New Speed reviews from the author of Water Music

water music

I met Chris Botkin a few weeks ago through an online group we’re both a part of. Someone in that group asked everyone about their hobbies, and there were a few writers in the group. That sort of spread off into a side discussion among the writers, and the next thing I knew Chris had read Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings and was offering to court Jean if I kick an untimely bucket.

So, when someone reads Four Things and comes away with an understanding of how awesome Jean is, that person is okay with me.

Chris and I chatted online a little about the book, and he reviewed it on Amazon.

Then he started reading the Jackson Speed novels, and has left reviews on the first three Speed books.

Every night before I go to sleep I pray that when I wake up in the morning I will find that I have a new review on Amazon. And every morning I rush downstairs in my pajamas, sit under the Amazon tree and call up my list of books hoping to unwrap a shiny new review.

Most mornings I am disappointed.

But lately I’ve been able to unwrap Chris’s reviews, and they are among the shiniest of reviews.

I love a review – even a 1-star review that complains about 15-year-olds getting laid – and I treasure every review I’ve ever received. But Chris’s reviews are magnificent. Even if you don’t want to read any of my novels, you should seek out and read Chris’s reviews on Amazon because they make my novels sound very interesting!

As I noted, Chris is also a writer. I am reading his novel Water Music, but it’s a little bit longer than a Jackson Speed novel (by about 250,000 words!) and so I’m still working my way through Water Music.

Chris is a talented craftsman with words. He constructs his sentences with a cadence that marches through his story. In Water Music, he’s created a vocabulary of words for his imagined universe. Typically, this is the sort of thing I find tedious and might well turn me off of a book, but Chris’s language flows seamlessly into the consciousness of the reader and is easily interpreted.

I’m not far enough into Water Music to provide anything near a review, but I can say that I’m looking forward to the moments I can snatch away to read it. There is something very simple and endearing about the universe of the Traeppedelferes, and I am easily caught up in it. Also, reading it, I have an expectancy that each new chapter is going to bring me deeper into this world and it will be a lovely immersion.

Where I’m at in Water Music, there is something a little magical and a little sinister going on in the world of the Traeppedelferes, and I’m excited to know where Chris is taking me.

You should check it out if you enjoy fantasy novels, which I ordinarily do not. So, maybe you should check it out even if you don’t enjoy fantasy novels.

When I am finished reading it, I’ll give it a proper review. But I have this feeling about Water Music that even when I have completed reading it I will not be finished with it. It seems to me that Water Music is the sort of book that stays with you even when you hit the end.

Help a brother out, leave a Jackson Speed review

Help a brother out ... please leave a review if you've enjoyed a book.

Help a brother out … please leave a review if you’ve enjoyed a book.

If you have read and enjoyed any of my books, I would really appreciate a short review on Amazon. Reviews help sell books. Even if I handed you a copy and you didn’t buy it from Amazon, you can still go to Amazon and leave a review.

It doesn’t have to be long or thought out or grammatically correct. A word or two: “Fun read!” or “Enjoyed it!” would be very helpful to me. One of the best reviews I’ve received was from someone who said the book was so funny “I cried and almost pee my underwear.” Do I care that her pee is present-tense and her tears are past-tense? Not at all. I’m just glad she’s soaking wet from top to bottom.

Or, if you’re a bit more verbose, a longer review is always very helpful, too. If you can describe the book or what you enjoyed about it – even what could have been improved – all of these things are worthwhile and helpful to other readers who are considering reading the book.

Obviously, if you were ambivalent about the book (3 stars) then that’s not going to help me, and if you absolutely hated it (1 star or 2 stars) then I’d prefer you keep your opinion to yourself. But if you hated the book so much that you feel compelled to leave a one star review, I do hope you’ll be specific about why you hated it and give other potential readers an honest accounting of your opinion.

But I think I’d rather have an honest 1 star review than a fake 5 star review.

I know people are enjoying the Jackson Speed books because sales of all four of the Jackson Speed novels are consistent. Clearly folks are reading a book and coming back for the next book in the series.

I was recently lamenting the lack of reviews to a friend of mine. I told him that I’ve had more people email me through my blog to tell me they enjoyed the books than have posted a review on Amazon – and that’s something I don’t understand. Especially when Kindle readers get a prompt to post a review when they finish the book. For someone to email me through the blog requires at least another step or two.

It might be that people get to the end of a Jackson Speed book but never get the prompt because they don’t reach the last page after the endnotes. It may be that the endnotes are dooming me from getting reviews.

Based on my sales reports from 2015, it looks like I picked up somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 new readers in the United Kingdom and another 30 new readers in the United States who read all four of the Jackson Speed novels just in 2015. There were others, too, who read some but not all of the books. That doesn’t include the folks who bought books in 2014 (and we won’t talk about 2012 and 2013 when my sales were so poor I thought about never writing another novel again).

If half of those people who bought all four books in 2015 (and presumably did so because they enjoyed them) would leave a review, it would help me out so much. Instead, I only received one review on a Jackson Speed book in all of 2015.

All the conventional wisdom on novel writing tells me that reviews will improve my sales. Someone recently told me that Amazon has an algorithm that kicks in when a book reaches 50 reviews, and writers find it difficult to get traction before they have those 50 reviews. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be dead and gone before my books start getting traction.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who has read a Jackson Speed book and come back for a second one. Those people who have read all four of the books are the people who keep me writing. I love you folks more than I love my dogs (and you come in very close behind my children, and on some days you’ve got them beat, too). You can’t understand the feeling I get when I see a copy of El Teneria sell and a few days later I see a Blood Tubs sell and then an Orange Turnpike and then a High Tide. It’s like I can watch someone enjoying the Speed books (and yes, I realize, it may not necessarily be the same person, but I like to imagine it is).

So please don’t misunderstand me begging for reviews to think I’m not grateful. Every time I look at a sales report and see that people are reading my books, I am humbled and so very thankful.

But I really need some reviews, too.

Seriously, me begging for reviews is so much better than me begging for spare change on the side of the road. Help a brother out.

Book Review: The Seduction of Sir Gawain by Arthur Wayne Glowka

Arthur Wayne Glowka

Arthur Wayne Glowka

Wayne Glowka was one of my English professors at Georgia College. He taught me the History of the English Language and Arthurian Literature and other sundry classes. He loves to tell the story of me walking into class one morning several minutes late with bits of limb and leaf in my hair. He remarked, “You look like you slept in a bush.” I said, “I did.”

Oh, college … how I miss you.

I also worked for Wayne as an intern for the Faculty Research Newsletter.

Over the years we kept in touch, and I’ve always valued this friendship very much. When I worked for the Macon Telegraph and found myself on the GC&SU campus I frequently stopped by his office to say hello.

A couple of years ago Wayne published “The Texiad,” a truly inspired epic poem of the Texas Revolution.

Wayne grew up “in the shadow of the Alamo” and so he grew up with this history. His use of William Zuber as his narrator in “The Texiad” may be one of my favorite things in all of English literature.

He was also my inspiration to self-publish Jackson Speed. Wayne published “The Texiad” about a month before I started writing the first Speed novel. I had no idea what I was going to do with Jackson Speed and his memoirs, but after picking Wayne’s brain a little I decided to self publish through Create Space.

In addition to being a fan of the Texas Revolution, Wayne is also an Arthurian literature scholar, and he’s written a couple of Arthurian romances.

I finally got around to reviewing “The Seduction of Sir Gawain” a week or so ago. I posted the review at Amazon, but I thought I would also post it here.

I am going to say this: Reviewing books written by your former English professor is an intimidating challenge, but especially when he’s the guy who taught you Arthurian literature and the book falls into the category.

Trying to remember after 20 years Spenser and Malory and the Pearl Poet and all their themes and symbolism is difficult enough, but when you throw in the fact that as often as not I was sleeping in the shrubbery prior to class, I can tell you that writing this review was plenty taxing on my old brain.

But all kidding aside, this is a gem of a book. It’s really very funny to see a Knight of the Round Table cast through a modern prism.

Here’s my review:

Glowka’s Gawain: A charming retelling of an old tale

A Cougar Romance

A Cougar Romance

If you agree that “Spenser writ no language” and find Malory’s English archaic and smiting, then surely you must appreciate Arthur Glowka’s retelling of the Arthurian legend of Gawain and the Green Knight.

In “The Seduction of Sir Gawain,” Glowka brings the traditional tale (with a couple of variations) into the modern era with a lovely prose interspersed with subtle humor.

Glowka’s Gawain story exposes the notions of chivalry and virtue to be a little naïve by today’s cynical standards and pokes some fun at the hero’s childlike beliefs. Glowka’s Gawain also falls well short of his own ethical code – falling much shorter than the Gawain of the 14th Century poem credited to the “Pearl Poet.” Nevertheless, in “The Seduction of Sir Gawain,” the Arthurian knight is able to keep his vows intact despite his failings, and in the end is rewarded – in a way – for his virtues.

As in the original Gawain, Glowka’s hero takes the Christmas challenge of the Green Knight at Camelot. The giant Green Knight offers to receive a blow from his own ax if the knight who swings the blade is willing to seek out the Green Knight at the Green Chapel and in a year receive a blow from the Green Knight. Gawain chops off the Green Knight’s head, and the magical creature then picks up his head, reminds Gawain that he must come and find him in a year and rides away.

Gawain leaves Camelot in the autumn to seek out the Green Knight, though he does not know where the Green Chapel is. On Christmas Eve he comes to a castle where he is welcomed and entertained by the Lord Bertilak and Lady Ragnelle. Gawain learns that he is just a morning’s ride from the Green Chapel and so accepts the hospitality of the lord and lady. Gawain also participates in the lord’s games while staying at the castle.

Those familiar with the original tale will know that Glowka’s Gawain goes a good bit farther in besmirching his chivalric honor than the Pearl Poet’s Gawayne. However Glowka’s imagining of the tale is consistent with the traditional Arthurian temptation fables in that the hero’s shortcomings are exposed, penance is made and all turns right in the end.

Even though his hero falls short, Gawain is able through “fairy law” to reclaim his honor. Glowka’s Gawain is left with more than a green sash to wear as a penance for his lack of virtue, but he is also rewarded – of a fashion – for his willingness to make amends.

And though Glowka’s “The Seduction of Sir Gawain” clearly keeps the tradition of the Arthurian temptation fable, it might also fall into the category of a more modern genre, let’s call it the “Cougar Romance.” Surely neither Spenser nor Mallory ever envisaged such a thing.

So much of the Arthurian legend was written in a time when English looked like a foreign language to the modern reader, and those who seek the traditional tales may find themselves disappointed as they attempt to plod through the alliterative, Middle English poems or 15th Century prose of a prisoner. But Glowka makes the traditional tale of Sir Gawain accessible to any reader with a wonderfully charming prose.

Whether you are an Arthurian scholar seeking a retelling of an old tale or are just looking for a good story about one of the Knights of the Round Table, surely you will agree that “The Seduction of Sir Gawain” is a tremendous find.