KingMidget's Ramblings

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Intimacy, not Immediacy

I rarely check my stats for my blog anymore. Kind of comes with the territory of not blogging as regularly as I used to. But something happened this morning after I put up my last post and I saw the stats somewhat accidentally. I don’t even remember how it happened.

Anyway, I rarely get more than a handful of views each day and when I post, that might spike to 20 or 30 views. Within an hour of my last post, I was up to 60 views for the day. Apparently, posts about self-published authors are popular. The other thing I saw in the stats was that two views were of this post that I wrote 5 1/2 years ago.

As with most things that happened that many years ago, I have no memory of that post. So I read it and was disappointed to see that the thing that concerned me then remains today and is probably even worse. It’s a shame we are losing the war against technology. We’re not even putting up a fight anymore.

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Self-Published Authors Behaving Badly

I received the following email earlier this week. It’s the first such email I have ever received. At first I was intrigued, but it didn’t take me long to smell a rat…

B.A. Said:

That the B.A. here is hyperlinked suggests there might be something there so I can identify who this person is.  Well, no, clicking on it produces the following message on Goodreads:  Oops – we couldn’t find that profile.

Nice to meet you and I saw that you enjoyed reading thriller novels.

Well, no, you aren’t actually meeting me.  This is a random email that generally qualifies as spam, so it would be inaccurate for you to start the communication with “Nice to meet you.”  Under no circumstances, is sending an email to somebody actually meeting them.

I thought you might also enjoy a complimentary copy of my new Amazon Best-Selling techno-thriller series

Well, I might.  Tell me more.

HAIL STORM.

The second book in the series, Hail Warning, just went on sale and my agent informed me that I can only offer complimentary downloads of Hail Storm to techno-thriller fans for the next week.

Well, this is intriguing. You have an agent. This is a stamp of approval for your work. Let me delve into this. I go over to Amazon and check your books out. An agent who is limiting what you can do must mean you have a publisher, right?  Oh wait, what’s this?  For the first book in the series you are identified as the publisher and it appears you used Lulu. And for the second book in the series the publisher is Amazon Digital Services – meaning you’ve self-published it via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform.  So, no publisher.  Do you really have an agent?  Oh, there’s even more.  Besides the two books in the series, you’ve published a number of other books, dating back to 2002.  The publisher for most of these books is identified as B.A.D. Enterprises and Amazon Digital Services for the e-book version. Could B.A.D. Enterprises not actually be a legitimate publisher and the initials just be a play on your name and your author mother’s pen name???  So, you’ve done all this publishing, apparently entirely through self-publishing modes and you have an agent?  What’s your agent been doing for you?  Doesn’t appear to be much.  Or, maybe you don’t actually have an agent but think by saying that, it will impress potential readers. I’ll admit that it had me going for a bit.

Best Selling author Lois Duncan described Hail Storm as “It’s the Rainbow Six for a new generation” 

This is beautiful. Such a nice thought to express for a book.  Particularly coming from a published, best-selling author … who just so happens to be your mother.  You see it’s not that difficult to put these facts together when you identify Lois Duncan as your mother in your author profile on Amazon.  Not really a good idea to use your mother as your first selling point for the novel.  I’m guessing she’s a little biased.

A thousand Goodreads’ reviews are hovering in the 4.1 star range. Reviewers have compared it to Clive Cussler imagination, mixed with a healthy dose of Tom Clancy tech.

Well, he is generally right about at least part of this.  As of today, he has over 1,100 ratings averaging a 3.96, but only 708 actual reviews.  Still 708 reviews isn’t something to sneeze at, particularly since the book was only published in April 2017.  How did he manage that?  Well judging from the reviews, I am not the first to get his email pitch.  Here’s an example:

“A friend and I received a message from a quickly-deleted spam account offering a free copy and saying that this book is perfect for us, Douglas Adams fans. It seems that others received similar messages stating that it is perfect for fans of Michael Crichton/Stephen King/Karin Slaughter/James Ellroy/etc. etc.  Sounds as if the author is in dire need of developing his own style.  Guess I’ll pass on this, thanks.”

A quickly deleted spam account?  Is that what that B.A. link is for at the outset of the email?  Fascinating.  Here is another of my favorite reviews for his book on Goodreads:

Don’t bother reading this book, even if Mr. Arquette sends you a free copy. It’s badly written, badly edited and contains blatant plagiarism.

Like many of the other reviewers of this book, I received a spam message from Mr. Arquette. In the message he suggested that if I liked Michael Crichton, I might like his book. He offered a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

The book is self-published, but was allegedly edited by two people. Based on their performance with this book, neither of those people should ever work again as editors. Typos, grammatical errors, and misspellings litter the pages of this book. Arquette isn’t a strong writer either. He clearly needs someone to help edit his work. Some parts of the book were exceptionally repetitive. In one area we get the exact same dialogue twice. Once from the CIA spy, and once from the terrorist. This happens in back to back chapters.

The dialogue is not strong. The characters are not complex. The female characters, despite holding powerful traditionally male roles, end up being stereotypical women obsessed with clothes. As an example the female CIA spy, upon first being introduced to a group of people in a professional setting, responds with “I love your outfit.” The “Mission Communication Analyst” responds “Well thank you. I designed and made it myself.” To which our spy says, “You’re kidding me. I wish I could do stuff like that. A dress seems like it would be so hard to make.” The CIA spy is later distracted by being set loose in the shopping mall. Later this CIA spy, an expert in foreign languages, gives the wrong name for a North Korean leader. After being corrected by the director of the CIA she responds “Whatever, Ding, Dong, Wang, Chung, Cheech and Chong, all their names are so confusing.” Her poor lady brain just can’t handle these non western sounding names.

The main character, Marshall Hail, is a rich neckbeard. He’s sad because his wife and kids were killed in a terrorist attack two years ago. But he’s conflicted because the CIA spy is pretty and “there was also vulnerability in the woman that attracted him. And for some strange reason, Hail had always been drawn to people who were damaged or in need.” Vomit.

After all of these problems, Arquette gets exceptionally lazy and instead of describing the White House Situation Room, he quotes “The Wiki”. But as you’ll see below, we should be happy Arquette at least quoted his source here.

The blatant plagiarism in this book should be enough to convince you not to read it. It’s not as if it’s a good book that happens to have some plagiarism. It’s a bad book, with really sloppy plagiarism. After reading 75% of the book, I began to sense some passages were not actually written by Arquette. In one area shaped charges are described. This dialogue occurs:

“The most common of the linear-shaped charge is conical, with an internal apex angle of 40 to 90 degrees. Different apex angles yield different distributions of jet mass and velocity. Small apex angles can result in jet bifurcation, or even in the failure of the jet to form at all, if you can believe that,” she laughed knowingly, “and this is attributed to the collapse velocity being above a certain threshold, normally slightly higher than…”
Compare the italicized words to the wikipedia entry for shaped charges:

The most common shape of the liner is conical, with an internal apex angle of 40 to 90 degrees. Different apex angles yield different distributions of jet mass and velocity. Small apex angles can result in jet bifurcation, or even in the failure of the jet to form at all; this is attributed to the collapse velocity being above a certain threshold, normally slightly higher[.]
Later, in a particularly bad piece of writing, a character describes to himself the types of Russian food he’d prefer to eat over the food available in North Korea.

Or even pelmeni, a traditional Russian dish usually made with minced meat filling, wrapped in thin dough.
Compare that to the Cuisine of Post-Soviet Countries Blog.

Pelmeni are a traditional Russian dish usually made with minced meat filling, wrapped in thin dough.

I read this book because it was the first book offered to me for free. I felt I shouldn’t give up on it, despite not enjoying it. Learn from my mistakes and skip this book.

Hmmm … typos and grammar problems and plagiarism, oh my!  Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. But, surely, this cannot be.  He’s been publishing for 15 years and he has a traditionally published author for a mother who endorses his books – really, she has published several dozen children’s books through Little Brown.  Ms. Duncan is also identified as the editor for his first book  Ah, wait a minute, here’s a review of his first book, published way back in 2002:

I can’t believe this even made it into print. The Big Surprising Plot Twist is telegraphed on page twelve, the book is riddled with typos (he misspells his own characters’ names, for goodness sake!), the characters are so shallow I didn’t really care whether they died, and the only good idea in here is ripped off from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. And what’s the deal with loudly proclaiming that Lois Duncan edited it? She certainly didn’t do a very good job. Arquette should probably stick to writing poorly-worded letters to Penthouse; that’s basically what this reads like. Except that even the sex isn’t any good.

Apparently, for fifteen long years, the author has been self-publishing badly written, poorly edited trash.

But, back to the email:

For a complimentary download of the Kindle/Nook or Audiobook, as well as Goodreads’ Reviews click HERE. Your download key is

Oddly enough, that link works, takes you straight to the author’s webpage where you can read all his glowing reviews and order your free download.  What’s clear though is that he really wants you to download your “free copy” via the Kindle Unlimited option.  Why? Well, those downloads, although the reader pays nothing for them, counts towards a books Amazon ranking and also produces income for the reader.  So, these free downloads of the book are free in one sense, but actually make the author money. It’s a smart sales tactic on his part, but to me, highly unethical.

Here’s the rest of his email:

Thanks for giving my new series a try!

Best,

Brett Arquette

Marshall was a husband, a father, a Physics Nobel prizewinner and industrial billionaire. But when Marshall’s family was killed in a terrorist attack, he became a

predator and redirected his vast industrial assets toward one goal, removing every person on the FBI’s Top 10 Terrorist list. With the help of his MIT colleagues, Hail designed and built a devastating arsenal of attack drones of all shapes and sizes that are flown by the nation’s best young gamers. The world will come to realize that Marshall possesses the capability of getting to anyone, anywhere, at any time, unleashing an operation so disturbing that the CIA has named it Operation Hail Storm 

Goodreads Review Highlights: 

“This book was AWESOME! If you like Jack Reacher (Lee Childs), or Cormorman Strike (Robert Galbraith), Elvis Cole (RobertCrais) this is right up your alley.”

“HOLY SMOKES! I guess we know who will be writing the Clancy books in the near future. Brett Arquette has nailed the new technology. Tom would be proud!”

“I absolutely loved this book. It’s a very clever Action Thriller, with a very unique and interesting plot, that really captured my attention.”

“If you like Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, and W.E.B. Griffin, then give it a go!”

“This is an exciting story!! I am so glad I read it,it is futuristic with technology used today mixed in.”

“WOW ! You’ve all heard about drones for the last couple of years. This book is going to make you think another way completely.”

“Brilliant read! I will be recommending this to my dad who is a great lover of W.E.B. Griffin.”

“A terrific ride and very hard to put down all the way until the very end! If you enjoy international spy thrillers and technology, you’ll love this new novel.”

“This book blew me away. It has action, suspense, a great story unique unto itself with well developed, three dimensional characters.”

“I cannot wait to read the next one(s). Fantastic all around!”

I hate to say it, but these are not the reviews written by normal readers reviewing books.  They simply are not.  These are the reviews written by friends, family, or fake people.

Reply to this message

Well, I would if this link had worked.  But like the very first link, it goes to a Goodreads Oops message.  If I could have replied, I would have sent this response directly to you and pointed out that you are one of the reasons independent authors struggle to gain respect in the reading and publishing word.  Poorly written, edited crap flung out there and then you hide behind spam accounts, fake reviews, and more to try to find readers.  Disgusting.  Thanks for making it harder for the rest of us.

Enjoy!

No. Probably not.  I hear from, and see in reviews and articles and blog posts, so many readers who say they won’t spend a penny for a self-published book because of the bad reputation self-published books have.  Mr. Arquette, you are contributing to that dynamic and hurting the rest of us.  Just the fact that you send these emails out from spam accounts that are then immediately deleted destroys any credibility you might have.  If you are unwilling to at least edit your work and get rid of typos, misspellings, and other fatal laws — like clear plagiarism — do all of the rest of us a favor and find some other outlet for your creativity.

Song For Today

Except for the glasses…

He’s Got It Right

Writing is supposed to be what I like doing. So why do I have to force myself to do it?

via Why Writing Is So Hard: A Hypothesis — A Ruined Chapel by Moonlight

Changing the Direction

I’ve whined enough…

IMG_8689

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