Monthly Archives: August 2016

review of Dream Faces by Steve Shanks



reviewed by Cy Wyss

Dream Faces is the story of artist Mark Stephens, a man blessed (or cursed) with foresight as he dreams of missing girls and paints them, months before they’re declared missing. Both the police and the bad guys (some small-time Russian mobster and his incompetent henchman) are very interested in Mark’s ability. Mark is just an ordinary guy, by his own admission not even a weightlifter or martial artist of any kind. How will he be able to stand up to the mobster and help the girls? The book is unpredictable, which makes it fun. I won’t spoil the ending by saying whether it is happy or not, but during the ride at least one unnecessarily grievous event occurs. The girls in Mark’s paintings are only thirteen, so putting them in peril is dangerous for the author as well as the characters. (I’m still of the old school thinking that children shouldn’t be unduly harmed in a story.)

There is a lot wrong with Dream Faces. I don’t feel the addition of angels and demons was necessary. Their antics mostly missed their mark with me. I guess the idea of allegory is interesting, but nowadays a more nuanced view of good and evil is expected. Also, some characters didn’t seem to have these guardians, most notably the police officers. The cops themselves are two-dimensional and their actions highly improbable. The bad guys are also shallow, without subtlety. The book needs editing, both in terms of grammar and diction.

In spite of all of this, I found Dream Faces impossible to put down. This is what critics or writing gurus mean when they say “story trumps all.” For, despite its shortcomings, Dream Faces is a good story. You can’t help but root for the girls and the artist, and wonder how the bad guys will be defeated. (Or even whether they’ll be defeated.) So if you’re willing to ignore some obvious structural and technical errors, get Dream Faces. On balance, I think the story is worth it.

advertising your free book: a case study

In July, I took advantage of KDP Select and had three of my books free for 5 days each. I wanted to experiment with advertising these books, and here is what I found.


I used three avenues of promotion: Facebook, the Book Marketing Tools submission tool, and BKnights from Fiverr. Here’s what I found.

Facebook is hit or miss

I used Facebook for all three of the books. Basically I just posted that the book was free, with a link to the Amazon page. For Eyeshine, I got a couple shares from influential friends, which seemed to make a real difference. The momentum (as you can see from the picture above) kept going for the whole five days. For Polygraph, there was little to no effect. For Bloodless Mask there was also little to no effect.

So, basically it seems like Facebook is hit or miss. It probably depends on who they choose to show your post to that day. Of course, it also might be that Polygraph and Bloodless Mask are less attractive than Eyeshine. (Eyeshine is a full-length novel whereas Polygraph and Bloodless Mask are short stories.)

the BMT free submission tool is a dud

If you go to Book Marketing Tools (BMT) one of their tools is a free submission tool. You do have to pay to use the tool, the “free” in its name refers to the fact you’re using it to advertise free books. Basically, the tool takes your information for $15 and uses it to submit to several sites that offer advertising for free books, like eBook Daily Deals and Frugal Freebies.

I found little to no effect from the BMT tool. When I offer Polygraph for free with no advertising, I get pretty much the same results as I got above. Interestingly, Facebook didn’t work for Polygraph either.

BKnights works but is short-lived

BKnights of Fiverr cost me $15 (normally it would be $10 but I submitted fairly late so paid an additional $5 to have quick service), the same as the BMT tool. You can see from the graph above that there is a distinct spike for Bloodless Mask on the day of BKnights’ promotion. This didn’t seem to translate into any momentum, as then downloads distinctly trailed off, but it was interesting to see that BKnights really does work. For Bloodless Mask, I felt there was little to no effect of my Facebook promotion.

a ton of free advertising sites are out there

That summarizes my adventures with three of the free advertising sites out there. But there are a ton more. I list a few below, that friends have claimed they got good results with.

Most of the above are premium sites, where you pay to have your free book listed. I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, more downloads is more exposure. On the other hand, it’s a guaranteed financial loss. I guess, on balance, I would prefer not to spend money advertising my free books. It just seems counter-intuitive.

What about you? Are there sites you’ve had a good response with that I haven’t listed? Do you think it is worth it to pay to advertise your free book? Let me know in the comments below.

review of Sasha: the ROE Chronicles Book I by Sean M. Campbell



reviewed by Cy Wyss

Sasha Malenkov is a stunningly powerful telepath as well as teleporter, empath, and seer. The first book of the ROE Chronicles is her story. Sasha was kidnapped at age 6 by unknown forces. Twenty years later, a new breed of naval ship is created, one capable of traveling great distances by teleport. What does Sasha have to do with this? A doctor, Robert Wraith, aboard the ship has distressing teleportation dreams, which lead him to the incredible truth about the ship he’s on. To free Sasha, he would have to cripple the ship and enlist help. How he does this is the subject of the first quarter of the book, approximately.

Sasha is an interesting book. The author has chosen to restrict the main action to about the first quarter of the book. I would have expected an entire book for this. Yet, the book goes on for the next couple hundred pages, with small challenges and encounters fairly easily solved. The problem is, Sasha is so powerful that everything falls to her quickly. In spite of this somewhat unorthodox tack, the remainder of the book is highly readable. Even everyday life is interesting enough to form good stories. What unfolds is a utopic vision of what life could be like with what is (essentially) a benevolent dictator at the helm. The setting in space with advanced technology is icing on the cake. Campbell’s universe is part Babylon 5, part Star Trek, but unique enough to hold your attention until the end. I liked the book a lot and was sad when it ended. I only give it four stars because the last three-quarters, while eminently readable, were somewhat slow for an action-themed novel. Don’t let that stop you, though, especially if you like reading about fun and compelling world-building.