Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Life as a Reviewer: A Love Affair

Editorial Note: As promised, the Seventh Star Press blog is expanding! New contributors and content bringing you a look into the world of authors, publishing, and more will be gracing the blog in the future.

Today, we kick it off with a nice piece from Rodney Carlstrom, a reviewer with The Sci-Fi Guys Book Review, who gives us a look into what led him into becoming a reviewer, as well as some insight into his process of reviewing. This one should be interesting for both authors and publishers alike!

My Life as a Reviewer: A Love Affair
by Rodney Carlstrom

I'll be the first to admit that I love books, but I'll be the last to admit that I have a problem.

Since that fateful trip to my local library, where I managed to pick up my first 'big boy book' at the age of 12, – J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit – it's been a non-stop race to see how many books I can devour before I die. (Not that I plan on kicking the bucket anytime soon, mind you.) And within those nine years, I think I've done a damn good job of putting a dent in my ever-expanding list of Books-to-Read-Before-I-Die.

Some would call it an obsession. I tend to think of it as a love affair.

Fast forward four years: that first trip to the library has now turned into a weekly occasion, or whenever I can get there. If it meant walking, riding my bike, or catching rides from friends, I found a way to walk those isles of familiarity. For a kid of sixteen, hormones raging, testosterone pumping, that was the closest I ever thought I'd get to having a lover. And oddly enough, I was okay with that.

It was during my browsing of the new fiction shelf that I picked up two novels that would further change my life: Brian Keene's The Conqueror Worms and Gary A. Braunbeck's In Silent Graves (Stephen King's The Shining followed soon after). Although not my typical diet of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Star Wars and Star Trek novels (I blame my father for instilling his love of science fiction in me), these two titles plucked at heartstrings I never knew existed. It was then that I decided I wanted to do the same thing they did for a living; I wanted to write my own stories,and get paid for doing it.

It was in the following years that I began to write. Two short stories later, and I had found my newest obsession, and my second love. And even though I hit a few hard spots along the way, (losing 80,000 words of outline for a fantasy trilogy thanks to a nasty virus) they didn't stop me. I got back up, brushed myself off and put my fingers to the keyboard once again.

So you see, it was only a matter of time before I realized that I could combine the two things that I loved most: writing (albeit not fiction, but a chance to exercise my thoughts and opinions) and reading. Add in a best friend, boredom to the nth degree, a bookcase of novels just waiting to be read, and all summer to read them, and thus The Sci-Fi Guys Book Review Blog was born.

Granted things change. Where at first there were two steady reviewers, now there's only one. Instead of individual podcasts for each book review, there's a single post. Since that initial post two years ago, I've changed as well. Instead of just focusing on reviewing the newest title, I'm dissecting every novel, chapter, page, paragraph and sentence I read.

And with every new review I write, I learn what works best within that novel. Whether it be the mechanics the author uses, the tone or feel the author evokes, the development of the characters, or the author's ability to allow me to escape long enough to block out the world around me, there's always something to have been learned by the last page.

One of the best pieces of writing advice ever given to me came from Horror author Brian Keene, who said that the only way to become a better writer was to read and write every day.

That's it.

It's that simple: Read and write. Every day.

Luckily enough at the time, I was already in a position where I was doing half of what he prescribed.

The other half came from wanting to be as good a storyteller as J.R.R. Tolkien. As imaginative as Stephen King. Or to have the ability to pluck the heartstrings of readers who had never known such a sensation existed, like Gary Braunbeck. Or to tell one hell of a good story like Brian Keene.

Though there are many things that happened before that piece of advice was imparted to me, the most important thing I ever did to open doors in the publishing world, and to hear Brian Keene reaffirm me that I was on the right track, was to start Sci-Fi Guys. It's been two years since I blogged the first post, and since then it has enabled me to get my foot in doors I could have never dreamed of before.

Including the words you're reading right now.

Even though I'm not yet published (I have several stories out floating around, waiting to be snagged), I consider it an honor to be allowed to share my thoughts, ideas and ramblings with readers of the Seventh Star Press Blog.

And to think it all started with a love affair...


Be sure to visit The SciFi Guys Book Review blog or add them on Twitter at the following links:

Rodney's personal blog and Twitter page can be found at:
The Bloody Pen


  1. Loving books (a little too much)? I don't see a problem, either. :)

  2. I don't think you can love books too much. It's a healthy obsession everyone should have.

    Running off to stalk you on twitter.

  3. I agree, but love affair sounds better than obsession. I think for someone to have a love for something they have to have an appreciation where they're getting something in return, whereas to have an obsession is to have only have a fix. Granted, I need fixes every once in a while, but I appreciate fiction, literature and the art of writing for more than just that fix.