Books, Writing Reviews and Confusion.

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This is just a quick post to express my recent confusion . . .

As most writers, I love getting reviews of my books. Whether they’re good or bad, the comments can be helpful as I pursue future writing projects. I’ve been fortunate in having many great comments, as well as one or two that have made me stop and think. But I do keep in mind that all readers are different. What appeals to one may be something another reader dislikes. Even the most popular novels – the best sellers – have a wide range of reviews and ratings.

There now. I’ve just said the word that is causing me to be confused right now. Notably, the Amazon Rating System.

I noticed two more reviews of Book 1 of my trilogy Shadow of the Raven on the Amazon UK site over the weekend. One is great (5 stars) and I couldn’t ask for better. The other has left me scratching my head! It’s a short review, but the wording is nice and complimentary. This is it, word for word:

Excellent. 

Couldn’t put this book down. If you like Bernard Cornwell you will enjoy this author who writes in the same exciting way.”

I’m delighted with the comment, of course. Many similar comments have been accompanied by a rating of 4 or 5 stars. But this one came with a rating of 2 stars, so I’m sure you’ll see why I’m bewildered by it.

When all’s said and done, a 2 star rating means you didn’t like the book at all!

So the wording of the comment and the rating contradict each other. Could the reader have simply misunderstood the rating system – or clicked the wrong star symbol? Or is it me who doesn’t understand the star ratings?

If anyone can offer some explanation about this, I’d really appreciate it.

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The Shadow of a Book Promotion

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Tomorrow, for four days (18th-21st November) Book One of my Viking trilogy, Shadow of the Raven, will be free again on Amazon. I know that many of you ordered a copy last time it was free – for which I’m extremely grateful. As I’m sure everyone knows, it’s a great help to self-published authors just to have copies of their books ‘bought’ in this way, as it helps to make the book more visible on Amazon. Of course, it’s even better if people read and review it. As many other authors have said on WordPress, reviews are like gold dust to authors.

Both of my books are available from all Amazon marketplaces. Here are the two main links to Shadow of the Raven:

Amnazon.com:

Amazon.co.uk:

On this occasion, I’ve no other topic to accompany this short post, so I thought I’d add a short scene from Shadow . . .  Shadow of the Raven (Medium)

This part of the story is set in the Danish lands where Eadwulf, son of the Mercian king, has been taken as a thrall (slave). In this scene, he is forced to flee from the village by Ivar and Halfdan, the two vindictive sons of Jarl Ragnar.  Now Eadwulf is being pursued by Halfdan and his two minions, Skorri and Reinn  – and the vicious wolf-dog, Viggi.  Bjorn, who also appears in this scene, is Ivar and Halfdan’s older brother, the jarl’s firstborn.

Eadwulf has reached the forest in hope of shelter, only to find the pathway he chose blocked by a massive, fallen oak – just as Halfdan and the wolf dog catch him up:

*

‘So, Mercian, time for Viggi’s reward, I think,’ Halfdan said slowly, straining to hold the the snarling dog in check. ‘Nice try at the river, by the way, but I knew you must have crossed somewhere once the water became shallower. Didn’t take much to work that out. The broken branches and flattened grasses up the bank were a bit of a giveaway. And naturally, Viggi had no problem picking up your scent across the heath.’ Halfdan picked gorse flowers and bits of foliage from his breeks with his free hand and smoothed down his tunic. ‘Nothing to say, thrall?  Then let’s get this done with.’

Halfdan bent to unfasten the leather leash, the two boys peering from behind him, slavering in anticipation of gruesome entertainment.

‘Release the dog, Halfdan, and it’s dead.’

Halfdan spun round in alarm, treading on the hound’s tail and falling against Skorri and Reinn, bringing them down with him. The dog let out a yelp and snapped at Halfdan’s ankles, causing him to cry out in pain. The sight of his red-headed brother ready to loose the arrow from his bowstring caused Halfdan to emit such a startled cry that Eadwulf almost laughed.

‘What are you doing here, Bjorn? How long have you been standing there?’ Guilt coloured Halfdan’s face and he seemed to shrink beneath Bjorn’s scathing gaze.

‘More importantly, what exactly are you doing here? But before you attempt your feeble explanations, Halfdan, I’ll answer your second question: I’ve been here long enough to see what you were about to do and apparently I’m only just in time to put a stop to it!’

Bjorn glowered at Halfdan, his arrow aimed unwaveringly at the dog. His gaudy evening tunic and baggy trousers were muddy and adorned with fragments of heath. ‘I’ve been roused before daybreak with a tale of my brothers’ wicked scheme and the request that I dash across miles of open land to deal with it. I’m now saturated to the skin and exhausted by moving faster than Sleipnir across the sky. Is it any wonder my temper’s simmering close to boiling?’ He released his breath with controlled calmness. ‘What I demand, Halfdan, is an explanation: preferably one that sheds a more favourable light on these antics and possibly justifies your behaviour, which frankly I, for one, cannot condone.’

Halfdan hung his head, mustering up the courage to answer. ‘We were apprehending an escaped thrall,’ he lied, looking for support from his two minions. But they had shrunk into the shadows, fearful of the authority of Ragnar’s firstborn. ‘This thrall thought he could just run away – from the jarl!’

‘And just why should he do that?  Where do you think a boy, a foreigner at that, could run to in a strange land? And manage to survive, of course?’

‘How should I know where he’d go? We just saw him running off.’

‘And at what hour would that have been?’

Halfdan’s brow puckered. ‘Perhaps two or three hours before sunrise.’

‘And you and Ivar are usually outside at that time?’

‘No, but . . .’ Halfdan faltered, clearly searching for a plausible lie. ‘We were roused by noises outside.’

‘So, you’re saying that this would-be escapee made so much noise he could have roused the whole village?’

Halfdan stared at his half-brother, opening his mouth to reply, but the words seemed firmly lodged in his throat. At length he garbled, ‘I saw the thrall running off when I went to the, um, latrine. I ran and told Ivar, who said that Viggi would soon find him. So we followed his trail to here . . .’

Bjorn’s bowstring remained resolutely taut. ‘Unfortunately for you, I have evidence to verify that events took place quite differently.’ He shook his head, his expression more of sorrow than anger. ‘And it’s apparent that had I not arrived when I did, Eadwulf would now be little more than a bloody mound at your feet!’

Unable to find words of reply, Halfdan remained mute, returning Bjorn’s calculating stare with cold-eyed defiance.

‘Get back to the village, the three of you,’ Bjorn said, flicking his bow. ‘You’ve no idea how tempted I am to sink this arrow in that evil cur’s skull anyway. Believe me, Halfdan, you’ll not get away with this. I’m not the only one who knows the truth of your intentions for this day.’

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Book Reviews, Book Promotions And A Hint of Spring

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All writers know the value of reviews to the success of their books. Yet most readers don’t review- even if they’ve really enjoyed the book – for a variety of reasons. Time is always a factor in the hectic, modern world. There are some people, of course, who simply don’t like the idea, or aren’t comfortable expressing their thoughts for others to read. Perhaps they feel daunted when they see the long, detailed reviews done by Amazon top reviewers and professional editors. Yet even short, to the point reviews are greatly appreciated by authors. Every single one adds to that all-important number that shows up on Amazon or other online retailers.

That said, from today, Saturday 20th February, until Wednesday the 24th, the first book of my Sons of Kings Trilogy will be free on Amazon. It’s entitled, Shadow of the Raven. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m about to say that I would be very grateful for an honest review from anyone who might read it. I’ve set up a few advertising features for these five days, so I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. The trouble is, advertising opportunities seem few and far between in the UK – all of mine are in the US. If anyone knows of any good UK advertising site, I’d really appreciate the contact addresses.

Here are the front covers of the two books of my trilogy so far:

Pit of Vipers Final (Medium)Shadow of the Raven (Medium)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Christmas I’ve had two reviews of Book 2, Pit of Vipers, posted on WordPress blogs. One is from the lovely, New York blogger, JF, on his blog Pursuit of Happiness. The link is to the actual review.

The other blogger was across the other side of the world, in Australia. ChristineR

These two bloggers have read and reviewed both of my books on their blogs now, for which I am incredibly grateful. Christine has also put both on Amazon, which is more than appreciated!

Well, over the last week or so we’ve been hearing a great deal about the Arctic weather conditions over in the north-eastern areas of the US and in Canada. Newsreels have given us glimpses of the frozen Niagara and snow-packed streets and highways. Travelling must be a nightmare. All we can do is sympathise – and hope similar conditions don’t visit us!

Here in Nottinghamshire, the weather has been dull in the most part, with just a few bursts of sunshine. But it’s quite mild, for February. Buds on spring flowers are swelling, a few even opening up fully. In our garden we have a few daffodils open and a handful of crocuses.

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Snowdrops will be coming to an end soon. Everything sings of the hint of spring, even the noisy little sparrows – and that’s how I intend to think of it. Look forward, not backward. Positive thoughts in all things . . .

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Resolutions, Book Reviews And The Weather

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During this past week many bloggers have written about New Year resolutions. Several, I note, have decided not to bother with any at all since they profess an inability to keep them. Probably a wise decision, then.

I rarely make resolutions, myself. Not that I don’t admire the determination of those who do – however long that determination may last for.  I’ve got as far as telling myself I’ll do this or that in the coming year, but it’s always been a half-hearted gesture. I suppose I’m fortunate in not needing to lose weight or give up smoking. I’ve never smoked in my life and, according to my husband, I need to put a good stone on! But I know there are lots of other things in which I could show real resolve.

This year I have made one big resolution: to finish the last book of my trilogy. With Book 2 now on Amazon, I need to concentrate on getting Book 3 completed. Then I’ll start on something completely new, although it will still be historical fiction (something I am addicted to!).

Starting a blog on WordPress just over five months ago was one of the best things I did in 2014. I’ve met so many lovely people and have been nominated for two awards, though I’ve still to put my Sisterhood of Bloggers Award on display. I haven’t managed to blog very often, however. I aimed for once a week at first and over Christmas, after finishing Book 2, I managed to do a few extra posts. But I’ll never make a power blogger! My writing time is precious to me, so I just fit in whatever else I can.

Two of my fellow bloggers have reviewed my first book, Shadow of the Raven on their blogs, and I am really grateful to them for that. Both of these people have lovely blogs, with lots of great photos as well as informative posts on a variety of subjects.

The first was in November by the wonderful JF on his blog PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.  He also mentioned my book again yesterday, in his summary of  2014. Thank you JF!

Today came  a second review by a lovely Australian lady, Christine J. Randall, on her blog, Christine R. Thank you, Christine, for the really thorough job you made of it!

I can’t thank these two people enough for the kind things they say about my book. My offer of a free copy of Shadow of the Raven in exchange for an honest review still stands. Two other bloggers have also taken up the offer. My email address is on this page. Just let me know whether you need an ePub or Mobi file, or even a pdf.

Since JF reviewed the book in November, I’ve changed the cover to the one now shown here.  Here are the two different covers. The old one is the very blue one. I’ve also added a couple of much-needed maps to both Book 1 and Book 2, Pit of Vipers.

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Shadow of the Raven (Medium)

Well, next week things will really get back to normal. Most schools here open again on Monday or Tuesday, so that’s holidays over until half-term at the end of February. The weather has been cold again today. (I’m English, so bear with me whilst I wallow in the nation’s preferred topic of conversation.) After having sunshine and 9°C a few days ago, yesterday was miserably grey, and it poured down before brightening up by late afternoon to give very clear skies  – which revealed an amazing full moon and a cloudless sky. Naturally, temperatures plummeted to -5°C and it continued to be freezing all morning. It’s always pretty, though, to see sunshine glistening on the frost.

But I still prefer to be warm! The first picture of me was taken at Wayland’s Smithy in Oxfordshire in June, and the second one in Lincoln (left) with husband, Nick, and Auntie Joan in August. They show how I like the weather to be:

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Mum, Dad and Joan

Life in Britain can never be truly boring. We always have the weather to talk about – fickle as it is.