Marchbooks' Blog

April 29, 2009

Some Early Thoughts on Reviews by M.J. Claire

Filed under: Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 5:22 pm

First of all, I am a newbie to writing in almost every sense of the word, but I am eager and quick to learn. I am not a person who has been writing since I was old enough to wield a pen. I started writing about five years ago. It was an accident. But I have never looked back. Somehow, in that time, my muse has found me and the words are flowing. I have never had children, but to me, the conception and birth of a novel are the closest I will ever come. So I can truly understand the emotional attachment most writers have to their stories. I am no different. I send my book out into the world, like a young mother, sending her child to kindergarten. I want everyone to like my offspring, because, as I well know, it is nothing short of perfection. I want everyone else to see that as well.

For the first year or two, I wrote in a vacuum. In that time, I wrote five children’s’ stories that I thought were quite good. I sent them to agents and publishers. Well, most of you can guess the rest. Rejections flooded back to me, some of them kind, most of them perfunctory. ‘How could this be? How could these people fail to recognize greatness when they saw it?’ Ultimately, I came to the realization that many of you have also probably discovered. A review/critique is nothing more than one man/woman’s opinion. So where did that leave me?

Although I was no Rhodes Scholar, I knew that my stories were well written and had substance. So, what now? As luck would have it, or maybe it was my muse working overtime, I shortly thereafter befriended another writer who was tapped into some local writers’ groups. It was scary. Sitting or standing before a sea of unknown faces, I was going to present the fruit of my labor. I enthusiastically read my first story, which I was very proud of. How could these people fail to recognize the greatness of this work? My reading was generally well received, but the comments did not stop with the accolades.

People actually had suggestions for improving my work. ‘The audacity.‘ How dare they? Couldn’t they see that my stories were perfect already? Once I recovered from the gaping wound in my heart, I was able to listen to what they were saying. Of course some people had what seemed to be nitpicky comments, but when I really allowed myself to listen, I was able to hear some constructive suggestions. I listened more carefully and heard that several people were all in agreement on a couple of things. I decided to focus on those comments.

As we were driving home, my friends, feeling liberated by the open discourse, added their own thoughts. The only problem was, if I made the suggested changes, it would require a lot of work and substantial changes to the story. I reluctantly made the changes. When I was finished, I was delighted with the end product. The story was certainly stronger for the revisions. Since then, I have been ravenous for feedback.

I am not perfect, but I try to accept all comments graciously. I have no personal agenda when I give a review and I don’t expect people that review my writing have any axes to grind against me. But I do understand that you can’t make every suggested change. At the end of the day, a review or critique is just one other person’s opinion – very subjective and one is no better than another. So I use this as my guideline; one suggestion is nothing more than that, one opinion. If I hear the same comment from two people, I will look at the suggestion more carefully, but in the end I will still go with my gut. If three or more people are saying the same thing, then I have a consensus and I have to seriously think about making the suggested changes.

I read for enjoyment, as I expect most readers do. I want readers to enjoy my stories. If they don’t, I want to know why. I ask people to be brutal (not mean, but painfully honest) in their review of my writing. I ask this not because I am a Sadomasochist, but because I want my writing to be the best it can be. I want it to have wide appeal and I want it to be memorable. And because I write for people who are readers, how better to discover if my writing meets those criteria than to really listen to how they experienced my writing?

Kelly and Fagan escape from the Black Institute

Kelly and Fagan escape from the Black Institute

April 25, 2009

A Sign of the Times, Buyer Beware by M.J. Claire

Filed under: Comments from our Authors — marchbooks @ 7:49 pm

I don’t often venture into the land of essays.  I live in the world of fiction. Reality is often too harsh and brutal for my tender soul. So, let’s not call this an essay, but rather a commentary, a product review or perhaps a consumer warning.

I think it is no secret that quality control and pride in workmanship have been on a steady decline.  However, is it just me or has everyone seen this phenomenon take a rapid plunge downward of late? It seems that with some (many) companies, there is no longer even a pretense of making the customer happy. I don’t consider myself particularly hard to please, yet when I buy something I still hold onto the expectation that it will perform as promised.

Even large companies feel safe in selling crap (yes, I said it, CRAP) with a high price tag, that is either defective or works below expectations or promises made. It seems to be a sign of the times that these companies’ philosophies have changed to ‘get in, get paid and get lost’. There is no regard for the happiness of the customer, culling repeat business or even ensuring that the product works. There is only lip service given to customer support because the customer no longer matters once the sale is made. If they don’t come back, no problem, there are five more standing in the wings waiting to take their place.

I can cite two examples; one from a major company and one from an internet company that seems to be doing a very good job of hiding their physical entity (with good reason). The first and most recent example is with Kodak. I think everyone has owned a Kodak camera at some point in their lives. You have to believe that they, at one time, knew how to do things right. However, after three calls to their customer service department, I am still not satisfied with the way they are handling the issue of an EasyCare camera that has not worked for a full 60 minutes since I received it a month and a half ago. I am obviously a less than avid photographer.

Over the few times I used this item, performance declined to the point where it will not even stay on long enough to take a picture. In the course of several phone calls, it became apparent that just because Kodak employees are handling customer service complaints in the U.S., fluency in the English language is not a requirement. Nonetheless, I finally got someone who could understand me and did not disconnect me twenty minutes into the call. After all the wasted time on hold and being REPEATEDLY asked to give my personal information, the ‘technical diagnosis’ consisted of this: take the battery out, take the media card out, put the battery back in, try to turn the camera on. Don’t get me wrong, I have the greatest respect for people with technical experience that offer assistance by phone. It must be very difficult and infinitely frustration, but, when the best you can do is ask me to reboot the item – well, that is just a colossal waste of my time.

In the end, I was told to return the item (under the warranty) for repair. A satisfactory outcome, I suppose, but Kodak thinks that it is okay for me to foot the bill to return this defective item to them. I just think that is wrong. We both agree that there is something serious wrong with this item. We both also agree that it is still under warranty and yet they leave the onus on the consumer to go to the expense of sending it back to them for repair. That is not my definition of standing behind your product.

Case number two. I have a house full of animals. Anyone with a lot of animals has probably experienced at least one close encounter with the flea population. Last fall I had just such an experience.  These critters resisted everything I could throw at them. I love my animals and was becoming seriously concerned about the toxic measures I was going to have to take to deal with these pests. I instituted an online search and found a company called Cedarcide. The site was cheesy and in retrospect I discovered a marked omission of any clear guarantee but they tout products that work naturally, are safe for animals and effective for ridding  treated areas of fleas and various other insects. The product was supposedly developed for the U.S. army.  I purchased 100-some-odd dollars of this garbage, with disastrous results. The product, a cedar derivative, reeks in both the figurative and literal sense of the word. The scent is noxious. Although the claim is that you can apply it to any surface, it is an oil-based product that left stains on bedclothes and carpeting. One of my cats lost a significant amount of fur. Itching increased twofold, so either the fleas loved it or we were all having an allergic reaction to it.

Within two weeks, I had exhausted the supply and there had been not the slightest abatement of the problem. To the contrary; the fleas were having a ball, my animals were miserable and my house stank. I called the manufacturer for satisfaction. I was told simply that the item had been tested by the U.S. army and worked – end of story. After lodging a dispute with Paypals, Discover and the Attorney General’s office, the company, which apparently has no physical address, refuses to resolve the issue.  Case closed.

Maybe it is more of the corporate philosophy that is so concerned with keeping the bottom line low so they can preserve their big bonuses. I don’t know the reason for this blatant and total disregard of the customer, but I do know that it is becoming rampant and we, as consumers, should take a stand before it’s too late.

 

Kelly and Fagan escape from the Black Institute

Kelly and Fagan - Coming to Amazon August 1, 2009

 

 

 

 

April 23, 2009

Man’s Inhumanity – Janus Kane

Filed under: Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 4:15 am

Yet another appalling example of man’s inhumanity, stupidity and wastefulness.

It was just a few moments of a 60 Minutes documentary, caught accidentally while rushing out the door.

The story was on sharks; the increasing popularity of shark watches, contrasted by the intense fear of shark attacks. They spoke of the unlikelihood of such an attack; a fraction of the chance you run making toast in the morning. (Apparently, large numbers of people are being electrocuted by their toasters)

A psychologist spoke of the visceral paranoia we have about sharks, stemming from our fear of being eaten. Legitimate though it may be, in this day and age it is not a common occurrence.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not terribly fond of sharks. On my list of favorites, they rank only slightly higher than snakes and creepy crawly things. I am also fond of my anatomy the way it is and would rather not have it altered by some marauding shark looking for a snack.

The issue I have is what comes next. It seems that, predictably so, it is the sharks who have much more to fear from us than we from them.

Apparently, in China I believe it was, people have decided that shark fin soup is a delicacy. Mmmmmm, yummy, you say. Well, be that as it may. Sharks are not the first species we have killed for food, and I am sure they will not be the last. Do I have some basic objection to slaughtering these creatures for food? No more than the cow or chicken. I don’t like it, but it is a sad fact of our reality. What I take issue with is the way it is being done.

It seems that, because these fishermen are only interested in the fins, they drag these magnificent beasts onto the boat, chop off their fins and drop them back into the ocean where they sink like a stone to the bottom and die. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be simply horrifying, barbaric and tragically wasteful. When will we stop treating animals as if they are tree stumps? We harpoon them, shoot them and knock them over the head as if they feel and understand nothing.

It is a reality that we feed much of the world’s population with living creatures farmed from the ocean. That is not going to change overnight, but how can we justify dumping 80-90% of a carcass into the ocean to rot when there are so many starving people in the world. Once again, the justification is the almighty buck. Why waste cargo space on shark meat that could feed a multitude of starving families, when you can better use that space to store a larger quantity of pricey fins. We are truly an insane and heartless group, not to mention hypocritical. When one of our own gets attacked by a shark, we immediately mobilize. Vigilante groups are formed and the search begins for the creature that perpetuated the attack.
HOW DARE IT!!! Yet, without a second thought, we continue with a daily slaughter of thousands of animals, not to appease our hunger, but our pocketbooks and our vanity.

One can only hope that the perpetrators of these atrocities will suffer similar fates one day at the hand of their maker.

April 15, 2009

Who’s Protecting Us – Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 10:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

On the news the other night, there was a short segment on Caller-ID Spoofing. I had never heard of it. For those of you in the same boat, I’ll paraphrase based on my interpretation. Apparently, there are now companies on the internet that offer an interesting new service. It is called spoofing and it allows the user to make a call that shows up on the recipient’s caller-id as having been placed from another source.

My understanding is that it works like this; you log into one of these services and pay, then you enter the number you would like to call followed by the number that you would like to show up on their caller-id (it seems that this could be anything from your favorite actor to the IRS), there is also a feature that allows callers to mask their voice so that a man can sound like a woman or visa versa.

I think it comes as little surprise that this new technology is being utilized in a nefarious way. Callers are representing themselves as reputable businesses in order to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting people. Yet another caution for anyone trying to protect themselves against identity theft.

It is not the idea of this that surprises me. Technology is moving at lightning speed and man’s ability to utilize this technology to bilk their neighbors out of a buck never ceases to astound me. What does amaze me is this – apparently, only one state has chosen to make this practice illegal. According to this news program, other states were holding back on legislating against this practice at all whereas some wanted to limit their legislation to usage that was meant to defraud.

Hmmmmm, maybe I am missing something, but what other application could this have? I had to check to confirm it, but true to my recollection, the definition of spoof is to deceive.

I try not to form party affiliations. Liberal, conservative, middle of the road, I try to judge each issue on its merits rather than on where it falls in the party line. But, in this instance, I am afraid that I will come down squarely in the conservative camp. When is our government going to start exhibiting a greater level of care for the average, law-abiding citizen than it does for the criminal?

This seems to be yet another example of government doing back bends in an attempt to protect those who should not be protected. 
When are we going to stop protecting criminal behavior? If you took the time to watch the above video, you will see argument for the one possible acceptable use of this service; for those in battered women’s shelters. That seems to be an odd, double-edged sword to me. I would have to believe that there are more abusive husbands making use of this technology than battered wives. Furthermore, there are other ways of disguising your location or identity (such as prepaid cell phones) without doing it fraudulently. In any case, it seems that the legislature could handle this situation with an exclusion of some sort rather than just ignoring the problem. With millions of cases of identity theft, does it really make sense not to address this situation head on?

The bottom line is that this is a service that is based on deceit and has fraud built into its very nature. The fact that our legislative body has to even debate whether this activity should be made illegal is cause for concern. I think it should make us wonder how far off course our moral compass has fallen. Technology is a wonderful thing, but if we are going to sit back and let it rule our lives and dictate our morals, we are in for a bumpy ride my friends.

 

 

The Little Insanity

April 7, 2009

Our Dirty Little Secret – Janus Kane

Filed under: Comments from our Authors — marchbooks @ 10:02 pm

People have asked me about my inspiration for ‘The Little Insanity’. What was it that caused me to breathe life into six such confused characters? The simple answer is that I am a voyeur – a voyeur of life. I believe that the average reader will find the characters in ‘The Little Insanity’ to be all too recognizable. You may see yourself or your loved ones or perhaps just the out-of-luck guy on the corner but you should see someone you know within these pages. There is a reason for that. Addictions are an inescapable aspect of the human condition, or maybe they are just a symptom.

Most of us, if we are being honest with ourselves, will have to plead guilty to some addiction or other. Not everyone suffers from the hardcore addictions that the characters in ‘The Little Insanity’ battle with and hopefully our addictions will not shorten our lifespan, but it bears mentioning that we all have them. Surely the girl with the heroin monkey on her back is at a much greater risk than the stay-at-home Mom who is addicted to buying things on the Home Shopping Network. The 300 pound food addict is much easier to pick out of a crowd than the rageaholic and the promiscuous sexual addict is more easily shunned than the parents who are addicted to living vicariously through their children’s lives.

At the end of the day though, it really just comes down to a matter of degrees. That young mother may be no more able to resist the call of chocolate in her pantry than the crack addict is able to resist the dealer on the corner. The businessman who is addicted to his work may be no more able to stay out of the office than the alcoholic is able to stay out of the local bar. Once you scratch the surface, how many of as can truly deny any and all driving forces in our lives, destructive or otherwise?

Is that because we are all weak? Perhaps – we are human beings who face all manner of temptations every day. The fact that one person finds it easier to resist a chocolate bar than a baccarat table or a bottle of Jim Beam does not make them better or worse. It is just another bit of evidence supporting the fact that we are all more alike than we would care to admit.

What binds us together most closely is that we are all caught up in the eternal search for meaning in our lives. None of us are sure of where to find that meaning. Some look for it in religion, others in work and still others in the bed of numerous sexual partners. Some of us find temporary relief in carbohydrates, drugs or alcohol. Unless we have given up and fallen into depression or worse, we are probably still searching for the elusive secret – the thing that will make us feel, the thing that will get us up in the morning with the conviction that ‘yes, our lives actually do have meaning’, the thing that will carry on even after we are gone.

Some might think that I have stretched the term addiction to the point of breaking…I’ll address that in a future post.

 

The Little Insanity

April 3, 2009

March Books Changes its Release Date for The Little Insanity

March Books has changed the release date for their upcoming adult title ‘The Little Insanity’. Originally, this title was scheduled for publication in April 2009. That deadline has been moved to August 2009 to accommodate the review and printing schedule.

The release of March Books first publication, ‘The Little Insanity’, has been changed to August 2009.

 

The Little Insanity

Author – Janus Kane

Website – http://www.januskane.com

genre – Commercial Fiction

Publisher – March Books

Publisher’s website – http://www.marchbooks.com

Publisher’s email – elizabeth@marchbooks.com

ISBN 9781935367291

Publication Date – 8/1/09

Format – 6×9 Paperback

Pages – 296

Price – $16.95

 

What percentage of us are damaged, handicapped, or fractured in some way that we struggle desperately to hide from the casual, and not so casual, observer? How many of us can lay claim to total mental stability, renouncing any character flaws or defects that can adversely affect our relationships and interactions with others?

The French call sex ‘Le Petit Mort’, the Little Death, because it temporarily suspends the heart and the head. The ‘Little Insanity’ focuses on the equally crazy effects of relationships on our behavior, in the new millennium. Watch the insanity that ensues when six, seemingly sane, individuals mix and shake their own, not so healthy, personality cocktails together. Follow Jenn, Jason, Kyle, Kyra, Brad and Beth through the sexual and personal relationships that are ‘The Little Insanity’. Don’t mistake this for another knock-off of ‘Friends’. This relay of relationships between these 30-somethings shines a light on the different faces we wear and the machinations we all go through to hide what is really beneath the surface. The setting for this little dysfunctional drama is a small town in Connecticut, although some of the story takes place in ‘The Big Apple’.

 

With the pace of a literary soap opera, Janus Kane’s first novel should appeal to readers who enjoy watching these fictional, but realistic, characters’ lives unfold and unravel before them. These six characters are on a path of discovery that will lead them to painful truths about life, love, themselves and others. Like a car crash, we must watch as these events drive some of our characters, inexorably, toward a crescendo that is the ultimate insanity.

 

Serious review requests can be sent to elizabeth@marchbooks.com

 

 

The Little Insanity

New Release Date for ‘Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow’

March Books Changes its Release Date for Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow

March Books has changed the release date for their upcoming YA title ‘Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow’. Originally, this title was scheduled for publication in April 2009. That deadline has been moved to August 2009 to accommodate the review and printing schedule.

The release of March Books first publication, ‘Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow’ has been changed to August 2009.

Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow

Author – M.J. Claire

Website – http://www.mj.claire.com

genre – YA fantasy

Publisher – March Books

Publisher’s website – http://www.marchbooks.com

ISBN 9781935367000

Publication Date – 8/1/09

Format – 6×9 Paperback

Pages – 148

Price – $12.95

 

Imagine walking through the park one night and being catapulted out of reality as you know it. Suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by mystical creatures called Animelfs. These creatures can transform themselves into any animal at will. Balthazar, Fagan and Maximillion also have the unique ability to travel anywhere, instantly, simply by stepping into a painting.
Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow is a character driven YA fantasy. The story revolves around Kelly Black, a college-aged heroine who is one part Buffy Summers and one part Nancy Drew. Kelly is reluctantly yanked out of her hectic but infinitely normal life and into a Twilight Zone adventure she won’t soon forget. Her path leads to the unwelcome discovery of revelations about her family and herself that she might prefer remain hidden. Kelly learns that the Animelfs did not come upon her by accident. They sought her out because their destinies are, in fact, inextricably linked. Kelly must deal with the discovery of her mother’s deception about their true heritage and the startling insight into her father’s nefarious, secret endeavors.
 

 

 


 

Nightsweats is the first in a series of YA novels by M.J. Claire; it will soon be followed by ‘Bigelow Hollow Revisited’. The series speaks of courage and determination as Kelly discovers strengths and feelings she did not know she possessed. However, Kelly’s greatest challenge still lies ahead of her. She must confront her father about his inhumane treatment of countless innocent animals. The outcome of that confrontation has yet to be determined.

 

Serious review requests can be sent to elizabeth@marchbooks.com

 

 

Kelly and Fagan escape from the Black Institute

Kelly and Fagan escape from the Black Institute

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