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!

 

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.

It’s about time… no, really.

Originally, I wanted to release this as I was getting it: in stages. But I realized that some people out there might not want to wait for the full reveal. I understand. I am impatient as well. So, I thought it best not to say anything until it was time. It has been very hard to think about anything else since NaNoWriMo concluded this year.

And not only is it time, but it’s about time. The story, I mean.

At Calendar’s End is the story of time – or the end of it. The beings that control the passage of time find themselves dealing with an adversary both powerful and unpredictable. They have no defenses against it and worse – if they fail to stop it, all time will cease to be.

The story is a serial delivered in twelve parts over the course of 2016. Each episode (except January) will be released on the first of the month, and feature an approximate 10000 words of suspense.

Because so many people have told me how they cannot wait for the next book in the House of Thirteen series to come, I decided (at least once) I would not force anyone to wait in suspense when they finished with part one. Both January and February will be available on February 1, 2016.

The serial will be available in Kindle format for the time being, with a future release in paperback. And in the event that anyone wants to wait for the end of the series before picking it up, the omnibus will be available at the end of 2016.

Pre-orders will begin very soon. In the meantime, enjoy the beautiful artwork by Brian Ritson.

January

T-Minus 20160 Minutes (Give or Take)

Christmas is two weeks away yet. That means that most of us haven’t finished shopping. I don’t know what the people in your life want, but I can still tell you what you should get them.

And seriously, if they don’t like what I’m proposing, they don’t deserve gifts. Like, ever again.

Click the images to link to a rabbit hole of gifty goodness. Each of these people are wonderfully imaginative, creative souls who have put themselves into their work and deserve to be recognized for their beautiful efforts. There is far more than you see in this list.

Go on, explore away and happy shopping!

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.37.17 AM Norse-based Urban Fantasy by Mary E. Twomey

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.41.08 AM Coming of Age Fantasy by Madeline Freeman

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.39.30 AM Forget-A-Bots, sculptures by Brian Ritson

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.35.25 AM Post-apocalyptic Sci-fi by Samie Sands

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.42.44 AM Romance / Chick Lit by J. Thomas-Like

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.45.02 AM ChicalooKate, Pop culture prints and magnets

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.46.40 AM Urban Mythology by Sara-Beth Cole

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.47.57 AM Romance / Women’s Fiction by Parker J. Cole

And if you still haven’t found enough gifts for all the people on your list, I hear this guy’s books are pretty alright…

House of 13 Supernatural Fantasy by moi.

 

 

Six long days away…

The premiere for House of Thirteen is this Saturday, Nov. 7. I am looking very forward to this. The Book Cottage is kind enough to host me, and I’d like to make it as wonderful as possible. Please consider sharing the image around to let others in the area know about it. Thanks, and I hope to see you there.

Shout it to the rafters.

Shout it to the rafters.

Ladies and Gentlemen…

Get your costumes in order, put out your jack o’lanterns, and get yourself settled in.

It’s going to be a dark and stormy night around here. The best time to settle in with a supernatural tale.

For those of you who have pre-ordered, you should already have it in your Kindle library. For those who didn’t, it’s far too late.

Fortunately, House of Thirteen is available in paperback and ebook right now.

Order now.

Enjoy – and Happy Halloween!