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.

Humblebrag…

But not really. Or at least, not in the actual definition of the word, but the etymological breakdown of it. A humble brag. Because I cannot possibly fathom not sharing this with you all, as it is equal parts amazing and wonderful, but it is still a humbling experience.

So, the long story short is that a friend bought my book for her cousin, an avid reader. Sometime after that, the word comes to me that not only did she like the book, but she has a YouTube channel and is going to do a video review of my book. (At this point, news of such things is as terrifying as it is exciting, as you might imagine.) Time goes by and I hear nothing. Then, all at once, there is a link in my email. “Book Reviews #40: House of Thirteen” it says.

It’s another couple of days before I can bring myself to click the link.

Reviews are scary. They can build you up, or demolish you. Sometimes both at the same time. What you hope the readers will love is sometimes built up too much in your head and they need to point that out to you. Sometimes I rush into reviews like a masochist, but those are always just words. As I learned long ago, “words can never hurt me.” Yeah, right.

This is not just words, though. This is video. This is words with pictures. 1000 words for every picture. 29.97 pictures every second of the video. It adds up to a mountain of intimidation.

But I finally suck it up and click the link, bracing myself for the ugly truth… and what waits there for me is not the reason I will quit writing, but the reason I will persevere. There’s an excitement in her voice that we’ve all heard before: that sound we make when we are excited and want to share this amazing thing we’ve discovered. Except she’s not talking about some random interest – she’s talking about my book!

It’s a walking-on-clouds kind of feeling, and it will last until I realize that I have to somehow raise the stakes in House of Thirteen, Book Two in order to meet expectations.

And that brings us back to terrified, because that’s what I’m trying to write now.

I thought this was a nice segue to announcing the follow-up to House of Thirteen. Book Two will continue the story, and take us further into the mysteries that revolved around out beloved Delaneys. I’m looking very forward to figuring out what kind of trouble Ren and Joe are getting themselves into, as well as what sisters we’ll be introduced to next. And I hope that it will fulfill my expectations, and surpass those of my readers.

To answer Gabby’s one question that I am able to (but not really) in a bit of detail: I do plan on addressing what and why the Delaneys are what they are in more detail. I hope to answer every question I have threaded into the story before I end the series. Unfortunately, there are going to be more questions that answers for the time being, but I’ll get to them all in time. If I don’t, feel free to ask me again.

You can view the House of Thirteen review below. You can follow Gabby on Facebook and Twitter.

If you haven’t reviewed House of Thirteen (or any of my other stories) yourself, please do.

Finally, thank you, Gabby. This means a lot to me.curiousowl

 

Fools Rush In…

It was a difficult decision to make, but I have a grand mistrust of April Fool’s Day and didn’t want anyone to pass over the announcement because they did not necessarily believe… I made a post to the Facebook page, and then declined to promote it any further.

That said, April is here and so is Part Four in At Calendar’s End.

The story so far: As the rest of the Intercalary scrambles to figure out who or what is behind the attacks, other members begin to reassemble – completely unaware of the danger they are in. Can Ember and the rest get the warning out and protect the members currently being hunted? Or will they find their missing ranks too late to help?

Click the beautiful artwork by Brian Ritson below to go to the Amazon page. Links to the previous installments, as always, are in the description.

April

 

The March of Time

…word play may be the death of me.

As announced on my Facebook author page yesterday:

“It’s March! The third installment of At Calendar’s End snuck onto Amazon in the wee hours while everyone was so unsuspecting. Follow the link to the newest installment, and links to the previous installments if you haven’t begun the series yet!”

You, however, need only click on the gorgeous cover (by Brian Ritson) below to find your way to the Amazon page. Links to January and February are both in the description.

The info page for my writing has also been updated, and will continue to be updated as new installments of At Calendar’s End continue to release.

March-Final

Buying into belief…

So this “Ice Bucket Challenge” thing is all the rage right now. I have a hard time believing with how everywhere it is that I didn’t know what it was just a couple days ago. It has gone from a silly game on YouTube and Facebook to actual awareness of the cause itself, at least in my case. That’s been three clockwork days for me: ignorance to action. If it has affected me as such, in so short a time, maybe it’s actually raising the awareness – and the dollars – it should. I hope it is. Continue reading

Let’s get this year started.

You can say what you like about the weather lately; it’s been pushing the cold and dreary around here. People have lost a little of their holiday luster and are ready to move into the warmer months, but for me… this is where it all begins. Continue reading