Thursday, December 27, 2012

Online Life Insurance Quote Us

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

A rant to match the new address: Indies again.

How are you, guys? Sorry if you have been searching for my blog and got the following message:

Yep, I've been a naughty girl and changed the blog address. I started a new site for my books and what inspired me to write them, and wanted to have this blog for ranting purposes and all the other stuff I'm blogging about. I thought it's time to separate them. The book site is for readers only and this one is for anyone who's interested in what I have to say.

Right, and because this blog is called Stella Deleuze rants, it's only appropriate if I launch right into one.

You know the newest petition that's making the round? The one against Amazon's deleting reviews without explanation? Well, I'm not going to sign it. And I'll tell you why: Indies with their fake reviews, with their attacking reviewers, with their slagging off or tagging and sabotaging other authors' books, shouldn't be surprised that Amazon takes to those measures. Amazon probably gets thousands of requests to remove negative reviews from furious self-published authors who think their precious book doesn't deserve the 1-star review it received, or they get abuse reported because someone doesn't like it that a fellow author, who just happens to be higher in the charts, gets a bloody, and probably fake 5-star review! How dare he! Amazon, do something about it!
I could imagine that all the recent press about uncovered fake reviews pressured Amazon to make changes. And, as usual, Indies brought it upon themselves. Shame it's the bad apples that make everyone suffer. Yet again. Even if the petition would work, which I somehow doubt, it would just result in Amazon having constant e-mail battles with Indie authors who appeal Amazon's explanation as to why they'd removed reviews. And we still would have a continuation of the same fake review/slagging off nonsense.
I'm sick and tired to hear about the complaints about the issue revolving around reviews. The only people I find it unfair against is when it happens to honest reader reviews; those readers who took the time to draft a write up to help other readers make a decision. I don't get why authors with 50+ reviews throw a hissy fit when three of them get deleted. Yes, it may temper with your star-rating, but heck. If you have already over 50 reviews your book is probably selling well enough. If the book's not selling at all, three more or less reviews will hardly make a difference, right?
Those of us who only have very few reviews (and I'm one of them), and received them from readers, not authors, are pretty safe, I would assume. I only got one 5-star-review removed from Tony (an author) who happened to love my book. It was put back in place when he enquired. And, as expected, a case of another Indie who didn't take it too well that Tony didn't like his book, reported abuse and asked Amazon to remove it. As a result, all of Tony's reviews were deleted. He'd just been honest.
I don't blame Amazon for having enough of it. I really don't. What worries me the most is that if Indies don't stop, Amazon may one day decided to ban all of us and return to work with traditional publishers only. 
By the way: one of my books with only one (5-star) review proves to be my bestseller, leaving the one with 15 reviews, overall rated 4.5 stars, easily behind.

Indies, stop complaining and get on with writing. Your readers will thank you for it. And if you really are that cross with Amazon, take your books elsewhere. It's not that anyone forces you to sell through Amazon. And don't complain they have the monopoly on the market: you've made it happen.

Note: shoes are there, put them on on own peril. :-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ask and you will get

I'm one of the millions of people who received a letter from Virgin Media announcing a raise in prices. My first reaction was to leave and find a new provider, but looking at other companies' tariffs, I think I'm actually in good hands with Virgin. I only have broadband through fibre optic cable and, despite a few down times, like yesterday where it was down for hours (!), it's quite reliable. I don't need a landline, although that may change next year, and I don't have a telly, so it's just broadband and me.
Since I'm from an insurance background, I know that in case of a price increase, customers have the right to 'break' the contract without any fines, and can sign with a new company, so I checked the small print and found that that applied to my contract with Virgin, too. Well, I hate hassle, and to avoid that I called them up and asked them what they can do for me. After a bit of haggling I'll end up paying 15p more, but it will still be around �5 less each month than the normal price. This will include a renewal of my 12 months contract.
It pays to ask because the companies don't want to lose customers, particularly not if they've been with them for years. You need to be a little persistent, though, they won't offer you anything right away, but if you make clear that you expect them to appreciate your loyalty, and if not, you'll leave, they'll normally co-operate. In my time as an insurance broker, I learned that new clients who signed up for a car insurance, always got a better deal than the one who's been with the company for years. You can ring them up and ask them for the newest offer.
I do that regularly: first I check the market, then call up my providers to negotiate, normally with a positive outcome. There's always something companies can do. At least in my experience.
Beware, though, using comparing sites like MoneySupermarket or uSwitch, as they may not have the cheapest tariffs available. I found it's better to call the individual companies directly and ask what their latest tariffs are, then compare yourself. It's a bit more labour intensive, but if it saves you money, why not? Depending on how much, you can put it aside for a lovely night out or towards a new Kindle, a holiday or a car. Whatever takes your fancy.

Note: Make sure you have checked other companies before agreeing to anything. Providers will try to get a 'yes' out of you quickly. If unsure, check again and don't agree to anything if put on the spot. Ask for a time frame, until when you need to make a decision, then note it down together with the name of the person you're discussing with and date and time of the call so you can refer to that particular conversation.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The man in my life ...

A wonderful Green Iguana named Zorro. I have had him since August 2008 when he was just three years old. Took him from a couple who couldn't keep him anymore. My little female one died after a complicated surgery, age fifteen, and I still think she died of broken heart when she woke and thought I've abandoned her (had to leave her with a friend when I moved to the UK and she didn't take it very well). Long story and I think I told it before. So, because I can't imagine my life without an iguana, I looked for another one. And I wanted a 'rescue', as there are so many adult iguanas waiting for a loving and knowledgeable home. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that my biggest dream is to open a Reptile Rescue & Education centre here in London, but I doubt it's going to happen any time soon. Nothing can be more rewarding (to me) than helping abandoned animals to find a new home for them.

This big boy of mine is my medicine, is the one that really makes me smile, laugh even and, despite him being so aggressive, I love him to bits. Although in Zorro's case, it's literally unconditional; I doubt he loves me back like my little girl used to do.
Nevertheless, I'm glad to have him and would not give him away.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ouch! I stepped on stage and I got booed.

I've wrangled with the thought about writing this. Should I, or should I not? Well, I decided if I write about positive reviews, I'm allowed to write about negative reviews, too, right?
Particularly if it smells extraordinarily strong of 'let's see if she can take it'. Please don't get me wrong, it's not a complaint; I knew that with my constant bashing of the self-published books that failed to make me sit up, I was ripe for some payback. And it happened. Finally.
I'm aware there is some sabotaging of self-published books going on, and I've been 'victim' of that beforehand when my books were tagged inappropriately, but I confronted the culprit and he apologised, saying something got on his nerves that day, then removed the tag. Never had any beef with that guy, but he obviously didn't know how else to get rid of his frustration and targeted me.
This time, someone has left a review on one of my books. Something I said would happen. And since I mention No Wings Attached in the recently released rant, it was the one that got picked. Despite it looking like an honest review, it ticks quite a few boxes for me to suspect payback.
1. It's not a verified purchase and I haven't sold any on Smashwords, and very few on Amazon.
2. It uses the same wordings I use in Rage against the Indie
3. The person hasn't reviewed any books, bar one, then quickly wrote a few on the same day as my review came in.
4. The person claims to have turned the pages (presumably until the end), but complaints about no paranormal/supernatural happenings. (The wish consultant is not the supernatural human being I refer to in the pitch.)
5. The review was immediately voted as helpful, despite my not promoting the book a lot. All other reviews have suddenly been marked as unhelpful. Nobody had ever bothered with them beforehand. At least not the newer ones.

Here's the review:

I dicovered this title through the 'customers who viewed this item, also viewed..' sector on a novel I was interested in, and I foolishly chose this one. The only reason I'm giving this novel two stars and not one is because I was drawn in by a comfortable writing style and interesting premise. This, however, was a lie. The storyline went downhill so fast that I was tearing my hair out and begging the characters to stop cooking and talking and just start doing something. *Anything*. But I was sorely disappointed when the main two characters did little more than um and ah about their feelings. Okay, that's fine. I can expect little else from a romance, after all. Too bad about the use of the words 'supernatural powers' in the description. Highly misleading, considering there is nothing super about a guy who grants the odd wish, but there you go.
I can overlook a terrible plot. This novel was crafted in an interesting way, following Celia and Tom as narrators by giving them both a voice every few pages or so. But wait, who am I reading about? Yes, it says the narrator at the start of their narration, but what if a reader leaves partway through a chapter? Are we to go back to the start? You'd think that the characters would be easy to tell apart. That their voices would be different. No chance. They might as well be the same person, which shows a serious lack of perspective from this author.
Moving on. I could write about every flaw of this novel, bit that would most probably take longer than the production of No Wings Attached. Instead, I'll move onto the most infuriating aspect; punctuation. There is a massive overuse of commas, and they were so extreme that I actually threw my kindle down in frustration multiple times, unable to read on. It made me read in a very disconnected way and, coupled with poor sentence structure, I was made to feel as though I was reading in an unfamiliar language. Words had been dumped out of order, commas littered each sentence, and typos would crop up unexpectedly.
Please heed my warning. My rating really is too kind, as I have never before read something as terrible as this. I feel cheated. The premise promised something that was never delivered. The only reason I kept turning pages was to ensure my money wasn't wasted, but I can say now that it was. More importantly, my time was wasted, and a small chunk of sanity was lost along the way.

To be honest it raised merely a grin, but shows that how the Indie scene really is. Readers complain (rightly so) about fake praise, and this is the other end to the debacle: fake slagging off books. It can do massive harm. Even though readers say they can tell a fake negative review, I'm not sure one can always distinguish. In the case of No Wings Attached, you just need to read the other reviews to get your clues and write something up. I also have an idea who this person might be, because the voice sounds familiar.

Just to be clear: I'm not offended. I am bold with my view on self-published books and I've made some enemies along the way. You've got to bleed if you want to win a battle.

A quick plea: DO NOT act on the review. Don't go and attack the person, don't vote unhelpful, don't do anything, please. I'm not complaining, it's not a whiny post, it's just a matter-of-fact-post. I blog about self-publishing and the Indie scene behind the scenes, and this is just an example. I'm sure there will be more coming my way, at least I know my writing's not the reason.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

When a review makes me spit out my tea.

After unleashing my rant onto the unsuspecting self-published authors, I honestly didn't know what would come my way; I expected abusive e-mails, negative reviews or attacks from everywhere. The reality surprised me. Lots of e-mails and messages telling me how much they laughed when they read the book, people admitting they recognised themselves, and thanking me for publishing a very helpful guide. I'm still a little gobsmacked to be honest. I feared my intentions weren't clear and people may take it the wrong way, when all I really want to do is help writers who think about self-publishing or those who've already done so and struggle to understand why their books aren't selling. Humour is what comes naturally to me, and as a Ranting Queen, I think it was a must to write that book as a rant. And it is harsh, but more tough love than anything else.

I received 4 reviews so far, 3 on the other side of the pond and 1 in the UK. I've also been told, and I'm hanging my head in shame, that there are a few typos, but somehow, I expected them. I was careful when proofing, took my time, but they still sneaked in. The perils of doing most of the work yourself, I guess.
Anyway, if you know someone who is toying with the thought of self-publishing, or maybe even someone who's just starting out to write, please share the news about the book. I hardly ask and I'm normally against it, but this is a book for writers, not aimed to make me a bit profit. The only people who should profit from the book are writers. :-)

Have a good Sunday.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

And now to you, npower!

You see, I've been with your company for almost six years and, despite a few hiccups in the beginning, when you thought it's a good idea to increase my bills without letting me know and, more importantly, without any reason, but paying me back after I'd called you twice, it all ran quite smoothly. Even better: my bills became less and less, because I'm a considerate person who tries to save energy where she can. I even got a new gas meter, which I feared may increase the costs, (as I've been told by the friendly gas man) but it didn't. Lucky me.
Of course I was pretty pleased when my bills for gas and electricity got less and less. And that is because I don't own a telly or stereo or any other entertaining equipment. I also use energy saving light bulbs everywhere and only light and heat the room I'm in. Clever, innit?
Well, apart from the iguana, which requires heat. So in 2010 I got a large vivarium for the big boy, and with it, I got a 150W ceramic heat emitter, two 100W basking bulbs, and a heating mat, which all cost a lot of money. And in the winter I swapped the 150W heat emitter for 250W. But still, my bills became less. Mind you, I only used my laptop all day and one single energy saving bulb in the evening, plus the electric cooker. And I only heated the living room/bedroom and in the bathroom for short periods. (It was a studio flat). When it was really cold, I even had the heating on most of the day and often a few hours at night. It was a very old and cold building.
Nevertheless, I ended up paying �19 a month for both, gas and electricity. Surely, you can see that I was pretty happy about it. I knew my neighbours didn't pay much either. Why? Because I asked them.

Okay, in January 2012, I moved into a 1-bedroom flat. Which was all pretty exciting and wonderful, but maybe you could explain to me why I have to pay �106 per month now! Because I really don't understand. I have the same equipment, same iguana, same light and heating bulbs, and I've not changed my behaviour: I still only light and heat (much less) the room I'm in, yet the costs increase. I'd like to know why.

When I called you and explained my situation, your staff kept babbling about the vivarium using most of the energy, which is logical, but it used the same energy beforehand, so that doesn't make sense, does it? I'm sure you will agree that if I have one lamp in one flat and carry the same lamp to another flat, it should use the same amount of energy, right? So I don't need your staff to tell me I should talk to your energy advice department, because I know my bills should be a little higher due to the vivarium. I wouldn't say anything if I had to pay a little more because the radiator is bigger than in my old flat, but how come that I'm paying that much of a difference? I mean between �19 and �106 is a large gap. Even with the credit I had, and I would have paid about �30 without it. It's still a huge difference. And no, I don't think my meters in the old place ran particularly slow, as you'd like argue.

Every time when I call you, you merrily tell me I have to pay even more because I dared to use some gas for having a shower, or even heating a little. And, as you can imagine, I'm not impressed. At all!