Status updates, my take on a recent controversy, and a pledge

 Publishing, Writing  Comments Off on Status updates, my take on a recent controversy, and a pledge
Sep 222013

Status updates – I’ve been working on a few “smaller” projects recently.  The first of these, I just can’t talk about yet.  I thought I would be announcing this one today, but there has been a road bump, and the official announcement will have to wait.  As for the second smaller project… well, I can’t really go into much detail on this one, either.  However, you’ll notice a new widget to the side for a short story.  I’ve been invited to write for an upcoming anthology (yay!).  Better yet, all of the authors have agreed to donate the proceeds to charity.  Yes, I know anthologies don’t sell well, but once I was contacted about the theme of the anthology, I got an idea that absolutely demanded to be written.  So it will.  The story is currently going by a working title of “IMPs“, and the first thousand words jumped out of me last night.  It has to be finished by December, so there’s plenty of time for completion and polish.

Chucklers is proceeding slowly, but steadily.  The process on it has changed a bit, and it will likely take longer than Ed and I anticipated, but it will still happen.  In the meantime, Y12 has been clamoring for release, and I’m beginning to contemplate the idea of working on multiple projects at the same time.  I’ve tried to avoid working this way in the past, but the voices are getting louder.  LOL.

Controversy –  Some of you may know about this, but I imagine many of you will not.  It’s something that really only affects authors and reviewers, so it may not interest many of you.  However, there has been a recent article making the rounds that was supposedly written by someone who used to work for a company that sold reviews to authors in order to help their books climb the rankings and increase sales.  I’ve explained my take ad nauseam about the relationship between rankings, title visibility, and sales (see “In answer to Mike’s question…” from February of 2012, and “Answering Mike again” from March of that same year), so I won’t bore you with it here again.  The article in question (and I have intentionally not linked to it here – I won’t give it any more exposure than it has already gotten) accuses several well-known authors of buying reviews to elevate sales.  This comes in the midst of the Goodreads controversy in which reviewers have accused authors of stalking them in retaliation for bad reviews, and authors have in turn accused reviewers of banding together to trash their books for no good reason, lowering their rankings (and so their sales) in a form of cyber-bullying.

There has been rampant speculation regarding the veracity of the claims on either side of that argument.  After all, there have been authors in the last years who have admitted publicly that they did, indeed, purchase blocks of reviews.  Others have admitted to trashing other authors with sock-puppet reviews in an effort to damage their competition.  For some, their admissions came with an apology.  For others, they simply looked at the practice as nothing more than a cold-hearted business tactic that they used to make themselves more successful in the industry.

There has been speculation that the recent “outing” article was written as an extension of some of the Goodreads cyber-bullying.  I don’t know, I don’t claim to know, and I don’t really care.  It is what it is.  I will say this – I have seen examples of both sides of the Goodreads controversy.  Neither side is completely innocent.  There are some authors who behave badly upon receipt of a negative review.  There are also reviewers who have attacked authors for doing nothing more than daring to ask a them a question about what it is they didn’t like about their book.

And I’ve seen what some of these bullies can do when they band together.  I read a post from a budding author said she had actually decided not to publish her first book, because her reputation was trashed before the book ever came out – all because she dared ask a reviewer how he could give her book a one-star review before the book had ever been released.  His response was to gather a band of other reviewers who decided to “put her in her place” by posting several more one-star reviews – again, all on a book that had yet to be released.

I myself, recently received a one-star review for my recent release that was an obvious hatchet job.  Streets of Payne is a recent release, has received only three reviews on Goodreads (all five-stars), and seven reviews on Amazon (five were five-stars, one was a four-star, and one was the one-star).  The one star review simply said:

Don’t buy. There is a reason why Amazon “give” it for free. Boring……Amazon don’t offer good books. The r fooling us.

This same reviewer posted the exact same review for nine other books.  The exact same, word for word, review – remedial grammar and all.  Then he posted a tenth review, a five-star for another book:

loved it very much. its a great book. very special make you see the world in a different way. enjoy.

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about this reviewer.  I do note that six of the nine one-star reviews have since been removed from Amazon.

So why am I bringing this up?  What does an article that accuses a bunch of authors of buying reviews have to do with me grumbling about a bad review that I received.  After all, shit happens, right?  Move on.  Nothing to see here.  Right?  Right?

Well here’s the thing – when I read this article that purports to out a bunch of well-known authors for buying “at least 500 reviews”, there were a couple of names on the list that just absolutely pegged my bullshit meter.  Today, one of them spoke out.

Any of you who know me, know that there are a handful of authors that I reference repeatedly as gurus in the field of indie publishing.  You’ve seen me mention Nathan Lowell, Michael J. Sullivan, Imogen Rose, and others.  One you probably haven’t seen me list often is Hugh Howey.  Hugh is best known for his Wool, Silo, and Dust novels.  The reason you haven’t seen him mentioned much on my blog is that I only became acquainted with Hugh’s works in the last few months, and as you have no doubt noted, I haven’t been posting as much on this blog as I should.

But here’s the thing – I had the great fortune to meet Hugh at LoneStarCon a few weeks ago.  He won’t remember me, since he was constantly surrounded by other fans, but his take on the industry, on his successes, and his views toward his readers were almost exactly the same as mine.  He was a man who struck me as someone content to take the slow road, as long as it was the road of integrity.  He was an author who understands that the new model for the writing industry not only allows us as story tellers to connect directly with our audience, but it actually requires that we do so.  He understands that this is a business that allows some of us success, while others of us will continue to struggle, that it is a mixture of skill, persistence, and luck that determines who rides the wave, and who crashes beneath it.  And he absolutely understands that whatever your level of success, it can all change tomorrow.  In the end, all you can count on is the fact that you will eventually be left standing alone with your karmic debt.

I’ve listened to this man’s words on panels, and read interviews on him, and I follow him on FaceBook.  He is one of those few people in the industry that I truly look up to.  I’m a fan, yes.  But more than that, I respect the man.  Not just his writing, but his words and actions.

Today Hugh Howey responded to the accusation that he purchased reviews.  He responded with a well written, and thought out post on his blog.  One of the things that struck me in his blog post is his statement that he had tried for so long to remain silent as some people attacked him with trash reviews, or comments, or other open articles.  He has always viewed it as part of the price of fame.  And as he noted, he is lucky enough to have a large and loyal following that more than compensates for the small amount of negativity aimed at him.  Not many of us are so lucky.

But one of Hugh’s friends has also been accused of buying reviews, and he decided he’d been passive long enough.  Not because he was accused, but because a friend was.  Again, this is a man of integrity.

At the end of his blog post, Hugh makes a pledge.  He calls it his “Declaration of Integrity”.  Many of his readers have begun calling it the “Jolie Pledge”, named after a cherished pet that Hugh often refers to in his postings.  Hugh’s pledge says:

I, Hugh Howey, have never paid for a book review in my life. I swear this on my life and on the life of my beloved dog and faithful companion of ten years, Jolie. May she rest in peace. And may the accusers and accused alike find peace in their hearts as well.

I think this is a wonderful idea.  I like to think that I am also a man of integrity (or at least I try to be)  ;) .  I try to keep from commenting on or criticizing those whose views I don’t agree with, unless they enter into my “personal space”.  Yes, I keep the troll hammer handy, and will not tolerate trolls here on the blog.  But I encourage honest and open questions, comments, and debate.  And I will never belittle another person for their personal beliefs.

So I will also make my declaration here.  I will take the same stand that Hugh has taken.

I, Jeff Brackett, have never paid for, and will never pay for a book review. I give my solemn word on this.

And while Hugh wishes peace for the accusers and accused alike, I will simply say that I wish both the accusers and accused find the justice they deserve.

What can I say?  Hugh is a better person than I am.  ;)

That’s it for tonight.  Be safe, everyone.  :bye:

Trying the newer, shorter post

 Writing  Comments Off on Trying the newer, shorter post
Sep 162013

As promised, I’m going to try taking a different tack here (tack? tact? hmmmm…. ?:-) ).  Whatever.  I’m going to try the short and sweet approach.  Maybe that will get me back into the habit of blogging, and keep me from worrying so much about whether or not what I write is worth anyone’s time.  :)

So I mentioned that I had a special event in the works.  Turns out that I got my answer sooner than anticipated, and the answer was yes!  Now, since you don’t know what the question was, you probably aren’t too excited at the moment, right?  Well, on October 22, yours truly will be hosting an interview with new author Stephen Kozeniewski about his upcoming release “Braineater Jones“.  I’ll post more details as the date draws nearer.

In other  news….   I’ve found my mind drifting a lot lately, and that’s a sure indication that I’ve got more plotlines and characters dancing around in my head.  I had a breakthrough in a scene for Chucklers that was giving me trouble, and am in the midst of a re-write on it.  In addition to that project, the voices in my head are telling me that they want me to get back to the world of Rejas.  There are actually two stories set there that I’m holding at bay.  There is a novella that I can’t seem to ignore.  It’s the story of Larry Troutman, what happened to him shortly before D-day, and after he met Leeland and company.  How did he get that army?  Where did he get that equipment?  I’ve known the answers since the beginning, but there are evidently enough people bothered by those questions that I find myself more and more inclined to turn the story loose.  And of course, there’s also the sequel to Half Past Midnight that is clamoring to be written.  So I should be working on Y12 soon.  I don’t know if I can wait until I finish my part of Chucklers before I get started on one or both of these other projects.  It’s possible that I may end up working on a few different projects at once.  I’ve always hesitated to do that.  I’ve been afraid one story will bleed into the other, but I’m beginning to wonder if I should give it a try…

And I’m breathing a bit better about my release of Streets of Payne.  The reviews seem to be favorable, with the exception of a single (very suspicious) review from someone who posted the same review (word for word) on nine different books.  The real pisser of it is that five of those sucker-punch reviews have now been removed, but I can’t seem to get Amazon to respond on mine (sigh).  Other than that single review though, SoP seems to be pretty well received.  (Whew!)

ITMT, word count on Chucklers is at 39400, and it’s time to stick a fork in me.

That’s it for tonight.  Stay safe, everyone.  :bye:

Getting away from posting all my book reviews

 Miscellaneous  Comments Off on Getting away from posting all my book reviews
Apr 282011

I absolutely love my Kindle.  It has made it so much easier to keep up with my reading.  And, as you may have noticed, that in turn leads me to write a lot of book reviews.  However, I don’t think this is really the right place to keep posting said reviews.  In looking at my blog here, it looks to me as if it’s quickly becoming a book review site, and that was not the intention of my starting this thing.  So, you will now find a couple of widgets in the sidebar here – one that lists the books I am currently actively reading, and another that lists the books I’ve most recently read.  Both of those widgets tie back to my Goodreads review site, where you can read my actual reviews (if you’re so inclined).  All you have to do is click on one of the book covers in the sidebar and it will take you to the review I’ve written.

Book review – “Switched” by Amanda Hocking

 Miscellaneous  Comments Off on Book review – “Switched” by Amanda Hocking
Apr 262011

I picked this one up because of all the hype about Amanda Hocking, and how she’s blazing the trail for self-publishing. I figured it was worth seeing what all the hoopla was about. At first, I was afraid I was going to be disappointed. “Switched” starts out a bit slow. It is a YA, teen angst-y story about a girl who, on top of having to deal with her very confused feelings about herself and the mysterious “bad boy” kid at school, discovers that her psychotic mother who tried to kill her when she was six, wasn’t all that psychotic at all (well, except for the minor issue of trying to kill her). Dear old Mom had claimed for years that Wendy wasn’t really her daughter, and that her “real” baby had been a boy. Well, it turns out Mom was right.

Wendy finds out that she is a Trylle – not even human, and things go downhill from there.

As I said before, the story starts pretty slow. In fact, it isn’t until almost halfway through the book that the character begins to grow into more than a cardboard cutout of a stereotypical teenage girl, wrapped up in her feelings to the exclusion of common sense. Additionally, there are some pretty blatant typos that pulled me out of the story and had me shaking my head. However, once the story does pick up, it does so quite well, and by the time I reached the end, I was immediately ready to pick up the next in the series (and have already done so, in fact).

While I give this one three stars, I view this book as an introduction to the world that Hocking has created, and have every hope that the next book will launch itself directly into the meat of the story that she so obviously has it in her to tell. I fully anticipate that the next book will keep me engaged as the last third of the first one did, and find myself quite eager to tear into “Torn”, the next book in the series.

Book Review – “Closet Treats” by Paul Elard Cooley

 Miscellaneous  Comments Off on Book Review – “Closet Treats” by Paul Elard Cooley
Apr 252011

I read this as part of the “Fiends” collection.  While horror isn’t something I read that often, I had heard Cooley’s take on the genre during an interview, and it sounded more like my own.  You see, I prefer psychological horror to today’s gore-based “gross out” horror, and Cooley espoused the same view.  After reading “Closet Treats” I am not disappointed.

“Closet Treats” explores the happenings around Trey Leger and his family.  Trey suffers from a mental psychosis that sometimes causes him to hallucinate things – horrible things.  As a result, he is never quite sure if the things he sees happening around him are real, or simply the result of his mind twisting reality.

Then things get worse when neighborhood children begin disappearing…

Cooley weaves his way through the various views of reality, and causes the reader to question what is actually going on right up to the climax of the story.  More importantly, he deftly avoids the easy clichés that many authors would have used, instead taking the difficult road through the minefield of viewing the world through the eyes of a protagonist who truly doesn’t know whether or not to trust what he sees.

I highly recommend this one for anyone who wants to read good psychological horror.