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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Scorch Trials: Torture or Triumph? #YA #dystopia

Donna is normally our resident film critic, but I now have a teen and pre-teen old enough to see something more adventurous than Pixar animations these days, and especially a teen who adored YA dystopia. I mean, absolutely ships it (that's worship, and not the sailing kind, apparently). While Star Wars and Harry Potter have left her cold (she grudgingly admits to identifying with Hermoine, and says the heroine in The Force Awakens 'may' convert her), Katniss, Four, Thomas etc are her idols. (I've even got her watching the Jennifer Lawrence X-Men films). While she is very vocal in decrying how much the films digress from the books *rolls eyes*, her enthusiasm for at least one branch of SciFi makes this geek mum happy (both my boys are Star Wars fans).
Both her and my hubs had raved about Mazerunner. Over the summer, hubs got the DVD, and I was forced to watch it. I say forced because I have a huge aversion to being told what I should watch/read something. I know, it's very childish, but it's my automatic response. So the DVD went on and I snuck my phone onto my lap to sneakily surf during the film.
Well, I didn't. While I found the whole concept of the 'maze' bizarre as a testing ground (obviously we'll learn more as the trilogy progresses - everything is trilogies in four parts these days), I was kind of fascinated. Typical YA dystopia - ruined world, teens battling alone with parents/adults out of the equation (or so they think at first), fighting each other as much as the 'system' - in this case the maze and the monsters - only to find nothing is as it seems and it's only the start.
Firstly, you really have to watch Mazerunner to even have a clue what's happening. And like Thomas, since I have a suspicious mind I had no illusion he and his small group of successful mazerunners were safe at the opening of the Scorch Trials and neither did he. I'm still confused about the whole disaster that led to the current state of the world and what exactly the purpose of all the 'training' the teens have been forced through, though more information came out during the film. BUT, for all it's length and still not getting the full story, this lengthy two hour YA dystopia was action packed every damn minute. Seriously, it does not let up for an instant. It left me feeling rather breathless as Thomas and friends spend most of the film literally on the run for the whole thing. There's betrayal (didn't surprise me), more intrigue, more exploration of the dystopian settings from fortresses to abandoned shopping malls and cities, desert, mountains, and lots and lots of dark tunnels. There are several groups all vying for possession of Thomas and friends for differing but generally selfish reasons. There are even 'zombies' - the Flare infected adults. It's difficult to be sure who the good guys are, if there are any, and Thomas isn't even sure if he's one himself. When this exhausting rush through dystopia comes to the end, you're left with no doubt where it's going next, though not how, and a sense of relief at finally being able to take a breather.
Altogether, a fun film for dystopian and action lovers, though not the level of SF I prefer. Possibly not as entertaining as the Hunger Games, but definitely several levels better than Jupiter Ascending (though that doesn't take much effort, to be honest). I rate it a A+ for entertainment, with a B+ for the story. Scorch Trials was...wait for it...wicked. Gold star if you get that.
NB: NOT recommended for anyone under 10 years despite the 12A certification.


For authors


A few weeks ago, Greta posted about book email subscription services HERE - the kind most frequently used to notify eager readers of discounted or free books. I just wanted to add my recent experience with a couple in the hope that it helps. Firstly I have to thank Stephanie Pajonas for sharing her list and experiences with them. I only tried two for a couple of free days for my futuristic UF short No Angel because 1. I'm on a tight budget and didn't want to risk too much on an experiment and, 2. I wanted a clear idea of exactly how much boost one or two might give me. I've done free days previously for three shorts, so had numbers from trying that out with nothing but my own usual social media resources - blog, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
So, my results:

Read Freely - free to submit, but no confirmation, and didn't feature my book in their email or on their site. Didn't see any books I was interested in while subscribed to their email for one month either, and their website is a little rough. No acknowledgement of submission, no notification of acceptance or rejection. When I revisited the site they had closed to submissions due to issues with the volume of demand. Conclusion - not going to bother with them again and unsubscribed from their newsletter.

Sweet Free Reads - cost $5 and required a minimum of 5 reviews (but these can be spread across all the Amazon sites rather than having to be on one) averaging 3* or above. So this required me to beg on Facebook for a couple of reviews to qualify. You are also recommended to submit at least a week in advance to be sure of getting in (I did mine a whole month in advance to be sure) and to provide alternative dates. Excellent communication - confirmation of submission including invoice, followed by confirmation of receipt and inclusion. Received a nice bump in downloads after the newsletter went out, and have picked up a couple of books from the emails myself. Conclusion - would definitely use again and recommend, and have remained signed up to their email.

I was also lucky enough to be featured as a free book in Rinelle Grey's newsletter as she released her new book on the same day. I have no way to judge how much traffic resulted from that, but it was much appreciated. I also learned that, although Amazon say any free days should go live midnight PST, there can be a delay. In my case, nearly an hour. This led to much panic as I'd set my newsletter and blog to post about the free book bang on midnight (or 8am my time). Lesson learned. I was probably fortunate in that I doubt many of those receiving the newsletter would have been awake to open it, or to see the blog post. But I know from the newsletter clicks and the hits for the blog post how much traffic came that way, so I can lay pretty good odds that they weren't responsible for the majority of the downloads. I also got two unsubscribes on my newsletter (normally I only get one per newsletter). Just goes to show even a free book doesn't guarantee to make followers happy.

So, I'll be using a few more of the subscription sites in the future. I'm also planning to move most of my titles into KDP Select over the next few weeks due to lack of sales on other retailers. This will not, however, include Keir and possibly not Tethered, since these both sell elsewhere than Amazon. I also plan to put my short stories into bundles rather than sell (or rather offer - they aren't selling) as singles. This does mean that my shorts will therefore come out far slower, but you'll get the equivalent of a short novel in each collection.

Update

Keir's Fall is still in edits. My space opera short is also still with my editor. BristolCon is in just 11 days and I'm freaking out about it, even without thinking about my first panel. Excuse me while I go rock in a corner...

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