My Blog’s New Look

I gave my blog a new look again. It was looking cluttered. And since I’m at a standstill with my writing and art projects, I figured I’d have a go at blog design and pray for something appealing. This came after I gave up the idea of pulling the plug on my blog altogether.

Life got really crazy-busy during the past year and I grew weary trying to keep up a blog. Blogging and keeping it fresh and interesting are huge responsibilities. When I don’t invariably post new and exciting content to it, I feel guilty of letting down my followers.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of material sitting in the archives for you new followers. It’s a feature that goes unnoticed because of WordPress’s push at shoving new material at us. Their Reader page with its constant updates is the first thing we see when we log into our accounts. It’s a shame they don’t have a better feature for our archives other than a search bar. But I’m glad to have the old search tool because I love reading and looking at gems from the past.

But don’t take my word for it. Start digging around and see for yourself.

Come Wattpad with Me

I like online sites that let writers/authors post their writing/books free without taking control of the content. Wattpad is one of those sites, which I joined a couple years ago. It was during the same time that I created an author page at Goodreads, and I spent nearly all my online time there, listing my books, adding my blog, and letting all my readers and Facebook fans know about it. I did nothing with my Wattpad page, which was a mistake.

Most of the problems with Goodreads arose when I changed the titles of some of my books and took others off the market. These were e-books, not hard-copy books, and sold through Amazon, though I did sell a couple of titles at B&N. I wrestled long with the Goodreads librarians to keep my readers and fans abreast of those changes, which, after months of begging, the librarians refused to do. Original titles stayed, they told me. So did out-of-print books (their term for my e-books taken off market). To do differently would upset the libraries there. Frustrated, I ended my association with Goodreads. My author page still exists there, complete with all the incorrect listings of my books.

LibraryThing is another online library where authors can list their books. They allow authors full control of their pages. Where Goodreads is Hell, LibraryThing is Heaven. So, while I happily updated my books there, a reader/fan asked me about my Wattpad page—the one I ignored for two years.

If, by some slim chance you’re unfamiliar with Wattpad, it’s a writing community in which users can (in Wattpad’s own words) “discover and share stories: a social platform that connects people through words. … With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.” You can read and write stories, articles, poems, even fan fiction, and comment and like what you read. You can even join groups of your favorite genres.

As of this post, I have two followers and I’m following four people. I have five short stories there and more to add. I have far to go to build my readership/fan base. If you are at Wattpad, let me know. I would love to hear from you.

99-cent eNovel

Beginning 8:00 AM (PST) tomorrow, you can buy my e-novel Night of the Hellhounds for 99 cents at Amazon. I am still trying to get them to price it as a Perma-Free book. Meanwhile, I hope my book will see some attention from readers who enjoy fantasy stories.

For readers without the Kindle e-reader, you can still read my books purchased from Amazon without using Kindle or the Kindle app. Calibre at calibre-ebook.com is a free ebook editing program that allows you to deconstruct my books and change them from Mobi files to whatever is convenient for you. There are no DRM codes in my books to wrestle with, so you have the option of sharing my books freely with others. I don’t think of it as stealing, and neither should you. You’re getting and giving books that I wanted to be free of any price in the first place. And you’re helping an unknown author become known.

For more info about my books, go to my author page Steven L Campbell @ Amazon and click on the book links.

Happy reading!

And as always, if you like—or don’t like—the books, please leave an honest review at Amazon. Many thanks to those who have.

Who I Am at Amazon [author news]

When I wrote Night of the Hellhounds: A Novel last year and placed it at Amazon for the Kindle e-reader, the folks at Amazon confused it with Night of the Hellhounds: A Ridgewood Short Story that I published two years ago, and they placed the two books together, despite the distinction of separate ASINs for each title. Thus, the folks at Amazon put readers’ reviews for the novel alongside reviews for the short story. During that confusing time, I took the short story out of circulation to avoid any more disorder.

Recently, I redesigned the novel’s cover and made the appropriate changes at Amazon. When I did, the folks at Amazon noticed the error of placing reviews for two separate books on the same page and gave my novel a brand-new review page—a blank slate—which means I have lost all the previous reviews for the novel. So, if you wrote a review for the novel prior to its new review page, will you write another one please? I would greatly appreciate it.

Now I am going to go pull out all my hair in a fit of frustration.

But before I go, allow me to clear the confusion between me and another author at Amazon who shares my first and last names. I am not, repeat, NOT the Steven Campbell who writes the Hard Luck Hank books, despite the constant prompts at Amazon that try to make readers think otherwise. I pen my books as Steven L Campbell (or Steven L. Campbell at places that insist on “proper” abbreviations), so look for the L between Steven Campbell wherever e-books are sold.

Should I Tweet, or Not

I am considering taking part in the Twitterverse, a micro social world that a close friend tells me is filled with narcissism and is top on her list of websites dumbing down society.

Setting her personal feelings aside, I have noticed here at WordPress and at Facebook that many artists and writers I follow are Twitter members. Therefore, I see joining Twitter as a good personal venture for two reasons: 1) I can follow artists and writers I like—the ones who pass along interesting information about the arts, and 2) I can keep my readers up-to-date with brief progress reports about my books projects.

Still, I have reservations. The above reasons for joining Twitter are the ones I had when I joined Google+. But G+ fell short of supplying me with valuable information from other artists and writers. Plus, its format is too similar to Facebook’s, filled with irrelevant feeds from family and friends. Wading through it all is often too time-consuming, taking away from my busy schedule.

Overall, I think I have sold myself on the idea that it is possible to “tweet” at Twitter in such a way that the “pro’s” outweigh the “cons.” All the same, I would love to hear your input before I take the Twitter plunge.

My Gripes About Google and Google+

No matter what your job is, your tools should work for you, not against you.

As a writer, I research my stories, which means I spend a lot of time searching the Internet. For that, I need a reliable search engine. Until recently, that engine was Google until it became unreliable to get me the results I needed. The problem with Google is it’s geared to sell us things instead of searching for information like it used to do. So I deleted it and, on the advice from a good friend, I installed Ixquick’s search engine. It isn’t the best search engine, but it does the job of finding information without tracking my usage and storing it in a huge database for all the racketeers wanting to sell me their wares. That’s what online stores are for. If I want to buy something, I will choose to go to a store, thank you very much. So Google, get off our backs, leave us alone, and go back to being a search engine that doesn’t spy on us!

And Google does spy … and pry. What is the purpose of putting an automatic geolocation on its search engine if the company isn’t spying and prying personal information about its users?

Sadly, I’m becoming less a fan of anything Google does. I especially don’t care for their Google+ site because, well, I’m not sure of its purpose. Is it a social gathering? If it is, we have Facebook for that. Is it a place to call and/or web chat with people? Isn’t that what Skype does? Just what is Google+’s purpose other than prying into our private lives?

A few people have told me that Google+ is for following live streams of real people in real industries and communities that interest me.

Why would live streams about writing and art be more important to me than if I were to watch recorded videos?

Others have told me that Google+ is simply a business venture on Google’s part for better grouping people and businesses into SEOs (Search Engine Optimizations/Optimizers), affecting a website’s or a web page’s visibility in a search engine’s (Google’s?) unpaid results. Seems like a way of better singling out their users after grouping them by size, weight and color.

As I said, I don’t understand Google+’s purpose … and probably I never will, though I’m inclined to believe it helps Google collect plenty of information about us. I don’t know about you, but I like some anonymity when I’m on the Internet. Less chance of scrupulous hackers and criminals getting their hands on my private data and hack my computer … or worse, hack my online business accounts.

Still, Google+ is a tool I use to keep fans abreast of news about my books. This blog is connected to Google+, so news about my books (and this rant) reaches the audience there. That’s why I keep it … for now. As it stands, very few people I know at Google+ buy my books or even comment about them.

By Google+’s rapid decline of being useful to me, I expect to stop using it soon. Unfortunately, it’s that tool I cannot throw away entirely because it’s connected to a tool that’s useful: YouTube. I don’t like that Google took over YouTube and synched it with Google+. When I sign into my YouTube account, there are times when I don’t want connected to Google+. I liked the older days when I was CampbellArtist at YouTube. It gave me the anonymity I mentioned earlier. Does everyone who watches my YouTube videos need to know my real name, where I work at, what schools I attended, and what my home address and phone number are? Google is doing a great job of taking away our privacy.

Until I can find a way to amputate Google+ from YouTube, I’m stuck with the pretentious social media failure … and using it as little as possible.

A Rant about Amazon Book Reviews

This isn’t a new rant … my friends and family can attest to that. It began when my wife bought me a Kindle a few years ago and I set out reading the self-pub books at Amazon. With so many, many books added to the list each day and with me having so little time to read, I took to glancing at their five-star rating system and choosing books with the most 4- and 5-star ratings (4 for “I like it” and 5 for “I love it”). But many of those books had glaring editing problems, which took away from my reading enjoyment.

On the other hand, I found books with overwhelming 1- and 2-star ratings (1 for “I hate it” and 2 for “I don’t like it”) that I had read and really liked. They contained no editing problems.

I quickly surmised this as a case of different strokes for different folks. Unfortunately, it cancelled the rating system’s effectiveness for me. After all, some books had as many 1- and 2-star ratings as 4- and 5-star ratings. Yep, different strokes for different folks.

But the rating system isn’t my rant.

It was upon further inspection that I found those same books had contradicting bad and good reviews. For example, the following reviews for one book at Amazon gave me the following information:

  • A Disappointment. Do not waste your time reading this drivel. Lots of errors. A self-published nightmare.
  • Well written. Interesting read. Very good plot. Held my interest during the whole time I was reading.
  • Poorly researched. Poorly plotted. Poorly edited. Altogether a poorly written book.
  • Very well written. Good story. I look forward to reading more from this author.

I know firsthand that readers bring their own expectations to a story. And when an author goes in an unexpected direction and/or ends a story shy of those expectations, a reader may give the book a low score out of disappointment of its plot. Plot is fickle. What forms a good plot today may not be so in a hundred years or less.

But when sides cannot agree whether a book is written poorly or written well, then someone clearly misunderstands the concept of what establishes each. It’s one or the other. A book that has grammar and spelling errors is a book written poorly, no matter how well readers find its author’s plotting, research and characters to be. In other words, if you tell me that a book is written well, then you’re saying it has very few if any spelling and syntax errors. Vice versa if you tell me a book is written poorly. Anything else, like plot, research, characterization, is biased expectations. If Joe Smo didn’t get the girl at the end of a romance novel, then good for the author for writing something outside the straightjacket that’s been strangling that genre for ages. But don’t say it’s a poorly written book because its plot dashed your expectations.

Thankfully, Amazon includes a nice “look inside” feature that allows potential buyers to peruse the first few pages of a book they’re considering buying so they can get a feel of how the story flows. If I see spelling and syntax errors while I’m looking inside, I may choose to pass on purchasing and reading the book. Or I may buy it and end up reading a well told story with spelling and syntax errors because more than one thoughtful reviewer said they gave the book four or five stars because they “liked” or “loved” the book’s plot and characters despite the spelling and syntax errors.

Reviews need to be clear to give potential readers the facts.

A review like “A Disappointment; Do not waste your time reading this drivel; Lots of errors; A self-published nightmare,” next to a review that says, “Well written; Interesting read; Very good plot; Held my interest during the whole time I was reading,” means that someone found the errors problematic while reading a story that someone else found interesting with its “very good” plot. Imagine how beneficial it would have been to those of us considering buying the book if the earlier listed reviews had been written this way:

  • “I did not like this book because of its spelling and syntax errors.”
  • “I liked this book because its plot held my interest during the time I was reading.”
  • “I did not like this book because I believe that it is poorly researched, plotted, and edited.”
  • “I liked this book because I thought the story was good. I look forward to reading more from this author.”

This, of course, takes effort on the reviewers’ part to be honest and direct, omitting their personal feelings in the forms of biting remarks and flowery praise. If all reviewers did that, it would make shopping for books at Amazon a lot easier.

Always Busy Writing and Painting

Anyone following my blog would assume that I’m rarely busy writing or making art, simply because of the lengthy gaps between my posts. But that’s far from the truth. I’m busy every day working on my stories and art, from creating new chapters and editing old material, to sketching in my sketchbooks or actually composing and finishing a drawing or painting. All this takes time, leaving barely a few minutes to blog about it.

Blogging is often the last thing I do when I visit the Internet. Reading my email is top priority, followed by answering it, and then checking on family and friends at Facebook. I usually spend an hour a day at Facebook (sometimes two hours or more), and I often add my latest achievements there, leaving me little time to post anything here at WordPress other than a blurb before I turn in for the night.

That is a good description of my posts: BLURBS. They may never be anything poetic, but they’ll certainly keep you, my fans, abreast of my latest news.

Deer Sketch, circa 1988 Acrylic paint, white gesso, and graphite
Deer Sketch, circa 1988, Acrylic paint, white gesso, and graphite

Above is a deer sketch from 1988 or so. Old news, but it was a treat for me to find this photo among my old art photographs and share with you.

Meanwhile, I promise to blurb more often here at WordPress. I just have to learn to schedule my time better.

My Blog’s Newest Look

I have begun a makeover for this site, and I’ve chosen Typo as my theme. This is the only WordPress theme I’ve found that’s closest to my personality: grays colored with a few pastel colors … which means I needed to redo my header and eliminate the cold blue background. I added some warmth to my picture to compliment the grays and to match my headline font color.

Since I haven’t purchased WordPress’ $79/year premium package upgrade yet (on my TO DO list), my links don’t have any color to distinguish them from the surrounding text—an unfortunate handicap of this free theme.

All the same, I like the “typewriterly” look of Typo, and I feel that it may inspire me to blog more often. If so, I may keep this theme around for a long while. We’ll see.

Some Tools For the Online Book Writer

I spent the morning changing my PubIt! Account at Barnes & Noble to NOOK Press. Although I have only two of my five Ridgewood Chronicles books there, I plan to add the others soon. I also brought down the prices to $0.99 per book. The new prices may take a day or two to appear at B&N.

Meanwhile, I am still having issues with their Nook for PC app, which I downloaded three months ago. Customer complaints are years and many about this app, and B&N seems unable to offer a fix. The basic problem I am having is it will not automatically list the ePub books I own. I have to add each book one at a time to my library. Another problem is it will not stay synced with books that I am reading in my library. If I stop at a page in the middle of a book, it will not bookmark that place, but start at the beginning the next time I open the book.

Overall, I like Amazon’s Kindle app for the PC. I have used their app for two years and I have never had a problem. However, it will not open ePub books, so I have resorted to using Calibre’s e-book management app to convert my ePub books to formats that Kindle can open.

Calibre is a great app for anyone who has a huge e-book library. I like that you can edit the book descriptions, as well as choose from various covers. Or, if you are creative, you can design your own covers.

Now, the clock is telling me that I must return to working on my novel, which will be available at Amazon and B&N. Stay tuned.