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Monday, February 29, 2016

Don't Rely On Friends/Family for Reviews




I've seen a lot of writers upset because their friends and family aren't leaving reviews or buying their books. They don't feel they are being supported because their loved ones don't value what they are doing enough to write a few words on Amazon … and I can get that the silence may be a little hard. After all, if our friends and family don't think our books are worth their time, how can we expect strangers to like them?
However, there are many, many, many reasons why you shouldn't count on your friends to review your books … and to some extent some reasons why you might want to consider outright discouraging them from doing so. I'm going to ramble off a few of those and then end by suggesting a few things friends and family might be able to do instead of reviewing that could help you out.

So why shouldn't you beg and plead for your friends to review your books?

  1. Amazon doesn't want them to. The exact wording on Amazon's terms of service is that “close friends and family” shouldn't review. There is a lot of wiggle room, however, as far as what the word “close” actually means. You can probably get away with reviews from people who know you or who you're Facebook buddies with, but every so often Amazon does a sweep to try and root out reviews where the people “know” the author. Unfortunately, a lot of legitimate reviews end up being deleted by Amazon because the reader might be following and interacting with the author on social media. The reason these sweeps happen, however, is because the stigma related to “friends and family” reviews is causing people to doubt the authenticity of reviews in general, leading Amazon to crack down on anything even slightly suspicious.
  2. There is an unspoken social obligation for them to be “positive.” This is not universal. I'm sure we all have that one “tell it like it is” friend who is annoyingly honest, but with something as subjective as writing (which a lot of people don't even feel qualified to judge.) most friends aren't going to want to say anything but praise for fear of causing a rift or harming the friendship. Similarly to how if you invite a friend over for dinner but serve something they really don't like, most are not going to burst out with, “Dang, Bob, you just can't make soup, can you?” If someone's mom or best friend tells me that their book is the best thing ever, I'm prone to be skeptical.
  3. It's just annoying. A while ago I had a “friend” on Facebook who was hosting some stupid “get all your friends to buy things” party. I can't remember what it was (and for the record, I don't think these sorts of Scentsy/Jamberry/Tupperware/Home-Business-of-the-Month things are all evil. I've bought a few wax warmers in my time), but after a few days of apparently not selling very much of whatever it was she was trying to sell, she posted a rant about how she was always so supportive and helpful to her friends and it was rude that none of them were buying her products. I unfriended her, not because she was addressing me directly, but the attitude was just annoying to me. Your friends don't owe you financial support. I have plenty of dear friends who sell those adhesive nail stickers, but I simply don't wear adhesive nail stickers. Honestly, the only thing I really want to do with my nails is replace them with retractable claws (if you have a product that can do this, leave a comment with your contact information, please). I don't buy their nail stickers. They don't need to buy my books UNLESS they like dragon themed fantasy. Then I will say all day, “Hey! I have dragon themed fantasy! You can buy mine!” Same as if I'm in the market for wax warmers, I'll buy a few Scentsy items from a friend's party. But that's because I want to. Not because I'm obligated.
  4. Depending on friends and family is not a sustainable business model. Unless you are writing a memoir or something locally targeted, friends and family are not your intended audience. Even if you're part of some sort of insanely close knit but extremely large clan, chances are, you are going to need to branch out from “Friends and Family” as your customer base sooner rather than later. So don't market to friends and family. Market to readers of your genre. Market to strangers. Get out of your comfort zone and find your readers, not your friends.
  5. It enforces a stereotype about self-publishers. I recounted in my “annoying things to say to an indie writer” post how one person messaged me saying, “You have a lot of positive reviews. Large family?” No, actually, I wrote a book a decent amount of people very much enjoyed, gave away a ton of free copies, often targeting bloggers who I knew read and enjoyed my genre/sub-genre, and generally worked my butt off to get those reviews, but thanks for asking. Seriously, do it the right way. The rest of us have to live with the stigma created by people using “cheats” to get ahead. Just don't be that guy.

So if your family does want to help you out but you don't want the stigma of “friends and family” reviews, what can they do?
  1. They can ask for your book to be stocked at their local libraries or book stores. A lot of these places make the decision on what to shelf based on customer requests.
  2. If they are avid readers and you trust them to give honest input, not trying to spare your feelings, having some trusted friends as beta readers can be quite helpful.
  3. They can talk about your books, mention you on social media, and otherwise let people know that you are out there.

There are ways to find legitimate reviews, and if you just write a book people want to talk about, reviews will come in, slowly but surely. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Sterling R. Walker

DISCLAIMER
The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Today's guest is Sterling R. Walker who has walked into more than she realizes (har har har).


The Interview

What’s the most important lesson you ever learned from a cartoon?
 If you fall off a cliff, you will probably die.
Your life is being made into a movie. Who plays you? Who plays your love interest? (or who plays your arch-enemy?)
Melissa McCarthy, although I'm not quite that fat. My love interest would be John Cleese, although not quite so old.
Heads or Tails?
Heads
Would you rather travel to the past or the future?
I write SF so the future.
If you favorite historical era had an ice cream flavor made in its honor, what would it taste like?
The American Revolution would probably taste like venison, since that's all Washington's soldiers could find at times. Yuck. Venison ice cream.
During an alien invasion, what would be your weapon of choice?
Weapon of choice for all occasions is a 12-gauge shotgun because you don't have to aim well to do a lot of damage.
If you could combine any two animals to make a hybrid, what would they be?
A friendly dog that doesn't make any noise, so like a Shetland sheepdog with a rabbit.
Is mayonnaise an instrument?
 Instrument if you use it to induce vomiting. I had a friend in high school who had a real revulsion to mayo. Just show her a jar and she would hurl. 

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
What are my books about? Glad you asked! Here's the back cover blurb for book one, which was crafted with much blood, sweat, and tears (just the blurb, not the actual book).
Stranded 225 million kilometers from home on Mars Station, cousins Jake O’Brien and Lorina Murphy are drawn into a fledgling effort to help the hundreds of abandoned street children who call the station home. Jake becomes a medical apprentice in an outreach clinic, while Lorina volunteers at a juvenile shelter. They soon discover that their efforts may be in vain because something much more serious than poverty plagues Mars Station. 


Also stranded on Mars Station, ship’s captain Danae Shepherd faces the difficult task of hiring replacement crew after an alien virus claims the lives of four in her employ, including her husband. She stumbles upon the same problem that has Jake and Lorina stumped: why are homeless children disappearing without a trace? 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: Plain Vanilla

Plain Vanilla

Ines Bautista Yao

Plain Vanilla

Despite her quirky name and equally quirky family, 16-year-old Tempest Juan knows she's ordinary. After reading a comment on Facebook which likened her to vanilla ice cream, Tempest decides she has to do something about it or be forever branded as plain, lukewarm, and well, vanilla. It doesn't help that the comment was made by Paco Lorenzo, her cousin’s cute friend (no longer cute in her book!). When she happens upon a book of dares, she decides to attempt each one, no matter how hard. This is her personality at stake, after all. But somehow, Paco, the cause of all this, finds a way to be at every dare Tempest attempts, confusing her and forcing her to question what’s really going on inside her heart.

My Review


This is a cute short story. Tempest is a likable, believable character. I think my favorite part of this author's work is how genuine her teens seem without becoming unlikable. They do have quirks and faults and an immature take on the world, but they aren't stupid or ridiculously angsty like a lot of modern teens. I found the ending touching. 
Parental concerns: some mention of alcohol consumption by under-aged drinkers. 

I received a copy of this story in return for my honest review. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Who is Nyssa Glass?

TEXT HERE (2)

Nyssa Glass is the most wanted woman in New Taured ... but why?

If you want to meet the elusive Nyssa, you must be worthy ... and clever. Extremely clever.
To enter Professor Dalhart's Laboratory, decipher the riddle for the 4 digit door code.

Number your days, each passing year,
But let the Father, Son, and Spirit multiply your blessings.
Forsake the seven sins,
But keep His commandments.
Think you know the answer? Click here to try your luck. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! S. J. Henderson

DISCLAIMER
The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Today we have followed the footprints into the snow and cornered the elusive S. J. Henderson. Let us listen to her feral cries!


S. J. Henderson

Bio


S. J. Henderson is the author of the DANIEL THE DRAW-ER series, as well as several not-yet-published Young Adult novels. She also founded the Kid Authors program, which focuses on helping school-aged children find their stories and publish them!

S. J. lives in Michigan with her husband and four wild boys. When she is not writing about talking cats and magic pencils, S. J. can usually be found riding one of her family’s horses or drinking a little bit of coffee with her creamer.

The Interview


    During an Alien Invasion what would be your weapon of choice?
A ray gun, duh.

I remember watching a show (Mystery Science Theater 3000, maybe?) when I was younger and they used to make this joke about ray guns and President Reagan. I thought I was the only one who remembered that, but when I read this question to my husband he didn’t even hesitate before saying, “A ray gun!” It makes me feel better that I didn’t just make that whole thing up.

To anyone under the age of 35 reading this, I’m sorry for making your eyes glaze over by talking about the olden days. I’ll snap out of it soon.

In my books, DANIEL THE DRAW-ER and DANIEL THE CAMP-ER, aliens invade and they apparently don’t do well with bubbles. So I guess that could be my back-up plan.

    If you could enter any fictional world, which would you choose?
Harry Potter, especially when there’s none of that Voldemort/Death Eater nonsense. Let me wander around Hogwarts and Diagon Alley for the rest of my life and I’d never ask for anything else. Except maybe a check for six million dollars.
    Favorite flavor (of what? EVERYTHING!)?
So, I really, really like peanut butter. Even more than chocolate, which seems impossible. If calories weren’t an issue, I could eat an entire jar of PB. I’m really sorry for anyone with allergies—I hope I didn’t make any airways close up during this answer.

Who is your fictional best friend and what activities do you choose to do together?

My fictional best friend would probably be Peeta Mellark from THE HUNGER GAMES series. And, of course, I mean the version of Peeta where he isn’t trying to strangle his friends or push them into deadly oil slicks or whatever. He’s adorable. He can paint. And he can bake, which probably means cookies and cake 24/7. Sold.


I don’t know what we would do together, but it wouldn’t involve a death match in Panem, if that’s what you’re thinking. Certainly there must be something fun to do that doesn’t involve revolution and Gamemakers, right?

    Congratulations! You’re the supreme ruler of the universe. What’s your first act?
Ponies. Ponies for everyone!
    You can rescue a fictional character from certain death or resurrect them to live again. Who do you save? Alternately, is there a fictional character deserving of death who you would like to destroy?
Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series. (I sure hope this isn’t a spoiler for anyone). I sobbed like a baby when I read Half-Blood Prince. Geek confession: I totally own the Elder Wand, which fellow nerds already know to be Dumbledore’s wand. He was my fave.

For part B of this question... Hmm. I guess I’ve never given it much thought. This isn’t really a kid-friendly or clean read, but by the time I finished GONE GIRL I pretty much wanted to destroy all of the characters. Brilliant writing but the worst ending ever.
    Write me some Vogon Poetry (for those not in the know, Vogon poetry is so awful you’ll want to rip your ears off and eat them. It’s considered a method of torture in many corners of the galaxy. So give us your worst).
It's Friday, Friday

Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin' down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend

So bad it’s good, right?
(P. S. Not really my Vogon poetry. Ganked this from Rebecca Black, but shhh!)

    You have superpowers. What are they and what do you do with them?
Time travel. I’m a very sentimental kind of girl, so I’d love to be able to go back in time and visit the people and places I miss. Losing someone wouldn’t be as difficult if you could just flip a few switches, rev the DeLorean up to 88 mph, and go say “hey” again.

Man, all of these 1980s references are making me feel ancient.
    If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
How would you like me to address this check for six million dollars? Is S. J. Henderson okay, or…?”


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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Critiquing 101: So What DO I do?


I do a lot of critiquing/beta reading. Mostly through Scribophile.com, but I also have participated in real life critique groups from time to time, and I'll agree to read other writers' work fairly frequently (this is not me asking you to critique your novels. Chances are, I'm already way behind on agreed upon reading right now).
Getting input on your writing is so important, but so many writers are hesitant to give constructive criticism, or don't know how, or don't feel qualified.
In this series, I plan to discuss pitfalls to avoid as well as things you can do to make your advice easier to understand and more helpful to the writer.

Some subjects we'll be covering:


If you've read my previous posts, you may have noticed a lot of them feature what 'not to do' rather than what to actually do. 
I've given some 'to do' advice here and there (be specific, include positives as well as negatives, explain why you make suggestions, use common sense), but here I'm going to go into more depth. What exactly do you say in a critique?

Give your impressions: BOTH positive and negative. A lot of critiquers say they don't bother stating the positive because it won't help the writer improve. You don't get critiques to tell you how good you are. You need them to find out how to be better. To some extent the reasoning is correct, but the conclusion is faulty. It is important to know what is working, especially because sometimes input will conflict. If you don't mention something is your favorite part, it may end up being another critiquer's least favorite part, and your favorite part may end up on the cutting board during edits. 
Humor is also incredibly subjective, so mentioning if something is funny helps (with the side effect of if something wasn't meant to be funny, they'll probably want to know that too). 

Mention Any Confusion: If you are just staring at a passage thinking, "I have no idea what is going on here?" definitely say something. However, highlighting large sections and just saying, "I was confused through here" can add to confusion on the writer's side. I've had readers do this to me, and I just blink at the section thinking, "It's pretty dang clear. How is this confusing?"
Try to break down exactly why you are confused. Maybe parrot back what you think is happening, even if you aren't sure it is right. Point out any sentences that were particularly problematic: if a sentence has two possible meanings and you weren't sure which to choose, for instance, or if a character's choice doesn't make sense to you or you aren't sure why he said something. Generally the more specific the better.

Suggest small changes: Does a word just not fit right to you? Suggest a better word. 

Read the work out loud: This is great advice for self-editing, too, but if something trips your tongue when read aloud, it probably could be smoothed out. Point it out.

Point out repeated phrasing/ideas/actions: Repetition has its place, but a lot of authors tend to have pet words and phrases they overuse or fall back on when they are out of ideas. And most of them won't even be aware of it. Ask if it is intentional. "You know your main character has rolled his eyes three times in this scene. Intentional?" Point out if the writer tells you something you already know. "You have it tell me about how the political system works here, but all this information was already given in the last chapter, and I remember it." 

Point out inconsistencies: Is the character's hair black in one chapter and blond in the next? Does she mention being a vegetarian and then order a BLT? If you want to be really good, try writing down small details or keeping a notepad document open while you read on your computer and tracking how they change. Timing can be difficult for a lot of authors too. Like you say something happened three days ago, but the next day it was suddenly a week ago, like we skipped ahead several days. This especially can get confusing if the author has done edits and maybe missed a few spots that should've been changed to incorporate the new writing. 



So this is the end of my series on Critiquing. I don't consider this an extensive "how to" by any means, more of a list of observations about what works and doesn't work. I may add onto it and tweak it in the future, but for now, I just hope this was helpful to you in some way. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dragon's Revenge Cover Reveal







In search of his place in the world, Kyn visits his new friend, Ben’hyamene. Together, they meet an ailing dragon rider from the marshes of a land called the Carr. The rider recounts a people beset by anger, depression, and despair. After befriending and healing the rider, the group travels to the rider’s home. There they discover a breed of wild dragons, called drakes, which have been at war with humans for four hundred years.
One sleepless night, Ben’hyamene uses his new abilities to communicate with the lead drake. This sets Kyn and Ben’hyamene on a path that could bring peace to a conflict that’s nearly destroyed a whole people. Can revenge be set aside and enemies be called friends?
Find out in the exciting third book of the Dragon Courage series, Dragon’s Revenge by Kandi J Wyatt.

Kandi is a wife, mom of five, teacher, artist and author. In her free time, she enjoys writing fantasy, writing Christmas programs, drawing using graphite and colored pencils. Portraits are her specialty. She also enjoys photography. Thank you to her photographer husband who has let her join his journey in photography as well. She is both his model and apprentice. (She still think he does a better job than her.) On occasion she’s his assistant when working with clients and when he needs a "light stand with feet".

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kindle Fire Ultimate Giveaway


Do you love reading fantasy books? Then this giveaway is just for you! 50 authors have teamed up to bring you the ULTIMATE giveaway -- a Kindle Fire loaded with 50 fantasy ebooks! Even better, this contest doesn't just have one winner, but SIX! One person wins the kindle, and an additional five people will be given one of the 50 ebooks listed in this giveaway -- their choice. PLUS you can earn unlimited extra entries! Scroll down to learn more about the prizes, or click here to enter:
The Prizes: One Kindle Fire...
kindle_fire_feature_three
Plus these FIFTY Fantasy eBooks!
TheAtomicSeaBurned by MagicPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00066]Rise of the StormRidersCover
Synchrony  Wardbreaker  WildeOmens_HR-2WrongSideOfHell  Flames of Awakening
The Viper and the UrchinThe SunkenThe Silvering of LoranThe Full Moon by David Neth  The-Raven
Shade  tales of skylge  Thea's Tale  Demon Princess  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00005]
box of secretsbound in blueGhost StormHaunting echoesBlood Phoenix Rebirth
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]  billthevampire  Academy of Secrets  Ascendancy  Stormwielder
THE CAVE MAZEJulesA coronation of kingsJourneys of KallisorWintermore
The Superiors  Sparks   PowerPoint Presentation  Scrapplings   30SecondFantasy_Cover_border-2
The Mark of Noba  The Wanted Child cover largeDawn of the Awakening  Arcadis Prophecy   Stone's Kiss
BEGGARMAGICcityThe Anais CollectionThe Keeper and the RulershipWitch Ways copy
Well? What are you waiting for? Click here to enter the giveaway.