reviews

A Wonderful New Review for LEX TALIONIS in Caribbean Beat Magazine

I’m really over the moon about this one!

Caribbean Beat magazine is produced by Caribbean Airlines and given away free on every flight they have, both in and out of the Caribbean, for two months. I’m extremely lucky and grateful to be included in their bookshelf. In the past, I’ve heard about great books like ‘A Brief History Of Seven Killings’–which won the Man Booker prize, among others–from reading the magazine while traveling around the islands on business.

You can read the review here, just scroll down a bit. 

My favourite part? The closing lines:

‘Lex Talionis sings a bloody song of both forgetting and redemption, and of the price we pay for a little tenderness, when least we expect to be taxed for our freedoms.’

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*Squees with joy*

*Dances around*

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programme!

Taylor Swift Is Alright With Me

I like Taylor Swift and I’m not ashamed to say it.

I don’t, in fact, think she writes bad music. I like her tunes, I rock out to them all the time, and her Bad Blood video was everything, dahling, just everything.

Does she sometimes come across as the branded version of every good American girl a good American guy ever lusted after in a John Hughes movie? Sure. But it’s not her fault she happens to be blonde, talented and beautiful. And good for her, she also comes across as someone who has a sense of humour about herself and doesn’t really let what others think of her change what she likes about herself. As a feminist, I enjoy seeing a young woman move through the world confidently, living life as exactly the kind of woman she wants to be, and although the music industry famously warps everyone, Taylor still seems to be the same kind of likable girl we met when she was in her teens, despite the best efforts of most tabloids. In that, at least, she has beat out Miley, Lindsey, Hilary and a bunch of others.

However, what really made me like her recently is her stand against not being paid for what she does. Few artists have used their likability and success to actually stand up for principles that benefit the little guy. Most just use it to bankroll themselves. But twice now, Taylor has taken a stand against systems in the music industry that don’t pay performers properly for music. Withholding her massively popular album has served to spotlight practices at Spotify. And now, she has done the same thing with Apple, who intended to withhold royalties from artists whose tracks were downloaded during a user’s free three month trial period. Her latest stand against Apple was brilliantly explained. Apple does not give away its services for free, so they should not ask performers to do so. Only someone possessing no heart could fault it.

I never thought Apple had a heart (or rather, if it had one, it was a monstrous, misshapen entity, made up of the madly beating nerd hearts that gave out while standing in line for the newest variation of iPhones and iPads). But heart or not, they actually responded to her elegantly stated position by changing theirs.

This is big. Really big. Because for too long now, the internet has encouraged an entire generation to believe that entertainment should be free. Piracy is rampant in the music, publishing and film industry and in order to combat it, some industry leaders have tried and failed to plug leaks, while others have simply made as much content as possible free, at least for a time.

Giving away work for free is not a solution. What it does is enrich corporations, who can wait for profits, while seriously hurting artists, who are often on the bread line before they see a penny back from those long hours in a garage putting together demos and tracks. In the case of writers, it takes years to get novels done, and we already get paid a fraction of the sticker price of our own work unless we jump on board the Smashwords and Apple train, or sell our soul to sites like Amazon.

Problem is, Amazon is also a big company who can wait for profits. So it does things like arbitrarily reduce royalties on audio books after buying up Audible. Or change the rates on a programme because writers, you know, joined it. It can change the way it decides to price or market your book in KDP select without any consultation.

This basic disrespect of content creators comes in part from the false ideas that everyone can be a writer, and readers will pay for any book because they don’t care where they came from, they just care about the book. That’s not true anymore, if it ever was. Frankly, not everyone can be a GOOD writer, and most readers would like to pay for something that’s good.

There is some evidence that ebook sales are leveling off. More importantly, self-publishing and making money from it are not, and have never been, the same thing. Still, every writer should choose the path to publication they are most comfortable with because every path has drawbacks and positives. For me, not getting paid has never been something I’m comfortable with. I love writing. I want to do this full time. But I have a family who depends on me. If writing doesn’t pay my bills, I will have to try something else and let writing remain a beloved hobby. I’d rather not do that.

The creation of content, written, audible or visual, demands real money, time and work. Just because you can get something without paying, doesn’t mean it cost nothing to make. Artists deserve to be paid for it the same way everyone else gets paid for their work. Deciding that because it’s on the internet it should be free is simply a way of saying you don’t care what it takes to create content and you don’t want any more of it. If you like something, the only way for an artist to produce more is if they can feed themselves and their family doing it. If they can’t do that, why should you expect them too keep feeding your hobby? To keep entertaining you for free?

So I’m with Taylor. If you want to give people a free trail, do so by all means. But bear the cost yourself. Don’t ask artists to do it. If you want to enjoy an ebook, or music, or a film, consider buying it first. Respect the creator enough to acknowledge their right to earn a living from their own work.

But if you really can’t do that (writers and musicians are just a subset of broke people, after all), then at least advocate for what you love. Help boost the signal. Leave reviews for books on Amazon and Goodreads. Tell friends about your favourites. Someone with the money to buy the product might see your review and give a new artist a chance.

Support your habit. Support artists. Pay it forward. Because I suspect Taylor Swift is totally down with that too.

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Stay thirsty my friends!

Greg Byrne Got One Hell of a Publishers Weekly Review For His Debut Novel Nine Planets!

Greg’s a wonderful old friend from Australia and we met on the OWW years ago where we supported each other as we crept toward our goal of being decent writers some day and shared our love of all things cricket.

Greg wrote this amazing, emotional, dystopic yet almost urban fantasy book called ‘Nine Planets’ that really didn’t fit any labels and defied conventions to tell a universal story. It took my publisher, Dragonwell Publishing to see the story for what it was. Something special.

So today we are all very proud, excited and over the moon to see that Publishers Weekly agreed with us.

Congratulations, Greg!!

Nine Planets - Click Image to Close

What Everyone Who Loves Books Needs to Know

This is your writer speaking.

And what indie writer Ninie Hammon has to say is what EVERY writer–famous our not–would love to say if they weren’t worried about coming off as pushy, demanding, ungrateful or off-putting.

In today’s world, your open and vocal support has become something we cannot do without.

Once upon a time, a writer could just leave it up to the Fates whether their book caught on or not after the usual period of publisher hype. Now, there IS no hype–particularly for indie authors like myself–without the help of readers who like our work. If those readers don’t talk about us on Facebook, add us on Goodreads, review us on Amazon or rave about us on Twitter, we will most likely go nowhere very fast.

I didn’t realise just how much things had changed until my publisher recently informed me that without more reviews on Amazon, I could not ‘unlock’ better promotional support from Amazon itself.

Most people indie or self-publishing now don’t even realise the game changed last year, six months ago, even last month.

Think you’ll get traction by joining Goodreads? Maybe. If you give away a lot of books you might get a few reviews back, and thank your luck stars for those. Now let’s just hope they liked it.

Twitter freak who can charm anyone in 140 characters? Guess what? There are more writers following those writing/reading/publishing accounts on Twitter than readers. Yup. You’re mostly likely trying to sell your book to someone else who’s trying to sell you their book too. And in any case, are you really more charming than Neil Gaiman or Chuck Wendig? ‘Cause they’re your real competition.

Great blog you worked on for years? See Chuck Wendig’s site. Then go cry in a corner. Oh, and don’t be surprised if your blog followers are interested in…you know, your blog. People don’t usually follow other people just to buy stuff from them. In other words, be grateful if your followers love you enough to give your book a read. Be over the moon if they review it. A blog isn’t a marketing tool to readers and just talking about your stuff is no guarantee anyone will buy it.

Think you can join Wattpad and get more attention that way? Traditional authors are already way ahead of you. If you weren’t there already, building up a loyal fan base and adding friends and getting down with the community, prepare to roll up your sleeves before you see any real results. And if you do adult scifi like I do, then you run into the wall of YA love that puts every paranormal, urban fantasy or contemporary YA a la John Greene way ahead of you in the queue. Don’t expect millions of readers no matter how good you are. Do expect to compete for attention with long established writers like Cory Doctrow.

Facebook master? Good for you. I hope you have a lot of friends. Because whatever that number is, divide it by 1000 and that’s how many will actually share your writing updates or requests for reviews. And the writers groups are usually about supporting and critiquing and not cool with promotion, so you make a nuisance of yourself and end up getting kicked out if you try the hard sell. And if you do join a group that’s cool with promotion–you’ve most likely just entered the same game that Twitter has going.

Giving your manuscript away for free on NetGalley and LibraryThing so you can get more reviews and buzz? Even if you book is amazing, the number of reviews is usually quite low because EVERYONE is doing the same thing, and overwhelming the good-hearted readers on those sites. While we’re at it, sending off requests to people who joined sites and offered honest reviews in return for free books no longer works either. They’re even more overwhelmed than the NetGalley guys.

What about paying to get reviews from sites like Kirkus or sending your book to Publishers’ Weekly? Standard practice. For everyone. Kirkus reviews do nothing for most people in terms of sales. And even if Publishers’ Weekly likes you, that doesn’t reach readers as much as it reaches the industry.  Readers see those tags on the backs of every book they pick up–and their eyes go right over it.

So spend a little and pay to get on a email list like BookBub then, right? Nope. BookBub has so many people banging on their doors, they’ve become very select and more traditionally published books are on their lists than indie books now because traditional publishers usually have the Goodreads and Amazon ratings needed to meet their high standards and they have the cash to take the big deals too. Indie books generally get on if they have hundreds of good ratings–and they’re offering the book for free. Which sort of defeats every purpose except maybe hoping to get a review back. But since these lists operate to give readers cheap new books, not authors new reviews, a review is a possible and hoped for by-product, not a guarantee.

Well, the great God Amazon will be your saviour.

Wrong. Amazon is in business to make money. And if you’re not part of their imprints, you are a distant second. So those ‘recommended’ listings you see, those ‘people who bought X also bought Y’ ratings, even your place in the rankings after sales–they can all be paid for by traditional publishers. Indie and self-publishers can’t depend on that. And remember how you could just put out a good book with a nice cover, get a bunch of high ratings, climb the charts and reap the extra attention all the way to Hugh Howey sized success?

No longer.

Amazon changes their formulas regularly just to make sure they can’t be gamed again like they were in the past by those guys who sell review packages. It’s a constant battle between unethical authors, shady review providers and Amazon that has led to draconian measures like not letting authors review for other authors, and even deleting reviews from close family, usually the only guaranteed reviews authors can count on. Thanks a lot, RJ Ellory and friends.

I could go on and on. As a recently published author, I can tell you I’ve tried just about everything in terms of marketing and promotion. Some things worked okay, some things not at all. Nothing has been a sure-fire winner. And the advice other authors and sites give about how to market is already outdated or has been taken by every other author out there competing with me, so by the time I try to follow it, the paradigm has changed and it’s no longer effective.

Only one thing hasn’t changed. The power of the reader and word of mouth.

If you love a book, if you think it was good, if you enjoyed something recently, then help a writer out. Talk about it. Leave reviews if you can. Follow a blog. A twitter feed. A Goodreads account. Tell your friends. Pass the book on. Say a few words on Amazon or Goodreads. Whatever little you do, it multiples for that writer a thousand-fold and it will be appreciated so much you won’t even understand.

Readers, your casual mention is the difference between us being able to write the next novel, and having to give up so we can work another job. We authors understand that like us, you have busy lives with your own concerns. We don’t expect reviews or social media campaigns. We know it’s not even realistic for most people. But just walking into a Barnes and Noble and asking for a book can make a difference. Passing your copy on to a friend makes a difference. Dropping a rating on Goodreads makes a difference.

On behalf of Ninie and other authors out there, I want to say thank you to all those who have done these things and more for their favourite authors. You are helping deserving writers keep their heads above water in a world inundated with books, good and bad. And what I want to leave you with is the idea that if you want to see more work from someone you read recently, consider lending a helping hand in some way.

Because it’s a new world and the rules are different every day and the only thing that hasn’t changed is that readers and writers both want more good stories out there.

The Leftovers–Or, How Do I Mourne Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

Because make no mistake, there’s a lot of mourning and weirdness going on here, and precious little else.

I watched the second episode of the new HBO series The Leftovers last night, because very rarely do I give up on a series with any hint of spec fic about it without giving it at least two episodes. Also, HBO is a major source of my joy right now, and they could pretty much pitch me any show and I’d skip the trailers and tune in.

I have to admit, the trailers for The Leftovers confused rather than intrigued me, but I thought, hey give it a chance. After the pilot, I was one big, ‘Hmmmm…’ But a few seconds before episode two started last night, I think my sister called it.

‘This,’ she said (to paraphrase), ‘is pretentious crap that’s headed nowhere by the end of the season. Lost all over again.’

I fear she is right.

I know, I know, lots of people loved Lost. So did I, for about 5 and a half seasons. Then I realised that not only did they clearly have no plan for how to tie things up while explaining all the mysteries, they were starting to make characters do strange things like hook-up in bear cages because viewers really wanted the couple to do it, and it’s hard to find a place to be alone on a tiny island.

I’ll admit my flaws. I’m a plot and story girl, through and through. I love me some characters, but not without a good story. Sure, I was in love with the characters on Lost in the beginning. But when logic, story and plot were sacrificed on the alter of ‘we really like these people so we’re just going to dissect every bit of their lives until no one cares anymore and we ride off into the sun’, I jumped ship.

I think I’m going to have to jump ship on Leftovers early too. It’s not because it’s not pretty–it’s beautifully shot. It’s not because it’s badly directed–Peter Berg is one of my favourite directors and he does a great job with the first episode in particular. It’s not because the acting sucks–everyone does a bang-up job with what they’re given.

It’s because this is a story that hooks you with a central mystery and a bunch of questions and yet again, the creators are sending signals they may or may not provide answers to any of it. Now, for the record, I think Lost probably taught everyone the way to go down in history is to NOT chicken out on your own story. I do believe The Leftovers will actually address the reason for their missing people. But for once, the promise of story is not enough to hook me.

Because the characters are a real drag. I mean, a real, real drag.

There is not a single person in The Leftovers that I like, care to empathize with, or relate to. Everyone is depressed or fucked in the head or going through the motions, or all three. Everyone. Why would I spend an hour with any of these people if they’re not properly restrained in a padded room?

Well, except those very nice boys who let depressed, fucked in the head schoolgirls take over their car so they can tail a depressed Mom who lost her kid in the Departure. Those boys are nice. They even buried a dead dog they had nothing to do with.

Don’t ask.

My question is, when did it become okay to assume that we need all the characters to react the exact same way to stimulus because we’ve, you know, got a THEME! (capital letters, exclamation point)? And the reaction, in this case, is to unload buckets of crazy all over the place. It’s not that I don’t get that an event like 2% of the world’s population going missing would not  have a seriously depressing effect on those left behind. But not one single person appears to be just really freaking glad to still have their family. Or their friends. Basically people are like, ‘Oh wait. You’re still here too. Great. Don’t really care about that, but let’s go do something together. I guess.’

Which reminds me–what exactly is the major trauma that the police chief’s family suffered for mom, dad, son and daughter to have been so completely fractured? Seems to me they were the lucky ones, but maybe the real issues just haven’t been brought up yet.

I guess what I’m saying is that for a show that purports to be putting a lens to loss and grief, it has paid precious little attention to the other side of the coin. Humanity coming together in the face unimaginable tragedy. Just throw your thoughts back to the events of 9/11 and how many people helped each other and showed kindness to each other in the aftermath. I find it hard to believe that three years later, everyone in town–EVERYONE–is still stuck in the first 4 stages of the 7 stages of grief.

That’s some determination. We. Are. Very. Focused. On. Our. Psychological. Study.

Anyways, my hope is that the writers take pity on us soon and show us something about these people that doesn’t make us either roll our eyes (Could you at least *pretend* to be sane for your day job?), or look away in disgust, (Oh look, the creepy guys who likes to hug away the pain and sleep with only Asian girls is kissing a dead man), or just plain make me want to slap the silly out of them (Really, teenage girl, does your father not have enough to deal with? Must we be every teen from ‘The Breakfast Club’ all at once?).

Me? I think there’s way too much good stuff on TV right now to stick with something that is at once so well done, so boring and so in love with being unlovable. If you guys decide it’s a good show, drop by and let me know and I’ll Netflix it at the end of the season.

Now, where did I put my new episode of The Musketeers?…

Radio Interview with Ujima Radio about LEX TALIONIS

So here’s the link I promised of my first radio interview with Cheryl Morgan of Ujima Radio, Bristol, UK.

There was a technical hitch at the beginning, so the recording starts again after only a few minutes, but it’s smooth sailing after that. There are a few ads to wade through though.

I was the first part of the show, but the second interview with comics writer, Leah Moore, daughter of the famous Alan Moore, was really good too. Loved her take on parenting. And what Paulette says at the end about the West Indies is very true.

(And yes, we prefer to be referred to as the West Indies when we’re from certain countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Avoids confusion with the rest of the Caribbean, such as the British or US Virgin Islands, or the coastlines of Latin America.)

I think I didn’t sound too bad. I was nervous and worried that would come out in my voice, but I made myself listen to it and I’m glad I did. It’s weird to hear your own voice played back to you though. I sound nothing like I sound in my own head. Isn’t that strange how that’s always the case? I mean, I know why that happens, but it’s still strange to experience it.

That wasn’t the full interview. The full interview will be up on a podcast sometime next week, so I’ll post that when it goes up. But for now, you can hear me ramble on a bit about my country and my influences. I talk more about my book, LEX TALIONIS, in the full interview.

Let me know if you enjoyed it! I certainly did. Felt like a celebrity for a couple of hours. Even if the truth is no one knows who the heck I am or would give a whit if they did lol.

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Stay thirsty my friends!

Red Letter Day!

This morning I had a first.

My first ever radio interview! Cheryl Morgan of Ujima Radio in the UK took the time to chat with me about ‘Lex Talionis’, my life as a West Indian and my science fiction influences, among other things. I was so nervous! Hope no one hears it in my voice.

In any case, Cheryl assured me she would edit it so I didn’t sound like an idiot, so I’m going to rely on that to save me.

In other news, I’ve been busy updating around here. You’ll find that the first chapter of ‘Lex Talionis’ is up on this website for your reading pleasure. If you want to know why Publisher’s Weekly called it a ‘stunning debut’, feel free to take a gander. If you like what you see, go ahead and follow the links lying around here to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

If you don’t like either of these sites, you can check out my other links on my newly updated ‘Lex News’ page. All the sites that sell ‘Lex Talionis’ are now listed there, as well as all my recent interviews and reviews.

I also have a great new reader review up on Goodreads, for which I must profusely thank the writer. It has excerpts and everything and she clearly put a lot of time and effort into explaining why she thought ‘Lex Talionis’ deserved five stars. It made my day!

And now back to slacking off a bit, because I’m on a short vacation and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The World Cup is on, guys! Go Brasil! Go Germany! Go Argentina! Go every African nation in the Cup! I’m rooting for you all!

But mostly for Brasil!

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Review of LEX TALIONIS at Library Thing Or Happy Birthday To Me

Just saw a new review for my book over at Library Thing.

I had no idea I was up on there until I checked my publisher’s site, so imagine my surprise when I found this great review. What I love about it the most is just that the reviewer really got the book. From the influences to what I wanted people to come away with, she really honed in on it.

It’s the kind of review all writers dream of getting. Down to the request for a sequel.

It’s a little belated, but I’m treating this one like a birthday present for moi. Thanks to the reviewer for brightening an otherwise sucky day!

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Starred Review for Lex Talionis on Publishers Weekly!

This was going to be a post about the best trailers I’d seen recently, I swear.

But then I found out that Publishers Weekly had reviewed Lex Talionis.

And they loved it.

So I thought that just might be a tiny bit more interesting that Paul Haggis’ new film.

Now excuse me while I quietly freak out.

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