“Not Another Series!”

I’ve seen some writers, and critics and readers, complaining about the number of authors writing series of books.  Now, I’m certainly guilty of doing just that, as you probably know.  But why do I write in series?  The simple answer is that some stories encourage  me to do so.  In fact, there’s a very real possibility that some of my shorter books could have been held back and put together as single works.  That said, there’s no guarantee that the prospect of a series wouldn’t have raised its head.  In truth, like readers everywhere, we writers get attached to some of our characters, and/or the worlds/universes we create for them!  And that phenomenon isn’t predictable.

Of course, some authors set out quite deliberately to write a series.  They have it all planned far ahead.  They have every reason to do so, too.  The emotional, creative and temporal investment in their invention is such that they would, in fact, be underselling themselves and their efforts.  They know this, from the very inception of the project.  I know that these circumstances exist, both from the biographies of such writers and from the fact that, many years ago, I actually planned such a series.  It was, most definitely, far more than simply a series of books!  I had to create detailed maps, not just of small areas but of a whole world.  I had to invent new languages, and even new scripts.  And then there were the numerous species, races and histories.  To contemplate going to such extremes of creativity for a single tome would, to put it bluntly, just utterly foolish!

But there are accidental series, too.  These can happen in two ways.  First, the author recognises a potential behind the original creation – and runs with it.  Second, readers can plead for, even demand, more!  Of course, the author has to be able to see what it is that has so strongly hooked those readers.  If they can’t, then no more can be successfully written.  I would, if it was in my character, envy those authors who enjoy such demands and pleas from their readers!  For myself, I’m limited to the first accidental event.  I can only hope that readers share my interest in a series which is taking an ever larger life of its own.

Let me take a personal example!  My novelette, Shade of Evil, was originally intended to be a single work, part of my experiment in genres I wouldn’t normally write in.  Even after I had finished writing it, there was no obvious course forward.  But then, during the final stages of preparation for publication, the final scenes of the book suddenly threw out grappling hooks!  They took a very firm hold.  The characters, and the organisation they worked for, piqued my interest.  It wasn’t long, therefore, before they appeared in a new story.  It was begun, and there was no turning back.  Why?  Well, apart from those sneaky grappling hooks, there was a question of a ‘tidy’ conclusion.  Sure, Harry’s story was definitely done, but I could feel the suspended story of that intrepid bunch, the Guardians, and especially G1!  So it continued, and still does.

I like standalone stories as much as anybody.  As an author, they’re a lot less troublesome to write!  That doesn’t, however, stop the need for some stories to go far beyond a single volume.

I probably haven’t persuaded those who bemoan the plethora of series that there are often good reasons for them, but I thought it worth trying!

~ Steve

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Regarding Reviews and Ratings

A Book Review

I was blown away!  Staggered!  Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo, who has delighted us all with the wisdom of her good friend Pie, posted a review of my book Evil Under The Circle (second in the G1: The Guardians series) that is truly humbling in its enthusiasm.  With her kind permission, I repeat the review below:

This is an absolutely amazing story. It has all the great elements, unknown monsters, mystery, special sources, wiccans, druids and dragons. Who could ask for anything more.? I love the way the Special Forces are really special with special powers. Even though they work for the government and have all resources at their disposal, it takes the ancient druid and his baby dragon to help them out. The evil is unknown and is about to break out of his prison of many years. I won’t ruin the story for anyone else, but the druid and the Wiccan are a force to be dealt with. This story starts out nicely and ramps up quite quickly. The characters are well developed and described. It gives you a head start on the series that looks truly fascinating from the beginning. The guardians are some forces that need to be checked out. This is a book that will appeal to people who like action stories, sci fi stories, or stories of the supernatural. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

(This review may be found on Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Amazon* or Kandy’s own website.)

I can only express my deepest gratitude to Kandy.

* The review on Amazon doesn’t appear to have gone live as yet.

Regarding Reviews and Ratings

I should reiterate, here, that I am always happy to receive reviews, whatever the opinions expressed, though I do only pay heed to those which are polite even when being critical.  Failing a review, a star rating is fine, though I do have reservations about such.  To me, it is far too easy to hide behind anonymity when awarding star ratings, whether they be high or low.  Getting friends to apply positive ratings has, sadly, become commonplace, and is very unfair to those of us who don’t believe in begging for such artificial support.  Equally, malicious types can happily apply very low ratings knowing that they don’t have to worry about explaining themselves, which would often reveal their maliciousness with bad critiquing and, frequently, the kind of language which most review sites are happy to remove.

In recent times, I have been approached by several individuals and ‘companies’ on the question of reviews.  These offer, in various terms, reviews in return for remuneration from myself.  I can state that they are wasting their time!  Even if I could afford such things, I wouldn’t ever pay for reviews.  It is, without any shadow of a doubt, unethical in the extreme.  How could anybody, the writer or readers, trust such reviews to be honest?  A company willing to pay reviewers out of funds raised in other ways is fine.  That’s no different to other walks of life, such as film critics and restaurant critics.  If those were being paid, directly or indirectly, by the subjects of their critiques, I can just imagine the reaction of the general news media!  Why, then, do these people think that authors should behave any differently to film makers or top end chefs?  Or are they, perhaps, exploiting a certain gullibility?  If you’re a reviewer, and you receive payment from a ‘company’, I beg of you: check on where they get that money from!  Remember, it’s your reputation on the line, too.  If you, as an author, are approached by such a ‘company’ or individual: think before responding!  If all authors refuse to hand over money to these people, I seriously believe that we’ll all be better off!  Perhaps I’m misguided, or just plain wrong, of course.  You can always give me some idea of what you think about paying for reviews in the poll below (no, I’m afraid there’s no prize! LOL).

~ Steve

Delving Into The Supernatural

I wouldn’t normally do this, but I’m battling problems so coming up with new posts is proving problematic.  The following is a post I wrote for koobug.com, which is another support site for authors and readers:

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When I was growing up, the Fantasy genre was beginning to become a very popular genre with readers, and therefore writers. However, there were still many volumes of the two genres that had vied for top spot in ‘popular fiction‘ – science fiction and horror. I consumed my fair share of both but leaned ever more towards science fiction. That was until I was bitten by the Fantasy bug. The horror tales were now appearing in thick volumes of short stories, but still reflecting something of the Hammer House of Horror take on the genre. It was a fading genre! What revived it then was a move towards gore, but the tension, the suspense, of the great tales was lost and that was almost fatal.

It was, in my mind, when horror took yet another turn – attempting to embrace Fantasy – that something new began to appear. There was a subtle kind of horror, often a blending of fantasy and old legends. Characters with strange powers appeared, to do battle with Evil in new ways, or modifications of very old ways. The forces of evil were something beyond Nature, and so were some of hose who battled them – they were ‘supernatural‘! At the same time, of course, the first hints of another new concept appeared – powers went beyond the physical. Mental powers began to come to the fore, and the ‘paranormal’ idea was born. Parapsychology, which investigated telepathy, telekinesis and other ‘mental talents’ was fighting for recognition in the real world of academia, and it leaked out into fiction, where it could be given a reality that it hadn’t (yet) achieved outside of fiction.

By bringing together elements of horror, fantasy, the supernatural, the paranormal and even science fiction, authors tapped a very deep well! Readers couldn’t get enough of it – and still can’t! Okay, so some of the terminology is being misused, and even abused (e.g. vampires are gothic horror or even supernatural, but they aren’t paranormal!), but the fact is that we have a new kind of fiction that actually resists being pinned down into a single, clearly defined, genre. It borders on just being ‘fiction’. The reader can describe it to friends and family however they like. They can feel comfortable with it because it doesn’t carry a ‘brand’ which might embarrass them. They can even call it romance in many cases!

To be honest, I never expected to join the trend. I didn’t do so deliberately. I simply wrote a story that came to me. That has, however, given rise to characters I like and can, in some senses, relate to. I regard the stories as ‘mixed genre‘ rather than as strictly one of those I’ve already mentioned. Let me tell you – that makes life interesting when submitting to websites that demand a clear statement of genre! In fact, that’s a practice I think those websites need to change! It could see a tidal wave of protest if we all begin to use the term ‘general fiction’ or even – shock horror! – ‘literary fiction’ to express our need to not be categorised so rigidly!

At the end of the day, we write one thing: “Entertainment Fiction”!

News Roundup

I am delighted to tell you that I have had an article, or guest post, put on the Indies Unlimited site.  You may find it of some interest.  If you do, it would be great if you could make that known over there.

I have more news.  I now own a new Samsung Galaxy Ace Android smartphone, thanks to my eldest son!  I quite like Android as a system but this ‘phone suffers from what would appear to be a common problem with such devices.  The ‘phone itself has very limited storage and relies on you using a memory card.  Sounds okay, until you find the glitch in the system.  Basically, there’s a bunch of apps preloaded, many of which you probably won’t need, but which you can’t delete, so when you find apps you would like to use, you soon run out of space for them!  What happens is that the apps install to the ‘phone and not the memory card and you can’t move them across.  So you actually find yourself with a device with maybe four or five apps you chose and a mass that you didn’t.  I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, because I’m not, but it seems a very clumsy system…

Because of problems I was having with my health, I spent several weeks unable to go out of the house.  Needless to say, I started going just a little nuts.  In fact, it takes very little time for me to develop mild agoraphobia, which simply makes going out even harder, when it does become possible.  Well, yesterday’s lack of a blog post was a direct consequence of the fact that I managed to not only leave the house, but I travelled around 25 miles to my daughter’s!  It isn’t without a price, of course, as road conditions are such that I’ll probably need most  of this coming week to recover, and I got a whole 30 minutes sleep last night.  Still, I did go, and I even spent the day sat outside.  That’s how I discovered that I am distressingly pale.  My hands were amazingly white, and I’m used to them being quite brown long before this time of year.  All said and done, though, it was great to get out and to see my daughter and her family!  I even  got to see my eldest son and his kids en passant.  That was a touch amusing as he brought the kids out to the car to say hello.  Naturally, I opened my door.  The moment the youngest, a little girl, couldn’t retreat fast enough when she saw me and spent most of the time hiding behind her Dad’s leg.

There will be something of a delay in new books being published.  My younger son is absolutely swamped with work, which means that, between that and his family, he can’t devote time to producing the cover artworks.  Naturally, while this is immensely frustrating, I do fully understand.  It means, however, that the second edition of Shade of Evil and my novel, both from the G1: The Guardians series, will not be appearing for a while yet.  It may be of interest to you to know that I have gotten a fair way into the next tale in the series, too, which is showing every sign of being a second novel.  As a side issue, I’ll be posting another segment of background to the series this week, so keep an eye out for it!

And Finally…

I’m looking for willing volunteers!  I’d dearly  like to hear from anybody who would like to review the tales in the G1: The Guardians series.  Naturally, I am willing to provide free review copies, in whatever ebook format is required.  I am not looking for any ego massaging!  I would truly like some honest reviews.  It would also be fantastic if said interviews were published on the following:

  1. Amazon,
  2. The reviewer’s blog,
  3. any other bookstore site (kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc.)

Obviously the review could be copied and pasted!  I would also like permission to include such reviews here, on this blog, and some might well be included in any advertising/marketing I do, and even potentially in the books themselves, or as part of the blurb!  I do not offer anything beyond a review copy of each ebook!  If you’re interested, please use the contact form below.  I will be extremely grateful for all reviews.

Please indicate sites you may be willing to submit your review(s) to in the “Remarks” field.

Thanks, Changes & Marketing Musings

First, and most important of all:

I would  like to express my sincere appreciation for the numerous messages of support for myself and my family in what is a very difficult time!  In all honesty, your response has overwhelmed me and all of us.  I didn’t post looking for such a reaction, but to inform you all as to why my posting might be rather unpredictable, but I do genuinely THANK YOU ALL!  I’m unable to bring any fresh news on the situation, unfortunately, and, as is the way with medical matters, it may be some considerable time before we learn more.  In many respects, the uncertainties, coupled with guesses, cause the greatest stress.

Changes to a book

My novella, The Sigil of Ahriman, is currently being rereleased, with some minor revisions to the content, including the correction of a few typographical errors that managed to slip through.  If you are unable to download it from Amazon, please try again in a day or two.  The novella is also being processed for release in other formats than the current Kindle and paperback versions, so that it’s available to all.  More information on that will follow in due course.

The Truth About Book Marketing

I was looking at all the avenues I, and most others, pursue in seeking to achieve effective marketing.  i thought long and hard at what I was finding, and a certain truth that seems to have become somewhat elusive in the quest to be read, and maybe even to make a little money.  Given the efforts I’ve made for months now, the conclusion was rather disheartening.

In case you’re wondering, I was provoked into these considerations by an apparently unrelated matter.  That, however, caused me to identify with one part of it, sending my (alleged) mind into new paths of pondering.

We’ve all said similar things.  Get your book a good, attractive cover – covers sell books.  Utilise every possible avenue you can find in the mind-boggling array of  paths offered by the internet.  Social networks.  Blogs.  Facebook Fan pages.  Create you the brand!  Thrust the fruits of your writer’s labours before everybody you can reach.  Surely, such things, coupled with special events like blog tours, competitions and general giveaways, must see you ascend to the heady heights of success!  You are just a matter of a few mouse clicks away from having a bestseller on your hands.  But wait!  If that was al true, we’d all be enjoying such notoriety.  Why aren’t we?

The answer’s simple.  You can devote vast amounts of time and effort to every online marketing principle you ever encounter.  It may even result in some very minor success.  Ultimately, however, the most effective tool for selling books lies not in such things.  The best advertising is good old word of mouth.  Of course, that means you have to write something that somebody not only enjoys reading, you need for them to tell others about it!  It has a strange effect that other means lack.  There’s this peculiar facet of word of mouth – trust.  You can have hundreds of superb reviews but potential readers are cannier than might be thought by some.  They realise that some lists of reviews, and excerpts of reviews, are only part of it.  They know that reviews may be deliberately left out because they’re unfavourable.  Excerpts which appear to show how much the reviewer enjoyed a book may actually prove no such thing – because they are the ‘gentle’ parts taken in isolation and out of context from generally less than 5 star reviews!  It’s the simple fact that we, as authors, are expected to cheat by glossing over the feedback we dislike.  So, while a great cover and enticing blurb might initiate some mild interest, and a welter of positive reviews may hint at worthiness, the potential reader will still give all of this far less credence than the excited assurances of a friend or family member they trust!  Just as the low opinion of the same can torpedo all that beautiful, carefully presented advertising!

Maybe I’m being too negative, given current circumstances, but I do actually think that this has some considerable, thought-provoking, validity.

~ Steve

The Story Reading Ape Swings By

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I’d like to start off by thanking Steve for this great opportunity to promote my blog about new (to me) authors and to divulge a few things about myself. Others have tried and failed to get me to do this, but he managed by threatening to contact my mate and have my banana supply cut off until I gave in – that worked! 🙂

Before I launch into my blog promotion, I’ll get the ME bit out of the way, so here are some personal secrets:

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In age I am mentally in my mid 30’s, but physically in human terms I am 63 years old, which, my younger friends, does NOT involve decrepitude, assistance in crossing roads, etc, no matter what you think! 🙂

My mate is a very patient and extremely intelligent lady, who not only has my heart, but also my respect and we tackle the world, with all its vagaries, challenges and variety, as a team.

I am a proud Father of one daughter and proud Brother of one much younger sister, both of whom never cease to amaze me regarding what they have achieved in life.

My work, career and travels have allowed me to meet and get to know a veritable multitude of people from every imaginable background, nationality and religious belief, plus, as a bonus, be able to call many of them friends.

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My enthusiasm for books goes way back into my early formative years when my Mother first read stories to me, then taught me how to read them for myself, so that when I started school and found that I was so far ahead of the other pupils I had no other recourse than to continue reading in order to keep learning, but I didn’t mind because by then I had learned to love reading.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am no genius and have no great talents, other than to have been able to survive life thus far. Without the ability of being able to read, I would have probably gone barking mad before I left Primary School (no sniggering, whispering, nodding of head and twirling of finger beside your ear from you at the back thank you!)

The authors of books are, in my opinion, one of the most valuable assets the human race could have – they are the equivalent of the Shamans and Storytellers whose lineage goes way back into the dawn of the species and are what have made the REAL difference between humans and other species and Hominids.

In fact, I fully agree with Sir Terry Pratchett when he surmises that instead of being called Homo Sapiens – wise man (with 1200cc brains), or even Homo Sapiens Sapiens – modern wise man (with 1350cc brains), the correct term should be Pan narrans – the storytelling ape (brain size irrelevant).

I on the other hand, could be termed a Pan audiendo – story listening ape (brain size irrelevant), an equally valuable asset to the species. 🙂

All types together have contributed to the existence of the sole surviving and dominant species of Hominid/Ape we know today.

That is basically why I have set up my blog to promote Authors (modern day Shamans / storytellers / Pan narrans) and enlighten or expand the choices of Readers (modern day story listeners / Pan audiendos).

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Since my blog about new (to me) authors and their books began on 4th April 2013, it reached its 1000 hits & 100 followers by 29th April, which surprised and encouraged me to continue and experiment with it.

By 29th May it reached 3500 hits and 200 followers which shocked me, so I fiddled around with it some more.

As I write this article now (3rd July – 3 month mark) it is reading 8,866 hits and has 335 followers, so I’m sitting firmly on my branch and holding on tight with astonishment, for it’s a long fall down to the ground!

My blog friends and followers have been very, very supportive and spread the word around all their friends, fans and blog followers and I give a BIG Thank You to them.

Why have they done this? Some of them have already been featured authors on the blog, so why bother hanging around it? Some of them are not even authors, but keep coming back time and again!

Well, I guess you’ll just have to call over, look through the articles and various sections, including wandering through the various Bookcases, read the comments and see the banter that goes on and find out for yourself if you’d like to join in the fun 🙂

You are all cordially invited to try it for yourself (it’s FREE) by clicking on the link below:

http://www.thestoryreadingapeblog.com

Many, many thanks to Chris, the Story Reading Ape!  I’m happy announce that his banana eating rights have now been fully restored.  Trust me, folks!  You really will gain a great deal by visiting his Blog Suite, which is the besst description I can give the string of blogs that he has assembled to help readers find great books, and to help aauthors find new readers.  One caution: take supplies!  You could be there quote a while!!