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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THE MIDDLE SISTER

I have so many of them that I’m afraid I might miss to mention one or two. Just kidding.

A while ago a friend of mine asked me if I was the “middle sister.”

Funny, but I had to stop and think, for sometimes the simplest, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions have not-so-simple answers.

“Well, I am the middle sister,” I said. “And I’m also the oldest. And the youngest.”

I hold multiple sister positions in my family thanks to the long string of multiple happily-never-after marriages and happily-ever-after divorces.

Photo by Ludmila Shumilov on Unsplash

There is something called ‘the middle child syndrome’. The little ‘in the middle’ person is squished between the oldest sibling, typically an over-achiever, the most important child and the one with the most privileges, and the baby of the family, which is the most looked after kiddo and can get away with almost everything. (There could only be one oldest and one youngest, while multiple kids can hold the middle position. I don’t know if there is a hierarchy among them.) Being a middle child doesn’t seem fair, and often is not, but it seems to be the natural order of things. It’s not a surprise, then, the middle kiddo, according to some research, is often left out and somewhat neglected.

As if being the middle sister isn’t enough, I’m also the one on the left and the one on the right, depending of what set of parents and step-parents we’re talking about. As the middle sister, I was indeed squeezed between my older and younger siblings. (For the sake of accuracy, I should throw my brothers, one half-, one step-, into the mix as well, but since this was about sisters, I’ll keep my brothers in brackets.) My older sisters were quite older – one twelve and the other one eight years older. One of my younger sisters is five years behind me. Looking from my middle position, I can easily identify both the ‘achievers’ and the ‘babies’ in my family.

But then I shuffle this unconventional deck of cards called my family, and all of a sudden I’m the oldest – the achiever, the responsible, reliable and mature sister. A surrogate mother to the younger siblings. The family babysitter, cook and cleaning maid. Another shuffle, and I’m the youngest, the ‘baby’ of the family, my father’s favorite, overprotected, pampered and a bit spoiled.

One more shuffle brings my step-family into the picture, I’m again in the middle, having one older and one younger step-sister.

Having older sisters had lots of advantages, from rummaging through their clothes and shoes and picking what I liked, to spending summer holidays with them and their families, to having nephews close to my age. Thanks to the same logic (having much older cousins, that is) I became a great-aunt at the age of thirty-two, years before I became a mother myself. Having younger ones meant I could be protective and sometimes a role model. Hopefully, not too much or too often.

I’m particularly close to the one that I turned into a middle sister. She’s eight years older; she married young so I became an aunt when I was ten. I’m also close to my step-sister, thanks to whom I could be crowned as the “middle sister”. She’s only a year older; we grew up together and shared more than sibling love. We shared a room. School friends. Secrets. Dreams. Other siblings… Hardship. Lots of it.  Feeling of not belonging…

We’re sort of sibling soul mates, even though we’re opposite personalities (think of Yin and Yang). Thanks to me, and my middle position in this particular deck of cards, she is the ‘achiever’, the mature and reliable one. And I can relax a bit and rely on her for guidance, advice and support.

How many sisters do I have? Gimme a sec. Five. Yeah, that’s about right. Some of them have only two, myself included. Some of them three.

I have all of them.

And I love them all.

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