Maybe someone bored out of their mind on coronavirus lockdown will have some happy days and nights reading my witty and oh so sexy prose, (about the adventures of a young man named Polo Shawcross, his family’s attempts to kill him, and his personal inability to keep his trousers on, and what you might get when you splice genes).
Australia is doing okay compared to a lot of places, and everyone’s currently saying “Well, we could be worse off, we could be in the USA.” Sorry if you’re in the USA, i guess that’s not very reassuring, and as deaths there go past 3,000 i can only say i’m glad Trump stopped putting the economy first, even if it was out of fear his base will all die because he told them originally the coronavirus scare was a Democrat hoax.
My ex in London lives next to a supermarket (almost) and can’t seem to get anything there.
I went to the shops today, there were stocks of toilet paper, fresh milk or UHT, bread, fruit and veg, even some flours, sugar and pasta, tinned things, (still no hand sanitiser or isopropyl alcohol but apparently the world stocks of that somehow ended up wherever all the loo paper went at first).
I squealed aloud when i saw the toilet rolls. As i said to the woman laughing at me, i never thought i’d squeal over loo rolls.
There are lines taped everywhere on floors, signs too, saying you have to stand HERE or THERE and people understandably not noticing (cos we’re all immured to massive shouting signs at the supermarket), just diving in where they see a free till, then being Social Distance Shamed by me and the checkout operator (behind a massive perspex shield), who tried to wave the woman back but i freaked. “Please! Don’t stand so close to me!”
I actually said that. I know, then i had to talk the poor lass down from her incipient hysteria… we’re all on edge. She’d just managed to get herself an 8-pack of toilet paper and the checkout person and I really messed with her happy high. Was okay, we all parted friends.
A lot of that going on, which is actually fkn beautiful. People start to shout, then say hang on, sorry, what did you mean? Or sorry, (like me at the checkout) i’m immuno-compromised and scared shitless. Because we all are.
It’s becoming clear that this (variant of?) Covid-19 is not just for old people, fat people, or people with existing lung conditions or other ill health. A healthy 21 year old girl died in the UK, babies have been infected, children have died, and (formerly) healthy men and women too. And so many doctors. In the USA, the death toll has passed 9-11.
Many healthy people (not just in USA) didn’t need to die. They could have been saved with enough space in Intensive Care Units but those were simply overwhelmed.
[EDIT 13/May/20 THIS IS OUT OF DATE. MY BOOKS ARE CURRENTLY (CORONAVIRUS) FREE on SMASHWORDS – yeah, but i’ll leave the rant up – it still stands]
Just pulled my books off Smashwords.
Indie writing? You can shove it where the sun don’t shine. And anywhere it does, I’m not fussy. I’m going to start actively looking for an agent the moment i get a new book finished for them to look at. Not the Polo series, that’s going to have to wait – nobody will touch a book previously self-published. Not unless your current book sells, of course, then they suddenly get very interested.
A bit of a relief, really. So tired of struggling to promote them singlehandedly, with Smashwords not helping. They made it hard for anyone to find my work unless i managed to catch someone’s attention on Twitter and give them a direct link.
I foolishly marked my first book Adult (back in 2011) , thinking just that it wasn’t a children’s book, so the first 10 weeks my first book was published, Smashwords literally made it invisible unless someone opted in to ‘Adult’ which to them meant “hardcore erotica”. Continue reading →
So i found out a really awful thing. My first book, Polo Shawcross: The Birthday Dragon (Book 1 of the Dragon Quartet), has been out since 2011. Since then it’s sat happily on the top of the Top Rated Sci Fi and Fantasy lists in its categories. By end of January it was TOP of entire site. Yep, non-fiction/fiction, any length. Highest rated Free book.
One of the others got a 4 star review, which was disappointing, but i just got on with life.
But something happened to Book 1. Someone gave it a 4 star review in February. Oh well, i thought, has to happen sometimes. And some people don’t ever give 5 star reviews. I’m never going to please everyone. I was a bit upset, but managed to tell myself a few platitudes like those above and get over it.
I kept promoting my books on Twitter, and did notice my only sales and most of my downloads were when i did so. No Smashwords traffic to speak of.
That’s when i noticed something. Something horrible. Book 1 had disappeared from the Top Rated listings. Just gone. I looked and looked, and was about to contact Smashwords to ask what had happened, when i found it. On Page 22 of the Top Rated listings, where literally nobody would ever see it.
I also realised there were others like me. 14 or more 5 star reviews, but one 4 star – and suddenly we were rated lower than anyone with only ONE 1-star review. I contacted Smashwords, politely. Yes, they said, they were aware of the issue, but they had no plans to do anything about it, other than ‘We’re working on a way to make it more fair. However, unfortunately there’s no date on when it will be implemented.‘
Meanwhile, as i said to Smashwords, my entire marketing plan – based on my books being high rated and 1’s across the site, just got harpooned. Fortunately, the two most recently released were charting on the Bestseller lists but only on the front page if you narrowed the field (by selecting a length or division of the genre like Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Fantasy » General). Most people don’t get that far.
The first two (free so not on the “best seller” lists) were coming up the Most Downloads charts, but thanks to not showing on the Highest Rated charts, they were not getting the same exposure and dropped off the first two pages of those (again, unless you narrow the field to over 100k, Free).
I was miffed over the 4 star reviews, but then i thought about it. There are people there with many more 5 star reviews than me, and thanks to one 4-star review they’re also suddenly invisible. So i wrote again to Smashwords, and the CEO got back to me – yep, Mark Coker at Smashwords. He knows it’s a problem, along with the gaming of reviews (aka ‘fake reviews’).
Basically, it’s unfair that books with more than one 5-star review are behind books with only one. Sure, if i have fourteen 5 stars, you do too, we’re equal, until i get rated lower, that one 4-star? I get to be behind you in the listings, fair enough. But not if i have 20 5-star ones. Especially not if you only have one 5-star review and i have 20.
It’s also too easy to mess up a rival author’s ratings. During my investigations of some of the authors who should be on the front page (with 20+ 5-star reviews and 1 4-star one) it was one reviewer who’d knocked them off the front page. As reviewers are anonymous, it’s a system made to be corrupted. Especially when the one reviewer is possibly not a reviewer, but an author out to make themselves number 1.
There are signs of this on several of the books that are only being held off the top spots by one bad review. Or two of their books knocked down by the same ‘reviewer’.
I’ve written before about fake reviews on Smashwords, and how Smashwords (when alerted, and after their own investigations, which admittedly can take OVER a year) removed sometimes a hundred of them from authors who proved to be faking their glowing 5 star reviews.
I won’t be number 1 if they change this, by the way – there are several books ahead of mine (currently showing on page 33 of highest rated Sci fi) which will take over the 1 spot. Which i’ll be fine with, because it’s FAIR.
Anyway, currently waiting for action from Smashwords – which won’t be in 2018 but is on their list of Things We Want To Change. So if you think it should be changed, and SOON – vote in the poll, leave a comment, and i’ll make sure Mark Coker gets to hear about it. Smashwords, like all good companies, has excellent communication between the people on the front lines and the boss.
See what i did there? Yep, deliberately being nice, after a bunch of critique. Why? Because deep down, i love Smashwords, i love what they’re trying to do, i love that i get to play publisher without massive personal investment.
I don’t think the review system works – but the rest of the site is getting better all the time.
Polo Shawcross: The Birthday Dragon is 34 on the Most Downloaded Free Epic General Sci Fi (not bad seeing it’s only been free for less than 6 months and there’s books that have been free for 8 or more years in the listings). #38 on the matching Fantasy list.
It would be top of the Highest Rated (aside from the others above me with more 5-star reviews) except for that one 4-star review. It makes it to 18 if i narrow the field to just free epic general sci fi – just a reminder, before that one 4 star review, it was top rated free book on the whole site, all genres.
Mind you, there’s a writer there with 34 reviews, 32 of them 5 star ones, then someone decided to harpoon them, and the last two reviews were 4 star, knocking them even lower down the listings than me. (The more 4 star reviews you get, no matter how many 5 star ones you have, the worse your score gets – yep, that’s REALLY unfair.)
The others are suffering from similar problems – without the good reviews giving them front page exposure, they’re simply invisible. So i have to keep pushing my books here and on Twitter.
Seriously, this is not how i thought being a writer would be.
So – *drumroll*
For your reading delectation – rollicking sexy adventures, laugh-out-loud funny right to the end, and more schemers than you’ve seen since the last ep of Game of Thrones…
Introducing Polo Shawcross, the wannabe Dragon and stoner, the man to whom omnisexual isn’t just a label. And what did he get up to in the vegetable garden with that diplomat’s wife? Polo just wants a quiet life, one with wild women, some men, good weed and food. Something interesting to read. His family however have other ideas, and keep trying to kill him. Genetic engineering was always going to be flawed when you started with humans.
After a drunken binge across a kingdom or two, Polo is in trouble. With a capital A that stands for Army. Weed will keep him sane, but staying alive is trickier. He can save himself, he just has to remember, he’s Dragon, deep down. Dragon were made for fighting. He’ll be fine. Won’t he?
Still alive! Free! Polo gets his perfect life back. Although there’s that king with the crush and the queen who’s off limits. Polo’s trying out diplomacy as a career path, failing to keep secrets or his trousers on, and his family are still trying to kill him. Finally finding the way to change shape is the key to survival.
Polo can escape, but he’ll lose his perfect life as one of the privileged few close to the King. Choices, choices. And despite finally figuring out the shape-changing, he can’t get the people part of life right. People are Dragon and human, and Dragon were made from humans, and that was always going to be a bad idea. Kill or be killed, the law of the jungle comes out of the warzone and to Court. Polo surrenders. Last book in this series, but gives the kick-off for the new Polo Shawcross books to come.
Oh – and the best joke of all? I’ve issued DCMA takedown notices to about 15 people in the last 2 months – yep, people pirating my work and selling it – or giving it away for ‘site dollars’ on various ‘let’s pretend we’re not pirating but we are’ sites. (I found them via Blasty – every writer should belong – and if you’ve made some money, you can invest in their premium version to do the DCMA Takedown notices for you.)
The joke is (and it’s on me), if the people too cheap to spend $2.99 on a book – or those too lazy to realise that the guy getting site dollars for providing my books ‘free’ was simply downloading already free books – had all gone to Smashwords (or Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc – everywhere except Amazon), i’d be top of all the sales and download charts. Some of my books are free, but they ARE NOT Creative Commons – nobody except Smashwords and affiliates are allowed to distribute them.
The pirates boasted of 100’s of downloads. Hundreds.I haven’t sold that many in 5 months. I did get that many downloads over the period, but the lost revenue and lost downloads in the first few months of publication can never be recovered. The guy getting site dollars literally put my books up for free download from his site within a week of publication.
However, it’s part of the internet. And even big authors with loads of DRM protection on their books are getting pirated. I know because i saw their books on the same sites that were pirating mine.
So of course, being a good net citizen and a fellow-writer, i made sure i contacted at least one or two major authors (or their publishers) whose work was being illegally sold/given away. I figured even if the pirates didn’t give a shit about me, someone like Simon & Schuster would make them sit up and pay attention. It worked. Those who didn’t immediately remove my books did so once i put the big guys on them.
At last, i’m putting the quartet up on Smashwords. Can’t quite believe it. The covers are done, edits are done, i’m just doing blurbs and making sure they upload okay.
They came out pretty….
The Birthday Dragon‘s been out for years, that’s going to be free, once the new version is okayed. As the first quarter of Dragon Soldier used to be in the previous book, it’s free too.
Books 3 and 4 are not free. Like Books 1 and 2 they’re over 100,000 words. I’m thinking $2.99 each.
I’ve been putting final touches on my Smashwords pages, adding a interview. I came to do this blog and realised “i’ve forgotten everything i ever learned about HTML” which was a nice match for when i started doing the covers and realised i’d forgotten everything i ever knew about Photoshop.
So i uploaded the new version of Polo Shawcross: The Birthday Dragon and waited for it to be okayed. Found a mistake in the stuff beyond the ending. Re-uploaded. Found something else, re-re-uploaded. And thankful it was finally okay, so i started work on the blurbs for the other books.
Every time i checked back, the book wasn’t okayed yet. Smashwords never takes long, so i began to wonder if i’d jammed something up, re-re-uploading. It was never a problem before. And i waited.
While i waited, I started a Patreon page. This is a rather nice notion that artists find patrons who sling them a few dollars a month, every month, and the artist (that’s me) in exchange gives them access to unpublished stuff or first drafts, perhaps completely never-to-be-published stories.
Anything that helps my income is worth a go. (It’s not quite up yet, i’m still getting it sorted out.)
I checked Smashwords. Something occurred to me. It was Thanksgiving in the USA when i did the first upload. Bugger. By the end of the week it was Black Friday. I’d literally picked one of the worst weeks in the US year to upload the books.
Double bugger. And then i realised. Now i’ve begun my Patreon page, i’ll have to change the books again to include the Patreon link.
I do believe the word i’m looking for is “AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH”.
So i thought Mr Whatsit’s recovery would be further along by now – so did he, for that matter – but thanks to rough treatment during the op (he couldn’t put his foot on the ground, despite the area operated on being his knee) then a bad reaction to a mock-morphine patch, he’s been a gibbering wreck, which has turned me into a gibbering wreck. The fine work of adding paper corrections into Word files has been beyond me.
I’ve been trying to ignore the world, but i can’t help going on Twitter for some human (ok, so technically it’s cybernetic or machine-based) contact and then i find out what that crazed orange loon’s done today.
He certainly knows how to keep the news-cycle’s attention. From refusing to badmouth his white supremacist power-base to claiming flower-power-ish antifa(scist) protesters were bashing the poor widdle nazis, (even to the point of putting up a fake pic of one beating up on a cop, which turned out to be a Greek protester back in 2009, in Greece), Trump’s madness has been riveting the world.
Of course, he keeps saying everything except Breitbart and InfoWars is fakenews (though as i write this, Breitbart may no longer be his friend, after the firing of that nazi Bannon), but frankly, the only people who still believe that are the truly lobotomised and his mates the Nazis, who always believed Trump and took his every action as confirmation their time in the sun (sans hoods) had come.
I can honestly say i never saw this coming – that the swastika would be worn openly by supposed fellow-humans again. The far right and other white supremacist organisations seemed irrelevant, a harbour for drunks lost in bitter misogyny and racism, something that would only ever be a tiny minority. Boy, was i wrong.
It began to be noticeable in the first decade of the new century. Suddenly quite young men were being openly sexist, ignoring me at the counter and talking only to the man i’d walked in with, despite me being the owner of the car that needed a battery and the one paying for it. I also knew which battery was needed. They looked at him as i answered, and it was as if i was invisible. I put it down to a pair of morons with no people skills, then began to notice it more and more.
Others were noticing too. Researchers had tried labelling job applications with obviously female names, and discovered those names didn’t get picked for interviews. Male (sounding) ones did. Male-sounding names got better marks on (the same) essays. Male authors got better sales, and in certain oeuvres it was better to pretend to be male if you wanted any sales at all. (Yes, i’m looking at you, sci fi and fantasy.)
The Gender Pay Gap was shown to be a crazy difference in wages just for the sake of a cock and balls, for the same job. As a woman, it didn’t matter how good you were. The old adage that you had to be twice as good as a man (ask any female cop) seemed to no longer hold true, instead there was NOTHING you could do. You were inferior and your pay reflected that.
Of course, if you were any colour except white, you copped the same snivelling bias. Snivelling because it hid behind cowardice that pretended to be anything but racist/sexist and instead tried to play the victim.
All those poor white men, they were the real victims. Forced to pay a pittance to their ex-wives for the children they fathered then neglected, forced to (occasionally) do gaol time for the women they bashed. Sometimes, they even had to have a black/brown/yellow/female boss, and omigod, didn’t they whine about it.
The only way that female or person of colour made it there was of course through bias against white men! (Not the gay ones. Gay men don’t count, except as objects of violence for white men. If a white man broke a nail bashing a gay man, that might count. Come to think of it, pretty much anyone is fair game for white men – bashingwise.)
Despite US universities and colleges being forbidden to apply that kind of bias, the current president has pressed for an inquiry into how poor white blokes are being stopped from having a higher education (unless, like the president or the president’s son-in-law, they have rich daddies who can pay their way into and through a degree).
Anyhoo, all this bullshit being sprayed around by the President’s fakenews flunkies is getting wearying. I have enough problems with morons trying to tell me Hitler was a socialist. I’ve got to the point where just posting all the citations that rebut the idiocy was taking most of the day. Because if he was a socialist, (their logic goes) then them being right wing loons means they’re the good guys.
Then a history professor got annoyed, and earned my undying gratitude. This article explains it, and the twitter thread starts here….
Ok, dickhead, I did this politely to someone else earlier, but now I’m going to rinse you. Prepare. https://t.co/HcgpKHY3Cq
I’ve done nothing on transcribing the edits for the last two weeks. Mr Whatsit went into hospital then (thankfully) came out again, but is on crutches, so i’ve been busy carrying everything for him. Coffee, pills, and icepacks being the main requirements. (Two big bags of supermarket own-brand frozen peas wrapped in a towel – recommended by the physio – working very well so far.)
Thanks to the pills Mr Whatsit’s been in a bad way, not quite hallucinating but only ‘not quite’, so sleep here at Casa Cripple’s been in short supply.
Before he went into hospital i was managing to keep up the edits despite the chaos involved when they changed his painkilling meds three times in as many weeks, resulting in over- and under-doses so severe it nearly killed him, and in 3 visits by paramedics and 2 trips to hospital for the day.
Since, a combo of exhaustion on my part and the need to sleep with one eye open in case he comes to grief staggering about the house in the middle of the night, has meant i’m not fit for much.
Though i’ve managed to go in and shout on Twitter enough to lose some steam, then i’ve pretty much zombied out in front of the tv, thankful i don’t have to watch terrestrial (free-to-air) tv because if that was all i had, i would have been staring at the walls.
I’ve had a few people (on Twitter) lately say they’re giving up Murdoch television by dumping their pay-tv or shouting that everyone should stop their pay TV because it’s funding the Antichrist.
The name may not mean much to you, but if you list their programs you soon realise, to avoid Murdoch, you need to stop watching TV. Free TV’s biggest shows are all theirs.
Shows like Home and Away, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, Deal or No Deal, The Face, One Born Every Minute, The Office, Ugly Betty, and The Tudors. Like The Fall, Peaky Blinders, Hell on Wheels, Benidorm, Ripper Street, Black Mirror, Bad Education, My Mad Fat Diary, Hot in Cleveland, Kirstie, Leverage, Death Comes to Pemberley and The Crimson Field. Yes, there’s unmitigated crap there, but many of the dramas/comedies are ones i watched and thought were excellent.
Perhaps you watched the Masterchef, Gladiator, Wifeswap or Dancing with the Stars franchises, ‘Australian’ shows like Masterchef Australia, The Voice Australia, The Biggest Loser Australia, and yes, even that much-loved Australian hit, Kath and Kim – all Murdoch at the core. Even Little Britain USA! Some of the shows were originally not Murdoch – but then their company or parent company was sold, and they were.
In fact, without Murdoch-owned companies’ productions, we wouldn’t have much to watch on television at all. There’s a lot of good drama, along with the crappy (and sometimes fun) ‘game’ and ‘reality’ shows.
Now don’t get me wrong. I detest Rupert Murdoch with a passion. I don’t like that just by watching television i’m contributing to his global dominance of the media. However, maybe you can live without television. I don’t want to. I did for a few years about a decade ago, when i moved into a house with no outside tv aerial, with reception so bad i couldn’t get any channels well, and most not at all. I’d never had pay tv and didn’t even consider it. At first.
I got by with lots of library books, and online interests. Then after the landlord again refused to even half-pay for an aerial, I decided to treat myself to television with pay-tv. Being able to watch drama series in order was a revelation after years of terrestrial television stations showing them out of sequence or even taking them off for a month while they run some stupid sports event. And so few ads! Though this has got less wonderful – the ads are more and thicker, but still don’t come NEAR to ‘free’ Tv’s saturation.
Murdoch’s a prick, yep, no argument. But have you seen the twats running terrestrial tv? Pretty soon, Murdoch will own his own terrestrial Australian station. Thanks to the current government, who changed the law to help him out. Am looking forward to seeing what the “dump Foxtel” people do. For the record, I don’t watch Fox or Sky News. I do watch BBC World News, Al Jazeera, and various Asian channels which you don’t even get a hint of on terrrestrial tv. (I’m not including SBS or the ABC in this, though even they show Murdoch companies’ products at times.)
Funnily, i can find more non-Murdoch content to watch on Murdoch’s Foxtel than i can on free TV. And let’s remember, ads on Foxtel are fewer and more widely spaced than on free TV, and on some channels (movies and the ones that have Game of Thrones) there are no ads during programs or movies.
You also get the option to record, which works flawlessly as a rule, because series are shown at the same time every week AND IN SEQUENCE, something terrestrial television can’t manage. Terrestrial telly is usually running over 20 minutes behind just on a normal night.
I don’t watch sport, so the notion that people who want to are ‘forced’ to buy Foxtel doesn’t really bother me. And when it comes down to it – who sold Rupert the sports rights? The sports industry is a money-grubbing bunch. When the same sports are shown on terrestrial channels, they’re stuffed full of ads, and the commentators are busy promoting betting DURING their to-camera moments.
If you don’t want to watch TV, sure, ditch your Foxtel/pay TV. In fact, wtf were you doing with it? Running on autopilot?
If you, like me, actually enjoy good drama, interesting architecture/archaeology/reno shows, or (shamefully) stuff like Botched (plastic surgery) and even occasional storage auction binges, then you’re not well-served by terrestrial television. In fact, i can’t understand why anyone would settle for what makes up most of the pap served by terrestrial tv.
After spending a large part of my adult life in the UK, where general programming was pretty good thanks to the BBC and Channel Four (this was pre-2002), coming back to Australia and the awfulness of ‘free to air’ was sobering. I used to watch television maybe twice a week. For thirty/sixty minutes at a time.
Keeping myself in books was a problem at the best of times (i read too fast), and there’s times i don’t want to read. Or i want something non-intrusive while i read? Hmm, i’ve never listened to opera, maybe i’ll try some on the Foxtel Arts Channel? I get a lot of music channels as part of my package. Let’s see, how much arts programming does terrestrial television show? (Not counting SBS and ABC, remember?)
Finally – if you really want to avoid Murdoch? You can’t read anything by Harper-Collins – also Murdoch owned. Local papers are usually out.
Me, i look at it differently – it was suggested I stop shopping at supermarkets to show my contempt for them. I figured better to harass them as a customer, rather than someone who proudly says ‘i won’t buy from you’. (I also can’t afford to pay tiny company prices – i do shop at a local butcher, because that IS cheaper, along with the meat being better quality.)
Big companies don’t give a stuff about people who aren’t their customers (yeah, i know, debatable they give a stuff about anything, but it’s levels of influence).
I’ve looked at the other options (Netflix et al) and frankly, it’s fine if you don’t watch tv much, or only when you have something special you want to see, or only via your phone. Because i pay half the monthly sub in a shared house, it’s affordable, and i get a really amazing range of programs, movies, and series for no extra charge.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy ‘supporting’ Murdoch. But for now at least, i’m going to live with it.
I’m getting there – with there in this case being defined as ‘losing my mind’ or ‘ready for publication’ – Books 1-4 paper edits all done. The edits get transcribed (sounds like someone else is going to, but nah, it’s just me), then i print out paper copy for the Delta Reader (he’s ahead of the Beta Readers, and Alpha is ‘book as published’, so Delta he is) who gets to read it and give the nod.
The nod will lead to uploads and a divergence – as paper publication will have accents and squiggly bits – like in the words façade, fiancée and déjà vu. You can’t leave squiggles and accents in ebooks because ereaders have hysterics over them. Ampersands (&) likewise.
So i will be running versions for publication (paper) and on for ebook. Then i can publish, once they’re ready. I think. Have i forgotten something? Oh fk, the covers. And covers is the operative word. 4 different ebooks, and then 4 DIFFERENT covers for 4 paper books. Argh is the word i’m looking for.
I just keep telling myself, it’s going to be ok, i can do this. Though i’m not at all sure. Which reminds me, i haven’t figured out pricing yet (for either version). I said Argh in the last para, so let’s add an Aiee! Cos it’s all doing my head in.
The sound you can hear is just me gibbering. Does anyone have a spare strait-jacket?