Monday, November 26, 2012

SIN Reviewed

by Carlie M A Cullen

The Blurb:

Dead, dead, dead. Say it enough times and it becomes just another word. What would you do? Could you kill a killer? Does the death of one appease the deaths of a hundred? What about that hundred against a thousand? What if you had no choice? Meet Sin. No, not that sort of sin, but Sin, crazy as a loon (you ask Sister Moon), and proud of it. Sin locks himself away in an asylum and, every so often, gets violent. That's only so they'll give him those nice drugs, though. The ones that help him forget. It's a pity they don't work. Sin, you see, has a serious problem. Well, it's not so much his problem, as ours - yours, mine and everyone else's. People die around Sin. He doesn't like it and there's nothing he can do about it. But someone else knows, and Sin has to stop them... and himself... Flip and catch...


This book is written entirely in first person. Allan’s character creation depicts a wacky, troubled man who has a strange problem – people die when he flips and catches a two-pence piece.

Sin, yes it’s a strange name for a character and his parents obviously had a peculiar sense of humour when naming him, finds a two-pence piece when out one day. He flips and catches it and very shortly after, the first incident happens and people die. At first, Sin doesn’t make the connection that he’s responsible, but when he does he tries to get rid of the coin. However, the coin somehow keeps finding its way back into his pocket; no matter how hard he tries to dispose of it (and boy does he try), it always comes back.

As the incidents increase, he has trouble reconciling what he’s capable of, begins to doubt his own sanity and voluntarily commits himself to a mental asylum. Unfortunately, there are people in the institution who actually believe in his ability and they are less than scrupulous, taking advantage of it when he’s under the influence of drugs.

Sin’s sister, Joy, has the opposite ability. When she flips and catches a two-pence piece she found (and can’t get rid of), she brings happiness to those around her. And she has trouble coping with her gift too.

Allan brings his characters to life in a totally unique way. Sin has some quirky ways of saying things, but it just makes him more realistic. He’s weird and you really get right inside his mind, but the author has crafted him in such a way that despite his strange and horrifying ‘talent’, you really start to care about him. You feel his angst as he struggles to deal with the aftermath of each flip and catch of the coin and understand all too clearly why he decides to shut himself away from the world. When he realises he’s been betrayed by the person purporting to want to help him, Sin’s shock and incredulity rolls off the pages, especially when he witnesses innocents being murdered to protect the secret.

The plot is unusual, mysterious and dark yet it races along at quite a pace. It is cleverly written with good use of description. Sin, the character, is larger than life and will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel, especially if you want to read something very different and totally unique.


Monday, November 12, 2012


by Natacha Dudley

We do not remember days; we remember moments. ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand


One of my favourite books is Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu). It is a wonderful novel by the French writer Marcel Proust. The underlying theme is “involuntary memory.” What does this mean? For Proust it is the moment when a normal experience involving a sight or a sound, a taste or a scent brings back a memory. In the book this comes from a madeleine. A madeleine is a small cake.

Whilst eating tea soaked cake, a childhood memory of eating tea soaked cake with his aunt is "revealed" to the Narrator. This prompts a rush of other memories - the house where he lived as a child, and his hometown. Throughout the novel, sensations constantly remind him of previous experiences.

Here in the UK, November is a month steeped in the traditions of the past and full of memories.  We gather together for Bonfire Night and Remembrance Sunday.

Of course when I was a child Bonfire Night was just that – one night. One glorious night when we built a bonfire lit sparklers and drank steaming mugs of delicious tomato soup. The memory of tomato soup reminded me of the time when I was living in North London.

In those days I expected November to be noisy because it usually coincided with the beginning of Diwali –the Hindu Festival of Lights.  Diwali (which means row of lights) is a five day festival involving the lighting of lamps filled with oil which represent the victory of good over evil. Families decorate their homes with lights and candles and gifts and sweets are handed out. The festival always ends with lots of fireworks. I remember my local newsagent telling me that his children were getting very expensive. “I said to them, you’ve had Diwali, but no, now they want to have Bonfire Night as well. What can I do?”

I was faced with a similar dilemma this year when my teenage daughter decided to go to a Halloween party dressed as a sexy she-devil. Personally, I’m not all that keen on Halloween (children demanding sweets with menaces) but what can you do? I needed to put my foot down.

Me (sounding suspiciously like my mother) “You are not going out dressed like that!” Daughter (sounding suspiciously like me at her age) “But I’ve got nothing else to wear!” So, anxious not to ruin her childhood memories, I ended up buying her a whole new wardrobe. I blame Proust.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kindle Select, That is the Question...

by Gary Tinnams

When I published my novel 'Threshold Shift' and short story collection 'Five Byte Stories', I hummed and harred about enrolling them in Kindle Select for about three weeks. For those of you who don't know, Kindle Select is an Amazon service where for 90 days at a time the digital rights of a book can be registered exclusively to Amazon. During this time it can be loaned out for free to Amazon Prime members, like loaning out a book from a library. For every loan the author gets a share of a pot of money set aside that month by Amazon. This doesn't affect sales of your book, (although recently Amazon have announced that to get 70% of profits for sales in India you must be enrolled in Kindle Select otherwise you only get 35% of profits for that region). Also as part of Kindle Select, Amazon offer a five day free book promotional period. The idea being that an author can make their book free for anything up to a five day limited period during the 90 days. (Amazon doesn't allow you to publish free books, but it will price match if you are offering your book for free somewhere else.)
Being new to the world of self-publishing my initial thought was to offer 'Five Byte Stories' for free perpetually and put in a sample chapter from 'Threshold Shift' in the hope of enticing readers in. I also wanted to put Threshold Shift into Kindle Select and go for the five day promo. There was my dilemma, by putting a sample chapter in Five Byte Stories I would be breaking the terms and conditions of Kindle select exclusivity if I enrolled Threshold Shift, so in the end I decided to hold fire on publishing Five Byte Stories elsewhere and just enrolled them both in Kindle Select.
Without really doing any research I released Five Byte Stories for three of the five days just to see what would happen. In that time I was surprised how with no advertising at all Five Bytes was downloaded 400 times across all Amazon published countries, with the main concentration being in the US. Admittedly this peaked the second day and then levelled off on the third. Being quite pleased by this a month later I released it for the final two days. During this time I put into action a promotional plan of advertising it on twitter, websites and facebook groups like Pimping Indie.  My facebook account was duly locked for 30 days for spamming, (which made me very unhappy, especially as I couldn't figure out what alarm had been tripped and why other people seemed to be doing the same thing quite happily.) Anyway to cut a long story short in those two days five bytes was downloaded just 25 times. I came to the conclusion that my advertising was basically ineffective and all the downloaders from the first three days were the majority of the downloaders I was going to get.
30 Days later, with facebook unlocked, I tried again, this time with Threshold Shift. I was locked into Kindle Select anyway so figured I had nothing to lose. My sales of Threshold Shift were just about this side of abysmal anyway. Feeling a little blasé I didn't advertise the book on any websites prior to release. I did advertise heavily on twitter as I did previously during the second Five Byte campaign and when advertising on facebook I left out web addresses, which stopped me being locked out again. Thing unfurled very differently and over the five days, a Tuesday to Saturday, my book was downloaded a total of 1553 times, again mainly in the US but only just, the UK was very close behind.
I had decided after the awful second campaign that this time I would run the five days consecutively rather than splitting them up. I had the biggest push of downloads in Day 2, and overall during the entire period I peaked in the free charts with the following:
Day 3 of the Campaign:
US : 742
US Sci Fi: 19
US Sci-FI Act Adv : 11
US Act-Adv : 17
Day 4 of the Campaign:
UK: 136
UK Sc-Fi: 2
UK Sci-Fi Act Adv: 1
UK Act-Adv: 4
Overall Downloads for the entire five day campaign were the following:
US: 796
UK: 722
DE: 33
FR: 1
IT: 1
Without knowing how Amazon works I have no idea why I managed to get more success in the UK than in the US. The download quantities were very similar, but I obviously picked up a higher percentage of total free downloads in the UK than in the US by a considerable margin. I have no idea why, even though I am from the UK, my book isn't advertised as a UK book. During the campaign I noticed free sci-fi books that were below my ranking in the UK were well above me in the US.
I'm speculating it was down to factors like my blurb and cover which I thought were good but maybe just didn't appeal to US tastes and did to UK ones. I'm also speculating that UK tastes for Science Fiction books are also a little different. Threshold Shift has always been a strange mix of sci-fi and western. In the US I was seeing mainly Young Adult books, Zombie apocalyptic books or Space Opera books dominating the charts. The story wasn't quite the same in the UK, at least from my perspective. It's also interesting to note that the sales I have had since the campaign have been mostly in the UK.
So what happens now? Well it was interesting, and I note that both Five Byte Stories and Threshold Shift are now thoroughly embedded in Amazon 'Customers who bought this item also bought' science fiction lists which can only help sales. I also have a better, if still a confused idea, of how Amazon sales work.  As of this week I am not in Kindle Select anymore and am going through the stages of publishing on Smashwords, which will eventually expose my books to a wider audience. I definitely think Kindle Select wasn't a wasted opportunity and it did get my books downloaded around 2000 times between them. That's 2000 potential readers who may like the books and tell their friends. How can that hurt?