Back to the Beginning of the End…

In case you missed it, I participated in my very first Facebook Live video earlier this week to announce the much-awaited collected At Calendar’s End: Omnibus. You’re very lucky you didn’t hear the squeal when I actually saw the book for myself.

TL; DW:
– It’s available currently through Amazon and Kindle.
– It’s 700 pages worth of story, collecting the serial installments of At Calendar’s End
– Both versions still include all 12 covers by Brian Ritson from the original installments, PLUS the new art for the Omnibus itself
– The first opportunity to see these in person (and get them signed) is Leon & Lulu on October 22.

ALSO: A short story of mine has been included in an anthology edited and organized by Samie Sands. Black Mass is the story of a man who has a recurring nightmare he can’t escape from… and why it might be better to just remain in the dream. You can find it hidden among the other creepy tales in Night Mares, available now on Amazon and Kindle.

Let’s review (well), shall we?

I’ve had this idea in the back of my noggin for a while. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine from way back, and I’ve held it there because of my own terrible reviewing habits. Well, as I endeavor to become a better reviewer myself, I thought I might finally get this black stain off my mind as well.

Periodically, I’m tempted to write this because of some article that pops up – usually, a mention of coordinated efforts to one-star review something into oblivion, or I’ll be reading product reviews and come across a number of unhelpful reviews, which prompts me to consider this again.

I’m worried that people do not understand how to do for-real reviews anymore. Maybe they’ve forgotten how. Maybe they never knew and are just copying what they see. Maybe they’re trying to be clever in the wrong venue. I’m looking at you, Mr. Takei.

The point is that reviews are supposed to help the rest of us ignorant consumers make wise, informed purchases. It’s hard to do that when you have to wade through bad, misinformed, or satirical reviews to find the relevant ones.

A book review, for instance, is supposed to review the book. What was the pacing of the story? Was it written well? Are there any glaring errors or plot holes? These are the sorts of questions you should answer for a book review, not “Ugh, the stupid book didn’t even get here until after my vacation so I didn’t bother reading it. 1-star.” That’s not a direct quote.

We’ve all seen them. Whether it’s books, movies, kitchen products, or anything else, some reviewers seem to forget they are supposed to review THE PRODUCT ITSELF and another part of their experience.

Allow me to cite an example of my frustration:
John Green’s new book Turtles All the Way Down is expected to release October 10 (according to Amazon and Goodreads). Yes, in the future. Yet, GoodReads boasts 198 reviews and 525 ratings – for a book that hasn’t been released yet.JG_Turtles

Yes, a lot of them are, “I don’t even know what it’s about, or what it’s called BUT IT’S BY JOHN SO IT IS FIVE STARS!!!” That is a direct quote.

Now, yes, this falls to GoodReads for not locking down their review board until after the book has been released, but that would just be delaying the inevitable. This review would still happen, whether it was before or after release, whether it had been read or not.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the rallying cry of the unified for one reason or another. Whether it is Milo Yiannopoulos, Laurie Forest, or Lani Sarem, people (both for and against) are reviewing based on their beliefs, their opinions, or their feelings. Sometimes they are even basing their reviews on other reviews rather than firsthand experience.

That’s not how this works.

Now, let me get into a little fear-mongering so I can explain why this change needs to happen.

The less we use review boards the way they are supposed to be used, the less likely it is that people will use them for actual reviews. We will (and on some platforms, already have) become a society dependent on Likert scales to base our opinions. Behold the Likert scale:

Likert-scale-option-importance-response

We’ve all seen or taken something like this. Amazon’s five-star rating system is a basic Likert question. If you are anything like me, there is no way accurately explain your feelings about something into a single dot on a five or seven point system. It seems easy: “How much did you like this product? A lot, kind of a lot, sort of a lot, not a lot, or not at all.” Sure, you might be able to quantify your feelings about your coffee maker, or veggie slicer into one of those five dots, but can you honestly explain your feelings about a book or a movie with just those five dots?

I think Henry Cavill is a great actor, and he played a wonderful Superman. He deserves five stars. I also feel that Man of Steel wasn’t that great (don’t get me started), so I’m definitely not going to give the movie five stars. Can you honestly tell me that if I rate it two, or three, or four stars, that you actually understand what I am communicating?

I can’t. I honestly have no idea what you are thinking when you rate something. I assume you understand the scale the way I do, so when you rate something in a way I disagree with, my instinct is that you don’t understand what you experienced, and therefore your opinion is flawed. An actual written review might still be argued, but at least I can understand, without confusion, what your opinion is.

But let’s keep going down this rabbit hole of rating systems.

So, let’s assume that people are using the five-point system, and they frequent three points the most. Namely: most, least, and the middle. Why bother with a five-point system then? We could make things so much easier for the users by just reducing it to a three point system – but wait. That middle area is just “I don’t know how I feel” anyway. If we reduce it further – to a two-point scale – we can get actual data on people’s feelings!

No, we can’t.

A two-point scale is exceptionally misleading. It’s the internet equivalent of “Do you like me: Yes or No?” Dating apps thrive on the simplicity of this rating scale. It’s a binary scale that lumps you either with the love-its or the hate-its, regardless of your nuanced thoughts on the matter. It’s okay to not want such simplicity to define your opinions, as Netflix is finding out.

This brings me back to my original point (yes, I still remember what that is, and thank you for following me this far into the murk): we need to be better about reviewing. We need to remember that our reviews are less about grandstanding and soapboxing (although those are certainly incentives) and more about helping people make informed decisions for themselves.

Get out there and review, or we’re going to get stuck with Like buttons for everything.

The Next Page on the Calendar…

Around this time last year, I was one-third of the way into At Calendar’s End. April was newly published and I was hard at work at the keyboard working on May. At that point, I cannot say that I knew I would finish. It was an intimidating, dare I say daunting, task to look ahead to.

And yet, here we are a year later, come through the other side not only successful, but surprisingly better for the experience. I think I’d like to do another serial in the future, but I have other projects I’d like to accomplish before that.

First on the docket is to bring At Calendar’s End to print. All twelve installments of Calendar are currently available in serialized format, both ebook and now print. Relatively soon, I’ll also be producing an omnibus that collects all twelve episodes into a single binding – which will also be made available to both digital and physical realms.

If you haven’t started reading At Calendar’s End yet, and aren’t sure why you should, maybe this wonderfully insightful review by friend and author Parker J. Cole will help.

Also (and probably most excitingly) Brian Ritson, the brilliant and creative mind behind all of the art that graces my books, has taken the line art from the Calendar series (as well as some new beautiful designs) and incorporated them into a coloring book!

Coloring Book Cover

This is truly a must-have for any fan of the Calendar series – and coloring books!

And finally, I will be showing off the newly-printed books in person at Leon & Lulu on April 30! I’m looking forward to being part of Books & Authors again, and am excited to be able to show off some spectacular art, as well as my newest accomplishment. I’ll be sharing a space with a number of friendly authors – including friend and event companion J. Thomas-Like! I hope to see you there!

In the meantime, you can find all of my books here.

Happy reading!

 

A Cold December…

It’s here. The milestone I’ve dreamt about for an entire year. A milestone I’ve been dreading all November, but it’s too late to stop.

December is out today, which means that it is time to say goodbye to Ember. Time to lay the Intercalary to rest.

It’s hard to let go of characters, regardless. Whether you’re reading them or you’ve written them, you travel a distance with these people. You get attached to them.

(Yes, even when you’re killing them off systematically.)

So today is the day that I send the last of them off into the world.
december_standin
The cover is a placeholder. Brian has been unfortunately overwhelmed with real world responsibilities. The black and white cover will be updated shortly. The remaining color covers will follow. I hope you’re looking forward to seeing his work realized as much as I am.

But it’s certainly not the end of surprises.

With December out, I will be turning my focus to physical copies of the serial installments. If you happen to be in Lake Orion this weekend, I’ll be at Orion Township Public Library for the Authors and Illustrators Fair and I will have copies of January on hand.
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I’ll be releasing the series throughout the beginning of 2017.

As if that weren’t enough excitement for 2017, January will find me seeking comfort with familiar company. I will be returning to the Delaney House to start writing House of Thirteen Book Two. I can’t reveal much just yet, but I can tell you that it will be nice to catch up with Ren and Joe again.

There will definitely be other surprises along the way. 2016 has been an interesting year, and I feel like the only respectable response is to raise the bar for myself once again.

Get December, and please remember to review online. It’s much appreciated.

Commence au (book) festivale.

So many announcements to share with you today!

September has been updated with the full color cover. If you already purchased it, you should see your Kindle book has updated. If you were waiting for the final cover, wait no more!


Speaking of covers, how would you like to see January live and in-person? I will have physical copies of January on hand at Kerrytown Bookfest this Sunday! I can promise you that these will (eventually) be made available to the greater public via Amazon, but for the time being, these will be a live-and-in-person exclusive.

And if I can squeeze in one more segue… I, and a host of other authors will be in Ann Arbor on Sunday 11am – 5pm. Come out and fall in love with a new story – or an old one. Come out and see what Bookfest has to offer you.

Just in time for a holiday…

The end of summer means the last great hurrah: one last family vacation, one last weekend at the beach, one last big cookout. One last chance to bask in the sunshine and warmth. A final opportunity to lament airborne pests.

If that’s you, I would love nothing more than to encourage you to download a copy of September, the newest installment of At Calendar’s End for your Labor Day relaxing.

I would love to, but I’m not going to.

As I have been informed (repeatedly) by a certain loyal reader, At Calendar’s End is not “easy” reading. It has also been (playfully?) suggested that a support group be started for readers of the series.

In light of this news, I cannot in good conscience suggest you go out on your last holiday weekend and read something that might traumatize you. If previous installments have been hard to deal with, September will prove the rule, not the exception.

So enjoy the sun while you still can. When you have had your fun, come back to the series, it will be waiting.

But don’t wait too long, the Intercalary don’t have much time left.

Schedules being what they are, the finished cover for September has been delayed. It will be going through some iterations, but I will update as soon as humanly possible. With this in mind – and the holidays looming – we shall see how it effects future covers as we finish out the series. The stories, however, will continue to be delivered to you on the first of each month, as promised.

As always, click the art of the talented Mr. Ritson to be directed to Amazon.

Sept_Ink

Patience is a Virtue…

But the wait is over.

After a brief delay, the artwork for August has been update – I am currently waiting for Amazon to agree with me. Kindle publishing reflects the new artwork, but Amazon has yet to get the memo.

I just wanted to take time out of our collective day for an art appreciation break. You can click the image to be directed to the Amazon listing.

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