The review swap

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to write something here and for that I apologize. In my own defense (and yes, this is an excuse) I’ve been busy writing Rebel Queen. The KickStarter went much better than anticipated for a book that doesn’t exist in physical form yet, so I’ll be sure to run another crowd sourcing campaign when I do have a physical book. As before, this is primarily to reach out to my readers and find new ones as well. I don’t want everyone’s hard earned bucks for my own personal gratification. I give away a lot of what I do not because I don’t want to make money, but because I appreciate the support I’ve been lucky enough to receive.

So keep your eyes open come October when I’ll put up another one with many of the same perks as the last, but with a finished novel ready to ship. So fill out that little form to the right there so I can send you an update when that’s ready to go or when Rebel Queen is released. I’m also still on the hunt for more beta readers, so if you like my work and want an advanced copy to give me feedback before it’s for sale, or you’re a reviewer looking for an advanced copy to review CLICK HERE.

This article is primarily about reviews and review swaps though. It’s something that’s been irking me for some time now and frankly, it drives me crazy.

The way Amazon and other online retailers work is by reviews and purchases. Apple, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and Amazon all give reviews more weight than purchases and for good reason; people will snap up a book on a whim, but if they never review it…we don’t know if it’s any good. The price of an ebook is low enough to encourage readers to take a chance on an unknown author no matter how they’re published.

Forgive me, but it’s time for a tangent. Self-Published authors are now combating the stigma of self-pub books by being their own publishing house. This is an incredibly good idea because so many people pass just because they see the authors name in the publishing house field. I do find it amusing when they give themselves a management position in that imaginary company, but that’s just my own twisted sense of humor kicking in.

As many of you likely know, authors swap reviews. By that I mean, two authors agree to read each others work and then give a review. The idea is to give an honest review, not pad someone’s review score. That isn’t what always happens, but that’s the intent. More often than not, of course, they’re swapping five star reviews. This shouldn’t scare readers away, but give them an idea of how a writer perceives another writers story. However, there’s an ugly side to these review swaps and that’s what I want to discuss today.

There is, as with any profession, a certain amount of professional jealousy that goes into writers reviewing other writers work. If, for instance, two writers are competing for a share of the same genre fiction market, it can sometimes rear it’s ugly head in review swaps. I always appreciate honesty, even if it stings and if it tweaks my nerves bad enough I usually take a couple of days before I reciprocate unless I’ve already left a review. The rationale I use is simple, if the book is good, I don’t want my irritation to negatively effect how I review it.

I’ve discussed before both here and on my GoodReads profile my annoyance with stars that don’t reflect the write-up and I won’t go into a long diatribe about it again. Suffice to say, if you wrote “like” in your heading, then that’s the star rating the book should get (4 stars). If it was “ok” then that’s 3 stars. If it blew your hair back then it’s 5.

This is where we get to the meat of my beef today.

I recently did some review swaps and for the most part enjoyed the experience. I got to read some books outside of my genre and even some poetry (which I rarely read). It’s unrealistic to expect that all of them were going to be positive experiences and I was cautiously prepared for that. If the review is a reflection of someone’s perception and taste then who am I to question it?

Ultimately, writers should be prepared to receive reviews no matter how good, bad or ugly they are and that has been an interesting learning experience for me. So if you are a writer and are jumping into the review swap arena, or even just a writer soliciting reviews, be prepared for all eventualities. You can’t please all of the people all of the time and you will certainly get reviews you find unfair or biased…and they probably are. But that’s the nature of the beast. Take the good with the bad. Crying about it afterwards is hardly productive. Learn something from the experience and move on.

Book Review – Book of Sith & The Jedi Path

Before I begin, I’m a horrible Star Wars fan.

By that I mean, I rarely read the books and even more rarely do I read the comics. I enjoyed the latest series, I’ve played most of the video games and I have to admit; I liked all of the movies…yes, even Jar Jar.

If you’re still reading, I’m going to assume that you are either doing so red faced or you are guilty of the same “sins” that I am. So, in an effort to alienate the rest of you…I don’t have a preference for Jedi or Sith. Evil always seems to be more interesting these days, especially well written evil that you can empathize with, but I can’t find myself honestly able to sympathize with their motives…even the historian characters.

A few years ago, at the urging of a friend of mine, I read the Darth Bane books and then we got into an argument. I’m sure some of you have had similar conversations, though my friends and I seem to be comfortable enough with one another to get into full on arguments. This argument was like all Star Wars arguments, wholly ridiculous. My stance was that Zannah took over Bane’s body at the end of the last book and he disagreed. So much so that we sat there reading each other “proof” of our stance for hours.

This is what makes Star Wars such an all-encompassing joy to fans of all kinds. When a great writer gets a chance to play in that universe, they tend to create interesting subtleties that keep us on the edge of our seats. They are also held strictly to canon when necessary and given a lot of free reign when it isn’t, which in a universe as vast in both time and space as Star Wars is, this is great news for anyone who loves the franchise.

This takes us to the meat of this article.

It’s fairly common for me to browse through the library and my local bookstore looking for new and interesting things to read. With so many voices available to me, I always tend to find something that is at the very least intriguing…even if it doesn’t live up to the blurb.

So during my latest browse through the library, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Book of the Sith by Daniel Wallace. Now, while Mr. Wallace tends to write encyclopedia style books, I was honestly drawn in by the look of the book and the unique page styles for each Lord or Darth that “wrote” their perceptions of the Dark Side.sith

It’s a simple and undeniable fact that we do judge books by the cover. Publishers know this and make special effort to create covers that look good and are appealing. Without one, readers likely won’t pick it up to look inside.

The Book of the Sith is no exception to this. Published February 10th, 2012, the book is monochromatic, but it’s the leather bound look of the cover that drew my eye. Big bold letters spelling “Sith” didn’t hurt either. After picking it up though, I was in for a real treat.

The premise here goes like this; Darth Sidious gathered together the texts that were of the greatest influence in his training and rise to power. He’s even gone so far as to make notes in the margins. My grandmother used to do something similar with her Bible, so it amused me on that level. I tend to hold books in an odd sort of reverence and refuse to even dog-ear a page…but that’s a story for another time.

The book itself though, has also been marked by Luke Skywalker, who stumbled upon it some years after all of the Emperors clones had (supposedly) been destroyed. He has also made notes in the margins, as have others who were mostly Sith. Their observations of the Dark Side along with the author of each text made for a compelling and interesting read.

So much so that I borrojediwed The Jedi Path next. This book was also written by Daniel Wallace, though it was published January 1st, 2010.

The premise of this book was slightly different, yet also struck of a “how-to” for aspiring Jedi. Of course, the Code is included, however it was designed as more of a “hand-me-down” reference from master to student beginning with Yoda…who has made notes in the margins.

Thane, Dooku, Qui Gon Jin, Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano and Luke Skywalker have made notes throughout the text as well. I will say at this point that there were some mistakes in the version that I read that I hope were addressed with later versions. Ahsoka’s name was written under Anakin’s words twice. I noticed mostly because Ahsoka made reference to his notes both times.

Otherwise, this was a very interesting read. Most of this I knew as a fan of the movies and video games, however to have it all placed into a simulated leather bound book with rough edges was a very nice touch. Each commenter had a distinct voice that suited their character, complete with sarcasm and wit.

I should add that both texts had Yoda’s unique grammatical pattern as well, which was an amusing touch.

Each book, I hesitate to call it a novel since it’s not a story so much as a manual or reference, was originally released as a part of a package.

The Sith book came in a holocron with a scrap of a Sith burial shroud, a map of the Great Galactic War, a red lightsaber crystal, Palpatine’s political strategies, an Empire propaganda poster, a Nightsister talisman and a note from Luke Skywalker.

The Jedi book came in a case that when opened would reveal the book, a map, a coin, a Jedi Aces patch and a Padawan braid (little creepy there…lol).

The books themselves were released on their own about a year later, so if you don’t want the package and have more patience than I do, you can wait.

Like most people, when I find something that really appeals to me, I tend to go all in. After reading both books I went online and purchased the “vault” editions, as of this writing they are still on the way…I didn’t have the patience to wait to write about this. I also ordered The Bounty Hunter Code package (published October 29th, 2013) which is called “From the Files of Boba Fett”.

The Bounty Hunter book comes in a metal notebook that flips open along the short edge to reveal the book, a Kamino saberdart, Fett’s Captain’s license and arms permit, Slave 1’s operating license, a Han Solo wanted poster and an inventory slip from the Rebel Alliance who discovered and seized Fett’s property.

All in all, I was very impressed with the Sith and Jedi books and I’m really looking forward to opening the packages when they arrive and exploring the bounty hunter collection as well. If you’re into Star Wars at all, you owe it to yourself to at least check the books out. They are very interesting, well done and well researched. The material used is high quality and left me feeling like I was actually reading a hand-me-down book from a master. They may not be incredibly long, but there’s a lot of information for a general audience and further research into the concepts and history that interests you the most.

Praise for Daughter of Vengeance

Maybe you’re “not into fantasy”, or “not into chicklit”, or the thought of a female assassin is laughable. Check out what people are saying about Daughter of Vengeance and decide for yourself.cropped-cropped-dov-banner1.jpg

“Daughter of Vengeance” is an action-packed fantasy with a strong female heroine who has more than her share of tragedy, yet rises above it to maintain her goodness and sense of justice.

Michelle has a violent entrance into the world—a jealous confrontation between her father and the man who wants her mother leaves her an orphan. As she grows, she demonstrates magical powers and has a great beauty that set her apart—and they make her a target. When she’s imprisoned as a concubine for a lecherous Earl, she’s about to give up hope when an assassin (Samantha) takes her under her wing and begins to teach her how to fight; she also meets others who begin teaching her to control and use her magic. Michelle is soon plunged into a world of great danger as an enemy from her past and rogue assassins from the Brotherhood threaten her safety, that of the people she loves, and the kingdom itself.

“Daughter of Vengeance” is a gritty fantasy, and Michelle is a capable, resilient main character—from the beginning, you pull for her to find happiness (which makes the romance that develops toward the end of the novel very satisfying). Her refusal to feel pity for herself and to keep moving forward makes you empathize with her, rather than feel sorry for her, and that makes her a character you can invest in as a reader. The other main characters are equally well done—Fred and Samantha feel like friends by the end of the novel, while Wesley is a chilling villain in his unpredictable path toward seizing power.

I also enjoyed the world the author built—one filled with magic yet grounded in the pragmatic reality of the everyday, where people struggle to survive and plenty of evil roams. (Some of my favorite scenes, though, were the ones set in the afterlife with Michelle’s father—they were poignant and filled the book with a sense of fate and destiny concerning Michelle’s journey.) The book is well-written and well-paced; plenty of action, whether Michelle is being attacked or trying to take out a target, keeps the plot moving along. I also liked how Michelle’s trade—assassin—made me think about good and evil in the book’s world and how politics informs that dichotomy.

I would recommend “Daughters of Vengeance” to readers who like fantasy featuring a female hero and plenty of action, though the level of violence and some sexual content may make it inappropriate for younger readers.

 

Hey, if you like Game of Thrones…then you’re a fantasy fan after all. This book has teeth. Give it a shot, it’s only $2.99 on Kindle after all.