams just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing the right thing with his life. When their paths cross, Kasey and Andrew embark on a tumultuous journey that demonstrates just what they’re willing to do to save the ones they love.

Plus, each entry in the daily contests will be carried over to a big prize at the end (I haven’t decided what that will be yet, but it’s definitely something you want to win – more details coming soon)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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