Book Review: Outside – A sci-fi m-m romance on a deep space station #amreading #scifi

15982975

Outside
Series: None
By: Lucy Kemnizer
Sub-Genres: M/M Romance, LGBT, Deep Space

Amazon
GoodReads
Booklikes

Rating: I liked it  (?)

Review

Overall, I liked this book. The story and themes were enjoyable. The worldbuilding was well done and unique. It felt familiar enough to be graspable, yet alien in a way that makes for good futuristic science fiction. The issues came down to style and author voice, both of which kept me from loving it.

Continue reading

Updated:Bad Book Reviews: What NOT to do. Hint: don’t stalk people.

((Article originally published Sept 13th, 2013. After recent events in which reviewers were being stalked and attacked (one sent to the hospital over the weekend), It  seems this post is needed again. *sigh* Updated links at the bottom, too.))

I’m not sure if it’s the weather or just one of those traceable, connected-consciousness internet trends that people in dark, computer monitor lit rooms study, but there has recently been an up-welling of posts, tweets, facebook conversations and group discussion about the same topic: Bad Book Reviews.

As both an avid reader and an author who believes 100% in giving (and receiving) honest feedback, I felt the need to comment on some of the things I have noticed.

There are two definitions for Bad Book Review I want to touch base on:

  1. Bad book Review: A review that is poorly written, verbally abusive against the author or about a book they haven’t even read.
  2. Bad Book review: A review that is well written, not abusive, offers constructive criticism but that gives a low rating to a book because they thought it was bad.

It seems that some authors are having a very hard time understanding the difference between those two definitions. In the past week, I have watched six friends and fellow reviewers get attacked by authors and author fanclubs because they chose to leave a one or two star review for a book. That is ridiculous.

I thought the concepts in this post were common sense, but it seems some need a refresher. I know that the influx of self-published authors is also one of the key factors in the recent backlash I have seen. I am a self-published author. I get it. It’s hard to put yourself out there and not feel connected to your book. You aren’t protected by a wall of a publishing house’s media and PR department. You see a review on your book and feel like it’s all about you.

It’s not. It’s about your book.

You chose to write a book and publish it. You chose to put it out into the world and ask people to buy it from you. People bought it (or you gave it to them free in a request for a review) and they read it. Those same people, as they read your book, form an opinion about it. They then have every right to come back and write their opinion down (just like you wrote your book) and publish that review for others to read.

I’m going to put the following in point form, because I know authors are busy people. I’m putting aside four WIPs and eight review requests to write this post, after all.

  1. A review is an opinion. Period. End of argument.
  2. Not everyone is going to like everything they pick up to read.
  3. The “if you don’t have something nice to say” argument was great, when you were five years old. Telling people to hold their tongue unless they can leave a shiny four or five star review is like trying to live on sunbeams and granola. It gives authors false ideas about their books and gives potential buyers of the book only a partial view of what they are about to buy. No book, in the history of the written word, has ever deserved only 4 or 5 stars from everyone who ever read it. People read for different reasons and get different things out of the books they read. See points 1 and 2 again.
  4. Not having something nice to say is not an excuse to say something awful, hateful or poorly thought out. Even if you hate something, there is a way to say so that wont have you sounding like an asshat. People will take your opinion more seriously when you don’t sound like an asshat. So, speak your mind, be honest, but don’t be an asshat. It’s really not that hard, people. If you feel really strongly about a book you didn’t like, write down your thoughts then step away before publishing it. Let those thoughts sit for a day or two then revisit them. I bet you real money you change your words and tone a bit and add in some less critical and more helpful points than you had originally written. It’s hard to be constructively critical when your emotions are involved, and reading is always an emotional process.
  5. Everyone has opinions. It is their right, as human beings who have been given a mouth and a brain, to speak what is on their mind.
  6. Not everyone’s brain functions in a complete circuit with their mouth. Some people are just rude. Responding to them does absolutely nothing to curb the behavior. The internet makes it even more impossible to reason with them. You can’t reason with them, threaten them or otherwise get them to listen. Yes, these are the trolls, and yes, you should under no circumstances feed them. Especially after midnight.
  7. Walk away and do not respond. Ever. Never. Never. NEVER respond to a review. Period. I cannot stress this enough. No argument is valid as to why you should ever respond to a review as the author. Do you see the “big name” authors responding to reviews on Amazon and GoodReads? Absolutely not. It never works out in your favor, I promise you. This is both for 1 star and 5 star reviews. No matter your intention, responding to a 1 star makes you sound like a bratty author with hurt feelings, and responding to a 5 star makes that 5 star sound like a ‘sock puppet’.
  8. Negative reviews can be a good thing! If you step away from the little stars (or lack there of) and just read the review, you may be surprised about what you can get out of it. If you do get something out of it, feel free to mention it, but don’t respond directly to the reviewer. In example, I recently received a 3 star review that said simply “too much like Firefly for my tastes.” – That review made my farking day and you are damn right I tweeted about it because I was so proud of it. I didn’t respond directly to it on GoodReads, though, and if I had been offended by it (seriously, how could I be offended by being compared to freaking Firefly, but if I was,) – you better believe I would have walked away and never mentioned it on Twitter or elsewhere. Why? See next point.
  9. Do not WHINE about it on Twitter, Facebook, to your friends and family, etc. When you whine about a negative review, it calls in the “troops”. People you didn’t even know you knew or had backing you will come out of the wood work to stir the pot. Some of them might reply with well written and valid arguments. Most will end up being #6, even though they may not mean to be. Some may get caught up in the heat of the argument or feel emboldened by the internet’s anonymous cloak and lose that connection, turning them into a #6 against their will. Then what do you have? A bunch of #6’s arguing at each other on your book’s review page, blog post or twitter feed – and no one is listening to anyone else.
  10. Let it die. If it is one thing the internet has proven time and time again is that the average lifespan of anything is five days, unless you are stupid and you feed it. See #6 again.
  11. Take what you can from critical reviews and ignore the rest. Ignore the reviews that blow sunshine up your ass. Ignore the reviews that burn your book. Read the reviews in between that give you points and opinions on your style, characters, world building, story and grammar. Take them and actually consider them. If you think your book is perfect the way it is and everyone should just love it and love it some more, then you will never grow as an author and there is nothing I can do for you except pat you gently on the head like a good little kid and say “awe, bless your little heart.”.
  12. Stop taking things personally. Unless the reviewer specifically mentions you in a hateful, derogatory tone (such as “so-and-so is a ‘derogatory term’ and should commit suicide” ), then you should understand that the review is about your book and not you. Yes, reviewers may mention you as the Author, such as “so-and-so’s style leaves some things to be desired and I feel like she could have done a bit more research”. That is not a personal attack. That is a valid opinion about you the author, not you the person. If, however the person does sound abusive about you personally, don’t respond. Report it and walk away.

I will never deny that I’ve broken a couple of those rules. I most certainly did when I first published. I was a scared little author who thought my book was awesome and everyone should love it and I was waiting for someone to call me about the movie rights. Then I stepped back and woke the fuck up. I had some seasoned authors (I love you, Kbards) shake me, I started listening to the feedback and realized my book needed some major work.

I learned from it. I grew as an author, and I feel like I’ve come a long way from where I was just one year ago. I also understand that I have a long way to go. I hope I never stop growing as an author and I hope I never stop receiving critical feedback about my books. There are still times when I am tempted to take negative feedback personally. I’m a human being with feelings, after all. So, those 12 rules above are as much a reminder for me as they are intended to be some advice for other authors.

I commend every single self-published author who takes that huge, scary leap and hits the Publish button. It is an act of bravery that the majority of the population will never do. Putting yourself out there takes guts, but it also takes an understanding on how to step away.

I am in no way condoning abusive reviews. If you don’t get that, then you need to re-read my post at least twice. As with all things on the interwebs, this post reflects my personal views and opinions. Feel free to leave yours. I will not censor replies, unless you include a link to a website selling purses. (Yeah, I see you, spam bot!)

In the spirit of supporting online conversations, here are some posts by other bloggers on the same topic: (msg me if you have one!) And no, I don’t just post links that support my views, but thanks for asking :)

UPDATE: One Year Later. ... I wrote this piece a year ago. A YEAR AGO… and this weekend we’ve had one reviewer hunted down to her house and the author/stalker bragging about it, and we’ve had another reviewer hit upside the head with a wine bottle and sent to hospital!? Seriously??

Authors, please stop doing stupid things like this. You are ruining the reader-author relationship for the rest of us. As a reader/reviewer – It scares me. As an author – it pisses me off.

Stop. Being. Stupid.

You don’t just have to take my word for it….
Chuck Wendig agrees! 

Sincerly,
The Sane Authors’ Club

Kindle Unlimited Author Experience – Sept 2014

Kindle-Unlimited-logo-220x86

Recently, after speaking with KDP business office reps, I agreed to move my full bibliography to KDP Select. This meant a few things:

  1. My titles were now exclusive to Amazon
  2. Anyone who was on Prime, Lending Library or the new Kindle Unlimited could read my book for free.
  3. My two Free titles, Ghost In The Machine and All These Pieces Of Me, were no longer free.

This was a marketing test. I’d previously had two titles in Kindle Select back when all they had was Prime. Prime members can only get one book per month free, so my download numbers were nill. I mean, why spend your one monthly download on some unknown newbie author?

The new Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, however, is more like Netflix for books – people pay $10/month and can read unlimited books that are on the program. As an author, I get paid an unknown amount for each download as long as the reader reads 10% of the book. I’m also seeing way more downloads than I did back when there was only Select. My downloads pretty much match my sales – which are up and down and up again, but average out to around six sales and six downloads per day. I’m not breaking any red-carpet records, but hey – for a two-year-old indie author, I don’t think that’s half bad.

I began this test mid-September, so this isn’t a full-month result. Here are some things I’m noticing so far.

  1. Pricing/Earnings per unit: For September, I ended up getting 1.52 per KU. This means that my 99cent novellas for which I’d normally only get .35cents, I was getting 1.52 for. It also means that for my 3.99 novels for which I’d normally get 2.70, I was only getting 1.52 for. So, you win some and you lose some. It didn’t quite even out, BUT those KU downloads don’t necessarily translate into missed sales; see point 2.
  2. Visibility: Being part of KU means two things – more visibility and a new audience. Amazon has admitted to giving visibility perks to KU/Select authors. Also, people who wouldn’t normally buy your book may give it a chance through KU, read the 10% and you get paid. They may also like your book enough to go back and download the rest of your KU -available titles.
  3. No returns. Ah, returns – the bain of Amazon Authors because Amazon will refund a book purchase even if the reader has read the entire book, and even if the return request is done a year later (yes, they say ‘7 days’, but I know at least three authors who have had this happen – a return done a year later) Yes, I’ve still had one or two returns, but a person in KU can’t return it, and as long as they read 10%, I get paid!
  4. Marketing options: With select, I get to do the Freebie days or the Countdown deals, both of which give me extended visibility.
  5. Less headaches: Only having to manage my books in one place has relieved some stress.

Negatives: Exclusivity. That is about the only downside I’ve found so far to the new KU set-up. I don’t miss Kobo (sex-haters who flag everything with a penis in it as Erotica), iBooks (zero sales) or Google (zero sales). I do miss Smashwords, All Romance and Barns & Nobel. Smashwords was great for doing prize-giveaway coupons. Barns & Nobel and All Romance were decent for a few extra sales per month.

Another minor negative is the ‘Not Knowing’. I have no real clue how much I will earn per KU download until the month is over and the KU-Fund is divided between all the authors. It seems the average is anywhere from 1.25 to 2.25 per month, depending on the size of the pool and how many authors participate.

My future plans are to keep all titles in KU and release new titles on Amazon, All Romance, Smashwords and B&N for two months before making the new title KU exclusive. KU is a new program, and it’s steadily gaining subscribers. I’m curious to see how my first full month, October, shapes up. They’ve also enlarged the royalty-per-download pool, so I may get more than 1.52/download. I’ll let you know!

Gamebreak: J.U.L.I.A. Among The Stars, a sci-fi adventure #VideoGame review

header

Today, I’m taking a quick look at a game recently released by CBE Software through Steam’s Greenlight program. J.U.L.I.A. Among The Stars is a point-click adventure / found objects and puzzle game with a science fiction exploration theme. It was released Sept. 27th for $19.99.

I love puzzle adventure / exploration type games, and for $20 with a sci-fi theme, I figured I could give it a try. I usually don’t buy new releases on Steam, because sooner or later they tend to go on sale. I also don’t like being a ‘first wave’ gamer – forking out 60$ only to find out the game totally sucks ass *coughDestinycough*. I’ve been burned too many times before. But, I decided to give JULIA the benefit of the doubt due to its early review metascore.

You play the role of Rachel, a scientist who left Earth for a 500-year long cryo-sleep to explore a solar system. Rachel wakes up alone on the ship, except for JULIA, the ship’s AI. Rachel uses Mobot, a mobile exploration robot to explore the planets in the solar system to unravel the mystery of what happened to the rest of the crew.

I think I got my money’s worth. The game offers a good mix of space exploration, mystery, crime solving, puzzles and storyline. Although the storyline is a touch predictable, I still had fun with it. Some of the puzzles were a bit of a struggle to figure out simply because the interface or instructions weren’t clear. One puzzle type you do repeatedly to build schematics you find to improve your Mobot unit – those puzzles were a pain.

Aside from a few of the puzzles being tedious, the overall UI takes some getting used to. You are given two launch resolution options. Choose carefully – once you select and start a game, you can’t play that saved game in the other resolution. I think this was done to make the game playable on tablets, and I can see this as being a good tablet game.

My only other complaint is Rachel, Rachel is a bit of a whiney prat who doesn’t sound like a scientist most of the time. There were several pieces of dialogue that had me going ‘really?’… and some of the storyline arcs were a bit stereotyped.

The planetary exploration, though, was fun. I do feel like they could have taken it much further and done way more with it. I logged a total of 12 hours playing the game, start to finish, and I think they left room for a possible sequel, In the end, you are given a choice. Your choice determines how the game ends. Don’t worry, you can go back and try the other choice, too. Overall, I had fun with it.

Book Review: Core Punch – Futuristic New Orleans sci-fi crime investigation

15982975

Core Punch
Series: A Baker & Ban!drn Adventure
By: Pauline Baird Jones
Sub-Genres: Crime Investigation / Futuristic Cops

Amazon
GoodReads
Booklikes

Rating: I loved it!  (?)

Review

It was a dark and stormy night….

Actually, it was a category-five hurricane named Wu Tamika Felipe (yes, WTF) baring down on a futuristic New Orleans. Oh, and I should probably mention that New Orleans was a floating city, although the majority of the novel takes place in the old, ‘dirt-side’ New Orleans instead of the new floating city. This is a series, so I hope that the next book spends more time exploring the floating city.

That’s not to say that the dirt-side atmosphere wasn’t just as interesting. The author paints an easy to visualize picture of the old, abandoned city – falling into ruin, flooding as nature took back over and the few stubborn folk who refuse to leave. The hurricane adds to the atmosphere-building, which is a bit heavy-handed at times. We are reminded again and again how hot Louisiana can get and how windy a cat-five hurricane is.  I think that, along with the pacing, kept me from reaching the OMG MORE level.

Continue reading

Unique aliens and the bird-like Kilari – SFR Brigade Showcase #scifirom

SFRB-ShowcaseBanner

Welcome to the Science Fiction Romance Brigade Showcase for October, 2014! The Showcase is a chance for SFR Brigade members to share their own Sci-fi Romance books, WIPs and new releases. For more posts, visit the SFR Brigade Blog.

Side-Story-Og400I think October is the perfect month to talk about aliens that are more than just ‘humans in space’. I try to incorporate unique traits into several species that inhabit the Corwint universe. Hedarions, for example, have eyes that are completely black and heights that never go beyond four-foot-four. Orellians, like Ogrridannes on the cover to the left, have overly-muscualr bodies, orange, scaled skin and are completely hairless, except the females who have a mohawk crest that raises and flattens with their mood, and a braid down their back.

Kilarians have traits related to birds, not only in their physical makeup, but also in their vocal and body language. While Hedarions and Orellians have had a prominent role in my series so far, little has been revealed about Kilarians. In the next few books in the series, more will be revealed about the isolationist Kilari.

Here is a snippet from a future Corwint series book, which will feature a Kilarian main character.


The lower engine compartment hummed with a reverberating pulse, like a steady heartbeat. A tubular hydrofusion core drummed on in an unceasing rhythm, providing a constant electrical current throughout the Blue Yonder’s systems. The core’s soft, blue glow caressed every surface, reflecting against the metal casing and amplifying the ethereal haze, enveloping the compartment’s cramped space. For many, their first glimpse at the engine powering the Blue Yonder through the interstellar causeways was a gaze into the sacred gates of an engineering temple where the constructs of man mingled with dreams of the imagination in an attempt to reach the furthest visible star and touch the face of God.

“Damn you! You infernal, stubborn, glitchy-ass piece of geffarion shit!” The cursing tirade was highlighted by the metallic clanking echo of Kalau’kalis Oosori’s telescopic spanner as it flew across the six foot wide compartment to hit against the opposite wall and then fall through the flooring grate at a most inconvenient angle. “Oh, wonderful!”

Kalau rolled his vivid violet eyes and ran a hand roughly through his silvery grey hair, the small downy feathers at the base of his neck fluffing in a reaction to his irritation. A series of frustrated warbles made a melodious tune from his four vocal cords before expelling from between perfectly symmetrical lips that were fighting against a heavy desire to frown and curse again. A Common Tradespeak curse or two did finally win the battle over his native Kilarian language of trills and clicks as he knelt down in an attempt to retrieve the tool. His arm stretched between the floor grates with a pinching tightness that threatened to keep him pinned there for all eternity.

“Having some issues, Kal?” The bright green eyes of Landry Brogen appeared in the square ceiling hatch that led into the lower compartment. Strands of her rich umber hair trailed down beyond the opening, defying her never ending battle to keep them restrained within the clipped bun that served to raise her long hair off her neck in the engine room’s natural sauna-like temperatures.

Kalau flinched at the sound of Landry’s voice calling from overhead and dropped the spanner again, after just managing to secure a grip on it. The spanner mocked its owner in a calamitous, clinking series of pings as it slid between the compressor vent and the pressure-reserve tank to disappear into the black abyss, joining its brethren of abused, misplaced and dropped tools. “Fuck.”

Landry snickered at the Kilarian’s rare, public curse before disappearing from the hatch only to reappear feet first a few moments later. Her footsteps down the ladder rungs accompanied her descent. Skipping the last three rungs, Landry landed squarely behind Kalau and eyed the man’s backside as he stood. “Here,”

Kalau turned to the Corwint female and eyed the water bottle being offered. “Thanks,” he mumbled and took the bottle, avoiding the gaze of her green eyes.

He continued staring down through the floor grating at the spot where he had just lost another spanner. The heat in the compartment raised as his mind berated him for his emotional outburst, which was not a characteristic commonly attributed to Kilarians. Calm, collected, intelligent and arrogant. Yes, that about summed up the off-worlder impression of his people, and it wasn’t a description he bothered arguing over.

Landry rocked back on her heels and tried not to stare at the movement of his throat as he tipped the bottle upwards and took a long drink. “Lose another spanner?”

He coughed and sputtered, lowered the bottle and gave her a sideways scowl which forced him to look at her a few seconds longer than he should. The temperature in the confined space rose another notch. Flicking his glare away, he set the bottle on top of the condenser and knelt down in front of the panel he had opened earlier. “Had I known I would be having an audience, I would have put on a better show.”

Landry scrunched up her freckled nose at his retort and stared at his backside again. The black canvas of his flight pants did nothing to diminish the pleasant view. The white tank-top he was wearing, with lean muscles rippling beneath the pale skin that it exposed, wasn’t helping her efforts to find something else to occupy her eyes. “Condensation on the timing switch again?”

“Yes,” he replied shortly as he tried to reach the junction at the back of the wire-filled panel.

Her brow furrowed. “Need a hand? My arm is thinner and can-”

“No,” he cut her off then grunted as his shoulder wedged into the corner of the unit.

A huff blew up the loose strands of her hair before she crouched down next to him. “C’mon, Kalau’kalis, you’re going to cut your shoulder doing that.”

He flinched as she used his full name, the sound of it on her voice giving him an involuntary shiver. Most either called him Kal or Kalis. Never Kalau, and certainly never Kalau’kalis while attempting to actually pronounce it correctly. Not an easy feat when Landry only had two vocal chords and the Kilarian language required four.

“Kalau,” she urged again.

He shivered again. Dammit. “I’m fine.”

“Look, just let me,” she stopped as he jerked away from her hand. His violet eyes shut in a wince as a line of blood dripped from a fresh cut on his shoulder. Backing away with one hand on her hip, she pointed at the wound. “See? Why don’t you just let me help you instead of being so damn stubborn?”

Yanking his arm out of the mess of wires with another grunt, he moved further away from her. The thin line of tiny silver feathers that ran down the back of his neck rose in a fluster and he turned his growing scowl to his bleeding shoulder. “I’m sure you have work to get done.”

“No, actually, I don’t.” She waited for him to say something, but he just stood there, glaring at the hydrofusion housing coil as it pulsed.

A bead of sweat ran down the line of his jaw and she caught herself gazing at the handsome angles of his face as she tried to quell her rising anger at his continued attitude. Shaking herself out of the stupor his presence always seemed to put her in, she thought it was high time he explained why he was always so rude to her so she could get over her aggravating, clearly hormonally-imbalanced, infatuation. “What’s your problem, Kal?”

He blinked, glanced over to her then turned away. “There is no problem.”

“Geffarion shit, there isn’t! You’ve been nothing but stand-offish with me since I came on board.”

“I’m Kilarian,” he replied with a light shrug, as if that should be a satisfactory explanation.

“Well, no shit.” She took a step closer. “Here I thought this whole time you were a really pale Tharsan who lost a fight with his pillow!”

She watched as his feathered eyebrows narrowed and the line down his neck rose again in agitation, but then his cheeks puffed and he made several clacks in the back of his throat. Her eyebrow quirked up, knowing full well that kind of reaction from a Kilarian implied amusement. He thought she was funny?

“I just don’t get it, Kal. You’re not like this with everyone else. Did I do something to offend you? Well, I mean, besides the pillow comment.”

“No,” his voice softened as he let out a long sigh. A tick of his head to the left revealed uncertainty and two low, trilling notes from his throat belied his concern. “You’re the Captain’s daughter.”

Her own cheeks puffed as she stood dumbfounded. “What has that got to do with anything?”

His hands dropped to his sides and his eyes raised to the ceiling. “Everything.”


Poor Kalau… I’m having a whole lot of fun writing his character, and Kilarian’s in general. Their vocal sounds and body language give me neat aspects of communication to play with.

If you’d like to learn more about the series, visit Corwint.com

Also, be sure to check out the rest of this month’s SFR Brigade Showcase posts!