What do readers say?

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

If you wondered if I’d abandoned my website–I haven’t. I have a valid excuse for my absence. I had a complicated eye surgery, couldn’t read or use the computer for several weeks. That sucked, more than my bloodshot eye.

In the meantime, Once Upon a Night flew the nest. Back in April, I offered it for free through Voracious Readers Only. Since then, I’ve received more than 200 requests for downloads.

It’s been the first time I’ve exposed any of my books to the general public. A strange, uncomfortable feeling, not unlike, for example, my private nightmare called public speaking.

It took some time for my book to gain momentum. Now I have many ratings and quite a few reviews, mostly on Goodreads, but some on Amazon as well. The overall response has been great. The most common complaint is that the stories are too short. Which I regard as a compliment anyway.

It wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, naturally. One reader really really didn’t like that the main male character of the first story was officially still married. (When we meet him, he is legally separated). She had other complaints as well (to make it plain, she trashed it). But that’s fine. I think that the sentence:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

is the most idiotic one ever written. Many would disagree, though.

The same reviewer, however, honoured me with one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever gotten.  She said she’d been able to get through the book because I had a beautiful writing style. I asked myself how many times I’ve read something I didn’t like just because someone had an exquisite style. Zero times. Zilch.

My. Beautiful. Writing. Style.


It’s fascinating how some readers like the same things that others don’t. One review was the mirror image of the above mentioned–she liked the book, but thought my writing needed polishing. One gave me a good review accompanied by two (or three?) stars. Some found the plot standard, for others it was intriguing. Some liked the structure, some didn’t; some found the two-sentence epilogues written as postscripts awkward, others loved them…

Some found in Once Upon A Night what I’d hoped my readers would. Some found entirely different angles to perceive it, surprising even me.

I’m still very nervous when I get a message that there is a new review. Goodreads is like dating sites–most are there to find a partner (the next read), but some have mean intentions. So far, I’ve bee lucky.

At the end of the day, what counts is that my book found its readers. They embraced it. I’ve gotten the privilege of sharing my word–and my words–with others.

What a feeling.

As for music for this time, how about Black Horse and a Cherry Tree?

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Indecent Proposal

I know almost nothing about how search engines work, except that almost everything is based on Algorithms (the word invokes so much awe in me that I spontaneously started writing it with a capital A), which I can’t make work for me no matter what I do.

Photo by Autumn Studio on Unsplash

It doesn’t surprise me, because, as I said, I have no clue what all this is about. I’m firing random shots, hoping to hit the targets. Or at least the right ones–authors, readers, writers, people with similar affiliations to mine– for I have no lack of wrong hits. Which does surprise me.

Travel sites, cosmetic sites, kitchen utensil sites, mental health sites… and the cherry on top, a bunch of porn sites have no problems finding my site. After that, it works like this: they all like a post or two and start following my blog, only to forget about me the moment when I, out of courtesy, return their ‘like’ and start following them. At first, I thought — why not. I like to travel. I understand the importance of mental health. I cook. On the other hand, travelers, cosmetic product users, people who have a thing for kitchen utensils–they all read, don’t they? Depressed, lonely and neglected souls too.

Perhaps, our reader base overlaps.

(I didn’t return the courtesy of liking/following those porn blogs; our worlds don’t overlap that much. I don’t pretend knowing anything about the reading habits of porn site users, but I doubt they’d flock to Amazon to buy my books. I’ll return to that porn incident later.)

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Anyhow, after that initial ‘like’ and following, most of them never ‘liked’ my post again. In return, I get notifications every time they post something.

So my question to Algorithm is: How come the sites about books and writing can’t find me, but those unrelated to my ‘business’ can?

This being said, there is one nice–and relevant–website that’s been following The Red Cliffs Chronicles since August 2017. The author is a writer and photographer. I like her blogs, but her photographs, mostly black-and-white, are awesome. But along with two other authors, who are both my friends, no one else seems to be interested in my blogs, except when they need my ‘like’, or one more nominal follower. Why do they need it? Does having more visitors turns into more advertisers, and more clicks into profit?

Something similar and equally absurd happens with Facebook advertising. It’s inexpensive, so I thought why not try. Some of my paid posts reached over 3000-3500 people (these are huge numbers for me), all over the world. Some not even a few hundred. I tried different demographic combinations. The numbers varied, yet I still couldn’t figure out why.

What didn’t vary was the outcome. The number of reached FB users doesn’t turn into website clicks, Facebook likes, Amazon clicks and purchases.

Back to that porn site. One fine morning, I woke up to the rapid, multiple ‘pings’ announcing incoming e-mails. Ya-hoo! I peeked on my screen and saw no less than eight different sites liked… Alas. Not my blogs posts, but my replies to the comments. The all had generic icons and names staring with triple x.

I’m not against porn sites as long as whatever happens there includes consensual adults and consensual adults only, but how the hell did they find me, and why did they think it would benefit their ‘business’?

Worst of all, I couldn’t make those ‘likes’ disappear–remember, they liked my reply–unless I deleted them.

Now my web site looks even more unloved and lonely. Perhaps I should make it look like I’m in the business of selling kitchen utensils. Perhaps it would trick the Algorithm into connecting me with the writing/reading related sites. Perhaps…



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The Scarlet Mark by Shellley Kassian

I’m posting a review I wrote more than two years ago… I’ve just realized I don’t have it on my website.

January 2016

Intertwining her novel’s plot with several distinctive threads – Norse mythology, folk tales and early medieval Christianity – Shelley Kassian creates a colorful tapestry: a story of a cursed nobleman and exiled princess, of dark and light, good and evil; a tale in which many things are not as they seem at the first glance.
Set in pseudo-medieval times, The Scarlet Mark is the first installment of the envisioned Odin Saga. The story is told from the limited point of view of the various characters, who move the plot forward taking turns in narrating it. From the main protagonists, Princess Scarlett and Lord Nicolai, to the evil queen-sorceress Cynara and Nicolai’s butler, to King Rickard and his first queen, Regana – everyone gets a chance to tell a part of the story, making it more intimate and adding to its dynamic. Continue reading

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Running Home by Katie O’Connor

A great romance, and much more.
Running Home, the first novel in the Heart’s Haven series, is an enjoyable read, a lovely romance that will leave you happy and satisfied. It has likable and realistic characters and a solid story.
But this novel is much more than that. O’Connor tackles a serious social issue—domestic violence—and she does that with no hesitation, in an honest and brave manner, empowering her heroine with love, hope and the courage to confront it.
Running Home asks you questions; requires your emotional and mental involvement; shows you the power of love; leaves you thinking about it long after you close the last page.
It asks you to be not only the reader but a participant in the story as well.
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On blurbs and other ephemeral things

“How is it I can push through writing a +90,000-word book,” my friend wrote in her recent blog post, “but struggle with a 150-word back-of-the-book blurb?”

She isn’t alone. Many writers find writing a blurb challenging, myself included. Note that the above-mentioned fellow author and friend, JP McLean, wrote five very good books (The Gift Legacy I-V). I loved her novels, but of course I don’t remember their blurbs, although I believe they were decent.

Photo by Hieu Vu Minh on Unsplash

I know another author, who, on the other hand, can come up with a good blurb in a matter of minutes. I envy her. It took me several days to write the blurb for my last novella, and I’m happy with it, but someone more blurb-talented would make it spectacular.

Would that hypothetical spectacular blurb trigger spectacular sales? Continue reading

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Download Once Upon a Night for FREE!

From March 4 to 10,  you can download Once Upon a Night for FREE, from my publisher, Smashwords. Click on the title (above), or on the image of Once Upon a Night (below) and it’ll take you to the right place.

The supported formats are epub mobi pdf lrf pdb txt html

I’m participating in the annual Read a Book Week event, among thousands of other writers, who enroll their books for discount (25% off, 50% off, 75% off or for FREE).

If you’re not a Smashowrds member, it’s easy to register, and it’s free.


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The power of public libraries

Finally, something nice happened. Really nice.

When I checked my local library’s OverDrive site today, I found my book there, with eight holds on it. I’m considered a local author, so my library always buys a copy of my books.

Okay, I work there, true, but it only means I don’t need to e-mail the librarians with the request to add my book into the collection. Instead,  I walk across the room and talk to them.

What I want to say is that my library is certainly not the only one with such a policy regarding local authors. And you don’t need to be a library employee to have your book included in the collection, so give it a try.

Why did I say finally? Because Amazon has been playing hard, refusing to post the reviews for my book. Yes, I gave advanced copies to my friends who read or edited or proofed the book, and I asked them to write reviews.

But who else could I ask? How else can I get them?

I don’t feel guilty about it.

Well, Amazon didn’t like it. One of my never-to-be-reviewers was told to post the review after she bought $50 worth of something; the other friend wrote a review, posted it, received the confirmation–and it has never appeared.

I think we underestimate the power of libraries. I might not have more than eight readers, but those eight people found my book, thought it was worth reading and now they’re willing to wait to download their copy.

For me, it’s huge, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

P.S. In order to get my book into the collection, I had to publish it on Smashwords so that it could appear on OverDrive, the platform that many public libraries in North America use for their electronic book collection.

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