The Author is Going to Regret This

Drink enough alcohol with me and I’ll let you know exactly how I feel about Goodreads Giveaways. How they cost too much. How they don’t result in reviews. How physical copies end up on Ebay the next week with the description brand new, never opened. It’s just not a good marketing strategy compared to everything else available to indie authors. Still, when you reach the end of the year with a surplus in your marketing budget, it’s easier to accept throwing money away on a giveaway. At least it pumps up those to-read numbers, right? Anyway, I listed a giveaway for Vise Manor.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vise Manor by Daniel Verastiqui

Vise Manor

by Daniel Verastiqui

Giveaway ends January 09, 2023.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

It has been an interesting year since Vise Manor was published. Sales have been great, and feedback has been good, but reviews have been few and far between. There’s something about visiting my author page on Amazon and seeing the paltry numbers next to each book. What I wouldn’t give to see those numbers multiplied by a hundred or more. Speaking of reviews, here’s what Carl over at thought of Vise Manor

Daniel Verastiqui’s latest novel at once sticks with what he knows but then also strikes out in an interesting new direction.

Sure, we’re in the Vinestead Universe. Sure, there’s AI, hackers, and body modifications…but now we’re in a claustrophobic, classic locked manor house murder mystery – and the two genres blend together surprisingly well.

Verastiqui juggles multiple characters with apparent ease and keeps the pace moving through the set up, the shocking but inevitable violence, and then the desperate struggles each character has to survive to the end of the night (and the book).

Do I hate him for some of the things he put my favorites through? Yes, yes I do. And I can give no higher praise than that: I cared about these people. I wanted some to thrive and didn’t mind if the machinery of the story ground others to (metallic) dust.

If you like sci-fi, country house murder mysteries, or just want to care about authentic characters in near-constant peril, then I recommend this book.

Aside from the review, Carl sent me a private text with more thoughts on the book, which I really appreciated. While authors love a favorable public review, they always want to hear more in a more personal setting. I, myself, have a contact form you can use to tell me how you really feel about the Vinestead Universe books. All I want for Christmas is some feedback. And an Infiniti Q50 Red Sport.

There is no better Christmas treat than my mom’s pan de polvo

Anyway, I’ve got another book to write and diapers to change and chorin’ to do and Odins to murder and pan de polvo to binge eat. Oh, and my day job. I keep forgetting about that.

This I Love: Dell 32-inch Curved 4K Monitor (S3221QS)

Big-ass monitors. You love ’em. I love ’em. We’ve both spent our lives trying to find the right one. For the longest time, I’ve been putting off the move to 4K based on how strange my wife’s 5K iMac looks. But then: providence. I was randomly looking around and came across this Dell S3221QS at a pretty steep discount. Ordered it, took a week to get used to the curve and the 4K, and now I don’t think I could ever go back. This? This I love.

Welcome to This I Love, a collection of cool toys, awesome software, and physical objects that I just absolutely love. Every one of these things is a recommended buy (unless they are not for sale, e.g., Natalie Portman), so listen to me gush and then decide for yourself whether you want to spend a little cash to buy a lot of happiness. Enjoy!

So Much Space!

What I love most about this monitor is how much stuff I can fit on the screen at one time. For example, when I’m rewriting a novel, I usually have multiple Word docs open at the same time, plus OneNote, FreeMind, a browser, and a little dancing girl on the taskbar. Just kidding. I don’t use FreeMind anymore. Combining all this real estate with Microsoft’s Fancy Zones PowerToy means you can perfectly arrange those windows for maximum aesthetic harmony.

I used to keep an iPad next to my desk to watch Netflix on because there wasn’t enough real estate on the monitor. No more. Now it’s all there in front of me, and I love it.

Space is Curved

I wasn’t too sure about the curving part, and when I went back to work this week, my regular non-curved monitor seemed like it was bowing outward. I guess you get used to it.

The stand it comes with isn’t high enough for me, so I had to improvise. I’m thinking of getting one of those monitor arms, but I’m a stickler for things being exactly level. Funny enough, the curvature of the monitor makes it stand out from the things behind it, like the digital frame above the monitor in the above photo. It makes it look like the monitor isn’t exactly perpendicular. Drove me crazy that first week.

I See Everything

Fitting more on the screen is awesome, especially if you’re working on multiple documents or windows. Games can be downscaled all the way to 1080p if your graphics card can’t keep up, so you’ll still be able to play.

One thing to note is that Windows will probably try to auto-scale windows for you once it detects the monitor. If your eyes can handle it (they will adjust), set it back down to 100% (no scaling).

One downside is that if you design webpages, your perspective may get skewed. What you think fits in a standard Chrome window will be giant and cluttered in a non-4K person’s monitor.

Damn non-4K people.

Speaking of Price Cuts

As of today, the Dell 32 Curved 4K UHD Monitor S3221QS is sitting at $424.99. The only reason I went to check the price was because now that I’m going back to the office, I need one for there as well. I paid about $100 less back in February of 2021, so I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. As soon as it comes down, I’ll be getting a second one.

I do get the sense the S3221QS is the “entry-level” curved 4K, but who has the money for an UltraSharp these days? Unless your company is footing the bill, this version should be fine.

If you have been waiting to make the jump to 4K, now is a good time. I’d say $350-$400 is a good price for this one.

If you’re already running a 4K monitor, which one did you get? Let me know in the comments so I can second guess my purchase!

Review: Providence by Max Barry

It has been a month since I finished reading Providence by Max Barry, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. On the surface, it’s a relatively simple story that will take you back to the good ol’ days of Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers, but it also throws in so many modern writing tricks that it feels like something completely new. The story moves fast, skipping past the extraneous to get to what people really want to see: big ships firing big guns.

Warp Speed Ahead

I don’t remember how I learned about Providence, but I think it was in one of Amazon’s Daily Kindle Deals emails. I recognized the name from one of his other books, Jennifer Government, which I thought had a great premise but that I just couldn’t get into. Providence has a simpler premise: a distant alien enemy needs to be destroyed, and the world is going to throw its combined resources against it (because that worked so well against COVID). The result is a fleet of starships that run pretty much on their own thanks to advanced (and somewhat nebulous) AI. Barry winds up this premise, drops it on the floor, and watches it go.

I couldn’t stop reading once I started. Much like Sara Gran’s Come Closer, this story grabbed me and didn’t let go until the final note by the author at the end of the book. A lot of it has to do with what Barry chooses to leave out, most of which can be categorized as “not conflict.” Some authors, including yours truly, often take a winding path from point A to point B. This book doesn’t do that, so once you get started, you find yourself dragged along to the epic, made-for-Hollywood conclusion.

When it comes to editing, it feels like Providence has been pared down to the bare essentials. It puts the action front and center and minimizes the time between.

What I Liked

Sometimes, I miss the old days when I read a story just for the story itself. These days, I can’t help but pick out the little things authors do to make their books more interesting. Here are some of the things I saw Barry doing, that I will now shamelessly copy in my books:

  • POV-hopping chapters – One of the reasons I write multi-POV is because it allows you to throw a veil over the inner thoughts of a main character when its dramatically appropriate. It seemed like every time I wanted to know what a character in Providence was thinking, the author switched POVs.
  • Dwindling dialogue tags – I came away with the sense that Barry didn’t use any dialogue tags, but that’s not true. What I think happened is that as the book progressed, and to show how quickly things were moving, he simply began to drop them. The latter half of the book is full of passages of just alternating lines of dialogue. No tags, no narration–just rapid fire speech.
  • Starship Troopers – As I mentioned before, reading about big ships firing big guns was right up my alley. Barry talks about giving the reader what they want at the end of the book, and he pulled it off well.
  • Ender’s Game – I enjoyed the mystery around the bugs: where they came from, how they reproduced, and what they wanted.
  • The Climax – The brightest spot in this book is the moment when all seems lost for one of the characters. I had no idea how they were going to overcome their situation, and then it happened. I saw the scene exactly how I would expect it to appear in a movie, complete with a triumphant swell of music.

What I Didn’t Like as Much

Providence, while a fine story totally worth your time, doesn’t break much new ground in terms of premise. Much of it seems like an homage to other Science Fiction books, right down to the characters named Anders and Beanfield. Here are some things I didn’t find quite as engaging:

  • It Feels Short – When you’re hopping from one battle to the next and trying to fill in those gaps, you can either pare down or go full stream of consciousness. Barry spares the reader from unrelated side plots and focuses only on the things that directly affect the ship. The meat of the story is there… there’s just not a lot of it.
  • 2nd Person POV – This was a strange choice to me, especially for a prologue. Someone picking up the book might be turned off by their involuntary inclusion in the story and wouldn’t keep reading (which would be a damn shame). I know the author needed a way to describe the first encounter, but this felt like a jarring way to do it. Maybe the discomfort was the point?
  • Leaving the Ship – Late in the book, the characters visit a planet. For some reason, once they left the ship, I felt my interest wane. If anything, the ship itself is a main character, and I didn’t like seeing it being pushed to the background.

Damage Report

Providence is an efficient novel that is so worth your time that I can’t believe you haven’t given up on this blog post and gone to read it yet. It took me less than 24 hours to go from cover to cover, and regardless of where this book lands on the hierarchical list of “good science fiction,” it’s no doubt engaging and a fun read.

Climb aboard and strap in. It’s a ride you won’t soon forget.