Amazon Reviews and Revisions

OK so Amazon has done a couple of things in the past couple of weeks that makes the lives of authors that much harder especially those who are self-publishing using the various means that Amazon allows for such activity.

The first has to do with a change that as of July 1st, Amazon will be paying its authors by pages read rather than the number of time the book was downloaded when the customer uses the Kindle Library feature. Amazon’s announcement only says that the new formula applies to Kindle Select books that are self-published and distributed through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. One assumes that the deals they have in place with publishers still are in play.

Which is an interesting idea with the logic that one should be recompensed by the amount of entertainment that one provides rather than the number of times that their tome has been downloaded.

Show of hands, who has bought James Joyce’s Ulysses? OK. Now how many of you have actually read the thing? Hmmm, more than I was expecting.

There are physical books that everyone seems to buy, especially those considered the classics, but never seem to get around to actually reading. Coffee table books are a good example of this. I know I am guilty of that behavior with the magic words, I’ll get around to it.

So Amazon is listening to those people who took part of the pool of money that was split amongst the authors. Authors with longer books, much much longer books, were complaining that they were being compensated at the same rate as someone who took a blog entry and posted it as a book. So Amazon upped the ante and said OK we’ll pay when people actually read rather than just download.

And there was much consternation to be had.

I think it is an interesting idea and does put the pressure on the author to create something that people want to continue to read rather than convincing people to download their work.

The other change is something I think is a bad idea because of previous behavior of reviewers who have used their reviews to take out their personal issues on various authors.

Getting rid of a review that is very negative not because the reviewer read the book, but because they have an axe to grind is nigh impossible. Even when within the review they say that they haven’t read the book, which just baffles me.

So now if you, the reviewer, has any form of relationship with the author, you may not review their works. And apparently there is some algorithm being used to determine if the reviewer and author are in cahoots or knew each other in elementary school or whatever Amazon thinks is too close to the author.

They say it is to cut down on review padding, which, I will admit, has been a bit of the problem especially with the self-publishing group. Trying to boost the book’s public face by using those close to you is not a new thing on Amazon.

But it goes a bit too far where people can’t review books of people that they don’t know but whatever logic Amazon is using is says that they do know each other.

By the logic they are using, I can’t review any books of authors that I know. And considering my reading taste, that a lot of books that I can’t say anything about.

And for the most part I don’t review books of people that I know well. If I have been on a panel with them at a convention, I don’t count that as knowing someone.

I flat out don’t review Peter’s books publicly. He knows what I think of them because I read them and tell him.

But say I wanted to review Kevin J. Anderson’s latest tome. I know Kevin and have for some time now. But he knows that I will give my honest opinion on his writing because I have done so in the past. He doesn’t get five stars automatically and in fact I probably judge his work harder than I might a first time author because I know that he knows better.

According to Amazon, I can’t say boo because I know the author personally.

Where it really breaks down is when a review is taken down and the two parties don’t know each other at all other than one wrote the book that the other read. It is assumed knowledge rather than actually knowledge.

There is no appeals process for this one. The review vanishes never to be seen again.

But there is not much of an appeals process for negative reviews either.

So one can hate but not love?

How screwed up is that?

Amazon is using a very large hammer to get rid of a fly sized problem and in doing so is poking some rather large holes in their review credibility.

I am grateful for positive reviews be it from friends or strangers.
I just went through the calendar and unless something changes, 4th of July weekend is pretty much it for the three of us to be in the house at the same time for a weekend.

Not thinking of this as either a good thing or a bad thing but more of footnote.

Caroline received her student of the month award yesterday. It came with a gift card for frozen yogurt, which she is much happier about. She was concerned she was going to get yet another pencil of which she has quite the collection from elementary school.

Today is pretty much planned within an inch of its life. Peter has a meeting in the city so we have to get him to the train. Caroline and I have the food shopping to do and then we are onto some crafty projects that we want to get done.

Bob and Mike came over yesterday and we hammered out Mystery Trekkie Theater. No, I can’t say what episode or even which series but believe me when I say I am surprised we hadn’t done it before. A lot of laughs were had. It is always fun to gather with friends and have a go at a TV episode. And contrary to popular belief, there are episodes that are really bad but still don’t lend themselves to this sort of treatment.

I am working on a novel. Need to get the rest outline out of my head and on paper or whatever and send it onto an editor for commentary. I have done short story length and novella length stories. I think my only novel length was for some fanfic so this will be a challenge for me. I know I am lucky that I have some channels that most folks don’t and I am very thankful about it too.

Since I am working on a piece of longer fiction, I don’t know how much blogging I will be doing. It might be a lot since I tend to use these essays to clear my head for other things or it might be minimal. I guess we will both see together.

Mets pitching has been amazing but it is sad when the pitcher has to score some runs to make use that they win.

Welp, time to get it together and start the day.

I am grateful for encouragement for work I am producing.
And this is not about the hate tweets that caused a couple of actors to decide to leave twitter because they decided that enough was enough and they don’t have to deal with this. Good on them because what they did for their health ties into what I want to say.

I am putting it behind a cut for those who do not wish to read it. I will warn for talk about triggers, mental health, personal choice, strong language, and the off button.

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RTBTCKI The Quiet House is Quiet Edition

Caroline is off on an adventure of her own this weekend so Peter and I have the house to ourselves. I considering it a preview of what it will be like when Caroline goes off to college.

So what exciting things did we do? Caught up on some TV shows that aren’t really appropriate for Caroline like Orphan Black, which we are now half way through the season. Cleaned the living room. Pete worked on a novel and did some errands.

The cats were having some sort of disagreement and a pecking order match. Millie is still the old Alpha cat. Inky is starting to challenge Fig. Nothing serious just kitty politics.

I didn’t know about the new rule in baseball that games can be suspended rather than having to reply the whole game if the teams are tied by the bottom of the 5th inning, they just have to pick it up where they left off and finish the game. So the Mets and Reds are tied and finished the 6th inning and will resume play this afternoon then play the game they were scheduled to play.

The weather today is already looking better than the weather yesterday.

I do need to go out and pick up the branches that are all over the lawn. We had some heavy winds last night.

Today is laundry and puppet building. Fun combination.

I also have to put in my Dragon Con Art Show paperwork and do some transcription for a friend.

And somewhere in there Caroline will be coming home.

Busy day is busy.

Best get on with the first thing on my list and then go from there.

I am grateful for my home.
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a decision that allows for marriage equality in the US. It's not straight marriage or gay marriage anymore, it is just Marriage.

A number of years ago, when the marriage equality debate started in earnest, I told you about two friends of mine who had been together at the time for over 20 years and their steamer trunk that they have had to haul around for most of that time to make sure they could do things for each others that I got the moment Peter and I got our wedding license. I told you about another friend who couldn’t see her partner of 30 years in the hospital because the family barred her and she wasn’t considered, legally, anything more than a roommate. The legal hoops that had to be gone through to make sure that two adults could be in each other’s lives was amazingly wrong.

I was less than a year old when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. I was four when anti-miscegenation where declared unconstitutional. I have a hazy memory of that because it was a big deal at the time on the news and the like. Now it is not a big deal in most parts of the country when two people of different skin tones get married.

And in ten years or less, this will not be a big deal either. Most of the US has said that they don’t have a problem with it. Most children Caroline’s age really don’t have a problem with it or someone declaring they are gay either.

The first marriage gay couple Caroline met was George and Brad Takei. She was five or six at the time. We introduced them to Caroline and she said ‘men can marry men and women can marry women?’ We told her in some states, yes. Her reaction was acceptance and what she wanted for lunch. After that, in her world, marriage was marriage and if two adults loved each other very much, why shouldn’t they get married?

I am very happy for my friends who no longer have to worry about bringing the marriage license along when they travel in the US. Of wondering if they are still married when they go from state to state. Of wondering if something happened to their spouse while on vacation in a state that didn’t recognize their union, would they be able to even see their loved one.

There was a time that Peter and I couldn’t have gotten married. A Catholic and a Jew getting married use to not be allowed or it was severally frowned upon. It just wasn’t done. But our religion never came up when we went to get our marriage license, which is as it should be.

And now one’s gender shouldn’t come up when applying for a marriage license, which is also as it should be.

I am grateful that marriage equality is the law of the land.

Conventional Wisdom What would you do?

There is a show on CNN entitled “What would you do?” which puts actors creating scenarios and they film the unknowing people around to see what they would do in that situation.

Recently a friend of mine was touched very inappropriately at a convention. She also told a photographer off for trying to get what he called “a sexy shot” and she called “soft core porn”. The only reason she knew what was going on was that another friend was looking at what the camera was doing and gave her the hand signal that things were not kosher. She and her three friends made the photographer delete the photos from his camera.

I have noticed that a lot of cos-players especially the women have been traveling in groups. Which I think is a wise decision but I am sad that they feel that this is the only way they can protect themselves.

I know what I would do if I came across this sort of thing because I have done so on more than one occasion. It probably helps that I am 5’ 10” and have shoulders that a linebacker would be proud of. I can be intimidating if I need to be. I have gotten use to have slurs shouted at me as I walk away including that classic ‘f-n dyke’ which never gets old.

Most people just walk by. I have seen people just walk by when you can tell by looking at the people that this situation is not comfortable for someone. I have gone in and checking it with the person(s) to make sure they are fine. I also tend to give security a heads up so they can go take a look at the situation. Security can be your best friend in these situations for the most part.

I will say that I am very happy to see a change in attitude at conventions from the people running them. It went from ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘well he does that a lot but he is all talk and harmless’ to ‘that’s not right’.

Oh and ‘I paid for her time’ is NOT a good reason to take photos that have not been agreed on or coerce the model into doing something they are not comfortable with.

I am not even going to touch the morass that is ‘she is just cos-playing X but she really doesn't care about the original material’. This fake-geek chic thing has got to go.

Basic Respect can go a long way to solving all the issues but a number of people have forgotten it or been desensitized to empathy.

So let’s be polite to each other and respect boundaries.

I will still be there stepping in where I think I am needed.

I am grateful for all the people at conventions who already followed the now extremely long list of rules before there was an extremely long list of rules.

RTBTCKI The Paper Recycling Day Edition

RTBTCKI stands for Random Thoughts before the Coffee Kicks In for our newer readers.

It uses to be here in the village that Wednesday was recycling day. You separated your paper and plastics into two bins and they picked it up. A couple of years ago we went to a ‘plastics one week and paper the next week’ system which means that it is two weeks between pick-ups.

This house generates a lot of paper for various reasons. This morning I put out a lot of boxes and things for recycling. The pile was bigger than usual because I finally got the left over paper for recycling from the winter because of the snow. It is a lovely pile but it is out of my basement too.

That means tomorrow is trash day and all the moving around of trash cans and the like to get that to the curb.

It also means that today will be litter box day for the cats.

There is also the issue of no fresh food in the house so I have to go food shopping and will bring Caroline with me because she wants to learn how to pick out good fruits and vegetable.

Yesterday Peter and Caroline went off together to see a movie and have lunch for a Daddy/Daughter day since she is now out of School. While they were gone, I tackled two of the six corners of the living room.

Speaking of Caroline, I am very proud of her. She was picked as one of the student’s of the month for her academic and civic achievements. I am one lucky mother with such a clever and kind girl.

This weekend Caroline is going to be going to a Relay for Life events with her best friend. She is excited for it and seeing her friend.

It’s another weekend where we are all not home.

I think next weekend will be the first weekend we are all home at the same time in about two and a half months. We will be home the following weekend and then Caroline will be off to Florida to spend some time with Shana. I will be flying down to get her and go spend time with my parents, brothers, sister, wives, and nieces.

It has been a busy year.

Inky’s meow is no longer at its kitten pitch. It still happens at times but we are also hearing her adult meow now. She still has the really bad habit of knocking stuff off of flat surfaces to the floor.

The Mets lost to the Brewers the second worse team in baseball. And the Yankees lost to the Phillies who are the worst team in baseball this year. Hate seeing the Mets take such a slide before the All Star Break. They had been doing so well.

I am grateful to get all that paper out of our basement.

Crafty Tuesday Inspiration Hit or Miss

Progress was made this week. Not as much as I would like, but at least some.

I did find the illusive cloth I needed to make Robin’s tunic so I have all that to work with.

I have probably more ideas for puppets that I want to make than I have room for to store.

Occasionally I am inspired by something I see and that puppet tends to jump line.

While in Hartford, I went to the very large local Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and crafts. I found this cloth that I debated about for a while before buying. It is red and has an interesting pattern. I have been watching the Richard Lester Three and Four Musketeers and the other day the Return of the Musketeers. So the characters are rather fresh in my mind. This cloth is so perfect for Rochefort. I am going to embark on making a puppet of the character for walk around at Dragon Con.

Creativity is not my problem. My mind is always going interesting places and finding things it wants to do. Time is my issue and I know it. Well that and a seriously over developed ability to procrastinate.

I have found ways to counter-act these tendencies but they are not fool proof.

One of the ways I hold myself responsible is to post about it here in my blog. I put it out in the public that I am going to do (fill in the blank) and it becomes more real.

Not that the real always translates into physical real which has been my past week. But I will do better this week.

So this week is all about Robin, Chris and two other puppets. Then onto the next four and so on until I have to pack for Dragon Con.

Right now I am feeling very Inspired. Let’s see how I am doing in a week.

I am grateful for Inspiration in all its forms.

Father's Day 2015

Also, as we say in the south, Happy Solstice Y’all. Hope ya enjoyed the longest day of the year.

This year we decided to come up to Connecticut to spend some time with my Mother-in-Law since this is the first Father’s Day without her husband who was the father of her children.

We took her and my nieces to see Inside Out. It holds up very well to a second viewing and I got all kinds of nuances I didn’t get the first time around. It is a very clever (in the good sense of the word) film. I think I enjoyed it more the second time and was amazed at how the film managed to explain some pretty complex ideas in terms that even younger children can at least have a grasp on if not complete understanding.

Jurassic World is wonderful as well. Chris Pratt is quickly becoming the Harrison Ford of his generation with a slightly better sense of humor about the whole thing.

I did see my father earlier this month when my parents came up to New York City to see some ballet. It was a nice visit where we all got to see things we were interested in. Caroline got to spend some time with her Grandfather.

Met Museum of Art 2015 photo Met Museum of Art June 2015_zpsuagkx4un.jpg
Copyright Helen O’Shea 2015
(for the VI: I am to the left wearing a shirt that reads “Keep Calm and let the Stage Manager handle it” with a blue bowling shirt over the black t-shirt with white lettering. I have the strap of my shoulder bag across my chest and it is khaki. Next to me is Caroline with a pink shirt and white lettering. On the right is my father wearing a straw hat, a light blue jacket and a striped blue shirt.)

I am proud to call my Dad my Dad. He did really well raising four children with very different personalities to be responsible, law abiding, adults. He led by example. He showed us what excited him and let us show him what excited us. He read to us and instilled a love of the arts in all its myriad forms.

I am proud of my husband for being a good Dad to his girls. He works very hard to be the best he can be for each of them. Again he leads by example showing them how to be good people and good citizens.

I am proud of all my friends who are Dads and have done so much to insure that their children have opportunities that serve them well in life.

It is not an easy job and not everyone can be a Dad but those who do it well are a shining example to the rest of us.

So Happy Father’s Days.

I am grateful for the men in my life who are good Fathers.
I will start with my prayers and sympathies are with everyone in South Carolina who has been affected by the events at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church. Let us remember who was killed not who did the killing. Their names were Susie Jackson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, DePayne Doctor, Ethel Lance, Daniel Simmons Sr., Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders and Myra Thompson. I honestly don’t give a flying flip about the shooter or why he did it. These people need not to be forgotten.

Caroline is finishing up her first year of middle school. It is interesting for me since we didn’t have a middle school where I grew up. In my district elementary school was first through seventh and the high school was eighth through twelfth. The eighth graders were called sub-freshman that led to all kinds of teasing/ bullying by the older students. Being a subby was not fun but we got through it.

Caroline is thriving at middle school. She likes the format. She is proud that she can do so many things now. She likes having different teachers for different subjects. She says that the days fly by where they dragged in the fifth grade. Also she has friends to hang with where she doesn’t have to worry about if she was going to be kicked out of the group because of the queen bee. She is calling it a new start and is very happy with it.

Which has been reflected in her grades since she has gotten straight A’s for three marking periods. She is self-motivated to study and get her homework done. I think I have said the words, “Have you finished your homework” maybe a dozen times this whole school year. We are working on pacing long-term projects so that she isn’t going nuts towards the end but that is a skill set that has to be learned. She is working through her first set of final exams and is feeling pretty good about them.

Caroline has a number of projects she wants to do this summer. I am going to see what I can do so she can accomplish what she wants. She has really nice hand-stitching abilities that will serve her well as she get older. By the end of the summer I want her to be able to use the sewing machine when she wants to.

My left hand is back to normal except an occasional twinge or two. I am now working on rebuilding strength in that hand but being careful so I don’t have a set back. Stretching it is important too. I can feel it stiffing up on me at times. The only time it is giving me real problems has nothing to do with the injury and everything to do with the tremors.

I will say knowing what is going on and that it is not my imagination is rather nice. I still have to deal with the tremors and occasional weird ticks but I know how to deal with them for the most part. The only one that can be a real pain is when my eyelids are flickering a bit. Makes it hard concentrate on something. The world can go off kilter a little so I compensate and go on.

Peter has been hard at work on about six different things for a number of different companies along with his own projects. This has been sandwiched in with conventions, a store appearance, and family business. This weekend again we are traveling but it is for good reasons. Caroline is looking forward to seeing her cousins this weekend.

But first she has a party with her Girl Scout troop at a local entertainment center. She is tall enough to drive a go-cart on her own now since she is over five feet. If I was to take a guess probably about 5’ 2” at this point which means she has gained about three inches this school year. She loves Girl Scouts with an absolute passion. The leaders of the troop have done a really good job of being inclusive and making sure that all the girls have a good time. She takes great pride in that she is a third generation Girl Scout since both her Mother and Grandmother were Scouts too.

I, as usual, have too many things on my plate but I am working towards being able to get chunks of things off. Some of creative and some are things that just need to be done to keep house and home in order. Housework is not my strong suit but I muddle through.

But first I have to make pancakes for the family for breakfast and then onto the rest of the day and what it brings.

I am grateful that my left hand is recovering so nicely.