Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Cage Year One

My Cage was a comic strip that I enjoyed reading on the King Features' web site. The problem with King Features is they only permit you to read seven strips each month (unless you buy a subscription). And they only syndicated this strip for 2 1/2 years before canceling it.

So I was happy to learn that the authors have published this anthology of the first year's strips. My Cage is about Norm Platypus, an aspiring writer who sells out and takes a job as a cog in the corporate machine. Most of the supporting characters are a bit one dimensional, almost like they're representative of archetypes instead of people. But the interaction between these archetypes is really well done and makes for some great humor. The humor comes on a range of topics, from light & friendly insults to nerd culture and even a bit of existentialism. One of my favorite strips poked fun at the anthropomorphic nature of the comic strip characters while explaining why a mouse would keep a dog for a pet.

Two disappointments: 1) I was disappointed in the print quality of the book. The original strips were in color, but the book is in black and white (only the cover is in color). Also, the print quality is bit grainy. 2) Also in the second year, some strips suggested that the My Cage take place after the disappearance of humans. I wasn't able to access enough strips to find out the real story. So I was hoping the book would shed some more light on the mystery. No such luck.

Still My Cage Year One is a good collection of enjoyably funny strips. So it's worth the price. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Magic of the Guitar

A collection of thirteen classical guitar songs from various composers, including Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Pachelbel. (The performers are not identified.)

The music is gentle, soothing, and beautiful. It's not quite meditation music, but relaxing enough to serve as such. It's also a great CD to play while preparing for bed at night. It will help you sleep.

I also learned from this CD that Bach's Bourré can be played much slower than I had been playing it and still sound quite lovely.

I recommend Magic of the Guitar to anyone who enjoys meditation or classical music, or to anyone who just wants to relax for an hour. For guitar students, the CD also provides excellent examples of how these songs should sound.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prospero's Children

It's rare that I decide not to finish reading a sci fi novel. But I decided not to finish Prospero's Children.

First of all, I think the book was mislabeled. Even though it's clearly a fantasy, this book should have been in the young adult section. The protagonists are 16 and 12 years old, suggesting that the book was aimed at readers of the same age. Jan Siegel does a wonderful job of creating an environment, setting a scene and even a mood with elaborately descriptive text.
But her characters fall flat.

Fern, the main character is a typical 16 year old who suddenly finds herself able to do magic without any training. She finds herself in the middle of a tug-of-war between much older powers all searching for the key to ancient magic. Of course, Fern finds it first. Then it's stolen and she has to get it back. This is the point where I quit reading. Fern's motivation was poorly developed and I didn't care if she got it back or not. Ragginbone, who takes on the role of Fern's mentor, has less passion than a rock. Alimond, the first villain, in spite of being hundreds of years old, is careless and spiteful; no challenge even for a 16 year old. Azmordis, the second villain, is more subtle and calculating, but he's dull and without motivation.

Overall, the book was boring and was becoming a chore to read. I quit about 1/2 way through.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Marketing to Women

Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach, and Increase Your Share of the Largest Market SegmentMarketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach, and Increase Your Share of the Largest Market Segment

I wanted to read this book because I produce a unique line of adult hypnosis recordings for women and I need help reaching and selling to women. Unfortunately, I didn't find any new or phenomenal marketing strategy I could use. But I did find the book interesting and useful in a way the author probably didn't intend.

This book spends a lot of time illustrating the differences in the way men and women think about products, the way they gather and evaluate information, and the way they make purchasing decisions. In the end, it's easy to understand why you emphasize how the products make a woman's life easier or less complicated, and why third-party product reviews and word-of-mouth are such important parts of a marketing campaign for most products. These strategies not new. Even as an novice marketer, I had already tried to adopt them. But now I understand more about how to make them work [with products like cell phones and computers]. Unfortunately, with my uniquely sexual products, word-of-mouth isn't an option. And only small niche magazines are willing to post reviews.

But while this book wasn't as helpful to me in marketing as it would be to someone with a more mainstream product, it has become helpful in my fiction writing. As a man, I struggle to develop and write believable, 3-dimensional female characters. In the past my female characters were either indistigusiable from men (their thoughts and actions were pretty much the same), or they were 1-dimensional sex objects (they became idealized sexual fantasy characters)

Marketing to Women so clearly illustrated the differences in ways that men and women approach problems, that it has helped me develop and write more unique and gender-believable characters. So now while I'm writing my first full-length erotic novel, I can write a female character who is caring and supportive while still being strong and sensual... and hopefully unique.

Marketing to Women is a good book and worth reading for both marketers and fiction writers.