reviews

Product Review – L’Oreal Brow Artist Genius Kit

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Eyebrows are a thing now. I mean, they always were a thing, but now they’re more of a thing than ever. Every woman now has to include brow husbandry into her daily routine. There has always been an accepted ‘best way’ of doing one’s brows. There’s the ‘proper’ places to start and finish, the ‘ideal’ height of arch, and the ‘accepted’ thickness etc. The internet is awash with examples of brows gone horribly, hilariously wrong and those of us of a certain age can look back in horror at brow fashions of the past. Who remembers Angela Rippon and those surprised arches we all dreamed of copying?

Today, the accepted look is a fuller, bushier brow and I, for one, am grateful. I can distinctly remember Brooke Shields being torn apart by the media for her bushy brows but she remained resolute and I bet she’s laughing now.  While the rest of us have to fill in and paint over the bare patches caused by our over eager plucking, hers are naturally healthy and bushy and just need a bit of a tidy up.

I learned how to do mine well for the first time in my life, by following a Youtube video and I’ve been happy with this routine for the past year or so since I learned it. Then I splashed out on semi permanent eyebrow tattoos, which was a mistake I would not recommend anyone repeating. For three days I had beautiful natural looking brushstroke eyebrows that quickly became brown smudges that I still had to fill in just as I did before. Waste of time and money. Learn from me and don’t do it.

Now we have a new kit from our old friend, L’Oreal in the form of the Brow Artist Genius Kit. I purchased this from Boots for £9.99, which is not too much to risk for nice brows.

Inside the metal tin are two square palettes of colour, a teeny pair of tweezers, and a teeny brush. The kit comes in two choices, fair to medium and medium to dark. I got the medium to dark as although I’m 53, I’m still a natural brunette.

The palette on the left is a wax, which goes on first. Brush it on just as you would your normal powder or pencil. This does not colour the brows, it’s just wax.

Next, the palette on the right. This is the actual powder colour which you brush on over the wax. Again, just do it like you would with your normal powder or pencil. The powder sticks to the wax and holds in place better than powder alone.

The other end of the brush is a spooly, which you then use to gently brush through and you’re done. It’s easy to do and lasts all day, which powder alone doesn’t. One thing worth noting is that I find the medium to dark has a distinct red tone to the rich brown. If asked before I purchased, I would not have welcomed this as I’m used to years of black brows, but I’m so glad now I’ve used it. The rich brown is so much more natural than black, which women of my age must unfortunately be more aware of than you pretty young things.

I love this product, and will most definitely be making it a permanent part of my cosmetic bag.

5 stars.

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How one reader buys her books

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I have a good friend with whom spend a couple of hours every Friday morning. She knows I write science fiction novels but has never read any of them. She is a reader, although she admits to being a very slow reader. Last Friday, she asked me how my writing was going and I told her I had begun editing my next release. There followed a little back and forth, with her asking questions about the process and me answering. She seemed genuinely interested. She’s an intelligent woman with a very well paid job and lives in a large house in the countryside. She’s successful and has the kind of lifestyle I dream about and envy. I’m telling you this so you can get a true picture of her. She’s educated, respected in her field, worldly wise, and wealthy. She’s not some ill educated untermensch.

At some point during the conversation, she asked me, “how are they selling?” I was truthful and told her, “they’re not.” We then discussed the problem of trying to get our brand ‘out there,’ in an over saturated market and I asked her a very important question. I said, “as a reader, how do you approach buying a book when you want to read?”

She told me that she tends to stick to authors she knows she likes, or she’ll listen to recommendations from friends, then she reads reviews. She admitted that she is so overwhelmed with choice and said that she finds searching on sites like Amazon, difficult and time consuming, so she tends not to bother. She said she is so busy that she doesn’t have the time to spend searching online for books she doesn’t know whether she will enjoy. It is much easier and quicker for her to stick to what she knows, or walk into a book shop and browse the shelves.

This was very interesting information and confirmed what I’ve always said. The good stuff is buried under a mountain of trash so huge that readers are put off trying to wade through it to find the good stuff to read. Unless you have a lot of money to spend on advertising experts who can get your name ‘out there,’ you’re wasting your time trying to make money from writing novels.

We talked about the impossibility of getting reviews and I told her about sites like Bookbub, where you can pay a large amount of money to have your book advertised, so long as it has a large number of reviews at 4 star or higher. I asked her, “as a reader who is just looking for a book to read, have you ever heard of Bookbub or similar online sites?”

No, she’s never heard of it, nor any other similar site and I suspect the vast majority of ordinary people haven’t either. This part of the conversation confirmed something else I’ve always believed, that much of what is considered by authors as ‘the right thing to do,’ is done to impress other authors and not readers. Attracting other authors and attracting readers are two totally different worlds and some people get too caught up in the wrong one.

The salient points are that she is a busy working woman with a family, a successful business to run, and a large home to keep. She has neither the time nor the inclination to wade through a mountain of trash to try to find something she might enjoy reading. She is  not aware of advertising tricks, and uses past experience and reviews to influence what she reads.

Another important thing to consider here is that modern life is different to how it was a few decades ago. We don’t read as much now as we did when I was a child. I used to clean houses for a living and of all the homes I went into, no more than 2 out of 10 had any books at all, let alone the shelves of books I remember everyone having in their homes when I was young. People might take a book on holiday to occupy them on the flight or while sitting by the pool, but those two weeks per year are probably the only time they will read anything other than a newspaper, a magazine article about a celebrity scandal, or a facebook meme.

So where does this leave us, as authors?

Truthfully? I think the time of the traditional length novel is dying fast. I think the way forward is 25-35 thousand word novellas, short story collections, 10 thousand word novelettes perhaps. Modern humans don’t have the capacity to stick with an 80 thousand word novel any more. They need instant gratification that they can grab, consume, and discard in a couple of hours. Everything about our modern life is instant, freeze dried, reconstituted, pre packaged, and disposable. From the clothes that fill our closets, the food in our superfast microwave ovens, to the ultra short bland porridge on their digital e-readers.

Those of us who write full length novels with twisting plots, group dynamics, and twists at the end are catering for a dying market. The new breed of weirdo geeky nerds who live in the dark and read science fiction epics of 80 thousand words and more are our customers now. They are few, they are the new ethnic minority, and they are a dying breed.

The bubble has to burst some time soon

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Have you ever blown up a balloon and reached that point where you know it’s gonna go bang any second? I think we’re approaching that point  in the literary world. When I say ‘I think,’ I actually mean I hope.

The whole, review, sock puppets, paid reviews, fake reviews, deliberate bad reviews cycle is fast reaching the point where the literary world will just implode. Then there are the overpriced promo sites, like that really well known one that costs hundreds of dollars for one day’s promo, whom I won’t name because they haven’t paid me hundreds of dollars for ad space here on my blog. They require your work to have reviews, sometimes a minimum number of them at a certain star rating or above, and can still refuse to accept your work at all. So you save for months or don’t bother to pay your credit card bill, then use the money to apply for an add at that book promo site or others like it. What are you going to feel like if they refuse you because you haven’t the right number of reviews, or perhaps they just hate your cover or notice a spelling error in your blurb? You’ve just flushed several hundred dollars down the shitter. If I lost so much money like that, I think I would either commit murder or suicide.

You can buy reviews on various selling websites. Fiverr is a well known one where you can purchase book reviews. It’s dishonest to get reviews this way, but I’m sure the vast majority of reviews you can see on Amazon, have been purchased. I’m not yet that desperate, but I can’t guarantee I won’t get there.

I hope the bubble bursts soon. We need the floor to fall out from under the whole self publishing world and the entire thing to be reformatted. Rebuild it from the ground up, with concrete rules that are heavily enforced, even some legislation in law would help keep things in line.

This can’t go on, or I can’t. One or the other.

The Book Ad Scam

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Ever tried to buy an ad at one of those book advertising websites?  You pay the fee and they advertise your book on their website/facebook/twitter for a day. Some are cheap-ish whereas others are hugely expensive and trade on nothing more than their name. The hook is simple – you pay them to put your book ad in front of thousands of potential readers/buyers via their website or email list. Seems great doesn’t it? The only problem is that all of them that I’ve come across so far – and that is a lot – demand you have a certain number of reviews at a certain level before they will then CONSIDER – yes, just consider – taking your book for an ad. Most often they still turn you down even if you can qualify.

I’ve seen a huge number of authors who, like me, moan constantly at how impossible it is to find genuine reviews. Yes, you can do the sock puppet thing by writing your own under fake names. You can buy them, and you can ‘trade’ reviews with another author (the unspoken rule here is that it has to be 5*). Getting genuine ones is impossible, completely and totally impossible. Not only do readers want you to give them your hard work for free, but they then won’t even bother to write a short 1 sentence review by way of recompense. I am quickly getting to hate so called readers.

This whole book ad thing is a total scam. The most well known of these advertising sites charges hundreds of dollars for a book ad, which you then have to ‘qualify’ for by having dozens of 5* reviews. Listen assholes, if I had that many 5* reviews I wouldn’t need your poxy website would I.

My advice to anyone and everyone is simple – don’t use these sites. They just want to take your hard earned money and even if you buy enough reviews to qualify, they then invent some other reason to turn you down – your book isn’t their genre, the cover isn’t professional enough, there is a single typo on page 427, or whatever.

I am sick of all the scams being peddled out there aimed at hard working authors like me. I am also sick of ‘readers’ who actually don’t read and certainly never review. This ridiculously out of control self publishing thing has to blow up soon, it has to. Then maybe, hopefully, all the peddlers of the dross will realise that they really should go back to doing manual labour, and those with real creativity can get their quality work out there. Then it will just be a case of educating the brainless masses on how to actually read quality work.

 

Review etiquette

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I have been prompted to write this blog by a number of posts on facebook about reviews.  I’ve been in facebook groups where the subject of reviews has been discussed, and I’ve seen authors posting about reviews they’ve received.  I have received a couple of negative ones myself, so I know how it feels to be on the end of it.  It also gives me the opportunity to comment about etiquette for reviewers.

The job of a reviewer is to give an opinion ABOUT THE STORY, and not about the author.  The review should contain your views about the characters, the story, how it made you feel etc, AND NOTHING MORE.  A review is not the place to insult the author’s intelligence (or perceived lack thereof), their lack of writing skill, and how you feel they were brought up.

Anyone who leaves reviews that contain insults, only makes themselves look bad.  It is obvious that you are doing this because, a) you also have a book you want to sell and you want to make your rival’s book seem worse than yours in the vain hope yours sells better, or b) a friend/family member of yours has a book to sell and you’re  trying to put down his/her rivals books, or c) you know the author from facebook and you took offence to something they said and want to get them back.

The thing is dear, authors talk to each other and those who leave such reviews get well known amongst authors for all the wrong reasons.  Anyone who reads a review that makes disrespectful comments about the author’s lack of education as a child (as appears on a review of one of my books) is not going to believe what the reviewer is saying, and will just assume that the reviewer is a nutjob.

Of course you must be honest, and if you could not get into the book, say so, but say so politely and without insulting the author’s upbringing/parentage/education or anything else.  Reviews have become a thing of ridicule nowadays because of people leaving reviews like this, and customers no longer have a valuable source of information to help them choose whether to make a purchase or not.

I recently saw a conversation on a facebook group where one such reviewer was being discussed.  This chick has become infamous for leaving insulting reviews on her rivals’ books because she also has books to sell, and knows that the only way hers will ever sell is if there are no others available..!  All of the people involved in this conversation were ridiculing her and her books, which apparently are not of the highest quality.

Look m’dear, just be polite when leaving a review.  You don’t have to lie and say you loved it when you didn’t.  All we ask is that you stop leaving such childish insults that only serve to make you look like an idiot, and to bring the whole of the indie publishing world down to a level of embarrassment.  We have enough to cope with  without this silly behaviour from amongst our own ranks.

Grow up..!

Why readers don’t leave reviews

All authors know how frustratingly difficult it is to get genuine reviews that you don’t have to pay for, and which don’t  involve family or friends doing you a favour. I’m talking about genuine reviews from genuine readers here.  Ever since I published my first novel, I’ve wondered why readers don’t leave reviews, so yesterday I decided to ask them.

In my totally unofficial poll on facebook, the answers I received were as follows:

I only review if I like the book.  I only review indie/self published books. I only review if no other reviews say what I want to say.  I didn’t realise you could.  I can’t be bothered.  I do.

The first two of these are fine, I’ve no problems with these at all.  My problem is that if these are true of all readers, then 99% of the people who have read my books, hated them and/or did not realise I self published them.

The third is very odd to me.  Why decide not to review just because someone else thought the same as you?  Surely a product (whatever it is) with multiple reviews saying similar things, would help you to decide whether to buy?  If ten reviews all say they love the book, then other potential readers would be more likely to buy?  Or am I missing something relevant here?

I’m totally surprised to find someone did not realise you could leave a review.  There can’t be many people who don’t buy things on Amazon and other internet sites, and everyone (but everyone) knows Amazon is full of reviews.  If this answer was genuine, then I’m shocked.

The “I can’t be bothered” answer is, well, um, sigh…!  Sometimes, just occasionally, say for instance, when I read that people just can’t be bothered to leave reviews, I fail to find a reason to have much respect for people.  I do however, think this is the actual reason why 99% of people don’t review.

The last answer, the “I do” answer made me laugh, and I’ll tell you why.  The person who said this, told me some time ago that they bought at least a couple of my books.  They never reviewed them.  So, they either haven’t read them yet, or they didn’t buy them at all.  Someone just sharted in public I think..!

So what does this teach us as writers?  It teaches us that people just can’t be bothered to review, unless they are book reviewers or other authors.  Despite most people saying they do read the reviews when deciding whether to purchase an item, they can’t be bothered to leave one themselves.  This doesn’t help us as authors, and there is obviously nothing we can do to encourage people to leave a review, when they just can’t be bothered.

At least we know that there is no need for us to blame our lack of reviews on the quality (or lack thereof) of our work.

Review of Torchwood – and other similar TV series

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This started out as a review of Torchwood, but has evolved into a review of all TV series that share the genre.  The reason for this is simple – they always make the same mistake.

Now, I loved Torchwood, just as I loved X files, Haven, Stargate SG1, Primeval and all the others like them, (apart from Dr Who, I hate that one.)  The first couple of seasons are fantastic; the team consists of likeable, real characters with enough charisma to look good on TV, without being too ‘made up,’ and the storyline consists of interesting adventures, with a new and exciting episode each week.  There is enough danger to keep you on the edge of your seat, fantastic effects, and no bothersome sub plots to get in the way.

And that’s the problem, that last one in the list – the sub plots.  It’s always the same with every series.  The first two seasons are great, but then they can’t help themselves, they have to make it all political (in the case of the American ones) or introduce complicated and unnecessary intrigue between the characters.  Why do the programme makers always do this?  No one likes it when this happens, and in my opinion, this is why series’ tend to fall apart after the first couple of seasons.

The only series I’ve seen that hasn’t yet made this mistake, is Supernatural.  They almost did, almost.  The first couple of seasons that Crowley was part of, became laborious and boring with his constant fucking things up.  It was predictable and I worried that I might go off the series.  Thankfully though, the programme makers must have had a moment of enlightenment, because they quickly got over that and the series is still wonderful.

I loved the first season of Torchwood, I loved the first two seasons of X files, the first two or three of SG1, the first season of Primeval and the first of Haven, and I look back on them with a mixture of fondness and disappointment.  They could have been fantastic, they could still be popular now if they had just kept it the way we like it.  Simple and enjoyable.  Science fiction is about escapism and I don’t want government cover ups in every single series, or double agents within the team, or bosses with different agendas.  I want to be entertained.

Please, programme makers, give us a series we can enjoy without all that crap.