The give-aways end (sob) and I turn in my hour of need to my first blog tour

I little over a year ago I thought I was writing books to entertain and express myself, and creating a novel from little more than my imagination certainly did that. It was tiring and sometimes frustrating, but dammit is was also FUN.

Soul searching confirmed for me that neither money not fame were the object, especially given that I am incredibly introverted and already work in a fairly well paying profession that I enjoy. But days after I hit that first publish button for x0 on Kindle, I discovered something that surprised me totally.  I wanted people to read my book! It was even better if they liked it of course, and I had absolutely no objection to them paying for it, but basically I wanted it to be read.

megaphoneSo suddenly I had two hobbies. I was writing away on y1 and loving it, and I was trying to come up with ways to get total strangers to open x0 up on their kindle and read it instead of the (gulp) million or so other books available electronically.

This second hobby has been more frustrating than fulfilling for me, and clearly there are reasons that I did not end up working in advertising. I tried getting bloggers to review my book (most never answered my queries.) I discovered that producing a paperback book on Create Space was both free and rather easy, and after that I discovered that I could give away copies of my paperback on Goodreads.  Oh boy!

Suddenly my day job was providing the pocket money for me to mail copies of x0 and y1 (which author (2)came out in paperback about the same time) to Romania and New Zealand and Brazil. I don’t even know if most copies made it to their destinations, but slowly responses to both books have begun to pour in. Some people gave me 5 stars (an A) and others two stars (a D) with no comments either way.  Some people praised my book and gave it a poor rating while others did little more than complain then rated it high. I could only scratch my head and wonder. But in other cases, other wonderful cases, I could tell from the review that the reader “got” my book. And whether they loved it or just kind of barely liked it, their understanding, and the sense of that connection that came with it, was a high almost as strong as writing the book itself.

And now all that has come to an end.  Goodreads only allows give-aways on books published within the last 6 months, and my time has run out for both x0 and  y1.  What to do, what to do?  I think I am addicted to reviews. Luckily, I have two solutions

One, my third love child, z2, will be out in paper back next week. Hurray.  I have six glorious months in which to give copies away. Two, I discovered fine people on the internet who will get my 6-month-olds out there onto people’s blogs for me. I elected to try my first blog tour with y1, and to use a group called Orangeberry.  My blog tour officially starts today, and the schedule for the first week is as follows.

4th June – Book Feature at Peace from Pieces

5th June – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

6th June – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

7th June – Book Review & Author Interview at Mommy Adventures

8th June – Guest Post at The Bunny’s Review

9th June – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

10th June – Book Review & Author Interview at The Reading Cat

Please check me out at these venues, and I’ll post the rest of the tour next week.  Ahhhh …. I think everything is going to be okay.

A political kindred spirit: A review of Scott Haworth’s novel Abraham Lincoln’s Lie

lincolnThere are two reasons why I want to speak highly of this book, and it’s fair to tell you of them. First, this book has a strong political slant, and it turns out that I largely share the author’s views. More-over, his sort of moderate-liberal-progressive outlook, in my opinion, shows up too infrequently in political fiction specifically written to make a point, and I admit up front to wishing to encourage him.
Second, this is the first review I have written for a self-published complete stranger since I myself became a self-published author reviewed by complete strangers. I recognize how important reviews are and what an accomplishment it is to produce a coherent novel, much less one with only two typos. I am inclined to be gentle. That being said …..

This is a novel that covers about a forty year span after the USA breaks in two to form a red nation and a blue nation. The author wisely glosses over details, but focuses instead on following a few key families in each of the new countries. It’s a good format and he develops some compelling characters and covers issues from foreign policy to gun control.

The biggest problem with the book is that it can’t quite decide if it wants to be realistic, or satire. The smaller satire parts work well, like the number of things in the red nation named after Ronald Reagan and the conservative states getting corporate sponsors for their aircraft carriers. Funny stuff, although I personally would appreciate the humor more if some of the satire went both ways. Let’s face it, there is plenty to laugh about throughout the political spectrum.

At the other extreme, the human drama that is not satire works well also, such as the story of the two gay men who find their home is in the red nation, and are forced to flee to the blue with their adopted daughter. To me this was the most emotionally compelling story line and these were the most fully drawn of all the characters.

It’s the stuff in between the satire and realism that gave me pause. The blue states gradually turn into utopia, while having no problems with debt or high taxes. They get along famously with other countries, and somehow encourage innovation among the citizenry in spite of more government controls. Lazy or greedy people do not play a role, a fact that I find very hard to believe. In fact, after forty years the place is so perfect that I briefly thought I might have fallen into conservation satire that had been waiting to reveal itself.

Meanwhile, the red nation fares far worse. Citizens roam the countryside with legal automatic weapons. Criminals are tried and executed within days, with no appeals. Sex education has been abolished and science is barely taught. The nation is plagued with teen births, ignorant angry people and wars it cannot afford. Absolutely nothing works better here. As satire, one can do this of course. As a realistic novel, I’d have been more engaged if the red nation produced some sympathetic characters and occasional unique solutions of its own. In the real world, there are truly good people across the political spectrum. I know, I am related to many of them. Furthermore, real politics is a messy nuanced business and there are surprises.

Two things to this author’s defense. His main protagonist is the conservative politician who causes the split to begin with, and he does infuse this one character with warmth and humanity (and of course with mounds of regret for what he has done). Secondly, I skimmed through a little Ayn Rand before writing this review. I have not read her in decades and wondered in retrospect how balanced her world in Atlas Shrugged really was. Not very, so this author is at least in renowned company. Unfortunately, at this point his writing lacks the plot intricacy and the suspense that Ayn showed in her two most famous novels. We aren’t compelled to find out how this book is going to end, but rather have a pretty good idea much of the way through it.

click cover to purchase for kindle

click cover to purchase for kindle

His character’s motivations are sometimes unclear and their emotions sometimes range significantly from one sentence to the next. Author Scott Haworth also shows no skill at all in folding in either romance or sex, both of which do add to a book’s wider appeal. Lacking all this, his one-sidedness is more apparent than Ayn’s and will likely be more irritating to any reader that does not more or less agree with him already.

However, Ayn did write a first novel, called “Anthem”, and years ago I read it. I’m not going to bother to reread it now just for this review, but I remember it as a short, shrill and simplistic treatise in which she outlines ideas that she would later convey with far more power. I am a much more critical reader these days, and I feel certain that “Abraham Lincoln’s Lie” is a better first political book than “Anthem”.

I wavered between giving “Abraham Lincoln’s Lie” 3 stars or 4. I am rounding up in hopes that this is the first of several political novels we will see from Scott Haworth, and that one day soon his skills will grow enough to be able to powerfully convey the fictionally underrepresented ideal of a freedom-loving progressive nation. I am really looking forward to reading those future works.

Way to go Texas!!!

kissingEvery time I do a write up about y1, I have to decide whether I should mention to potential readers that main character Zane is a young gay male. Every time, I decide it’s not that relevant to the plot. It is a part of who he is, sure, and there is a mild romance in the novel (actually two romances, the other involves a hetero couple) but I’d rather use my limited words to entice readers with other things. Plus, while I have nothing against steamy sex scenes in other people’s books, it’s not what I write. Both love affairs are told so tamely that I felt to mention them would risk disappointing those who might want more.

So I’ve been a little surprised. y1 has been out since last September and I’ve received 8 reviews so far from people who I have no idea who they are. (And a few more from friends and online writing buddies and thank you guys for that!) The book has been mostly well received, averaging 4.3/5 over all and 3.9/5 from total strangers. But, a quarter of my strangers have felt the need to “warn” other potential readers that the book contains references to a homosexual relationship. Oh dear.

Thwaitressings like this tend to put me in a funk, not just about my writing but about humanity in general. It was in the middle of this dour frame of mind that my youngest daughter sent me a link to the video below.

Please watch this staged scene of a waitress criticizing gay and lesbian couples, as over and over the citizens of Texas tell her to stop being rude and to mind her own business. Mind you, in this state one still occasionally sees marquees in front of churches proclaiming anti-gay rhetoric. So I was pound and delighted to watch so many of the fine citizens of my home state, what-ever their beliefs, put courtesy and respect for the rights of others ahead of their own political feelings.

That’s right. If it can happen that consistently here, you have just got to feel better  about the world.

y1 review

Please check out the blog Serial Distractions, a place for “Fiction, Reviews, Geekery” and an all around fun blog for science fiction readers.  Librarian and author Shedrick Pittman-Hassett  reviewed x0 a few months ago here and he has has been kind enough to now review y1 as well.  He seems to have liked it 🙂

y1 has been reviewed

Brian Rush

Please check out Brian Rush’s blog for his review of y1. He is a fantasy writer himself, and describes his fascinating blog  as “a site for books, Pagan and other open minded spirituality, general creativity and cantankerousness, not necessarily in that order.”  You may enjoy his interesting insights about mythology, fantasy and spirituality while you are there.