Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ensuring That Internet Reviews Are Fair

First up, in the interests of full disclosure, let me say I was harassed on Amazon and by email by a malicious reviewer/troll. I discovered a series of fake one star reviews on other peoples books and when I pointed that out on an authors forum, she turned her attention to me. It took A LOT of emails to amazon to get her reviews removed, despite proof in the form of emails, her IP address and the threats from her email, proof that she was selling good amazon reviews on Fourrer not to mention, her own review account’s extremely suspect behaviour. It wasn’t so much a case that her review dragged down my average rating, they didn’t by any a noticeable amount, it was that someone had threatened and harassed me, and Amazon just wanted to ignore it. It wasn’t right that she be allowed to get away with it (which is why I brought her to the attention of other authors she had targeted) and considering the abundance of evidence I provided, it should not have been as hard as it was to get her malicious reviews taken off.

Feel free to go read that saga if you’re up for it but it isn’t necessary for this post.

It’s because of this incident that I’ve given this subject (how to ensure that reviews are fair, without a knee jerk reaction) a lot of thought. 

You’ll see some of my earlier ideas in the comments of that thread. None of those were perfect (and this probably isn’t either) but I believe it’s the best option to ensure fairness for all parties, ie, reviewers, as well as the people, products and businesses being reviewed. 

Online reviews are a hot topic at the moment. People like Anne Rice are pressing for reviewers not to be allowed to be anonymous on sites like Amazon, while reviewers on Trip Advisor are being sued personally, for leaving bad reviews about establishments.

So what’s the answer?

There are a few things first that we have to admit before we can have a reasonable discussion about this.

1) People do leave fake malicious reviews. Sometimes to get back at an ex (or his new partner in one case i read of), because of a grudge or vendetta, or just because they're trolls

Monday, 16 December 2013

Fanfiction and the forth wall

If you haven't heard by now, at a preview screening of  Sherlock, Caitlain Moran went out of her way to trick the actors into reading a saucy slash-fiction aloud, making them, the producers and the audience uncomfortable.

This was done without the fic writers consent and she is not happy about it.

 To Caitlin? Thank you for spoiling something I found joy in. Thank you for humiliating me, taking my writing out of context without permission, belittling it and using it to embarrass actors who I deeply admire. Thank you for tainting the one thing sometimes that gets me through the day when I have two screaming kids, someone’s drawn on the walls in their own poo, and I have to drive through peak hour traffic yet again because my husband’s forgotten his glasses for work. Thanks for that support, Caitlin.

As you know, while I am a professional writer, I am also still a fanfic writer, although my time for that is limited these days. I support it as a creative outlet, it's hepful on so many levels, from helping the author (and readers) work through personal issues, to just helping people become a part of a community, which can be lifesaving for some people. When I'm at my lowest, it's fanfic I read, not novels.

We all know there's a lot of bad fic out there but so what? Those writers don't deserve to be belittled or humiliated, any more than overhearing someone in the coffee shop humming a really bad version of  the Killers needs humiliating. This is a fun creative outlet for people and where is the harm? Good or bad, fluff or NC17, characters or RPF, let it be.

A saving grace, in this is perhaps, that Steven Moffat (and possibly Mark Gatiss too) used to write Dr Who fanfiction, long before the series was brought back and they got jobs on New Who. so hopefully they are well aware that this is just a hobby, that no disrespect was meant, and that they too would probably have been mortified to have their own amateur stories read aloud by their Who heroes.

Caitlin Moran has always been a polarising figure but I used to be mostly on Caitlin's side; she had her flaws but spoke a lot of sense, was basically a good person and had a great sense of humour, therefore was an interesting person to follow on twitter. I'm un-following her now. Intentionally humiliating anyone is not cool and she seems to have gone out of her way to humiliate fans, actors and producers.

See, I do have a sense of humour. What CM did wasn't funny.
You know when your weird Aunt Sally gives you that awful Christmas jumper every year, which you wear once on the day, and then consign to the bottom drawer for the rest of eternity? If you don't like fanfic, or you don't like some aspects of fanfic, consign it to your bottom drawer and forget about it because, like your Aunt Sally, those writers worked hard on that story and even if you hate it, there's a real person who could be very hurt by unasked for and (frankly) uninformed* opinions.

*And if you do happen to have a degree in creating writing, work as a professional reviewer, journalist, or are a professional writer yourself and therefore are qualified to comment, rememberer these are amateurs, not professionals. 

This is a hobby. Would you expect Len Goodman to walk around a disco critiquing your dancing? No. There is a time and place for criticism but fanfic, and any amateur creative endeavours in general, is neither. It's also not fodder for your amusement,

EDIT: To those who are angry with Benedict Cumberbatch for saying that slash fic was ludicrous, he means such a storyline within the confines of the show. Sherlock is almost A-sexual and on the one occasion he is interested, it's in girls; he shows no signs of being gay. That doesn't mean that Benedict Cumberbatch is homophobic and indeed, he presided over his gay friends wedding earlier this year.

Fans are also levelling charges of homophobia and queerbaiting at the show itself. I don't think anyone denies that the show teases when many people ask if John and Sherlock are gay, and they repeatedly have to deny it, but when one of the producers and creators is gay (Mark Gatiss), you can hardly think homophobic. It's a tease, not a bait and is not meant to harm or ridicule.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Teaser Time! Season's Meetings

Time for another sample! Curl up on these cold winter nights with a delightful romance.

The Blurb! 

Unable to face Christmas with her family and the famous sister who stole her fiancé, Annie Powell books into a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands.

Mac Hartman isn’t looking forward to the holidays either but when Annie turns up on his doorstep, he is instantly attracted to her.

In the beautiful, snow-covered mountains, love blossoms and what could have been a miserable experience, becomes a fairy-tale. But all fairy-tales must come to an end and real life doesn’t have happy ever afters.  

Can their budding romance survive Annie’s fears, and her seductive sister, who seems determined to steal Annie’s happiness?  

Season's Meetings is a fantastic festive read, to warm you up on those cold winter evenings.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Some Important Female Scientists That You've Probably Never Heard Of

In my last post I discussed how and why Damaris's character was formed. In this one, I'll introduce you to a handful of the women scientists who helped me create the intellectual side of her. She is not based on any one person here and indeed, many have little in common with her, but are nevertheless worthy of being remembered for their contributions to science. 

Caroline Herschel came to England from German in 1772, to run her brother’s house for him. When her brother took an interest in Astronomy, Caroline followed and helped him make observations and build telescopes, becoming a renowned astronomer in her own right. She was the first woman to discover a comet and discovered 8 in total, and she had her work published by the Royal Society. She was also the first British women to be paid for her work, when her brother convinced his patron to pay her an annual wage. 

By the time of her death at age 97 in 1848 she had received many honours, including a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society and between them, she had her brother discovered 2,400 new stars.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Deconstructing Damaris

When writing Her Saving Grace, I was prepared for a backlash from the historical puritans (which so far, hasn’t come) but it might surprise many people to know that the science loving, polymath, Damaris Wellesley, is based on real people

Now when we think women and science, especially the origins of women in science, we perhaps think of Marie Curie, or she would at least be high on our list, but while she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was far from the first female scientist. 

Science didn’t begin as we know it today with structure and form, overseen by teachers, conducting experiments that thousands have done before and if one wishes to pursue a career in science, getting a job working for a profit company, or working for a university and applying for research grants. 

Granted, many scientists did teach at universities, but just as many if not more, did not. Science was, to my modern understanding, more what might be considered a hobby. Wealthy men with money, no profession, time and curiosity, set up rooms or laboratories and thought about stuff, then set about devising ways to prove the conclusions that had come to. They dabbled in science, almost. The gifted could also be supported by scientific institutions or wealthy patrons, although they were most certainly middle class, or raised and educated by a charitable institution. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

I am so fucking tired of constantly and consistently being overlooked.

Growing up dyslexic is hard enough. Growing up as an undiagnosed dyslexic is even harder.

While there wasn't a lot of help for dyslexics when I was a child, the diagnosis mostly stopped people (mostly teachers) from belittling them and when they were belittled, one hopes that had enough grasp of their condition to realise that it wasn't stupidity, it's hat they need to process information in a different way. I'd like to think they might also have been made aware of their strengths, innate abilities which many "normal" people don't possess.

Without that diagnosis however, it's a free for all on making a kid feel inadequate and stupid, without giving the kid any way to understand why they find certain so called east things, so hard.

There were things that I was good at of course, and things that came far more easily to be than to my "normal" classmates, such as maths and physics. You would think that someone who performs well in areas which are traditionally viewed as difficult, would be praised and rewarded.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Her Saving Grace, Chapters 1-3

Sample time! Here comes the book blurb.

Countess Damaris Wellesley has suffered more loss in her 25 years than most people suffer in a lifetime and to protect her shattered heart, has closed herself off from Society and taken refuge in her books. When the remains of her long missing father are discovered though, she is determined to see justice for him and ventures out into the world once more.

As Justice of the Peace, Nathaniel Copley views it as his duty to discover what befell her late father but she is too wary of his intentions to help. 

Thinking him arrogant and superior, she flatly refuses to cooperate with his investigation. Finding her behaviour to be impertinent and abrasive, he tries to dismiss her from his thoughts. 

It doesn’t take Nathaniel long to realise that she is something special and worth fighting for but even although she agrees to help him investigate, her heart proves far harder to secure than her help. 

*Links to buy at the end of post.