Thursday, July 16, 2015

Do You "Know" the Author? Amazon is Trying to Find Out...




“We cannot post your Customer Review … to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.”

This is the message many customers are receiving when Amazon rejects their book reviews. Indie authors are up in arms, and rightly so. The problem is these rejections aren’t necessarily happening when someone’s sister or mother tries to leave a review. These rejections are being sent to anyone who has had any sort of contact (that could be tracked by Amazon) with the book’s author.

For instance, an author might gift a book to a complete stranger as part of a giveaway, or an author might review another author’s book—those sorts of things, to Amazon, might show that author and reader “know” each other. And what about fans, who get to “know” their favorite authors through social media? This puts their reviews in jeopardy too.

Indie authors have expressed the most concern because they are the ones who often have the most difficulty obtaining reviews. But this issue could hurt all authors and publishing houses as both may be in contact with fans in various ways.

And let’s not forget book bloggers. These book-loving folks have become part of authors’ lives. It would be a terrible shame if a book blogger couldn’t post a review because an author gifted it to her or him.

It's understandable that Amazon doesn't want the author's family member reviewing the book, but I think the company has to realize there is only so much control one has over this situation. The company might penalize an author's fan, yet the author's sister, who has a different last name and no traceable online link to the author, may post a review without a problem. It is best to opt for freedom over control. 


Author Jas Ward has started this petition concerning the Amazon review policy. Please have a look and consider signing it! Your favorite authors will love you for it. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Signing!



This month, fellow author Vicki Lesage and I did a joint book signing at WHSmith Paris and were thrilled to meet some of our readers... and give them one of our new Velvet Morning Press bookmarks! 

Thanks very much to the folks at WHSmith for setting up a lovely table and making us feel welcome. The shop sells PARIS, RUE DES MARTYRS, by yours truly, and CONFESSIONS OF A PARIS PARTY GIRL by Vicki Lesage, as well as a lot of other great books. And paperbacks are on sale four for the price of three!




Our English language bookshops in Paris have been very supportive. My message to all indie authors is this: Reach out to your local shops and build relationships. Readers will have the opportunity to discover new voices, the bookshop will have the opportunity to introduce these new voices, and you will have the opportunity to sell your books. Everyone wins! 




Monday, June 22, 2015

La Vie en Rose? Depends on Skin Color



I am one of those people with a “Mediterranean” look as I’m told: the dark hair, dark eyes, skin that tans easily. I’m used to people asking me if I’m Italian, Spanish, Arabic etc. So the other day, when a man in the subway asked me, “Are you from North Africa?" I didn’t think much of it. This was probably one of those pickup lines.

I politely said “no.”

I expected this to end any attempt at a conversation. What came next, however, wasn’t an end to the conversation, and certainly wasn’t a bit of friendly Parisian flirting.

His reply, “OK, because if you were from North Africa, I was going to ask you to stand farther away from me. And by the way, vote Le Pen (a politician of the extreme right) to get all of them out of here—and if you don't understand, go to Barbes (an area in Paris) and have a look around."

I was so shocked that I didn’t even reply.

What if I was North African? It sounded as if he was ready to send any North African to the back of the subway. An image of Rosa Parks flashed in my mind. And I was frightened, not of this particular individual (well, maybe just a bit), but mainly of the underlying meaning of this event. 

Is Paris a place where one would feel comfortable accosting a stranger, demanding his/her origins and then insulting that person?

I thought of a dear friend, a doctor of North African parents. If this man who had spoken to me in the subway was bleeding on the street, my friend wouldn’t ask him about his origins before helping him. Would he refuse her assistance because of her origins?

There are good and bad people of all races and backgrounds. Whether you are in the “Barbes” neighborhood, as cited by the man on the subway, or elsewhere, you’ll find both. How could someone verbally attack a stranger, without knowing anything about that person?

I’ve unfortunately grown used to seeing racism and xenophobic behavior in France and in the U.S. in a group setting, for instance, people demonstrating and complaining about this or that. But seeing an individual take a step forward in such a way is somehow even more shocking than witnessing the masses. 

I stepped off the subway in silence. I regretted not telling that man off, not pulling the alarm signal. I regretted being unprepared for such a scenario. I regretted always seeing life in Paris as La Vie en Rose


Monday, June 15, 2015

A Delicious Dîner en Blanc

Photo: Lindsey Kent, Pictours Paris


The most magical night in Paris...

I spent years dreaming of the Dîner en Blanc. One evening, an ethereal image as Parisians decked in white sweep through the streets to a secret-until-the-last-minute destination… and then set up their little tables, white linens, silver wear, flowers, candles, champagne, layer cakes and all of a sudden they are twirling napkins and toasting under an almost-summer sky.  

This year my Dîner en Blanc dream came true (thank you, generous friends, for inviting me to your table—you know who you are). I join the flock of white at the beautiful Palais Royal. I feel as if I’ve stepped back in time, or stepped into one of my favorite books—The Great Gatsby. There is something very Gatsby-ish and elegant about the white, the hats, the gloves and the twinkling of candlelight as the sky turns dark. 



Photo: Lindsey Kent, Pictours Paris


To me, the evening has a very literary feel, a scene from a novel unfolding around me as I try to photograph everything, and then afterward, write about it, with the hope of capturing it forever. I join the excitement on the dance floor and laugh with my table-mates. Then I step back to watch it all. For a moment, I share the magical setting with my novel Paris, Rue des Martyrs, opening the book under the stars. Music and laughter soon draw me back to the crowd.



Photo: Lindsey Kent, Pictours Paris


The evening is about sharing, meeting new people, seeing old friends. Everyone passes homemade salads, main courses and cheeses around the table. Time for dessert… Bertie’s CupCakery treats us to a fabulous layer cake, a perfect culinary finale.   



Photo: Lindsey Kent, Pictours Paris


More dancing, more socializing, more wishing the night would never end. And then, in an instant, the clock strikes. We don’t turn into pumpkins, but the evening is drawing to a close. High heels are exchanged for sneakers, tables are folded, trash is gathered into bags, candle flames are blown into the wind. A gentle rain begins, as if to wash away any trace of our time together in this historical place.

And in an instant, white figures seep into the streets, dispersing into the night, and disappear. 




Photo: Lindsey Kent, Pictours Paris



**

My friend Lindsey Kent of Pictours Paris perfectly captured the evening in these lovely photos I’m sharing with you. If you’re planning a trip to Paris and want unforgettable photos of yourself in the City of Light, check out Lindsey’s website. 




Friday, June 5, 2015

What's In a Book Cover? Not Much, if You're in France



Again, I speak of one of my favorite subjects: French book covers vs. American book covers. And I'm luck enough to guest post about it on Women's Fiction Writers, the blog of author Amy Sue Nathan. Click here to check out the story!







Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Little Bit of Magic for $0.99



Feel like a bit of magic? Close to Destiny, my contemporary fiction/magical realism novel, is on sale today through June 10 for $0.99 (£0.99 in the U.K.). Check it out on Amazon!

Does déjà vu have a deeper meaning? A puzzling gift from a stranger in a hat shop. Whisperings and footsteps in a dim luxury hotel. Dreams that transport to elegant parties where champagne flows like water. Kat is both frightened and intrigued by the events that have plagued her since she arrived in London, in a final effort to save herself from anorexia and recover from her latest suicide attempt. 

Most disturbing is an encounter with a mysterious woman who introduces Kat to Will. And this lovely messenger has information she desperately wants to share with Kat: an incident from more than a century ago that could transform Kat’s future. But will Kat listen? 

A story of the role of destiny in life... and of righting the wrongs of the past. 

Thanks and happy reading! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Latest Writing News... and a Free Short Story!


So, the news here is... After the many years put into writing, editing and now the marketing of Paris, Rue des Martyrs, I'm delighted to say it recently became an Amazon best seller! For those of you who have purchased the book and even reviewed it, thank you. And for those of you who haven't, I hope you will discover it and enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

Any more writing about Paris? Oui! 

I'm so inspired by cafe life that I thought I would write a short story set in the lovely and historic Cafe de Flore... and share it with you for free! 




So how to get Flore? By signing up to receive my author newsletter. You can sign up on the bright pink bar at the top of the page or through the banner right next to this post.

I send out my newsletter once a month, with my latest book news or special promotions. And I recommend a different book by one of my favorite authors in each newsletter too. 

As for Flore, it's accompanied in this volume by my short story Love Unlocked, initially published in the anthology That's Paris. I hope you'll enjoy both of them, for a taste of Paris on this spring day.