Writing & Indie Thoughts

More On Amazon Reviews

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I follow different blogs for different reasons. Some for indie writer news and views, some for the weird and the wacky, or poetry, painting, Africa, humour, GF recipes, science….. You get the picture, I’m sure. Most – not all I hasten to add – don’t religiously stay on their topic of choice, and some bloggers blog about wildly different things every day. It used to worry me a little that I fit into this last category. I’d look at the very professional sites of some of my fellow writers, who write only on subject or about their own or other authors books, and I’d think that maybe I’m sharing too many personal tidbits, not to mention looking a bit like an oddball with my occasional forays into the mysterious and unknown. How could readers take me seriously? Well.

I have no idea.

But I don’t think I’m about to change any time soon. Personally, being very serious, and blogging every day about only books and writing would send me into a downward spiral of despair, leading to a meltdown and absinthe in bed, no doubt. So.

In my ongoing Reviews of Amazon Reviews, I give you these two awesome and most helpful ones, found while trawling online for books on how to paint, and ending up in some sort of hardware department.

banana slicer
20,402 of 20,715 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saved my marriage July 30, 2012
By Mrs Toledo
What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone…. this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices. It’s one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old “I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?” and of course, “You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!” These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That’s when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we’ve even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!

Like the Banana Slicer on Facebook if you feel you must.

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Pens, Especially for the price, September 21, 2012
Vitaly D. (New York, NY) – See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: BIC Cristal Stic Ball Pen, Medium Point , 1.0 mm, Black, 12 Pens (MS11-Blk) (Office Product)
My girlfriend turned me on to these pens after she saw that I often lost my more expensive pens. These pens write very smoothly, and give off an air of seriousness which helps me to focus and get work done. I ordered these online after I was having some trouble finding them in stores. I will definiatly be purchasing these again if and when I have lost these guys.

And for no apparent reason, Mars gives Curiosity Rover the finger.

Till next time friends. xxx


Reviewing Amazon Reviews

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It’s considered “uncool” as a writer to give nasty reviews the time of day. But. When I got my first (so far only, thank goodness) one star review for Fly Birdie it hurt. Fly Birdie is a little tale very close to my heart, and it baffled me that anyone could find gentle Hannah “disgusting” in any way. The hurt gave way to wondering if the reviewer had actually read the story. I always find one liners that say nothing at all about the story a bit suspect in any review. Then I felt terrible that she had actually been so grossed out at anything that I’d written. I really hoped that it had been a free download and that the poor lady hadn’t actually forked out .99 cents for it. All of these emotions were gone in an hour, and then I started laughing. I realised that I’d had a very sharp spike in sales since the posting of that review, so I sort of started to like it. Of course not everyone is going to like what you write. One three star review for The Visitation I have totally taken on board. While the reader really enjoyed the story and got into it, she felt that it ended too soon. She wanted more. Excellent feedback as far as I can see. I loved that she liked it, and I’m grateful for her suggestion. While that is originally exactly what I wanted to do with that particular short story – I wanted it to be short and shocking – I am now considering fattening it out a bit and sending that lovely helpful reader the new version as a gift.

Ignoring bad reviews isn’t going to make them go away. I for one am not ever going to try and hide a bad one. I trust that genuine readers are intelligent enough to decide for themselves whether a review is worth taking into account or not. If you want to sell books on Amazon you have to have reviews. Anybody can post reviews on Amazon whether they’ve bought the book or not, whether they’ve read a book or not, and regardless of their credentials as far as commenting on literature is concerned. These are mostly real opinions from real readers. Some are fairly obviously not real, and nobody with half a brain is going to be swayed one way or another by lonely onions in petunia patches. I spend a lot of money on books. I buy loads every month regardless of the fact that I don’t have much time to actually read them. I will get to all of them at some point in my life. I only started looking at reviews when I first published Fly Birdie. I still don’t often look at reviews, but when I do, spotting a really vitriolic one star review often has me hitting the buy button. I read the blurb, have a look inside, and then I decide whether I’ll buy the book or not.

As far as reviews for my own books are concerned, I hope that everyone who reads my scribbles will leave a review for me, to tell me what they thought. Good or bad, all of these opinions can only help me. Why announce rave five star reviews from the rooftops, and ignore the bad? From now on I’m going to take note of all reviews that I get. That’s the beauty of publishing on Amazon. You can fix problems. Bring on the reviews I say! I love every one that a reader has taken the time from their lives to give me. Thank you, lovely guys. To be honest, I haven’t actually roared too loudly about my five star reviews, so you might wonder why on Earth I’m going to share my really crappy one star review with you. Well. Because I’m sharing a couple of one star reviews from some really famous and outrageously wealthy authors, and I’m thinking that it’s only fair to tack mine on at the end. So – for all my lovely author friends that have ever got less than a five, here’s to let you know that you’re in the illustrious company of book selling rock stars. Rock on reviewers! If reading rotten reviews offends you, stop reading now, otherwise join me for chuckles. I’m very seriously compiling a little book of the worst reviews ever written. It will get loads of rave five star reviews and earn me millions. Ha haaaaa!

Till next time friends. xxx

Stephen King – Night Shift
(MY COMMENT: I LOVED this book – I would give it 5 Stars)

1.0 out of 5 stars One of the most horrible books I ever had the displeasure of reading., September 25, 2008
E. Adam Galmor – See all my reviews
This review is from: Night Shift (Hardcover)
I am a Stephen King fan. In fact, my most favorite book to date is his masterpiece, The Stand.
But the stories in this book are just pointless, uninteresting, uninspiring and downright awful.
I am simply dumbfounded at how this became a #1 best seller, or why it has such great reviews on this website. Rarely have been so utterly disappointed in a book.

Maeve Binchy – Lilac Bus
(MY COMMENT: I loved it as much as all of Maeve’s books – 5 Stars from me)

1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible, February 10, 2013
hope sank – See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lilac Bus: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Awful book not up to authors standards. As if she didn’t finish it. Nothing came together. Don’t read this one.

Hugh Howey – Wool Omnibus
(MY COMMENT: Still on book one, but I really like the way Howey writes, and everyone I know who has read it, loves it)

1.0 out of 5 stars A complete dud. Seriously??? Five stars?, March 13, 2013
HouseofG – See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga) (Kindle Edition)
It’s easy to see why the author self-published this book- his very poor writing style, dull plot, and weak characterization would have been rejected by editors a thousand times over. Having said that, I surmise that his success derives from one thing only: the originality of his general storyline, however poorly executed it was. The overall dystopian concept of an entire civilization living in an underground silo has apparently not been done before, and is the only reason I can give this series even one star. We can only hope that Ridley Scott, who surprisingly optioned the film rights, can turn this lumbering, slow-paced read into a compelling cinematic experience. I suspect that was what he had in mind.

J K Rowling – The Casual Vacancy
(MY COMMENT: Haven’t read it yet, but did buy to see what all the fuss was about, so $17 in JK’s pocket anyway)

1.0 out of 5 stars 100 shades of “meh”, October 2, 2012
Amanda Richards (Georgetown, Guyana) – See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Kindle Edition)
Man down
In little town
Council seat
Nothing more
What a bore

This tedious, overstuffed, character-heavy story takes you through the machinations of finding someone to fill a vacant council seat in a little town. After countless repetitive chapters about the lives of the unlikable characters, each stuck in their own personal imbroglio yet linked in one way or another, you may feel the need to take a break to watch the grass grow on your front lawn.

The main problem with this book is that the most interesting character physically leaves the scene in the first chapter, and by the time you finish dragging yourself through the painful ordeal of completing the book, you’ll feel that he’s the luckiest one of all.

Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg – Nightfall
(MY COMMENT: Speechless!!)

1.0 out of 5 stars Blah, November 27, 2000
Shane Tiernan (St. Petersburg, FL United States) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Nightfall (Mass Market Paperback)
I haven’t read the short story but I would recommend it – even if it’s terrible at least it’s short and terrible, not long and terrible like this waste of trees.
It’s everything you would never want in a novel: boring, repetitious, filled with generic writing and dialogues; and all this is heaped onto an idea that probably would have made a good short story – oh wait from what I hear it did.

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games
(MY COMMENT: Not read but really wish I could sell as many books)

1.0 out of 5 stars Panem is Snoozeville., March 2, 2012
Alex – See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, Book 1) (Hardcover)
I’m seventeen, and everybody and their mother told me to read The Hunger Games, because “it’s incredible!”. I finally decided “Why not?”, despite the fact that I have long given up on Young Adult novels. Sure, I’ve come across some good ones, but The Hunger Games is a prime example of why I don’t shop in that section anymore.
For what was advertised to me as an “awesome, fast-paced adventure”, I was bored out of my mind from start to finish. With every turn of the page, I thought it’d get better, thinking surely something interesting had to happen or else people wouldn’t be so obsessed with it. Twilight should have taught me that people can go nuts over poorly executed literature, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt.
The book is poorly written, in the POV of the main character, Katniss. When I say “poorly written”, I mean both in the construct and execution of plot and characters, AND the writing style (e.g., Lots of cliche ideas, like “it feels like I was just dreaming”, and one line I remember reading was “the saltiness of the soup reminds me of my tears”. I find that ridiculous, like some moping Emo-stereotype) And, because the story is in first-person, I (*spoilers*?) started the book KNOWING that she wasn’t going to die (not to mention, two books follow). I didn’t feel any danger for her and I didn’t like her. While, admittedly, I like the CONCEPT of the book, I didn’t enjoy anything about it while reading. The characters and plot are one-dimensional. It was painfully predictable. Cliche. Boring. Immature.

The sad thing is, I think teenagers like this book because it requires no thought–it has no sustenance by means of developed characters or intricate plot. If we want people my age to start reading, should we really settle for feeding them empty stories like this one?

E L James – 50 Shades Of Grey
(MY COMMENT: Not read – or bought, but reading EL’s reviews is a hobby of mine. They’re hilarious. Good for her causing such a stir!)

4,884 of 5,134 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the worst I’ve ever read… No, wait. It IS., March 6, 2012
Ebeth822 (Tx) – See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Fifty Shades of Grey (Kindle Edition)
I downloaded the book to my Kindle because it was on the best seller list and had 4 stars overall rating on Amazon. I wish I’d taken the time to read some of the reviews. As it turns out I agree with the negative.
I found myself thinking “Twilight, plus some spanking, minus the sparkly vampires.” Here, I’ll save you all some time (SPOILER ALERT):

Once upon a time…
I’m Ana. I’m clumsy and naive. I like books. I dig this guy. He couldn’t possibly like me. He’s rich. I wonder if he’s gay? His eyes are gray. Super gray. Intensely gray. Intense AND gray. Serious and gray. Super gray. Dark and gray. [insert 100+ other ways to say “gray eyes” here]
I blush. I gasp. He touches me “down there.” I gasp again. He gasps. We both gasp. I blush some more. I gasp some more. I refer to my genitals as “down there” a few more times. I blush some more. Sorry, I mean I “flush” some more. I bite my lip. He gasps a lot more. More gasping. More blushing/flushing. More lip biting. Still more gasping.
The end.

The bad:
It was an interesting concept – for a “romance” novel. However the story is weak, the pace is slow and awkward, the characters come through as more schizophrenic than complicated, the “romance” is a jeuvenile and dysfunctional crush, and the “erotic” scenes alternate between “Penthouse Forum” and something that sounds like it was written by a painfully shy and sheltered 13 year old. I have now read through some of the rave reviews and I have to assume that these were posted by people easily shocked and/or titillated. I can’t imagine what fans are comparing this to when they describe this as “good.”

The good:
Nice cover art.

Jo Robinson – Fly Birdie
(MY COMMENT: Erm…..)

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wasted my time, March 3, 2013
Linda Hutson – See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Fly Birdie (Kindle Edition)
Grade school quality SHORT story. Not enjoyable at all. I was disgusted by the actions of the “heroine” of the story.

Van Gogh pd book

Bad Is Bad

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It’s totally untrue that science fiction fans (and writers) are silly, nerdy, oddballs that like to dress up in Star Wars outfits, and believe in aliens. Well… they’re not silly at any rate. Sci-fi geeks are very clever people. Morgan Freeman is clearly one as the host of my favourite documentary, Through The Wormhole, and he has to be the un-geekiest person I’ve ever seen. I am a fully paid up member of the geek club.

A lot more research goes into writing science fiction than you would think. Even though you’re reading about something or some place that (apparently) doesn’t exist, the actual idea for it probably came about while the author was pulling on his Captain Spock leotard in front of the television set, watching a geeky science documentary. Theoretical science is my favourite playground, but actual science is very often a lot more mind blowing. Especially when it comes to the mind.

Good versus evil, reincarnation and time travel are all large parts of Shadow People and the stories to follow in the series. Do we have souls? Are these souls reborn good or evil? Is life all just about a physical form that is born and dies – The End. Not in Shadow People. Dragons reincarnate as humans, and angels become demons. There is lots of zooming around through time and space, and the fight between good and evil decides the fate of the universe. So. Even though none of us can prove any of these theories beyond a doubt, I do like to at least have a little insight into what I scribble about. This means that I have to find out as much as I can about these things from the actual current proofs and theories that are floating around. I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve found. Right now I’m eyeballing the evil. My dear Morgan explored the brains of truly evil people.

There is a part of the brain that controls empathy. If this doesn’t work you’re apparently not going to feel sorry for anyone or thing in pain or suffering. In the brains of psychopaths this area comes up cold blue in MRI scans. Aah, you say. It’s a physical thing then. I don’t think so. The doctor who discovered this did scans on his own family, and discovered to his horror that not only did he have the brain of a psychopath, he also had people in his family tree who actually had been cold-blooded, convicted killers. He’d never had vicious urges though. The only compulsions in his life had led only to him being an overachiever. He thinks that his saving grace was his incredibly loving family and idyllic childhood.

Aah, you say. It’s an environmental thing then. Maybe not. Another doctor conducted tests on babies around six months old. She put on little plays where one teddy was nice and another teddy was really nasty. Over eighty percent of the babies liked the nice teddies. This sort of shows that we have some small clue about good and bad way before anyone tells us the difference. She also found that even young babies tend to group with other babies who agree with them and shun those who don’t or are different to them. Again, way before their parents tell them it’s not cool to play with children that are “different” to them. These tests made it clear that while similar, babies know what they want or like from very early on. Just because they haven’t figured out how to chat, doesn’t mean that they each are not born as the person they’ll become.

I honestly didn’t come away after this particular programme with any good reason why people turn out to be killers or torturers. Definitely one or two have been made so by tumours pushing on relevant parts of their brains or have some other physical issues there, but not by a very long way for the majority of them. Some people have zero empathy and view the rest of the people in the world as objects. They don’t all turn in to rapists and killers. I’m sure there are quite a few that maybe don’t make a lot of friends, but harm nothing more than a turnip for their soup.

Then you get to that belief that both good and evil exist as forces in the universe, and that it’s up to those with free will to decide who wins in the end. I like this idea best. I’ve gotten a lot of things wrong in my life, but I like to think that once you realise you’ve done something horrible, and hurt someone or something with your actions, you really don’t have to do it again. That’s free will. If these cruel killers really and truly did not believe that what they do is wrong, why do they hide it so well? They don’t want to be caught, you say? Fair enough.

But still. I think that on some level they do know that their deeds are evil. It’s often hard to do the right thing for all of us, let alone for someone with a damaged brain, but the fact that they get through life for so long having everyone around them thinking that they actually are kind and nice, makes me think that they know exactly what kind and nice is. There are some people on this planet who get up to such awful things, that I personally would be more than happy to stomp on them with hobnailed boots. So – my opinion — Evil exists as a force in the universe, and should be exposed for what it is, and duly stomped on.

Indie Waffle

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My Facebook cut-back is slowly working out. I still have a pile of things to catch up on, but it’s getting smaller now, and not always growing like it used to. My internet signal is still pretty rubbish but at least now I know my regular catch ups will be doable, and at this rate I should have at least one foot on the ground in a few weeks. My excessive reading lately, of things related to SEO and the best ways to market books as an indie author has also led to me reading other related things.

Random House has changed in the royalty payment department, making it appear to be much more author friendly and, for some, make the decision to go indie a little harder. Facebook has been shutting down pages where giveaways are happening, and Amazon now appears to have removed the “Like” button on books. I think that you can “Like” a book if you buy it legitimately though. I’m sensing winds of change coming. Some indie authors who have been working their little backsides off are saying that they’ve had enough of it all. They’re tired. I’ve seen one or two get off the merry go round in the last few weeks, and been very sad to watch them go.

I’ve read articles with opinions on self-publishing that are polar opposites. Some say that reviews are key, and to be obtained at all costs. Others say that reviews have to be honest and freely given – never asked for. Some say that free promotion days are key, and the more books you give away, the more you’ll grow your readership base. Others say that the free days are killing the industry, and that if you wait long enough, you can get any indie book you like for free anyway, so why pay for it in the first place? Some say that books downloaded on free days don’t count as “sales” and should never be taken into account when talking bestseller status. Other’s say a sale is a sale even if the price is $0.00. I’m nowhere near finished my research into all of this, but I’m slowly starting to form opinions. I try never to say never, so they might – probably will – change. I haven’t yet implemented these opinions yet. I’ll wait a little till I’ve read through my whole pile.

With the Amazon search engine, your tagging when you load your book is important. It’s a good idea to have keywords in your product description, and if you can, also your title. This will put your book ahead when anyone searches for a genre or name. Don’t use the names of other already famous authors though – Amazon doesn’t look fondly on this. Or on any other obvious ploys to get good tag words into your title. You need to be clever about the whole thing. Indies are, so you’ll figure it out I’m sure.

My opinion on reviews isn’t properly formed yet. I haven’t actually asked for reviews yet, but I’m thinking that I will, as long as they’re honest. On that subject, and while I’m here, if anyone would like to review Shadow People, please give me a shout, and I’ll happily and speedily send you a copy. jorobinson176@gmail.com Still on the subject, if you spot a typo it’s nicer to tell the author rather than announce it to the world. Typos can be fixed in a jiffy, and a heads up in that department is always appreciated. Even the big guys have gremlins in their e-books – I’ve spotted them in quite a few. Unless a book is absolutely riddled with these little devils, I always focus on the story when I do reviews.

As far as free days are concerned, I do believe that they are very important for indie writers to get their scribbles out to the public. I don’t believe that you should make all your books free though. Short stories are brilliant as freebies, to give readers an idea of whether or not they’d like to read more of what you write, and maybe have one novel, or first book in a series, that you regularly give away for free. There’s not much point in putting in the amount of work that it takes to write, edit, and publish books, if you’re going to give them all away for free.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Facebook shouldn’t be used for hard marketing of anything, including books. Being a writer in a writer’s world, I will share my author friends books and freebies on occasion, but personally, I’m going to use it for what it was created for – socialising. Groups are good for writing talk, but mainly I’ll stick to the friendly waffle on my newsfeed, and use my pages for book related posting.

Twitter so far for me, is the best marketing tool a writer can have. I’ve found friends and readers there, and picked up on a lot of information that I would never had come across anywhere else, or even thought of looking for. I love the 140 letter allocation too – it makes for lots of funnies, and keeps most chats light and easy.

I’m just sticking my toe into LinkdIn groups, and PinInterest and the other social sites are still on my To Do list, so no opinions there yet.

Google right now is a lovely, friendly place to be, and even though there is book marketing going on, it’s not encroaching on our happy chats and posts. The +1’s there are working towards getting our book and blog links out there in the public stream, which is something Facebook can’t do, so that is indeed a bonus. I enjoy socialising on Google, and I love the friends I have there. What we have done is create a community that is all about readers getting to have one on one chats with authors and bloggers if they want to, or even just hang around in the background and watch our antics. Watching writers in their natural environment must be fascinating for “normal” people. Free days and promotions there can only be good, because books and writing in all its forms is what that community is all about. I have a feeling though that us indie authors should be wary of flooding Google, or any other site for that matter, with only book link plugs. Interaction is the key and I believe we’ll get where we’re going there.


So. Tagging and patience seem to be the way to go for right now. Tag the crap out of everything you put out there, and be patient. Some books will never be successful and make millions of dollars. Very few have overnight success. Not many authors hit star status, but quite a lot live very comfortably from the sales of their books. What you put into your marketing campaign is your personal choice. I know that some people set out to write something particular, in a specific genre, specifically to make lots of money, and not necessarily for the love of story telling. And they do make lots of money. You can pay for marketing, you can buy reviews – good ones – and I’m very sorry to say, bad ones too. I read lately that this method of nobbling the competition is not at all uncommon. Most uncool! You can even arrange for thousands of books to be “bought” to lift you up in the rankings – only to be returned shortly afterwards. Again – this is not right. With Amazon and other places apparently trying to level the playing field, I’m sure that new ways of getting readers and sales will be found.

Personally, for now, while doing everything I can to become visible to first time readers of my scribbles, and carrying on with my big digs into how to sell e-books in general, I’m taking the patient route. I want people to want to read my next book, buy it, and with a bit of luck review it. All I’ve picked up from the madness so far, is that apart from doing all you can with the technicalities of search engine optimisation with tags on Amazon, Google, blog and Twitter posts, and being active on Goodreads and related readers sites, the things most beneficial to indie authors are genuine and friendly interactions with your readers, and patience. I’m thinking that slow and steady wins this particular race. Oh – and have more than one book out there, so you can keep some to actually sell, and only one or two for the free. That’s my opinion anyway. Now to get to doing all of these things myself.

Till next time friends. xxx

Van Gogh pd book

Rules Is Rules

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I lost my blog nerve, and wasted hours and hours. So far today I’ve written three posts. The first came across as stilted and boring because I was trying to follow lately read instructions. The second I published, then quickly deleted because it seemed callous and offensive. The third little gem, which was a tiny little story called The Reviewer, where a crazed author tracks down a reviewer, and… Well. It occurred to me that with that one I might come across as a nutter if I published it. Then it occurred to me that I might actually be a nutter, and just not realise it. Nutters probably don’t. Do they? This has all been most stressful indeed, and all because I’ve come across and read a few things in between my reading up of all things book marketing, Google, and SEO.

I found a couple of articles telling you how to blog. They were particularly particular. I never knew there were rules before, so I’ve just shared what I felt like sharing. I’ve shared things that I believe in, things that I’m doing, things that I’ve seen, am cross about, or generally just find fascinating. Apparently this is completely wrong. These instructions say that the only way to go about things is to cart a notebook around and actually look for interesting things to blog about, then list them down, do some research and Bob’s your uncle. But. You have to make sure that they’re not too short or too long, not a silly waste of time, and most important of all, don’t contain anything that might upset or offend anyone. So, that was the end of that. I took myself off to see if I could paint a dragon eyeball. I couldn’t. After wandering back to my computer, I found to my horror that I couldn’t even think of anything to say in reply to a friend’s message. Those instructions had turned me into some sort of cowardly zombie.

Then I got cross. No matter what you say, there is going to be someone somewhere who is not going to like it. I bet you there’s someone out there who would find Anna Karenina silly, Shakespeare boring, and Barney the purple dinosaur offensive. Well. I’m not too sure about Barney myself to be honest. Anyway. I find it worrying that some happy blogger somewhere will come across these very precise instructions and be put off entirely from sharing something magical, funny, silly, over the top, or offensive. I like reading these things. They make me smile, laugh, shed a tear, or want to storm across oceans and poke someone in the eyeball. I don’t want to read some contrived crap written by someone trotting around with a notepad and pencil trying desperately to find something to talk about. Within reason, write and share whatever you feel like sharing. There are certain things which really are universally offensive, and if you’re crass enough to share that sort of thing you should hear about it fairly quickly, and hopefully never do it again. Bugger those rules I say, and bring on the photos, scribbles, paintings, poems, rants, advice, and whatever else you think we’ll enjoy. Some of us most certainly will. Those who don’t won’t. And there’s not much you can do about that. But that’s what blogging’s all about in my book anyway.

Till next time friends. xxx


Onward And Google

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I’ve made an amazing discovery. Coming back this time after a big internet break, I looked at everything that was “waiting” for me to catch up with, and my heart sank to my feet. Even if I stayed up twenty four hours for a couple of days there was no way I could look at everything that had come in, and I didn’t have a hope of doing everything that had been asked of me. Looking at the little pile of things that I really want to do for myself, and have been putting off in favour of these manic internet catch-ups, it occurred to me that I was missing the point entirely. By taking on too much I wasn’t doing anyone any favours, least of all myself. So I made a very large decision. Something big had to go. I’ll never give up my lovely Twitter, and most certainly not my blog addiction, so it was cut back pretty much all the way either on Facebook or Google+. With Google surging ahead in popularity, and having all the pros with its search engine, new communities and hangouts, Facebook lost the toss up fairly quickly. I nervously set about reversing from the many things I’ve been active with on that site, expecting anger or irritation because I was “letting people down”. Across the board, all I got was not only support and kindness, but also total agreement. Facebook is not working out as the best platform for indie writers to sell books.

We’re all zooming around sharing our work with each other there. We have formed amazing friendships and bonds with other writers. We’ve supported each other, cheered each other on, and read each others books, which is lovely, and we’ll hopefully stay friends forever. But if this particular form of marketing is selling thousands of books for some I haven’t seen it. What I have experienced myself is a manic feeling that I “must” join everything, post everywhere, and do everything on Facebook, and somewhere along the way I stopped chatting to friends on my wall, catching up on their news, and seeing the pictures and photos that mark their journeys. I missed this. In fact there are always so many notifications to deal with that I haven’t cruised down my newsfeed for months. Even so I still wasn’t able to keep up, and I kept finding posts on my pages or elsewhere from friends put there weeks ago that I missed, and I cringed at the thought of how thoughtless and rude I must appear. Not being answered can be very hurtful, and I certainly wouldn’t want to hurt my friends. So now the deed is done, and I’m exploring different ways of uniting my stories with readers who want to read them. I believe there are better ways than only posting links to books on purely social sites, and that’s what I’ll be working on for the next few days. My first day without hundreds of Facebook notifications to attend to has been fantastic so far, and I do believe that I’ll be much more productive in general from now on, never fail to notice another comment from a friend again, and in the end, do more of what I set out to do in the first place. Write books.

I think that my point would be that quantity can never beat quality. Do fewer things for fewer people, but do them well. Spreading yourself too thin isn’t only bad for you, but for all those around you too. Running yourself ragged is not the way to go at all. It’s also good for you and those around you to also do what you want to do. I’m not saying that you should only ever do what you want to do. We all have to do things that we don’t really want to. That’s what life’s all about. But there is not much point to a life lived purely doing what others want, or what you think others want. I certainly got that wrong. Nobody expects too much of you at all, and most people are a lot nicer than we give them credit for. They mostly wish only the best for you too. Well. There are maybe one or two pucker nasty people, but not many, and certainly not one of those beauties are worth wasting any seconds on. In celebration of this new found freedom, I’m off to read Guy Kawasaki’s, What The Plus!, and have pea soup with a poached egg floater for breakfast. Why not?

Come and join us at my favourite Google+ community, and the place where I’ll be hanging out the most. Everyone’s welcome. We’re a friendly bunch.


Till next time friends. xxx

Van Gogh pd book

Scissors Cut Paper – Africa Squishes WWW

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For once my Karma Yoga has failed. Today I’ve been righteously pi… cross – all day. I’m not feeling the universal love at all really. Unfortunately I have an overly strong sense of duty. Madly, I do realise that this isn’t in any way normal, my sense of duty generally encompasses “everything”. I am the Red Cross on two legs. Some might call this OCD, others, excessively anal tendencies. I take offense in general to being likened to that particular orifice though, so let’s just stick to dutiful. I belong to far too many things I suppose – groups – events – you name it. The dragon’s lurking around somewhere. On Facebook and many other sites. I’m nothing if not a joiner. And I always feel compelled to inspect every little thing that happens, or is said, or done – anywhere at all. Someone might need help, or want me to do something. This generally takes up quite a lot of my time, but I usually manage to sort of keep up, even though getting around to doing any actual writing, editing, or the new projects of painting and poetry are generally put well on the back burner most days, and very often left undone entirely. That’s cool too.

For well over a week now I’ve been stymied though. One – two, or three days with no internet at all is actually looking quite good to me right now, as long as the bugger comes on properly afterwards, so I can get back to being ana…. dutiful. Now what we have is six to eight hours off, interspersed with on, but fifteen to thirty minutes opening a post on a site, then getting abruptly cut off just as you’re ready to hit the button after typing a nice long reply. Not so nice. A lovely author friend thought I had expired I think, and must have got a nasty shock when I responded to his post five days late – although I did disappear pretty immediately again, so he might very well be getting out a nice bunch of sage to burn, while chanting a little thing around his computer, right about now I’m guessing. I can’t imagine what everyone else is thinking. If they’ve even noticed that is. People generally don’t. Do they? It’s probably a huge mistake to think that anyone actually notices you. Anyway.

The only proper way to get more than a word out is to type something really upbeat and positive – such as this is really – really! – and then zoom it in sideways to Facebook and Twitter. I’m quite good at that. It’s all in the timing. And finger power. You have to be really quick at the end, and hit the send button excessively. That’s the plan with this. We’ll just see if it works today. I have managed to make sure that my most epic poison pen email has winged its way to my internet supplier though, so hopefully tomorrow I can go back to ana…. dutiful. Whether it will land safely or not is anyone’s guess. Who knows? It is true though – that there is no rush in Africa. Maybe I should just give up the world wide web author dream, and instead just listen to the beating of the drums, breathe in the smell of my beloved Africa, the sun-warmed grass and the cooking fires, not to mention the awful pong of the unfound creature expired in the roof somewhere, and send my manuscripts off in boxes to unsuspecting and potentially outraged agents around and about. Then again – don’t let me get started on the postal service around here. For now though, I think I might just head off elsewhere, if only to ensure the continued existence of my innocent desk dinosaur here – and the window pane just to my right. I will say though, that the angst and – just lately – anger filled poems, and “interesting” cover art paintings are coming along rather nicely. I really hope to be properly back with you soon. AUM. I think.

Till next time friends. xxx


Sense And Sensibility

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December and January were pretty manic months for me. I slipped behind with the final polishing of Shadow People, and it was a terrible race to get it published on its publication date. Not really the way I like to do things, but what can you do?

Now that it’s stopped raining lemons, I have this week, with all the rushing to catch up, and in my own brilliant way, dropped the freezer lid on my noggin (lovely purple egg thing happening), walked into a spoon, and managed to totally delete over 4 000 notifications of things I needed to deal with. The spoon thing probably happens to everyone, and involves holding a large wooden spoon, pointy end naturally facing yourself, walking briskly forward, looking North instead of South, connecting with an unsuspecting wall, and driving said spoon into innocently lurking liver. Fortunately my liver has evolved into a pretty strong organ, what with one thing and another, so it’s hanging in there.

The 4 000 things To Do has me in a little bit of a panic though. People on social networks are much easier to offend than people in the flesh. I’m not sure if it has to do with the lack of eye contact, body language, or simply the fact that we’re all a little different in the sensitivity department. I used to get deeply injured if I remarked on anything, only to be completely ignored. Now I realise that people are busy. Things get overlooked or not seen. Possibly they’d had a spoon incident that week and also deleted their To Do folder. No matter really, it might take a little longer, but I’ll eventually track everyone down. They might be slightly baffled at getting replies to January comments in March, but then again, coming from me, maybe not.

In the meantime, I continue my hunt for typos, my quest for reasonable poetry, and begin to follow through with my newly formed desire to paint Lapillus and its beings for the coming covers of the Shadow People series. Right now though, I’m off to bake some gluten free Brownies. Tomorrow we’ll be venturing forth on our epic monthly shop, so I’ll see you all on Thursday lovely people, barring further incidents with kitchen implements.

Till next time friends. xxx


The Mighty Jungle

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The closer the publication date for African Me & Satellite TV comes, the more nervous I’m getting. The unusual thing about the editing of this particular book is probably that it’s not typos that worry me as much as getting arrested, stalked and pelted with eggs, or generally attracting the interest of secret agencies around and about.

One of the lightest things about it has been my argument with Princess. Intrepid cook, vocal contributor of gems of knowledge on any subject at all, and loud detractor of any sort of animal abuse. My argument really is her obsession with Gordon Ramsay. I’m fond of watching cooking programmes myself, but my tastes run more to Rick Stein, Guy Fieri, Jamie Oliver, and of course Nigella, mainly for her good taste in footwear. I do admit to enjoying watching Gordon abuse restaurateurs and hotel owners – but that’s only because absolute rudeness and terminally foul language make me giggle. I don’t like his endorsement of certain foods obtained in ways that are unbelievably inhumane – inhuman really. But that’s not what my point is today. Princess refuses to give in and let me change her crush to a less controversial chef. So I suppose I have to accept that we can like people in general without agreeing with all of their beliefs. Simple. Gordon stays.

Not so simple are the rest of the people in this story. Their strong views from all angles on racism from both sides of the fence, and the graphic descriptions of actual and possible events will most certainly draw some flack I’m thinking. I just hope that any powers that be who may perchance lay their hands on a copy will read it right through before hoiking out the handcuffs and heading forth into the African wilds to have a little chat with me about – things. That’s the problem with this proofing. When I say that this story wrote itself, I really mean it, and no matter how hard I try to tweak things in it – only looking out for my innocent hide – it just won’t be tweaked. So. I’ll concentrate on the grammar. And of course the poems. These are not going so well I’m afraid to say. Amazon will be pleased at all my “How To Write Poetry” purchases though. These books haven’t helped at all. Once again these things are writing themselves, and they’re more ode-ish than anything else.

On the subject of Amazon. It has a lot of critics. Writers complain of the percentage of their royalties that big A takes, the removal of reviews and tag buttons, and all sorts of other real or perceived affronts. I still say that the opportunity to instantly publish a book, for all the world to read, is something worth paying for. If agents were lining up at your door, waving fat advance cheques and booking you a slot on Oprah, you probably wouldn’t be using Amazon as your first choice to publish I’m thinking. Having said that, pretty much all of the great and famous writers have their books there now. So you’re in pretty good company. Yes, it requires quite a lot of hard work to even get your book to the notice of readers of the millions of books available out there. But that’s a choice you make. You don’t have to. You could try the traditional route, get discovered, and knock J K Rowling right off her perch. Unlikely for all though.

Imagine for a minute that all the self-publishing houses were to disappear. There would be a lot of dusty manuscripts in bottom drawers, never to be read by a soul. So I bravely say – I really do love Amazon. I don’t mind their cut of my royalties. I don’t mind doing the work. And I love the people who have bought and read my writing. You may not be millions, and I may not be rich and famous, but that’s never been what my trip has been about anyway. If one person reads and enjoys any book I write, then I say my job is done. That’s probably the reason for my blog obsession. I love reading blogs, and probably spend far too many hours of my days doing just that. Without expectation of financial gain bloggers, to me, are classic authors. They write to share what they’re passionate about. They don’t care about “show don’t tell” or “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue!!” So – stop whinging author guys, and appreciate the fact that you have the best job in the world, and the opportunity to share your work with a large chunk of the occupants of that world. Do the work, and with a bit of luck, you will reap the rewards.

Gratitude to Amazon for being my publisher, and kudos also for publishing all the old classics, and leaving them permanently free. It’s nice to know that those stories will never be lost. I love the fact that when I’m just a memory, my books will be there in their virtual home, and my worlds will be visited, and my people heard, long after I’ve laid claim to my personal cloud and harp. I do wonder sometimes about those lonely writers who’ve published books, and then depart this mortal coil unnoticed and un-mourned – it does happen I’m afraid to say. Do their books lurk in Amazon’s maze forever? And who gets their royalties?

AM Cover V1 - Copy (2) Smashwords

What Poet Through Yonder Window Breaks?

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I think I’ve figured out why poets are so dark and brooding, and sometimes project a sense of passionate rage and barely controlled violence. It’s because they’re really nice people. They actually do have terrible desires to poke out eyeballs or violently kick shins and other bits, but they’re exercising extreme self-control, merely smiling darkly, and muttering into their beards. This is definitely not an attitude cultivated, as I originally suspected, to project a Heathcliffian (Wuthering Heights – yes – I know it’s not a word) kind of smouldering, yet menacing sexiness. They really do want to be left alone in a garret somewhere to be at one with their angst, and be able to curse loudly, yet unheard, at the bastard lack of a word that rhymes with innocence.

Trying to write a few poems for Christopher’s Diary in African Me has proved quite a voyage of discovery. I’ve discovered violent and surly depths to my own character that I never for a moment suspected were there. I’ve always thought I was rather nice, caring, and generally more than willing to do anything to help out. Turns out that the mauve beret has revealed a pretty mean side to me. I won’t share my more elaborately violent daydreams when innocently asked to type a little thing, or pass the biscuits, or I would imagine every one of my friends would run for the hills in terror, never to speak my name again. I think these malignant thoughts might make for a pretty nasty character in a future book though, so having a go at poetry may not turn out to be a total loss. Of course I won’t give up till I have at least three semi-decent poems. I just hope that unsuspecting innocents around me survive the trip.

New Rules Learnt:-

1. Avoid scowling people wearing mauve berets and occasionally throwing pencils at nothing in particular.
2. Be nicer to poets. They try really hard not to hurt you.
3. Don’t talk to poets unless they talk to you first.
4. Don’t look at poets unless they look at you first, and if they do look first after you’ve just spoken – run!!
5. Don’t ask poets to do things, unless you’re asking from outside when they’re inside, and you’re really sure you can outsprint them if they leap out of the window.
6. If you’ve never tried to write a poem before, don’t start now. I think it could be some sort of possession.
7. This is not really to do with poetry, but not a bad thing to know. If your best friend’s a plumber, don’t ask him to fix your loo when he’s nibbling on a canapé and sipping a lager. Plumbers can be just as dangerous as poets I’m thinking.

And so, back to my darkened den to see if I can find words that rhyme with other words, and yet make sense, while trying mightily not to leap on anyone and pull their eyebrows out one hair at a time.

Till next time friends. xxx