The three R’s: Writing, Reading, Reviewing

My arithmetic skills having long since withered, my third R these days is reviewing, which I don’t do enough of. That’s partly because I don’t do enough reading, in fact, so I ought to reduce the first R to get more time for the other two. But if I did that, I’d be unhappy, so for the moment it’s staying as it is. Nonetheless, as I look ever deeper into self-publishing, the importance of reviewing becomes more obvious. A sizeable batch of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads helps to attract more reviews – it’s a snowball effect. Fewer than thirty, and you’re unlikely to make much of an impact – readers tend to dismiss them as the usual 5-star hype by friends and family. More than fifty reviews, though, and people start to take notice.

I’ve only been on Goodreads a short while, but one thing you see straightaway is that the books with the most reviews are the ones that need them least. The first book I rated (5 stars) was Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. I didn’t write a review, though, because it already had 15,248, and I said to myself that I’d rather write reviews which could actually make a difference. So I wrote one (4 stars) for The Attic Piranhas by Marlin Williams, which currently has six reviews on Goodreads and 13 on Amazon.

Nonetheless, despite my writing commitments, I’m trying to make time for the other two R’s. I was recently a beta reader for William Chasterson’s intriguing Metaphysical Man, and I’ve just posted a couple of reviews on Goodreads. One for Clara Wiggins’s very well-written Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, the other for Casting Shadows Everywhere by L.T. Vargus. This, then, is the modest start to my Help Other Authors campaign, which others, such as The Story Reading Ape, have taken to admirable heights. And here’s a quote from Sally Cronin at smorgasbord which gives it a concrete basis: We are always hearing about the overwhelming number of Indie authors and the number of books we are competing with in the market place. However, instead of being overwhelmed, take a look at your circle of author contacts and instead of trying to make a difference to all Indie authors, how about as a group making a difference to twenty or thirty. If we all did that we would be supporting thousands within a very short space of time.

Sound advice indeed, and I’ll be posting more about the three R’s in future. Meanwhile, Amazon is asking me to rate the first issue of The World Unknown Review, volume 1. I bought it a month ago because it has a story by Book Country writer D.J. Lutz, but I haven’t started it yet. Give me a chance, guys – gotta do some writing myself!

Dead, or Alive (again)

mabel

It is with a heavy heart that I sit at my laptop to announce the death of Mabel Moo, whom I interviewed just last month. Optimistic to the end, she went to the slaughterhouse believing she was testing a new milking facility. It was no doubt better that way. RIP, Mabel, we shall miss you.

Izzy’s May I: The Write this week is about the death of fictional characters. As she gives a good list herself, I shall only add a couple here (apart from poor Mabel). Perhaps the death which caused the greatest trauma was that of Sherlock Holmes, in the 1893 issue of The Strand Magazine. ‘It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen,’ writes Watson at the start of The Final Problem, before going on to reveal that Holmes had fallen to his death at the Reichenbach Falls, pushed by his old enemy Moriarty. Having lost its fictional mainstay, The Strand Magazine promptly lost 20,000 devastated subscribers. Unlike his readers, Conan Doyle was relieved to be rid of his creation: “I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.” Eventually he relented though, revealing ten years later, in one of the most famous examples of retcon (retroactive continuity, or altering an established fact) that Holmes hadn’t died after all.

Very different is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I’ve just finished. If you haven’t read it, do (no excuses, I’m afraid, that’s an order). It’s no spoiler to tell you the heroine Ursula dies. In fact I lost count of the number of times she dies, but she springs back to life again and again. You might think it’s a tiresome device, but in Atkinson’s masterful prose it becomes a delight.

So there you have one of the joys of fiction. Though death in novels can often be harrowing and atrocious, it also sometimes loses its sting. Speaking of which, it appears the stun gun at the slaughterhouse didn’t work – Mabel is back in her field!