New short story – ‘Trophy Hunters’

Since the start of this year, I’ve been listening to the fiction short-story podcast The Other Stories. The team behind it (Hawk & Cleaver) describe the stories as ‘A modern take on The Twilight Zone, Tales From The Crypt, or The Outer Limits. Sci-Fi, Horror, Thriller, WTF stories’, which is what I aim for with quite a few of my stories.

Their stories are arranged in short seasons, each with a separate theme, and I’ve considered submitting stories a few times. But with everything else I’m working on, I haven’t completed one in time.

I have the start of a few stories, though, and I’ve gone back to one of these, based on the theme of ‘trophy hunters’. That story might have missed the podcast deadline, but you can read the finished Trophy Hunters here.

And if listening to a new creepy short story each week appeals, check out The Other Stories.

What to do about a 1-star review

It had to happen‌—‌after writing about a great 5-star review for Shadowfall (you can read that post here), I end up with a 1-star reviews for Dark Glass.

This isn’t the first 1-star I’ve had, and I know it won’t be the last. Every reader is different, and I’m never going to satisfy everyone.

samuel-3898008_640It’s still a little frustrating, though. I don’t have many reviews, so any new review can make a big difference to the average, either positively or negatively.

A lot of writers say it’s a bad idea to look at reviews, but at the moment I’m willing to take any comments, either praise or constructive criticism. I want to improve in my writing, so it is useful to know what readers don’t appreciate as much as what they enjoy.

But this review puzzled me. It doesn’t comment on the story, but does say that the book is ‘rife with grammatical errors’, making it ‘unreadable’. Yet I spent a long time editing this book, and it also went through a professional proof-read. No book is immune to a few errors slipping through, but I felt sure there were not so many problems that the book was ‘unreadable’.

So I checked my original files, running the first couple of chapters through Hemingway and Grammarly. I checked the Look Inside on Amazon too.

I probably used a few too many adverbs, and Grammarly pointed to a few ‘complicated’ sentences‌—‌but nothing grammatically wrong.

I wondered if the reviewer was posting this for a different book, clicking on Dark Glass by accident, but he mentions me in the review, so I don’t believe this is the case. I also wondered if the reviewer’s copy of the book was corrupted (and if they’re reading this, contact me and I’ll send you another copy), or if they simply didn’t like my style of writing.

What can I do about this review? I could respond, asking the reviewer to point out these errors so that I can correct them (and thanking them for their time), or I could contact Amazon and ask about having the review pulled if I believe it to be factually inaccurate.

But what would happen if I took either of these options? Amazon might take down the review, but there’s no guarantee of this, and I’d no doubt spend far too much time trying to convince them. And if I contact the reviewer, things could get messy. Comments can easily be taken the wrong way, upsetting people unduly.

It would be better to ask not ‘what can I do?’ but ‘what should I do?’ Reviews are readers’ personal thoughts on the book, and I have to respect that, even if I personally don’t agree with their thoughts. Also, reviews are not for the writer but for potential readers.

And here, I need to consider my own behaviours when choosing new books. If the cover draws me in and the description sounds interesting, I’ll check out the reviews. I’ll often scan negative reviews, but comments here don’t always put me off. A complaint about bad language won’t bother me, and I don’t mind violence and sex in the books I read.

If I thought a book looked interesting but then saw a review complaining about poor grammar or too many typos, I’d check out the Look Inside (or download a sample). Maybe the book is written in a different English than the reviewer expected (because there are so many different varieties‌—‌UK, US, Australian and so on). If there are some errors (or examples of clumsy writing), I might still be tempted by the book if the story looks good enough to enjoy despite this. Or possibly the book has a style of writing that is similar to the spoken word (and is therefore not perfectly grammatically correct), but this suits the way the story is being told.

And, as I mentioned above, this won’t be the last 1-star review I get.

So the best thing I can do is ignore the review. I’ll continue using tools such as Hemingway and Grammarly to make my writing as polished as I can, and then I’ll use professional editors/proofreaders to remove even more errors. I’ll continue learning more about writing. None of my stories will ever be perfect, but as long as I keep learning and working hard, I can keep improving.

And that’s the positives I’m taking from this review‌—‌I can’t please everyone, but I can keep striving to get better.

Dominions VI is now out

Rebel Rout (Dominions VI) is now out, on all major ebook sites.

Dom6_smallRodin might have liberated the Factory, but it’s still a prison to him. So an order from Authority is the excuse he’s been seeking, an opportunity to escape the meetings and the drudgery, a chance to get outside once more.

But he’s heading into a war zone, on a mission of deception. Those he travels with might be friends at the moment, but Rodin knows how easily allegiances can change.

That’s a problem Genna must face, too. Forced underground, her district in the hands of another, she’s determined to fight back. But Garrick’s always one step ahead, and that can only mean one thing‌—‌she’s being betrayed by someone close, someone she needs to trust.

And behind everything lies the invisible, powerful Authority, working toward their own ends, playing enemies and allies off each other. How can Rodin and Genna possibly win against Authority?

In the sixth book of the Dominions series, loyalties are tested, hope is pushed to breaking point, and nothing can be the same again.

Click here to get Rebel Rout now for only 99c.

(And if you haven’t started the Dominion series yet, I still have the box-set of the first three novels on offer for 99c. Click here for all the places this collection is available.

A box-set for under $1

2017-1326 TW Iain 3D Box Set on white on transparentWith the next Dominions novel due for release soon, I’ve cut the price of the Dominions Box Set: Books I-III to 99c (or your local equivalent). Three novels, a short-story prologue, and a few extras, all for under $1. And this set is available on all major ebook retailers (and quite a few smaller ones).

Click here to dive into the dark Dystopian world of Dominions.

In times like these, why read?

These are strange, confusing, scary times. We’re being asked to change the way we live our lives, with no clear notion of when normality will return (if ever). Stories abound in the media, both mainstream and social, and it can be hard to separate myth from fact.

And it’s the ideal time to read a book.

That might sound flippant, but I believe reading can help us all, in many different ways

Escapism & distraction

octopus-1235006_1280There’s little we can do about the current situation, beyond following whatever those in charge are suggesting (or ordering). But that doesn’t stop us worrying. It’s natural, in any strange situation, to hunt for a solution, even when there is nothing within our own reach. And this can increase our anxiety‌—‌which leads to all sorts of health issues, both mental and physical.

So we need to step away. We need to let our minds escape from what we can’t control. We need entertainment.

Reading has a few advantages over other forms of entertainment. Reading a novel takes many hours, often over many sessions. And between these sessions, a good story will still be running through our minds‌—‌we’ll be anticipating the characters’ next moves, or trying to solve the plot’s mystery.

Reading isn’t a passive activity, at least not as far as the brain’s concerned. The logical parts of our mind deal with deciphering the words, of making sense of the text. And then these words stimulate our creative, imaginative minds. From a few sparse sentences, our imagination conjures up believable characters and settings. The mention of sounds and smells in a book can trigger those parts of the brain associated with hearing and smell.

Reading can give us a whole-mind work-out. This keeps us occupied, helps distract us from things we have no control over, and ultimately is beneficial for our mental health.

These are immediate benefits of reading. There are benefits from long-term reading, too.

Instruction

knowledge-4171793_640Throughout history, stories have been used to educate. The tale of a successful hunt helps others develop and refine their own hunting skills. The sad story of a villager who ate the wrong kind of berry acts as a warning. The stories we read to our children help them make sense of the world.

Some of this instruction is practical‌—‌approach an animal you’re hunting from down-wind, be careful what kind of berries you eat, if you’re nasty to others they won’t be your friends‌—‌but stories also help us think. Characters face tough situations, and a well-written book will draw us into their internal dilemmas. As we read, a part of our mind is working out what we’d do in the same situation (or, more usually, what we’d like to do). As the character in the story uncovers more information, we adapt our thoughts, amending our personal solutions.

This make-believe decision making can help in real life. If we’re used to thinking things through, we’re less likely to panic. We know that we need to take a step back before we react.

Empathy

book-2135815_640It’s often said that to truly understand someone, you need to walk in their shoes‌—‌and stories are a powerful way of doing this. Vicariously, we can live through the pressures of a high-powered job, or the daily grind of raising a family on a meagre wage. We can experience being lost in an alien environment, or living amongst those different to ourselves, or coping in a world where our beliefs are not shared by the majority. We can get a glimmer of understanding into why someone may turn to crime, or shut themselves off emotionally from others, or desperately seek acceptance.

The empathy we can develop through reading can help is in real life. The better we understand how everyone sees the world through their own eyes, filtered through their personal experiences, the less likely we are to make snap judgements. And then we’re in the middle of confusing, worrying situations, the last thing we need is finger-pointing and rash decisions. When people are struggling, a little empathy can go a long way.


Reading is good for us. It gives us a break from our troubles, it exercises our minds, it helps us solve problems, and it develops our empathy. So stay safe, stay calm, and continue reading.

Special offer on Dead Flesh (Dominions II)

DeadFlesh_smallIn light of the upcoming release of Rebel Rout (Dominions VI), I’ve knocked the price of the second book in the Dominions series, Dead Flesh, down to 99p/99c (or your local equivalent‌—‌basically the lowest price Amazon will allow me to enter).

With Dark Glass (Dominions I) free everywhere, this makes it even easier to get immersed in this dark Dystopian thriller series‌—‌perfect if you’ve got a bit more time on your hands at the moment.

Dead Flesh will only stay at this price for about a week, but I might have another offer for you in early April.

Dark Glass (Dominions I)‌—‌free

Dead Flesh (Dominions II)‌—‌99c/99p

Rebel Rout (Dominions VI)‌—‌pre-order only 99c/99p