What I’m Reading

Why That Follow Button Sucks…

I fell into the follow button trap and now I’m doing my best to reverse that. I wasn’t sure I should share, but I read a whole lot more than I write, so I figure other readers like me probably would like to know about this. While I’m not super price sensitive when it comes to books, I read so much that I try to economize where I can. That makes it worth sharing!

The Follow buttons seemed so awesome, so easy…a way to decrease my load of email and give me some of my mental bandwidth back. So, I clicked away and unsubscribed to all those newsletters, thinking I would get all the info without any need to…you know…read. I even shouted out to folks to jump on that follow button bandwagon with me.

Yeah, that totally didn’t work.

What am I going on about? I’m specifically talking about two forms of “Follow” buttons on two sites: Amazon and BookBub. Both of these forms of follow buttons purport to allow you to be updated on new releases by whichever authors you follow, plus sale prices.

Neither of them actually does that. After missing a couple of dozen new releases by must-read authors and even more sale prices by other must-read authors, I’m now trying to undo my hasty following urge and re-join their newsletters. I figured if it took me this long to figure out what I had missed out on, then maybe there are others in the same boat.

Here are the specifics:

Amazon Follow Button:

Of the two follow buttons, this one is the better of the two, but it is still woefully inadequate and unreliable. Supposedly, you’ll be notified of new releases. The problem is that you never know when you’ll be notified. A lot of the author newsletters I subscribed to, I did so because they always had new release pricing for a few days after publishing. I mean, if I know I’m going to read their work more often than not, why not get it for less?

Amazon’s announcements may or may not be sent, and if they are, they can come up to a month after release. More importantly, if other big things are going on at Amazon…they don’t come at all. Like Holiday shopping, or their Black Friday summer, or really anything that they want to focus on.

After getting notifications several weeks after release for several authors I followed, I decided to get back on their newsletters so I can save some money. There’s nothing more irritating than clicking BUY at full price when you know you could have saved 75% if you’d only been notified a day earlier than you were.

TIP: If you put Kindle books on your wishlist, sometimes (I repeat, sometimes), you’ll get a notification if there’s a price drop. It seems to happen more for traditionally published titles or those publishing by Amazon imprints, but once in a while it can happen for an Indie book.

Yes, I still follow all those authors on Amazon because it improves my recommendations, (since Amazon algos seem to consider all the things you like when recommending books). I still recommend using the Amazon follow button because it has some benefit in that regard, but I definitely wouldn’t count on it for getting news in a timely manner.

BookBub Follow Buttons:

Yeah, they announced this with huge flair, urging all us Indies to share this with our readers. Like a bagillion others, I did that, but it turns out that it’s less than worthless. Why? Because it has more exclusions than inclusions!

I followed loads of authors on the Bub, thinking I was going to seriously save on books by getting announcements from the Bub. Then…crickets, except for TradPub authors and a very few Indie mega-sellers. The only notifications I got about interesting indies were when the Bub ran a rare ad for an author’s books (which of course, sends me to their site and gives them affiliate income.)

That in itself might not be so bad, but then I realized why this happens through my own book releases. Here’s a quick example of how this works. It took me a while to figure it out, but once I did, I was a little irritated because of all the books I missed out on.

I released the PePr, Inc. series of novellas as individual titles for a while. Each one of those doesn’t qualify for new book announcements because they are novellas. Okay, fine. That’s cool. I get that they have length limits. So then I collected them together into a big, fat book called Robot Evolution. Guess what? It doesn’t qualify because the individual titles were once published. So basically, all those people I pointed to the Bub as a way to get announcements for my new books if they were averse to newsletters never heard about any of them.

Same thing happened with The Ways We End and And Then Begin Again. Even though most of the material was new and all the stories were reworked that had been in anthologies, it didn’t qualify. Basically, the people who follow me don’t know of a single new release by me since Strikers: Eastlands. Not one.

Why did they do this if they didn’t intend to actually do it? It seems pretty obvious in retrospect. It was a way for them to get us to spread the word and get more people signed up to their newsletter…which they make money from. Duh. And we’re not talking a few either. When you take thousands of authors and tell them this, then ask them to share, that’s millions of eyeballs getting tempted. Talk about free advertising! After all, you can’t follow authors on Bub unless you join Bub. ::facepalm::

At least I could easily see which authors I followed on there and then decide which I needed to re-join the newsletters of in order to stop missing releases. Turns out I missed a total of 33 new releases….33! Now, some of those included box sets, but overall, I missed out on a whole lot of indie authors and their new release pricing, plus a whole lot of sale prices.

I don’t really recommend the Bub Follow button at all anymore as a reader. It’s useless. As an author, there’s the possibility that they use the number of followers an author has when deciding who get’s approved for an ad. Because of that, I still want people to follow me there, but that’s sort of selfish, so I feel bad for feeling that way.

I’ve spent the last two days correcting that mess up on my part and joined those newsletters again. Yes, there are a few that will send me too much mail and I’ll unsub them again, but for the most part, they are worth the email space.

TIP: Remember to add the email address of the author’s newsletter to your contacts. By doing that, you make sure that you’ll actually see it. Yahoo and Gmail have gone draconian and will mark them as spam or promotional, hiding them from view or sticking them in another tab. Finding out about an awesome sale or giveaway after it is long over sort of negates the purpose of getting the newsletter. 🙂 So far, out of my favorite 25 authors I’ve rejoined, 23 of them went to the hidden folder. The two that didn’t were already white-listed because I’ve exchanged emails with them before. So, yeah, white-listing is more important that ever apparently.

 

Read and Loved for August, 2016 – Todd by Adam Nicolai

I crack open somewhere between ten and twenty books a month. Yeah, I know that’s a lot, but there’s a caveat to that. If the book doesn’t grab me by the time I reach the 20% mark on my kindle, I ditch it and put it in the DNF file.  Some folks only give a book a single chapter or fifteen minutes or other parameters, but I give it the full 20% unless it’s so egregious that I have to get it away from me as quickly as possible lest it eat my brain cells.

For some books, I simply never even notice the percentages ticking by along the bottom of my screen.

For other books, I dread the ticking of the percentages.

For a very few books, I silently say, “No, no, no,” when it see the percentages reaching the end.

Todd by Adam Nicolai is one of the latter. I truly enjoyed this book, had no idea how it might end, and was absolutely captured by the world he built inside this book.

 

First off, just look at that cover! That’s what grabbed me, which just goes to show you that covers matter. The blurb was enticing, so I grabbed it up.

As expected in a post-apocalyptic novel, the end of the world has happened, but how it happened is sort of a mystery. Alan and his son, Todd, seem to be the only ones left after a single moment in time in which everyone else disappeared. This tale is more about Alan and Todd than anything else, though the mystery of what happened slowly unwinds as the book moves on. And it works. I was absolutely unable to look away.

Alan is the main character and he is not perfect. We all know an Alan, however distantly. He’s the kind of guy that had potential, but never fulfilled it. He is a bundle of shortcomings and lost opportunities. Their relationship and Alan’s inner character are the main focus of the story.

The ending…oh, the ending…is not what we’ve come to expect from this genre, but it is right for this book. I’m dying to talk about it, but that would be a disservice. This book is, hands down, my favorite read of the month and I have zero hesitation about recommending it to others.

The book is priced at $4.99, but it is also in Kindle Unlimited, which means you can borrow it for free as a KU member or use this as your monthly free book if you have Amazon Prime. If you don’t know how to do your prime borrow, it’s pretty simple. You’ll have a special button to borrow if you look at the book on your kindle device. It doesn’t show up on the regular web page.

 

Read and Loved: Park Service Trilogy

So, yeah, I read a lot more than I write. And once in a while I share what I’m reading if it’s super good and kept me engaged. This trilogy is for sure a goodie if you like that whole dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre (which I do). The Park Service Trilogy by Ryan Winfield definitely hits all the right buttons for me.

It is classified as Teen and Young Adult reading, but so is a lot of what I write, so that should be no deterrent. It manages to avoid the pitfalls of YA, (which is talking down to the reader), yet keep that sense of discovery that engages the reader entirely. That’s good writing. But yes, the main characters are primarily teens, which is one of the main tenants of the Teen/YA genre.

What’s it about?

Essentially, we meet Aubrey as he’s about to be classified for his future. In his world, deep under the ground of the former United States, they are born and die with the firm belief that the world above is a wasteland absolutely devoid of life. They survive under ground and then progress to Eden, which is a virtual world of unlimited bounty at the end of their terms.

But things don’t exactly go as planned when Aubrey moves to his new level and profession and he discovers the world is not at all what he’s been told. And over it all is the looming presence of the Park Service, who keep the world pristine and whose ultimate goal is a terrifying one.

      

What do I think of it?

Where to begin! First off, the world building is fantastic. And I mean great! There is a sense of wideness and immediacy that keeps you turning pages well past bedtime.

A lot of readers that write to me say that they love my world building, that it feels like they are there and can see, feel and hear the world around them as I’ve written it. I appreciate those comments, but it also means I know how hard it is to build a world that engages all five senses. I notice when that isn’t happening in books that I read. If the world is too far in the background, I lose touch with the story. So, this series is a treat in that the world is a character as well, and one with many facets and faces and moods.

Second, the characters are amazing! A few of them seem a little black/white in their behavior, but that is also a part of the story and the way that people (whether Park Service or above ground or from underground) have been raised to think and behave. The main characters, particularly Jimmy and Aubrey, are fully fleshed and so very engaging. I adore those two.

It’s also a scary-good story in that it’s a future that seems so tantalizingly possible. Perhaps not in the specifics, but in the way things progressed. And it makes the reader wonder which side of the fence they would wind up on in such a future.

I could wax on about this series for forever, from the philosophical to the physical, but that would just start letting spoilers out and I’d hate to do that and ruin the fun.

If you’re looking for some good reading, this is a great one. Since they are in Amazon Prime, that means they are eligible for Kindle Unlimited. That means you can read it for free if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited.

Caveat: As always, I only feature books on the Read and Loved posts written by authors I don’t know, so none of these are by friends or co-writers in anthologies or anything like that. These are purely from a reader perspective.

 

Telepath Chronicles!

telepathchron

Sadly, I’m not in this one, but just look at the amazing line up of talent in there! I’m still reading but so far, I’ve loved every single story.

The Future Chronicles – of which The Telepath Chronicles is the second volume, is chock-full of awesomeness. I’ve already got the ebook and the paperback.

The paperback books of all the Future Chronicles are must haves for the collector. Why? Well, the amazing Patrice Fitzgerald brought her copy of The Robot Chronicles to a conference to get any of the authors in it that were there to sign it (including moi!).

Brilliant, I say! Since there is unlikely ever to be a time when you’ll be able to get one already signed by everyone (unless something unbelievably unlikely happens), getting one signed by everyone–one at a time as the chance occurs–is going to make for an amazing possession. I’m so doing it. I will be lugging every single Chronicle book around with me to every conference.

But…uh…I’m not stalking the other authors. I’m not. 🙂 It will be purely when the circumstances permit.

 

Read and Loved: The Humans by Matt Haig

thehumansThis book rose to the Read and Loved section of my book list before I was even done with it. Bottom line up front: The Humans by Matt Haig is freaking beautiful.

Following my commitment not to give spoilers leaves me searching for ways to describe the story. I’ll do my best.

An alien without a name comes to our own dinky Earth in the guise of a professor named Andrew Martin. Everything about us…and the living things on our planet in general…disgusts and appalls him. He has a mission, of course, but in order to do it he lives Andrew Martin’s life. His wife, his son, his dog and all the other assorted characters in Andrew’s life must be interacted with in an appropriate fashion, but in doing so, he starts to see the wonder in what we take for granted every single day. And the journey is one the reader will remember for a long time after the last page is read.

Okay, so what makes that so amazing? The writing, the way the story is told and the absolutely genuine flow of the entire thing. I have a general rule when writing that comes from reading far more than I write and it is this: Too much striving for beautiful sentences exhausts the reader. It should not be the goal of every sentence, but rather the punctuation in the story. 

We’ve all read books like that, haven’t we? The ones where the sentences have been tortured on the rack so that everything just screams “labor of love” or “tortured writer”? Yeah, those. They’re so exhausting to read I eventually start laughing and saying things out loud like, “Oh, aren’t you precious?”

Never fear, this isn’t that book. But what Matt Haig does in this book is even rarer than the book filled with perfectly crafted sentences. This book is filled with perfectly crafted sentences that don’t read that way. The story is (and the sentences are) wonderful to read and so easy that it takes a second look to realize how much work had to go into it.

This is an amazingly well-written book.

And then there’s Andrew/Alien. What a portrait! Seriously, if I wasn’t so impressed I’d be pea green with jealousy! The way he looks at things is worth the read all on it’s own.

And the list at the end, Advice for a Human, is really enough to make a person cry and clap. If you listen to the audiobook (and I whole-heartedly recommend that because it was exceptionally well done) you’ll need to be sure you keep your hands on the wheel at ten and two for safety’s sake.

Am I gushing? Well, possibly. But in this case, it’s worth it. It’s no secret that I’m not in favor of ebooks that cost almost the same as paperbacks. It’s no secret that I tend to pass over those in favor of something more reasonable. I’ve made an exception in this case. I got the audiobook from the library originally for my terrible commute. After I got done with it, I immediately bought the book. It’s worth it.

Read and Loved: Humanoid (In the Year 8007 AM)

This is one of those exceptionally strange books that almost defies description. It isn’t popular, isn’t new, doesn’t have a cover made by whoever is “in” right now and hasn’t (to my knowledge) ever been recommended by anyone who is famous. If you’ve found it, it’s because you hit some magical combination of keywords in Amazon that made it appear. In effect, it’s like a door hidden behind a bookcase only discovered after living in a house for several years and passing by the hidden door every day all unawares.

I read it a couple of years ago for the first time and I’ve read it again since then. Part of the allure is that the author has almost no information about him out on the interwebs, which makes me think this is a single-use pen name, and that adds even more to the mystery. But because this has stuck with me like it has, I’ve decided to include it in my Read and Loved* posts.

What is inside this magical book of mystery? Well, that also defies description. Our main character, Hubresh, is joined by a host of figures in his adventures including our keystone character, Vladesh, who unlocks the secrets of Chemagic.

Break for a word of caution: Chemagic is the use of chemicals in unprescribed ways to unlock the ability to travel to alternate universes. Stuff like acetone, old school magic markers and other stuff that is dangerous to inhale is mixed up. DON’T DO THIS. It will just kill you.

Hubresh lives in 8007 AM, which is the far future as imagined if the world doesn’t destroy itself but rather comes to some sort of compromise. The three major religions all join up to create a mish-mash called Jislam which is as ludicrous as it is capricious and cruel and the world is divided into soul-crushing classes. Hubresh and Vladesh escape to alternate worlds between jobs and in the end, Hubresh–who is so emotionally damaged that he doesn’t even refer to himself as a true human–shows us that he is the best sort of human.

I really loved this book because of it’s absolute uniqueness, strange writing, interesting vocabulary and mind-blowing breadth. It is, in my view, an undiscovered speculative fiction masterpiece much like Clockwork Orange, Brave New World and any number of others you might recognize.

I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t for everyone, so if you click over to it, be sure to use the Look Inside feature to read the first 10%. Also, it is pricey for an indie work at $6.99, so if you have Prime, I’d use my one book lending on it or, if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, I’d use that.

*Read and Loved rules: I’ll only include books by authors I don’t know, don’t have any association with and works that I have no association with. Only books that I discover purely as a reader can be included. Recommendations by other readers are welcome, but please, no author submissions of their books. This is purely reader-to-reader.

Read and Loved: MaddAddam Trilogy

People frequently ask me what I’ve been reading lately or for recommendations on what to read. I love to share and usually rattle off a list of books I’ve read recently and loved to death. I used to review on Amazon a lot, but once I started writing myself, I don’t do that as much because it can be a bit of a conflict of interest.

But no one said I can’t do it on my own site, right?

Here’s three for the first post. Margaret Atwood is a genius, no question, and the MaddAddam trilogy is no exception. Not only have I read all three of these, I’ve also listened to them on audiobook during my heinously long commutes. I’ve got to say, I’ve listened to book two more than once I like it so much.

The first book, Oryx and Crake, is a gem but probably the one I liked least of the series. Since I loved the series this only means I loved it least. Jimmy, called the Snowman, is the main story teller for this volume and in it we get to experience the end of mankind (for the first time in this series) from his point of view. Like the rest of the series, flashbacks play a huge role…as in some primary characters are never met in any way except via flashbacks.

In this volume we see the world built and then totally destroyed, or vice versa. And the future is bleak…and shockingly familiar feeling. While the words can get a little strained at times in this volume, it’s as unique as it comes. The audiobook is simply astounding and, like the other two books, it’s almost like experiencing a whole different book.

The second book, The Year of the Flood, is the masterpiece of the trilogy in my opinion. Both in the written form and the audiobook, but the audio deserves some special mention. It is read by three readers, which is how the story is told, and they are just about as perfect as can be for it. By the time the audio was over, I was ready to sign up for being a gardener…well…almost.

In the book, during Adam’s sections, there are explanations of the various saint’s days…and their saints aren’t the ones you’re probably thinking of. Fossey, Jane Goodall…yeah, those are saints. But back on topic, there are hymns. I glossed over them while reading because they didn’t really interest me. It’s sort of the same thing I do when authors stick poetry inside of fiction novels. I’m not big on poetry so I skip it or gloss over just enough to get whatever is important to the larger story out of it.

While listening to an audiobook it isn’t so easy to do that, and while I was irritated on the first one, I was entranced by the third and singing along with a few of them on the second time I listened. Yeah, weird, but true. And I’m not a hymn person. Oh, and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and generally avoid singing anyway. So…there’s that. In the end, I can honestly say that this audiobook is probably one of the best, if not the best, produced audiobook I’ve listened to. And I’ve listened to a load of them. Libraries seem to have these so that might be a good place for commuters to check for it.

As for the story? Well, we get a bunch of overlap from the first book and we know, as a reader, that the “End of the World as We Know It” is coming but we hear it from a totally new set of voices and perspectives. And it is fascinating and wonderful as much as it is terrible. And again, the thumping noise of our near future if we’re not careful is the background to this entire story.

The final volume, MaddAddam, was a long time coming. And while there were people who were disappointed with this final volume, I really enjoyed it. I did have a few beefs with things I felt might have been stretched a little in order to reach an ending that didn’t quite fit with the story so far. But I still loved it. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters? We do have some crossover from the previous two novels as they bring the characters from them together, but then it moves forward into new territory. Except for Zeb, whose past is explored in a series of stories that are pretty hilarious at times and terrible in others.

That said, like many other readers I found myself going “Huh?” during many of the stories of Zeb because they just didn’t fit into the whole narrative and had the distinct feeling of filler. Except that I think they were added simply because so many people decided they liked Zeb and Atwood was giving us more of him.

The audiobook on this one was also excellent, particularly the star of it…the voice of Toby. She’s just the rock star of the series, no doubt. It doesn’t rise to the level of astoundingly wonderful awesomeness that the second book is, but it is very close. All told, I felt very satisfied with the ending, even though I didn’t get the ending that I wanted to happen.

Verdict: The whole series is wunderbar, with book two being the pinnacle of greatness in both the written and audio form. You can read the second volume without reading the first one with very little in the way of backstory required for understanding it…Amazon reviews would be enough. The third one can’t be read on it’s own.

Work In Progress

Savannah Slays (working title)

5000/ 100000 words. 5% done!

Portals - Portal Invasion #1

78000/ 78000 words. First Draft Done!

Mercy - PePr Inc novella

3000/ 20000 words. 15% done!

The Ways We End

66000/ 66000 words. 100% Done! Publishing Dec 8th! (Dark Collections 2, "And Then Begin Again" goes live on the Dec 8th too!

Strikers: Outlands

40000/ 10000 words. 40% Done!

Good News Gone Bad #1
Series of Shorts

4000 / 20000 words. Back Burner for now.

Lulu 394

60020 / 80000 words. 75% done! Back Burner for now!

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Books by Ann Christy