Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reviews, Reviewers, and Reviewing – Part 3

April 26, 2016
Reviews, Reviewers, and Reviewing – Part 3

As much as you try, you’re probably not going to get as many reviews as you’d like to get. Once you get above 30 reviews on Amazon, you’re likely to get contacted by various individuals with deals to help publicize that book. I rarely check on these. The one’s I have checked on are very similar. They don’t offer much more than I’m already doing.

Of course, you’d like to get all 4-Star or 5-Star reviews. If your book gets only 5-Star reviews, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. The implication is that EVERYONE who read the book loved it. That’s not true. There are readers who won’t publish their review if it’s not 5-Stars because they don’t want to hurt the book or the author. But, a mix of review levels is more realistic. I think you have a better chance to attract readers with an average rating of 4-5-Stars than with a 5-Star rating with 100% 5-Star reviews.

Now, it’s time to get really real.

You’re going to get bad reviews. Hopefully not too many, but you will get them. What do you do with them?

My first novel, Traveler's HOT L - The Time Traveler's Resort, was awarded

in the science fiction category in 2014. I was on a high.

In late summer of 2014, Publishers Weekly began offering reviews of books from Indie publishers. I submitted Traveler’s HOT L. In all honesty, I was looking to get one or two sentences or phrases I could use in publicity. I didn’t get a single word that I would be able to use.

Few people I know have seen the review. I did not put it up anywhere. I’ve decided to print it in its entirety below. Commentary I wrote soon after receiving the review follows. It is based on the highlighting colors. This post resumes this blog after that commentary.

Booklife Review: 10/1/14

A rundown hotel hides a HOT L (Harmonious Overlap of Time Location), a nexus for time travel, in a series of stories that lack the execution to deliver on the premise. 
Debut novelist Downing’s conceptual framework is ambitious, sending readers into a medieval historical, two crime stories, and the book’s own alternate-universe sequel, but there’s nothing new in these familiar settings. PI Phil Mamba tries to catch a murderous politician in his past and inevitably ends up altering the future; no one believes the boy who says that his dolls can speak when, of course, they can. By the time Jesus is referred to as a temporal anomaly, it’s all too much, especially given how often explanations of theory and verbose descriptions (“he spoke with tenderness tinged with resignation”) slow the narrative. The recurring characters who direct the HOT L lack personality, limited to droll remarks and clichés such as “smooth the now-wrinkled time fabric.” Nearly every opportunity to treat these concepts originally has been missed. (BookLife)

My first reaction was disappointment. I can’t imagine anyone not being disappointed after receiving what is, essentially, a dismissal of a project of theirs.

Everyone is entitled to her/his opinion. This individual clearly does not like my style of writing. That’s fair—it is, after all, an opinion.

However, I am now somewhere between perplexed with and angry at some of what is written—because some of it is wrong.

No one in this book goes back and does anything to change the future. Both Mamba and Michael restore the original timelines. This is more than a technicality. No future is altered. This is a point of angriness for me by misrepresentation of the book's content.

In Battle, three individuals are described as having disappeared from the timeline before Rose goes missing. Jesus disappears from the timeline. He’s never referred to as a temporal anomaly. It is the Ascension that is referenced. His presence on Earth is never questioned. A second point of angriness for me by misrepresentation of the book's content.

I think this is wrong. Most readers comment on the originality of the ideas. 

Specifically missing from the statement in the review is any mention of what I can defend as original ideas about time travel:
  • The method of travel. Ripples, DNA stimulus,
  • The fact that only specific items travel. No artifacts in either direction, consequences for taking artifacts.
  • The fact that travelers return to original timeline with a real time lapse for the time they miss in nearly all cases.
  • The fact that they don’t know how this all began. The premise of DNA Trek.

Collectively, these comprise my third point of angriness. This makes me suspect that the reviewer was not a science fiction aficionado and wonder why (s)he was assigned this book to review. 

I disagaree. Each character has a unique personality that is reinforced in every story. Chronos is a bit of a tease. Eternity is a literalist. Epoch is a legalist. Tempus is learning how to co-exist with humanity. However, this is now my opinion. It is a point of perplexity.

I guess the bottom line is still disappointment. But now, my disappointment is in the lack of content integrity of the review. Much of what is written is a misrepresentation of the book.

Blog Post (Continued)
I don’t read this review often. I do, however, read it on occasion for a number of reasons. It reminds me that
  • when I do a review, I need to be fair. I also need to be very certain that what I write does not present any opinion of the book being reviewed based on only my like or dislike of either the genre or the book itself.
  • life is not fair. At least life doesn’t always follow my definition of fairness.
  • I take a chance every time I send a book out for review.
  • to review my work looking for what I might do to make my ideas as original as I can.
  • all characters need to be multidimensional.

Since this review, I’ve written other books. The book I have out now for pre-review and copy-editing is the best I’ve ever done. While much of that improvement is the result of a hard-working publicist whose goal is to help authors to be the best they can be, (http://www.frazierpublicrelations.com/), a reasonable share is because I never want to read a review like this again for one of my books.

Bottom Lines For This Series on Reviews, Reviewers, Reviewing
  1. Authors need to help other authors by reviewing other author’s books.
  2. Reviews should be honest and reflect the content and characteristics of the book more than the personal preferences of the reviewer.
  3. Believing only what’s said in good reviews is stupid.
  4. Turn a bad review into a learning experience. Profit from what was pointed out by working to avoid those problems in future works.

Next blog: Lessons Learned from Young Writers

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My website is: www.crdowning.com

e-mail: crd.author@gmail.com

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My response to Prompt #1702 Slave Country

This is an except from an early draft of a novel in progress. The working title is Intervals. It's the story of a man with a temporal gift and his family. The story begins in Africa in 1510. This excerpt is from page 43 of currently 250 unformatted pages

Comment on this at: http://www.thewritingreader.com/blog/2016/04/21/prompt-1702-slave-country/#comment-67955?platform=hootsuite 

“Get them down in this hold! Now!” The angry shouted command from the slave driver echoed up from within the cavernous slave compartment below decks.
The rough wooden flooring was littered with shackles mounted to the planks with oversized screws. As the African’s were partially lowered, partially dropped into the hold, a slaver would immediately manhandle them into position and clamp the shackle down on the ankle of the slave. Once filled, the hold might contain well over one hundred slaves, each existing in a space of six square feet—or less.
Nadira’s descendants were as fortunate as the newly captured Africans could be. Most of the direct family was locked into the hold of the same ship. In spite of the maltreatment on the trip from their tribal home to the coast, nearly all of the surviving members of the tribe were in reasonable physical shape.
Jabari [brave, fearless], King Chatha’s oldest son, stared grimly straight ahead. He had no idea what the strange sounds from the white-skinned ones meant. But, through tone and whip, he had learned do follow the men’s gestures or face harsh repercussions.
Now he stood at the edge of the opening to the slave compartment. He knew he was about to be beaten, but he also knew what he had to do. Two insignificant-looking branches were clasped tightly to his chest. He’d nearly lost consciousness twice while being forced along the forest pathway for not relinquishing the talisman. But, he’d memorized the stories of how his ancestor’s used their mental abilities to gain and maintain their dominance. He would die defending the artifacts.
“Jump down!” a slaver screamed as he prodded Jabari with a rod. When the young man didn’t move, the slaver moved behind him and shoved him over the lip of the hatch.
Jabari crashed to the deck of the compartment with a resounding crack. A scream of agony filled the space below deck as one of the branches pushed up through his armpit, shattering his scapula, and dislocating his shoulder. Surprisingly, there was a relatively small amount of blood—the wood miraculously missing the axillary artery and the brachial and cephalic veins.
Two sailors assigned to the task of escorting recalcitrant prisoners to their assigned shackle moved to Jabari. One hoisted him to his feet—the branch still protruding from both the top of his shoulder and his armpit. The other retrieved the remaining branch. As the second sailor prepared to toss his branch into a distant corner, the scream of a female flew across the distance between her position and the second sailor where it embedded itself in eardrum.
The sailor, unaccustomed to hearing any non-African words from the slaves, stopped his arm in mid-swing. He slowly turned to see which of the wenches had the audacity to interrupt his actions. It took very little time for his gaze to lock on to the perpetrator.
The defiant eyes of Chipo [gift], Jabari’s youngest sister, met the sailor’s gaze—and her intensity overwhelmed his intent. He dropped his eyes. Her hand stabbed outward towards the man. Instinctively, he offered her the branch.
The sailor supporting Jabari’s sagging frame took in the entire episode—but did nothing to intervene. There was something about this slightly built slave, shackled to the floor—that caused his heart to race as adrenaline diffused into his arteries and stimulated his fight or flight response.
“That’s enough time with this pair,” the first sailor announced as he shoved Jabari towards his partner. “Shackle this one next to his girlfriend!”
When the hold was overfull of slaves, the single hatch slammed shut. Only small, weak beams of waning sunlight filtered through some shrunken decking. For all intents and purposes, the mass of humanity was isolated in total darkness.
The ship cast off. As it left the shallow harbor and entered the open Atlantic, the boat began to rise a fall and sway side to side. Almost the entire slave population—none of whom had ever been in a boat of any kind—discovered seasickness simultaneously.
By morning, the floor reeked with the combine odor of vomit, urine, and fecal matter. And that was just the beginning of day one. Depending on the winds, the last day at sea might be anywhere from 30-60 days hence.
Jabari lay on his good side. During the night—working completely by touch in the pitch-blackness—the two men closest to him hand combine to remove the branch from its scabbard of flesh and bone. Chipo had collected Jabai’s impaler and slept her fitful sleep with them crossed over her abdomen. She awakened with a throbbing headache and memory of a vision of white-skinned men plotting to remove Jabari and toss him into the sea at the first hint of fever.
Since, between the ship’s rolling and pitching and the pain in her head, sitting up was unbearable, Chipo lay back down. Unconsciously, she rubbed the fingers of her right hand along the thumb of her left—ever conscious of the malformation of that digit that found its tip angled toward her left index finger.
Two days later, the two sailors who’d secured Jabari upon arrival waded through the cacophony of human noise and waste. They unshackled the King’s Son, and dragged him to a spot below the hatch—sparing not the rod on any who protested beyond vocalization at their actions.
Chipo sat paralyzed. These men were the men who’d been discussing Jabari in her dream. They were doing exactly what she’d heard them say they would do! She tried to stop the men, but her vocalization fell, unheard, among the crowd of slaves that surrounded her. She vowed never to allow something evil she dreamed would occur to happen—at least not without her best effort to thwart that evil.
Tears eroded pathways through the accumulated dirt on her face as she watched Jabari, too weak to struggle, be held erect. At a command from one of the sailors, a rope dropped into the semi-darkness. Once it was secure around Jabari’s chest, those on the upper deck hoisted his limp, feverish frame into the sunlight. Seconds later, the muffled sound of a splash was heard.

Jabari’s suffering had ended.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Science Guy’s Almanac #22. Year 2. Mitochondria and Weiner Whistles: Twins Separated at Birth?

A Science Guy’s Almanac #22. Year 2. April 18, 2016
Mitochondria and Weiner Whistles: Twins Separated at Birth?

You’ve heard stories of identical twins that were separated at birth. Over the course of their lives, amazing similarities were found, even if they grew up in different countries. Click here for a true story.

I think I’ve found two dissimilar twins. I have no proof other than what I present in this post.

I invite you to agree or disagree with my conclusion. The choice is yours.

The mitochondrion is an organelle in cells that have a nucleus. The term organelle was derived by others from the term "organula," which Karl August Möbius first used in 1894. It means  “tiny organ.” It was the generic name given to structures found within cells by early microscopists. In many diagrams of cells found in textbooks, the mitochondria (plural form) are orange.

The Oscar Meyer Weiner Whistle is a toy. It is distributed by the Oscar Meyer corporation as advertising for their hot dogs. In both its original (top) and modern (bottom) iterations—see photo—it, too, is orange.

Similarity #1: orange color.

Mitochondria are double-membrane structures. While they can change their shape to some degree, it appears as though they have a preferred shape. That shape is like a gel cap used in dispensing medicine—or—A HOT DOG! See below.

The original whistle was in the shape of a gel cap used in dispensing medicine—or—A HOT DOG!
A wiener whistle, in its first iteration before child-choking was a national concern.

Similarity #2: shape of A HOT DOG.

Your body runs on energy supplied by an energy-carrying molecule called ATP. The energy stored in the ATP ultimately comes from glucose. Mitochondria convert the glucose energy—think of it as the electricity that runs through the wiring in your house—into ATP energy—think of ATP as a rechargeable battery.

Nearly all cellular processes require ATP battery power. Your cells use the ADP foundation over and over again. Food energy must be converted into usable ATP energy. The conversion is like AC electricity being converted into DC energy by a battery charger. The conversion from ADP to ATP is like recharging a rechargeable battery. ADP is “recharged” in the mitochondria by replacing the third phosphate.

You blow air into the hole in the end of a wiener whistle. The air is converted into sound as it leaves the whistle.

Similarity #3: Conversion of one thing to another.

I will admit there are some differences between the two objects as well.

  • Mitochondria have their own DNA. They are membrane-bound organelles. Wiener whistles don’t have DNA. They are made of plastic.
  • Mitochondria come from your mom. Well, all yours are progeny of the mitochondria in the egg your mother provided was fertilized by your dad’s sperm. Wiener whistles come from the Wienermobile. 

Guess which description from above the photo's gonna show.

Now it’s time for you to take a stand. Review the evidence above and vote on the question: 
Mitochondria and Weiner Whistles: Twins Separated at Birth?

Epilog: When I was a kid, the Wienermobile, which is what we called the Wiener Wagon, appeared annually at Valley Farm Market in Spring Valley. It was just a short walk from my house to where the anxiously awaited vehicle would park. The driver and passenger would pass out wiener whistles. It was an exciting event!

Next Almanac post: Wiener Whistles and Duncan Yo-yos

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