Rod Raglin

This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection,  the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.

Surrendered Stories with photographs - Courageous creativity

Surrendered Stories: with photographs - Kristin Fouquet

 

 

Surrendered Stories with photographs is a slim volume of four well-written and clever short stories embracing comedy, drama, tragedy, and suspense.

 

Cocteau’s Ransom is a humorous tale about an ill-conceived dognapping.

 

Nights at the Vestige is a poignant story about loneliness underscored by the protagonist's predilection for 1930s jazz and silent movies.

 

A tragic death and how a family deals with the aftermath is the theme in Return to Camp Bon Temps.

 

Fouchet leaves the best for last. Margaux’s Understudy is a suspenseful story about love lost and how it cannot be reenacted.

 

Author Kirstin Fouquet uses a crisp, sparse style with minimal description leaving much to the readers' imagination. Characters are developed through action and dialogue never impeding the well-paced plot.

 

Though the stories are expertly crafted beginning in the middle of the action, building to the climax and each culminating with a satisfying ending, they lacked impact. The intensity of life and death, real or as a metaphor is absent.

 

Fouquet’s knowledge of the music of the Jazz Age, the silent movie era and classic stage productions is prodigious and enhances the narrative of Nights at the Vestige and Margaux’s Understudy respectively.

 

Embedded with the stories are nine black and white photographs. It’s apparent a good deal of care and creativity went into the production of this book including layout and design, reproduction and placement of the photographs, typography and even the choice of fonts.

 

Though I felt the images enhanced the book, it was a stretch to see how some of the photographs related to the text. Despite these few shortcomings, the approach shows courageous creativity.

 

- Reviewed by Rod Raglin for Readers’ Favorite,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Money Matters, writing doesn’t

 

Jenny and Tricia Carter are sisters, but all they have in common are their parents.

 

At twenty-seven, Jenny has a deadbeat boyfriend and barely gets by with poorly paid part-time jobs. For Tricia, older by two years and a successful realtor, money comes above everything else.

 

Jenny has been renting the extra bedroom in Tricia’s Venice, California condo since she got evicted from her low-rent studio a couple of years ago. Tricia never misses an opportunity to criticize her sister for the poor choices she makes. Jenny pretty much deserves it.

 

One of Jenny’s part-time jobs is caring for the indoor plants of a mega-wealthy hedge fund manager, Todd Granger.  When Felicia, his housekeeper, tells Jenny she’s concerned Susan, Todd’s live-in girlfriend has gone missing, Jenny says she’ll look into it.

 

Jenny has no luck tracing Susan, but Felicia has discovered Todd’s house is bugged and gives her a secure digital card she found. The SD card is from Total Surveillance, a company Jenny has another part-time job with reviewing surveillance tapes.

 

Jenny does some digging at Total Surveillance and comes up with more tapes from Todd’s house that suggest he’s laundering cartel drug money through his hedge fund as well as using some of it to finance his brother’s anti-immigrant focused campaign for governor.

 

This has the elements of an interesting novel and might have been in the hands of an author better versed in the craft.

 

This is Brian Finney’s first work of fiction and its apparent right from the start when he begins the narrative with backstory rather than the inciting incident.

 

It’s not that the writing is bad; there are no grammatical errors; it’s just painfully amateurish.

 

The author is infatuated with adverbs and attaches them to almost every bit of dialogue, presumably to make sure the reader understands the delivery. With good writing, the reader knows how the dialogue is delivered because of previous action, characterization and setting.

 

The story is filled with redundancies, a common mistake of beginners who want to make sure the reader “gets it.”  The text is also riddled with redundant modifiers like “shouts angrily”, “shouts back in a temper”, “shoves Miguel roughly,” “lacks firm definition”.

 

Characters in Money Matters are one dimensional with good and evil delineated almost exclusively by wealth and ethnic origin. Everyone white is at best indifferent and at worst a bigot. If you’re successful, you’re self-centered, materialistic, greedy and just plain nasty—like Tricia. If you’re powerful, you’re corrupt like Todd and his politician brother.

For all the antagonists in Money Matters, the end justifies the means.

 

On the other hand, if you’re poor or struggling it’s because you’re kind, liberal and caring and in the case of this story, likely an illegal, undocumented Mexican.

 

With the introduction of every new character, the author gives you a detailed physical description including their wardrobe complete with designer names. This not only stalls the narrative but feels unnatural. Minimal physical description introduced through action allows the reader to fill in the blanks and further invests them in the story.

 

The plot stretches the suspension of disbelieve in a number of areas. The first is when Felicia, after trying unsuccessfully to contact Susan, visits her apartment.

 

“I went to her apartment in Palos Verdes, and it was no right. I could see through the window. All the plants were muertas. Plates broken on the kitchen floor.” … “No! No! The landlord told me she pays the rent. Is not right. Something is malo. It smell bad in there.”

 

Why doesn't Felicia call the 9-1-1 and tell police what she’s seen and what she suspects? She could do it anonymously.

 

The second instance is when Miguel, an undocumented immigrant, obstructs Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers while they’re making an arrest and subsequently gets arrested himself. Does it make sense that he would intervene knowing how personally at risk he is?

 

Another is a telephone conversation where Todd arranges to launder cartel money through his hedge fund if the cartel makes a $100,000 donation to his brother’s political campaign. Then, Dan Granger, Todd’s brother and candidate for governor, instructs a campaign worker to open a bank account in a fictitious name and deposit the illegal contribution.

 

With so much at stake, you’d think they’d take at least a few precautions like not discussing the transaction over the telephone and not instructing an anonymous campaign worker to do something illegal.

 

The story only feels authentic when the author introduces subplots with secondary characters, Miguel’s detainment and deportation and the scenes with Jenny and Tricia’s parents including the announcement their mother has vascular dementia.

 

Developing the aforementioned scene could add a much-needed dimension to the characters of Jenny and Tricia and balance to the story as well. If Tricia were to step up and to pay for her mother’s long-term care, it would depict her as something other than avaricious and demonstrate that having a healthy bank account can be used for a worthwhile purpose.

 

Finney either is not up to this opportunity or misses it altogether. Instead, he has Tricia cut a cheque for a measly thousand dollars and writes the following tepid response for Jenney, 

 

“I had never faced the obvious fact that my parents wouldn’t be around for the rest of my life. They were a fixture in my mind. I feel sort of uprooted.”

 

Considering the upbeat ending, I wonder if the author is aware of the insidious conflict of interest that has facilitated it.

 

Jenny has extorted a million-dollar donation from the drug cartel for the Coalition of Immigrant Rights run by her boyfriend, Eduardo. Some of this money will go to pay her salary in a new job he’s created for her, described as “…exposing the false information… to change the treatment of immigrants until we have enough votes to compel the government to change the present laws.”

 

Ironically, the cartel’s funds come in part from human smuggling which would mean her salary is being paid by the very thing she'll be employed to expose–human suffering and the exploitation of immigrants.

 

If only I could believe Finney was aware of this, it would make the novel almost worthwhile.

 

I received this book free from Reedsy Discovery in return for an honest review and a $5 Amazon Gift Card.

A mix of fact and fiction makes for a clever, well-written mystery.

The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

If you like clever, well-written murder mysteries you’ll enjoy The Word is Murder.

 

An author is recruited by a discredited detective who in turn has been hired as a consultant by his former employer to solve a puzzling murder.

 

The sleuth wants the writer to tell the story about how he solves the murder and in turn share the rewards of what he’s sure will a bestseller. The author is not so sure–about the detective or the project.

 

Author Anthony Horowitz mixes fact with fiction and real people with imaginary characters to weave a story that has plenty of twists and turns.

 

The plot becomes a bit convoluted near the end but not so much as to dismiss it as contrived.

 

A trope of the contemporary Indian

Keeper'n Me - Richard Wagamese

The first third of Keeper ‘n Me details the life of Garnet Raven who was taken from his Objibway parents when he was three years old and raised in non-native foster homes.

 

He grows up never knowing who or where his real family is and his search for identity and belonging are authentic and poignant.

 

Like so many First Nations people from similar backgrounds, his dysfunctional life inevitably finds him in prison where he is contacted by someone who says he’s his brother. Indeed, he has an entire family living on a reserve in northern Ontario.

 

Upon his release and with nowhere else to go he decides to check it out.

 

The balance of Keeper ‘n Me is the story of his reunion with his family on the remote White Dog reserve and his introduction to the culture and spirituality of his ancestors by an old man referred to as Keeper.

 

Life on the White Dog reserve is mostly boring and so is reading about it. The anecdotes about events are quaint but mostly uninspiring. The importance of the connection Indigenous people have with nature is reinforced again and again and ...

 

The climax of the story comes when Garnet spends four days in the wilderness by himself – a vision quest of sorts, which, of course manifests in meaningful dreams about his ancestors.

 

If this book wasn’t written by an Indigenous person it would be dismissed as a clichéd misrepresentation of the contemporary First Nations people.

 

Freebooksy delivers downloads, but that’s it

Last year I blew my book marketing budget on entering writing contests, a total of $305 including entry fees, books and postage.

 

Two good things came out of that experience. One was a positive and insightful review by Judge Number 54 of my novel Abandoned Dreams that I entered in The 26th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. The other was the understanding the entire contest thing was a waste of money, or, to put it another way, it was a lot of money to spend for one review.

 

Though I have no evidence to prove it, I am convinced most, if not all contests are nothing more than revenue generating opportunities for writing platforms, groups and publications. 

 

Aside from the monthly stipend I receive for facilitating creative writing circles, I am determined this year to make more on my writing than I spend. That brings us to my latest novel, The Bird Whisperer, the Mattie Saunders Series Book 3, launched on May 6 of this year.

 

The book was published simultaneously on Draft to Digital, Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing.

 

After five weeks that included giveaways on BookLikes and LibraryThing, an email campaign with a free coupon code sent to 276 people on my email list, and numerous tweets and Facebook postings of a similar nature all I had to show was nineteen free downloads and one four-star review.

 

I changed my strategy, What did I have to lose?

 

I decided to promote The Rocker and the Bird Girl, the first book in the Mattie Saunders series in hopes it might create sales for The Bird Whisperer. I decided to enroll The Rocker and the Bird Girl in KDP Select and coordinate two of the five free days this exclusive listing affords you, and free email blasts with Awesome Gang, PrettyHot and MyBookPlace.

 

June 22 was the day and I assume the free email blasts went out, but nothing happened on Amazon.

 

Since research indicates fiction sales almost always peak within the first two to six weeks of the release the window for The Bird Whisperer was running out. I decided to take a chance and spend some money. I booked The Rocker and the Bird Girl on Freebooksy and coordinated it with the three free days I had left on Kindle Select.

 

The genre I chose was literary, the email would be sent to 123,660 Freebooksy subscribers, and the cost was $60 USD.

 

I held my breath.

 

The day the Freebooksy promotion broke 1,033 free books were downloaded and my author ranking went from 715,187 to 85,209 for All Books; 41,906 for Kindle eBooks; 56,679 for Kindle eBooks Romance; and, 24,882 for Kindle eBooks Romance Contemporary. The following day there were 131 downloads, and 31 on the third day.

 

Giving away books is one thing, but my benchmark for success is, and always will be, sales. As of July 20, 2019, twenty days after the Freebooksy promotion, two copies of The Bird Whisperer had been sold. However, The Rocker and the Bird Girl had picked up one text review and seven ratings with a 4-star average. There may be a few more sales and reviews trickle in over the course of this month but beyond that I wouldn’t attribute them to Freebooksy.

 

With the Freebooksy promotion and expenses such as proof books, books for beta readers and postage I’m in the red $152.15 so far this year. So much for my 2019 goal to make more on my writing than I spend.

 

But then there are still five months to go.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

 

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Author’s Amazon Book Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Author services sites that don't deliver - but still charge

It’s a rare day indeed that I don’t receive promotional material regarding some writing related program, service, publishing platform or marketing gimmick.

 

There seems to be no end to people who, for a price, will support my career as an author. Where do they all come from and considering how many there are how do any of them make a living?

 

You wouldn’t think there were that many suckers out there.

 

Here are three more sure fire suggestions to polish your manuscript, generate reviews and enhance your sales that don’t work.

 

Reedsy Discovery. Reedsy took umbrage when I described their new Discovery site as a “Another paid review, bogus up-voting book marketing site”, so I’ll let them describe it for you (how fair is that?). Visit https://blog.reedsy.com/announcing-reedsy-discovery/

 

Let’s assume you send your manuscript plus $50 and the Reedsy team smiles upon you. Your book gets a high quality review and your promoted on their Discovery Feed. Reedsy doesn’t appear to have any shortage authors ready to anti up $50. I receive at least two emails a week from them with a list of newly launched titles.

 

But does it work?

 

I’ve been tracking a few titles and here are the results to this date, July 10, 2019. The dates indicated are the Reedsy Discover launch date. Many of these books were actually published months before.

 

In Verse by Tex DeJésus was launched May 15th. It has no reviews on Amazon and one review on Goodreads posted by the author.

 

Nobody Drowned by Peter Kingsmill was launched on May 22 and has three reviews on Amazon (two are prior to the Reedsy release date) and two on Goodreads - one duplicated from Amazon and one from the author.

 

Martyrs al Sabra by Dan Kalin has no reviews on Amazon and three reviews and two ratings on Goodreads, the majority of which were posted prior to the Reedsy launch.

 

In Case You Forgot by Aubrey Stack was launched on May 23 and has no reviews anywhere.

 

The Alchemy of Noise by Lorraine Devon Wilke had its Reedsy launch on July 3 and has 32 reviews on Amazon and 40 on Goodreads, all posted prior to the launch.

 

One thing for sure, this site isn’t going to launch your literary career.

 

Following the Reedsy release most of the titles I tracked showed no increase in reviews on Goodreads or Amazon and no bump in Amazon book ratings.

 

BetaReader.io invites you to “share your unpublished manuscript to selected readers. Collect feedback and reading data to understand what works and what needs polishing. Private, secure, and easy to use.” I took advantage of their Basic Forever Free Plan which allowed me to upload one active manuscript, and get response from three readers for up 30 days. I got zilch response. Let’s face it, good beta readers are hard to find, why should they be more successful at it than anyone else?

 

Free email blasts. http://awesomegang.com http://pretty-hot.com https://mybookplace.net/ An incestuous cluster using “free” as a come-on to get you to buy up. Don’t know what you get when you pay, but it’s not even worth your time to fill in the meta data for the free option.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

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Author Amazon Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

White privilege and self-publishing

 

The blurb that accompanies Lorraine Devon Wilke's novel, The Alchemy of Noise, describes it as “a suspenseful drama driven by issues of privilege, prejudice, police profiling and legal entanglements, and the disparities in how those provocative themes impact the various and diverse characters involved.”

 

I received this book to review free from Reedsy Discovery, a pay for review site (my opinion regarding this service (?) was published in a previous blog which you can read at https://rodraglin.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/reedsy-discovery-another-paid-review-bogus-up-voting-book-marketing-site/)

 

I stated in my review that “The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.”

 

My opinion hasn’t changed. I gave The Alchemy of Noise five stars.

 

I like to research the path new authors take on the road to publication. I’m always looking for something I haven’t tried that might offer a modicum of success.

 

Wilke has self-published two previous novels with Create Space Independent Publishing platform, that’s Amazon's publishing division for paperbacks. I know, because all my books have been published on that platform as well.

 

The first was After the Sucker Punch in 2014 followed by Hysterical Love a year later. Both garnered a number of positive reviews though some are from paid for review sites which, at least in my opinion, makes them suspect because of the inherent conflict of interest. Neither books achieved much acclaim though they appear to have done significantly better than any of mine.

 

This time, Wilke decided to go another route and chose a hybrid publisher, She Writes Publishing (SWP).

 

Hybrids take your manuscript and make it publish-ready. In the case of SWP that includes cover design, proofreading, conversion to e-book and a bunch of other stuff that you can easily do yourself or isn’t necessary. They quote one price of $7,500 which doesn't include any copyediting.

 

I think one can assume Wilke paid at least that much as well as $425 for a Kirkus Review, $499 for a Foreword Review and, of course, the $50 for my review on Reedsy.

That’s a minimum of $8,424 before one sale. I hope she recoups her costs, but there are no guarantees.

 

Reviewers on Wilke’s Amazon site herald The Alchemy of Noise as an a “powerful look at racial tensions in modern America” and “strikes at the heart of contemporary race issues”.

 

I tend to agree, but what do I know, a white guy from Canada. It's interesting though, to consider how this story would have been portrayed if written by a black person, but how likely is that to happen given today’s circumstances?

 

While there are many high-profile examples of African-Americans receiving widespread acclaim in most areas of American society, the success of those individuals isn’t representative of the economic status of African-Americans as a whole. 

 

Between 1983 and 2013, white households saw their wealth increased by 14%. During the same period, black household wealth declined 75%.

 

By 2013, the wealth of the median black family in the US had fallen to a mere 10% of its white counterpart. Whereas, in 1953, four-fifths of white families made more than the typical black household, 60 years later about to nine-tenths did.

 

In 2014, the median net worth* of white households had reached $130,800. The median net worth of black households was $9,590.

 

While wage growth has improved in all racial groups in the past two years, so has the disparity between white and black wage earners.

 

Last year a survey1 found that in America whites severely underestimate the racial wealth gap. They think that black wealth is about 80% that of whites, while data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that black wealth is about 7% that of whites.

 

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that a book considered by one reviewer as an “exploration of race and privilege” is written by a white person.

 

What new black author could afford to risk $8,424?

 

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1Americans misperceive racial economic equality. An article published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, by Michael W. Kraus, Julian M. Rucker, and Jennifer A. Richeson, Sept. 18, 2017

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/09/12/1707719114.full

 

State of Working America Wages 2018, Wage inequality marches on.

By Elise Gould, published by The Economic Policy Institute, Feb. 20, 2019

https://www.epi.org/publication/state-of-american-wages-2018/

 

Notes:

A median household income refers to the income level earned by a given household where half of the homes in the area earn more and half earn less. It's used instead of the average or mean household income because it can give a more accurate picture of an area's actual economic status.

 

*Net worth is the total of what you own minus what you owe. It’s a mathematical reckoning of assets accumulated (including cars, homes, Roth IRAs and that dish of loose change on the dresser) and debts accrued (such as mortgages, auto loans, student loan debt and credit card IOUs).

 

 

An entertaining while scathing commentary about race relations in America

 

Sidonie Frame is the manager one of Chicago’s buzziest small concert and event venues. When her sound manager goes AWOL along with essential equipment she has her assistant bring in another company to fill in temporarily.

 

Chris Hawkins is owner of Sound Alchemy and immediately he and Sidonie have a connection.

 

Author Lorraine Devon Wilke tells the story from two points of view and establishes her protagonists as equals in regards to education, income and aspirations. The only difference, other than gender, is Chris is black and Sidonie’s white.

 

Temporary work becomes permanent and friendship turns to love for Chris and Sid. The last thing they think about is the colour of each other’s skin, but that’s not the case for some friends and family members.

 

This is upsetting for Sidonie, but not surprising and she’s prepared to deal with it. What she isn’t prepared for or incapable of handling is the reality of a black man living in America.

 

Here’s how Wilke has her character, Sidonie, express it.

“What I didn’t know then is that by falling in love with you I would be stepping from my world into yours. Or maybe, more accurately, straddling both. I didn’t know that because I didn’t fully realize there were two worlds, two really distinct worlds with different sets of rules ...”

 

The Alchemy of Noise is an entertaining love story while at the same time a scathing commentary on race relations in America. The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.

 

The book itself is a pleasure to read with believable dialogue, fully developed characters and exceptionally good diction, something that’s becoming increasingly rare. The plot is well-crafted and try as I might I couldn’t find one scene that didn’t develop character or advance the plot or both.

A comprehensive and concise summary for creating fictional characters

e

 

 

Creating Legends - How to craft characters readers adore ... or despise! is a comprehensive and detailed graphic eBook that includes tips and tricks for creating compelling, engaging, relatable characters.

 

In forty-five concise pages, Kathy Edens and Lisa Lepki, writers at ProWritingAid, an online writing editor and personal writing coach, have summarized almost everything important I’ve learned about developing characters including:

 

- Belief, Emotional Involvement, Clarity: what every character needs,

- Why you should throw your main character under a bus - to raise the stakes,

- Digging beyond life to create realistic characters.

 

There’s also a nifty graphic detailing The Psychology of Characters, links to character traits and character analysis worksheets, and even a therapist’s quiz you can take you yourself (I’m highly conceited, snobby and vain).

 

Its graphic style uses larger fonts for headlines and blocks of color that make it easy and fun to read.

 

This little, unpretentious book is big on practical tips and ideas that can be easily incorporated by authors with immediate and positive results.

 

Reedsy Discovery - Another paid review, bogus up-voting book marketing site

Reedsy is a British-based author services firm in the self-publishing industry. As well as helping authors find and hire vetted freelance professionals it offers online software tools to help authors convert their manuscript file to e-books. 

 

Discovery is their new program launched “because we saw way too many authors getting frustrated with their marketing campaigns.” 

 

No argument there. 

 

Reedsy describes Discovery as a pre-publication marketing tool to be used to build momentum on the day your book launches. 

 

So how does their new site work for an author? I needed some clarification, so I sent Emmanuel, CEO of Reedsy an email. Below is a transcript of my enquiry and his response.

 

 

Dear Emmanuel,

 

Thank you for contacting me regarding Reedsy Discovery. May I please get some clarification on this new marketing platform for authors? 

 

As I understand, I submit my book plus $50 for the opportunity to have one of your one hundred reviewers review it. If my book is lucky enough to be selected and receive a high-quality review, it will be promoted on the Discovery Feed where readers can read, comment and up-vote it.

 

If my book is among the most up-voted that week it will be featured in your weekly newsletter which is sent to thousands of readers in my genre. How many thousands of readers would that be if you don’t mind me asking?

 

If the reviewers don’t review my book, or if they review it and don’t like it, there’ll be no review. Without this review, it will not be promoted on the Discovery Feed and will be relegated to the Recently Added tab.

 

However, when my book is launched, the first chapter will still be made available on the Recently Added tab for readers to read, comment and up-vote—if they can find it. 

 

Would you agree the key to success is for my book to get a high-quality review and then be promoted on the Discover Feed where it will be featured prominently and much more likely to be read, commented upon and up-voted?  

 

Regardless of whether my book has the potential to be blockbuster if it is not selected it will have to compete with those arbitrarily chosen for a high-quality review and promoted on the Discovery Feed. 

 

From this disadvantaged position, do you still contend it could receive enough up-votes to be featured on your homepage and emailed directly to readers (the number still to be determined) in my genre?

 

All things considered, the most likely outcome for my book in my opinion, and indeed for most books submitted to Reedsy Discovery, will be to end up on the Recently Added list with one chapter featured. No review and no direct mail sent to your thousands (exact amount yet to be divulged) of readers in their genre.

 

And you think that’s worth $50? No, I mean do you really think it’s worth $50?

 

Sorry, I  forgot the professional landing page - that would make five including my website, D2D, Smashwords, and Amazon. 

 

Obviously, there’s something I'm missing. Something that will distinguish this venture from other sites that promote bad literature by offering paid reviews and the opportunity for unscrupulous writers using the most imaginative, but still unethical, ways of advancing (up-voting) their books with no regard for quality.

 

Please tell me I’m wrong.

 

Rod Raglin

 

PS When and if you do respond can you please provide an approximate number of thousands of readers in my genre you have access too? Is it two thousand or two hundred thousand? I think you’d agree it could make a difference.

 

 

RESPONSE FROM REEDSY

 

Hey Rod,

 

We are not currently disclosing how many readers we precisely have but it's in the tens of thousands. So far most authors have received a review on Discovery.

 

Regarding upvotes, I agree it's advantageous to receive a review. But you can counterbalance that by asking your existing base of readers to upvote you (or at least friends and family)

 

Note: I had a look at your Amazon page and I'd recommend you work with a professional cover designer before submitting to Discovery — it'll give you much great chances of receiving a review (yes, people do judge a book by its cover…)

 

All the best,

 

Emmanuel, CEO @ reedsy.com

 

 

MY RESPONSE TO REEDSY’S RESPONES

 

Dear Emmanuel, 

 

Thought you might suggest the friends and family thing. Sorry, but I find it unethical and apparently so does Amazon. I also noticed in your submission form it's required to indicate whether the author has engaged the services of Reedsy. I guess that’s one way to select who gets a review or not.

 

Thanks for the advice on the cover, but rather than spend hundreds of dollars on a professionally designed cover so your reviewers might consider reviewing my book, I can spend $9 more than your asking and Readers’ Favourite Book Reviews will review my book (no professional cover required) within two weeks—guaranteed. 

 

Their review is posted on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. In addition, many of their reviewers post reviews to their blogs and social media sites. The review is also indexed by search engines like Google, which recognizes RFBR reviews and formats them with their starred rating, just like Amazon and Goodreads.

 

They also post the review on a landing page, their app, announce it to 500,000 libraries, bookstores and schools and give you a month of free advertising on their Featured Book Rotator visible to everyone who visits their site.

 

Unfortunately, like Reedsy Discovery they only publish four and five star reviews which I think is a disservice to readers as well as writers.  However, regardless of the rating. they send you the review and a mini-critique of your book that provides ratings on 5 key areas: appearance, plot, development, formatting and marketability.

 

Regardless of your quasi-ethical practices;  not being transparent with your numbers, encouraging bogus up-voting and the conflict of interest inherent in any review that's paid for, I think you need to up your game, Emmanuel. 

 

Rod

 

 

Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive. 

 

Marketing my books has that influence on me. I can feel my tolerance fraying as I read the pitch from yet another book marketer, publishing consultant, or whatever they call themselves hoping to sell you their services or programs that offer simplistic solutions to complicated problems.

 

I shouldn’t be so hard on them. After all, they’re just trying to make a living and being a salesman myself how often have I taken the sale knowing full well the client’s expectations would never be met? 

 

Perhaps it’s because I’d like to believe that hiring an editor, cover designer and all the other professional publishing services available would guarantee me success. 

 

It won’t. It’ll just make me poorer. 

 

So I resent the dozens of emails I get, like this one, suggesting they will, and I feel empathy for those who pay the money only to have their dreams dashed and their wallet emptied.

 

Is there a solution? 

 

In ten years of experimentation I’m resigned that first I have to get good, then get lucky.

 

Stay Calm, be Brave and Watch for the Signs

 

Reedsy Discovery https://reedsy.com/discovery

Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews https://readersfavorite.com/

Author Amazon Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me, Mattie and the Opioid Epidemic

 

 

Though the pain was bearable, it diminished everything else in my life.

 

Ignoring the twinges, I decided to lift and twist at the same time. Now nothing over the counter was relieving the pain in my lower back. Of course, it was Saturday late afternoon with no chance of seeing a doctor except at the emergency ward, a place I consider the less of two evils, one being death.

 

Who did I know that recently had surgery, wisdom teeth removed, a hip replacement – anything that would warrant a prescription for Tylenol 3. Friends, neighbours, relatives; I called them all. Finally, I scored. Ten T-3 ’s would tide me over until I saw my doctor on Monday.

 

It was a hellish couple of days. Some things you actually have to experience to have empathy. Chronic pain is one of them.

 

When I finally got in to see my doctor, after standing in his waiting room for an hour and a half (too painful to sit), he wasn’t very sympathetic.

 

“How did you do this?”

 

“I don’t really know?”

 

“Do you exercise?”

 

“I run at least twice a week."

 

“How old are you?”

 

“Sixty-nine.” “

 

What are you doing running at that age?” He shook his head. “If you want your back to heal stop running.” He wrote me out a prescription for painkillers and muscle relaxants and a referral to a physiotherapist.

 

I left his office more hurt by his incredulity than by the pain in my lower lumbar.

 

Running is therapy for me, it takes me out of my head. When you run, it’s not only your legs and lungs that get a workout but all your senses. You have to be aware of the terrain and traffic, sounds and colours. It’s total exertion, and you experience it throughout your body - especially in my back, at least lately.

 

At the time I was working on my third Mattie Saunders novel. If you haven’t met her yet, she’s an independent young woman with a social conscience and a bad attitude, who loves birds, but not so much people.

 

Mattie is particularly down on addicts which is not difficult to understand considering her history, but if you want the specifics, you’ll have to read the two previous books.

 

To have a character address a particular issue in my fiction I undertake a lot of research. Discovering the cause of the opioid epidemic killing hundreds in Vancouver and thousands throughout North America was an epiphany. Many people have become addicted using legitimately prescribed opioid painkillers. When the doctor cuts them off, they turn to street drugs cut with deadly fentanyl. It’s a short journey from respectability to the morgue and death by overdose.

 

It’s not a stretch to say that could have been me.

 

They say if you want to know an author read their fiction, so not surprisingly, Mattie softens her stand on addicts in The Bird Whisper, the next in the series and soon to be released.

 

What about my back?

 

It slowly and reluctantly got better and without too many painkillers. I discovered I preferred the pain to the zombie-like feeling I got from the medication.

 

And I’m back running. Okay, not quite as far or as hard, but enough to get my runner’s high. That’s the other thing Mattie, and I have in common, we don’t take advice well.

 

Tagore said, “We are not trained to recognize the inevitable as normal, so cannot give up gracefully that which has to go.” He was right about that, but I find myself ascribing to the words of Dylan Thomas, when he wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

A synthesis of vital information on how to write a novel

 

The Novel Writing Training Plan is a short (55 pages) and concise e-book that synthesizes all the necessary information often hidden in books about writing fiction written by academics and authors themselves.

 

The seventeen steps include information on fiction fundamentals like characterization, story structure, dialogue, and setting. There are also chapters are the more subtle areas like point of view, backstory and subplots.

 

It’s graphic style with numbered tips and end of chapter takeaways make it unintimidating and easy to read.

 

Best of all you don’t have to endure pretentious academic language or multiple quotes from an author ’s books used as examples.

 

Don’t be put off that last chapter is used to promote ProWritingAid, a software editing tool. The rest of the book is jammed with valuable information.

Mad Maggie and the Wisdom of the Ancients - FREE til Feb. 12

Mad Maggie and the Wisdom of the Ancients - FREE
Book 3 in the stand-alone series Eco-Warriors is free “til February 12, 2019
Download your copy at
https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY ABOUT MAD MAGGIE...


Maggie is such an unexpected protagonist with so many barriers to achieving her dreams that I found her inspiring. I cheered for every single one of her victories. I feel that few romance heroines deserved HEA more.
- FIVE STARS, Shomeret on Flying High Reviews

 

"A good read that explores an improbable romance with all its consequences."
- FIVE STARS, C. Widmann, Goodreads review

 

"The storyline was captivating, the characters believable."
- FIVE STARS, Reviewed by Bitten by Books

 

"Magical story!"
- FOUR STARS, Elspeth, Goodreads review

 

"The plot was unconventional, it really had me hooked... Insightful.
- FOUR STARS, Dee, Goodreads review

 

"Loved it! Couldn't put it down."
- FOUR STARS, Booklikes.com review

 

Two passionate opponents, the antithesis of each other are about to clash over the future of a grove of Ancient Old Growth Forest on a secluded island.

 

Maggie talks to trees. Dieter talks to corporations. Maggie embraces mystery and flirts with magic. Dieter adheres to logic and the doctrine of Nietzsche. Dieter's client wants to destroy the trees. The trees want Maggie to protect them. Dieter has terminal cancer. Maggie is schizophrenic. Maggie says she can save him if he saves the trees. Dieter thinks she's crazy, but what choice does he have?

 

A week together alone on Deadman's Island changes everything for both of them. Is it madness? Is it magic? Or is it love?

 

Mad Maggie is a love story between two disparate characters, a brilliant though somewhat anal retentive corporate lawyer whose personal and career mantra is "the will to power," and a free, uninhibited spirit who practices natural healing on a secluded island in the wilderness.

 

It's a story about protecting wild things and wild places as well as the devastating effects of mental illness and the stigma society still inflicts on those affected. It's a story about compromise, tolerance and understanding and how these feelings spring from love and are nurtured by it. It's about mystery, secrets and power that abounds in nature and within ourselves.

 

Mad Maggie and the Wisdom of the Ancients is the third book in the stand alone series ECO-WARRIORS.

 

Mad Maggie and the Wisdom of the Ancients - FREE

Mad Maggie and the Wisdom of the Ancients - FREE
Book 3 in the stand-alone series Eco-Warriors is free “til February 12, 2019
Download your copy at
https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY ABOUT MAD MAGGIE...


Maggie is such an unexpected protagonist with so many barriers to achieving her dreams that I found her inspiring. I cheered for every single one of her victories. I feel that few romance heroines deserved HEA more.
- FIVE STARS, Shomeret on Flying High Reviews

 

"A good read that explores an improbable romance with all its consequences."
- FIVE STARS, C. Widmann, Goodreads review

 

"The storyline was captivating, the characters believable."
- FIVE STARS, Reviewed by Bitten by Books

 

"Magical story!"
- FOUR STARS, Elspeth, Goodreads review

 

"The plot was unconventional, it really had me hooked... Insightful.
- FOUR STARS, Dee, Goodreads review

 

"Loved it! Couldn't put it down."
- FOUR STARS, Booklikes.com review

 

Two passionate opponents, the antithesis of each other are about to clash over the future of a grove of Ancient Old Growth Forest on a secluded island.

 

Maggie talks to trees. Dieter talks to corporations. Maggie embraces mystery and flirts with magic. Dieter adheres to logic and the doctrine of Nietzsche. Dieter's client wants to destroy the trees. The trees want Maggie to protect them. Dieter has terminal cancer. Maggie is schizophrenic. Maggie says she can save him if he saves the trees. Dieter thinks she's crazy, but what choice does he have?

 

A week together alone on Deadman's Island changes everything for both of them. Is it madness? Is it magic? Or is it love?

 

Mad Maggie is a love story between two disparate characters, a brilliant though somewhat anal retentive corporate lawyer whose personal and career mantra is "the will to power," and a free, uninhibited spirit who practices natural healing on a secluded island in the wilderness.

 

It's a story about protecting wild things and wild places as well as the devastating effects of mental illness and the stigma society still inflicts on those affected. It's a story about compromise, tolerance and understanding and how these feelings spring from love and are nurtured by it. It's about mystery, secrets and power that abounds in nature and within ourselves.

 

Mad Maggie and the Wisdom of the Ancients is the third book in the stand alone series ECO-WARRIORS.

 

A seriously non-traditional love story - A review of my novella, The Rocker and the Bird Girl -

The Rocker and the Bird Girl - Rod Raglin

The Rocker and the Bird Girl - January 24, 2019

Reviewed By Lisa McCombs for Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews

FOUR STARS

 

When Saunders Exotic Bird Sanctuary falls into financial crisis, owner Mattie Saunders realizes that her grandfather’s passion is not necessarily her own. Initially honored to continue her grandfather’s business mainly as a symbol of love to the man who raised her, Mattie wasn’t certain she was the woman for the job. Maybe the sanctuary would be better off in the hands of a commercial developer. She could find forever homes for all the birds in her care and finally make a life of her own. Of course she would have to part with her favorite feathered friends, especially Pickles. As she contemplates this major life move, her life becomes further complicated with a surprise introduction to the infamous reportedly drug-addicted rock star, Bodine. Even if his devotion to his own exotic macaw was sincere, could she trust his promise to clear her debt while being the upstanding citizen he professed to be?

The Rocker and the Bird Girl by Rod Raglin is a seriously non-traditional love story. Written by an environmentalist, the novel not only paints a sweet picture of hearts in tune, but offers respect for the breathtaking gift of the colorful birds of the rainforest. Raglin’s words caution the reader to study the serious consequences of pet adoption, while creating a heart-warming novella that contains just the right amount of romance.

 

A secondary theme to the story is being open to second chances. Rock star Bodine is not the stereotypical stage musician. While his band mates fall victim to the allure of sex and drugs with their rock-n-roll routine, Bodine is proof of not judging a book by its cover.

 

The Rocker and the Bird Girl is Book 1 in the Mattie Saunders Series and is available for $1.00 at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

A story about nothing, or about everything, and nothing specific

Alternate Side: A Novel - Anna Quindlen

 

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen is a story about New Yorkers, though not necessarily those native to the city, but those who have become successful and thrive on its energy and eccentricities.

 

Nora Nolan and her husband, Charlie, are two of those people as are their neighbours, a privileged few who live on a street that is unique in that it is short and a dead end, allowing limited access and maximum exclusivity.

 

What makes this book so entertaining is Quindlen’s excellent characterization and authentic dialogue. Indeed, this book has very little plot at all with the inciting incident not even arriving until nearly halfway through the book.

 

The event that starts this cliquish neighbourhood unravelling is when one of the neighbours brutally assaults Ricky, the handyman for the entire enclave, with a golf club because he blocked the entrance to the exclusive neighbourhood parking lot.

 

Though the reader might expect dramatic revelations there aren’t any, everything is resolved in a civilized manner, as befitting these very civilized people.

 

The worst that Quindlen can evoke is the falling out between some neighbours re-enforcing in this reader that you’re often better off not getting to know people too well.

 

The ending has some uninspired musing by the protagonist about the road untaken. I had the impression the author hoped an appropriate ending would present itself and it didn’t, or it did, and she didn’t have the courage to write it.

 

I'm not sure if Alternate Side was an entertaining story about nothing or a story about everything, but nothing specific.