Trading Opinions

I know I haven’t been around in a long while. I’ve been busy and well, tired. Really tired. But stuff has happened since the last time I took to my own personal forum here. To catch you up quickly, here’s a rundown.

BitterBonds_200New sequel to Broken Bonds released. Bitter Bonds was #1 on ARe and top ten gay romance on Amazon. Entangled was #1 free gay rom on Amazon, now still top ten. Got a contract for the revamped Insolent. It’s in edits now. Working on Out of the Pocket (sequel to Scrambling), Fire Storm (next Tales book), and Subs for Lunch (short story in the Souls in Bondage world.) Have five books now in production for audiobooks, Unbreak Me (narrated by Rebecca Roberts) and the first four Tales of the Darkworld (Shifting Winds and Hot Water by female narrator Jenny Urban, Fire Season narrated by Chip Wood, and Ride the Lightning narrated by Sarah Pamero.) In particular, Fire Season sounds soooo exciting! There’s news on the health front (perimenopause still kicking my ass) and the family front – my kid went to stay with her dad after he hadn’t spoken to her in about 5 years and my MIL has been in the hospital since the 4th of July. My hubs’ stepdad with Alzheimer’s has to go into a home now since my MIL can no longer care for him.

What can I say? Life is busy and ever changing.

EROTIC - Reviewed by LASRSo you’re probably wondering about the title of this post. Now that I’ve gotten past the what’s new with me crap, I’ll get to the subject of today’s rant. Well, maybe rant is too a strong word. Definitely, I have something to say and since I’m on my blog, I guess I think you all have the right to hear my opinion! LOL And that’s what I want to talk about…opinions.

Reviews have become a hot button these days. Giving away books in trade for an honest review. Paying for reviews. Not getting reviews unless you practically twist someone’s arm to give you one. Review places springing up everywhere. Review places only reviewing books from authors who pay for ads on their site. Review places only reviewing authors who are friends of theirs. Goodreads snark reviews. Amazon reviews of books not even read. Misinformation in reviews. Authors trading reviews.

Rated 5 cherryThe list of subjects related to reviews is a lot longer than my little list. Books I have with publishers are always sent out to the publisher’s list of sanctioned review sites. A lot of publishers carefully weed out review sites that have trashed their authors’ books and send only to those sites that seem to offer honest, positive reviews of their books. I rarely seek reviews from review sites for books I have with publishers. I don’t want to duplicate efforts. Instead, I focus my promo elsewhere.

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Now, for my self-published books, I have actively sent them out for review and lately, I’ve joined some Facebook groups where people will accept a copy of your book in exchange for an honest review or where authors trade books for review. The trade for honest reviews has been slow, but that’s okay. I don’t want or need to be one of those authors blasting across Facebook that I have 150 five star reviews. (At one time, Rainbow Award Finalist and Jessewave Top Ten Book of 2009 Fire Season had over a dozen 4.5 and 5 star reviews, but 150? Not even counting Goodreads and Amazon did it hit 150.) Frankly, I don’t believe the veracity of those claims or at least, I don’t believe all of them. I have the evil sense that they went to Fiverr and paid $5 for a bunch of 5 star reviews from people who never read the book.

RR-cir-125Now, the authors exchanging reviews thing is a little different. As a published author, and as a person with very little time to read, I don’t waste my time on books that are not my specific reading genre. So if an author of a self-help book solicits a review from me in exchange for reviewing my book, I’m going to turn him down. I don’t read self help books much and I don’t feel it would be right of me to read something I don’t really want to read. And I’m sure I don’t want to force my gay rom on a straight arrow author. I can just imagine the fiasco that review would be!

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But you know, I see all those requests for trading reviews (trading opinions really) from the self published authors on those review groups on Facebook. Once in awhile I’ll click on the link to the person’s book to see if it’s something I might want to read. Usually, it’s not. Today, however, there was one.

I clicked the link which took me to Smashwords, thinking maybe I could trade reviews with this author. I clicked the sample function to check out the book. Guess what I found? A prologue that was an info dump. A first chapter poorly written and punctuated with more info dump and a plethora of passive voice. I don’t believe it was edited. And if it was edited, the author wasted the money she paid for the edit. It was not a book I would have contracted back when I was an acquisitions editor. The author needs to hone her craft better because what she put out was entirely sub-standard.

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So how can I justify doing a trade of reviews with her? Yes, her book is in the genre that I read. Yes, I could give her an honest review, but that review would be hard pressed to make two stars. And if I reviewed her book and honestly said I didn’t like it and noted all the stuff I said above about the lack of quality in the writing, editing and content, would that author then be angry enough to trash my book in review? It would be her honest opinion after all except that it would be biased based on her anger at my review of her book.

And that brings me back to the whole conundrum of whether or not to participate in these review swaps. I guess I need to read the samples first before I decide to do a swap and read the other author’s reviews of other people’s books too. After all, if I can clearly see in the sample that an author needs to go back to the classroom, that’s not a book I want to be involved with even in terms of a review. And if I can see from an author’s other reviews of books that he/she is snarky and/or mean or doesn’t write an honest review where you can see that they read the book, then I don’t want that person reviewing me. I’d rather do without, thank you very much.

fourjunkiesratingsA trade of opinions, er reviews, is only good if it benefits both people. If you’re going to trade reviews, make sure you’re willing to give the book and the author a fair shake. Only do reviews of books you would normally read. Check the book sample out first so you aren’t stuck reviewing something substandard or something you can’t say anything positive about. Check out the other author first and make sure your book is something they would probably enjoy reading.

Don’t set yourself up for failure! Asking someone who is straight and doesn’t read romance to review a gay rom is asking for trouble. It’s like subbing a sexually explicit BDSM book to a Christian inspirational publisher. You’re doomed to be disappointed.

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Thus far, I haven’t engaged in any trading of reviews. The stuff I’ve been interested in is either written by someone who doesn’t read my genre or, like the book I mentioned above, has been so poorly written I know I couldn’t give it a positive review. And I won’t review something I can’t say something positive about.

So I guess my little rant about trading opinions is that you need to use caution doing this because the old saying really is true. Opinions (aka reviews) are like assholes. Everyone has one and occasionally it stinks…to someone.

Happy Saturday everyone!

winter-lex

 

PS: Yes, the graphics used in this post were all earned by my books. If you’re interested in seeing how my latest releases are doing at review sites, here’s some info:

For Bitter Bonds, 5 paddles from BDSM Book Reviews and 4.5 stars from Joyfully Jay!

4 Sweet Peas from Mrs. Condit Reads Books for Mixed Tape Vol 2 which has Save Your Love in it.

4 stars from Smile Somebody Loves You for Save Your Love and 2.5 stars from MM Good Book Reviews. (It was a positive review but the book was too sweet for the reviewer!)

The Art of Winning

In the four years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve probably written on this topic before. I don’t have the time this morning to slog back through four years of posts though so here I am all prepped to talk about winning an argument. Yesterday, Nikki (Motley) and I were talking about arguing with people on the net. I’ve been around the net long enough (18 years) to know there is an art to winning when people on the net are contentious. It’s simple really. You walk away.

Now, for those of you who say walking away isn’t winning, I beg to differ. First, you have to understand the very nature of arguments on the internet. You have people who feel emotion A about a subject. You have people who feel emotion B about that subject. Each side tries to convince the other to change their mind/stance. And they do this knowing full well that they have an audience who is critiquing their argument, some of whom back stance A, some of whom back stance B, some who like to stir the pot, and some who just enjoy watching the fur fly. This leads me to the key to winning.

People engaged in arguments on the net or who are watching or backing those who argue on the net are all in it for one thing…attention.¬† Therefore, the key to winning is to walk away. Give no attention to these people. Ignore their contentious behavior. You will come out on top guaranteed.

I know lots of you aren’t going to agree with me on this. One reason is because none of us can stop ourselves from correcting someone who has their facts wrong. This type of argument isn’t exactly the kind I mean though. I often have to answer argumentative posts on loops from people who think that just because I used Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven in the video posted on this blog that I must be infringing on her copyright unless she gave me permission. Um, wrong. And I can prove it. Get your facts straight before you accuse me of copyright infringement. The video is posted to YouTube who has an agreement with most labels for the use of their music. And a lot of artists can’t give permission for the use of their music anyway. Oftentimes, their label owns the copyright not the artist.

So the people who want to be contentious about copyrights and videos need to be told the facts. I don’t argue with them. I state the facts baldly (as I have above) and I usually post a couple of links to articles on news sites about the agreements with the labels and a link to YouTube’s own blog that goes into detail about how the agreements work. End of the argument as far as I’m concerned. I corrected their misguided statements with the facts and at that point, I walk away because there is nothing more to be said. If the contentious person wants to keep arguing their point, they can talk to themselves and their minions. I’m not going to argue with them.

Arguing on the net is a waste of time and the ability to walk away from wasted time and emotion is definitely winning. You are not ever going to change the minds of contentious people. No amount of logic and arguing your points will make them change their stance. You truly need to understand this before you let one of these people suck you in. And those of you who get into these “debates” in order to support, protect and/or defend a friend need to be especially cognizant of the fact that you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. The best defense of a friend is to teach them to walk away.

People left standing on their own screaming their stance like Chicken Little look pretty ridiculous and pathetic. And they look like losers. So learn to walk away from these people because it really is the only way to win.

Now that I’ve given my lesson on winning net wars, here’s another Marcus from a past post to cheer up your Monday.

A winning stance wouldn’t you say? ūüėČ I think so, but then I think his arms are pretty sexy. LOL I hope you all have a wonderful, contentious free Monday!

Changing Times

Have you noticed the freakish weather across the US? Seems like weather patterns are changing. And that’s not the only thing changing. They caught Osama Bin Laden and executed him. He’s been a thorn in our side for years and finally, we got him. Changes the face of our war on terror a bit now, doesn’t it? The publishing industry is undergoing shifts as ebooks and epublishing and self-publishing are all on the rise.¬† A royal prince just married a commoner. (And woot! for that! Must have been his mother’s influence there.) And I bought a house. Haven’t actually managed to move into it yet, but it’s ours. The last time I had two bathrooms of my own was when I lived in my parents’ house.

Life is constantly changing but sometimes the changes are small things that we just don’t notice until one day we wake up and realize we’re very different than we were five years ago. I found a forum thread during a Google search yesterday about a popular male model who just closed down his website and social media, left the city he lived in, severed his modeling agency ties (supposedly)¬† and just walked away from his life.¬† Speculation ran wild about his reasons for doing this. My first thought was that maybe that life he’d been living got to be too much for him. Too over the top. Too frenetic. Too unreal. After all, he’s just a Mormon boy from Utah which means he wasn’t raised to live such a party lifestyle.

I’m sure the gay community in Miami has a thousand reasons why Levi Poulter left them. My sense is that times maybe changed too much for him and he needed a return to something simpler. I’ve been in that position before a couple of times. This last time is why we bought a mobile home in the canyon as opposed to in one of the more heavily populated areas. When the world changes so much and so often and so inexorably, having a part of your life be a place where you can go to escape it all becomes necessary in order to find balance and cope. I certainly hope that Levi found it. I’m hoping I have with our new house.

Rott said the place is soooo quiet at night. And really dark. Being at the end of the park, right on the edge of the canyon means there’s no building next to us to lend light to our yard. Rott got some solar powered lamps that you stick in the ground that light up the steps and the area around the deck, but he wants some of the tall tiki style ones too because the depths of the yard are really very dark.

And moving from a place where you have to watch out for the skateboarders and surly neighbors to a place where there are coyotes and rattlesnakes is a big jump. Not that they aren’t all things you have to be aware of constantly and watch out for. Human predators and predators of nature. They can all mess you up if you aren’t careful.

So the changing times are something that I’ve been noticing much more than usual lately. I’m not sure why my senses are more on alert but they are. I can see that everything is on a collision course with change. Tornadoes forced change on the south this past week in a big way. I don’t want to be taken by surprise like that. I want to walk into each day with the sense that something big could change at any moment. I don’t want life to get the drop on me. Rott swears the end of the world is at hand. Maybe he’s right, sort of. The end of the world as we know it is something that changes every single day with each event that occurs. Keep your eyes peeled for it. It’s happening all around you.

Okay, I’m done being philosophical for this Monday. I need me my Marcus despite that uber hot photo of Levi Poulter up there. No one tops my Marcus.

 

Oh, that chest. It never fails to brighten my day. For whatever reasons have you cheering this morning – a sexy Marcus or a dead Bin Laden – I hope you have a wonderful day!

Lunch With Lex

I’ll be going to lunch with author Z.A. Maxfield this weekend so I thought I’d post a little story I wrote after I went to lunch at a new sandwich place one workday. This is written in 3rd omni in order to give you the nuances in the¬† best way, so don’t shoot me over POV. LOL It’s just a quick little true story about how lunch can quickly become…something more. Enjoy!

Lex walked into Which Wich and carefully ordered her sandwich, a cookie, and a pineapple milkshake. After paying, she moved to the far end of the sandwich shop and leaned against a wall, watching the staff make sandwiches. Absently, she sucked on the straw, thinking about her current WIP and what needed to happen next. She never realized that she must have somehow presented some sort of strange picture sucking on the straw, wrapping her tongue around it, eyes narrowed to slits as the creamy shake oozed from the straw onto her tongue all the while with a faraway expression in her big brown eyes.

A movement across the room caught her eye and Lex looked up from her shake to see a tall man with impossibly broad shoulders barely contained in a navy tank top. He was¬†headed right for her. She blinked in astonishment. The man wore shorts and flip flops and walked with a cock-first kind of stride that she recognized from what she liked to call her “slutty past.”

Cocking up her right brow just slightly, she eyed the young man who had to be at least twenty years her junior. He had the kind of hotness women got drooly over. Raven hair, a¬†lean, chiseled, stubbled jaw… and oh, those shoulders. The muscles rippled as he walked, yet he wasn’t muscle¬†bound like a bodybuilder. He had lean hips and the thighs beneath¬†his¬†loose¬†khaki shorts spoke of wiry muscle not bulk.

Sky blue eyes beneath impossibly¬†black brows focused directly on her… and no one else. He walked toward her, ignoring the stares of men and women alike as he crossed the¬†busy sandwich shop. Beauty like¬†his commanded attention and it had Lex’s too, but for a different reason.

For all of three seconds she remembered what it was like to be twenty years younger and on the prowl. A plethora of sexual double entendres hovered on her tongue born from an instant spike of animal attraction. Then her lips twitched as amusement took over. Of all the people in the shop, he had to make a beeline for her. She wondered why until he spoke.

“Is that a pineapple milkshake?” he asked¬†as he stopped¬†a mere two feet from her, oozing sexuality.

His eyes blinked slowly, a move probably designed to make her melt. He was obviously used to people falling all over themselves with him. She could see the anticipation in his gorgeous eyes as he waited for her to get starry-eyed over him.

Her brow arced a little higher and her mouth curved up in a wry smile.¬†“Yeah. It is pineapple,” she replied coolly, her gaze stroking over the perfect lines of his shoulders and arms. He sure was pretty, she thought to herself and stuck the straw back in her mouth, her tongue twining around it before she sucked.

The young man’s eyes glittered knowingly. He watched her suck on the straw, his own tongue peeping out to lick at the corners of his mouth. “I was going to get that, but I didn’t know if it was any good,” he murmured and Lex wondered if he realized that someone might think his words weren’t about the milkshake.

“Oh, it’s good, but it’s not real pineappley,” she told him smoothly.

She sucked on the straw again and the young man started to move forward. He jerked then, bumped from behind by a friend. He turned away as they discussed their drinks and sandwiches. Lex leaned on the wall, her mouth quirked up in a smile of immense amusement. She didn’t look like much that day. Black suede flats. Black and white tweedy baggy pants with cuffs. An off white henley type shirt with the sleeves pushed¬†up to her elbows. Her hair was fuzzy from the humidity and shoved into a scrunchie. As usual, she wore no makeup but her expressive eyes rarely needed any.

The young man and his friends moved away. As the other two men pushed in front of the beautiful man, he looked back over his shoulder at Lex. She noticed that the back of his left arm had an Old English R tattooed on it. The back of the right arm had an L. His sky blue eyes flicked over her from her grey streaked, mussed hair to her wry expression, and the body that was no longer trim and muscular as it had been twenty years before.

And then he smiled, white teeth flashing. As he turned back to his friend, his left eyelid dipped in a wink. Lex let the tip of her tongue spiral around the straw and the young man laughed, his hand lifting in a sort of wave to her as he left the shop. Returning to her shake, Lex looked around the shop and found every eye, male and female alike, on her. This time, both her brows rose. Apparently, weeks away from her 49th birthday, overweight by more pounds than she would ever admit to, and definitely not dressed for success, Lex still had an indefinable something that sparked hot men.

The counter person called her name and she took her sandwich, walking out of the shop with that wry smile still on her face. More than one of her boyfriends had said her eyes could seduce a monk. A man young enough to be her son seemed about on a par with monks to her these days so she figured she was doing okay for an old lady who wrote sex scenes in her spare time and called them novels.

She unlocked her non-descript Dodge and tossed the sandwich in, eyeing the pineapple milkshake. “Yeah, I’ve always loved a good pineapple shake. You just never know what will happen when you’re sucking on something you love…” she murmured wickedly.

If you’re interested, the guy sorta looked like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC7sGAf6dUY

Publishers Without Protection

When you’ve been on the internet since 1994, you learn a few things. One of those things is how to protect yourself. Protecting yourself can mean many things on the internet but mostly, I mean protect your personal information. There are bits of personal info I don’t care so much about. There are bits I get freaked out over. Access to my money and identity theft are two big items that freak me out.

Last week I bought some books. When I can, I buy using PayPal in order to keep from using my credit card on the internet.¬† It’s a piece of information I try not to type into a website if I don’t have to. Of course, I use a special credit card solely for online purchases and it’s not attached to a bank account (although it appears that it is) so it doesn’t have access to ALL my money as a debit card with a Visa or Mastercard logo would. Still, I’d rather use PayPal.

At any rate, here’s what happened when I bought some books. The first situation is that a publisher’s website took me to PayPal. I paid for the books and I was taken back to the publisher’s site… but not to where I could download the books. Instead, I was directed back to the order page. It said to click here to complete the transaction. So I clicked. I got a page that asked for my credit card info.

I thought that was kinda weird since I’d just been at PayPal. But you know how it is when you do stuff you’ve done a thousand times before. I’d spaced sorta and I didn’t exactly remember if I’d had to click the button in PayPal that actually pays the seller. (You have to click so much stuff so many times, who remembers which button 5 minutes after you do it?) So I thought maybe their PayPal stuff didn’t work. That’s happened to me before. I checked my email. No notice from PayPal that I’d paid them.

Admittedly, my next move was stupid, but it was late and I was frustrated. I wanted the book so I could read in bed. I put my card info in and bought the books. Pretty much as soon as I’d downloaded those books, two receipts showed up in my email. One from PayPal and one from the publisher’s website. I wasn’t exactly happy, but I wasn’t all that miffed either. Websites that don’t work right are a fact of life. It’s annoying but you learn not to waste a lot of emotion on it.

I emailed the customer service address on the publisher’s site, sent them the receipts, and received an email back the same day stating that I would be credited and apologizing for the error. The money was returned and all was well.

It dawned on me then that I’d bought quite a few books in the last month. I’d had a number of false starts with websites that lagged or didn’t work right when trying to purchase. And I’d noticed that a couple of publishers had some really BAD FOR YOU websites.¬† I’m not going to name names with the publishers but I am going to tell you a couple of things YOU need to watch out for in order to protect yourself. And for the record, I’m not talking about bookstores like ARe. As far as I remember with the bookstores, none of them suffer from the issues I’m about to relate.

First of all, is the website that takes you to PayPal but doesn’t give you your books and instead takes you back to a page where you have to pay. Don’t be a lazy ass like me and end up paying twice. Wait for your PayPal receipts at least a half hour. If it doesn’t show up, THEN go buy the books again. If you end up paying twice, let the customer service people for that publisher know that they have an issue with their website and shopping cart. Hopefully, if they start seeing a trend or start receiving complaints, they will fix the issue.¬† Unfortunately, in this instance, just like the next one I’m going to relate, what generally happens is that people get disgusted and walk away because it’s taken so long to get a book. Losing sales is a BAD thing too!

Next, is the website that lags. It lags HARD when you search for books. It lags hard when you purchase books. Sometimes you put all your info in and their site just sits there… lagging… with your card info on display while you wait for their servers to get their shit together and take your card and give you download links for your books.

The lagging website loses sales on a regular basis. How do I know this? Because I hate the lagging websites and I often end up not buying from that publisher until their books are on ARe. And I know if I get frustrated and don’t buy…there are a lot of other people who are doing the same thing as me. This particular publisher is pretty high up in the ranks of eBook publishers and I personally think it’s just stupid of them to not have a hosting company that can handle their traffic better. I don’t like hanging buy screens with my card info just sitting there. I bet you don’t like it either.

The last thing I want to talk about with regard to buying eBooks is the MOST IMPORTANT thing! I capped that because I not only want to capture your attention, I want to emphasize this. First, I have to say that the publishers I’m with don’t have this issue. THANK GOD. I would be emailing their staff and nagging them if that were the case. I would feel horrible if someone tried to buy my book and had their credit card or their identity compromised because of it. Second, even if you email me, I’m not going to tell you where I saw this. I just want you to be extra vigilant when you buy.

Here’s the worst thing EVER when purchasing an eBook:

A webpage that asks for your credit card info and your billing address… and there is NO PADLOCK on the lower right corner of your browser or where there’s a broken or open padlock.

Do you even know what that means to you? It mean SOMEONE CAN STEAL YOUR INFO!

Yep. There are e-pubs (and a whole lot of other stores) out there on the internet selling you stuff without protecting your information. To me, this is unconscionable. I have an e-commerce site I oversee at my day job. I have regular PCI scans by Trustwave to ensure that our customers’ data is always safe. The CLOSED PADLOCK shows up in any browser I choose to use on my company’s e-commerce site. We take PCI compliance very seriously. Visa and Mastercard require that you keep a customer’s card data secure at all times. If a breach can be traced back to your lack of security as a merchant, you can lose your ability to receive Visa and Mastercard payments. That is a really big thing.

There are a lot of new pubs springing up. When I see them, I wonder if they know what they are doing. Do they know how to use shopping carts? Do they know how to protect a customer’s data? Do they even know that they HAVE to? When I saw a couple of sites without closed padlocks in the lower right of the browser, I realized that there are indeed publishers who will sell you a book while giving the World Wide Web access to your information by not having a secure website. I wonder how long it will be before they are caught in a net of litigation because someone’s money was stolen through their insecure website.

So when you are buying eBooks with your credit card on the internet, LOOK FOR THE CLOSED PADLOCK on the lower right corner of your browser. Also, check the location bar of your browser. If the URL starts with HTTP, the page is not encrypted. If it starts with HTTPS, the page IS encrypted and safe for you to enter your information.

If you find a publisher that sells books on an unsecure site (the page where you enter your card info has no padlock or an open padlock on the lower right of the browser and/or the location bar at the top of your browser shows a URL of http with no S) please STOP. Don’t put your card info on that page. Email the publisher and let them know you won’t buy from them until they fix their site. Protect yourself because apparently, some publishers won’t protect you.