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.

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.

 

30

 

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?

 

30

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Loving the Terrorist - Free Dec. 30th

Time's running out to get your

Free E-book of

Loving the Terrorist, Book 2 in the Eco-Warrior Series

Offer ends tonight at midnight.

Download your free copy at

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015MK5UL6/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1 

 

Abandoned Dreams contest entry commentary costs $116.45

Abandoned Dreams - Rod Raglin

This year I decided to spend some of my paltry marketing budget entering my novels in a few of the many contests offered on the internet.

 

I may as well have flushed the funds down the toilet for all the good it did. Most contests hastily cashed my cheque and then didn’t even bother spamming me to advise that I didn't win, place or show.

 

These for sure are cash grabs for financially beleaguered writing sites, festivals, literary publications or outright scam artists.

 

The exception so far has been the Writer's Digest Self Published Book Awards that provided a brief commentary from an anonymous judge.

 

So here are Judge Number 54 comments regarding my submission to The 26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Not a bad review, but then it did cost $116.45 ($99.49 entry fee + $10.30 postage + $6.66 for the price of the book and shipping)

 

 

Entry Title: Abandoned Dreams

Author: Rod Raglin

Judge Number: 54

Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction

 

 * Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.

 

 

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4

 

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 4

 

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

 

Plot and Story Appeal: 4

 

Character Appeal and Development: 4

 

Voice and Writing Style: 4

 

 

Judge’s Commentary

 

   This novel uses a distinctive succession of first-person sections that combine to offer an incisive perspective on the loves and fortunes of several characters whose lives intersect in tortured relationships. Musings and actions by the characters as the story progresses create a running succession of candid revelations. Along the way, readers get intimate understandings of what motivates the characters, who cross a wide age range, as they seek to reach their social and artistic goals. Literary and artistic matters including the drive for fame and creativity, as well as cutting criticism, are refreshingly realistic and provide illuminating insights into the minds of writers and artists. How the past and present link up and influence their current lives and activities is skillfully portrayed. Generational aspects, including a visit to an ashram in the U.S., are woven into the multiple relationships and ambitions that stir the narrative.

       Overall, the dreams of the past blend into the aspirations of the present as the force of character persists.

         More suspense in what will happen, especially as the past is recalled, would enhance the book’s drive. More chapters should end on a suspenseful note to make readers wonder what will happen next. The dialogue is snappy with good use of interior monologue while showing the mind-sets of the characters.

     The title is intriguing and spurs interest. The first two lines of the subtitle work, but the third one raises the question of who the “they” is. Perhaps “life” could be used instead. The cover image is interesting, but consider placing an easel between the chairs and a manuscript on one chair to better reflect the contents and themes of the novel.

 

You can purchase Abandoned Dreams from my Amazon Author's Page at

https:www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs

My #MeToo Moment

One of the reasons I write is to explore contemporary issues through different perspectives. For example, in Book 3 of the Mattie Saunders Series (yet untitled), I’m researching the #MeToo movement and the issue of sexual harassment through the eyes of Mattie, my protagonist. 

This investigation that included watching Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and hearing the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford made me reflect on my own behaviour. Did I ever cross the line, that line being the use of force or intimidation to have sex with a woman?

The answer is an emphatic no. Why am I so convinced? To understand, you need some context.

Between the ages of fourteen and nineteen, I tried to have sex with every woman I dated. It was just what you did, and, it seemed the girls I dated expected me to, not that they were all cooperative.

It was a game we played in the backseats of cars and in dark rec rooms.

The necking would start, and hands would search out clasps to undo, pants to slide down or dresses to slip up. There were three inevitable outcomes. The girl would get up and go home, the girl would break off go to the washroom, come back and re-engage only to break off, etc.,  the girl would go all the way.

Despite the outcome, I didn’t feel different about the girl, though the ones who walked out never dated me again.

I don’t think I was too different, or indifferent than most guys my age at that time, except for me when it came to sex it wasn’t so much the destination, but rather the journey.

Women had to want to have sex with me, that was whole the point. It was all about being cool, attractive and desirable. If I got turned down, and I did, a lot, I told myself it was their loss. I may not have been a nice guy, but I wasn’t a misogynist.

The idea of using anything but charm, appearance and style combined with a confident, cavalier attitude was unimaginable. In fact, intimidation, coercion or force were the antipathies to what was trying to be achieved.

The times have changed dramatically in fifty years, I’ve matured, and my attitude regarding many things has undergone a paradigm shift. What hasn’t changed is my view that using force to achieve your goals is the way of idiots and cowards, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. 

Not surprisingly, Mattie feels the same way.



Keep calm, be brave, watch for the signs

  30

 

Author's  Amazon Page for the Mattie Saunders Books 1 & 2, The Rocker and the Bird Girl and Cold-Blooded

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 



 

 



 

 

 

 

A dispassionate, factual account of cultural genocide against First Nations in Canada

 

 

Residential schools operated in Canada for a hundred years and about one hundred and fifty thousand First Nations children were forcibly removed from their parents and their communities and sent to them. The philosophy of these institutions was to kill the Indian in the child so they could better assimilate into white society.

 

It’s been well documented, indeed even Prime Minister Trudeau has apologized for the physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse these children endured for the ten years they were enrolled.

 

What isn’t understood is that as well as losing a normal childhood they also lost coping mechanisms, trust, a sense of safety and belonging and future parenting skills. For generations there was a cycle of remove children from their family, culture and support systems; shame, punish and abuse them; and then return them to parents who had undergone the same treatment.

 

If you don’t have this information, and other information about the cultural genocide perpetrated by the Canadian government, supported at least indirectly by the Canadian people than you cannot begin to understand the struggle of First Nations people in Canada.

 

I didn’t and now I do, thanks to Lynda Gray’s book, First Nations 101.

 

In a readable and dispassionate voice, Gray, a member of the Tsimshian Nation and Executive Director of the Urban Native Youth Assoc. in Vancouver, Canada, lays it all out and it’s horrific, unjustifiable and unresolved.

 

Chapters include identity, social control, community issues, fairness and justice, taxation, health and wellness and arts.

 

Apologies and commissions aside, First Nations still struggle with poverty and discrimination which are born out by statistics including Indigenous adults representing 4.1 percent of the of the total Canadian adult population — but 26 percent of adults in federal custody.

 

As they begin to recover from the effects of our assimilation policies and decades of intergenerational trauma all they ask is that they receive justice and fairness and for us to get out of their way so they can get on with the healing and rebuilding of their culture.

 

At the end of the book, Gray describes what needs to be done by the Canadian government and Canadians individually, and First Nations themselves if both sides are really interested in truth and reconciliation.

 

Reading First Nations 101 is a good first step.

 

The case for not having your manuscript professionally edited

East Van Saturday Night - Rod Raglin

I want to thank Artsy Ally for pointing out a typo on page 15 in my new release East Van Saturday Night - Four Short Stories and a Novella (EVSN). It has since been corrected on all digital platforms and in paperback. Unfortunately, if you purchased the book in either form before September 28, 2018, you’ve got one with the error in it and maybe a few others that have yet to be discovered.

 

 Artsy Ally, a.k.a. Ally Robertson, is content producer and social media director of Access Television, a non-profit organization that airs “community stories from Vancouver, BC, with a focus on marginalized voices. Produced by volunteers and neighbours.”

 

 I reached out to her to see if she’d be interested in reviewing the above mentioned new release.

 

 The response was interesting.

 

 Robertson asked for a digital copy and said she would “hand it off to someone who may read and review it. If they decide to do a review, we will have you come into the studio for a short interview.”

 

That sounded encouraging, and I sent an e-pub version immediately. The following day I received her response.

 

She began by saying “Your stories have merit and I enjoyed the memories they stirred in me. I really enjoyed the chapters with Chris’s attempt at crossing Canada. ... I found East Van Saturday Night to be more like a one story novella with chapters, as the stories are of the same character.”

 

Robertson then proceeded to tell me she too was a self-published author “at the moment,” and she would “highly recommend you have people proofread your work before you publish. I am trying not to be highly critical, but as a former book publisher who published over 60 authors, I have some experienced suggestions for you. I found there were some issues with the book I just couldn’t overlook.”

 

Robertson said the book contained “plenty of grammatical errors” as well as “simple spelling mistakes.” Other issues she “just couldn’t overlook” included “un-announced dialogue switching” and “proper scene changes” which the book “desperately needs.”

Her suggestion was to have “a good proofreader go over it and you re-edit.”

 

I have an incredibly thick skin. I look at constructive criticism as a way to improve my writing. Accordingly, I sent the following response to Artsy.

 

Dear Ally,

 

No offence taken, in fact, thank you for your suggestions.

 

Scene changes can also be indicated by adding an additional blank line space, which I prefer over asterisks. However, I realize this style works better in print than in digital as the formatting may diminish it or eliminate the space altogether. I plan to take your suggestion and revise the manuscript inserting asterisks to indicate scene changes.

 

When errors are pointed out, I fix them and upload the corrected manuscript to all my digital and print publishing platforms. New readers will find one less mistake, though unfortunately, that doesn’t help those who have purchased my book with the typo.

 

When I write, I have two computer programs (Grammarly and ProWritingAid) filter the work. After a minimum of three revisions, I send the manuscript to three beta readers. Despite this rather thorough process errors are still overlooked.

 

Excuses and expenses aside, I will endeavour to do better.

 

Rod

 

Robertson replied saying I might be able to “find a student willing to do it (proofread) for $1.00 per page.” She was lucky enough to have her novel, Epic Crazy Love “go through 3 editors and a proofreader long before I re-published it myself.”

 

So now that you’ve got context let’s draw some conclusions.

 

Apparently, Robertson doesn’t think three beta readers, two computer editing/grammar programs and the author have the editing prowess of a student paid a dollar a page. Maybe she’s right.

 

More importantly, though, I’m interested in how well her novel is doing considering it went “through 3 editors and a proofreader” before it was self-published.

 

Epic Crazy Love was published in April 2017. Here’s the blurb accompanying the book.

 

Can two reunited soul mates conquer deceit, begrudged malice, extortion, multiple mental and physical traumas and maintain an intense, lasting, abiding love?

 

To date, Epic Crazy Love has one, five-star review. Here are its rankings on Amazon.

  • #18011 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Westerns
  • #27965 in Books > Romance > Western
  • #159502 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Contemporary
  • #3,393,001 overall on Amazon’s Paid in Kindle Store

“I did love the story (East Van Saturday Night) itself,” Robertson writes, “but reading it, it was difficult to overlook all of the little things that threw me off as a reader. Paying someone to proofread will really kick it up a notch and make your work great.”

 

Or maybe not.

 

But here’s the kicker, Artsy Ally, didn’t pass along my book to the reviewer saying, “Due to the adult content I don’t think it’s a good match for us to review for you, I don’t think it would be something Susan would enjoy reading so I won’t pass it along.”

 

Add censor to Robertson’s list of accomplishments.

 

Some days...

 

Stay calm. Be brave. Watch for the signs.

 

 

Access Television https://www.facebook.com/ACCESSCOMMUNITYTV/

Ally Robertson

 

http://ArtzyAlly.com

 

Epic Crazy Love

https://www.amazon.com/Epic-Crazy-Love-Ally-Robertson/dp/1770650717/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538433910&sr=1-2&keywords=crazy+epic+love

 

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