Recommended Reads: Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan

occasional_soulmates_ebook_cover

The Description

When the thirty-eight-year-old San Francisco doctor meets her new patient, a handsome British expat with the unlikely name of Dylan Cakebread (and an uncanny resemblance to Jude Law), she’s convinced it’s the start of her own relationship novel. He’s an architect, no less — always a key piece of her most indulgent fantasies — and the heroine of a relationship novel always gets her fantasy man, right? Though their shaky start raises red flags that her oldest girlfriend, Jules, is quick to point out, Sarah can’t help it. She falls hard for Dylan and it appears to be a two-way street.

But maybe meeting your perfect mate in the exam room isn’t the best opening act. Sarah thinks she’s the cure for what ails him, but soon she learns the secret Dylan has been keeping from her. Now she has to choose between happiness and the illusion of it — if Dylan doesn’t take the choice out of her hands first.

It’s starting to look like this isn’t her relationship novel at all: it’s his.

The Review

Kevin Brennan wrote one of my favourite books I read last year, Yesterday Road, a warm-hearted tale of memory and discovery. With Occasional Soulmates, Brennan has put his own twist on the chick-lit genre, gently subverting the standard tropes while respecting the genre and its audience.

The book is written from the point of view of Sarah Phelan, a doctor who has almost given up on finding the perfect man when he arrives in her waiting room. Smart, handsome – a Jude Law look-a-like – and an architect to boot, Dylan Cakebread appears to be the man of her dreams, yet as their relationship develops Sarah learns that Dylan Cakebread isn’t the person she thought he was, in fact she realises she doesn’t really know him at all.

Written in the first person, Brennan effortlessly draws us into the mind of Dr Phelan. She’s smart, funny, engaging, but not without the odd neurosis or two, in fact the perfect protagonist for this type of tale. As she stumbled through the early awkwardness of a new relationship, I couldn’t help but warm to her. There were no false notes, no plot-led decisions – instead Brennan has built a credible and compelling story on character alone. And the support cast are equally as compelling, especially Phelan’s relationship with her mother and her sister.

In the portrayal of Dylan Cakebread, Brennan has managed to capture a particular type of english reserve very well indeed. There were a few missteps regarding slang, and his brother was probably the least rounded of all the book’s cast, but the mystery of who Dylan Cakebread really is played out very well and held my interest throughout.

Throughout the book, Brennan – through the narration of Sarah – often refers back to a the different stages of a relationship novel, and while I enjoyed the conceit it occasionally came across as a little too knowing. That said, it is a beautifully written book and I enjoyed it very much indeed.

If you are looking for an intelligent romance with a lot of heart, then this is the book for you. Recommended.

To buy Occasional Soulmates from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Occasional Soulmates from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

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Is the world really ending with pay per page read?

End of the world

Image licensed through creative commons. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brothermagneto/

Anyone even slightly interested in publishing will have seen a number of apocalyptic headlines recently regarding Amazon and their plan to pay authors by the number of pages read. Most of these articles have been either deliberately or accidentally misleading so let’s just cover the facts.

  • The new system only involves ebooks downloaded as part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library program (which is a benefit of having Amazon Prime Membership) or those downloaded by Kindle Unlimited (the pay monthly, download as many books as you want) subscribers.
  • Only authors who sign their books up to the KDP Select program (a program which offers authors benefits such as promotional days etc. in return for Amazon exclusivity) are involved in KOLL or Kindle Unlimited. It’s a voluntary program. You do not have to be part of KDP Select to sell your books through Amazon.
  • If an author sells a book, they get a percentage of the total sale price as before, regardless whether they are part of KDP select or not.

What this means is that Amazon aren’t revolutionising the publishing industry, just changing the terms of their own voluntary author program.

That said, this will have an impact on a number of authors. In the past, for any KOLL or Kindle Unlimited download, the author received a payment after 10% of the book had been read. This was to stop people gaming the system by downloading thousands of books they had no plans to read, just so an author received payment. The actual payment itself was calculated by a fund (or pot of money) decided by Amazon. These payments have varied month on month but have recently been as low as the $1.30’s per download.

Now indie authors being the entrepreneurs that they are, saw this 10% payment trigger and decided to react by publishing shorter books, often by cutting up longer novels into separate parts (I toyed with the idea myself but decided against it). This meant instead of publishing one, three hundred page novel, they might publish three, one hundred page serialised novel. The advantage being you only had to read ten pages (instead of thirty pages with the original novel) to trigger payment, and you get three payments instead of one (if the reader reads all three).

The new system has been designed to counter this. Paying per page read is, in theory, a fairer system. It encourages writers to publish novels in their most natural form and pays all authors equally. It is also more difficult to game. However, a lot of authors who’ve made a lot of money from the old system are quite understandably concerned about the new changes, especially as they were announced at short notice. Also, a number of people are unhappy with the premise that a book of 500 pages has more worth than one of 200 pages. Then there is the concern that this new system will change how authors write, forcing them to put a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter to keep people reading.

My thoughts

I have some issues with the KOLL and Kindle Unlimited payments system but as a relatively new author the benefits of joining the program outweigh the potential downsides. I don’t have an issue with being paid per page ready, I think it’s a better system than the one they had in place before, but it’s not perfect. My main issue is that by all payments coming from a finite pool, as opposed to stating a fixed page fee, Amazon have made publishing into a zero sum game where authors are fighting each other for a limited amount of money. That said, this was the same in the old system and my sales aren’t large enough for me to believe my income is being significantly affected.

I have some sympathy with the view that a 500 page novel will now have a higher potential value than a 200 page novel. There is some fear that writers will start to pad out their books to gain a higher income, but I don’t believe this will happen, because readers get bored with bloated text and stop reading, and the one thing all authors want is for readers to actually read their books the whole way through.

While I’m sure some authors will change their style to add cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter, in reality all writers are want to write a compelling story that grip readers through to the end. We have a number of ways of doing that, through the development of compelling characters, a gripping narrative, the use of mystery and so on. I don’t see the new system changing how the majority write because wanting readers to read to the end is already an author’s primary goal.

I don’t plan to remove my books from the KDP Select program because of these changes but will be interested to see how much, if any, impact it has on my income. What I would love to have, as an author, is the ability to see where readers have read up to and if there is a pattern to where they drop out. This information could make a big difference to what and how I write, and if Amazon made this available for a fee, they could be sitting on a goldmine.

So what about you? What are your thoughts about the changes to the KDP Select program? Are you worried, intrigued or not bother? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Recommended Reads: Singled Out by Julie Lawford

singledout_kindle_656x1000px

Before we go into the review I need to make a few disclaimers. I’ve got to know Julie Lawford through social media and she has written some very lovely reviews of my books. Also, she beta read my second book and I beta read an early version of Singled Out. This has had no influence on my review but as a reader you I feel this is something of which you need to be aware.

That said, as anyone who has beta read a book knows, a book at that stage is a very different beast to the final product and I had a number of issues with it at the time. This meant I approached reading the finished version of Singled Out with some trepidation. Luckily, I needn’t have worried.

The Description

‘There’s something delicious about not being known, don’t you think?’

Brenda Bouverie has come on a singles holiday to Turkey to escape. Intent on indulgence, she’s looking for sun, sea and … distraction from a past she would give anything to change.

But on this singles holiday no one is quite who they seem. First impressions are unreliable and when the sun goes down, danger lies in wait. As someone targets the unwary group of strangers, one guest is alone in sensing the threat.

But who would get involved, when getting involved only ever leads to trouble?

Singled Out subverts the sunshine holiday romance, taking readers to a darker place where horrific exploits come to light, past mistakes must be accounted for and there are few happily-ever-afters.

A simmering psychological suspense laced with moral ambiguities, for fans of Louise Doughty, Sabine Durrant, Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Haynes, S.J. Watson and Lucie Whitehouse.

The Review

In Singled Out, Lawford allows us to join a motley crew of mature singles as they head for a holiday on the Turkish coach. But as the opening scene in the book suggests, not everybody in the group are who they seem.
If you’re going on beach holiday and you’re a lover of creepy, psychological thrillers, then this is the book for you. In it, Lawford allows us to experience the full delights of a Mediterranean break, with the foods, the sights and the nightlife being described with a delightful richness to stimulate all your senses.
The characters are recognisable but not stereotypical, and with Brenda Bouverie the author has created a wonderful protagonist, very different from anybody I’ve read before. She’s wonderful combination of her the sensuous, with her love of food and drink; the steely, but with an underlying vulnerability that makes her a very special character indeed.
This is not, however, a book for the feint-hearted. The assault scenes in particular, while very well written, don’t pull any punches, but for me that’s as it should be. Horrible things should be portrayed as horrible. And it makes you all the more engaged in the search for who’s responsible.
What I loved most about this book is the exploration of moral grey areas. there is a particular dilemma that Brenda faces which you have no idea which way she will turn to almost the final page, and even then it’s difficult to tell whether the right decision was made, depending on your own viewpoint. This was very well done.
Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys their thrillers to be a little dark and edgy, but with some warmth thrown in. Oh, and foodies. This is a great book for food lovers.

To buy Singled Out from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Singled Out from Amazon.com click here

 

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

The Kindness of Authors

Kindness

Image Licensed by Creative Commons: source https://www.flickr.com/photos/sweetonveg/

As some of you may know, my background is in business. I spent over 25 years making money for some of the world’s largest corporations. Unlike some, I never found it as a soul-less existence. I enjoyed what I did and I especially enjoyed working with so many great people. When I decided to leave to concentrate on my writing, I knew I would miss my colleagues. It’s a wonderful feeling being part of a group working towards a common goal. Becoming an author, I expected my working life to be more like one man against the world.

Instead I discovered a wonderful community of authors.

 

The best part of writing has been the care and support shown by many hundreds of authors. It was such a surprise. In the world I’d just left, you never spoke to your competitors. You studied them, sure, but only to find weaknesses in their offer to exploit for your own financial benefit. Yet I had so many fellow authors, competitors of mine, offering help and advice, whether in the craft of writing or how to generate more sales.

And some not only gave advice, they actively promoted my books. How was this possible? Surely these authors telling readers to buy my book meant those same readers wouldn’t buy the books of these authors? But I learnt very quickly that publishing is not a zero sum game. There are enough readers to accommodate all of us. Yes, many of us would love to sell more books, but the issue isn’t a lack of readers, it is a lack of awareness, and as us authors help promote each other, we help ourselves too.

Yet I think there is more to this than a simple “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” I’ve had authors I’ve only ever met through blogging and social media give up hours of their time to beta read my books. Not only have they done so willingly, they were thrilled to help. In my recent promotion, many authors shared and promoted what was happening. One author in particular sent out regular tweets to their followers informing them of my promotion, all unasked.

There was even one writer, knowing how much I loved cricket, who offered me tickets to see England play a test match at Lords as they had a ticket going spare. This was a writer I’d never met in person but purely through blogging. I am still bowled over by the kindness of this gesture, and how much fun that day was.

While not all authors are supportive, as not all in life take time to think of others, I’ve encountered so many examples of authors offering help and support to each other and celebrating the success of their peers – from multi-award winning authors down to those just starting out and every level in between –  that I believe there is something in the psychological makeup of writers, possibly linked to our ability to empathise with others, that encourages this warmth and support to each other.

And the best part is, it’s more enjoyable to give than receive. Over a year ago I started my Pay it Forward campaign. It was a little thing, really. I read a lot of books, so it was no hardship changing my reading habits to read more works by either self-published authors or those published via small presses and promoting this I liked, yet the longer it has gone on, the more I’ve enjoyed doing it and offering just a little exposure to those books I feel deserve it.

So the one piece of advice I would give to any new writer is to reach out to other writers. Don’t just read what people have to say, write a comment, get in contact. For the most part I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the reaction you’ll receive.

So what about you? What support have you received from other authors? Is there a particular act that stands out or is it more the ongoing encouragement you find helpful? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Thank so much for your support

Two Covers

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everybody who have been kind enough to support my promo weekend. I’ve been blown by the response. At the time of writing, Second Chance is the no.2 in the amazon.com free science fiction/cyberpunk charts (damn you Rationality Zero and your better sales!) and 318 overall. Also, Absent Souls has sold enough copies to virtually cover the cost of the promotion, which has been an unexpected bonus!

So thank you to everyone who has shared this blog, retweeted any of my promotional tweets, shared on Facebook, Instagram or any of the millions of other social networks out there. You are too many to mention individually but if we ever meet in real life, remind me I owe you a drink!

The promotion still has a couple of days to run, so don’t panic if you’ve yet to take part. You can buy/download the books on the following links.

Second Chance

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.co.uk click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.ca click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com.au click here

 

Absent Souls

To buy Absent Souls for 99c from Amazon.com click here

To buy Absent Souls for 99p from Amazon.co.uk click here

Second Chance FREE! 12th-14th June

Two Covers

 

I’m thrilled to tell you that Second Chance is available as a FREE Ebook, direct from Amazon, from the 12th – 14th June. So what are you waiting for? You can download it today by clicking on one of the links below.

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.co.uk click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.ca click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com.au click here

 

And if that isn’t a good enough bargain, you can also buy the sequel, Absent Souls, for just 99p/99c from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

To buy Absent Souls for 99c from Amazon.com click here

To buy Absent Souls for 99p from Amazon.co.uk click here

Two great books for just 99p/99c. Happy Friday!

Praise for Second Chance

“Political intrigue, neuroscience, a missing-persons investigation – this well-written novel has it all.” – Carrie Rubin, author of The Seneca Scourge

“a highly entertaining and thought-provoking first novel” – Vaughan Stanger, author of Moondust Memories

“Overall I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers looking for an engaging science-fiction or political thriller.” – Dave Higgins, Davetopia Blog and author of Greenstar Season 1

“This is a slick, well written book with a strong storyline and plenty of narrative tension.” – Sarah J Higby – Brainfluff blog

 

Praise for Absent Souls

A pacy story with a cast of vividly drawn characters and plenty to keep the reader engaged.” – Julie Lawford, author of Singled Out

Thought-provoking, well-written and very enjoyable.” – Roughseasinthemed blog

“Absent Souls plunges the reader into the action from the first chapter, and the pace doesn’t let up. ” – Katrina Montfort, author of Future Perfect

 

Promotion Warning

Two Covers

This is just a little heads up that I’ll be running a free ebook promotion on Second Chance and a 99p/99c offer on Absent Souls for a few days from Friday and may be posting and tweeting about it. For those of you who dislike author promotions, you may want to avoid my blog / twitter feed from Friday and through the weekend (although I promise not to overdo it. After that normal service will be resumed.

For the rest of you lovely readers, if you’d be willing to share or retweet my promotion when it starts I’d be eternally grateful, but if you’d prefer not to I won’t hold it against you.

Of course, for those of you who can’t wait that long, you could always sign up to my mailing list and get your choice of book absolutely free!

Love and hugs,

Dylan

A Folder Called ‘Bollocks’ – Why Authors Should NEVER Respond to Reviews

For any authors out there, click on the link Heather is writing about, print it out, pin it to the wall with a heading NEVER DO THIS.

Heather Hill, Author & Comedy Writer

Regular readers of my blog may recall I celebrated the much anticipated landing of my first one star review as an author, with a light-hearted blog post and a nod to fellow authors to try not to take them too seriously.

In the last month I have seen a few knee-jerk reactions to scathing reviews and am almost always saddened, especially when I find one very talented author I greatly respect saying, ‘I just feel like giving up’. But today I began to read this response to a book review from an author on Goodreads, and found I couldn’t read on. To say it felt like watching car crash TV was an understatement.

The first and most obvious thing that occurs to me here is how the author has succeeded in spending what must have been hours alienating a community of book lovers he will have spent hundreds more writer hours trying to…

View original post 990 more words

Recommended Reads: Zero Echo Shadow Prime by Peter Samet

Zreo Echo Shadow Prime

The Blurb

CONSCIOUSNESS IS IN THE CODE

The year is 2045. 18-year-old Charlie Nobunaga creates the world’s first sentient AI and becomes an overnight sensation. But amid the red carpet galas and TV interviews, Charlie is diagnosed with cancer, and her promising future grinds to a halt.

To save her life, an ambitious tech company uploads Charlie’s mind into the body of a cutting-edge robot. The procedure is a success, but with a horrifying catch. They create additional clones for their own ends.

Charlie wakes up four times as four distinct entities: a robot named PRIME, a holographic assistant named SHADOW, a mysterious four-armed killer named ECHO, and the original dying human renamed ZERO. Separated and imprisoned, each version of Charlie begins an arduous journey alone. But their paths soon intersect in surprising ways as they retaliate against the people determined to destroy them.

ZERO ECHO SHADOW PRIME is the story of one young woman who splits into four…and fights to become whole again.

The Review

For many people Science Fiction is about spaceships and the exploration of far flung planets, but to me science fiction is all about the exploration of ideas, and Zero Echo Shadow Prime is packed full of them.

Set in the very near future, a young coder creates the very first sentient AI and everybody wants a piece of her. The problem is, she’s dying of cancer. When rich industrialist father calls in a few favours and with the help of Jude Adler, CEO of the technology firm Rivir, decides to save Charlie’s life against her wishes, Charlie’s problems are only just beginning.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s packed full of ideas, exploring some of the questions around human consciousness – what makes a person who they are, what is sentience, along with some of the thornier philosophical issues around the rights of synthetic beings and who owns a copied consciousness – all wrapped up in a fast-paced thriller. The world building is very well done, providing the small elements of detail required to show what areas of society and culture have changed without resorting to pages of backstory and setup.

In Charlie Nobunaga, Samet has created an intelligent, strong-willed female lead that had real agency despite her physical limitations, who is also a fearsome four-armed killer; a holographic personal assistant and a supercharged android warrior. The fact Samet manages to flick between each point of view without causing confusion is great testament to his skill as a writer.

There were a couple of areas where I thought the book could bi improved, the Echo storyline, while interesting, felt a little superfluous and the love interest never quite came off for me, but in a book this fast moving and complex, these are just minor issues. Overall this is a great read, and if this review doesn’t persuade you to buy the book then the cover surely will.

If you are looking for a fun-filled thriller with substance and ideas, this is the book for you. Recommended.

To buy Zero Echo shadow Prime from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Zero Echo shadow Prime from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

On Violence in Fiction

Violence

Violence is a very seductive tool in a writer’s arsenal. Most good fiction involves some form of conflict and although not all examples lead to an act, or acts, of violence, most do, including mine, but my thoughts on writing violent scenes have changed during the writing process.

In the first draft of Second Chance I had people committing acts of violence all over the place. There wasn’t an argument that didn’t lead to some form of physical altercation. Characters were swinging at each other at the slightest provocation. Too much sugar in your coffee? Bam! Didn’t like your haircut? Kerpow!* The longer the book went on, the more violent it became.

And it was a blast to write. It had action, pace – there’s nothing more satisfying than ramping up the tension to the point it explodes – and my word count rocketed as I went from one conflict to the next, giggling to myself at my inventiveness.

Then I got to one scene, set in an office, where two characters came to blows and it hit me**. I’d worked in an office environment for 25 years and, despite some very stressful, tense and emotional moments, not once had I seen people come to blows. Not once. I’d seen seething anger, shouting, gritted teeth and exasperation, but never physical violence. It made me ask myself a simple question. Why am I writing in this way?

In the western world we have a very strange relationship with violence. On the screen or in a book, we celebrate violence and those that partake in violence. We justify this hypocritical (and I count myself in this) stance of violence categorising it into two different camps: ‘bad’ violence: strong preying on the weak, and ‘good’ violence: strong stopping the bad people preying on the weak or weak standing up to the strong. On the screen, especially, we glamourise violence by putting it to music and creating almost balletic fight scenes. We cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. It’s entertainment.

Yet in real life, most of us rightly abhor violence. While not unknown, witnessing violence first-hand is a thankfully rare occurrence and most people are shocked and appalled by violence in even its mildest form.

So why was I writing this way? Why so much violence?

The simple answer was because it was easy. It didn’t take much thought. It meant I didn’t have to deal with nuance, or depth, or any of those other things that are hard to convey in words. Rather than treat a scene realistically it was easier to go straight to the action. It was lazy writing.

I’m not saying all violent scenes are unnecessary, but using violence as the first resort, as opposed to how it is in real life, a last, is pure laziness. And not only that, it’s perpetuating the myth that violence is a solution, as opposed to a failure.

I went back through my manuscript and took out the majority of violent scenes. I searched long and hard for other ways to increase tension, only resorting to violence if there was no other plausible alternative. But at the same time I made another decision. If there was to be violence I wanted it to be realistic. I wanted it to be shocking. I didn’t want it to be toned down, or glamorous, I wanted it to be ugly and brutal. I did this not because I enjoyed writing that way but because I abhor violence.

As writers we have many choices, not just about what we write but how we write it. It’s very seductive to follow the cultural norm, to be swept along with what everyone else is doing without necessarily questioning the consequences of what we do.  By watering down violence in literature***, or even worse glamourising it, I believe we are perpetuating the myth that violence is OK, that it’s not too bad, that it’s honourable.

I realised I wanted to show the true impact of violence and its corrosive effect on society. And not just its effect on the victims of violence, but on those that perpetrate it too. I wanted to show how believing violence is a solution, whether the perpetrator believes it is justified, takes away their humanity. I wanted to strip the glamour from violence to show it for what it is.

Not everybody will agree with me, and not every reader will want to read violence depicted in this fashion, but I believe my books are much better for taking this stance, and my conscience is clearer for writing this way.

So what about you? What is your stand on violence in books, or in your own writing? I’d love to hear from you.

 

* This is an exaggeration but you hopefully get my point.

** Pun intended

*** I’m talking about fiction for adults, I have a different view when it comes to books for children.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here.