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readers writers

Review Platforms: Take my free books, please.

I have written several posts about reviews. It can be one of the most frustrating aspects of being an author. Many platforms are set up to guide readers to free review copies, and even though they say that reviews are not guaranteed, one would think that if someone downloads your review copy from a book reviewer site, there should be some expectation of a review. So, I have tried a few sites with limited success. More on that later.

I always sent out a welcome email, thanking the reader. Here is what I say:

To all reviewers,

Thank you for your interest in reviewing my books. As readers, you are so important to new independent authors as your reviews allow us to compete with the multitude of other authors, signed and unsigned. We have found each other through various book platforms. Some of my early subscribers are taking advantage of my free book offer for reviews. 

Reviews do not have to be long. Even one or two sentences can attract new readers, and at the very least, a star rating would be appreciated. As for the timeline, I’m hoping that they can be done within 4 weeks of receiving your review copy. (Note: I don’t think 4 weeks is unreasonable)

For some of you, that 4 weeks is getting close. Let me know if you need more time. If you had any difficulty downloading a book, please email me with your preferred format: PDF, ePub, Mobi.

When you have completed your review, please let me know so that I can link it to my website. If you choose not to leave a review for any reason, could you please inform me, and I will remove you from the list.

Here are the review links. Please leave a review on any (or all) of the sites. As my science fiction book is only available on Amazon at the moment, that would be my preference if you are just going to post on one.

I put direct links here to make it easy!

Final Note: Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so if you enjoyed the books, please tell your friends and family and share the review on your social media!  

End of letter.

I think that it covers my expectations and empowers the reviewer to submit whatever form they wish. I added the part about not leaving a review because it is frustrating to not hear from them and I don’t want to keep sending reminders. I appreciate honesty over being ‘ghosted’.

Here are the results:

Platform A: Voracious Readers
Round One - Free trial
20 readers = 3 reviews

Round Two - 6 week promo, now pay/reader
30 readers  = 2 Reviews so far

Platform B: Booksprout - Free
3 readers = 1 review

Platform C: StortOrigin - Free Beta version, transitioning to paid
8 readers = 3 reviews

Platform D: Library Thing  -Free
12 readers = 3 reviews

Platform E: Sandra’s Book Club - Free
3 Readers = 0 review

Platform F: Reedsy - Paid
1 review

Platform G: Goodreads – Free
7 readers = 5 reviews  - GRs takes a lot of work, finding the review groups and threads.

I suspect that most readers are in it for the free books (as you can see by the stats), which is disheartening, as it does feel like you are getting taken advantage of.

What has your experience been?

-Leon


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humor

Second Chance Sunday: March 28

Today’s serving is originally from my very first website/blog. I was new at everything, so many of the posts were short, and I seemed to always come up with a amusing survey to end each of them. I believe that this one was inspired by a Goodreads thread. Enjoy!

Reading: Paper or eBook

-If you haven’t already, please visit: Book Covers Part 3: The Finalists to vote for my new book cover.


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readers writers

Book Covers Part 3: The Finalists

After some feedback and design tips, I decided to go with a more monochrome/B&W concept to emulate the early days of science fiction writing.

I have narrowed it down to five choices.

Which one catches your eye?

Take the Survey: Book Cover Survey or make your comments below.

Your input is appreciated!

-Leon

You can see what my old cover was below:

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readers writers

Book Covers Part 2: Of course we judge them.

My original:

After some feedback:

For # 4 and 5 I cleaned up the font. #6 is just for color comparison

Which one catches your eye?

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readers writers

Book Covers: Of course we judge them.

I would like your opinion on a new cover design. What I was going for was a cover that was reminiscent of the early science fiction writers.

Like? Dislike? Is it compelling? Any feedback is appreciated.

-Leon

Categories
readers writers

Weekend Wrap-up: March 13

In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:

Beth at BEFOREWEGOBLOG ran one of my self interviews: #indiespotlight of Author Leon Stevens

Finally, some other notables:

Smorgasbord Laughter Lines – March 11th 2021 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – KFC and Shepherds

Dealing with negative reviews by Jan Sikes 

(oops, missed one): Tender Is The Rain – Poem from Denise Baer

Do you have any posts that could use a boost? I’ll include them in my “Second Chance Sunday” blog tomorrow.

Don’t forget the Book Sale and Poetry Book Contest below!

Categories
readers

Sunday Story Share: Part 3

Last week I posted the second chapter of my short story, The View from Here. Read the first and second chapters here:

https://linesbyleon.com/2021/01/24/sunday-story-share/

https://linesbyleon.com/2021/01/31/sunday-story-share-2/

I hope you like the final installment.

Chapter 3

I looked around again. The sheer rock cliff on which we were perched stretched as far as I could see in both directions. The ledge we were on was inset slightly and wide enough that I didn’t feel in danger of falling. Moving closer to the edge, I peered down at the water. I looked back at April, “How far down is it?” I asked.

She looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know exactly. I dropped a rock, and it took about five seconds. I never did the math.”

I did. Well, I attempted to. I tried to remember my physics classes, so long ago. What I did remember was thinking, When am I ever going to use this? To answer my question: now. I thought that five seconds would be about two hundred feet, about the height of a twenty-story building. I peered down again. Yeah, that looks about right.

“About two hundred feet?” I asked her.

“That makes sense,” she said, “and at least that high.” She pointed up.

I looked down again at the cliff face, searching for any marks, any sign of structures, and repeated my investigations upward. I knelt and studied the rock. It was slightly rough, like granite, but not cracked. There was no sign that anyone had climbed up or down it at this spot.

  “Do you climb?” I asked.

  “I have, but I don’t think that that is an option. I don’t think you could anchor on that,” she said, and I agreed.

I turned my gaze back to April and said, “The only way here is through there—” I pointed back to the tunnel. “Or by … flying?”

“That’s what I figured,” she replied.

“If we got a drone—”

“Tried that,” she interrupted. “Nothing electrical works here.”

“Sorry if I’m annoying you with questions and options. I’m sure you have thought of it all,” I said.

“It’s OK. It’s kind of nice to have someone to share this with.” She looked at me and shrugged. “I don’t know how long I would have kept coming here alone,” she told me.

“Have you seen anything out there?” I gestured to the view.

“No animals, no sign of any life. It’s as if it was abandoned.”

“It’s beautiful.”

She nodded.

I walked back and forth along the ledge, running my hand over the rock, thinking. “Well, someone may have made this. Any ideas?” I asked.

“I started reading about parallel worlds and universes, ancient alien theories, disappearing civilizations, and stuff like that,” she told me. “I don’t have any solid theories. All I know is that when I’m here, I feel at peace, content—and energized when I leave.”

“Why were you sitting in the dark?” I asked.

“I was on my way out. I heard you come in. I never thought that anyone else would find it.”

“Is there anything in the room?”

“Not that I’ve found, and I’ve gone through it quite thoroughly. It took me a couple of visits to find the tunnel to here.”

I sat down next to her. I didn’t feel uncomfortable on the edge. It felt … natural. “Someone could have constructed it to leave this place for some reason.” I pointed out over the water. “Escaping rising water?”

“Or, bringing people here, perhaps. There may be land out there,” she said.

I pointed up, “Or up there …”

I suddenly realized I had no idea how long we had been there. I looked at my watch: 4:03. The second hand wasn’t moving. That would have been the time that I entered the cave. “We should probably start to head back—not that I want to, but you know how the trail is in the dark,” I said.

She glanced over at me and replied, “I wouldn’t worry about it. We have plenty of time.”

“How long have we been here?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ve camped here before, and when I left, it was still the same day. Maybe a few hours had passed,” she told me. “It’s not always consistent, though.”

“This place is quite the conundrum, isn’t it,” I murmured, mostly to myself. It wasn’t a question I was asking or expected an answer to.

We sat there for a while, legs dangling off the edge. The ocean breeze tossed her hair, and there was a faint hint of salt in the air. The sun, much brighter than ours, sank on the horizon, radiating reds and yellows across the sky and making the water shimmer.

“Are you going to tell anyone about this?” she asked.

“No, I don’t think that I will.”

We talked for a while and agreed to meet the next weekend. She would bring the food and camping supplies, while I purchased the climbing gear I didn’t have, plus an inflatable boat from the surplus store. I figured a week’s worth of supplies should be sufficient.

I slept well the first few nights, but after that, my excitement kept me from getting the rest I needed. She beat me to the parking lot, her familiar Not Abandoned note appearing on her dash. I left a note too, just an arrow and the words I’m with stupid. Old joke reference that she probably wouldn’t get, but it made me laugh.

“What took you so long?” she said as I turned that last corner to the lookout.

“I’m old,” I replied, and she smiled and extended her hand to me.

“Nice to meet you, Old; I’m April.”

She might get the joke that I left after all, I thought.

“Ready, Grampa?”

“Ha, ha, ha. Yeah, let’s go before someone comes.”

Epilogue

After the earthquake hit, the largest on record for the area, the park was deemed too hazardous to reopen. The landslide and rushing water obliterated most of the trail system and public access areas. Known to be missing was a senior park ranger. Parts of several vehicles were found downstream from the mountain but could not be identified.


I hope you enjoyed my longest short story. I’d love to hear any comments. If you would like to review the entire collection, let me know. Thanks for reading!

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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Sunday Story Share: Part 2

Last week I posted the first chapter of my short story, The View from Here. In its original form it doesn’t have chapters, so I divided it as equally as possible to create the best suspense. Read the first chapter here:

https://linesbyleon.com/2021/01/24/sunday-story-share/

I hope you like the next installment, and if you would like to read and review the entire collection, let me know.

Chapter 2

The pebble seemed to hover there, strangely, a few inches from the cliff face. I pulled it toward me with the branch, and when I had it about two feet away, it finally dropped. My head spun. Did I just really see that? I reached out with the branch and tapped the visible ridge. Then, I moved the branch away from the rock wall and slowly lowered it until … it stopped. There’s something there, preventing the branch from dropping, but I can’t see it. I dragged the tip further outward, and it dropped away, three inches from the wall. I looked around and behind me. I was alone—and freaked out.

I lifted the branch, brought it down hard on the invisible barrier, and it broke. I tried to put the pieces together: footprint on the rail, visible ledge, invisible ledge … three pieces of a five-hundred-piece puzzle. Not much to go on. I still had time before I would need to head back, so I made up my mind to satisfy my curiosity.

I climbed over the rail, holding on tighter than I ever had before. I stretched my left foot out to where the rock was and slowly placed it on the … whatever it was. It felt solid, so I put a bit more weight on it. I took my left hand off the rail and put my fingers into the crack above my head. It was deep enough and had an edge thick enough to feel comfortable. Next was the right hand. I ran my hand along the railing to erase the hand and footprints. If I fall, no one will ever know.

With both hands and feet ready, I moved along the ledge. It seemed to get a bit wider as I inched around the corner. The observation lookout disappeared from my sight as I made my way between the pillar of rock and the cliff face. The space was just wide enough for me to stand sideways, my back to the cliff. There would be no way someone standing on the lookout could see this. To my left, a dark crevasse both beckoned and scared me.

Moving slowly sideways, I squeezed through into the darkness. I expected to feel cold, but there was no change. Suddenly, I was in complete darkness, and I stopped moving. I couldn’t see anything, even when I looked back to where I had come in. I should be able to see light. Did I go blind? Feeling panicky, I moved in the reverse direction and immediately was bathed in sunlight. What the—?

It’s not a pleasant feeling to look down and see yourself as half a body. My right side was on the ledge that I had come in on; the other side, well, I couldn’t see anything—just blackness. I tapped my leg with my left fingertips. I could feel that. I moved my whole body into the light, then took a flashlight out of my pack and turned it on. Pointing it toward the entrance revealed nothing. I mean nothing—no reflection, no penetration. This is so weird, I thought.

Sliding back into the crevasse was the same as before. I found myself in complete darkness. I tapped my flashlight on the palm of my hand, without result. Clicking it on and off proved futile. I stood there, quietly, with my back to the wall. For a brief instant, I thought I heard something.

I listened as carefully as I could. I thought I heard movement or breathing, but the darkness was so heavy that it was difficult to tell if the one producing the sound was me or someone—or something—else. It felt like being in a sensory deprivation tank, where time seems meaningless. Did I stand there for a minute, two, more? I reached around, put my flashlight in my pocket, and snapped it shut.

“Hello?” I said quietly, “Is there someone here?” Nothing. “I know someone is here. I saw your boot print on the railing.”

“Shit.” A female voice came out of the darkness.

“I can hear you, but I can’t tell from where,” I said.

“You are probably pretty freaked out. I know I was,” she answered.

I found myself talking quietly. I don’t know why. “That’s an understatement. Where are we? I can’t see a thing, and my flashlight died.”

“Light doesn’t work in here, and sound travels in an odd way, too.”

I realized that I couldn’t tell if she was near or farther away. “Where are you?”

“Weird, huh?” There was a pause, as if she were trying to decide whether to reveal anything. “I have a spot here where I feel safe. Maybe I’ll tell you, maybe I won’t.” She let out a quiet laugh.

“When did you find this place?”

“About a year ago. I’ve come about ten times. Well, in here, I mean. I’ve come up the trail a lot, but if there are other people, I just turn around.”

“So, you come up here and sit in the darkness?”

She started to laugh. “No, no. There’s a lot more to it.”

I figured it was time to introduce myself. “I’m Thomas, by the way.” I had encroached on her secret, and there was no backing out of this.

“April,” was all she said.

“So …” I tried to choose my words carefully, “it’s not like I’m just going to turn around and leave, and I don’t want to scare you. Do you mind telling me what this place is?”

Again, she let out a laugh, but this time it seemed nervous. “Scare me? You should be the one who is scared. I could leave without you knowing and—” She stopped. “You could get stuck in here.”

“OK, OK, I didn’t mean it as a threat. I just mean, this place seems pretty special, not just for you, but in general. Look. Put yourself in my place. Would you be able to just leave without finding out more?”

I waited for her to respond. “I guess not. It’s just, you know, hard to accept that it’s not my secret anymore.”

“I’m lucky you don’t have a gun. You … don’t have a gun, do you?” There was no answer for far too long.

“No,” she answered finally. “I don’t.”

I thought for a while, trying to craft what to say next.

“So, what do you do here?”

“Well, I started by exploring, mapping in my mind the perimeter of the … room. It’s not really a cave, you know. Feel the wall.” For the first time, I turned and placed my hands on the wall behind me.

“It’s smooth.”

“Yup.”

“How big?”

“About thirty by thirty, but not square.”

“And what’s in here?” I asked.

“Nothing. It’s what’s out there that is the interesting part.”

I was puzzled. “Out where?”

“One moment, I’ll show you.” I heard some rustling, then a light thump, like cat feet hitting the floor. I stood still, trying to discern where the sound had come from.

“Move to your left along the wall until you come to a bit of a curve,” she said. I did what I was told, slowly, and after about a minute, I felt the wall fall away behind me.

“Get down and keep following,” she directed. I had a moment of panic. Was she tricking me, drawing me into a trap? Why am I just blindly obeying this person? Is it a person?

“I’m not sure about all this. Where are you?”

“Follow me.” I jumped a bit; the voice was right in front of me. “Here, take my hand.” I felt air move in front of my face. I reached out and was relieved to find myself touching a hand, a hand smaller than mine but seemingly strong for its size. “Not much further, “ she said. “It’s worth it.” I sensed her crouching down, and I did the same. As we crawled along, I could feel the space narrowing, but thankfully not to the point where it felt too tight.

“I’m going to go ahead; just follow and watch your eyes,” she told me, and it was suddenly quiet.

I moved forward—and was instantly blinded by sudden brilliance. My arm came up reflexively to cover my eyes, and I raked my hand along the wall. “Ouch!” I yelled and put my head down with my arms over it. I heard her giggle.

“I warned you,” she said, still laughing.

I opened my eyes, and through the small space between my uplifted arms I could see a ledge ahead of me. Behind me was blackness, just like the place where I had entered.

“Just move ahead a bit, or you’ll hit your head when you get up,” I heard her say. I crawled forward and began to sit up.

Sitting on the ledge was a woman with shoulder-length brown hair in a ponytail, hiking shorts and a t-shirt, her bare feet dangling over the edge. She looked to be in her early thirties, maybe younger—I could tell she was fit. She looked over and smiled. “Here we are,” she said as she flung her arms wide to indicate the openness.

We were on a ledge on the sheer face of a cliff. I couldn’t tell how high it went, and below, I could just make out water, gently lapping along the base of the cliff. There was water as far as I could see—except, I thought, for a patch of darkness on the horizon. The sky had a few long wispy clouds, but was mostly … not blue. It had a violet hue to it. There were no shadows from the cliff, and I couldn’t tell where the sun (a sun?) was.

Apparently the look on my face said it all. April looked at me and said, “Wow, huh?”

I was speechless.

(Tune in next Sunday for the exciting conclusion!)


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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readers thoughts

Thursday Thoughts: Re-Reads

There are many books that I have re-read. The mark of a good/great book is one that compels you to return for another go. There are many reasons for a re-read:

– You missed something the first time. I do this a lot. Usually it is because I read at night and I fall asleep and forget
– It is exciting
– It tugs at your heartstrings
– You can relate to it
– It is so well written that you enjoy it just as much as the first time
– It brings back memories of where you were when you first read it.

So here is a list of books that I have read more than once, not in any particular order (not even alphabetical you ask? Nope, not even alphabetical…)

Ready Player One
Alive
Breakfast of Champions
Slaughterhouse Five
The Foundation Trilogy (and beyond)
Ringworld
Klondike
Cather in the Rye
The Stand
The Long Walk
The Chrysalids
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and the other ones)
A Canticle for Leibowitz
The Arctic Grail
Oryx and Crake
A Wrinkle in Time
The Lord of the Rings
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (and all The Far Sides)

There’s probably more…What books have you read over and over (or just over)?

-Leon

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humor readers thoughts

Read the Movie or Watch the Book

From inner dialogue to background information, many elements are going to be missed as a book is transformed into a movie. It is a challenging art form to do justice to a piece of literature. It is exciting to know that your favorite book is going to come to life on the movie screen (I don’t know if they are silver anymore). It can also be disappointing since other’s visions can greatly differ from your own. We all have our idea of what the characters and setting should look.
 
When I was young, I wasn’t familiar with actresses and actors, so it wasn’t difficult to believe that they were the characters that were portrayed. Case in point (and I know Star Wars is not a book but hear me out), Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher will always be Han, Luke, and Leia to me. When a book comes to life with a famous person a role, it does make it that much harder to accept them as that character. Not impossible, but just a bit more work.
 
The setting is not going to be exactly as you picture it. It could be close, or it could be way off. It is fun to see high-definition scenery compared to fuzzy mental pictures. It was a bit disjointed though, to see the Hogwarts grounds change between films.
 
I try to read the book before seeing the movie and I never get my hopes up. Here are some of the hits and misses in my opinion:
 
The Martian: As I was reading the book, I kept thinking, “This is written like a movie”. I could be wrong, but I think the author wrote this with a movie in mind. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I enjoyed the book.
 
Mars looked as close as it could. I’ve seen so many pictures (I’m a space/astronomy buff) that for me it would be difficult to make it completely convincing. My question is: Why is Jason Bourne there? I thought he did a good job.
 
Ready Player One: If you’ve read my previous ramblings, you know that I’ve read this book a few times. I was excited when the movie was announced. I didn’t recognize the actors, so that was good. Some of my favorite parts were omitted and others made just for the movie. That was fine, a few more topical ideas allowed it to reach a younger demographic. I heard a complaint that there was too much CGI (ummm, it took place mostly in a virtual world, what did you expect?).
 
The Hunger Games (the first one): Visually it was very close to what I imagined. Woody from Cheers was odd at first, although he grew on me.
 
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: If I hadn’t seen “The Office” (UK), Martin Freeman would have been perfect. He was very good in this role and I quickly forgot the previous character. Set wise, it was close to my vision… I’m glad they stopped at one movie though.
 
Dune: Not even going to go there…
 
Field of Dreams: I admit I saw the movie first. It was quite a while later that I read Shoeless Joe. A few things were different, the reference to J.D. Salinger was changed, but overall, it was true to the book. It was also refreshing to see Darth Vader in civilian clothes.
 
The Lord of the Rings: Three long books, three 2 1/2 hour movies. There were so many scenes left out, but I understand the reason (5+ hour movies?). Visually it was stunning. Jackson picked perfect locations and I couldn’t fault any of the choices. A few recognizable actors, but that didn’t detract much. I thought the effect of the Ents was a bit cheap though.
 
The Hobbit: Short book, three long movies. Should have thought harder for the LOTRs. Hey, there’s that guy from The Office again (it was a good choice).

World War Z: The book was not what I was expecting, having picked it up after several seasons of The Walking Dead. But I was great book. The movie was not what I expected, after reading the book. To be fair, if the movie was exactly like the book, it would have been a yawner.

The Bourne Identity: Again, here is a book that I read much later. The book is very different from the movie, so it is difficult to compare. I liked them both.

The Chronicles of Narnia: My favorite book series as a kid. Each of the movies so far have been well realized. The actors that were chosen, look very close to what I imagined. Liam Neeson has a great voice, but I wish I didn’t know him. Side note: I always took pride in knowing-and obnoxiously correcting- that The Magician’s Nephew was the first book. Boy, was I an ass.


There are more that I could talk about if I could remember them. What movies would you add? 

-Leon