Funny Negative Reviews

I used to shake my head at authors who said they valued negative reviews as much as positive ones. Always felt disingenuous to me. But now I get it. Usually, anyway.

Okay, first, some negative reviews are just idiotic and that’s always going to be the case. For example, people so pissed off that Sophistication is too profane or violent that they actually lowered their review scores based on those two measurements alone.

Welp, sorry guys–you really should’ve read the description, which literally says it’s both of those things. Look:

Step into a near-future America overrun by competing tech giants and widespread social decay in this raunchy, violent, hilarious and disturbing science-fiction thriller. 

See the words I bolded? That means there’s going to be blood and f-bombs. Not sure what else to tell ya.

Anyway, as I’ve noted, most readers have liked my first two books. That’s awesome. It’s incredibly satisfying to read positive reviews from readers who not only understood, but also appreciated something I had planned and hoped would jump off the page.

Sometimes, though, a critical review will point out something really insightful. A while ago, a customer review of Dead Weight noted very accurately that my knowledge of firearms is, shall we say, subpar. And yes, that shit is true. True to the maximum. I love being called out for genuine mistakes. The good part about the digital age is that if I really care enough, I can go back and edit tweaks back into the original work, re-publish, and then pretend as though I got it right from the start. (Joking, kinda.)

But occasionally negative reviews come from so far out of left field that I’m left scratching my head or even giggling. This is one such example, and it’s spectacular:

Author’s note: Name and parts of review blurred to keep the anonymity of the customer and also to avoid any spoilers for folks who haven’t read Sophistication.

All right, so never mind that this person clearly voted for Trump. Whatever. Sure, the man’s a proven pathological liar and conman, but I respect your idiotic decision even though it’s probably based on fear and hate. Good for you. And the WOKE stuff (in all caps) isn’t a bad way to attack a book that supposedly falls on the wrong side of your political beliefs. I lolzed a few times at the comments.

But then we get to the end where video game journalists are apparently automatically “Social Justice Warriors” and “a group even worse than journalists in general.”

Mike, you hate the free press? Do you also hate democracy? Candy and rainbows? Love?

Just Saying Hello

Okay, I admit it: I’ve neglected my blog for the last couple days.

Or months.

But that’s because I’m doing the more important work of writing books. Oh, and, you know, tending to my day job, and my family, and approximately one-hundred trillion errands my wife throws at me on any given day.

Degenerate is making steady progress. Not as steady as I’d like, and certainly not as steady as I promised in previous posts, but steady enough. It’s more than halfway done now, which is pretty good considering all the procrastination surrounding the words. Characters have come alive. Story is kicking and thrashing hard. I’m at the point where I can turn my brain off and let my fingers lead, which is just the best.

There’s just one narrative string that remains elusive. I need to think on it a little more. But almost there.

Is it going to be ready for you to read on September 15, as this little blog promises? I think the chances look pretty good. (Disclaimer: Never believe me. Second disclaimer: But seriously, maybe.)

I have in the past posted early excerpts or revealed simple plot points from my books here, but I’m going to resist the temptation this time. This also goes for how I share with friends and family. Typically I make–or rather, force, really–my trusted colleagues read excerpts I’m either particularly proud of or especially iffy on. I do this with the overzealousness of a needy author, which no doubt annoys my latest targets. With Degenerate, however, I’ve shared almost nothing, and I prefer it this way. Those closest to me will get to experience it new like everyone else. And then they can go on Amazon and rip it apart like a normal reader. (JKJKJK, Dead Weight and Sophistication have been well reviewed thankfully. But I do have some doozy negative reviews, too, which I’ll share in a follow-up post.)

Degenerate Covers

Third book is cooking. One of these will be the official cover when it debuts later this year. Or, I might choose one for the print version, another for the digital. Or, one for the readable formats and another for the audiobook. So many choices. Who knows?

Copy is placeholder for the most part. Mason’s last name, for example, isn’t Alexander, as originally envisioned, but Kowalsky.

Re: Discipline (& Other Random Things)

I lead a weekly writers group in San Mateo, which is something I would recommend for any established or aspiring author. Yes, because you can read your latest chapters and receive insightful feedback from folks with different perspectives. But also because it forces you to get off your ass and write so that you’re not that jackass who shows up empty-handed.

I’ve been that jackass. It’s not fun.

Common theme of this-here blog is that I lack any sense of discipline when it comes to writing books. One month, I’m cranking every night. The next three, it’s Anthem and Umbrella Academy time. But a writing group keeps me accountable. I want to bring at least 10 pages every week.

Degenerate sits at 25,000 words after about three or four weeks of writing. For comparison, my two previous books fall between 100,000 and 130,000 words. Mark your calendars. It’s February 24 now and I’m shooting to be done at the end of June. That really ought to be enough time for almost any semi-dedicated writer, but please see above.

The book is taking shape now. I like these characters for all of their faults. And two nights ago, I downed one of these caffeine-drowned things at 11pm:

 

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The result was five hours–yes, until 4am–of writing in which I authored the raunchiest, dumbest, greatest scene in any of my books to date. Thanks, Lucky Jack.

Point being, Degenerate is a full blown thing with an atmosphere all its own, and once again my kids cannot go near it with a ten-foot pole. The story is racing along by my standards and I’m staying optimistic about the completion date.

Milestones

My wife frequently observes that I mark long-distance road trips by landmarks. She’s right, of course. We travel back and forth between LA and SF quite a bit, and I know that Kettleman City, Coalinga, the Grapevine, and the 580 highway are all milestones that make the trip a little easier for me.

Same rule applies to writing. 25,000 words is the first milestone. 50,000 the next. 75,000 the third. And anything after that is the final stretch. At least for my books, which tend to consistently weigh in at about 350-500 pages. (I suppose Stephen King’s 1000-page novels require very different milestones.) So anyway, working my way toward the halfway point. Will keep you posted.

Writing Getaways

Okay, this is where I complain that if I didn’t have a full-time job and a big old family, I could knock out a book every two months. As we established earlier, that’s not entirely true, of course–I always find ways to procrastinate. But on those rare occasions when I hole up somewhere to meet some book deadline, I do regularly knock out 5,000 words a day. If you’re doing the math, those numbers suggest I could write a 400-plus-page book in 20 days. I would die from exhaustion first, mind you, but it’s possible.

And yet it isn’t given the job and the family. So every so often, I take a little trip, barricade myself, and try to hit 15 or 20,000 words in a few days. Buddy of mine just bought a new place in Reno and invited me to come up and make the most of it. I’m thinking late March I’ll take the lovely train ride up–it’s through the snowy mountains–and see if I can’t accelerate progress of Degenerate.

Sophistication Audiobook

I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of authors who hate audiobooks for various misguided reasons. I’m obviously not one of them. Actually, I’d go as far as to write that I prefer this format to reading. For realsies. Yes, I’m a writer and I just wrote that. Reading your books doesn’t make you a better person, as some have suggested. I find, in contrast, that a professional voice artist can bring quite a bit to the material and also set the pace. Plus, your eyes sometimes skim and skip, always seeking the next exciting moment, as you read. Can’t do that in an audiobook.

Of course, if you listen to your audiobooks at double or triple the normal speed, well, that’s because you’re the devil and you can’t be saved.

So my point is that Sophistication is now available on Audible. As I’ve hinted about in the past, I’m really proud of this version and highly (italicized for emphasis) recommend that you check it out. I’ve even provided a cover, which links to the book below:

Sophistication_Audible

If you do download and listen to it, please do me a solid and give it a review. Our books live and die by that stuff.

Dead Weight 2

I mentioned in a previous post that I made my debut novel, Dead Weight, free for one day through a partnership with the popular service BookBub. The promotion was new, interesting, and successful. Nearly 20,000 people downloaded the book in less than 24 hours, which is wonderful exposure. Lots of new reviews, nearly all of them positive, have since filtered in. And my inbox has seen an influx of emails from readers, most of whom asked when the next book in the series is coming–some a little nicer than others.

To be clear, Dead Weight is a self-contained story. It doesn’t require a sequel.

Buuut I really had always planned to come back to the universe with another book and possibly a third if there was more to tell. That’s still the plan.

Above: Original illustration of Zephyr and Jordan chilling in New York, Dead Weight 2. (Also, it’s not looking good for the Big Apple.)

I’m a bit of a scatterbrained writer, though. Most of the last year has been spent on Sophistication, which is also a self-contained novel with the potential for more books. There will definitely be more to come for Miyuki and friends. First, though, I’m deep into Degenerate, which I suppose you could call my homage to the classic mystery and horror genres, although it doesn’t fit snugly into either one and, in fact, often lives outside both. And I still want to write The Deep, Dark, Down after that. Maybe. Aaand I’ve been kicking around pages for a book tentatively titled Grandpa’s Computer.

You see what myself has to deal with here? I honestly don’t know how I put up with myself sometimes.

All of this to say that if you’ve landed here looking for answers about Zephyr’s next move, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer. I apologize, but the truth is that I’m an undisciplined writer who chases the new shiny things in his mind. Eventually, however, the sparkle wears off and I go back to my old heroes and mysteries. I’ll do my best to make the wait worth your while. In the meantime, though, if you liked Dead Weight, consider checking out Sophistication now and Degenerate later this year.

 

Where Do You Find the Time?

I’ve written two books and I’m into my third, which is what someone like Stephen King farts in a couple months. But even so, one of the questions my friends, family, and neighbors ask most is, how do you find the time?

Easy answer.

I find it in the dead of night. When my wife and kids have gone to bed. Exhibit A:

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Please note the subtle arrow and the time. Nearly 1:40 am.

This is when writers write when they can’t devote themselves to the craft. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. But the dedicated ones persist.

Early 2019 Updates

It’s Saturday and I’ve had a couple drinks. Seems like a good time to update all three of you on my life and work.

Sophistication

Sophistication is out pretty much everywhere. It should also be available on Audible, but the book keeps failing the company’s volume checks. My voice artist also mixes the audiobooks and the poor guy has remixed and re-uploaded it back to me three times now. Whenever it fails, I have to log back into Audible and re-upload 90-something files one at a time. I’ve done this so much now that I go to bed dreaming about Audible’s upload directories.

Hot.

Anyway, the audiobook really is so damned fun and I can’t wait to get it out so that a few people can experience it.

Meanwhile, the readable book seems to be earning lots of praise from both critics and readers alike, which is wonderful because you just never know how this shit is gonna go. I half expected people to despise every word and there may yet be people who do. Sales are slow, but steady, and I haven’t done any marketing beyond some social media posts. I’ll start in on that soon.

Dead Weight

Remember my first book? It was all dystopian and shit. Well, first off, it’s sold well thus far. Several thousand copies, which may not seem like a lot outside of the books industry, but I’m told that’s pretty good for self-published authors. I’ve been trying to get the site Bookbub to feature Dead Weight for more than a year, but they kept rejecting it. A couple weeks ago, however, Bookbub finally accepted it for featuring later this month. Pretty cool because the site reaches millions of folks.

Degenerate

It’s cooking. I’m 10,000 words in now, which, based on the length of my previous two works, means I’m about one-twelfth through. I’m going at a faster pace than I usually do, though. I think I’ve written about this, but Dead Weight took a half decade to write and Sophistication took about two years. Lots of procrastination involved in both of these works, of course. I started Degenerate for real a couple weeks ago and I hope to be done in a few months. Six months at the longest. I really think it’s manageable. If so, that’ll be dramatic progress for me.

(Fast forward to the end of this year and I’ll probably be 20,000 words through.)

The other bit is that I really like where the story is going. Mason Alexander is black man in a racist world. He’s plagued by general anxiety disorder and crushed by the stresses of day-to-day life in Silicon Valley. And he’s starting to see things that shouldn’t be there.

When I first started writing this, I said to myself, now Matt, you just wrote a pretty raunchy book so maybe take it down a notch for this one. But turns out I’m just a sick asshole, I guess, because if it stays on track, Degenerate is going to make Sophistication feel tame.

Next update, I’ll show off two book covers for Degenerate, both fantastic in my opinion. Obviously, much more to come on this one in the coming weeks and months.

SFWA

All sci-fi authors want into the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America organization, but gaining admission is particularly challenging for new authors because you have to sell a fair amount of books before they’ll even consider you. I’m delighted then that Dead Weight cleared the hurdle and I’m now a member. It’s a little surreal to be in private message boards carrying on convos with some of my all-time favorite authors. Super humbling. Incredibly cool. Ridiculously useful. And another achievement unlocked as I try to break into this weird, fickle industry.

 

Kirkus Digs Sophistication!

So here’s the deal, people. If you’re an author, you’re always thirsty for a positive review from Kirkus Reviews. It remains the most reputable outlet and premier source for book reviews, which is why needy a-holes like me bite their nails and pace around their houses for weeks when they learn their books are under review.

Kirkus is also known through the industry to be pretty unforgiving, if not downright harsh with its reviews, particularly those from self-published authors. I’ve heard agents say, “Well, yes, Kirkus destroyed my client’s book, but it’s still an honor that they reviewed it.”

So when Dead Weight, my debut novel, made it through Kirkus with a mostly positive review, I counted my blessings and figured it would be a happy anomaly.

Now, though, Kirkus just published its review of Sophistication and I’m thrilled to note that overall they really, really liked it.

Some choice quotes form the review:

“Casamassina’s (Dead Weight, 2016) prose is voice-driven and inflected with numerous details of his cyberpunk-meets-Comic-Con vision of the future.”

“His attempts at snark often come across more misanthropic than perhaps he means them to—a viral video is described as spreading across the internet like ‘runaway Gonorrhea at a cheap motel’—but he occasionally reaches moments of lyricism.”

Lyricism!

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“The plot is well-paced and quite riveting, and once the storylines of the various characters begin to intersect and the scope of the conflict reveals itself, readers should become thoroughly invested.”

“While the narrative is bloody, profane, jocular, and angst-ridden, an unexpected warmth pervades the work that will likely keep readers with it until the end.”

“An ambitious and mostly successful sci-fi tale with a bit of social critique.”

I mean, right? Right? Thanks Kirkus!

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/matt-casamassina/sophistication/