Tag: reviews

On Amazon, Clinton and Reviews

I’ve made no secret of how I feel about Hillary Clinton’s latest book being published on 9/12. I’m not a fan of Clinton to begin with. But for her to have a book come out on the anniversary of the Benghazi attack went beyond the pale. I don’t care if it was her decision or her publisher’s. It was too much. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about Amazon’s removal of 1-star reviews of Clinton’s book, What Happened.

I don’t know a single author who hasn’t at least considered asking Amazon to remove a review at some point or another. It is no secret that indie authors feel helpless when it comes to having reviews that attack our work and which we feel are from people who haven’t read the book. Nor is it any secret that many of those complaining about Amazon removing reviews from Clinton’s book have been vocal in demanding Amazon remove 1-star reviews that attack books by authors they support.

Here’s my view. If Amazon removed reviews that did not address the contents of the book but were simply attacks on Clinton, fine. I have no problem with that. My issue will come if they don’t apply the same standard when other authors want reviews removed for the same reason. As an author, I can’t support reviews that don’t discuss the contents of the book. As a reader, to be honest, I don’t want to read those reviews either. If you don’t like Clinton — or Trump or anyone else — then take to social media or your blogs to post your opinions of them as people. Don’t clutter up review pages with those attacks unless you have read the book and the attacks are germane to the book’s contents.

I will also admit to being disappointed in some people who are up in arms about Amazon’s response to those reviews when, not that long ago, they were calling for the same action to be taken with regard to reviews of books by conservative authors. That sort of double-standard does not sit well with me. Now, if Amazon is applying a double-standard as well, then it needs to be held accountable.

And this brings up my next point. Amazon is a company, a very large one. When you have a problem with it, understand that the first level of customer support you get probably won’t be able to help you. It doesn’t matter if you are complaining about formatting going wonky on a book you just uploaded or with the removal of reviews. If, as an author, you think you are being unfairly attacked in reviews based on your political opinions and not on the content of your book, don’t just stop at that first phone call or email or chat. Go up the chain of command. It isn’t difficult at all to figure out how to send an email to Jeff Bezos. And trust me, sending an email to his office gets you a response just about as quickly as sending a complaint to the FCC will get you one from AT&T — pretty damned quickly.

Is it an instant response and is it always the response you want? No, but it is better than taking to social media to whine because you didn’t get your way.

Anyway, back to Clinton and the reviews disappearing. I want to see Amazon apply the same standard to all books and I hope they will moving forward. But, for those of you who are upset because reviews by people who 1) hadn’t read the book and 2) were attacking Clinton and not the contents of the book, ask yourselves this: would you want those reviews to stay up if it were your book? Or would you want Amazon to take them down?

Amazon, for your part, you need to be fair in the application of this rule. If you remove such reviews for Clinton’s book, you need to do the same for Milo’s or for Trump’s or for any other book where reviews do not address the contents of the book. If not, then you deserve any criticism about your double-standard.

Now, I need to get to work. Otherwise, I will be tempted to get hold of a copy of the book just so I can review it. Hmmm, maybe I should. I haven’t done a good snark review in a long time and from the excerpts I’ve seen, this book is rife for it.

Random Thoughts

A couple of things caught my eye this morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee and scanning headlines and social media. The first is that I am really, REALLY glad I don’t have to be on I-30 this morning in Arlington. Traffic is never fun during rush hour but this morning it is much worse than usual. Several hours ago, police began a slow speed chase in Hunt County of an RV. According to reports, the driver allegedly shot a woman who managed to escape and call for help. However, there were children onboard so the cops had to act carefully to make sure nothing happened to them. Long story short, the RV caught fire in Arlington. Fortunately for the kids, the man did go to the back where they were and let them out. Then, according to latest reports, he shot himself. Tragic events that could have been much worse. Over the next few days or weeks, I’m sure we will learn more about what started this terrible chain of events but, no matter what, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of all involved and most especially to the kids.

I’ve kept quiet, for the most part, about what happened in Manchester. For one, I wanted more information before commenting. However, as it becomes more certain the bomber was an Islamic extremist, I have a couple of things to say. First, we can’t condemn every follower of Islam for what this man — and I use that term loosely — did. As with any religion, there are fanatics. Islam has more than its fair share but to paint them all with the same brush would be just as wrong as painting every Christian with the same brush as Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps.

Second, we can no longer sit back and rely on memes and hashtags and “I stand with …” to fight back against those like the bomber. It is time to cut the head off the snake, salt the ground, saturate it with pig’ blood and end the matter. ISIL and organizations like is hide behind the Koran, knowing the West will bend because they are simply following their “religion”. Nope. They are not religious warriors. They are terrorists and the sooner we deal with them as such, the better. We are at war and, whether we want to admit it or not, war is not civilized. We can’t expect the enemy to play by any rules, much less ones we try to impose on them. It is time we adapt and overcome. If not, we will continue to see soft targets being hit and, next time, it might just be on U.S. soil.

On a lighter note, it’s 40 years ago that Star Wars opened. Some of us remember when there were no prequels — hiss, burn them!

Finally, I want to thank everyone who purchased or downloaded through KU, Battle Wounds. I have a favor to ask as well as a question. The favor is simple. If you’ve read Battle Wounds, or any of my other work, would you take a few minutes and go to Amazon to leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long. The thing is, reviews help not only entice other readers but Amazon has a threshold number of reviews you have to reach before it starts listing your title in the “other customers bought” section.

Now the question. It takes time to write novels — duh. I’m averaging one every 3 – 4 months. There are a lot of variables. Sometimes is isn’t quite as long and other times it is a bit longer. So, would you like to see more short stories, not only in the Honor and Duty series but my other series as well, in between? This wouldn’t impact release times for the novels. Let me know.

I guess it’s time to get to work. Nocturnal Rebellion is coming along. It looks to be on target to come out next month. Target date is June 20th, give or take a day or three.

A Review and a Few Thoughts

First of all, apologies for not getting back to the blog yesterday — and for whatever the heck happened to the theme selection. Somehow, even though I pressed the “activate” button, it didn’t happen and instead of the blog reverting to the current theme, it stayed with a theme I was considering, one that does NOT accept the header size it tells you it needs. So, for close to a day, I had a really, really odd looking site and didn’t know it because I’d gone off-line.

Now, as to why I didn’t get back to the blog. Between the hot water fiasco Monday and several other things that happened, I had to step back from the internet and social media. Of course, the fact I also had the newly released copy of Cold Reign by Faith Hunter might have had a little something to do with it and that’s where the review comes in.

If you enjoy Urban Fantasy and you haven’t yet read the Jane Yellowrock series, do so. Cold Reign is the 11th book in the series and while it could be read without reading the others, there’s a great deal you would miss. I can’t say that about a lot of series, just as I can’t say I stay with many this long. That makes the series, and this book, something special.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Jane Yellowrock is a Cherokee skinwalker. For the most part, the series takes place in New Orleans. There are vampires — who most definitely do NOT sparkle. There are weres. There are witches. There are other supernats as well, Onorios, of which we are only just beginning to learn some of what they can do.

Unlike so many books/series that claim to be UF but are really, at best, paranormal romance, this is true UF. That’s not to say Jane doesn’t have a “honeybunch”, as she calls her lover. But that doesn’t define her and the book most definitely is not a series of sex scenes tied together with a flimsy plot. In actuality, the fact Jane can trust enough to allow someone into her life is something she’s had to work on from the beginning of the series.

And that is why I like the series so much. Yes, the plots of the various books have been good. Some have been better than others, but that’s something you always get in a series, any series. But the strength of the series, to me, is in the character development, not just with Jane but with other characters as well. That is especially true in Cold Reign where we see Alex, aka “the kid”, growing up and coming into his own.

Okay, to the book. A number of plot threads that have been woven throughout the series begin to be tied up in Cold Reign. Leo, the Master of the City (and a pretty good chunk of the rest of the United States) is a master manipulator and, as with any old vampire, his plans have plans and they, too, have plans. The European vamps, who would really like to reclaim Leo’s territory because of all the “cattle” (humans), also have plans within plans and those plans include deceit and betrayal. In the middle are Jane and her expanding “family”.

Writing a review about the book without giving spoilers is next to impossible. Let’s just say that I had already guessed the identity of one of Leo’s betrayers. The identity of another caught me by surprise. I’ll be honest, I think that could have been handled better. There was a feeling of lacking with that particular sub-plot because we never really saw it happening on-screen, nor did we see the reveal when Leo finally discovered the betrayal. All we saw was the after-effects and that was third-hand.

As with most of the series, this book starts off with a bang. If you read some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see some folks don’t like the lull that follows. Don’t let that mislead you. That lull is necessary. Not only for the resolution of the story but because it gives us more insight into Eli, Alex’s brother and another of Jane’s “family”.

I’ll admit, I sometimes tired of reading how Jane stepped into the ankle deep, or higher water. But that, too, was part of the story. New Orleans was getting pounded by rain that is later revealed to be part of a magical attack on the city (and I’ll say no more about that).

It is clear the series may be ramping up toward the big finale and, while I will be sad to see it end, I’d rather that happen than for it to become one of those where it should have ended books earlier. So, this is very much a book I’d recommend. Great action, a plot that will keep you guessing, the return of a couple of characters we haven’t seen for awhile and some closure for Jane with one of them. Even better, it left me wanting more and wishing it wouldn’t be at least a year before the next book comes out. (assuming normal traditional publishing schedules).

So, if you enjoy UF, get this book and set aside several hours to read it. I promise it is well worth the time and the money. (and, fyi, it is reasonably priced not only for traditionally published e-book but for a new release at $7.99)

Writing and editing and reviews, oh my!

I am head down, butt in chair busily working on the final edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). As I’ve noted before, I had planned for this third book to be the end of not necessarily the series but this story arc. Of course, with my muse being evil, the plan changed and there will be one more book in this particular arc. What happens after that waits to be seen.

This is part of the joy and frustration in being a writer. Sometimes a story takes a turn you don’t expect, no matter how carefully you plot it out beforehand. I know plotters who will come to a complete standstill with a project when that happens. Me, I’m a hybrid between a plotter and pantser. I know the end point of the story and I know the main story points that need to happen between the start and the end. What I don’t always know is what comes between them — or when the plot will diverge for a bit before coming back to the main road. It can be a fun and frustrating ride, especially when a carefully planned series suddenly adds a book or two to it.

As I work on the edits, I am also making notes for Dagger of Elanna, the follow up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I am also working on finishing Skeletons in the Closet — and deciding if I will publish it as a single volume or as two or three smaller volumes. This weekend, I will be finalizing the print editions for the three books I’ve fallen behind on. In other words, I’ll be doing the business end of writing, the end I know I am the weakest at. That includes not only getting the print versions out but dealing with promotions, the accounts, etc.

I have also, as you can tell by the more frequent posts here, decided to use blogging as my morning writing prompt. I haven’t quite made it habit to do a new post every day but I’m getting there. The reality is, between my posts here, on Mad Genius Club and According to Hoyt, I am doing close to 10k words of blogging a week. So far it hasn’t cut into my writing and has, in fact, seemed to spark it. Maybe it is because it has gotten me back into a “work day” mentality. Perhaps it is because the blogs are my morning prompt and get the creative juices flowing. I’m not sure and I am keeping track. The moment I feel they start cutting in on my “real” writing, I will see what needs to be cut back.

Now, reviews. I don’t often read them. However, there are a couple of reviewers I always read when I get notice they have commented on my work. Sure, I go in cringing because I am always afraid they won’t like my baby. It’s foolish because both are ethical and believe in talking with an author before posting a negative review. I appreciate it and am relieved that neither have felt the needs to have such a conversation with me — yet.

The first of those reviewers, Cedar Sanderson, I linked to earlier this week when I reblogged her review of Slay Bells Ring. The second reviewer is Pat Patterson. Pat is one of those reviewers you want to get to know on a personal level. His reviews are honest and, as I learned in the first one he did for one of my books, laced with humor. He is a blogger as well as a reviewer and his blog always leaves me smiling or thinking or both. Most of all, I love the way he talks about his wife. He calls her his “gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother”. It is clear from every word he writes about her that he adores her. He has to. He read my paranormal books to her. Not many men would do that.  😉

Anyway, Pat’s review of Slay Bells Ring went live on Amazon yesterday. I don’t know if he will be adding it to his blog or not. I’m just thrilled to have it on the Amazon page. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (I am leaving in the link to Pat’s Amazon page so you can check out the rest of his reviews there. I also highly recommend you check out his blog, linked above.)

I want a series! Make it happen!, February 25, 2016
This review is from: Slay Bells Ring (Kindle Edition)
SLAY BELLS RING

Ferguson, Ellie; Green, Amanda S. (2016-01-14). Hunter’s Moon Press. Kindle Edition.

This is not a Christmas book!

I don’t care what you see on the cover, and I don’t care that the title is a goofy pun (and by goofy, I mean stupid). It’s not a Christmas book.

Now, Christmas does figure in to a wee, small, tiny, minuscule degree, in that it does establish a deadline for the protagonist to solve the murders before everyone’s schedule gets mixed up, but that’s it. It’s not a Christmas book.

Wait! I forgot one thing: it does provide an opportunity for bonding and healing through charming invitations to Christmas events. But that’s it, and I mean it this time. NOT A CHRISTMAS BOOK!

It’s a good, dare I say great book, though. I was drooling over it from the beginning, and that’s even before I got to the cuddly scene. (it’s a really nice cuddly scene, too. Just enough; not too much. Tasteful.)

Annie works for the district attorney in Austin, Texas, and is building a nice career, when she is called back home to Mossy Creek by her grandmother. It seems her aggravating and irritating mother has been arrested for murder; in fact, the police discover her clad only in her nightgown, standing over the body of the decedent, holding the murder weapon. And although no one who knows her mother would ever believe that she would commit such a tremendous social faux pas, no one would have believed that she would have been shacking up with an odious character like Spud Buchanan in the first place.

It is now time for me to pay homage to an author skilled in her craft. We know from the very beginning that Annie is a highly competent lawyer, and that the main reason that she had to leave for Austin was to get away from her mother. I had every expectation of reading chapters filled with the details of conflict between mother and daughter.

It doesn’t happen. Not once. The story unfolds seamlessly, we are introduced to characters from Annie’s past, as well as people she is meeting for the first time; we understand clearly where everyone stands on the issues; and we never hear one single word of vicious, nasty, catty, ugly infighting. Not only does this, in retrospect, seem like a refreshing brain cleanse, it also paves the way for realistic scene of reconciliation.

I really like Annie’s character. She is smart, highly skilled, tough when she needs to be, and she gratefully accepts the help that is offered her, even though it is often unexpected. Now, Mossy Creek is a pretty sedate town, so she may not have a lot of adventures ahead of her; on the other hand, Jessica Fletcher never seemed to suffer for mayhem in Cabot’s Cove.

Update to question about “verified purchase” for Amazon review purposes

I just received the following response to my question about whether those who download a book through the Kindle Unlimited program would be listed as a “verified purchase” for review purposes.

Hi,

I hope this email finds you well!

I see you’d like to know if KOLL/KU sales are allowed to leave reviews.

Yes, basically, all readers that bought your book from Amazon will be considered as verified purchases and will be allowed to leave reviews regardless if it’s a regular sale or a KOLL/KU sale.

I hope you find this helpful. Have a great day!!!

Thank you for using KDP.

Andrey A.

My exact question was:

Subject: What qualifies as a verified purchase?

Do books borrowed/downloaded under the KU program count for review purposes as verified purchases?

So, as I expected, the question wasn’t answered. I have clarified exactly what I was asking — after noting that they had not answered my question. If I don’t have a response back by morning, I shall be calling to see what they have to say. I’ll update then.

Information requested

I have sent an email to Amazon, specifically to the KDP side of things, asking whether or not titles downloaded as part of the Kindle Unlimited program count as verified purchases. When KU first began, I asked the question and was told by one CSR that they did not and by another tat they did. I left it with that confusion because, at that time, it didn’t really matter. But with Amazon’s new ranking of reviews, it does come into play. So it is a question every author taking part in the program needs answered.

Like most authors, I would love to have more reviews for my books. But now, if I worry about my rankings (and I do, probably more than I should), I also have to worry about whether my reviews come from “verified purchasers” or not. The reason is Amazon’s new algorithm gives more ranking to reviews from those verified purchasers. More weight is given to reviews voted to be helpful and to newer reviews over older ones.

While I am glad to see the company doing something about the fake reviews and revenge reviews, they are making it more difficult in some ways for authors. I haven’t seen any real impact on my rankings yet from the new program but it will take time. Under normal circumstances, I’d not worry too much about how this change would impact me. Instead, I would sit back and wait, gathering my data so I could decide whether to stay in KDP Select or not.

However, this new ranking system goes into effect at the same time the new payout goes into effect for titles borrowed under either Kindle Unlimited or as part of the KDP Select program. That is a lot of change to have to deal with, especially when either could impact our bottom dollar. Having to worry about two issues at the same time is causing a lot of consternation among some indies.

I will update in a new post the response I get from Amazon. But, for now, I know that at least some of my reviews that came from folks who downloaded my work as part of the Kindle Unlimited program are not showing up as verified purchases. If Amazon were smart — and it usually is — it will amend the process so that books downloaded through KU, a subscription service, are listed as verified purchases. It will make a lot of folks happier, myself included.

CNET article on verified purchases and reviews

 

Jason Cordova takes one for the team

Jason Cordova is a friend, author and reviewer. He is also one of the rotating Friday posters over at Mad Genius Club. Last night, during a FB conversation where a bunch of us were discussing an author behaving badly, I “offered” — threat might be a more appropriate term — to buy the book just so Jason could review it. Well, he took me up on my offer and he may never forgive me for actually following through. The result is not only one of the best fiskings of a book and author I’ve seen in a very long time but also a post at Mad Genius Club.

Here is Jason’s post, in its entirety. I warn you now, do not eat or drink anything while reading. Yes, this is a real book and all behaviors described in Jason’s post and in mine over at MGC did occur.

Empress Theresa — Norman Boutin’s Masterpiece (titles now laden with heavy sarcasm!)

(Warning: this review contains foul language and fouler grammar due to the reviewer’s rage and disgust. Reader discretion is advised and, quite frankly, is totally understandable if you want to get out now before the screaming and the bleeding from the eyes gets to be too much.)

Empress TheresaVery rarely do I come across a book that literally stops me in my tracks and forces me to ask the age-old question, “What the unholy fuck?” Norman Boutin’s self-acclaimed literary classic Empress Theresa is just such a book.

From the very first page I knew that this book was going to be different. Hubris is not in the author’s vocabulary, and in the introduction alone he challenges you by saying that this is a book unlike you have ever read. All I can say to that is, “You aren’t kidding.” The introduction does give us some insight into the creative process of the author, however, and it’s a terrifying glimpse of an attempt at literature gone terribly awry.

My brain was slammed with a large, ice-cold bucket of “the fuck?” on page 1 of the book. Suggesting that Scout from Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird led a charmed life led me to believe that the author hadn’t even read it, simply skimmed through the cliff notes version you can pick up online, and forced me to question my own sanity when it came to requesting this book for review. I had to go back and check Wikipedia to ensure that yes, this is the book he’s talking about and no, I hadn’t forgotten the plot. I mean, holy shit man, did you actually grasp the context of the book or did you simply watch the (excellent, by the way) movie? Or are you getting this confused with John Grisham’s lame ripoff A Time To Kill? What are you doing to me, Norman Boutin? I want to know more about your character, damn it. And while the main character (Theresa Sullivan, TYVM) tells you that she has a story to tell, she really doesn’t seem to know how to tell it. So far, all you’ve covered on the first page is a screwed up comparison of a classic literary novel with a dash of fired buckshot across a brief family description! I’m not expecting the greatest opening in the history of mankind on a first-time author’s very first page, but I’d expect a little… something.

Nonetheless, I soldiered on. I chalked the first page up to new author jitters, and figured “Hey, maybe it’ll get better.”

Note: do not get your hopes up. I did, and all that precious hope was shattered and shat upon, spread across the ground and then piled haphazardly in the darkest, deepest corner of Hell.

Theresa talks about going to different places around the world in the past tense, as well as suggesting that Theresa may well indeed become something far greater than a boring little girl from Farmingham, Massachusetts. Her parents are wonderful and bland, and rely on a computer to babysit her when she plays outside while they are at work. Her parents have convinced her, at the age of 10, that she will avoid drugs and boys through her high school years. Yes, I know, I was shaking my head here too.

But her story begins with the sighting of a red fox. In broad daylight. Weird, since the only time a fox is out in broad daylight is because they’re rabid (ed. note: it was brought to my attention that foxes are out in the daylight when they don’t fear humans and live in parks and whatnot. Living on a farm, we shoot foxes because they are after our chickens, especially the potentially rabid ones out in daylight, so I’ll accept that foxes are sometimes seen in daylight. Regional bias on my part), but Theresa doesn’t fear this in any way and watches as the fox walks up her back porch, sits down and stares at her. Then suddenly, a bright ball of light leaps from the fox and slams into Theresa’s stomach. She screams and runs inside, locks the door and… calmly watches the fox disappear.

Okay, think about this for a moment. No 10 year old girl would be rational at this point, no matter how normal and boring they are. 10 year old boys and girls flip out over the weirdest stuff, and a glowing white ball leaping out of a fox and hitting you is pretty fucking weird. Hell, I’m the most rational person I know (I should get out more, I agree) and would have freaked out. Of course, I also probably would have grabbed the .22 and disposed of the fox because I don’t need rabid animals on the farm.

But I digress. This is starting to make my head hurt, and I really wish I had more booze on hand.

I really can’t get over how poorly the first two pages are written, by the way. It takes real effort to be this bad and, for a moment, I had a sneaking suspicion that the author was trolling everyone who had read the book. I looked him up and, well, he’s a real author and takes himself very, very seriously.

He is not going to like this review, I can guarantee that much.

So anyways, back to the story. Theresa admits that she’s worried about her weight (her mother says she’s too skinny, so this is the first time that the character has been portrayed in any semblance of “realistic”). Thinking she was hallucinating due to lack of food, she goes into the kitchen and makes fried eggs, bacon, toast and milk…

…and then a bunch of firetrucks appear.

No scene buildup, no suspense, just BOOM! and let’s keep moving. This could have been executed very well if the author had any talent at making the reader give a shit about Theresa. Even though it’s early in the book, this is reminding me of a book I read once called The All-American by John R. Tunis. But, you know, without the talent. Or skill. Or character development. Or a plot.

I’ve spent just about 900 words talking about the horrors on the first THREE pages and I’m starting to wonder if this is turning into a slam piece. I mean, I want to be professional about this review, but when I’ve wasted hours of my life reading this book (and never getting them back, I’ll add) I get really irritated.

Okay, so it suddenly got very warm in the middle of a summer day (she’s not in school, parents are at work, she has an idyllic lifestyle… I’m assuming this is the middle of summer here) and someone called the fire department to report a fire. I… come on Norman, what the hell? I can’t even lose myself in this book because you keep yanking my suspension of disbelief right out of the book with inconsistencies. You’re trying to make this sound like present-day, but it sounds more like Andy Griffith. I… I just…

Damn it, this review is never going to get finished. I can’t even talk about the basic plot of the first chapter without losing my shit.

Okay, I’m skipping ahead, because basically the next few chapters are Theresa becoming inhabited by an alien AI, meeting kindly Federal Agents who do not whisk her away to Area 51 to cut open her brain, and her becoming super smart and being able to throw a baseball very hard (this girl is a cheater, by the way, for using an alien intelligence to make her a better athlete than everyone else around her but hey, morals don’t matter when you’re Empress motherfucking THERESA). It’s strange, because the author even managed to make all of this completely boring. This could have been a great bit about her wrestling with the sudden expansion of her mind and awareness, discovery of hypersensitivity and perfect memory retention, or even simply watching a 10 year old outwit and outduel a grown woman (things that kids actually will enjoy reading about). Instead, the author falls flat again and deprives the reader of some quality character development.

I really can’t describe how horrid this is. Putrid, fetid stink emanating from an old urinal cake that was forced through a septic system is the closest thing I can think of, and the argument could be made that I was insulting the urinal cake. By the way, if someone sends me something like this again, I will find you, and I will do things to you that would make even Liam Neeson shudder in horror.

Now, one thing the author does well (yes, a compliment) is show the various interaction between the Canadian and British governments. Of course, the immediate question which came to mind is why the US government is completely ignoring the girl after discovering that she is interacting with an alien machine. Unfortunately, by this time the author has flayed the reader’s mind with numbing agents called “words” in a vast attempt to write a literary masterpiece that falls somewhat short of Atlanta Nights. I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m being catfished by the author the further I go. It’s like I’m Alice, he’s the White Rabbit and we did some horrible peyote before falling into the well from The Ring (complete with creepy murderous girl).

Theresa promised to save the world for Prime Minster Tony Blair but unfortunately she is unable to crack the alien code of HAL (what she calls the alien machine inside her). While the pace is moving along, I just can’t seem to garner up the energy to give a damn about Theresa or her new husband Steve. I’ve never seen an author go out of their way before to make a main character so bland and boring, and kill any attempt that the reader may make to engage her. She’s a Mary Sue, half-assed fantasy of a man who doesn’t grasp the concept that characters need to do more than walk through the pages of a book. She’s trying to save the world, and all I can think at this point is that I’m not even halfway through the book and I want to end the pain.

But I can’t stop reading, because my seemingly endless suffering is for your amusement. Yes, dear readers, I love you that much.

You all owe me. You owe me big.

The world begins to die for inexplicable reasons, droughts reign, and crops wither and die, all the while the world sits back on its ass and waits for an 18 year old girl to save it. The science in the book started to drive me crazy. Bad science, horrible science, and not even explained rationally enough to make a YA reader (because really, that’s the target audience here) to say “Okay, cool” and continue on with the story. Really, I went back and read that bit three times trying to figure it out. I mean, maybe kids would skimp over it and cut him some slack (because YA readers are a forgiving bunch; look at how well they adapted to Catching Fire after The Hunger Games came out! #/sarcasm).

This book review is starting to make me sick. I’m getting a stiff drink to see if I can finish this up without losing my sanity. I’m changing the author’s name, by the way. No more shall he be called “Norman Boutin”. No, Norman shall henceforth be known as “The Black Goat of the Woods, Shub-Niggurath, Devourer of Souls, Eater of Sanity, Beholden of Chtulhu and Smiter of the Righteous.” Seriously, our hero and savior changed the poles in the book so that everyone can have summer all year long! That’s great for people in England. Sucks to be in the southern hemisphere but hey, fuck those guys, amiright? I think that the author should have gone into the Dark Arts. They’d love to learn just how well he can cause suffering at levels they had only previously masturbated to. H. P. Lovecraft couldn’t even imagine the horrors held in these pages. This book breaks the confines of a pandemic outbreak, requiring handling in full CDC garb, and should be called “Litbola” (courtesy of a Twitter follower, @zeewulfeh)

Much of what the author shows throughout seems to have been made up on the fly, including (and not limited to) the military, the government, how things work, nature, aliens, terrorists, OPEC, treaties, gravity, physics, water…

*long suffering sigh*

Look… this is, quite frankly, one of the worst pieces of published fiction I have ever laid eyes upon. For some reason, the author thought that he could project his world domination fantasies onto a populace in the form of a young girl, fixing all of the worlds problems without considering that the basis of human nature is to fight against being controlled. This is not a book for kids (unless you want them to hate reading), and I wouldn’t even say this is for adults (adults, hopefully, know when a book is so bad that nothing can save it). This is nothing more than idiopathic projection in literary form.

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or by merely one book review, but for the love of your unborn children, run away. Run as far and as fast as you can. Do not look back. This is your Sodom and Gomorrah, kiddies. Don’t look back or a pillar of salt you shall become. Don’t waste your money, time, or sanity trying to make it through this book. Don’t even try to start it. Don’t force yourself to get to chapter three. Don’t swallow the arsenic and push to the end. The payoff isn’t worth it (since there isn’t really any payoff) and you’ll hate yourself for it afterwards. I suffered through this so you would not have to.

Don’t make my suffering be in vain.

Grade– *is “Ebola” a low enough grade? Did I go too far? Did I go far enough?

-Reviewed by Jason (May God have mercy on his soul)

 

How to write a review

Yes, yes, I know Cedar Sanderson and I did a bit about this on Mad Genius Club Sunday but something came up this morning that drove the point home again. So, I’m going to point everyone back to the original post on MGC and the expound some more.

For those who don’t know Cedar, she is a wonderful newish author and one of my co-bloggers at MGC. She just released the second book, Trickster Noir, in her Pixie for Hire series. It is a mix of fantasy, noir and mystery and a fun read. Better yet, she has a new twist on some of the fantasy tropes that I found refreshing. But I will leave it at that and urge you to go try it for yourself.

I mention Trickster Noir because it was one of the reviews for it that had me shaking my head and wondering just what the reviewer was thinking when writing the review. Even though giving TN a five star review, the reviewer went on to criticize the fact that Cedar kept mentioning the two lead characters weren’t sleeping together — and why, which is due to a combination of factors the characters have to deal with before being able to have time to sleep together — and then, as if that wasn’t enough, the reviewer then tries to tie it into the Hugo and related brouhaha that is currently going on.

Look, if you don’t want to give spoilers in a review, then don’t talk about a major plot point. If you don’t like the fact the main characters actually think and talk about why they aren’t sleeping together and then want to show your own, well, what folks could call sexism by saying you leave the wedding preparations to the ladies so you don’t particularly want to read about the details, fine. But don’t go on ad nauseum about it in a review, especially when those are not major plot points or issues in the book.

Most of all, don’t try to tie into what is, hopefully, a passing upheaval in the SF/F world, especially since more readers aren’t even aware of it happening. By preaching about preaching that is or is not happening in the book, you are doing the author a disservice.

But that’s just my two cents’ worth. When I look at reviews, I want a short, concise note about whether or not the story is good, if it kept the reviewers attention and if there were any glaring formatting, etc., errors.

And, again, that’s just my two cents’ worth.

How to react to reader comments

My first thought whenever I see an author responding to a reader’s comments is “why?” The reason is because most of the responses I see, for whatever reason, consist of the author either berating the reader or digging a hole as they try to explain why they did or did not do something in the book. The latest one involved an author who was not just upset but royally PO’d because a reader had taken issue with how the author represented a character in a book.

I’ll admit, negative reviews and comments hurt. A book is, in many ways, like a child. We give birth to the idea, we nurture it through rough drafts and into final edits. Finally, whether we’re ready or not, the day comes when the book goes off into the big world on its own and we no longer get to hold its hands. We’ve put our metaphorical blood, sweat and tears — and sometimes the real thing too — into the book. So it hurts when someone doesn’t like our “baby”.

But one of the first rules of writing is understanding that not everyone is going to love our baby, er, our novel. If we’re lucky, some folks outside of our immediate family will. There will be some who simply like it. That’s okay. We’d feel better if they loved it, but liking is all right. But then there are those who just don’t like it at all. They see warts and scars and overall badness. It happens and we have to learn to deal with it.

The last thing we, as writers, need to do is take the comments and criticisms personally. It is counter-productive and, if you’re like me, it will bring the creative process to a screeching halt.

There’s another caveat you have to remember too. Readers identify with characters who they feel are like them. So if you have a character the reader identifies with and you do something with that character they feel they wouldn’t do, you very well get a critical comment from them. That’s okay. At least they read your book. Send a thank you back and thank them for their comment.

What you don’t do is go to your blog and rant and rave because they didn’t understand and how they were wrong with their assumptions. Or, if you do, don’t give enough detail to the criticism that the reader would be able to identify themselves. Most of all, don’t go to their blog and respond defensively. The only one you are hurting is yourself.

Criticism and critiques are part of the job. Pull up your big boy and girl pants and accept it. Or, if you are like a lot of us, have someone else read your critiques before you do. That will save yourself a lot of headaches and some potential heartache.

Quit whining when you get caught breaking the rules

Almost every author who has ever considered going indie, every small press that has weighed the different options of getting e-book titles to the public has read any number of terms of use documents. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords and others all have their own set of rules that have to be followed. The rules deal with what sort of files you need to upload, what royalty rates are and when payments will be made, what sort of material you can upload, etc., etc., etc. One of the most important terms in the ToS documents is about pricing. For authors, it’s because pricing is often tied to royalty rates. For the retailer, it’s because they don’t want to be undercut by other retailers.

The most common ToS when it comes to pricing is what I just said. If your e-book is priced at $4.99 on Amazon, you can’t then go in and price it at $3.99 everywhere else. If you do, Amazon has the right to drop the price to match that at the other retailers. The same goes if you try to pull a fast one and actually give your book away at another retail site and Amazon finds out. If their search engines discover your book is being given away, they can and will drop their prices to match.

The problem from the writer’s standpoint with this is that you have absolutely no control over when Amazon drops the price or when they return to the original price. If you’re lucky, Amazon will contact you and let you know that it’s found your book at a lower price and you need to come into compliance with their ToS. This has happened to me a couple of times when their searches have found my work on pirate sites. All it’s taken from me is an e-mail back to Amazon telling them that I hadn’t authorized the site to carry my work and that I had sent a take-down notice. Easy enough.

However, when you try to game the system by lowering your prices to free on one site because that site allows you X-number of promotional days, you can’t then whine and bitch because Amazon matched that price. You especially can’t do that if you admit in your whine that you know you were in violation of Amazon’s ToS. When you send your email to Amazon asking them to return your e-book back to its original price because it is now back to normal at the other site(s), you certainly don’t do yourself any favors if you get snarky with them. You are the one who broke the contract with Amazon.

No, I’m not going to get more specific than this because this incident came to me through a private e-mail list. I don’t have permission to excerpt the e-mail or name names. So I won’t. But, going back to my post the other day, there are simply times when you need to stop, read what you’ve written, consider it and then consider whether it really serves your best interest to hit the send button.

But, if you do feel the need to send an email and then berate the company, any company, for enforcing the ToS you agreed to, don’t then go on a tirade about the reviews you then got on your e-book. Yes, there does seem to be a correlation between the number of free downloads and the number of negative reviews a title gets. I’ve seen it with one of my books. It is something I take into account now when I consider taking a book for free.

Even if you do feel the need to complain about it, then don’t complain that someone downloading your book for free can’t be an “Amazon verified” purchaser because the book was free. An “Amazon verified purchase” is simply a means of noting that the reviewer got the book from Amazon, nothing more. That can also be found in the FAQs, iirc. But, if you haven’t paid enough attention to know Amazon will enforce its ToS, you probably haven’t taken the time to read the various FAQs and understand them.

Then, don’t compound the problem by complaining that you don’t have a way to take down negative reviews. Certainly, don’t go in and try to debate the issue with the reviewers. That will simply make things worse. But to try to say that we, as authors, should be able to handpick what reviews are allowed to go up on our product pages is to want to game the system in a way that is unfair to our readers. As a reader I’d resent the hell out of it. Besides, trust your readers enough to be able to tell a valid review — one that actually read your book and put some consideration into the review — from the ones who just like to troll indie books to give them negative reviews.

In other words, if you are going to be a writer, pull up your big boy pants and treat this like a business. That’s what it is. Grow up, grow a pair and be profressional.

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