23 February 2019

When a book review is blatantly and deliberately misleading...

For a totally independent article about this same subject - visit the Alliance of Independent Authors who posted a very enlightening article .... 
click HERE> 

Many authors, indie especially, and several publishing houses (indie and traditional) have received, over the span of a couple of years now, unsolicited spam emails from a certain freelance proofreading company complaining about errors in various published books and offering their services and/or a list of the noted errors. Obviously, a ruse to tout for business. Naturally, such unwanted junk spam mail gets dumped without hesitation into the bin. But a few weeks later, as if by magical co-incidence, a scathing 'review' appears on Amazon mentioning, and often listing, these supposed errors and typos that this proofreading company has 'spotted'. (Doesn't he have enough work to do? Apparently not.)

quote:  *Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.*

What, you wonder, as do I, is the intention of this person from this company? Is it, as seems at first glance, to assist authors to produce good, quality books by pointing out the missed typos? Or is there some other, far more malicious, intention going on here?

Most genuine review sites (e.g my own Discovering Diamonds) do not review books that do not reach a certain standard. Giving poor or scathing reviews is a pointless exercise - there is barely enough time for volunteer reviewers to write constructive reviews for the good books, let alone the poorly written ones. At #DDRevs (Discovering Diamonds Review) if a reviewer gets back to me saying the book she/he has read is really good but what a shame about the far too many errors/grossly incorrect formatting etc., I privately contact the author and suggest a thorough re-edit/reprint/republish - which can be easily accomplished for indie writers. Alas for traditional/ mainstream where quite often it is the publishing house's fault that a bit of a mess has been made, there is nothing that can be done. Several thousand copies have already been printed and until the glorious height of another print run or the paperback edition is reached then grin and bear it with a very red face is the only option for the author. (Which is a huge reason why I prefer to be an indie writer. Bloopers are my own bloopers.) Occasionally the authors I contact rant back (somewhat rudely - I delete and block). More often than not I get an appreciative thank you for taking the trouble to respond,  BUT ... and this is a BIG BUT... these authors have submitted their books to #DDRevs for possible review. I do not contact strangers out of the blue, nor, unless the author particularly wants to continue communicating do I follow up with further e-mails.

THAT's the difference between being helpful 
or an outright spammer!

Unfortunately, this Proof Reader Person doesn't think like that. His  apparent selfless wish 'to help' takes on a sinister turn when he then goes on to harass and bully his victims by posting suspect tweets like this one to me:

Way back when (2017?) I did a talk at my local library (it went very well!) By chance, a few weeks ago (January 2019) I discovered an unread message dated from a few days before the talk in my Twitter inbox from Mr P referring to this event. (Mr P take note: I don't read/respond to Twitter DM messages.)

It said something like 'I intend to be there.' 

Well, he wasn't there (which in hindsight was very disappointing because I would have relished the face-to-face fisticuffs.) So what was the intention of his message? I can't believe it was meant as convivial support, so I can only conclude the purpose was to intimidate.

*Laugh* blimey mate, I've been doing talks for over 20 years at many and varied locations, (a highlight was one to the deputy British Ambassador and various big-wigs in Le Hague!) I've spoken in the US, fronted various conferences - I'm one of those authors who can Talk For England, so I'm an old hand at the job. Add to that, I'm a 65-year-old London East-ender!
As a friend remarked when I mentioned this somewhat crass attempt at intimidation: 'Poor guy, if he'd come along he wouldn't have known what had hit him.'  

I think the second one applies....
My Pirates Truth and Tales received a 2-star comment on Amazon from Mr P. Now I'm NOT claiming 'foul' regarding the facts of his comment - he was quite right about some of them. There are errors in the hardback edition and I'm mortified about them; the publisher printed from an uncorrected file. Result. Big Mess. But not my fault (I did not see a final proof copy until it was too late to do anything about it.) 

So I strongly reiterate that I am not complaining that someone had posted on Amazon about the errors, they are there, fact. (Very annoying fact!) but I am complaining about the method, the motivation and the underlying reason for doing so. His comment and the dozens of similar ones for other author's books was left because I did not respond to his spam mail touting for business - to use his proofing service.

The publisher and I worked hard on ensuring the paperback was better proofed. Undoubtedly we did miss a few minor things (I think there's a 'too' instead of 'to' for instance) but the erroneous Marie Celeste (Mary) has been corrected, ditto coke (Coke), desert/dessert, the back to front date corrected blah blah blah. We also re-formatted the layout and I think the result is super. (Just a pity this wasn't done for the hardback!) 

OK, my 'chatty' style isn't to everyone's taste - fairy 'nuff, (although I did laugh at someone's comment of 'This isn't Patrick O'Brien' (sic - it should be O'BriAn). Well, thank goodness for that! Mission accomplished! I set out with every intention of ensuring Pirates and my Sea Witch Voyages were absolutely nothing like Mr O.B's novels. His books are engrossing but highly detailed, somewhat serious (and I have to say, in places a little dreary). They are a "mens' read" type books. My Sea Witch Voyages are meant to be a light, fun, tongue-in-cheek read with a blend of fantasy and romance. So I agree, absolutely nothing like Patrick O.B.

Back to our Proof Bully... this is the gist of his original comment for the hardback:

" 2 out of 5 stars Too many errors
March 2017
Format: hardback Verified Purchase
*Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher (Amberley) were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.*
The book contains 249 errors of spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation. The errors begin on the copyright page and increase a few pages later in the Timeline where ‘Hans Sloan’ should be ‘Hans Sloane’ (p10). Here is a brief selection (with examples) of what this reader found: "


Skip forward to January 2019... Determined to continue his 'helpfulness' Mr P has developed a new strategy: repost the original comments to make them look like new ones - this, of course, brings them to the fore where no one can miss them. (Again why? To what point? How does this, as he claims, be of help to authors?)

I protested that this was 'bad form' (to quote Captain Hook) and some changes were made: (in bold here)

2 out of 5 stars Too many errors
17 January 2019
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a review of the original hardback edition, purchased on Amazon in March 2017. *Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher (Amberley) were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.*
*** UPDATE: a paperback version has been published and some of the errors have been addressed, but a huge number - at least half - remain. ***

but the rest of his comment is, as far as I can tell ... totally unchanged. 

So apparently there were originally 249 errors, now there's half that number  = 124.5. Well being blunt 124.5 minor errors out of 75,000 words isn't bad going! Especially when I bet that the majority of those 124.5 are picky and debatable (e.g. not taking into account author style etc) I occasionally ignore the split infinitive rule... sorry but I'm with Star Trek here: to 'boldly go' sounds much more 'every day' and comfortable than the correct 'go boldly'.  The use of ... or .... is personal preference, and often where a comma should/shouldn't go is also personal preference - all of which are not understood by a computer generated proof checker. (I use Grammarly, it's good but it doesn't pick up my personal style - it's picky-pedantic.) So I reckon a good half of the 124.5 so-called errors aren't errors at all, which gives us 62-ish, out of which half are probably tiny things like a missing space as in 'JanuaryTwenty-First' or a missed -  twenty six  instead of twenty-six .... so that brings us down to 31 possible errors... I mean does 31 small errors really deserve a 2 star review and public trashing?  Blimey, get yourself a life mate! 

Anyway, I responded thus: 

"Polite response: Do you, PP, really care about the several authors who decline to use your proofreading services? From the tone of this, and many other similar 'reviews', you have written your comments portray many books in a very poor light. The publisher of this book (and myself) worked hard on correcting the errors, which I have said many times were a result of printing from an uncorrected file (which I was/am cross about - and yes, the person responsible no longer works for the publisher. In fact he left during the final stages, hence the muddle.) The paperback is not 'a mess', it has been reformatted and I think looks most handsome. You say there are 'still'  half the original errors - that makes about 124 errors, most of which are very probably minor things picked up by the pedantic programme that you use (not a human reader's eye/brain which allows for style and author's voice.)  Out of over 75,000 words 124 minor, probably debatable, errors is annoying but not wholly unacceptable, and probably not even noticeable to a reader - certainly not to the extent of deliberately giving a false impression about a book. I am not debating the original hardback but I would appreciate a sense of honour and fair play from you PP regarding the paperback edition by upgrading this NEW review of yours (a copy of the old original) to at least a 3 star. 
Incidentally, thank you for purchasing this new paperback edition in order to re-proofread it, I wonder at how you find the time or inclination to do so? It is a most odd thing to do as you clearly have no real interest in the book, so what was your intended purpose? Or is the impression of repurchasing and re-reading in order to find a mere 124 minor errors somewhat false? I am baffled as to your motive? I leave sensible readers to reach an obvious answer..."

To which he has left a couple of sarcastic responses, which only show himself up as the t*sspot ass that he is. 
Apparently, I'm to stick to writing fiction (does he mean he likes my novels?) and he has suggested that I make full use of 'the free publicity'. Yes! I intend to! Although, can anyone enlighten me as to what he actually means by that? He's the one giving me the publicity opportunity, and given that I've sold a couple of books on the back of his sniping (readers interested in seeing just how much of 'a mess' the book is...LOL) I can only thank Mr P for this wonderful exposure of what is, to the majority of my readers, an interesting and enjoyable book about pirates. 

So following his advice, please do feel free to repost, reblog re-whatever this article - and please do leave an honest comment for any of my books that are on Amazon. 

Finally, I do have to say thank you to him, because I was stuck for an idea for a weekend topic to write about...

I repeat: I am NOT complaining about the embarrassing errors in the hardback. I AM complaining about this man's misleading dishonesty, his dubious intent and his bullying harassing tactics. He is a menace to too many authors, some of whom he has grossly upset and even frightened. 

Note: Authors (new authors especially) are advised to NOT respond to this person but to report any harassment to the Society of Authors and/or the Alliance of Independent Authors, both of whom are collecting evidence against him. For myself, he does not frighten, intimidate or remotely succeed in bullying me personally ... I don't play the bully game, nor do I tolerate harassment or attempts at intimidation. After all, I have my very own, very capable pirate (who has a very sharp cutlass) as a constant companion! :-)

#ObviouslyMrPHasNotEnoughWorkToDo #TooMuchTimeOnHisHands

For a totally independent article about this same subject - visit the Alliance of Independent Authors who posted a very enlightening article .... 
click HERE> https://selfpublishingadvice.org/proofprofessor-watchdog-advisory-complaints-reviews/

addendum: Mr P has 'advertised'...  "all corrections are available on request."
so I emailed him with:

Friday, 22 February 2019 7:43 PM
As 'advertised: "all corrections are available on request."
I request the corrections to my book 'Pirates Truth and Tales' 

Helen Hollick
Website: www.helenhollick.net

within 5 minutes (maybe less) I got a reply - a link to his fees ... 
oh so his "all corrections are available on request." is also grossly misleading. You have to PAY to see how he's managed to publicly trash your book!

My suspicion is .... these 'corrections' do not exist because why on earth would he proof read (and therefore purchase) my book TWICE without getting paid for it? Or is he hoping I'll be gullible enough to pay him?  

Sorry mate, I never fall for the con of spammers' spam. 

22 February 2019

Novel Conversations with Nancy Jardine's Aran Bruce

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...
Aran Bruce


Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Nancy Jardine’s novel The Taexali Game. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  

A: Hi, I’m Aran Bruce. I’m the lead character in The Taexali Game but I suppose my friends might think otherwise. BTW – the cops will be called if you offer me any of your alcohol, since I’m only thirteen, but your chocolates and that slurp-looking mango in the bowl will be no problem. Where I’ve been recently was totally cool, but the food was yuck! 

Helen [smiles] no alcohol then - and I assure you, those chocolates and the fruit are very non-yuck! 

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?

A: The Taexali Game’s a time travel historical novel where I was whizzed back to A.D. 210, along with my friends Brian and Fianna. ‘Course, when we started playing our Rubidium Virtual Reality game we’d no idea where we were, or when it was, and had to work that out from really neat visual clues. Just as well that I’ve got a fabulous recall of facts. Oh, and then we had to come to terms with it all being really real, you know, and that death actually did mean being a dead-guy for ever. Some of the local Taexali Celts were our friends, others were dirty traitors, but the best bit of all was besting that nasty Ancient Roman Emperor Severus and his even more evil son – Caracalla – while we were solving the local mystery. We’re talking about Aberdeenshire, Scotland. That’s where I live when I’m not time travelling. 

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)

A: I’m not sure the Roman auxiliary, the one that I was attacking during their raid on the Taexali Hillfort of Balbath, would call me a goody. It was actually Tyrnan’s spear that killed him, but if he hadn’t appeared at the right moment, I would have killed that Roman soldier to save Fianna. Otherwise, I’m mostly a ‘goody’, ‘cause tampering too much with history is against the rules! 

Q:  Goodness, that all sounded very dangerous. Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!

A: Tyrnan’s a fearsome-looking dude. He’s got a tribal tattoo on his brow and a spiky-limed fringe that sticks up solidly, though not from using the hair gel like I use today. As daughter of a chieftain, Seonagh’s kinda’ like a princess and Tyrnan’s her bodyguard till she becomes a fully-fledged warrior. At first, I thought Tyrnan was out to get me but once I knew him better, he is the coolest guy. As dour as …well, let’s say a smile is a rare thing. He’s the absolute-best loyal warrior, though he had me wondering when he let me be handed over to the enemy! 

a red jasper intaglio portrait of Caracalla
 in the Trimontium Museum, Melrose
Q: [thinks, it still all sounds very dangerous!] Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?

A: So far, yes, but my author has already started Book 2 of the Rubidium Time Travel Series, and I’m really champin’ for her to get on with it since it’s in Victorian times. It’s boring having to wait, but she’s been spending time writing her other historical series.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in? 

A: Well, there’s the one where the adults from the Hillfort of Balbath drag me up to the ancient grove during the Beltane Ceremony. It’s really creepy up there, and I truly thought it was me that the Druid was going to sacrifice! I can’t say I was relieved when they tied the little sheep down on the altar to slit its throat because it was absolutely skanky to watch. I’m still not quite sure what would have happened to me if the auxiliaries from Emperor Severus’ fleet hadn’t come over the hill and attacked the hillfort. 

Q: And your favourite scene? 

A: Too tough to pick! I loved being in the chariot race against Maga and Sheonagh, even though I was completely useless at controlling it. However, a really great moment was when I was outwitting Emperor Severus. That guy was in charge of the whole of the massive Roman Empire, but the old man was so…superstitious. When I told him his Triumphal Arches in Rome and Leptis Magna would still be admired two thousand years later, he was fair chuffed. Though, it was amazing to watch him get really spooked after I told him to watch out for himself because his yukky son, Caracalla, was going to stab him in the back, which that bad b…oy really did attempt. 

Arch of Severus, Rome
Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books? 

A: Her Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures is set in late first-century northern Roman Britain. They begin in what we know of as Yorkshire and Cumbria, and then by Book 4 the location is Aberdeenshire. They’re during the first invasion of Scotland by General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola and his Flavian legions. And she’s also written three contemporary mysteries as well, totally stand-alone stories. 

Nancy Jardine
Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?

A: Yeah. She’s working on Book 5 of her Celtic Fervour Series. That action is in Roman forts in Southern Scotland, and maybe in Eboracum (York). She’s not told me yet, where it’s going to end but the main character, Beathan, is a guy I’d love to meet ‘cause he was the baby in Book 1 who was prophesied as going to become a great Celtic leader. 
Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?

A: My author, Nancy Jardine, is getting better known in her home territory of Aberdeenshire. Local readers tell her they love her writing when they meet her in person and that’s amazing, but it’s great when her work gets written reviews – that really helps to spread the word globally. Telling other readers on Social Media like Facebook or Goodreads, and posting a review on Amazon is really helpful.

Q:  Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?

A: Nancy Jardine loves being an IndieBRAG Medallion awardee and is really pleased that they help spread the word about The Taexali Game. Authors are all busy people but it’s really excellent that they reach out to each other and help endorse their work, in many ways. Nancy often has other authors promoting their writing on her own blog but, so far, she’s not thought of having some kind of blog series for guest authors who are indieBRAG awardees.  Working out how to start that sounds like a great plan for 2019! (Though, naturally, it would need to be different from this one.)

Helen: Thank you Aran it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? But while she does that, I think that chatting is thirsty work, so would you like a refill of that non-alcoholic drink…? And do finish up those chocolates. Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree! 

Aran and Nancy: Thank you, Helen! 

Mapon turned to him, the man as aloof as a stone statue. “Aran, son of Durran, you have the wisdom of the gods though you are still a boy.” The druid shouted so that as many people as possible would hear him. “The gods now go with you. You will take your knowledge to the Emperor Severus. He has need of your divining of the future.”
   Blairdaff guffawed drowning out Mapon’s next words as he leaned down from atop his horse. “The boy is not much of a diviner if he cannot see his own fate in front of him!”
His words pitiless, Aran felt the warrior grab at his golden torque and then he yanked him free of Tyrnan’s clutches. Blairdaff tugged him towards Severus, increasing the horse’s pace by using knee pressure alone. Aran dangled alongside, his feet skimming along the ground in uneven lurches.
    “It is your moment now, boy. You can tell Severus we have no further need for any of you. He can kill all the hostages immediately, including you, if he desires to, since your use is now over.” Blairdaff crowed when the horse padded across the tightly lashed planking of a makeshift bridge which had been set a across the waters of the narrow river.
   Aran felt himself airborne for a few seconds before he regained his balance on the far banking, his toes stubbing against the ground. He struggled to get free but it was no use. The torque bit into the back of his neck when he was towed across the rough grass till the High Chief came to a halt. He was furious but Blairdaff was as strong as an ox holding him in place for the Romans to collect. It was too late to realise what the Celtic leaders were doing. It wasn’t only the line of screaming tribespeople who were being dragged across the river as hostages to Severus. The treaty included bodies for slaves and he was one of them!”
   The Roman Emperor Severus looked as cruel as the history books said he was. There was nothing forgiving in the Emperor’s expression as he signalled for the hostages to be rounded up by his too eager auxiliaries.
   Why on earth had he wanted to get close up to this murderous man?

CONNECT WITH Nancy Jardine
The Taexali Game http://getbook.at/findmeonamazon
Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  
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