Tuesday, 17 April 2018

How Many Brands of Milk? (A Free Flash Fiction Story by Graham Downs)

So here I stand, staring at the shelf. Why are there so many different brands of milk?

I promised my wife I’d pick up a bottle. I can’t let her down. It’s my first time shopping alone, and I want to prove that I can do it.

Let’s see. I know the milk we use as a yellow label. Well, that narrows it down to about five bottles. What picture does it have on it? My mind’s gone blank.

Maybe I should give her a call.

No, I tell myself. You can do this.

Surely a WhatsApp couldn’t hurt?

Snap out of it, Joe! This really isn’t that difficult.

I reach out my hand and curl my fingers around a bottle that I think could be the right one. And then pull away just as quickly.

Somebody screams.

I pull myself out of my reverie and look around. A man with a balaclava rushes towards me, brandishing a rifle.

“On the ground! Everybody on the ground, now!” he insists, as he bounds closer to me. Along his path, people are collapsing, their foreheads pressed into the floor. Some are weeping, some are snivelling. Still others are stoically silent.

I fall to my knees, but keep my head held high. I want to see what he does.

When he reaches me, the butt of his rifle slams into my face. I hear a crunch, and sharp pain rushes into my sinus cavity. A red haze engulfs my vision, and I taste blood rushing into my mouth.

The man screams down at me. “What part of ‘On the ground’ do you not understand? Moron!”

“Okay, man. Take it easy. I don’t want any trouble.” I manage to slur the words out, but my nose is throbbing now. He kicks me in the ribs as I lie prone on the floor, and I flatten my stomach.

“Much better,” says the man.

A few moments of silence pass. I’m afraid to look, in case the man is still there. After some time, a plastic bottle of milk crashes down next to my face, popping the cap off and causing the contents to explode all over me.

“Damn!” says the man. “How many different brands of milk are there, anyway?”

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Smuggler's Promise by Rufus Hylton (Book Review)

This is a proper rags-to-riches story about working your way up the ladder in organised crime. I love those kinds of stories, and I always feel a little sad when they eventually get bust and everything falls apart.

That does happen in this story, but in a completely unexpected way. Without giving away any spoilers, I was blown away, but absolutely satisfied, The Smuggler's Promise neared its conclusion.

What I loved the most about this book were the short chapters--no more than five pages each, and most a lot shorter. My reading sessions tend to be quite short (less than ten minutes each), and It's nice to be able to read a couple of chapters in each.

The language is also really simple and easy to follow, and although there are a lot of characters, I hardly had to scratch my head once, trying to remember who was who.

On the editing front, I will say that it needs a bit of work. Not in terms of typos--there are precious few of those--but in the style. It's simple, yes, but it's a double-edged sword. Perhaps it's a little TOO simple at times. In one sentence, for example, the author mentions the same character's name three or four times. The same goes for objects like "the boat", where those things could have been mentioned once and "it/he/she" used subsequently in those sentences.

Still, it's a fantastic read, which you won't be able to put down. I can highly recommend it if you're interested in true crime.

My Review: 4 / 5 stars

About the Book

Stumbling into the dangerous and lucrative world of drug lords and the smuggling scene of the 1970’s was the last thing Ryan O’Dair pictured for himself when starting a new life in the Florida Keys. But like the lure of love and adventure in a tropical paradise—it pulls Ryan in—planting him in the crosshairs of Scott Jones, a rogue DEA Agent who will stop at nothing short of sabotage, heists, and murder to take down Ryan and the crime syndicate as it networks across Florida, the Caribbean and South America. And as the pursuit becomes a high stakes game of survival, Ryan has to decide if the wrong side of the law is the right place to be.

Click here to find out where you can get yourself a copy.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Memoirs of a Guardian Angel is in the Gauteng E-Library

The most amazing thing happened to me on Friday. It was launch day for my new book, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, so I took the day off work to promote it.

One of the first things I did, once I saw it was live on OverDrive, was to go and recommend it to the Gauteng E-Library. I've done the same thing with all my books, but so far, the library hasn't bought any.

I recommended it at just after 09:00 my time, and by 12:15, I received an e-mail from them to say that they'd bought it!

I'm over the moon! :)

Maybe it was because Memoirs is the first of my books that actually has a South African ISBN number. Or maybe it's the first of my books that they actually felt was worthy. I don't know.

Either way, it was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

If you happen to live in Guateng, and you have a library card, click here to visit the book's page at the library, and borrow it. If you're not in Gauteng, do some research and find out if your local library has an e-lending facility, and recommend it there.

If you don't have a library card, don't stress. Click here to see all the other places it's available.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Reviewing Books Before They're Released

On 9 February 2018, I sent out an e-mail to everyone who had expressed interest in my upcoming book, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel. In that e-mail was a link to download the book, and a request to read it and write a review. The intention was for them not to post the review anywhere yet, but keep it safe on their computer, and post it on Goodreads and at least one retailer on release day, 6 April 2018.

The pre-order went live two weeks later, on 23 February, and the book was available on Kobo, Amazon, and Google Play Books. Meanwhile, one of my ARC readers, Milan Watson, had finished her copy already and, deciding she couldn't wait, posted a 5-star review on Goodreads!

Well, I wasn't exactly going to ask her take it down, now, was I? So I sent an e-mail to my ARC list, letting them know of the pre-order, and including links to Goodreads and those three retailers. I said that, while there was no rush, they could post their reviews so long if they had them.

Three more people posted reviews on Goodreads. One lady posted hers on Google Play as well, and another e-mailed me to let me know that she wanted to post it on Amazon but couldn't because it wasn't released yet.

So Amazon doesn't allow you to post reviews for pre-release books.

Okay, I guess that's not a huge shocker. It makes sense. Goodreads does, but that also kind of makes sense, since their primary purpose is for people to write reviews, and they understand the concept of Advanced Review Copies.

Google Play Books also does, though, and they're a retailer in direct competition with Amazon.

So what do you think? Do you think it's a good idea for retailers to allow people to review books before they're released? Why or why not?

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

You Know What Frustrates Me About Book Marketing?

The fact that I have to keep doing it.

So I run a marketing campaign for one of my books. A newsletter feature, AMS, Twitter, or Facebook ad, it doesn't matter.

The ad runs, and I get a couple of sales of that book. Typically not enough to actually pay for the ad in question, but I figure book marketing's more about brand awareness anyway, right?

My Amazon rank shoots up a couple of hundred thousand places for a day or two, and then... nothing. Crickets. No reviews are forthcoming, nobody recommends the book, and all indications are that nobody even reads them. Within a week, that book's rank on the Amazon US store is over a million again.

I guess it's not too surprising when I consider how I as a reader react to promos: when I see a promo for a book that looks interesting, I click through (which costs the author money, if they're running a pay-per-click ad). Unless it's a really interesting book, or a really good price, I probably don't buy it on the spot.

Instead, I head on over to Goodreads and add it to my "to-read-to-get" shelf (if I did buy it outright, or it was free, I instead add it to my "to-read-i-have-it" shelf).

As I finish books, I pick new ones to read off those shelves, and unless I'm really looking forward to reading a particular book, that next one is chosen at random. I have over 750 books on my combined "to-read" shelves, so it could be a long time before I buy/read that book I saw on promo. Sometimes a year or more.

At least after I have read it, though, I always leave a review!

So yes, it's understandable, if other readers have similar processes, but as an author, it can still be frustrating.

As a reader, how do you react when you see books on promotion?

As an author, have you also experienced my frustration?

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

It's Interesting What People Buy on Amazon

As you may know, I'm a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program, so most times, when I share a link to a book on Amazon, it's an affiliate link. That means I get a commission if you click through and buy anything.

The thing is, people often click through, and what they end up buying isn't anything like what you were advertising.

Case in point, I got commission on two purchases this month, for Kindle books that I've never heard of before. Maybe you'll enjoy them too? Click the covers to find out where you can buy them.

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

The first in a new fantasy duology, The Glass Spare is a gorgeously told tale of love, loss, and deadly power from Lauren DeStefano, the bestselling author of the Chemical Garden series. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale and Renee Ahdieh.

Wilhelmina Heidle, the fourth child and only daughter of the king of the world’s wealthiest nation, has grown up in the shadows. Kept hidden from the world in order to serve as a spy for her father—whose obsession with building his empire is causing a war—Wil wants nothing more than to explore the world beyond her kingdom, if only her father would give her the chance.

Until one night Wil is attacked, and she discovers a dangerous secret. Her touch turns people into gemstone. At first Wil is horrified—but as she tests its limits, she’s drawn more and more to the strange and volatile ability. When it leads to tragedy, though, Wil is forced to face the destructive power within her and finally leave her home to seek the truth and a cure.

But finding the key to her redemption puts her in the path of a cursed prince who has his own ideas for what to do with Wil’s power.

With a world on the brink of war and a power of ultimate destruction, can Wil find a way to help the kingdom that’s turned its back on her, or will she betray her past and her family forever?

Murder On Magazine by Julie Smith


"Julie Smith writes like jazz should sound—cool, complex, and penetrating right to the heart.” -Val McDermid, best-selling author of the Tony Hill series

The TENTH installment of the Skip Langdon series is a New Orleans feast for the senses, a canine love story, an action-packed police procedural made-to-order for readers who like their female sleuths bold, smart, and refreshingly human. A serial killer is using Airbnb units to stage his murders, but a teenage runaway has escaped his grasp and now she's in the wind, believing she's killed him. Meanwhile the real killer stalks the city – and her.

Cody, the pink-haired sixteen-year-old, should be in school or at the mall texting her friends, not hanging out at the intersection of serial murder and human trafficking. When the options are: (1) Return to a life of slavery (2) Go to jail for murder (3) Be killed by a serial killer, Option 4 makes perfect sense – RUN! As mean as the streets of The City That Care Forgot can be, this child attracts angels (often unlikely ones) – and entire packs of dogs – who come to her aid.

She also finds a friend in NOPD’s newest Sergeant – big (six-foot!), beautiful, tough, and tender-hearted Skip Langdon. Skip knows her best hope of finding the killer is to find Cody – plus she feels for the girl, in whom she recognizes a younger version of her plucky, resourceful, whip-smart self. The city’s hard-boiled; the detective has a heart the size of the Superdome.

Longtime Skip Langdon fans who’ve thirsted for #10 will be delighted to hear the music of New Orleans in Smith’s prose. Fans of female-sleuth authors like Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, and Linda Barnes, will love Skip Langdon’s pluck and charm. And those who particularly favor female cop stories, especially those by Nevada Barr, Lisa Gardner, Tana French, J.D. Robb, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, and Anne Hillerman will find a new fave here.

“If you haven't discovered Smith yet, now is the time to do so… Move over, Sara Paretsky.” --KPFA-FM (Berkeley, CA)

“If it’s gritty realism you’re craving, gently simmered with spicy suspense and marvelously memorable characters, Smith is the perfect New Orleans tour guide… --The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS)

“BRILLIANT.” --San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (Book Review)

I last read a book by Terry Pratchett some years ago. It was a Discworld novel, but I can't remember which one. As I read The Long Earth, though, I found myself smiling on many occasions as I thought, "Ah, Terry Pratchett, how I've missed you!"

Although it has its moments, this one's not nearly as funny as Discworld. But then, it's not meant to be. It's meant to be a somewhat serious look into the possibilities of Infinite Worlds. And it could happen.

I don't want to give too much away, but there are plenty of "What would I do?" moments as our intrepid adventures travel through The Long Earth to parallel dimensions, and discover things about themselves, the world, and the meaning of life.

And even though it's meant to be serious, Sir Terry just can't help put his humorous stamp on pretty much everything. I mean, the means to "Step" (which is what the book calls travelling between dimensions) is powered by a potato, for Pete's sake. I'm sure that wasn't Mr Baxter's idea!

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

About the Book

The UK's bestselling adult novelist and a giant of British science fiction combine forces to write the first novel in an astonishing, mind-bending new series...The Long Earth

1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man's Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive - some said mad, others dangerous - scientist when she finds a curious gadget - a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a...potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever.

And that's an understatement if ever there was one...

The Long Earth is the first novel in an exciting new collaboration between the creator of Discworld Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter

Click here to find out where you can buy the book.