In this book the author writes with wit and humor about the many times he and his dog get together at the end of the day to have a smoke and a brew and talk about stuff, just like Alan Shore and Denny Crane did at the end of each episode of the sitcom Boston Legal.
And what does a man talk about with his dog over a cigar and a beer? Anything ranging from chasing squirrels, barking, chewing on things, and eating, to having a hard day at the office, the responsibilities any dog owner has to live up to, and even some philosophy! Sometimes they give each other a hard time, sometimes they reminisce about the good old days, and sometimes they just pause to enjoy how the afternoon lazily drifts into night.
Reading this book I felt I was entering the world of two best friends and being privy to their conversations. Dog is quite smart and sophisticated, for a dachshund that is, but still prone to let his dog urges take over. Because of this he often finds himself defending his bending and sometimes breaking of the rules that his master has laid out for him. The author however, seems to understand this and is more amused than upset with Dog getting out of line.
My favorite chapters were “First Dog,” which was spooky and “The Last Conversation with my Dog (for this book!),” which was really sweet. Overall I thought the author did a pretty good job in presenting his canine companion’s point of view regarding the many issues discussed, but just in case he included a rebuttal by Dog to set the record straight!
Stephen Ullmon has written a book that will be enjoyed both by dog lovers and lay people alike. Not only is it funny, but it also displays a keen understanding of canine psychology as well as respect for our four legged friends and their world.Read the interview with Steve's Dog.
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The lush forests surrounding the Nantahala River in North Carolina serve as the backdrop for this sweet and multifaceted tale. This book is many things. It is a ghost story, a romance, a tale of friendship, an examination of the ways in which we deal with adversity, a chronicle of how the world you know slowly disappears with the passage of time, and a celebration of the things that never change (and should never change).
I loved the complexity of the character of Edward Caulfield. Sitting on the porch of his home, Edward is often swept away by whirlwinds of memories that take him back to happier times. He has many things to think about, and one of them is why he is the only one who cannot see the Lady of Nantahala; the specter of a woman waltzing alone over the dark waters of the river under the moonlight. Edward in his old age is assisted by his trusty house help Betty, who is quick with her wit and doesn’t think twice about speaking her mind. They have a relationship where both support each other, but Edward’s and Betty’s world is changed when Lena, a young woman with a troubled life, walks into their midst.
There are other things I liked about the book such as the way the author presents the wisdom of both a people and a generation through the comments and thoughts of Edward, and the superb descriptions of the landscape both natural and man-made. The only thing I didn’t like was the villain who was a bit too perfect for my taste. But this detail did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. The heart and soul of the narrative is the interaction between Edward and Lena and how it affects each other, because ultimately Moonlight on the Nantahala is a story about finding the perfect rose, but you are going to have to read the book to figure that one out! ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to your e-mail address. Please click here.
On the FAQ to its costumer review guidelines Amazon clarifies what makes for a great costumer review. They claim that among the most loved reviews are those that can be "just plain funny."If you click under the "funny" link above it will take you to a review of a product that Amazon deems to fall in the "just plain funny" category. It's a review of a shirt sold on Amazon that has an image of 3 wolves and the moon. The review claims that the shirt will allow you to get women and fly, and it has a video to prove it.
So here you have Amazon endorsing a fake review. You may argue that I should lighten up a little because this review is an obvious spoof that doesn't hurt anyone. But consider another product: Wolf Urine. Virtually all the reviews about this product are fake "just plain funny" reviews, except the one I am reproducing here:
1.0 out of 5 stars Why are all the reviews jokes?, September 14, 2012 By pumpkin I have read more than half of the reviews of wolf urine and they're all jokes. I would like to know if anyone has used this product to repel coyotes. A coyote nabbed my neighbor's pet cat from her front yard two weeks ago, and came back for the other cat four days later. Right now all the neighborhood cats have to stay inside, and talk about pissed, they are. Has anyone used wolf urine to repel coyotes? Did it work? So here you have a case of a potential customer interested in whether the product will work in a certain way and trying to no avail to find the answer among all the spoof reviews; the very same reviews that Amazon condones and encourages. Still, I do understand the comedic value of the fake reviews. In fact they may actually help some products; but here is my beef. The thriller author Joe Konrath wrote a series of fake reviews in September to make his point that writing fake reviews is not necessarily bad. Among them was a review for a training aid to prevent dogs from eating their own poop. 5.0 out of 5 stars Works great!, September 24, 2012 By J. A. KONRATH "Thriller Author" (Chicago, IL USA) This review is from: Solid Gold S.E.P. (Stop Eating Poop) 3.5oz (Misc.) It helped cure a gross and disgusting habit that almost ended in divorce. But thanks to S.E.P. I'm now able to resist the temptation, and my wife is kissing me again. In November Amazon decided to enforce their misguided policy of authors not being able to review other authors with whom they have a personal relationship (whatever that means). It was in this way that more than fifty of Joe Konrath's reviews of fellow authors were removed from Amazon.
These were not fake reviews. These were real, honest, and useful reviews of books by authors whose work he likes, and now they are gone forever. But here is the kicker: all of Konrath's fake reviews, including the one about the stop eating poop product, are still up! So by Amazon standards leaving an honest, useful, review of a book by a fellow author whose work we respect is not acceptable, but leaving a fake review of a training aid to make dogs stop eating poop is. Still think I need to lighten up a little? OK, I will lighten up a little. How about this: Amazon Wants Authors to be Celibate and Hates Their Mothers! ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to your e-mail address. Please click here.
Amazon has just unveiled some very bad news for us authors: they clarified their product review policy. With regards to whether authors can review other authors they have this to say: Authors and artists can add a unique perspective and we very much welcome their customer reviews. However, we don't allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion. If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or [are] perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we will likely remove your review. Can you believe this? No, I don't mean the fact they left out the word "are" from a public document. The above means that I will not be able to keep on running the "sex for reviews" scheme that has worked so well for me. Amazon wants me to be celibate! In fact I may not even be able to use romantic innuendo in order to charm fellow authors into leaving reviews for my book because that may classify as a "personal relationship." What am I going to do now? And Amazon also gives several specific cases of customer reviews they don't allow. For example: A customer posts a review in exchange for $5. How am I going to earn money now? With the 400 reviews I get paid to write per month I am barely breaking even. And this is very hard work even though I barely read the books! A seller posts negative reviews on his competitor's product. Well, somebody's got to do it. I mean, all those illiterate readers who don't know better love the son of a bitch's book more than mine! A product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased shopper. And pray tell how many reviews can I leave on my book's Amazon page using my own name? Well, just one; duh! Of course I need to pose as someone other than me. And I AM unbiased: my books just happen to be great. An artist posts a positive review on a peer's album in exchange for receiving a positive review from them. Now I cannot trade reviews with my fellow authors! But maybe there is a silver lining. I can still send them e-mails where I write: GIVE MY BOOK A FIVE STAR REVIEW OR I WILL COME OVER AND KILL YOU! I've done it a couple of times, and it has worked. Maybe I will do this more often. But the most egregious one of them all is: A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales. This is unconscionable! What does Amazon have against my mother? She writes the best five star reviews east of the Mississippi. And even though she is 80 and in ill health, she manages to keep track of all her different accounts. My mother is by any measure an admirable woman, and I deeply resent Amazon waging this senseless Jihad against adorable reviewers like her. I am sure that if you are an author you sympathize with me, as you probably do pretty much what I do to get reviews. But what will we do now? Amazon wants us to be celibate and hates our mothers. How is my next book going to get the 60 reviews I got for my first book The Sun Zebra? Should I just write a book, put it out there, and then wait twiddling my thumbs for the reviews to come? Yeah, right! Woe is me, despair, despair…what are we going to do?This post was my attempt to "lighten up a little." ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to your e-mail address. Please click here.
In the introduction to this book, the author Adrienne Joyce wonders if “like,” “love,” and “hate” are the basis of every other emotion there is, and then she sets out to examine them in a quartet of poems.
She first does this by viewing these emotions as a whole in the eponymous poem “Like, Love, Hate.” This is the sort of poem that challenges the word-association ability of poets. The author wrote down a list of several things that she likes, loves, and hates, and then proceeded to string them together. This is how she comes up with phrases like “hope sundae,” “the ocean oozing from the sides of a karma sandwich,” or “sweeping up the dust, lies, and Tuesdays.” I love it when poets do this but still succeed in conveying a clear meaning with the resulting poems, which is something Adrienne Joyce manages to do very well.
After giving us the bird’s eye view, the author then proceeds to dissect each of these emotions and consider them in isolation. A girl shopping at a store with her mother (Victoria’s Dress) represents “Like,” a lover reflecting on the many faceted enigma of love (The Buddha of Questions) represents Love, and my favorite, “The Beginning and the End,” represents “Hate” and for a very good reason. I finished reading this last poem and it must have been almost a minute before I realized I had stopped breathing.
The book is very well made and formatted. All the links work and the cover (which is related to one of the poems) is simple but effective. My only qualm is that it was too short: I wanted more!
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Well, it finally happened. Remember all the furor that was stirred when some authors created sock puppet accounts to write glowing reviews of their own work, and another author paid for fake reviews? The issue hit the Indie blogosphere like a ton of bricks. Everyone was outraged! How could this have happened? Petitions were circulated. Pundits pontificated. Nasty comments were left on the Amazon pages of the books of the offending authors. And then the worst of all things happened: the brouhaha reached the upper echelons of Amazon’s management. Now reviews are disappearing right and left seemingly without reason. Many authors are reporting that several of the reviews that they have received from or have given to fellow authors are gone. And when they write to Amazon requesting an explanation all they get is an e-mail with this quote: We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. In other words, as a published author you cannot review the book of a fellow author because your book is competing with his/her book. If Amazon had asked me or any other Indie author, we would have told them that our fellow authors are NOT our competitors. We are all in this self-publishing adventure together and we support each other. But company policies designed to quell public uproars are not known for the intelligence behind them. They are quick fixes put in place so people in the company can claim they did something and then move on to deal with more important matters. There is a reality: books need good reviews and they need them fast. The problem is that reviews by what I call people familiar with your work (first tier reviewers), but which other people call “friends,” more often than not include fellow authors. These people are the most readily available and fastest source of good reviews a beginning author can have. Dedicated (second tier) reviewers may take many months to review your book, and third tier reviewers (unsolicited reviewers) can be few and far between and a total wild card. Thus Amazon’s policy of review removal strikes by and large at the most important source of reviews for a beginning author: other authors. So, should authors stop reviewing the books of other authors? I think not. This policy is not only unfair, but it also ignores the true bonds that bring us Indies together. I have already explained my position on the so-called reviews by “friends.” I don’t think they are unethical as some people claim. A review of a friend’s work can be as honest as reviewing the book of a stranger. But what can we do about it? By all accounts Amazon is policing reviews using a bot (a program), which makes sense because there are tens of millions of reviews. So the easiest thing to do is to keep your reviewing account and your author account at Author Central separate. Use your reviewing account to purchase books and review, and your publishing account to publish. Also when you leave reviews do not show familiarity. Refer to the author either as “the author” or by their first and last names (i.e. John/Jane Doe), and if you did not buy the book include a statement to the effect that you received the book in exchange for an honest review. Finally, when the next moral or ethical outrage comes around, think twice before becoming involved in the screaming. Remember: Amazon may listen. What do you think? ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to your e-mail address. Please click here.
In this book you will meet Space Orville, a youth commandeered by the Universal Protection Service to rescue Miles O’Teeth, inventor of the irreplaceable Fog Napkin, who has been kidnaped by the Candy-Apple Weezle Bums. Space Orville sets out on a quest that will take him from the safety of a torus-like structure orbiting Earth all the way to the most enigmatic of the layers of the universe: Narvosis. In true superhero style he has a sidekick called Neutrofuzz who gimbles, thimmers, tingulates, felingers, and many other verbs that you never knew existed. Along the way Space Orville and Neutrofuzz team up with a motley crew of characters that will aid them in their quest and also solicit their help to fight a most dangerous criminal bent on dominating the galaxy: Bizmo the Inconceivable! Brought to you by the intriguing mind of the erudite wordsmith Jeff Whelan, this book is a wild romp, part fantasy and part science fiction. The science fiction is very well thought out with convincing explanations being presented for many of the gadgets used and the phenomena encountered. The characters are also portrayed very well, especially Space Orville who learns a thing or two about himself and grows up with the experience. But what I found most amazing is the sheer descriptive ability of the author. Jeff Whelan literally paints with words bringing to life worlds full of multicolored shape shifting landscapes that engage the senses. Here is a sampler: “Bubbling waves of purple and green gave way to a solid sheet of icy blue laced with rippling ribbons of pink. This landscape blended into a fresh, white froth that eventually smoothed out into rolling orange hills patched with splashes of red.” Although the author has remarked that he was inspired by the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the outlandish science fiction of Dr. Who, and the bizarre humor of Monty Python, in Space Orville Whelan has found his own voice by creating a unique blend of reality and lunacy. If you want adventure spiced with zaniness and astounding writing that engages the senses, Space Orville is the book for you! ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to your e-mail address. Please click here.
You can access part-1 of this post here.Many writers have gone through the confusing experience of getting good and bad reviews. How can one person hate a book that another person loves? And the sad thing is that there is NOTHING you can do about it in terms of being a better writer that will prevent you from getting a bad review. You may argue that this is part of the process of book publishing. Even a good book will get a few bad reviews along with many good ones. I agree, but what happens if the first review your book ever gets is a bad one? I believe there is an asymmetry to book reviews and reader behavior. A single 5 star review on a book is Ho Hum, every other book has one. But a single one or two star review on a book is a red flag that may discourage readers from even considering looking at your book. How is a beginning writer to face this Russian roulette?The answer is to do what is called a soft-launch. Publish your book but promote it only to the target audience made up of people who are familiar with your work (what some people would call “friends”). These people will give your book good reviews relatively fast. Once you’ve build up a cushion of good reviews then reach out to strangers.My book, The Sun Zebra, so far (9-8-12) has 49 reviews accumulated over roughly 10 months and an average ranking of 4.71 stars out of 5. This is what I did.I published my book on November 11 of 2011 and went on to request reviews mostly from people familiar with my work (what I call first tier reviewers). During the next 4 months or so my book gathered 24 reviews achieving an average ranking of 4.88 stars out of 5.During this time I also received valuable input about problems with my book that I fixed going through a few editions (five in total). Finally, having built a solid cushion of good reviews and having improved my book (which also involved a new cover), I took my second step and contacted dedicated book reviewers and did a free promotion. In other words, I put my book out to be reviewed mostly by total strangers. During the next 6 months my book gathered 25 reviews. These reviews alone would have given my book an average ranking of 4.56 stars out of 5.Notice that the difference in my book’s rank between the first 24 reviews when I was reviewed mostly by people familiar with my work (4.88) and the next 25 reviews when I was reviewed mostly by strangers (4.56) is not that large: both friends and strangers liked my book.Regardless of my promotional strategy, you can rest assured that when I put a book out I try to make it as good as possible. So when I ask my most perfectly defined and easily accessible target audience (people who are familiar with my work) to review my book first, I am not being dishonest. Rather, I am dealing with the realities of publishing. Books need good reviews and they need them fast to be able to be promoted effectively.Finally, to answer the question posed in the title of this and the earlier post, reviews by friends are not necessarily dishonest. But reviews by friends, like anything else, can be abused, and individuals or groups of individuals without scruples will do it. In the end it is up to the reader to decide whether a particular author is honest and whether his/her book is worth their time and money. ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to you e-mail address. Please click here.
Recently there have been several scandals involving writers who have been discovered doing dishonest things like using fake accounts to post glowing reviews of their books and bad reviews of their competitor’s books. One of the cases involves self-publishing icon John Locke who admitted buying 300 reviews for his books from a pay-for-review company. In some ways what Mr. Locke did is not unlike what most writers (including myself) do when they request reviews from friends. In my case these “friends” are writers that I have met on the internet (I don’t know them personally). I prefer to think of them as “people who are familiar with my work,” but for the sake of the argument we will refer to them here as “friends.” When a writer sends a review request to a friend the writer knows that the review he/she will get is likely to be positive (5 or 4 stars, or at the very least neutral, 3 stars). Is this an honest practice? Some people claim it isn’t. More importantly, how is this different from Locke’s review buying? I am sure Mr. Locke knew he was going to get mostly positive reviews when he ordered them, much in the same way that writers who send review requests to friends know they will get mostly positive reviews. Are writers like me who do this any different from Mr. Locke? As it turns out there is one big difference. Many of the people writing the reviews for the pay-for-review company did not even read the books and when they did, they just skimmed over them. These reviewers were trying to write as many reviews as fast as possible to earn money, and if they could not write a 5 star review they would get paid half of the regular wage per book. In my opinion these were not honest reviews. However, when my friends reviewed my book, The Sun Zebra, I am sure (and you can tell from the reviews) they read it. Furthermore many of my friends are good writers whose work I respect. They would not want their name associated with a 5 star review on a lousy book. Additionally, when my friends spotted a problem with my book they told me about it. Some even sent me a list of corrections with the understanding that their reviews were conditional on me implementing those changes. When my friends write that my book made them laugh and cry I am certain they are being honest. When my friends give me a 5-4 star review I feel that I deserved it. Some people however would still argue that if the writer influences in any way, except through his/her book, the review process, then the review is slanted and dishonest. They would say the correct way to go about it is to put your book “out there” and let readers read it and review it impartially. I think this advice is misguided, and if you are a beginning writer, this is one of the worst things you can do. As writers we are always told to promote to our target audience. Target audiences have one characteristic: they are people who are more likely to be interested in buying and reading your book, and they are also more likely to give you good reviews. Well, by this token, how are friends different from a target audience? If anything, friends are the best target audience: perfectly defined, easily accessible, willing to read your work, happy to review it, and even willing to help you make it better! When you promote your work to total strangers you risk going outside your target audience and getting your book plastered with a nasty review that will stick out like a sore thumb and may even damage your promotional opportunities. So I have no qualms in requesting reviews from friends. In fact I think that for the beginning author these reviews are an important part of a sound promotional strategy. I talk more about this in my next post discussing the specific case of my book: The Sun Zebra. ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to you e-mail address. Please click here.
Meet Chief (of should I say Chef?) inspector Terrence Morgan who is recruited to come up to Bloome Manor and solve a most baffling and also seemingly trivial mystery involving the excitable Lady Chatterly. The good inspector thinks he will have this one nailed in no time at all, but little does he know that he is about to embark on an adventure that will have him bitten by ferrets, falling on ashes, singing to hounds, wearing ladies clothes, and pursuing a love interest. This book is an interactive fiction co-creation by author Lia London and several collaborators. The twists and turns of the plot are as funny as the British-sounding names of some of the characters including Mr. Crumbfellow, Mrs Moulderswich, and of course Millicent Fargenstropple. Reading this book reminded me of the BBC comedies that I used to watch with my family on NPR. The Brits have always been adept at capturing in everyday language the nuances of the human condition ranging from the solemn to the silly, and the author does a good job of reflecting this here. Lia should be commended not only for writing a great story and doing it very well, but also for coordinating all the moving parts of this interactive experiment. The book is well formatted, has a functional table of contents, and each chapter has a distinctive title, which is something I always like because it makes navigating back and forth among the chapters easier. If you want to relax, and have a good time “The Fargenstropple Case” is the book for you!