Hallowe’en, All Hallows Eve…Samhain – when the ghosts walk among us
Welcome to Hallowe’en, the day when the boundaries between worlds grow weak.
Malicious spirits and the unquiet dead press across thresholds, seeking revenge, closure…or entertainment. With the rise of the Christian church, and the prohibition of the ancient rituals, their access has grown easier as the years pass.
Before All Hallows Eve, when Christianity prefers that the world consider the lives and the deaths of saints and martyrs, was Samhain, the night between – between the old year and the new, between summer and autumn, between death and life itself.
The ancient Celtic clans left offerings of food outside their homes to appease the wandering, the mischievous, and the malevolent, hoping that they would accept the gifts and take trouble elsewhere.
Bonfires were fed through the night on the hills and in the villages to hold back the forces of death and decay.
Others wore masks, hoping to confuse the vengeful dead and see them take their search elsewhere until the dawn came.
Today, disguises and food are a ritual for children, and bonfires cause air pollution. The ancient rites of the Light are nearly extinguished, and the dead rejoice as the veils thin.
Watch yourself, as the world turns closer and closer to Samhain, and voices murmur in empty rooms. Watch yourself, when you feel a chill. Watch yourself, when you see a familiar face in the crowd.
…well, they do pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, reliably and within the meagre range of my budget; they offer author resources and services, including outreach to book bloggers, promo images, beta reading, blog tours, Facebook and Twitter management, and they’re willing to talk to you about other things on an ad-hoc basis.
I first met RAR! through my review blog (oh, yes, I do). They struck me as professional, (extremely) patient, and someone to look up when I had some cash to throw at book reviews for my own books. Among other things, I especially appreciated that they stayed in touch on social media, and seemed to have a similar sense of humour. (I’m not sure if that last is actually a compliment, but moving on…).
Ryder Author Resources recently (well, since July 2018) updated their website, and the services they offer out of the box are clearly outlined on their author services page, along with how to get in touch with them to discuss other things.
They offer either package quotes, or an hourly rate for longer-term things, like looking for book reviewers. For longer-term things, they send out weekly updates to you on what they’ve been up to and how it’s going. The invoices show up monthly and itemised, with online credit card payment options – it’s all very painless and simple.
Awesome! Not only have they patiently and persistently hunted down sci-fi reviewers, they also put me onto Hidden Gems, and all told Through the Hostage is now well past the miraculous 15 review mark on Amazon and headed for twenty-five. That’s not even counting readers who review to private blogs and / or Goodreads, or a few fantastic folks who review everywhere they have an account.
I was nervous about going in with any kind of professional publicist, as prior to Ryder Author Resources, I’d had a string of bad experiences, including someone who absconded with a substantial amount of cash and did absolutely nothing, but RAR! has gone a long way to restoring my faith in humanity. The team behind the RAR! are also genuinely nice people, and the weekly update emails and online exchanges are always a fun experience.
I’d definitely go in with them for reviewer outreach, and based on my experience with them on gaining a few more reviews for Through the Hostage, I don’t have any qualms saying that if they say they do something, then it will be done, and you’ll have a fun team behind you on the way.
Society takes itself so damn seriously. There are such a lot of unwritten rules (see also ‘stereotypes’). Sometimes you just need to wear assless chaps and a suit jacket and walk on your hands for a bit. Do something the bastards don’t agree with, it’s good for society as a whole.
This thought came to mind when someone followed my Twitter feed (I know, awesome, right?).
This particular account was for a women’s self-defence organisation. Very laudable, I fully approve of women learning to kick ass. However, this account had a banner image of this determined-looking young woman with a clenched fist stretched out in front of her, the other one resting up on her cheekbone, and immaculate make-up. The sports bra was a nice touch, too. It was very scary. (No, I’m actually not being sarcastic. Bear with me again – I’m about to explain why it was scary.)
Making a fist is important. Doing it wrong means you go all Clint Eastwood on someone and damage yourself much more than their manly jaw (broken hands are not fun. Believe me). This chick was show-casing the how-not-to of fists.
Stretching your fist out as far as you possibly, possibly can is also a really crappy idea. It’s a really crappy idea because it means you’re off-balance, which means all your mugger has to do is grab your arm and yank, and there you are all spread-eagled on your ass for them.
Having a guard up between your head and incoming, on the other hand, is a great idea. However, if your guard hand, all fisted up, is resting on your cheekbone, it’s fundamentally not going to work. Ever seen those little desk ornaments, where there’s a row of suspended ball-bearings, and you can drop the one on one end down and the ball on the other end flies up and away due to transfer of momentum? Similar principle.
‘Cos everyone fights in their undies…
Basically, this women’s defence group’s set-up made me think of all the reasons that every female fighter I’ve ever trained with has put up with years and decades of being patronised rigid, usually by both genders.
Partner up with a male? “Oh, but I don’t hit women!” (Top favourite response I ever heard on the mat to that bit of chauvinistic crap was “That’s fine, I have no problem hitting men.”.)
Get asked by a friend what you do for fun? “Oh my, but surely you can’t enjoy that very much? I mean, women can’t fight, it’s so…violent!”
Listen to that kind of nonsense for a while, and you must either develop a very fuck-you attitude to social stereotypes (you saw that awesome response I quoted, yes?) or you get discouraged and move back into line, and a stereotype gets propped up a little longer.
“Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.” ~ Sir Terry Pratchett
So yes, that particular Twitter account made me groan and pound my head on my desk a little bit; not because I object to women learning to fight (quite the opposite), but because it propped up every single damn stereotype about female fighters while purporting to train women to be all independent and badass.
A truly great banner image would have been a woman who actually knew how to close her fist, standing as if she meant to do some damage, and wearing a top that wouldn’t result in her flashing someone if it got grabbed sparring. I’d have followed like a shot. Retweeted, even.
Hidden Gems advertises as an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) program, although they also accept published books for their reviewers. As well as their core ARC program, Hidden Gems is branching out into cover design and editing.
Once signed up, your book is offered to their readership, and readers request the books they’re interested in reading and reviewing. You aren’t guaranteed any set number of takers, and you aren’t guaranteed any reviews; however, at time of writing, their review rate was 80%, meaning that if 100 of their readers ask for the free copy of your book, you’re likely to get something on the close order of 80 reviews.
Hidden Gems asks for a minimum $20 US for basic set-up and send-out of a book in their newsletter. You must be able to provide an PDF and a MOBI variant of your manuscript file, as well as a cover image JPG. After that, you can set the bar for number of reviewers as high as you want, and you will be billed based on how many people volunteer to read and review.
It’s also a relatively simple submission and payment system, which I really appreciated, and their FAQ is well set up and answered pretty much all of my questions.
Well, I was impressed.
I asked to have Through the Hostage circulated on 24th Sept, and I was notified that 15 people had asked for a copy. By 1st Oct, I’d gone from 10 reviews on Amazon to 23, with a nice mix of ratings. A couple of those readers were also kind enough to copy their reviews to Goodreads and even BookBub.
Hidden Gems is still building their reader base for sci-fi, so I presume that in a more mainstream genre like paranormal romance or new adult, you would probably get a higher number of takers, but frankly, I was very happy.
There are way too many review sites out there that ask for money, state (honestly) that they can’t guarantee a review, and then, sure enough, nothing ever happens. Hidden Gems isn’t one of them. Through organisation or some other alchemy, if one of their readers asks for a book copy, there’s a much better than average chance that they will also choose to leave a review.
There have been books where I had to agonise over the title, and ask for help, and toss coins, and read the cards…Through theHostage wasn’t one of them.
The title was inspired by an old, old Keanu Reeves film, ‘Speed’, where Keanu is working as an American police officer. Near the beginning of the film, his partner’s being held up by the bad guy with a gun to his head, and the partner keeps on mouthing ‘Shoot the hostage!’. In the end, Keanu’s character does just that, and much drama and manly distress ensues.
The concept seemed very appropriate for the first book in the Cortii series. Jack Connagh is the human hostage, held on a Cortiian Base, his only real protection the fact that an alien species has some very powerful leverage over the Councils of the magaii, and those aliens want him alive.
However, given that the magaii are violently allergic to being blackmailed, and that Jack is in the keeping of Khyria’s trainee unit, whose chances of surviving to full Cortia rank get slimmer every day, the chances that someone’s going to shoot him are pretty high. ‘Through the hostage’ seemed uniquely appropriate.