Amazon

Yacking It Up

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October is Depression Awareness Month. I’m not qualified to comment on the terrors that extreme mental illnesses might bring, but all those who suffer these things have my deepest sympathy, and respect for trying so hard to overcome their inner demons. Way down the scale, every human experiences sadness and depression to some degree. If you’ve never been sad or depressed at all then I don’t want you anywhere near my space. I imagine that totally unfeeling people could be a little dangerous. Everyone’s had the blues at sometime. Maybe just for a day, but sometimes for much longer. And certainly weeks of depression should raise alarm bells as it could be caused by much more serious anxiety issues.

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a lot of depression about on the web. Maybe it’s the time of year. Sometimes the change of seasons brings on sadness and anxiety – this is an actual condition. Could be some sort of collective internet unconscious depression. It is possible for groups of people to get collectively sad. I think Jung actually did a study on it. The internet is a place where you really do get close to people and very involved with groups, especially as a writer. In a way sometimes, I think that people give more of themselves there than they do in their physical lives. Blogs and groups are often places to share your innermost thoughts and feelings, safe in the knowledge that your second cousin twice removed, or your brother, or whoever is in your actual space, isn’t going to be howling with laughter and telling everyone they can what a tool you are.

We form very real connections on the web. I’ve made friends with many people who I not only respect but truly have deep affection for as people. And it pains me when I see them hurting. It’s no secret that writers are a crazy but incredibly sensitive bunch. You have to be. How can you share life’s tribulations and pains in your scribbles if you don’t – to some extent at least – feel them? After the review barnies, which really made me wonder about my own current course of action with my scribbling, we’ve had a couple of bigwigs talking smack about independently published authors. One guy said that by not going the traditional route we aren’t actually published authors at all. He said we’re merely writers who share stories online, or something equally disdainful. I won’t go into all the self-published success stories in our defence – but those didn’t change the fact that I did indeed feel like a tiny piece of turd, and got a little blue when I read that. Jonathon Franzen said that, “While Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, he sure looks like one of the four horsemen.”

He went on to say,
“Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels? As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer, Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, labouring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they’re the only business hiring. And the more of the population that lives like those workers, the greater the downward pressure on book prices and the greater the squeeze on conventional booksellers, because when you’re not making much money you want your entertainment for free, and when your life is hard you want instant gratification (“Overnight free shipping!”).”

Charming, isn’t it? Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a couple of really well-respected indie writers bow out entirely too. I don’t know if it’s because it’s just that time of year when we’re all just a little tired of all the work over the last nine months, with Christmas approaching, and then the time to look back and see what, if anything, we’ve accomplished, or if it’s because the indie industry seems to be taking a lot of loud and public knocks lately. But it is saddening to see people who really are great authors – traditional or not – take themselves and their future bookworlds out of my life.

It is true that there is an ocean of really terribly bad books self-published on Amazon. We can’t deny that. I got to wondering if mine were too after reading those things, and thinking that maybe I was living some sort of delusional, self-involved pipe dream and wasting a whole lot of my life trying to be something that I’m not and never could be – a pucker author. Then I thought, the hell with that Dagwood! The whole point of Amazon is that anyone anywhere in the world can publish their work, regardless of whether it’s a steaming pile or not. That’s the whole point of Amazon. If that has a nasty result on your traditionally published bank balance, again, so what? If only one in every ten thousand books self published on Amazon turns out to be a gem, it’s worth it. Better than ending up on some slush pile because somebody in the traditional world had a lunch date and no time to glance at more than your title. It’s what Amazon IS. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy a single thing. And if you do buy it and you don’t like it you get to say so, even if you’re not Kirkus. So what if people give away free books? If they’re good then they’ve served their purpose, and if they’re not, they’re not stopping anyone from buying a traditionally published book.

Why on Earth would hundreds of apparently illegible free books give any reader worth his or her salt any joy? Do you want those kind of guys to read your book anyway? Amazon is the most fantastic thing as far as I can see. They’re still new, and I seriously envision a future not too far away where it won’t be possible to self-publish any old thing you like. It will get top heavy and have to think of ways to prune. But they aren’t the antichrist at all. They’re giving thousands of possible geniuses the platform to showcase their work for free. Not everyone can afford an editor, but just because they can’t doesn’t mean they’re not someone I want to read. Go Amazon!

They actually do have a couple of rules that seem to be being bypassed by way of both perfect editing and content. But so what? That’s the nature of the beast. I have found typos and grammatical errors in all of my published scribbles, and I’m fixing them. At the end of the day my books will be as perfect as I – the totally self-published “person” – can get them. I like my scribbles, and there are enough honest reviewers out there, who will hopefully share what they think of my stories – good or bad – to eventually sort the wheat from the chaff as far as future readers are concerned. Maybe one day I will find out that I’m such a rotten scribbler I should be dragged out and shot at dawn, but until I do I’ll just carry on having a blast with my books – or “online shares”.

So you can tell me that I’m a yakker and a tweeter and a bragger, and that I’m not an author. Call me a writer. Hell, you can call me anything you like, but I’m not ready to hop off the bus yet. I reread Jonathan Franzen’s article after a few days of real black gloom and self doubt, wondering if I should do what I’ve always said I wouldn’t and hand my scribbles over to publishers just to be “legit” – I have had a couple of offers believe it or not – and then I saw the rest of his diatribe for what it really was. The pompous pontificating of an arrogant tool. So I’ll stick to being the indie that I love to be. We’ll be just fine at the end of the day. Independent writers will sink or swim, make millions or not a dollar, but we aren’t going anywhere but where we choose to go, no matter how loud ya all yell fellas. Now I’m off to do a bit of yakking. Don’t let the bigmouths break you down scribblers. Just do what you do and enjoy it.

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Reviews

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I’m not a professional reviewer, and I only read for my own pleasure. Being a scribbler myself, I don’t ever leave a bad review, so it’s just as well that I’ve loved the last three books I’ve read. I gave them 5 stars ***** – every one! Here they are:-

http://www.amazon.com/Fall-Onagros-Sage-Book-ebook/dp/B00AYF6546/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1379500893&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=sage+the+fall+of+anagros+by+marian+allen

Fantastic Tale, September 18, 2013
By Jo Robinson
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Fall of Onagros, Sage Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
This is the best fantasy book I’ve read in a very long time. Marian Allen created a world I got totally absorbed in, to the exclusion of all else until I’d read the last sentence. I loved the way the thread of this story is woven, and the clever way the connections between the characters become clear. The parts played by mysterious, mythical creatures introduced at the beginning of the book is revealed in unexpected and delightful ways. A truly fantastic read. I’ll definitely finish reading all the books in this series, and any other book I come across by this author. She’s the real thing – a true story teller.

http://www.amazon.com/Red-Gone-Bad-ebook/dp/B00AFVTYDS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1379501005&sr=1-1&keywords=red+gone+bad+by+lucy+pireel

Delightful!, September 18, 2013
By Jo Robinson
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Red Gone Bad (Kindle Edition)
This collection of short stories surprised me all the way. Lucy Pireel has taken traditional fairy tales and made them her own with dark, tragic, and sometimes hilarious twists. Absolutely absorbing – I loved every single tale. I don’t want to give away any of these clever plots, so I’ll just say that I recommend this book to anyone, regardless of your preferred reading genre. This author is not only clearly very clever, but has a unique and enjoyable way of sharing her tales.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Hangmans-Replacement-Disruption-ebook/dp/B00B1KMM2C/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1379501084&sr=1-1&keywords=the+hangmans+replacement+by+taona+dumisani+chiveneko

A Superb Story!, September 18, 2013
By Jo Robinson
This review is from: The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption (BOOK 1) (Kindle Edition)
I won a paper copy of this book in a competition. It’s quite a long book, but at no time did I get the urge to stop reading it. I loved every page! Having lived in Zimbabwe for eighteen years, I was fortunate enough to be able to picture exactly where the hero was, and that just made an already immaculate story all the more real and enjoyable for me. But regardless of that, I would have liked this anyway. I love this author’s obvious keen intellect, and his dry sense of humour. I absolutely recommend this book, and will buy every other story this author ever publishes. Fantastic book!

I’ve got a couple more reviews to do, but that will be next week, because I need to get back to a bit of work instead of lounging on the couch reading and stuffing my pie hole. These were all fantastic reads, and I’ll be revisiting all of these awesome scribblers one at a time on my blog in the future. In the meantime if you’re in the mood for a really good read, I totally recommend them all.

Beware The Feathered Horde

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We had a car-load of unexpected visitors arrive today, so all that got done was loads of chatting and eating. The feathered horde always love guests. New innocents, not expecting a parrot to suddenly fly by, as they really do, and swipe the choice morsel they were saving for last, off their plate. It’s amazing people are still brave enough to visit us at all really. The baby weaver is still a tiny bit shy of people, so he mainly lurked today, but judging by the glint in his eye it won’t last. Jelly the big weaver bird is currently furious with the world in general, so earlobes were abused, eyeballs were rudely eyeballed, and scowled and screeched at too.

I can’t say no to him though. He’s so small and cute. And the bravest little fellow in the world. He really did have a very rough start. Besides, I find it seriously hilarious when he’s quivering with rage, and I can never do more than laugh at him, then give him what he’s yelling for. So he’s not aware of being anything but in charge of the entire universe. Right now he’s tired out, fast asleep, and looking more like angelic LB, the character who was based on him.

Some of my friends who’ve read Fly Birdie will know that little LB was inspired by my very own crazy Jelly. This isn’t a ploy to get anyone to rush out and buy it, by the way. In fact, when African Me & Satellite TV goes live, all my other scribbles will be free for a couple of days – so I suggest you wait till then if you fancy reading it. How’s that for great marketing skills?! Hahaa!

Anyway. The poor little guy’s been moulting for a few weeks now, changing from his baby beige feathers, and turning into a proper adult male weaver, with a shiny black head and bright yellow body. Also all his “special” white feathers have fallen out, and normal black ones are growing in their place. He’s finding this a bit depressing and spending quite a lot of his time zooming to the bathroom, all on his lonesome, and staring gloomily at his reflection. I’m not even going to argue the point here that only dolphins recognise their own reflections – he knows exactly who he’s looking at. It pains me that he’s itchy and not liking his new look. Jelly’s a special little fellow.

Obviously Fly Birdie is ninety nine percent fiction, but caring for him when he was just a little lump, made me think about the effect animals have on people – even deeply damaged people – hence the short story. I’m planning on adding a bit about the guy who inspired LB in the revamped little book, but for now, I’ll just tell you.

A tree didn’t fall and start a crazy sequence of events. We did have a very dangerous Mahogany tree that was about to though. They have very spongy wood, and this one was huge, waterlogged, and already cracking. So we brought in tree fellers to chop it down. The feller was a bit of an artist, and really cool in his own right, so it wasn’t his fault when one single tiny branch zoomed across the wrong way and fell into a Palm full of nesting weavers.

A few hours later I noticed the dog picking something up and dropping it again – he looked a bit confused as to whether to eat it or throw it. That was Jelly’s first trip after being knocked out of his tree. I picked him up, wiped him down a bit, and took him inside, not thinking for a minute that he’d survive the day. He did though – the minute he was dry, he was cheeping like crazy, and didn’t hesitate when a spoonful of porridge came his way.

It was a couple of days later. He was sitting on his basket in the kitchen, got a fright, and made an unbelievable leap across the room into a pan of simmering water. I know now how dumb it was to have him in the room at all – but that only helps for the future. I fished him out and held him under running, cold water. He really looked like a tiny goner lying on my palm. He keeled over and stayed that way. Thinking he was dead I quietly lay him in his basket and put him in another room, while I tried to get over the guilt and shock.

When I went back in, he was not only up and trying to clean himself, he was trying to sing at the same time. Long story short – he had third degree burns, his leg really did get horribly infected, and I really did keep him with me every second of every day for weeks, bathing his wounds with antibiotics and pushing it down his beak when he eventually did give up, and try to close his eyes forever. That wasn’t going to be allowed though. Finally one little toe blackened and fell off. And quite a few feathers on one of his wings did grow out white as snow – from the trauma, I would imagine. But he got better, and hasn’t looked back since.

So his life didn’t go as LB’s did. It took too long for him to heal to ever be released back into the wild, but it’s clear that Jelly enjoys his life with us, zooming around, singing his songs, and being a very busy guy all day long. I can’t imagine life without him now anyway. It’s amazing how sometimes, one very special creature will be sent our way, and without the extra effort that’s sometimes required to let them live, we could be missing out on meeting the most gorgeous of little souls. I’m glad I never gave up on him, and my friends can’t mind him munching their earlobes – he’s the only one that gets huge packets of marshmallows brought for him every time after all. Or maybe that’s a ploy to try and keep him busy?

Till next time friends. xxx

Jelly Baby

How Hard Is Too Hard

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There are million-selling legendary authors, like those genius scribes of such modern literary classics as Duncton Wood, or Clan of the Cave Bear. Not to mention the not so literary but still million-sellers, because not all readers enjoy literary books. There are bloggers that have so much cool stuff to talk about that they have tens of thousands of followers. There are Google and SEO geniuses, like Guy Kawasaki. There are marketing wizards that could sell ice to an Eskimo. There are huge publishing houses, crumbling a little now, but still – who would refuse a contract with one of the big five? Wizard computer technicians. IT specialists that have actually studied the subject. People are Twitter heroes with thousands of adoring fans, hanging on to their every tweet. People with Facebook pages that are so “Liked” that I wonder how their owners ever find the time to read all the comments on them.

And then there are the Indie Authors. They have to be all of these things. I think that any sort of gentle, creative soul would have difficulty facing any one of these things, but if they want to succeed, and be one hundred percent independent, they have to not only face, but conquer every single one of them. Even though Amazon really is still young, in the last couple of years millions of books have been loaded on to their site. I think that the marketing strategies of even one year ago might not all be effective any more, purely because of the sheer volume of people all doing the same things. The next great marketing idea hasn’t been found yet. In the beginning posting your book links on Facebook, in groups or events, would probably have got you lots of sales. Now I doubt that you would get many at all that way. Constant hard sell drop and run indie authors confuse me a little. I very seldom click their links, purely because I don’t like having things constantly lobbed at me. Hard sell marketing is a dodgy way to go with any product. Sales people who do that for a living are generally taught how to go about that sort of strategy, and it involves a bit more than just constant bombarding of the same people with the same book link.

Now there’s just mainly a white noise of millions of book links flying around, and only a handful of true success stories. New authors jumping on the bandwagon now are going to have to find new ways to market themselves and their books. The old channels are all clogged up, and I’m beginning to wonder if we’re not heading back to the way things were before the advent of self publishing, with a lot of the books on Amazon seen as “submission to agent”, to languish there until, or if, it’s ever spotted by someone who loves it enough to start a fever of sales. Word of mouth praise is your best marketing tool after all. No matter how well your book is written, there is still an element of luck involved in it gaining real readership. Thousands of books downloaded on free days are never actually read by those who download them. Thousands of books have brilliant reviews. But. Not all of those books deserve all their praise. If these reviews have been written by friends and family, who at the end of the day are never going to give you a crap review, and then people buy your book on the strength of them, and then don’t like what they read, they are not going to buy any more of your books anyway. So it seems to me that no matter what people say about how important having loads of fantastic reviews up the minute you publish is, the best way to get them is to wait for them to come in from people who have read your book, liked or hated it, and get the urge to leave their opinion of it honestly. I could very easily ask all my buddies for honest reviews and get lots of them posted in days, but I won’t, because I know how difficult it would be to tell a buddy that I really didn’t like what they wrote. At some point the real honest reviews will come, good or bad. Maybe a little worse than they would be if someone has been misled into buying a book by glowing buddy reviews that maybe aren’t entirely true.

That’s just my opinion, and I’m more than likely going to get shot down for it. I could be wrong anyway. Indie publishing is a journey of learning, and I’m still taking my first steps. Either way. I’d rather be patient, get my books into the hands of potential readers as gently as I can, and hope that some of them will like what they read enough to want to read more. That doesn’t mean I’m going to recline on the couch eating grapes. As an indie writer, it’s my job to sell my scribbles. Of course I’ll carry on learning all I can about getting those scribbles under new eyeballs, I just won’t camp out on doorsteps, and leap out of bushes waving any of my tomes under unsuspecting nostrils, and yelling, “Oi, you!!! Buy my book!” The only platform for that sort of hard sell is possibly Twitter, but even then, it’s not going to work if all you do is post your links. I honestly believe that without a bit of support from Lady Luck, it’s not reasonable to expect overnight bestseller status anyway, no matter how hard you work. At the end of the day, if what you’ve written is liked by those who read it, you will eventually achieve some sort of success, big or small. And if it’s not, you won’t, no matter how often or how hard you wave it under nostrils. Just saying.

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Free Books On Amazon

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To celebrate the fact that it’s always Spring – somewhere, I’ve decided to put all my tales on Amazon up for free today and tomorrow (12 – 13 April). I’ll pop the links on here if you’d like to download them. I hope you enjoy them! They will go free at around 12 CMT, so in around two hours from now. African Me & Satellite TV will be published next, and then on to the second book in the Shadow People series.

http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-People-ebook/dp/B00BCL91EC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1363235529&sr=1-1&keywords=shadow+people+by+jo+robinson

http://www.amazon.com/Fly-Birdie-ebook/dp/B009GDHVUE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357299035&sr=1-1&keywords=fly+birdie+by+jo+robinson

http://www.amazon.com/The-Visitation-ebook/dp/B009DX4JDY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357299125&sr=1-1&keywords=the+visitation+by+jo+robinson

And join us today and tomorrow at the Spring Fever Reads Giveaway, and stand a chance to win more books and a Kindle Fire!
https://www.facebook.com/events/321896231269344/

Till next time friends. xxx

dragon

Guilty Of Speeding

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Still busy sorting all my old blog posts into categories. Seeing the dates on these posts has made me realise how quickly I’ve zoomed along this indie writing road. I opened the WordPress site in March 2012 after joining Facebook in January. Before that the only IT knowledge I had was how to operate my cellphone – sort of.

As far as writing went, I’d only started that the year before when I wrote African Me & Satellite TV, scribbled in notebooks and on bits of paper shoved into an old manila folder. The story had been niggling at me for a while. To begin with I really just wished it would go away. I’d never written anything before. Never yearned to be an author, or ever imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be capable of writing so much as a paragraph of fiction that anyone would actually want to cast their eyeballs over.

It never went away though. It grew and grew, and became my obsession, until finally it was done, sitting in a tatty pile on my desk along with the two books that grew side by side with it. Two of the characters in African Me were so huge to me that they had to have books of their own. And so they did.

Not ever having been on line before, and not even knowing that Kindles existed, I tentatively tried to look for agents. I’ve never approached one though. A friend suggested that I join Facebook and look for writers there. I did, and found one brilliant little group of mainly aspiring authors and one or two stars. There, apart from gaining a couple of amazing friends, I learned about indie publishing. It was only towards the end of last year that I found myself swept away on the indie highway.

Along the learning way I’ve published two short stories, and a sci-fi/fantasy novel on Amazon, obviously expecting to be hugely famous mere hours after pushing the upload button. Shame about that. I’ve found out lots about finishing, formatting, and publishing e-books, as well as creating covers for them, not to mention marketing and SEO. The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that I have only one toe in the water. As far as indie publishing and marketing knowledge is concerned I still have miles to travel. I’m just really glad to be on the trip.

And that trip was all about getting African Me & Satellite TV published. There were just unexpected twists, trips, and bonuses along the way. I now have the first book in a series out there, with loads more to come. I’m painting away to create images of Lapillus and the characters in Shadow People, so that anyone who reads the books see them a little as I do. I’ve learned that writing and reading short, sharp stories is brilliant. For the first time in my life I’ve written poetry. This was really hard, but a bit of African Me just had to have it, and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

African Me & Satellite TV will be published soon, and I am terrified and excited. My main point of this ramble is that no matter what trip you are on, you never know where it will take you.

To writers more newbie than myself I say – gosh – are there any? Seriously though, from what I’ve learned so far I have a couple of opinions.

• Don’t publish your beloved first. Publish another brilliant, but lesser love first and learn the ropes a little.
• Don’t believe that just because you have “Author” attached to your moniker, thousands will fawn at your feet.
• Learn about marketing on line, and follow through. I’ve been held back in this department by constant (daily – very often weekly) power outages, and the weakest internet signal on the planet, but that has never stopped me from trying.
• Research every thing that you do. Don’t fall for “editor” “publisher” tricks – there are a lot of nasties out there who will con you properly. Check credentials.
• Beware of spending the majority of your waking hours in the wrong areas of cyberspace. Do you really think that posting links to your books on a group of other indie writers will generate sales or get you real readers?
• Do join other indie writers for online events. You will build up a group of indie writer friends over time and this is good. You support each other. Boost each other. You need this. Just be careful who you team up with. Make sure your indie buddies are cool.
• Don’t ask people for fake reviews. If I see a book with hundreds of gushing five star reviews, I’m immediately wary. And if I then read the book, and it’s really bad, I’m not a happy girl at all. I do review for friends, but never if they ask me. If I like what I see, am a fan of the genre they have written in, I buy their book. I never leave bad reviews – ever. If I don’t like a book I leave it at that. There are loads of people willing to leave crap reviews – some that seem incapable of spelling “and”, I’m sorry to say.
• Have patience. What will be, will be.

Till next time friends. xxx

PP AM Final Cover

Chinua Achebe

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One of my favourite writers and source of much inspiration, Nigerian, Chinua Achebe, author of the 1958 novel “Things Fall Apart,” has died at the age of eighty two. He was teaching at Brown University in Rhode Island, as professor of Africana Studies, and Bard College in New York. He wrote a couple of dozen books in his time and received honours and awards in his country as well as the rest of the world. “Things Fall Apart” has sold millions of copies world wide, and interests me not only because it is a fantastic story, but also because it is set in pre-colonial times. The lost culture and history of Africa are very important, and have to be searched for and revived to help with the healing of the people of this continent.

The depiction of Africa as the “Third World” has always bothered me, and authors and activists like Chinua Achebe will always inspire me. Africa was the “First World” to begin with, and the cradle of civilization. The amazing ruins and history slowly surfacing, show that Africa’s people were culturally, architecturally, and intellectually much more advanced at the time of their building than many other cultures around the globe. The incredible damage inflicted by the years of colonialism and oppression is not going to be fixed overnight, and it has to be recognised for what it is. Even though this generation isn’t guilty of it, it’s important that they understand it, because Africans can’t be expected to forget it. The results of colonisation = the mess that is Africa today. Africa should not be expected to follow current “First World” rules. They will have to stumble forward and find their own way, according to their own rules and beliefs. People like Chinua Achebe have helped people all over understand this a little better. He coined a lot of proverbs in his books which succinctly point out the some of the problems of post colonial African identity as well as being generally wise or witty.

“There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. … Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian,” he said. “It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail — the bravery, even, of the lions.” Chinua Achebe

He famously criticized Joseph Conrad (author of Heart of Darkness), referring to him as a “bloody racist”, which if you read some of Conrad’s passages seems fairly plausible. He was outspoken on many issues, including poor governance in Africa and often turned down awards given to him by his own country in protest.

Corey D. B. Walker, an associate professor and chair of the department of Africana Studies at Brown University, said Achebe’s loss was a great one. “He was more than just a colleague, faculty member, and teacher at Brown. He was a gift to the world. At a time like this we could draw many words of wisdom and comfort from the deep wells of various African cultures and traditions to honour him. The most fitting is the simple and elegant phrase – A great tree has fallen.”

Here are some of my favourite Chinua Achebe quotes:

“I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them”

“I believe in the complexity of the human story and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, This is it. Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing; the same person telling the story will tell it differently. I think of that masquerade in Igbo festivals that dances in the public arena. The Igbo people say, If you want to see it well, you must not stand in one place. The masquerade is moving through this big arena. Dancing. If you’re rooted to a spot, you miss a lot of the grace. So you keep moving, and this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told—from many different perspectives.”

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.”

“If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.”

“That we are surrounded by deep mysteries is known to all but the incurably ignorant.”

“The triumph of the written word is often attained when the writer achieves union and trust with the reader, who then becomes ready to be drawn into unfamiliar territory, walking in borrowed literary shoes so to speak, toward a deeper understanding of self or society, or of foreign peoples, cultures, and situations.”

“We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.”

“There is no story that is not true, […] The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.”

Hamba kahle Chinua Achebe.

1ca

http://www.amazon.com/Things-Fall-Apart-Chinua-Achebe/dp/0385474547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364028649&sr=1-1&keywords=Things+fall+apart+by+chinua+achebe

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
By
E. Adam Galmor – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
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
By
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
By
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
By
Amanda Richards (Georgetown, Guyana) – See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE) (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Kindle Edition)
Man down
In little town
Council seat
Incomplete
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
By
Shane Tiernan (St. Petersburg, FL United States) – See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE) (REAL NAME)
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
By
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
By
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
By
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

Hell In The Kitchen by Ian Little

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Why recommend a book that I’m not finished reading, you ask? Well. Firstly because the part of it that I’ve read so far is really brilliant, and the author is giving it away for free today and tomorrow also. Secondly because I’m really slow. And thirdly because the next up for review in my pile is Mulligans Reach by Jennie Orbell. I’m not quite finished reading that one either and I wouldn’t want to steal its well deserved thunder.

http://www.amazon.com/Mulligans-Reach-ebook/dp/B008OU4MO8/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1363361471&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=mulligans+reach+by+jennie+orbell

I bought Hell In The Kitchen some time ago for real money and it’s worth every penny. I love the cooking programmes, and I also love the funny. This book is hilarious and I know my friends will enjoy reading it. When my review for it goes live, I plan on forcing Ian Little to answer lots of impertinent questions, the answers to which I’ll definitely share with you. So – without further ado.

Check out Electa Graham’s post and interview. Their chat is just as funny as the book!

http://www.electagraham.com/electas-blog.html

You can keep up with Ian via his blog; http://ianlittlenovels.blogspot.co.uk/ or by following him on twitter by searching for @iantweetz .

Here it is – the very, very funny Hell In The Kitchen by Ian Little.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009YLBE6U/?tag=viewbookat-20

Welcome to the high pressure world of the professional kitchen. Gary Pansey has become the face of the culinary world. He’s everywhere with his TV shows, cookbooks and A list celebrity events. He’s sexier than Nigella, looks better naked than Jamie Oliver, and can still teach Delia a thing or two about cooking eggs.

Read about his journey from shy schoolboy (‘Can’t you cook something that goes with this Scotch?’ his Mam asks) and how he was whipped up into shape by sadistic, brooding mentor Jake (‘In Dedbridge you have to drive the wrong way up one-way streets, you get pulled over if you don’t’).

Long hours in hot kitchens lead to steamy sessions in the bedroom, it all pays off for young Gary. Why is he one of the lucky ones? It’s difficult to get out of Dedbridge with a police escort, how did he manage it with just a spatula?

Hell in the Kitchen is a satirical peek into the restaurant world and its celebrity chefs.

Contains adult language and cake. Food is love, after all.

Check out his other two books while you’re there.

http://www.amazon.com/Texting-Orwell-ebook/dp/B008WA9NYY/ref=pd_sim_sbs_kstore_1

http://www.amazon.com/Luckbox-ebook/dp/B00BRLB050/ref=la_B008WMK0GC_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363361368&sr=1-1

Till next time friends. xxx

ail

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.

https://plus.google.com/communities/115573021758683598908

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