Wednesday, December 12, 2018

About Book Reviews

Is having a lot of book reviews important?


There are a lot of posts circling on social sites among authors. Some seem to have insider information and saying that books that have less than 30-50 reviews are not shown as "related titles" or "inspired by your browsing history" and "customers who viewed this item also viewed."

Some authors report that, although their books have 50-100 or more reviews, they don't see any increase in sales increase or higher rank numbers.

The only thing seems to be true is that the BookBub promo service rejects books with less than 4 point rating and authors report that they reject books with less than 50 reviews as well.

As an author, when a reader posts a review on my books, it's like getting a gift and a needed ego boost to continue writing.

However, as a reader, I'm guilty of not reading as many books as I would love to and not writing as many reviews as I should because I just don't have the time.

When I have time to read, I choose Indie books to support self-published authors and small publishers. But because I have a lot of author friends or belong to groups with the authors on social sites, my reviews often viewed by the Zon as biased and rejected.

I can understand it though because there are a lot of desperate authors out there who would do anything to get reviews. I see many posts on social sites offering review exchange, so no wonder Amazon views every review that is written by a published author suspicious.

Paid reviews are a big no-no.

What is considered payment for a review?

A free book is considered payment by Amazon, so book review bloggers are required to post disclaimers when they review a book they received from the author or publisher. This means a free book must be given before the review is posted with no specifications about what kind of or favorable review must be written.

Amazon also does not permit reviews (or even votes on reviews) to be posted in exchange for any kind of compensation including entry to a contest or sweepstakes, discounts on future purchases, extra products, or other gifts.

No gifts should be given after the review is written, so there’s no appearance of payment for a positive review. If you do offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you need to make it clear that you welcome both positive and negative feedback.

Reviews that come from a paid blog tour are not eligible as customer reviews. I never did a paid blog tour, so I never knew that if you do, you can only quote from the reviews in the “editorial reviews” section of your book.

Trading reviews between authors is strictly forbidden such as “I’ll give you a five star if you give me one” No author should review another with the expectation that the review will be reciprocated.

Some unscrupulous authors may even blackmail others which happened to me once when my book was on countdown sale for 99 cents.
I got a message on my FB page saying, “I gave you a 5-star review. My book is 99 cents, here is the link. If you don't post a 5-star review for me, I’ll change my review to a one-star.”
I was livid and replied, "Judging by the few words you posted, it's obvious that you didn't read my book. This is blackmail, and if you don't delete your review, I will report you to Amazon." Luckily, he just deleted the review or maybe Amazon did, I'll never know.
Don’t fall for or get intimidated by blackmailers. If they do change their rating to one star, the best is to report them to Amazon.

Some believe that no author should be allowed to write a review, but this is an unrealistic expectation. Authors read too, and as readers, they have all the rights to voice their opinion honestly and in an unbiased manner.

I suspect it but I'm not sure about this. I love to read the genres which I love to write, speculative historical fiction with magical elements and suspense. I noticed that when I post a review of books in those genres, it gets rejected as well as my reviews of children's books. I'm just guessing because I write children's books too. However, when I reviewed poetry or non-fiction, the Zon left it alone.

When reviewing books in your own genre or sub-genre or any author's work who might be considered “a competitor”, Amazon’s TOS say “You may not write reviews for products or services that you have a financial interest in, including reviews for products or services that you or your competitors sell.

What is your opinion about book reviews?





Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Guest Author Owen Mullen

 Our guest author today is Owen Mullen
By Erika M Szabo

Owen Mullen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer, and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; Owen still loves to perform on occasion. His passion for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colorful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home away from home in the Greek Islands where the Charlie Cameron and Delaney series', and In Harm's Way psychological thriller were created.

A psychological thriller, suspense
When no one knows you are in danger how can you ever be saved…
The Baxter house in the Lowther Hills, in Scotland, has been on the estate agent’s books for decades. Dilapidated and near-derelict, nobody is interested in it. But, for one potential buyer, the remote location and rat-infested cellar are perfect.
For the first year, Mackenzie’s marriage to Derek was ideal. But Derek believes she is having an affair and when she realizes her husband is becoming controlling, she knows she’s made a terrible mistake.
But Mackenzie has a drinking problem so when she threatens to leave Derek and then disappears no one believes she has been abducted.
DS Geddes is handed the case but isn’t convinced anything criminal has taken place until a startling development comes to light.
Has Mackenzie been abducted or has she simply left her husband?
And who has bought The Baxter house and for what purpose?

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:
Mackenzie thought about yesterday. The guy in the black coat had freaked her out. She hadn’t told Derek. What was the point? She’d intended to talk to Alec about it and changed her mind. It had been such a wonderful evening she hadn’t wanted to spoil it with something that would probably turn out to be about nothing. When she got home she’d gone on the Internet and researched stalkers, surprised to discover how common they were. Most reports were about men stalking women although –occasionally –it was the other way round. She took comfort from the fact that thousands of people –male and female –had had the same experience as her. Occasionally the stalker turned out to be some jilted lover or former husband. Often the culprit was a mentally unstable stranger; sad and pathetic and harmless. Mackenzie made a decision to focus on the positive: this was the third day she hadn’t had any alcohol. The miracle was she didn’t crave it. The first twenty-four hours had been rough –her head ached, she felt ill and whenever she remembered the show she’d made of herself –of both of them –at Adele’s, she thought she was going to be sick. Her sister was due an apology, no doubt about that, except Mackenzie wasn’t ready to face her. Not yet. The second day was better, only shame remained. Even in such a short time clarity had replaced confusion and she was certain she was doing the right thing. Derek couldn’t possibly be happy. God knows she wasn’t. Hurting him wasn’t what she wanted but he needed to accept the marriage was over, that she didn’t love him. Opposites attracted and so it was with them. The attention of a man, older, wiser, and more worldly than she could ever hope to be, had been flattering. Being with him made her feel special and protected in a way she’d never known. Other men were immature boys in comparison. Derek had been places and done things. Had adventures. For Christ’s sake, even Adele liked him. One morning Mackenzie woke up and knew she’d fallen for him. Within months they were engaged. She would’ve married right away, he’d insisted they slow down. If there were second thoughts, he’d said, now was the time. Once they’d taken their vows she would be his and it would be too late. His one condition –that they hold back physically until after they were married –had taken her aback. She’d promised to respect his wish, a promise she’d broken on the couch in his living room one night after they’d shared a second bottle of wine, most of it drunk by her. Slowly, completely, he’d dominated her until she was afraid she might suffocate with the intensity of it. Afterwards, Derek held her in his arms and told stories of how wonderful it would be when she was his wife. Those stories came true and lasted a year before Mackenzie realised the mistake she’d made.

It began with disagreements over inconsequential things which grew heated, difficult to put behind them. And the sex, so fabulous in the beginning, became infrequent, brief and unfulfilling. Derek found fault with her to the extent she couldn’t please him even with the simplest tasks. It was obvious he was as disappointed in her as she was with him. The generosity he’d shown in the beginning dissipated, replaced by accusations she didn’t understand. Mackenzie had managed to keep her drinking to acceptable levels when she met Derek. For a long time, he didn’t see her drunk. But as their relationship deteriorated, she found herself reaching for her old friend. And her alcoholism was where she’d left it; it hadn’t gone anywhere. Giving in to it was easier than confronting the truth. The avenue was deserted except for a group of young girls in the distance, playing a game. It had been a sunny day and, on most windows, the blinds were drawn against the glare. Who knew what went on behind them? Mackenzie was leaving a sham marriage. It wouldn’t be the only one in this respectable suburb. She dismissed the thought. Other people’s relationships were their business. There was nothing to be gained by speculating. She was headed for a new life and freedom and, in case she forgot, hardly in a position to cast the first stone. Her step quickened when she saw the tail-end of the car at the corner. Without meaning to, she smiled. Some women might disapprove of what she was doing. Others would support her, call her brave. Bravery had nothing to do with it. She had no choice, and, for the first time in a long time, Mackenzie was happy. She didn’t pay attention to the white van at the kerb or register the sound of someone behind her. When she did, it was too late. A hand closed over her face and a sweet smell filled her nostrils. She felt herself being dragged backwards before she sank into unconsciousness. The rear doors of the van closed. The driver got in and drove away. No one saw. Like a leaf falling to the ground, it went unnoticed. Mackenzie Crawford’s new life would have to wait.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Women in Science Fiction – Pauline Ashwell

Ruth de Jauregui

British flag - Saffrodite / Morguefile.com
While I've focused mostly on American women in science fiction, the British writers have contributed their fair share of fantastic tales to the genre.

British author Pauline Whitby (1926-2015) wrote under Pauline Ashwell, Paul Ashwell and Paul Ash. Her stories were published in a variety of magazines ranging from the British Yankee Science Fiction to the US magazines Astounding Science Fiction, later known as Analog Science Fact & Fiction. She also published love stories under several other pen names.

Ashwell's first known book was a children's fantasy, Little Red Steamer (1941), illustrated by Esmé Eve. Sadly, it's out of print and used copies are rare.

Her first published short story was "Invasion from Venus," published in Yankee Science Fiction in July 1942, under Paul Ashwell.

It wasn't until her stories appeared in Astounding that her writing career began to attract attention. Published under Pauline Ashwell in January 1958, "Unwillingly to School" was the first of at least eight stories in the American science fiction magazine. It was also the first of her Lysistrata "Lizzie" Lee tales. Lizzie, a tough-talking YA heroine, has been compared to Robert Heinlein's "Competent Young Hero" protagonists by SFE The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Some of Ashwell's tales in Astounding were published under the pen name Paul Ash.

The first Lizzie story was followed by three more, "The Lost Kafoozalum" (1960), "Rats in the Moon" (1982) and " Fatal Statistics" (1988). The quartet of stories were sorted into order (the final story was actually the second published) edited and bound up as Unwillingly to Earth (1992).

Ashwell's second book Project FarCry (1995) was compiled from five Paul Ash stories originally published in Astounding/Analog. The hardcover description from the Tor edition says:

"Richard Jordan is a telepath, but his psychic gifts have brought him nothing but trouble. For years he's been hiding his mental powers, considering them a curse, until a fateful encounter with an unusual alien species awakens him to the full potential of his abilities.

"Humanity has spread throughout the stars, prompting a desperate need for a reliable form of faster-than-light communication to link the farflung worlds of tomorrow. The government has spent a fortune searching for the answer, but with no success. Then Project Farcry discovers Richard Jordan....

"From the hidden recesses of an underground city to a distant planet trapped in another dimension, Project Farcry spans decades of future history as Jordan and his fellow telepaths, both human and alien, transform the very nature of space exploration."

Ashwell was one of the first women nominated for a Hugo Award. "Unwillingly to School" was nominated for the 1958 Hugos for Best New Author and Best Novelette. Her 1960 story "The Lost Kafoozalum" was nominated for Best Short Story, but lost to Paul Anderson's "The Longest Voyage."

She was also nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for "The Wings of a Bat" (1966) and Best Novella for "Man Opening a Door" (1991), both under the name Paul Ash.

Though Ashwell dropped out of the science fiction scene between 1966 and 1988, except for "Rats in the Moon" (November 1982), she roared back into the sci-fi world with five stories in 1988 and continued publishing in Analog for another twenty years.

Ashwell's final novel The Man Who Stayed Behind, was published in the July 1993 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Unfortunately, it was never released as a book.

Amazon: Pauline Ashwell Author Page
Project Gutenburg: The Lost Kafoozalum

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Books in the Spotlight #10 #OurAuthorGang

In the spotlight today






2018 New Apple Summer eBookAwards for Excellence in Independent Publishing: Solo Medalist Winner
2018 TopShelf Award Finalist in the Category of Memoirs (Other)
Toni Home Perm, Flexible Flyer Snow Sled, Hula Hoop, Mercurochrome, Fishnet Stockings, Beatles, Mohair, Go-Go Boots, Aluminum Christmas Tree...and, the beat goes on.
While the mushroom cloud of the Cold War hovered over us, my sister and I carried on as kids do regardless of world events. Since the daily minutiae of life provides the magic for memories to MUSHROOM WILDLY--feed your head my nostalgic recollections of growing up during the '60s counterculture.
Serious, sentimental, or silly revelations set aside: you know better than to duck and cover under a school desk for protection against nuclear fallout.



Ferocious Werewolf Virus Hits L.A.
Werebeasts Rampage Through The Streets. 
The City's In Chaos.
Nobody's Safe.
Enter Lucy Lowell, The Werewolf Whisperer.
Some call her savior.
Some call her bitch.
Xochi Magaña just calls her, FRIEND.
Together they kick Werebutt.
They thought there’d be no stopping them.
They didn’t know the half of it.
Welcome to the werewolf apocalypse. Hope you’re locked and loaded.
2018 Golden Quill Reader's Choice
“THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER takes the lycanthrope legend to the OPPOSITE of obedience school. The result is a feral genre mix breed that will maul your expectations as if it were a McRib sandwich” - Goodreads Review
You’ll chew right through this urban fantasy like a hound through a milk bone. 



Heroic fantasy for children 8-14
Nikki and her impish cousin, Jack, find a mysterious black pumpkin in the forest on Halloween. A wise talking skeleton, Wishbone, tells them that the ghosts of the Trinity of Wishmothers are trapped inside. The children offer their help, so the skeleton takes them on a journey to the realm of Creepy Hollow to retrieve the three wands he hid long ago in Red Crow Forest, the Tower of Shadows, and the Cave of Spooks. On her 13th birthday, Nikki discovers she has magical powers. Nikki and Jack return to Creepy Hollow. Plenty of righteous motivations drive Jack and Nikki: they protect the weak and confront evil. They conquer their fears and gain courage, and in the final battle against Evila and her minions they grow into the warriors they were destined to become. 

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Guest Author: Toni Kief at #OurAuthorGang

Our guest author today is Toni Kief
By Erika M Szabo


Toni Kief, author of Old Baggage, is excited to introduce a new work of fiction – and another feisty older woman, Mildred Petrie.
Mildred Petrie expected a comfortable retirement.
Except her husband died and his secrets changed everything.
Desperate, she takes the only job available at the local gambling palace - undercover cop. Drug deals, armed robbery and a mole catapult her into excitement, danger and disguise.
Only Mildred can find the truth!
A breathless, page turner, in sensible shoes

Toni Kief, a child of the 60s, Midwestern by birth, Northwestern by choice, Toni challenges the boundaries for women of a certain age. After a long career as an insurance adjuster, she fell into writing through a challenge from a friend. She has released her first book, Old Baggage, and recently followed with Mildred in Disguise: With Diamonds. There are three more in the grinder. Toni never dated Mick Jagger, but marched for civil rights, shared bread with icons of politics and art. She is spending her retirement, gathering stories prime for embellishment. Writing has taught her inspiration without perspiration is just a good idea.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Sci-Fi Film Classics: The Thing

Mini Review
The Thing
 Joe Bonadonna

While this first film based on John W. Campbell's classic story, "Who Goes There?" is far from being a faithful adaptation of its literary source, Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby did a fine job with what they had to work with in 1951, and coming up with their own take on the creature. They just didn't have the technology to make a film like John Carpenter's great 1985 version, with a script by Bill Lancaster (Burt's son.) Still, for many of us, the original film version of The Thing holds a special place in our hearts. It's an intense, claustrophobic movie film that moves like a bullet train and is over far too soon. It's Science against the Military in this one, as they both square off against The Thing. I love the banter among the soldiers, with Hawks' trademark of guys busting each other's chops, talking fast and sometimes all at once. It's a solid film with many great scenes, and a character or two to lighten the mood. And as in many of Hawks' films, the women are tough, sharp-tongued and give as good as they get.


Who Goes There? The original, classic story.

The Thing - film trailer

The Thing -- fire scene


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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Bram Stoker: A Master of Horror


Bram Stoker: A Master of Horror

Christina Weigand 



I know I said I would talk about J.R.R. Tolkien, but having recently read Dracul by Dacre Stoker the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker and watching Dracula I am in a Bram Stoker state of mind. Don’t worry I will get to Tolkien one day.



So Bram Stoker: He was born November 8, 1847 to Abraham and Charlotte. He died April 20, 1912 at the age of 64. He was the third of seven children and was bedridden with an unknown disease until he started school at the age of seven when he made a complete recovery.
He became interested in theatre as a student and was even a theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, which was co-owned by Sheridan Le Fanu, an author of Gothic tales. Through his reviews he became acquainted with Henry Irving, owner of the Lyceum Theater in London.

In 1878 he married Florence Balcombe. After his marriage, they moved to London where he became the acting manager and then business manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theater. He became involved in London’s high society and met people like James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the painter, Sir ArthurConan Doyle and Hall Caine, another author who became one of his closest friends.

Because of his connection to the theatre he traveled extensively and began writing his novels, the first of which is The Snake’s Pass, followed by Dracula.


During this period he went on to write several other novels including The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Woman as well as writing for The Daily Telegraph.





His travels took him to places that inspired his novels. The English coastal town of Whitby, Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire and the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin contributed to the settings in Dracula.





Authors like Sheridan La Fanu, and Armin Vambery fed his horror appetite with dark stories.

After his death his widow published a short story collection, Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories.




The first film adaptation of Dracula was Nosferatu, released in 1922. Florence eventually sued the filmmakers because she had never been asked permission for the adaptation or was paid any royalties. Almost a decade later Universal Studios released the first authorized version.




Dacre Stoker, Bram’s great-grandnephew found Bram’s handwritten notes for characters and plot threads that had been removed from the original. Along with his own research, he and fellow writer, Ian Holt wrote and released Dracula: The Un-Dead as a sequel to Dracula.


In 2012 in collaboration with Prof. Elizabeth Miller wrote The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years.


In 2018 the novel Dracul, a prequel to Dracula was written and released. As is obvious, this novel revealing Dracula’s true origins as well as Bram Stoker’s.



And before I forget another book that piqued my interest in Bram Stoker: A Bloody Habit written by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson takes place in Bram Stoker’s world not long after Dracula was published. The protagonist is unwittingly thrust into Dracula’s world where he will contact Bram Stoker himself to determine how to rid the world of the vampire Dracula.



This is only a small glimpse into the life of Bram Stoker. I found him a fascinating man, from his interest in theatre, to his many acquaintances and his extensive travels. He left a legacy of horror, which his great-grandnephew continues today. May his stories continue to horrify readers for centuries to come.

To see more of my posts on dragons, characters and authors go here.

To see posts from other authors in the  Small Gang of Authors go 




Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Would you read this? Vol.3 #OurAuthorGang


Welcome back. See volume 1 and 2 of this series, at the links provided.

I’ve written a lot of short stories in the last few years. Some have been published in a collection while others are simply awaiting their time to shine. As I considered how to organize my collections, I began to wonder if the stories themselves are worth reading on their own. As a collection, these short stories have the benefit of being part of something greater, but I want to know “would you read these stories?” if they were presented on their own. That’s also when I begin to consider that I write blurbs for the books I release, but I don’t write blurbs for individual stories in a collection, a tagline usually does the job. Well, that’s about to change. In this series, I’ll be sharing unpublished blurbs to stories that may or may not yet be released. These blurbs are not meant to be used to pitch or sell these stories. This is just a practice on the concept of writing a blurb? I just want to know if the blurbs are any good. I may also offer some ideas of what cover designs for these stories may look like. I hope you enjoy this adventure.

For the third post in this series, I thought I’d start with the blurb for the first romance story (a YA romance at that) I ever wrote. It, like the last story, is included in my collection, Legend of the Boy, In the Window, and Other Short stories. However, the version of the story that appears in that collection, is quite different from the story I wrote back in high school.

Yes, this is the first story I published that had been originally written during a time in my life before I realized just how important writing is to me. Back in high school, I wrote short stories and poems to amuse myself or sell to classmates who wanted to impress someone. They’d give me an idea and some specs, and I’d provide them with a story or poem. I had a strict “no academia” policy. If I thought someone was trying to pass off something I wrote for an English assignment, I’d come clean. Only one person ever attempted it, but they didn’t go through with it.

Encounter is another story I presented to my old writing group, which at the time gave me many pointers on how to present it better. I ended up tweaking the story a bit to suit myself. It’s supposed to be a love at first sight story, but I never felt right about it. I guess you could say, I’m just not a believer in love at first sight. I reworked the story to show that my characters had at least encountered each other one other time before “falling in love.” At just around 1700 words, I’m very proud of the way this story has evolved.

Below is the proposed blurb for the story and two book cover mock-ups for you to vote on. These are rough drafts that will never be produced, but I’d still like to know your thoughts on making them better, if you have any.

What’s a girl to do when the object of her affection looks like a golden demi-god and she’s as plain as grain? 

For Talia, she’s decided to chase down destiny and stare into his dreamy, copper eyes just once more before she likely faints from exhilaration. 

Will Talia discover love or disappointment when she seeks out her next "chance" encounter?

Forms response chart. Question title: Which do you prefer?. Number of responses: 4 responses.
Results as of 12/6. You can still vote.

Don’t be shy. Your feedback is welcomed, but please be nice. 😌

Find out more about me, my work, and my inspiration at the following links:

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