Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Curse of Amazon Strikes One of my Books

All was happy in my life. I had finally finished my second book, Santiago Stories, and published it in its original incarnation on Amazon Kindle.
     Slogging away through endless lists of reviewers, as recommended by Amazon marketeers, I finally found one who was prepared to review my treasured labour of love. Yes, I had hit paydirt!
     A week later, the good lady announced that she had finished her review and loved my book, giving it a full blown 5 star rating that was duly published by her below my book title.
     Like a shot, one of Amazons anonymous editors (in the USA no less!) pronounced it "Book of the Month - so far" and I sat back waiting for the lolly to roll in. Then, to my added astonishment, it was promoted to "Book of Year 2013 - so far..." and I was in seventh heaven. I was basking in false glory, until I found out that the accolade was somewhat tarnished by its concealment from the public; it did not appear until the actual book page was finally reached.
     Now there is something that I should tell you about my book: it is a spoof of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The short stories in both books  make no mention of the actual pilgrimage, and are bawdy in their contents. Mine were if anything even more bawdy than Chaucer's, since I was seeking to cash in on the same type of market as 50 Shades of Gray.
     However, I did point out early on that no mention of the actual journey was mentioned by Chaucer and my offering followed a similar style. In any case, one only had to flick through the free read to deduce that mine was primarily concerned with telling risqué stories intended to make people laugh.
    As time progressed, I even gave would-be readers the chance to download the book for free over two days. It was duly grabbed up by quite a few readers, none of whom saw fit to write a review of the contents. I read afterwardsthat someone who had written and published a steamy love story had been rewarded with 45,000 downloads, but only a measly 45 reviews. My experience was clearly not unusual, but you have got to wonder at the mentality of readers who cannot be bothered to respond as a token of their appreciation.
    Anyway, in the meantime I had found a publisher who liked my work, read it thoroughly, and sent me an editorial review. This required me to provide a detailed itinerary of the actual pilgrimage. I had been hoping to avoid doing this, but was rewarded with a much improved story that reads something like The French Lieutenant's Woman; that is, the individual short storied were now wrapped in an overall sequence of events acting as a well-told "wrapper”.
    In the meantime, some evil person masquerading as a reviewer called Liloladyhoo, or something like that, had vindictively posted a review stating - in a nutshell - "This has nothing to do with walking the caminos of Santiago. It’s just a book full of stupid stories. Don't buy it!"
    Rapidly, my overall 5 stars diminished to 3, and I was outraged. I asked Amazon to delete the adverse comment, on the grounds that my well-crafted stories are anything but stupid and the buyer should have been aware of the nature of the book from my warning. They refused, citing their guidelines and rules for reviewers as justification. I studied these conditions and found that their ruling was perverse and inconsistent.
     For example, one rule specifically cites that comments must not be made that are spiteful; couple this with the guideline that any adverse comments must be supported with clarification supporting and explaining them, and the situation is clear. Whatever else surrounds the list of rules and guidelines, these are irrefutable and unambiguous conditions for accepting reviews. Yet three times Amazon staff have refused to delete the review on the grounds that it complies with their requirements for a review to be accepted.
     Clearly, the nellies at Amazon are a law unto themselves, to the point where they are in flagrant breach of their own guidelines. The review I object to is even written under an alias, which is a shameful way to behave. Liloladyhoo has only ever written two reviews and the other was even more scathing than the one written about my year's worth of effort.
     What to do is the question? Well, I have written to Amazon again, and posed the question: "If you want to take that attitude, you won't and cannot mind if I too indulge in the same behaviour and begin a mass campaign of giving reviews that basically state, 'Don't bother to read this book. It is from a stupid company called Amazon and is just a stupid story,'  signed by Liloldmanhoo. My wife is a voluminous reader of Kindle books and can soon get stuck into her task with relish. I take it as read that you cannot complain and will take no action?"
     To date, no reply has been received. I have since reviewed 20 books so far  that my wife has read, using these expressions and under the guise of Liloldmanhoo, and will see if Amazon attempts to suppress them. If they don't, the reaction from fellow authors should prove interesting.
     My fear is that if nothing is done to curb Amazon's repeated bad judgement, this type of dilemma can occur ad nausea for any book that any author publishes with this monolithic monster of a company.
     Now I am about to start looking at the Editor's Picks of new releases. Study them yourselves for a short while, and you will wonder at how many books are in the top 100 Paid Bestsellers with scarcely a handful of reviews to their credit. Something very odd is going on in the world of Amazon, and it flies in the face of logic.


Sunday, 3 November 2013

An extract fromThe Rough and Tumbles of Early Life - Yo-Yos and Model Aircraft



The yo-yo in its simplest form is an object consisting of an axle connecting two disks, and a length of twine (usually called a string) looped around the axle. It is played by holding the free end of the string typically by inserting one finger in a loop) allowing gravity or the force of a throw to spin the yo-yo and unwind the string, then allowing the spin of the yo-yo to wind itself back to one's hand.
The craze for spinning and dangling a yo-yo from the end of a length of string was in full swing in the late 1950s. Our school yard was full of exponents of this new toy, playing competitively with their yo-yos (if you can excuse the pun) and surrounded by groups that varied in number according to the dexterity of the individual players.
Yo-yos were flying in and out horizontally on their cords, up to a typical five hundred attempted times, or upwards vertically for a few times (being a much more difficult feat to accomplish repeatedly), and even crawling along the ground – known as “Walking the Dog” - or between arms and hands where the player was especially skilled and in tune with his yo-yo.
Typically, I would play with my bright red yo-yo at every spare moment in my bedroom, bouncing it up and down, in and out with self-absorbed concentration; unfortunately, when fully extended, it reached the ceiling and soon left a lot of bruise marks on the white painted surface. It did not occur to anyone that the yo-yo might prove to be an effective martial arts weapon, but I had been tempted once or twice to lob it at someone’s unwary head when they annoyed me.
Of course, this type of skill pales in comparison with the modern craze for skate boarding, but in those days there was nothing that really compared with it. That is, apart from the hula hoop, which is a fairly rigid and large plastic-covered hoop that is twirled around the waist, limbs or neck, but this sport was typically in the domain of the fairer sex and never really took off with us boys.
To help hide the marks on the ceiling, which began to puzzle my mother, I started assembling plastic fighter planes from the first and second World Wars, buying as many Airfix kits as I could afford without dipping into my bicycle fund; these were then attached by sewing thread from the ceiling, using drawing pins to make the connection and hide the original yo-yo marks.
My collection of model aircraft soon became impressive, ranging from the pretty Sopwith Camels, to Baron Von Richthofen’s triplane, the legendary Spitfires and Hurricanes, to their German counterparts, the Messerschmitt fighters and Stuka dive bombers. The smell of the glue provided was also intoxicating, and I developed a fondness for it that has spanned the years.
I then decided that I wanted to build a model aircraft that could fly, and bought a much larger kit that used a rubber band which would be attached to a propeller. Rotating the propeller wound the rubber band tightly; releasing it made the propeller whirl at high speed, and we would have lift-off.
For weeks I laboured over this primitive aircraft, sniffily gluing together the balsa wood frames of the fuselage and wings, spreading the provided tissue paper over the skeletal joints and coating it with dope it until this flimsy covering stiffened and hardened.
Finally, one balmy summer’s day, I felt that it was ready for its maiden flight; winding the rubber band by turning the propeller, I achieved maximum torsion. Aiming the little beauty at our field, with the railway embankment in the distance, I launched it into the blue horizon.
It was a marvel to behold, as it flew in a straight line ever upwards. Across the field it went, with me in hot pursuit, and disappeared over the tracks. I never saw it again, and felt devastated.