Tag Archives: indie reviews

A Disruptive Invention by Peter W. Shackle

Review: “A Disruptive Invention” is what might be called “serious” science fiction as obviously the author is well knowledgeable about his topic and this is evidenced throughout by lengthy passages of technical details or one character imparting paragraphs of information. I did find the many secondary characters introduced with extended background information rather distracting, especially in that I had a greater interest in the settings themselves.

I looked forward to the views of Redstone Arsenal for example, as I used to live and work there with a certain level of security clearance. Some statistics seemed a little off regarding Alabama and its population (but only someone who’s lived there might know), but there were other items I knew well, such as the munition testing that sounds periodically and the Biergarten café. I personally know the family that owned and managed, for they are long-time friends of mine.

“A Disruptive Invention” had a great story premise and I found it intriguing from the very first and the author imparted great enthusiasm in his work, but the descriptive attempts at interpersonal behaviors, skills and/or relationships between characters were sometimes a little too stereotypically “geeky” or genderized for me. For example, the woman on the John’s team, Judy seemed to be thinking about men all the time and/or how she looked or having a relationship. When this occurred in the narrative or dialogue, it “stuttered” the story for me, but never stopped my forward motion because of the strength of the central plot.

Those looking for a strong sci-fi story with lots of detail and historical background included would find “A Disruptive Invention” of interest. It really makes you think about what would happen to the world if such technology became widely available.

Description: John Sykes, an inventive young engineer, accidentally discovers the long predicted “Fifth Force” of physics, which allows levitation against gravity. Follow his encounters with the world of venture capital, the patent office, foreign spies and the air force as he forms a company to make a UFO like vehicle that could reshape the global balance of power. John’s adventures take him from his home in Long Beach CA, to the security of the Redstone Arsenal in AL and then on to the ultra secret Area 51. Experience the mystery when the first mission shows that they are not alone in space!

Publication Date:  17 January 2011

Publisher: Peter W. Shackle via Smashwords

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Ebook and Kindle

Purchase Link/Excerpt

Source: Author

Author Bio:

Peter W. Shackle is a professional engineer and inventor living in Palos Verdes California. He has a Ph.D. in physics from Trinity College, Cambridge in the UK. A life senior member of the IEEE, he has authored 53 United States patents.

Website: http://adisruptiveinvention.com

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Filed under Reviews, Science Fiction

Revealing You: The Author Interview

Author interviews are a great way for readers and potential readers to learn more about your writing and your person (if you so desire). It gives them the opportunity to “silently” decide whether your work might suit their tastes.

Some readers are forthcoming and eager to get to know authors yet others can be hesitant to overtly approach and make contact. If you are a self-pub or indie, even more so, as no doubt some of you have experienced. That seems a little unfair sometimes, but I’ve found it to be true. So requesting an interview from willing sites gets your name out there. It’s great advertisement and friendly marketing. Adding a giveaway or contest of some kind also increases your “traffic”and response.

Anytime is a great time for an interview but especially:

  • If you are a new writer eager to (hopefully) blaze your name across the web in a good way.
  • You have an upcoming release and you’d like to build anticipation.
  • You’ve had positive response to your work and you want to remain on the crest of your personal “wave.”
  • You’ve been on hiatus or away from the writing world for some time and wish to restablish yourself and provide updates.
  • Sometimes it’s “clean-up”, and by that I mean when there’s been a general “misunderstanding” of some sort and you wish to clarify or address an issue in a positive way.

But whatever the reason, you have to decide what or if you wish to reveal about yourself personally professionally, or if you wish to talk mostly about your work or writing.

So what about the interview questions, the content? Most websites or individuals I’ve worked with have a base set of questions they use with authors. If you are an acquaintance, if they’ve done a review of your work or it’s a specialty site, they likely will ask you more specific questions about your genre, books, background or even fun or personal questions (if appropriate). Others have extended lists of questions and give you the option of which ones you wish to answer.

Some readers like to feel a connection with an author, finding similiarities or something exciting and entirely new to them. As long as it’s comfortable for you, be willing to share knowledge of yourself and your writing that makes you stand out in the viewers mind, not just when they’re reading the interview but later when they searching for which book they’re going to buy next.

There’s plenty of sites out there open for interview requests but it’s a good idea to browse around first before sending your email. Looking through their archives, contact or “about us” pages are good places to generally learn what kind of authors and genres they’re interested in hosting. For example, it may be a pointless endeavor requesting an interview with a site that specializes in vampire fiction and dark fantasy, yet you write Christian romance. It doesn’t mean they don’t like your work or that they don’t wish you the best, but they are concerned with what their followers and readers want to view, and of course, they have their own preferences and agendas.

It’s always a plus to read their guidelines and requirements, following them as closely as possible. When you send your request and hopefully receive a response, it is a matter of basic courtesy to give acknowledgement of their acceptance EVEN IF they say they’ll get back with you at a latter date. This lets them be sure of your continued interest.

If they are writing a review of your work and need to schedule it in conjunction with your interview among the many others they likely have in queue, they need to know they’re not wasting their time. Often they have a very busy schedule, do not exclusively run a review/interview site but have jobs, families and other activities to attend to as well. In my case, as a fellow writer, I also have my projects and deadlines I need to complete. They, like myself, certainly wish to accommodate authors, but it’s important for authors to do their part, too. Ambiguous or even non-response can be counterproductive to inclusion.

What can you do if you’ve not been approached for an interview? I’ve also known writers who have not or as yet haven’t received a note of acceptance for their query. Deciding to set-up a “Q & A” of their own, on their website or page was a momentary and solid “fix.” I think this is a great idea as readers can “pre-learn” about you at their convenience, and might be prompted to research you a little further.

Another great idea is to take the initiative and ask to interview a fellow author, as this just might spur some reciprocal offers. From my own history, after creating a few pages at the wiki website GLBT Bookshelf, I happened to have a question about content and wrote for extra information. Although I knew the site was founded by well-known author, Mel Keegan, I had no idea they would personally reply to my query. Friendly, sincere and direct (qualities I particularly like in a person), we established a certain dialogue and taking the chance, I asked if I could conduct an interview.

To my great joy, for they were personally one of my favorite authors, Mel accepted. Not only did I learn and get to share with others background information about Mel’s writing and their work, but as they’ve been in the writing industry for decades, we were all provided invaluable wisdom and direct knowledge about both traditional and indie publishing that actually gave me confidence to strike out on my own.  I realize some people don’t read or consider gay fiction, but as you’d read in the interview, Mel does write under other names the general public aren’t aware of. The information is applicable for all, at whatever stage of their careers.

So, my best advice is:

  • Be available.
  • Be courteous and adaptable.
  • Be knowledgeable and willing to take the intiative.
  • Be your own best advocate when necessary.

Who are some of the writers out there making positive steps to help their writing career and others? Visit the Indie Book Collective group on Goodreads.com for more of the discussion, but here are some of the participants and their achievements:

  • On “A Teen’s Reads” Indie Feature, an interview with Gwenn Wright, author of “Filter.”
  • At website Indie Ebooks by Nadine, which is specially dedicated to indie author interviews, more than 200 interviews have been conducted with  12000+ page views for my new site.
  • At the Authors Promoting Authors site, J.A. Belfield was featured in their article “The Author Experience: “My Journey from Non-Writer to Published Author.”
  • Interviews conducted here at Flying With Red Haircrow: French author, Anne de Gandt, Hawaiian native & memorist Faith Folau, Dolores McCabe, specializing in historical fiction, Aaron Hoopes, martial artist and Zen master and Mel Keegan, master of the gay thriller. Upcoming Robert Dunbar, Brian Springer and Boyd Lemon.

Obviously these writers and websites, like myself,  are try to “pass it forward.” Sure, we are indie authors, but we don’t have to be independent of each other.

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Filed under Writers and Writing

Being Reviewed: You & Your Manuscript

Although this review/interview book and literary pursuit blog began on 31 October 2010, I’ve been reviewing works before both as an individual and for web groups. I was what I call an intake specialist (aka ‘filter’) for a literary magazine. Basically I read through the large amount of submissions, passing those more worthy onward and upward, in order to save some of the editors time. Afterwards, with authors selected for possible publication but who needed a little extra help, I worked to edit and revise their manuscript. That’s how I’ve been around the publishing business for almost ten years, but not in the forefront or anything, where my name might be known.

After being published by Dreamspinner Press, StarBooks Press and JMS Books in 2010, and producing a few titles under my own independent publishing brand “Flying With Red Haircrow”, I encountered the bane of many self-published authors: the very many review groups which do not accept indie or selfpubs. I well understand some of their reasons for doing so, but I also knew I’d taken the chance and read self-pubs which were at least equal to offerings by traditional publishers. Plus the fact I’d read very many ebooks from the same, which what I personally found sub-standard writing and plotting, interspersed with enough errors for me to question editing.

I’ve learned some things which might be common knowledge, but also perhaps some things writers, readers or reviewers haven’t thought about.

My guidelines for a review and/or interview request might seem very detailed, but they aren’t really. I just choose to provide information about what I like to read, what I will and will not read, possible reasons for rejection etc. Here are my basics and the “why” of them:

1. Email to provided address with “review request” in the subject line.

2. Include your title and a brief blurb, word count and short bio if desired.

3. Attach story file, .pdf preferred.

Number one, reviewers often receive lots of email, I’m no exception, from review requests, other writing projects, newsletters and like. I specifically ask to have “review request” in the subject line because I have a filter in place which redirects all such emails to a special folder. If you do not do so, it is much more likely you will not receive a return response because your message has been lost amidst a couple of hundred messages in the inbox, or possibly been shunted to the spam folder (I do check it periodically to check if this happens with something I need). I am quite sure many other review sites, etc. have filters to help redirect mail especially if it’s a dual, multi-account or main contact email.

Number two, of course, a reviewer would need the title and blurb. Flat out, it’s annoying to have to go research a writer’s blurb or description, or mildly so if they include the title only in the subject line and not inside the email as well. It might seem like a small thing to have “back out” to find out what it is, but after you’ve done it with a dozen emails in a row, it’s taking up time unnecessarily. Also it’s rather common sense or knowledge when writing a request or query to say something like “Hallo, I am writing to request you review my story________,” and so forth.

The word count is requested so I can get an idea of the amount of time it may take me to read and review a story, and if I can work it into my current queue and give a moderate ETA. If I have ten 100K or 300 page stories in queue, if I receive another at that point, I’m going to be honest and say it may take me a while to review it or I will have to reject it.  A short bio is optional, but it can help me put some stories in perspective, it’s something I will include when I post the review and it gives readers extra insight into you, plus it could show a common interest which might persuade me to review when I might otherwise reject. For example, I prefer not to read works regarding religion, but it’s an a story of a Christian struggling with rejection because they are gay or have converted from Hinduism, it would probably stimulate my interest when the author states it is based on their own life.

Number three, .pdf preferred. Many computers have Adobe Readers, so the .pdf file is one which has set parametres in formatting and it’s widely known. Not all computers have Microsoft Word these days, and .doc files can have so many different kinds of formatting, it can make opening and viewing them difficult, plus other “things” can be inserted to cause a comp problems. It is a courtesy and evidence of your enthusiasm to comply with a reviewer’s request. For those who only have a .doc, there is a free application which convert your file to .pdf. It’s called CuteWriter, and takes a simple download and less than a minute.

I can appreciate writers may provide coupons so I can go visit other sites to download their file, but as a writer myself, I know I have copies of all formats saved to my computer which I provide when I seek a review, especially if it is requested I do so upfront. They may think this is easier. Having to visit other sites and search for and download a file once may not seem like much. When you have twenty requests and you’re having to take time to visit other sites twenty times?  Most reviewers, myself included, want to be spared this extra step.

These are specific to my website, but as a writer who has submitted work and continue to do so, it’s from personal knowledge. It’s also from being a reviewer and/or working for and with other reviewers and groups. These are similar things I’ve discussed with others “behind the scene.” These are tips which save us time, and believe me, it takes a lot of work on this side of the equation. It’s not just reading and then typing up a review and posting it online. There is a lot of scheduling, planning and correspondence which goes into this process.

Submission/Request Guidelines. Please read and follow the reviewer or review group guidelines. They are there for a reason, and the majority I’ve read I can see the reasons for what they’ve requested. Some do have arbitrary rules which might seem strange, but if you value a review from them, you’d do well to play along, if you are so inclined.

Extended descriptions & information.  Do not include loads of extra information beyond what is requested, such as a list of quotes from other reviewers detailing how glorious your book is. If you have that many, then it makes me ask why are you seeking a review from me, although, sure, you might wish a different perspective or your book was published some years ago and you’d now like a review with a more recent completion date. I don’t mind at all when a writer tells me a little background on how or why they came up with the book idea, it makes it more personal for me, but when there’s a few paragraph were you’re telling me how great your characters are and how much I’m going to like them…. Let’s just say, if everyone did that, I’d still be going through the paperwork. I want to read your story, but please value my time.

Errors & Retractions.  If you find you’ve made an error in your review request, or there is an issue with your file, please let the reviewer know as soon as possible and clearly state what the problem was, that it’s been corrected etc. Attach your new file or provide instructions and/or a coupon with a direct link to your work so the reviewer can obtain it, preferably you provide it for them. Save them time. If you have rethought submitting your work for review for whatever reason, again ASAP let the reviewer know. This is a courtesy.

Respect. Try to be understanding of the reviewer’s voluntary time and effort they are supplying to you. Certainly you are anxious to have your work reviewed,  but harassment is frowned upon. Sending multiple messages asking for an ETA every week won’t get your work read or review posted any faster. Except for very short works which I can cover in an hour’s time or so and give myself a “break” with, all requests are placed in queue in their order of arrival.

If I am having difficulty with a work, yes, there can be a delay as I try to give myself another opportunity and fresh look after I’ve stepped away from it. I work full-time, own and run a bookstore, am a single parent with a special needs teen, and am a graduate student in Psychology. Many days have “extenuating circumstances” for me, and I adjust accordingly as often as possible, but I still do this by choice, just like many other reviewers. Please be cognizant of what we put into these services.

Sharing the Love. Please make sure to cite the reviewer or website if you are use portions of the finished review on your own site or elsewhere, and a link back is the prime way to do so. Also remember, even if it isn’t stated explicitly this is the reviewer’s writing even if it’s about your writing, it is therefore copyrighted. This is why most reviewers or sites please ask that you do not copy and paste their review in its entirety elsewhere. It’s a form of plagiarism when you use someone else’s words even if it’s relating to your book.

Indie Writers & Reviewers.  I started out focusing exclusively on Smashwords authors and self-purchases I’d made, though I’ve also received requests from traditionally published authors, and post reviews I’ve done for other groups or websites such as Queer Magazine Online and Ebook Addicts Reviews. Like my own writing, just because I’m an independent doesn’t mean I take any of this less seriously.

I am serious about my writing, and always hoping to improve. I take the trust authors place in me by submitting their work seriously.  Do the same for your writing: edit, edit, edit, and get help if you need it. I don’t personally believe you have to have a professional editor, and it doesn’t influence me in my reviewing or personal reading if a work states it has had the touch of a pro.  I just expect it met standards of English composition. If you provide poorly edited and formatted work, it’s a reflection of you. Do whatever you need to to make it the best it can be.

Constructive Criticism. When I point out some of the things I felt didn’t work as well as might have been hoped, it’s constructive criticism and it’s my own opinion and thus doesn’t reflect what others might think. I am aware of aspect of my books which could have been better so when someone points them out in objective reviews, I accept their comments for what they are. Try to take the suggestions or “I would have liked…” simply as information you can use only if you want to. Everyone has opinions. Try to look at the overall picture, as reviewers often do not know you personally, so they are not personally trying to hurt you. I consider it all yin to yang. Even something negative can bring positive effect to my work and life.

Send your best! Last week, Sally Sapphire at Bibrary Bookslut posted an interview with me on their website. One of the questions asked was:

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Yes.

Conceive, write, edit and revise to the very best of your abilities, get help if you need it and accept constructive criticism from those who have your best interests at heart and understand you and your work. That way you can be 100% confident in whatever you produce, and when/if you do receive a rejection if you submit or a review where someone didn’t like it, you still know your work and you are worthy. It just might not have suited their personal tastes or the markets to which they wish to sell.

Good luck and best wishes as always,

Red Haircrow


Filed under Writers and Writing

Mind Café by Lizzy Ford

Review: “Mind Café” was a story I found while roaming through Smashwords, and found the description appealing. There were a couple of times when sentence structure in the narrative portions left me somewhat confused as to what was happening and when, but this story grabbed me from the very first sentence which was outstanding in its unspoken encouragement to have me read more.

Dialogue was naturally flowing and enjoyable. The descriptions were perfectly on time, just enough for you to visualize and build upon in your own mind, without slowing the pace. The story was one almost anyone could understand and find themselves empathizing with the main character, yet with special touches that made it personal. You were made to imagine yourself being in their position, wondering what you would do.

“Mind Café” shows a unique view of life, death and dying which I felt privileged to have seen from the author’s perspective. Don’t mistake it as a mere story of a life’s end, but how life can continue on as long as you are convinced you are alive.

I will admit that despite all the books, short stories and poetry I’ve read, several thousand, there are many I’ve liked or even loved, but there are a limited number which have personally touched my emotions in this way. Mind Café is truly outstanding writing, an unforgettable story and proof positive against those who believe self-published or “indie” titles are less worthy than those offered by traditional publishers.

Description: The Mind Café: death’s waiting room and the only refuge for a woman trapped in her body after a tragic accident leaves her unable to do anything but watch the world and think. A fiction, paranormal short story just under 5,000 words, part of a larger collection of stories depicting a day in the life of the unique.

Buy Link/Publisher: Smashwords

Fiction, Fantasy, Speculative

Format/Length: eBook, 4968

Source: Author


Filed under Fiction, Speculative