Archive for 2012

An Obervation that Pains Me.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Before I dive into this topic, let me put it out there that, by any definition, I am a bleeding heart liberal. That’s going to matter to this post.

I have now read several memoires by US Navy SEALs. I’ve also read several non-fiction accounts about Navy SEALs. Here’s a partial list:

Fearless, by Eric Blehm. This is an account of the life and service of SEAL team 6 member Adam Brown, who was killed in action in 2010.

No Easy Day, by Mark Owen and Keven Maurer. This is an account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

American Sniper, Jim DeFelice and Chris Kyle. The service of SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. An account of the mission that resulted in Luttrell being stranded in Pashtun territory.

Warrior Elite, by Dick Couch. Follows SEAL class 228

Warrior Soul, by Chuck Pfarrer, his account of his time as a SEAL and his service in Beruit and elsewhere.

I enjoyed every single one of these books, by the way. They help inform elements of my writing. (Well, yes, all my reading does this, but hey, some books are more insight-giving than others.)

But there’s a theme that gets sounded in every single one of them and it pains me.

In each of these books there is always mention (and in the case of Luttrell’s book CONSTANT mention) of how the liberal media and liberal elite hate SEALs and actively attempt to make their jobs harder. This blog post isn’t about whether there might be some people who do feel and act that way. There surely are.

What I want to say, as a bleeding heart liberal and someone whose education probably lands me in the “elite” category, is that not only do I not resent the military, I agree that a prepared military is necessary. There is evil in this world. There are governments, movements, heads of governments and heads of movements who are engaged in moral and ethical evil. I am not sorry that Osama bin Laden is dead. I regret that we live in a world where we haven’t figured out how to exist without violence, but that does not mean I don’t understand why people are moved to revolution or why a people or government have no choice but to pick up arms. I don’t advocate doing nothing when a government or movement is engaged in genocide or when the lives of women are given up to political expediency.

I think Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy cost the lives of millions.

I am profoundly grateful for the sacrifices and dedication of the men and women who serve in our military. They put their lives on the line every single day.

But I’m saddened by the apparent belief, as expressed in these books, that people like me don’t appreciate what Navy SEALs do. I’m even sorrier that somehow people like me have failed to make it known that we do not feel that way.

Believe me I do appreciate it. This blog is my opportunity to express my thanks and admiration to everyone in the military. Even as I wish war was unnecessary.

 

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Quiz! How to Tell If You Should Do Your Own Book Cover

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Lots of authors are diving into the self-publishing waters. Before I say anything else let me say this: Self-Publishing is the best thing to happen to authors since the debut of the word processor.

But that’s no excuse for horrific covers. If you are an author you are unlikely to have the necessary design skills to pull together an effective book cover. I’m not saying it’s impossible. Absolutely there are authors who have the skills. But do you? I’ve put together a handy quiz for you to make a quick check of the likelihood that you can do this on your own:

All questions relate to book covers:

  1. Have you ever made a living doing design or graphics work for the web?
  2. If you were to choose a font for your book, would you
    1. select a font from the list that shows up in your graphics program
    2. Find a font website and choose a serif and a sans-serif font to license
  3. Do you know what kerning is and why you might need to do this?
  4. In the past 10 days, have you looked at a color wheel?
  5. Have you ever read a book about typography or read five or more articles about typography by people who do typography for a living?
  6. Are there 3 or more cover artists whose work you instantly recognize?

How to Score

If you answered yes to Question 1 give yourself 15 points
If you answered yes to 2A deduct 50 points.
If you answered yes to 2B give yourself 1 point
Give yourself 1 point for every yes for questions 3-6.

I’ll wait while you do the arithmetic….

Points Scored

20 or more: You can probably do your own cover.
6-19: you MIGHT be able to do your own cover.
5: Not yet.
4: Unlikely.
3: No.
2: I’m sorry, no.
1: Please don’t.
Any negative number: hell no.

You’re welcome!

 

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Reporting In

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

I am happy to report I am making good progress on My Immortals 5. It’s really, really, interesting the way I keep reminding myself that I can do this exactly the way I want to. I’m about 35% through, so there’s a shape developing and a structure I didn’t anticipate at the start.

My writer friend Liz Maverick was in my town today. We had an awesome breakfast and then we walked around P-town and I discovered that she loves antique stores as much as I do. Bliss. We came across a collection of sexually explicit netsuke. Nothing like unexpected peen! We stopped at the bookstore and talked about which book covers we thought worked and which ones seemed tired and old.

And now, off to bed.

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Let’s NOT Get Over It

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

 

Normally, I take Joe Konrath with a large grain of salt. He’s opinionated, wildly so, and it’s always interesting to read over-the-top opinions. By and large I’d say I agree with his points about publishing, though I agree less often with the words he chooses. But mostly, I agree with his take on what’s going on the publishing business these days.  But I disagree a lot with his Enough Already Post.

In this post, Konrath says he sees nothing wrong with authors sock puppeting reviews of their own books or posting, under an account meant to disguise the author’s identity, negative reviews for competing books.

Every one of those millions of reviewers who trashed a book deliberately did it to harm that book’s sales. That’s the whole point of a one star review

Actually, no. I don’t think Konrath is right on this one. People write 1-star reviews in order to tell other people that they did not like that book. They are expressing an opinion about the book they read. It’s the expression of opinion that’s the whole point of a review, 1-star or 5.  To suggest that all 1-star reviews are motivated by malice (“did it to harm that book’s sales”) is ridiculous. It is not malicious to say you did not like a book when, in fact, you did not like that book.

He moves on to muddy his point about 1-star reviews being written for the purpose of deliberate harm with an acknowledgment that people are allowed to express their opinions. Indeed, we are.

In a society that permits people to express their opinion about things, the subjects of those opinions can and do take a beating. When a company puts a product into the stream of commerce, in such a society, consumers of that product are allowed to say what they think, and what they say and think is not always nice. The reviews are not always well-written. Sometimes they’re mean. Sometimes the words are incoherent and sometimes it’s plain the opinion is not well-founded in logic or accuracy. Some reviews are written by people who are not our best and brightest. But the reviews are still the genuine words of someone who experienced the product.

Here’s an example:

I stopped buying Sanford Uniball pens when the pens started breaking long before they ran out of ink. I used to buy them by the box. They were my favorite writing pens. The change in quality made me stop buying them. I have, quite literally, bought dozens of boxes of these pens. I used them, too. And now I don’t because the quality became shoddy. Now I buy Bic pens. They are not shoddy. They are miracle pens that make my writing even better. My star assessment: 1-star.

There is nothing unethical about my posting my opinion of the Sanford Uniball pen. This was, in fact, my true and actual experience of the product. I no longer buy these pens. (I don’t buy Bic pens, though.)

But what if you then found out that, in fact, I am an employee of Bic? Does not my failure to disclose that change how you read that review? Don’t you, as a reader, now wonder if those words are true?

Most of us understand quite well the difference between a reader posting a negative review of a book she did not like and an author who posts a negative review of a competing book under a fake account for the sole purpose harming that book.

The first case is freedom of expression: a real reader expressing her opinion about a book she read. The second case is, pure and simple, deceit and fraud. The author is pretending to be a reader with no skin in the game. The author is using words intended to harm the product he is “reviewing.” By disguising his identity, and therefore his conflict of interest, he is attempting to dupe other readers.

There is nothing right about that. Nothing.

We all know why Mr. Ellory didn’t use his real name in posting those reviews of competing books: if he had, his “review” would have been instantly identifiable as biased. If he had posted those reviews as himself, his reviews would have been read in the proper context and readers could have made an informed decision about how much weight to give to those words. But he didn’t.

1-star reviews by readers who didn’t like a book they read are not unethical. It doesn’t matter if the review is badly written. A reader is entitled to express her opinion about the book.

1-star reviews by authors who disguise their identity so that readers of his words are unaware of the bias are deceitful and unethical.

Let’s not get over that at all.

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Barnes & Noble reviews are Being “Gamed”

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Someone on an email list posted a set of bizarre “reviews” for her book on B&N. I won’t link there because I don’t want to out her. Also I don’t need to in order to show you that B&N has an issue they need to investigate and clean up.

Check out this Google Search, This Google image search on the “Lienstar”. You see several book covers. I moused over a couple of rows of them, and they were ALL from Barnes & Noble.

Click on an image, and go to the website. You’ll end up at a book page like this one: This Random Book. Now scroll down through the reviews.

Here’s a screencap of a portion:

Obviously Not Reviews

OK, so “Doomkit” is kind of odd. Google that and you end up at this DeviantArt site for Doomkit.

Read the comments (screencap)
A cat themed role-playing game?

And here Warriorstakeall.deviantart.com Getting the picture?

Check out the last comment. Now Google “Lightening Clan.” After finding “Sea Breeze of the Lighting Clan” (also a cat) on DeviantArt I googled that phrase and ended up here: outbackclans.proboards.com

And, at last, Google “Warrior Cats roleplaying” and you end up at Warriorcatsrpg.com

Take all this together and you get a role playing game centered around warrior cats with players who are, rather not very nicely, abusing the B&N website by conducting their games via “reviews”

I’m sure it’s fun for them, but to be honest, authors and B&N are collateral damage. These don’t even rise to the level of “fake” reviews. They’re garbage reviews.

B&N, you’ve been gamed. Clean it up.

Addition

I want to add a couple of things to this post. The first is that I understand that the RPG is mostly played by kids and young adults. And I bet it’s fun. But the process of using a third party’s website as an extension of the game does impact authors as well as B&N. Some of those books have over a hundred reviews, but only the first few are legitimate. ALL of the rest are these RPG comments. Not all the comments are 5 stars. A fair number are 1 star. This means that book is unfairly up-ranked or down-ranked in the overall star rating. Suppose a potential buyer only sees the first few legitimate reviews and, further, sees 100+ reviews. I noted, by the way, that they appear to be choosing books that have at least one lengthy review — so that the garbage entries are hidden (as it were) below the fold. The reader will have a false sense of how popular the book is. And so would B&N.

Here’s another issue: What does this say about B&N network security that it is unable to see what has to be an unlikely set of circumstances: A book with a low sales ranking suddenly sees dozens and dozens of “reviews” in a short period of time WITHOUT an accompanying or preexisting rise in purchases. That, all by itself, ought to trigger a warning that the servers are seeing network activity that is highly suggestive of a hack.

Yet another issue: What does this say about B&N’s investment in their reputation?

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Books I’ve Been Reading

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

In the current order in my Kindle App, which is not chronological because I was talking about several of these books with others:

Gaijin, by Remittance Girl

Erotica. Trigger warning for flat out rape.

Why I bought it: From a discussion at Dear Author.

What I think: I’ve read this several times. Not for everyone, and not romance. Remittance Girl is a writer to watch.

A Virgin Enslaved, Artemis Hunt

50 Shades Fan Fic?

Why I bought it: Saw it being tweeted as it was read by someone whose opinion I respect. It sounded interesting.

What I think: It’s well written and not very long. It’s also 50 Shades fanfic and/or a retelling. From the story tag line, you’d think it is parody, but it did not read like a parody and I did not detect anything that was a comment on all the issues of 50. (and I went to grad school where I was trained to do that!) This is way better written than 50 Shades, but ultimately, it didn’t work for me overall. The virgin in this story was never enslaved (literally or figuratively) and the BDSM stuff completely dropped out. It had zero impact on the story. I did not find the characters as compelling as the poorly written ones in 50. This story, for me, missed that Alpha/Innocent trope that hits so hard in Twilight and 50. Nevertheless, I will be reading other things by this author and I will NOT be reading anything more by James. I’m glad I found out about this writer. There’s a deep, deep backlist. YAY.

Please note: If this book had contained clickable buy links to that backlist, I would have bought at least one and probably several. In other words, I now have to work 10 times harder to find/buy this author’s books. Don’t do this to me. This author now has to depend upon me remembering those pen names…. And, sadly, that’s just not a guarantee.

Doubled, by Charlotte Stein

Erotic Romance

Why I bought it: Megan Frampton tweeted that she’d been reading Stein. She has good book tastes, but I’m also very clear about how and where we differ in our reading tastes. I’ll typically take a look at any author she really likes. Which I did a while back. This purchase was just another book by an author I’d read before.

What I thought: Stein is a Jekyll and Hyde author for me. The writing is always good, but some of her books have been a total fail for me, while others have made me weep with jealousy at her talent. This one was a meh for me. I know how good she is, so I want that complexity in everything I read from her, and this lacked the punch. It’s an EC (Ellora’s Cave) book so I’m wondering if that’s the problem….  I think the books that work for me are not EC books. See below.

Ember, Bettie Sharpe

Romance, Fairy Tale, at the border of erotic.

Why I bought it: I recently tweeted a plea for book recommendations. (Yes, I ignored the one from an author pushing his own book. Bad Form, author dude.) I wanted to try several of the suggestions, but I’m just not going to pay $8.99+ for an eBook. Ember was a suggestion, the price was right, I bought it.

What I think: LOVE IT. This is a wickedly subversive retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. I have a couple of quibbles, but nothing that makes me not love this story. I will be buying more by this author.

Note: Also NO BUY LINKS. What the H?

Easy, Tammara Webber

College Age Romance? (What is this called? New Adult?) Trigger warning for attempted rape scene.

Why I bought it: I bought it instead of the $9.00 plus books that were recommended. It happened to be either free or sub $5.00 when I saw it, and I knew I’d heard others talking about it. I can’t recall where, though.

What I thought: I have to confess that when I started this book, I was under the completely mistaken impression that it was erotic romance. Uh, NO! So I spent a disorienting few moments thinking, wow, this writing is amazing, but OMG this scene is …. <<horrific in impact>> But then I realized the problem had to be me, because writing that strong rarely goes along with that kind of world view without also offering deep hints as to intent– in other words, I knew the writer was saying what she meant on several levels whereas weak writing is often full of offensive and likely unintended ideas because, well, the weak writer isn’t thinking at a very complex level.

Anyway, then I settled in for a very enjoyable read except in the middle where it began to feel very preachy. I LOVED the hero. OK with the heroine. Can’t say that I loved the book, but I liked it a lot and I will absolutely read more by this author. This was a win, by the way. I’m really glad I read it.

This book was also missing any links to buy other books by her. FAIL. Because I would have clicked and probably bought.

Control, by Charlotte Stein

Erotic Romance.

Why I bought it: Because I have really, really liked other books by her.

What I think: Holy cow. The hero of this book is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I like in a hero and I still think this is an amazing book. I just like those alpha men and this guy is not in any way an alpha. But this is a damn fine book and one of those, OMG why can’t I write like this books. Complete win even though there were parts where the hero/heroine dynamic simply did not work for me. Not an EC book…

Plummet, by Michael Zaracostas

Legal Thriller

Why I bought it: Someone recommended it on twitter, I think. It was free and though I had doubts, I do enjoy a good mystery/legal thriller…

What I thought: Well written and definitely engaging, but so unrelentingly oblivious-male in its gaze, I ended up depressed and annoyed. The women weren’t very well done. You could just feel this author’s lack of understanding about the real lives and experiences of women. There are male writers who carry off unsympathetic female characters without falling into offensive cliche.

I have lost all tolerance for writing, however fine, in which the female is merely a reflection of what is, in fact, a male point of view that fails utterly to understand what it means to be a woman in America. Such a flaw in the authorial view diminishes the male characters, too, by the way. I wish I’d liked this book better because a lot of interesting things went on. If I want to read about a male view of the world that manages not to portray demeaning and damaging views of women, I can read Lee Child or Barry Eisler.

Concluding Remarks

Whoa! Twitter is a major source of book recommendations for me. Generally not from author promotion but from readers, reviewers, or bloggers.

Did you notice how many sales were lost because books did not have buy links? If you’re an author, think about what that means to your bottom line. You, dear author, cannot rely on me remembering, late at night (or at any time) who I read that I liked. Names and titles blur in my head. I know I have stared at Kindle book recommendations or search results while I thought, “Who was that author I liked???”

Do not ever, ever underestimate the power of the one-click buy. Put the damn buy links in your book so I can buy while my love and satisfaction with your book is hot and immediate.

I’m surprised by my resistance to books that are $8.99 and above. I’d pay that for certain non-fiction books, and possibly for certain fiction — maybe for a brand new, just released book by really big author. But not for genre fiction. Here’s part of what goes through my head: I am on a reading jag. Chances are I’m going to read 10-20 books in a very short period of time. 10-20 books at $10 bucks a book is $100-200. I do this several time a year . . . I have a growing teenager who will be off to college soon. I have bills and groceries…

So, do I buy 10 or fewer books or do I get more books that are priced at less than $8.00? Why should I pay the same price for an eBook as for paper when, with the eBook, I can’t lend it (except, possibly, once) and I have to worry about what happens if I try to read it on too many devices? Why, I think, should I support a publisher’s refusal to price to the market?

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The Lovely Words

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

What They’re Saying About Midnight Scandals

Each of the three stories takes place around a small home (cue Doyle’s Grange) on a larger estate. As one era passes into the next the elderly couple from the former generation brush paths with the young couple of the next. How is that not prime time catnip? As a well executed concept the home bridges the gaps between the tales, making them stronger collectively than they are alone. As the authors involved in Midnight Scandals are some of the genre’s strongest, this takes us pretty close to perfection.

First up is Carolyn Jewel. Her story of lovers with two unforgivable secrets made me realize I don’t read Carolyn Jewel often enough. (Why don’t I read more Carolyn Jewel?)
It’s My Genre Baby

Places to get Midnight Scandals

What They’re Saying About Not Proper Enough

This was another delicious, detailed, smoldering romance from Carolyn Jewel.
Rogues Under the Covers

OH MY GOODNESS! What an awesome book! I loved every minute of it. Talk about a page turner that I couldn’t put down. First off, the story line was moving and shocking at the same time. Not Proper Enough kept me wanting more. To be honest it would be one of those books to re-read again. That right there says a lot. So, I hope that you all get a chance to check this book out when it comes out. Plus, you all want to know if Fenris is able to change Eugenia’s opinion of him.
The Cutest Blog on the Block

With her engaging, complex characters, knowledge of the era and a sharp ear for dialogue, Jewel creates a nicely written, highly sensual and emotional love story.
RT Magazine

Places to get Not Proper Enough

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Carolyn Explains Politics Using Zombies and Bunnies

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Suzy Jones, Politician:  Today, in this great country of ours, we face a crisis. The world will be destroyed if we don’t act. The Zombie Apocalypse is coming. We cannot let those shambling, groaning, mindless creatures gnaw on our bunnies. Pets and small children should be in the basement. The streets are not safe.

Policy Wonk A (PWA):

Suzy Jones hates Bunnies! Tells families: “Bunnies should be locked in the basement.”

 

PWA’s claims rated “Pants On Fire times 10.”

PWA replies: Ferd Smith stands for protecting our beloved bunnies from Zombies. Suzy Jones wants bunnies to die in the basement.

Top Google results for “Is the Zombie Apocalypse coming?”

  • Best Zombie fighting weapons (sponsored link)
  • Top 10 ways to Zombie-proof your basement.
  • Securing a room in a dwelling without a basement
  • Hot Zombie babes
  • How to protect your bunny from Zombies

Ferd Smith, Politician: Zombies are attacking bunnies in greater numbers everyday. We need to arm the citizenry with anti-Zombie ammunition right now. Give everyone anti-Zombie guns! I guarantee you the streets are safe for bunnies.

Policy Wonk B (PWB):

Ferd Smith says bunnies can walk the streets!

 

Policy Wonk B Video Clip Rated “Pants On Fire Times a Billion!”

PWB replies: Ferd Smith says our bunnies are not in danger. Suzy Jones believes in protecting sweet, innocent, fluffy bunnies.

Top Google Search for “How to find your missing pet”

  • Zombie-Repellant, 10 Gal. (sponsored link)
  • Top 2 ways to Zombie-proof your basement NOW!
  • Securing a room in a dwelling without a basement
  • XXX Zombie action XXX
  • Obedience school for bunnies

Two Weeks Later:

The pundits have been eaten by Zombies. Jones and Smith accidentally run into each other outside the Senate. After a brief scuffle they talk and realize they actually have the same goal. They fight Zombies together and save the world for our bunnies.

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Handy Review Responses for Authors Looking to Behave Badly

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

I believe in paying it forward and helping my fellow authors in anyway I can. Lately, there have been a spate of Author DefendersTM weighing in on bad reviews. Some of them have been brilliantly effective, generating loads of ill-will among readers and all those lookie-loos who refuse to buy your book so you can hit #1 on that certain list. But some of those defenses just aren’t up to par, I’m afraid. Not to mention there are authors without husbands or significant others to help with that all important Author Defense WorkTM.

Well, Carolyn to the Rescue! Herewith are some canned Author DefenseTM review responses for you to copy and paste into any comment stream. All you need to do is customize for your specific situation. I ask nothing in return, but if you felt moved to leave me a 5 star review for any of my books along the lines of “My GOD THIS IS BRILLIANT” I wouldn’t complain.

So, suppose you were to get a review like the one below:

A composite review

Wow. I can’t believe I paid for this book. Nothing about the story or the characters worked for me. The hero cursed way too much. There was too much sex! (See page 275! Utter filth.) The hero was mean. Why didn’t he help the heroine? The heroine, by the way, was a complete doormat who didn’t kick a single ass. I prefer books with kick-ass heroines. The formatting was terrible and so was the prose. I’m sorry I wasted hours of my life reading this. The history was all wrong. Everyone knows there were no buggy whips in 1805 and besides, who would use one of those in that way?

The author’s dog responds

It’s obvious you didn’t read [Insert author’s name] book or you’d know how nice she is. What are you? Some kind of cat lover? She is a wonderful person who always gives me treats and takes me outside to do my business. ::BALL!:: If you weren’t a pet hating sociopath you would know how wonderful ::TREAT!!!!!!:: pant pant pant please give me a treat. The heroine is not a doormat. But if you were, and I think you must be, I would do my business on you.

The author’s cat responds

Who are you? If you’re not going pet me, go away. Here is what I think of your review: :::Yawn::: Also ::GAK GAK GAK:: Here’s a hairball. It’s smarter than you are.

The author’s mother responds

My [daughter/son/transgender] is a polite young [woman/man/transgender], and [she/he] was always a special child and very polite and [beautiful/handsome], too. [She/he] has the nicest smile! [She/he] is polite now, too, and I just don’t understand how you could be so cruel as to make those remarks when [she/he] worked so hard at that writing. You should be nice to people. I am so sorry for your parents. They must be distraught.

The pond turtle responds

The sun is very warm here on this rock, which is smarter than you are.

You’re welcome! And please, if you have a good one, please leave your contribution in the comments!

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Success and the Busy Life

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The other day someone I know was talking about this great idea he was prototyping– very slowly because he does not have much time. It actually is an awesome idea. He mentioned he wanted to make some money from this. He has a young child and another on the way so time is at a premium for him. He wants to be with his kids. Of course! But a few minutes later, he went to lunch with co-workers. I did not. On my lunch hour, I wrote 500 words on the novel in progress.

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