Celebrating book reviewing, book sales and surviving heat wave

Celebrate blog hopWhile I have things to celebrate today, my Wildblue internet service is not one of them. I just got told by them that I’m over my usage limit again— even though I gave up Facebook games in order to save bandwidth for my writing career. So I’m unplugging the internet when not in use and getting up early to use my off-peak bandwidth.

But there is good news in my life. First, I made two sales of my poetry book, ‘surly petunia’ on Amazon.com which is a good start there. As you may guess, poetry doesn’t sell well, and ‘quirky’ poetry even less. But I am encouraged.

Next, now that I have decided to devote my efforts to becoming one of the top Amazon.com reviewers in my genre, I am developing methods to create reviews more easily. Mainly I keep a legal pad handy when I read and note down the key points of the book including character names and such. Here are some of my recent reviews:

Shatterworld – Lelia Rose Foreman

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century – Peter Graham

The 8-Minute Writing Habit – Monica Leonelle

If you should happen to read any of my reviews — thank you! — and if you happen to think one or more of them is a helpful review for someone deciding whether to buy the book, please click ‘yes’ in the place at the bottom of the review where they ask ‘is this review helpful?’ That would be a big help to me.

And now, the final thing to celebrate— I am surviving the hot weather in spite of my lack of air conditioning. I bought an air conditioner unit but there are difficulties in installing it. It’s hard on me because of my poor health but I am surviving by drinking a lot of ice water and not doing much around the house. Today my big project, besides this blog hop, is doing the laundry. Some of the laundry. Well, maybe one load of laundry and some folding.

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. If you don’t know about it— it’s a great way to get started getting more people reading your blog. Go to Lexa Cain’s blog to sign up, here: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

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IWSG: Book Review Reciprocity

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

The online world demands a lot of reciprocity. If you join a writers’ group on Facebook, and you want people to like and comment on the stuff you post there, you have to like and comment on other people’s stuff. If you want your stuff retweeted on Twitter, you retweet other people’s stuff.

But the biggest part of a writer’s dream is not about reciprocity— it’s about loads and loads of people liking your books and buying them and you not having to buy any books from all of THEM in return. That’s what you have to do to make it as a writer— sell to people including faceless strangers who only know you through your books.

Part of that dream these days is that a decent portion of your readers will write a review and that’s important. But real  writers not in the Stephen King category have another source of reviews, and that is a circle of writing friends— the kind of friends you can make in the writers’ groups I mentioned above.


Facebook Writer’s Groups

Aspie Writers (for writers with Asperger Syndrome and autism, new group, needs members.) https://www.facebook.com/groups/616192595221372/

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/

These are two of the groups I’m in— do searches at Facebook to find ones right for you— look for ones with real interactivity going on, not just people posting their books for sale.


Of course sometimes you are caught in a no-reciprocity trap. You write a review for this one, you write a review for that one, you write 2 for that author and 3 for that one— and they never think of reviewing your book in return.

That’s where I am at with my poetry book ‘surly petunia.’ (The title is taken from the first poem I wrote as a serious writer of poetry— amazingly it stood up over time, mainly because it’s weird and funny. Or sad. I can never tell those emotions apart.)

The excuse I get is that it’s POETRY and they don’t know how to read POETRY and review POETRY because, I suspect, they’d rather read someone’s overweight & second-rate fantasy tome than read a few pages of POETRY.

So today, I am taking the Nuclear Option and adding a poem to this post. Don’t worry, it’s a short one. And it’s in my book ‘surly petunia.’ Which is here: https://www.amazon.com/Surly-Petunia-Nissa-Annakindt-ebook/dp/B00NZ96EYE


catbox thriller

red explosions lying on the sidewalk
where just anyone could steal them
how can you treat your mothers so?

and why oh why the denizens
of minor towns with hidden hitlers
chastely placed beyond white window curtains

and I walk by as if quite ordinary
spies were sleeping in my breast pockets
still with their heads on they look better.

(c) Nissa Annakindt 2014


This was a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. It’s a great way to build up your blog if you are a writer. It happens the first Wednesday of each month.

5-star review can mean ‘This Book Sucks’

tenfromLenI often go to that online bookseller named after women with one breast (Amazon.) And noodle around looking for something new to read. And often I come upon something by an indie author with 9 – 17 reviews, all 5-star. And my usual conclusion is that this book is crap, likely reviewed mostly by the author’s mother and loving aunts. I tend to read the 3 and 4 star reviews first, and then glance at any 2 stars. I think I find a better class of books that way.

There is a sad trend toward making 5 star book reviews the norm, which is very bad. Because it makes people think anything less than five is a bad review marking a real stinker of a book.

This is awful. We need honest and fair reviews to help us find books we will like. I don’t insist on only perfect books. Some of my favorites are books where the author has a good story but is struggling with learning some of the writing skills. Honest and fair reviews help me know what I’m getting when I buy a book, and somehow if I know in advance that the book has some weak points, those weak points interfere less with my enjoyment.

Here are what the star-reviews mean on Amazon.com:

5 = I love it.

4 = I like it.

3 = It’s OK.

2 = I don’t like it.

1 = I hate it.

You can see that in a logical world, we would all know that 5 and 4 stars are good reviews, 3 stars can be good, bad or indifferent, and 1 and 2 are bad reviews. All modified a bit by the accompanying written review.

Very recently I have decided to become a serious Amazon reviewer. I am working to get more book reviews written. And in the meantime writing a few product reviews to add to my review total. [My profile page is here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A3GH4IA9SLC3YN You can read my most recent reviews there and if you find one of them ‘helpful’, please consider up-voting it, which will help my chance to rise in the reviewer ranks.]

My preference is to review books that are in genres I read, and that seem like I might enjoy them. These are the kind of books that I can review the best.

When it comes to getting a 5 star review from me, it’s kind of like getting a 10 from Len on Dancing With the Stars. You shouldn’t expect it, it’s very hard to get, and when you finally manage to get one, it really means something. I like to tell people seeking reviews from me that only 2 of the 4 Gospels get a full 5 stars from me (Luke and John.) And I regard the Gospels as being the Word of God!

Four-star reviews are my workhorse rating. Four-star reviews mean that it’s a good, solid book and that any flaws are minor and easily overlooked when you get caught up in the story. I give out a lot of 4-star reviews. Though I’m always happy when one of my favorite 4-star authors makes a Great Leap Forward and produces a 5-star book.

Three star reviews mean a book is OK. OK is good. If you don’t believe me, try reading a bunch of books that are LESS than OK. Three star books have more flaws and sometimes have a weaker, less compelling story. But if there are things to like in the story and characters, I will make sure to mention it. I prefer to review 3-star books with enough good qualities that the review is essentially a good review and will gain the author some readers in spite of any flaws. I haven’t had to give out any three-star reviews that were mostly critical yet. I probably wouldn’t bother except for a flawed book where the author was begging me for any review, even a bad one.

A two-star review means that the reviewer didn’t like it. That’s a very subjective term. There are great works of world literature that I don’t like, but I know they are well written and would never give them a 2-star. I think a fair-minded reviewer would rarely if ever bother to write a 2-star on a book. On a flawed product, especially a pricey one, maybe. It should only be used on a book that, objectively, has a number of deep flaws, and perhaps a moral issue in addition (porn or praise for Hitler and/or Stalin on top of incomprehensible writing would do it for me.)

One-star means you hated it. Can a Christian morally ‘hate’ anyone’s book? Or any person with a moral code? Most of the one-star reviews I’ve read were mean-spirited, cruel, and often based on the reviewer’s prejudices. Some fine non-fiction authors I know recently wrote a book about the Obama presidency that had some negative things to say. When the book came out some nasty people gave it one-star reviews without reading it— one admitted to reading no further than the title. I would never write a 1-star. I am a fallible human being and I would not judge any author’s book quite that harshly.

Do you write book reviews? What star ratings do you usually give out? Are you wary of books with nothing but 5-star reviews?


Join my Antimatter Life Insider newsletter. It will contain writing encouragement and some exclusive content aimed at blog fans, and also an exclusive chance to get your book reviewed by me. (Or a review of your blog on this blog, if you don’t have a book out yet.)

Pius Tales/Declan Finn’s Writing Journey

PiusTalesNissaRecently I got a copy of author Declan Finn’s Pius Tales— a collection of short stories related to the Pius Trilogy, a thriller series based on the idea that some not-so-well-hidden secrets about WW2 Pope Pius XII trigger a lot of murders, escapades and explosions. ‘Pius Tales’ continues in the explosive tradition.

But there is a bonus— a series of essays by Declan Finn telling his writing journey of imagining, writing and selling the Pius series. I always like to see how other writers do their work, since the only writer I actually SEE at work is me and I’m not that ‘normal.’ Though I’m not sure any writers are ‘normal.’ We are probably all just different shades of weird.

The origin of the Pius series came when Finn read a book about Pope Pius XII. And then a lot more books. And discovered that in 1960, the history, at least as regards this pope, changed. Before 1960, Pope Pius was the heroic pope that fought against Hitler and saved mass numbers of Jews from the Holocaust. Afterwards, he became ‘Hitler’s Pope.’

Finn includes in his account how he went from his basic idea to find the proper setting (Rome) and the proper character-group to star in his thriller. And then the fun process of trying to get the thing published.

As for the stories in the book: Tinker, Tailor, Goyim, Spy recounts how character Scott Murphy came to join the Mossad. Even though he’s neither Israeli or Jewish.

“Erin Go Boom” tells the story of how Catholic priest Fr. Frank Williams, SJ, manages to stop a terrorist attack on a St. Patrick’s Day parade without using direct deadly force on anyone.

In “Deck the Maul,” Finn blows up Christmas. Or, at least, a shopping mall filled with angry dwarfs, protesting redheads, and, of course, terrorists.

“Oh Little Town of Bethmayhem” starts off with Sean Ryan dangling a bad guy off the Empire State Building, and segues into Scott Murphy infiltrating a terrorist plot in Bethlehem at Christmas time.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a clean read, so you don’t need to worry about the kids reading it when you are not looking. And it’s got explosions. I like explosions.

Declan Finn’s Books on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Declan-Finn/e/B008I8JO2G

Declan Finn’s Blog: http://apiusman.blogspot.com/

Declan Finn’s FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Pius-Man-a-novel/143750083289


Please consider liking my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats/

Carr’s The Shock of Night

shock-of-nightPatrick W. Carr’s ‘The Shock of Night’ is a good example of fantasy for the educated adult. d A nice relief from all the YA children’s fantasy and all the fantasy written for people who were victims of the public school mis-education system.

When my copy of the book arrived, I wasn’t that eager to begin. I had been binge-reading some starship-based sci-fi and was in the mood for more along that line, if I could find it and afford it. And the small print in this book was hard on my eyes, particularly since I don’t have a well-illuminated reading chair any more. The lamp that my parents bought some 50 years ago has finally died and I haven’t found anything to replace it with.

I opened up the book to find the story is sort of a mystery set in a richly detailed medievalish fantasy world. The Church in that world is not a copy of the medieval Catholic church, nor of Protestant impressions of what the medieval Catholic church was like, but its own thing and quite distinct from any generic fantasy world Church or religion.

It began well. But since my copy of the book is in one town and I am in another, I won’t get a chance to finish it and review it until tomorrow.

The US government would like me to say that I got a review copy for free in exchange for participating in this blog tour but because I have the Constitutional right of free speech I absolutely refuse to say that because the fact that I got a free review copy is none of anyone’s business so if anyone asks you, you didn’t hear it from me.

 

Forstchen: One Second After; And then, the lights went out

OneSecAfterIn my endless search for something decent to read, I went to the library yesterday and among other things picked up William R. Forstchen’s book, One Second After. It had a forward by Newt Gingrich so I presumed the book wasn’t full of smut or of anti-Catholic or anti-Christian hate.

The story centers around an attack on the US using an EMP pulse. An EMP pulse can be generated by detonating a nuclear device far above the earth. There is no fallout as in a traditional nuclear attack. Just the immediate shutdown of the power grid and any devices we have with modern electronics in them— like cars, cell phones, and the like.

The hero of the story, John Matherson, is a retired military man who currently teaches at a small Christian college near a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. He is a widower with two daughters. His late wife’s parents live nearby.

It starts with a simple power outage. Annoying, because it is the twelfth birthday of his younger daughter, Jennifer, and she wants to listen to her new CD but can’t. And then, John discovers that his car won’t start and has to borrow his mother-in-law’s antique Edsel.

Driving to town John discovers that the cars along the interstate have all stopped. He is somewhat a center of attention since he has a working car. He almost loses the car to some toughs from the highway. He contacts some of the town leaders and finds they are cut off from the outside world— no phone, no radio, no internet. There is a fire nearby caused by a crashed plane— it is later discovered that nearly every plane in the air has crashed, with the exception of a few WW2 era planes— one of which is owned by a man in town.

The story continues, telling how John, his family and his neighbors cope with the crisis caused by the EMP. I won’t tell more, so you can discover the rest of the story yourself when you read the book.

One thing that struck me personally was the part of the story that dealt with a child who was an insulin-dependent diabetic, who needed insulin— which was in limited supply and needed to be refrigerated, which was no longer possible. Just last Sunday on The Walking Dead, there was a bit about a woman who was an insulin-dependent diabetic. And I remember a values-clarification class in high school, set in an overcrowded nuclear war bunker, where one of the people whose fate you must decide was an insulin dependent Christian minister (so we all had to vote to jettison the minister for pragmatic reasons).

Diabetics just don’t fare well in the apocalypse. At least not the ones who need insulin. I’m diabetic, but right now am controlling it by sticking to a strict ketogenic (low-carb) diet. But in an apocalyptic situation, it would be hard for most diabetics to eat that way. What if the only food rations they give you are ramen noodles and fruit juice?

And then, the lights went out….

When I was about at the halfway point in One Second After, the lights went out. OK, it wasn’t caused by an EMP pulse but by the windstorm that was going on. But it was scary all the same.

It made me aware of how unprepared I was even for something as small as a power outage. I keep my flashlights someplace where I can grope to them in the dark, but none of them had fresh batteries. I had a battery operated lantern that worked, and I could find some candles. So I finished the book reading by candle light.

‘The First Principle’ — first impressions….

please rate post with one or more stars

FirstPrinciple-258x400OK, so I got this book in connection with the Christian science fiction and fantasy blog tour— which reminds me, I have to post this:

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. 

And, you know, getting another Christian fiction novel— especially when it’s a ‘YA’— doesn’t always thrill me. Too often it’s a trip into the world of bland. But this book is not that trip.

The setting is— well, there are some states going pretty far this way already. Have you heard that story about the public schools dishing out IUDs as ‘birth control’ to schoolgirls? IUDs work by preventing a conceived child from implanting in the uterus, so it’s not really ‘contraception’, it’s something else. I’ve heard a defender of the IUD say that children killed by the IUD are so young it doesn’t really count as abortion, so in fairness we’ll just have to call it something else. How about ‘child killing’? And back in the day the IUD damaged so many women that even the feminists were against it. NOT something most parents want government schools to stick into their young daughters’ bodies.

In ‘The First Principle’, all high school girls are required to receive contraceptives, but the contraceptives do not work as well as advertised. The answer to that is government-required ‘termination’ of the unwanted life. Vivica Wilkins, a high school girl, defends a pregnant classmate against harsh treatment of a government agent out to enforce the law. And then Vivica discovers her own illegal pregnancy.

What protects this book from the blands is that Vivica is NOT a born-again believer from a churchy family. She’s the daughter of a female governor (with no father currently in the picture), and so a part of the system, brought up to think that the required contraceptive use and even the terminations are a good, right policy that prevents harm. She has no traditional moral training as earlier generations of young people had through their religious education and catechism classes. She has nothing to go on but a sense of wrongness in her heart when she contemplates some of these policies.

Vivica’s problems increase because of her mother’s political ambitions. Mommy can’t become the next president if she has an illegally pregnant daughter who won’t go along with the termination law. It will ruin her mother’s life if Vivica lets her child live.

What Vivica does next and where it leads are something you’ll have to discover by reading the book. [Available here: http://www.amazon.com/First-Principle-Novel-Marissa-Shrock/dp/0825443571/]  And it’s worth reading. When the book arrived at my place I opened the package. I opened the book intending to take a glance at the first page of the book. Before you know it I was halfway through the book and the laundry was NOT getting done!

And when I finished I quick hopped over to author Marissa Shrock’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/marissa.shrock.writer. I also shared the book with a small FB writers’ group I’d joined, Pro-Life Speculative Fiction Readers and Writers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/776019142490663/ This is a small group and always in need of new members, by the way.

Marissa Shrock’s author page: http://www.marissashrock.com/

And now, the blog tour. Here is the list of participants in the tour. I really would suggest that you go and visit the participants list and comment on their posts. It will do your own blog good.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa Annakindt
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

You still here? Still? Well, why not jump over to my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats  and see my picture of a kitten in a boot. Because the world need more kitten in boot.