Tag Archives: Online

The Meaning of Life

Yes, I know I promised to present five fabulous non-fiction books to you, but I got some good news this week, and I wanted to share it. So you’ll have to wait until Wednesday for the non-fiction reading list I’m afraid.  

The first bit of good news I got was that my flash fiction story entry Jaxon’s Gift gained an ‘honourable mention’ in the Australian Horror Writers Association short story competition! Which means I wasn’t too far off the pace. I’m also pleased to say fellow SuperNOVA member, Tracie McBride, was also honourably mentioned for her short story Slither and Squeeze.

The next bit of good news I got was that my self-(re)published short story Welcome to Midnight finally made it onto the Amazon free list, and in the twenty-four hours following that over 3,500 people downloaded a copy! As of Saturday night it was ranked #42 (hence the title of this blog). And here’s proof;
Amazon Sales Rank

The truth is I don’t know what the book is being ranked against, it could be all ebooks, it could free ebooks, it could be horror/science fiction books, or it could be free horror/science fiction ebooks by authors with surnames beginning with ‘P’. But I don’t care! My other self-published book on Amazon is ranked at a number four digits longer than Welcome to Midnight, so I’m VERY happy with #42!

So thank you to everyone for cheering up what was shaping up to be a bit of a depressing week!

I promise, next post will be the 5 great non-fiction books!

Nat

When everything is perfect

Star Rating

I did not grow up in the time of ‘participation medals’, not everyone was a winner, and sometimes no-one was. Which is why I think that a perfect score should be reserved for only the very best of something, not squandered so freely as to be meaningless.

As some of you may remember, I published my novel Paragon on both Smashwords and Amazon recently (and it is still available). I quickly followed this up with a free short story Welcome to Midnight. Having rarely purchased books online before, these publications were my first exposure to the mixed up world of star ratings.

It seems that there are a lot of ‘perfect’ books out there. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my five star reviews, but to be honest I am also very surprised. I would only give a handful of books a perfect score, because as much as I enjoy a book, I believe you should always include room for improvement.

The problem is there are a lot of people freely handing out five stars, meaning that if someone gets four stars or below (because someone like me reviews it) it will completely destroy the book’s standing. So even if the review was positive, and talks about how great the book is, because it is not five stars the author’s book will plummet in the rankings from first page display to 15th page (in some instances).

This leads to pressure to give a book five stars, because too many people assume it is awful if it gets below that. Add to that the complication of many of those reviewing the books being authors, so they are fearful of negative feedback on their own novel if they give less than a perfect score, it renders the whole star rating almost meaningless.

I have learned, as I’m sure many others have, not to pay too much attention to the stars unless they are very low, or if the number of reviews is very high (but even that isn’t watertight). The review itself is the best thing to go by, and that is what I now use when choosing my reading material.

I can’t think of a way to get around the star rating, as a computer system needs something universal to rank by, but it is disappointing that so many good books are so far down the suggested reading list just because they were reviewed by naive people like me, who thought they were being fair.

All about the numbers

Lots of numbers
Hits, followers, friends, connections, comments, re-tweets… Nowadays it seems that reaching out is more about the numbers than anything else. That’s not to say that the content of communication doesn’t matter, it is still paramount, but it is amazing how many people who are active online are hung up on their numbers (myself included).

I’ve recently read comments about the ‘arrogance’ of people who have more followers than people they follow on Twitter. WHAT?!?!?! If there is one place you have no control over who looks at you, it is Twitter, so how your ratio falls can hardly be put down to any fault of your personality. The comment smells a little strongly of jealousy to me.

Having a memory that goes back further than five years, I can recall when networking sites started up. Your friends were actually friends and you shared private information that really had no place on such an exposed network. Now we have hundreds, if not thousands of connections and the communication is substantially tempered to include as little personal information as possible. Well, for many of us over the age of about 22 anyway.

I can’t help but think that the online trend for collecting numbers is turning us all into marketing experts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, selling yourself is a good skill to have, but where does all this work on number building leave us for relationship building?

I know, the irony of a person who writes a blog saying this is not lost on me, but I would be lying if I did not admit that sometimes I wonder if I should be pulling back from my online world and focussing more on my offline world. I’ve done less fiction writing since I created an online presence, and have caught up with friends less often. The two might not be related (I did move states during the same time, after all) but I think it would be wise to see if there is any connection.  

Something to think about… 

Deny, deny, deny

UFO and AlienLast week a sk8ter boy in Tasmania spotted a UFO, not once, but twice. Not only that, but he managed to capture it on video using a tripod, or else he has a much steadier hand than your average UFO cameraman;
YouTube Preview Image 
Looking at the video it could be a UFO of alien origin, or it could be a blimp, or it could be some lights strung up over his back fence. My favourite suggestion so far is that it is the reflection of the guy’s modem in the window. Yes, it could be that.

The thing that gives this story plausibility is the emphatic denial the media was quick to heap onto the story. The bureau of meteorology suggested it might be the Aurora… err I don’t think so. Even a six year old raised by camels in the desert could probably tell us that the blinking lights are not the aurora.

Air Traffic Control confirmed there were no aircraft in the area at the time. What time? I checked out flights and they are pretty regular in and out, not to mention private aircraft. And just turn off your transponder and you are invisible to ATC.  

The military ‘did not comment’ –perhaps they were never asked? See, this could have been the clincher. The military have the real radar that spots everything, but they didn’t comment.

The thing that was not reported was did anyone else who was not in Sk8ter boy’s house see the lights? I know Tassie is a bit cold at the moment, but I refuse to believe no-one was out and about on Saturday night!

You cannot help but wonder if the media beat up is in fact a conspiracy. If they make such a fuss each time flashing lights are seen, soon enough we’ll just ignore them all. As Fox would say I want to believe.

The Rapture

Just in case you didn’t venture onto the internet over the past two days, yesterday was predicted to be ‘The Rapture’. For those of you heathens who don’t know what that means, the Cliff notes version is The Rapture is when the ‘good’ people are taken up to heaven, leaving the rest of us behind to face the apocalypse.

So it has to beg the question, was there really NO Rapture, or were we just not good enough? I’m waiting for the reports of piles of clothes or missing people, but they haven’t surfaced yet. I guess the 6pm deadline is still sliding across the globe so we may not see anything until tomorrow, but I’m sure we’ll see something, possibly someone disappearing while planking.

I’m not sure if it was just the short lead time I had (about 24 hours) between finding out about this prediction, and when it was meant to play out, or maybe I’m just getting a little immune to the internet sensations. Whatever it is, I forgot to look at the clock at 6PM and pay attention to any feelings of tingling.

The thing is, now when someone survives for 100 days eating only the juice of squeezed bugs and their own snot, you wonder who their agent is. Are we being inoculated against amazing possibilities by the very tool which is making it so easy to find out about them?

Anyway, for all you other not good enough’s I don’t want you to have a completely Rapture free weekend, and if it means anything, this was the only Rapture I got to experience as well;

YouTube Preview Image

The dark mask of the internet

Dark mask of the internet

Have you ever noticed how even the most mild mannered person can turn into a screaming lunatic when you get them behind the wheel of a car? Well it seems the internet is having a similar effect on people.

Recently I have come across some nasty instances of cyber bullying or harsh judgemental attacks, and I refuse to believe that there are really that many rude people out there. I think the relative anonymity afforded by the internet comments and rating systems gives people free rein to let out all their personal frustrations on others who are simply sharing their art or feelings.

Kirstyn McDermott said it beautifully in her blog post about a girl who (possibly naively, possibly as a marketing stunt) had a go at someone for giving her book a ‘bad’ review. The personal attacks she has suffered are completely out of proportion to what she did and her Amazon rating has been trashed.

Rebecca Black released a song with rather silly lyrics called ‘Friday’ and as a result she has been subjected to abuse and death threats, death threats! But it doesn’t even need to be that extreme, just read the comments at the bottom of any of the Woman’s Day True Confessions and you will see people condemning others based on a 500 word write up of what is usually a very complicated and painful situation.   

It is heartening to see that in all these cases you also see other anonymous warriors in the comments line-up defending these people, but it is sad that it only takes such little things to fire people up to the point where this defence is needed. Criticism is just a form of opinion, which by definition can be neither right nor wrong, so it should be offered as such.

I remember not so long ago a song was released that made me want to rip my own ears off each time I heard it, I won’t tell you what it was, but it involved a frog whose sanity was in question. Did I threaten the producers of the ‘song’, did I send hate mail? No, I turned it off if it came on the radio, and I certainly didn’t buy it so I could give it a bad rating. I also, grudgingly, acknowledged that for some people it was not a torture to listen to it, so perhaps it did have a place in the world. Just not my world.

So far I’ve been lucky enough not to be subject to this sort of attack, but unfortunately it seems that anyone who puts themselves out there for long enough will eventually suffer this fate. Some even call it a sign of success. I would ask you though, next time you are so fired up to want to leave a critical comment somewhere, just think about how you would say it if you were talking to their face? Perhaps if we all did this then comments would be more about how to fix problems rather than pointing out perceived errors and the assumed character flaws that led to them.  

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now!

Nat

Welcome to Midnight

My first ever fiction publication was Random Impulses in Antipodean SF, but my first ever paid publication was Welcome to Midnight, in Aurealis. This also just happens to be my highest paid publication so far as well, and gave me a slightly skewed idea about how much there was to be made in the game of writing. I am cured of this misconception now.

The publication rights have reverted back to me, so as my next foray into the wonderful wide world of self-publishing, I have re-released Welcome to Midnight as a free (for a limited time) ebook. So for those of you who do not want to sign up with any ebook publishers, you can download a copy of Welcome to Midnight no questions asked, just by clicking on the image below.

**WARNING** This story contains adult content!
Cover of Welcome to Midnight

This is a horror/science fiction tale, so perhaps not the most appropriate story to be reading on a religious holiday. But it is Swancon weekend, so there are elements of the speculative about this time of year.

Happy reading,

Nat

Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards are one of the biggest events in the Australian speculative fiction calendar. Started in 1995 the Aurealis Awards set out to celebrate Australian speculative fiction in its distinct categories; science fiction, horror and fantasy.  

The shortlist for the awards (winners announced in May) has been released here and I’m proud to say that there are a few members of SuperNOVA (my writers group) represented across several categories.

Another point of interested I read with great enthusiasm was the inclusion of a self-published novel nominated for best Fantasy novel of the year. It just goes to show that self-publishing (or indie publishing as it is now being called) can bring otherwise hidden gems to our attention.

Congratulations to all the nominees and best of luck to the Novarians!

Nat

My new website design -maybe

Despite having told you all that I was going to do up my own website last year, I never actually did it. Interestingly none of you picked me up on it, so I will have to crack my own whip it seems.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve played with a few designs, and this is my current favourite. It is just a rough, but gives you a good idea of what the finished product might look like.

Natalie J E Potts Website

Now don’t worry that you can’t read the text, it was all just demo text written to fill the space. I’ll also probably put something on the left side where at the moment there just seems to be a lot of wall. I’m thinking about adding some hidden hyperlinks on the bricks and the cat, but more on that once I’ve actually launched to site.

So please give me your feedback. I won’t be setting a release date any time soon, so you can pass on your comments any time over the next few weeks at least (more likely over a month). Feel free to leave your comments here, or send them through Facebook or email me direct through the contact page on my current (template) website.

Thanks for all your help!

Nat

Words and pictures

When we are first introduced to books they are normally of the many pictures few words variety. As we get older the number of pictures decrease directly in proportion to the increase in number of words, until we find ourselves as adults reading books which, for the most part, only have a picture on the cover.

Where did the idea of picture-free reading come from? Why the stigma of having the odd graphic or puzzle to break up the slabs of words? I think adults like pictures. When I read a fantasy novel I always study the map and refer back to it often. I know there are probably equal numbers of people who skip past it and never return to it after thumbing through the front pages, but there must be a good reason why so many fantasy novels do carry the map.

I’m not suggesting that everything should come out in a graphic novel format, but I have to say that one of the more enjoyable aspects of the ‘fancy’ editions of The Da Vinci Code was the inclusion of the paintings and puzzles discussed in the book. I know printing costs are higher and blah, blah, but surely with the advent of e-books all this just got a little bit cheaper.

I know not everyone is a great artist like me (see my Australia Day and Dead Birds posts for examples of my fine art), but even a well placed Sudoku could find a home in a book if related to the text. Now that is a more interactive story without the hyperlink risk of your reader leaving the story.

Perhaps I’ll set that as my next challenge; to write a story where a graphic is vital to the storyline. I know I’ll probably be limiting my market, and I’ll have to come up with a clever description for the visually impaired, but it is a challenge I think I am up to. I think it is time to give the picture another go in the world of adult fiction!

And just to illustrate my point (pun intended) here are a couple of koala pictures. I can guarantee you my hit rate for this blog post (because of the pictures) will be twice my normal non-picture post.

Nat

Mummy Koala

Koala in a tree