Friday Face-Off – 19th May 2017

Friday Face-Off – 19th May 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a plane: “When everything seem to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it ….”.

This week I have cheated a little bit. I found a book I liked the sound of, Storming by K.M. Weiland. The author ran a poll on their website for fans to vote for their favourite cover. These are the options posted.

Cover A:

plane1

Cover B:

plane2

Cover C:

plane3

Cover D:

plane4

Cover E:

plane5

Cover F:

plane6

And the winner is… COVER C!

Storming is described as being a dieselpunk novel, which is a branch of steampunk. I felt cover C really brings this vibe across, especially with all the little cogs and gears surrounding the main image.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a mouse: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been’…”

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the thrilling first installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure. This first book of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series introduces Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot with her own De Havilland Beaver seaplane and a nose for mystery and intrigue. A cross between Amelia Earhart, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, Kitty is a quirky young heroine with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into all kinds of precarious situations.

After leaving her home in the western Canadian fishing village of Tofino to spend the summer in Alaska studying humpback whales Kitty finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses. Kitty’s adventure begins with the lingering mystery of a sunken ship called the Clara Nevada and as the plot continues to unfold this spirited story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept along through the history of the Klondike Gold Rush to a suspenseful final climactic chase across the rugged terrain of Canada’s Yukon, the harsh land made famous in the stories and poems of such writers as Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton. It is a riveting tale that brings to glorious life the landscape and history of Alaska’s inside passage and Canada’s Yukon, as Kitty is caught up in an epic mystery set against the backdrop of the scenery of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is a perfect book to fire the imagination of readers of all ages. Filled with fascinating and highly Google-able locations and history this book will inspire anyone to learn and experience more for themselves as Kitty prepares for her next adventure – flying around the world!

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the first part in a globe-trotting action and adventure series from author Iain Reading. The story follows teenage seaplane pilot Kitty Hawk on her summer adventure to document the humpback whales in the waters of Alaska. The intrepid young pilot takes her de Haviland Beaver from a small Canadian town and heads north where she spends her summer days flying over the coastal waters filming and photographing the movements of the sea mammals, and working with local fishing and sightseeing boats to mutual benefit. She learns a lot about the area through her time here, especially about the Klondike gold rush of the late 1800s.
KittyHawkNewCoverDuring the summer Kitty spots the whales on a number of flights, but also spots something amiss. A small boat puttering in and out of the area sitting far lower in the water than any other boat of its size should or would. This coupled with stories of a gold heist from a local resident fuel Kitty’s imagination and curiosity leading to her tracking down the boat.

What ensues is a failed recon attempt on the occupants of the boat in their makeshift campsite, clearly in possession of the gold, and her ultimate kidnap. This leads to a trek into the Alaskan wilderness through forests, up slopes and through the mountains to the border with Canada. The story runs the full range of emotions; fear, anger, hatred, frustration all feature in the young pilot, until she slowly begins to get to know her captors. Are they truly evil, or merely misunderstood?

Over the remainder of the book, Iain Reading takes us on the real adventure. A tale of deception, double crossing and family lies and histories entwining to up the ante and ratchet the excitement to a new level. In the early stages of the book I found myself mildly irritated by the character of Kitty thanks to her teenage exuberance that felt a little to sickly-sweet, but as the story progressed I found her sense of adventure infectious and found myself rooting for her throughout. Wider characters, including the kidnappers are well developed and believable. The other element that worked so well is the sense of adventure Reading creates, and the well-described locales make for fun reading. As book one in a series, this really sets up what is to come very well, if this is anything to go by, the rest of the series looks set to be brilliant!

My rating
goodread

Guest Post – Marie Kammerer Franke

Guest Post – Marie Kammerer Franke

Today I have the privilege of bringing you a guest post by author of science fiction and fantasy, including the book A Charming Nightmare. Marie Krammerer Franke tells us about how she became and indie author.
1We’ve all been there; lovingly turning our stories into print, cringing at the words we just wrote and holding down the backspace key for hours. You love it, it has a name, it’s a member of your family and now you are staring at the send button wondering what form of rejection your child is going to receive this time around.

Or, at least, that’s how I felt.  Hell, if I’m completely honest with you I couldn’t hit send.  Not the first time. It took a very dear friend to look over my shoulder and say “whatcha doin’?” and in the time it took me to turn around to mouth a syllable she had reached over my shoulder and hit that damn button for me.

And then we waited…
And waited….
And waited…
And then it came; “Thank you for your recent submission, we feel that your work is not the right fit for us, but we wish you well blah blah blah yadda yada yadda…”

That wasn’t so bad, they were polite in their mass-generated rejection.  Let’s try that again!

The more I hit send the more brazen agencies became:
“We feel that your novel is not suited for us, we feel that it is too ‘girly’ to be classified as true science fiction…”
“Thank you for your submission, if you could change A,B,C to this, that, and the other thing we would be happy to reconsider your work.”
“We would love to take on your story, it will be a challenge for us to market as is, please change blah blah blah and resubmit.”

This went on for a year.
It wears on you.  No matter how much you adore your baby, you start questioning it, I started considering their suggestions.  So, I took about 4 months away from my child.

When I went back to it, I fell in love all over again.  With it just the way it was.
 
And that is all it took for me to become an indie writer.
 
An Indie write is someone who is in control of every single thing having to do with the piece you created.  You are your books sole advocate, the only person who has any right to change, decide, suggest, ‘yay or nay’ anything having to do with your novel.  No agent asking for more innuendos, no editors highlighted re-writes, no lawyers, publicists, designers, advertisers, accountants, or loan officers.  Those are all hats you wear now as a single parent to your epic story.
 

This is how I did it, a sliver into one indie writer’s mind..

 

#1 Introduce yourself to the neighborhood
 
I tell people to become a drug dealer using free samples; give them a little bit and before the release they’ll be at your door twitchy, itchy, licking their lips, wanting more.  In that same breath I remind them that not everyone is their target audience.  I write science fiction/fantasy with a side of chick flick lit.  I’m not going to ask someone who solely reads Christian fiction if they want a hit off what I’m dealing.  Not at first at least. 
 
Remember that friend who hit ‘send’ for me?  She’s not only the only person in the world who can get away with such an action, but she’s also an amazing artist who owns a shop (mortalthreads.com) that is dedicated to everything fandom.  Months after my whole ‘I’m going to be a strong independent woman, you will not change my book!’ declaration she asked me if I wanted a spot on her website.  Never in a million years would I have imagined as a writer would come in the form of a clothing store!  But think about it…science fiction-fandom…chick flick lit-nerd girls!  Okie dokie, I’m right at home, let’s do this!  Each week Mortal Threads brought you an excerpt from A Charming Nightmare via Mortal Reads.  All in prelude of the book’s grand release.
 
Not everyone has a Mortal Threads at their fingertips (I licked it, it’s MINE), but you have everything you need to build a name on your phone.  Social Media is full of a plethora of people waiting to get their hands on stuff.  Writer’s Digest is another avenue to tap into; several times a year they hold writing competitions, if you place in their contests your writing gets displayed on their site, their magazine, and numerous other sites.  Google it, go ahead, here I’ll give you something to cut and paste…I promise you will not be disappointed.
 
How to promote your book before it’s published
 
#2 Don’t be afraid of the words Self-Publishing
 
Don’t be afraid when I use the term self-publishing, I know we all have visions of Xeroxed papers stapled together to be sold as our life’s work dancing around in our heads when someone suggests self-publishing.  I know, that’s exactly what I thought;  the folded sheets of copier paper, unprofessional 3 ring approach for binding, missing cover art.
 
Self-publishing has grown out of its baby babble into something overwhelming in choices.  I used Create Space (owned by Amazon).  Even before I uploaded my work into its system the choices took days for me to go through.  They cover you, literally, cover to cover. You can choose page colors, fonts, page sizes, numbers, cover art, gloss, matt. Once choices are made Create Space tells you to order a copy, a proof.  This is hands down a must, order it, and read every individual word.  Why?  I looked it over on the website.  I’ve read it a hundred times already.  Once you click the done icon you’ll get approved within 24 hours. You can make changes from there, but once you choose to go live Amazon can take 6-8 weeks to make changes and then those changes are considered a new edition of the book.  One that you’ll have to add into Goodreads and any other book groups you belong to including your copyrights.  This is how I ended up having a sentence that will forever read ‘I looked over to the person closet to me’ instead of ‘I looked over to the person closest to me.’
 
I didn’t touch on what I am sure is a vast wealth in cover art only because I didn’t use it.  Mortal Threads designed my cover using the Create Space specifications (again MT is mine…back off!)
 
The finished product was something that looked ‘store bought’, not handmade!
 
#3 It’s all about the Benjamins
 
Truth, it is all about the Benjamins.  While Create Space is free and they’ll help in getting the product out there once you hit ‘go live’ (they’ll make it appear on Kindle, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Audio Books, make it accessible to library databases, and even give schools the opportunity to get it) you still have to decide on a price, and most of all YOU have to purchase your own books from them.  Don’t go beyond your means expecting to get rich instantly.  Not even J.K. Rowling was J.K. Rowling overnight.  Under no circumstance should a loan payment come out of your need to publish, nor should the opening of a new Master Card.  Instead I talked to my own Benjamin about Benjamins and together we set up an accounting system that would completely separate ACN from our personal finances, including a money max that we both could easily afford.  Remember, every penny invested has to be accounted for; you now have another thing to write down on your taxes.
 
#4 Your eyes ARE bigger than your stomach
 
I say this because you will want to purchase 10,000 copies of your own book…don’t (instead purchase 10,000 copies of mine, someone should benefit from your gluttony) Don’t say you won’t want to over order, I know you will, and I’ll prove it. 
“I’ll buy a copy, can I get it directly from you?  Will you sign it if I do?”
You’ll hear this from mom & dad, grandma, friends, cousins, your next door neighbor, the mailman, the checkout person at the grocery store.  In your head you’ll start a list ‘I bet Sally will want one, then there’s Uncle Don, my 10th grade English teacher, my co-workers, so and so, whoosy-whats-it. Before your first page is printed mentally have sold a thousand copies.  So you’ll buy a thousand copies at around $7.00 each and with a shipping rate of $25.00 per 50, anyone want to do that math?  It’s not common core so we should be able to see its $7,500 before tax.  But that’s ok, its easy money, Beth from accounting wants two, the barista at Starbucks wanted one-
But do they? 
Do they really? 
I ordered a book proof, and walked around with that proof proudly within reach for a month before the final product came out.  I showed and bragged and sold about 3000 copies in that time.  Do you know how many followed through when the shipment arrived?  13 Yup, you heard me right, 13 out of 3000 excited promises.  Luckily, I had bought 50, and 10 of those 50 I had other plans for.
 
#5 In a writer’s world free works both ways
 
So after your guaranteed sales from grandma, mom and dad, and your BFF, have a plan.  My plan was to do a giveaway or two.  Everyone loves free stuff right??? I did an Amazon giveaway. On an Amazon Giveaway you can set up requirements, I was new to twitter so I made it a requirement to follow me on twitter.  After 3 weeks I had 321 new followers, which may seem like nothing to you, but I created my twitter account the same day the Amazon Giveaway started so I would call it my free for their free.  An Amazon Giveaway is also your bank accounts cheat, you buy what you want to giveaway-5 Kindle copies of A Charming Nightmare-and in return Amazon gives you the royalties on 5 Kindle copies of A Charming Nightmare sold.
My Amazon Giveaway cost me $24.98-$17.24=$7.74
 

I also became a Goodreads author and did a Goodreads Giveaway.  5 signed 1st editions of A Charming Nightmare.  3 weeks.  900 people wanted a free book, surprise surprise, and what was my free?  Well, if you win a Goodreads Giveaway you HAVE TO review the book you won!  And here’s a bonus free, you as the author write up their ‘Congratulations you won’ message.  I simply added; ‘if you enjoy A Charming Nightmare feel free to write a review on Amazon as well!’ Amazon is a ratings run website, the more reviews and stars you get from verified Amazon customers the lower in ranking you get, the lower in rankings the closer to the top of their search engine you go!  On the day of its release ACN was ranked as 469,003 out of over 1 million, now, 2 months into its release, some sales, even more Kindle sales, and two reviews ACN has jumped to 21,157th in the science-fiction category.  Again, not even Stephen King was Stephen King when he started.

 

My next adventure in giving things away is going to be a Free on Kindle week.  A couple of other indie authors I’ve talked to said it is hands down the way to go (just don’t think about the lost sales when you see your download numbers).  One of them did 7 days free on Kindle, his books went from 50 downloads in 8 months to 152,265 in 7 days.  That was 2 months ago, as of today he had 3,200 in verified Kindle book sales, and a 30% increase in physical books sales.  A far cry from where he was a year ago!  Andy will tell you though, it is initially a kick in an author’s self-esteem to see how many people only want your book when you’re giving it away.
  
That is a very small list of commandments.  I know, it doesn’t even cover all the hats an indie author wears, but in essence you’re my competition!  Why would I tell you all my secrets?

Friday Face-Off – 12th May 2017

Friday Face-Off – 12th May 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a phone: “Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it”.

I have gone with Stephen King’s Cell.

Cover A:

phone1

Cover B:

phone2

Cover C:

phone3

Cover D:

phone4

Cover E:

phone5

Cover F:

phone6

Cover G:

phone7

Cover H:

phone8

Cover H:

phone9

And the winner is… IT’S A DRAW!

For me covers D and I win it for me. The copy of this book that I own is cover D and I always loved the look of this one-the metaphorical burning of the world and the phone that caused it. Cover I is simple, but at the same time very ominous, a fantastic cover.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a plane: “When everything seem to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it ….”

Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne

Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne

Born at the end of the First World War, a young girl struggles to find her own identity in her big family and is pushed into a stormy marriage through a terrible misunderstanding from which her pride refuses to let her back down. As her own personal world begins to crumble, the foundation of the world around her is shaken as Germany once again declares war and her brothers and young husband sign up with the first wave of volunteers.

Walking Wounded tells the story of those left behind in a Blitz-ravaged London, and of the web of loyalty, guilt and duty that shapes the decisions of the women awaiting the return of their men-folk as the war draws to a close.

Spanning the period from the Armistice of the First World War to the exodus of the Ten Pound Poms to Australia in the 1950s, Walking Wounded is a family saga whose internal violence is mirrored by the world stage upon which it is set.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne tells a story from the end of the First World War, through to and beyond the end of the Second World War. It is a tale of violence, grief, strife and struggle. But uncommonly, it is not a story of the men and boys who went overseas to fight. This is a story of those who are left behind at home. Those who are struggling to come to terms with the aftermath of the war, the outbreak of the second world war and the trauma it leaves behind.
32337397Walking Wounded does not just refer to the soldiers returning from war, but everyone touched, scarred by the war that almost brought the world to its knees. Tragedy strikes early in the book with the death of the elder sister and daughter in a family ahead of marrying her soldier groom. The youngest daughter suffers a turbulent life, coming into this world on the back of war. Trying to fit in with so many siblings around her, she falls into a hasty, dangerous marriage.

Dealing with the loss of her father, who never truly came back from the First World War, her mother to illness, she finds herself being brought up by her eldest sister. Finding herself in a relationship with a fiery, tempestuous young man, she enjoys the rush she feels being with him, until the fateful moment he turns on her, beats her. He manages to convince her she hurts herself in an accident and that he was trying to help, but this just seals her fate at his hands.

Her life goes through ups and downs, thanks to her abusive husband, the outbreak of World War 2 and a wartime pregnancy. She has to deal with evacuation to the market town of Hitchin, in Hertfordshire (my home town) to have her baby in relative safety. I had hoped for a bit more detail making the albeit short scene set in Hitchin to describe things in such a way it was beyond any doubt where the location was. That said, it was a minor scene, and that is my opinion as a born and bred Hitchin resident.

The story moves on to pick up the strife the family suffers through following the aftermath of the war, and significant upheaval. Our downtrodden young mother has to make some difficult decisions ultimately for her and her daughter’s benefit.
Walking Wounded is a novel approach to the strife and horrors of war. Not, as is so often the case, told from the side of the soldiers out in the theatre of war, but from the angle of those left at home wondering, worrying, uncertain. All in all, a wonderful read dealing with some dark and difficult subject matter.

My rating
goodread

Discussion – Book Review Rating Systems

Discussion – Book Review Rating Systems

Over the last week or two, I have seen a number of posts looking at the systems we use to rate books the we read and review. Some of these posts have even questioned the relevance or importance of a rating compared with the opinion of the reviewer, their words and thoughts. To some extent I can see where this view point comes from. Everybody has a different set of interests, likes and dislikes. So the rating itself doesn’t necessarily matter as much as the critique we may write within the review.

Personally, I like a rating. I have used a 5 star system here on Books and Beyond Reviews. Why? Well, simply put, why not? The vast majority of eCommerce websites I visit use a classic 5 star method. As it goes without saying, I may understand the idea of not having a rating, but I far prefer having a rating on each review I give.

But is the 5 star approach the correct one for me? Well it was. Until I began to realise that not all 3 star books are equal. Or any star rating for that matter. Some 3 star books are better than 2, while others are not quite 4. So 3 seems right doesn’t it? Well, then the doubts set in – how can I justify the 3 star book that is better than a 2 star book is equal to the 3 star book that is not quite a 4 star book? I couldn’t, so I introduced what I thought was a fool proof system – half star increments between 1 and 5.

EUREKA! This was my bathtub thought moment.  Or so I thought. But all this did was raised a further issue – I jumped from 5 possible ratings to 9 possible ratings. I found myself spending longer and longer deliberating over what score to assign a book than I did on the review. And it didn’t remove the issue of comparison with other books in the same bracket.

My other issue is that of perception. If I gave a book a 3 star rating, that wasn’t bad – that was an okay, fair book. Neither mind-blowingly amazing or tear-inducingly bad. But I worried what was in my head would not be perceived by the author. So I have decided to trial a new system. A simple three tier system – rate it, hate it or okay. What was a 1 or 2 star book will receive the “Not for me” rating, “Okay book” will be the equivalent of a 3 star book, and “Good Read” will be the equivalent of a 4 or 5 star book.

This will just be a trial, so please give me feedback on the new system, and look out for the following three new rating icons:

goodread
okaybook
notforme

Please let me know your thoughts on the new rating system! If the trial goes well, I will back date it to all past reviews. I hope this makes things easier to suss out my overall feelings towards a book.

Friday Face-Off – 5th May 2017

Friday Face-Off – 5th May 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a lion: “If you place your head in a lion’s mouth, then you cannot complain one day if he happens to bite it off.”

I have gone with C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Cover A:

Lion1

Cover B:

Lion2

Cover C:

Lion3

Cover D:

Lion4

Cover E:

Lion5

Cover F:

Lion6

Cover G:

Lion7

Cover H:

Lion8

And the winner is… D!

This week I found very few of the covers appealing to me. Certainly none featuring lions spoke to me. There was something about cover D though that resonated with me. I like the more bleak, yet serene feeling of this one with the lone character in the snowy wilderness.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a phone: “Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it”.