Dumbledore’s Northman in a Jurassic World of Madness

Recently, after a long break, I had a chance to finally go to a cinema and see some of the new movies out there. It’s been ages since I visited a movie theater and naturally, I was very excited and ready to be entertained.

My first movie was “The Northman” – Vikings, slaughter, romance, and shirtless men, I mean what’s there not to like? So, I sat in the darkness, eagerly expecting an exciting story supported by an excellent cast and great directing, and what did I get? I got a bloody and muddy version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (or, “Lion King” for those who like a friend of mine had managed to avoid reading Hamlet in high school). This version, however, had a rather forced strong female character Olga (instead of poor Ophelia), and no catchy songs whatsoever. In addition, as usual, the lead male actor was closer in age to his movie mother (9 years age difference), than to his movie love interest (20 years difference), but I’m not going to go into that discussion here. Sure, the last scene where Amleth and his uncle swordfight naked next to a stream of sizzling lava is absolutely worth watching, if only for the fact that the fighters are, well, naked, but there was overall too much drama and too little sense in the story. Visually, the movie delivered, but it’s a tale we’ve all seen so many times before and my brain screamed, “Give me something new!”

In search of novelty, I went therefore to see the next movie “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore“. I liked the first two movies of the series, and all the Harry Potter stuff anyway, so what could go wrong, right? Well, just about everything. I really don’t want to sound whiny, but the best thing about the movie was that I was watching it in a 4D movie theatre, with special seats, which shake and blow air every time a spell is cast on screen. I’ll abstain from spoilers and further comments in this letter because I don’t want to bore you to death, in case you’re not interested, but in case you are, this video on Youtube nicely sums up everything wrong with the movie and why I will probably not see any further movies from this serial in a theatre.

My general disappointment, however, runs much deeper. According to the trailers of the upcoming movies, this year we will be honored with such masterpieces as “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” or “Top Gun: Maverick” in May, and “Jurassic World Dominion” in June. Don’t get me wrong – I am a total fan of Doctor Strange, I love dinosaurs (on screen, that is), and, I mean, Top Gun is history. However, these are all franchise movies, tried formulas that cannot fail to bring in money due to the already existing fan base. There is no sense of adventure, risk-taking, or pushing the limits of cinematography. I guess for that we should go to streaming platforms, not movie theaters. What do you think?


Could Artificial Intelligence Write Romance?

And Could You Tell the Difference?

Recently, I came across Sudowrite, an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that helps writers to write, obviously. Like, really write. You put in a couple of sentences and it spits out the rest of the paragraph in all levels of heat! I played around with it and I was a bit shocked when I realized that a lot of tedious searching for the right adjectives, descriptions, and plot lines can be substituted by a click of my mouse (worth 20$ per month for the subscription). And then I was even more shocked when it turned out there are AI writing tools out there for everything – from ads, e-mails, blogs, up to business pitches and song lyrics. What the heck? Have I been living under a rock?

I might have, but putting that aside, the fact that AIs can write (and probably are writing) instead of humans is kind of sad, terrifying, and intriguing at the same time. It makes one wonder how much of what we read is actually written by humans. And could one tell a difference?

Some research has found that AI-generated texts can be indistinguishable from human ones and can provide insights into future creativity. Fears around the abilities of AI algorithms to generate convincing text have led to some claiming that machine intelligence would render creativity obsolete. For some people, AI writers have even made writing more natural. They have to put in much less effort to create a coherent storyline. The audience doesn’t notice the difference when reading their work, but it helps them save time and get their work done quicker.

To prove my point, this paragraph above has not been written by me, but by Rytr (Best AI Writer, Content Generator & Writing Assistant – as the creators like to point out). Have you noticed? Sure, it helped me fill this blog post, but it also made me feel like a fake, nevertheless. And call me old-fashioned – I still like to write my books without the assistance of Rytr and the likes of him/her/it.

If you want to read more about various AI tools for writing out there, here’s the link to an interesting article providing more information.


The King of One-Night Stands

For all the fans of my book “The Neighbor” here are some good news – I am working on the spin-off of the novel and will be posting new chapters online in regular intervals. The title of the new book is “The King of One-Night Stands” and you can find it under “My Books” or simply by clicking HERE. I can promise you a lot of feelings and life-changing events for all the characters involved. It is a story of Colin, one of my favorite side characters from “The Neighbor”, and takes place during the time period right after its penultimate chapter.


Remembering Conan the Cimmerian

Sure, you may ask what does the brawny fantasy hero Conan has to do with romance stories but I’ll come to that.

On the 22nd of January 116 years ago Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan and one of my favorite writers, was born. He wrote his first story when he was ten and started writing professionally at the age of fifteen. For him, it was the easiest way to earn money in times of Depression. For me, earning money with writing is not for the faint of heart, but maybe the times have changed.

“My sole desire in writing is to make a reasonable living,” he said. “I may cling to many illusions, but I am not ridden by the illusion that I have anything wonderful or magical to say, or that I would amount to anything particularly if I did say it. I have no quarrel with art-for-art’s sakers. On the contrary, I admire their work. But my pet delusions tend in other directions.”

And yet, he has created one of the most famous and striking characters in literature, known to a lot of people throughout the world. This brings me to a common conundrum and a question – should books be written for the sake of the art, or should they be entertaining? And why not both? Why should anyone put up with bad writing to read something interesting, and why should anyone tolerate a boring book no matter how well written? I believe they shouldn’t and that it is the job of the writer to tell a good story skillfully, which is what I strive to do. What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion!

Inadvertently I suppose, or maybe not, Robert E. Howard has written one of the greatest romance stories ever. It is called “The Queen of the Black Coast” and tells about the adventures and love of Belit and Conan. If you haven’t read it, and you like fantasy and romance, you should. It’s worth reading if only for the dialogue between Belit and Conan, in which they talk about life, death, and beliefs, and which ends with her famous words:

“…My love is stronger than any death…My heart is welded to your heart, my soul is part of your soul! Were I still in death and you fighting for life, I would come back from the abyss to aid you…”

If that’s not romantic, then I don’t know what is.


Promoting a book – or not (part 4)

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about book promotions on this blog. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been promoting my books. I have and I’ve occasionally even done a really good job. It’s just that I’ve also been busy with my newsletter, my new books, a couple of stories, and life in general, so no time for blogging.

But now, back to business. So far, I can say that some things worked for me and some – not so much. For example, Books Butterfly did not work for me at all. It worked a bit for the free book option, but not at all for the 0.99 $ book. In other words, waste of money, and a lesson learned. I also tried BookBub paid advertisement. It is a pay-per-click model, but one has to be persistent and tweak the ads constantly to see what works and what not. I did not have much time for that yet, but I’ll give it a go again soon. It does not waste any money if no one clicks on the ads, which is the case with my ads, but the ultimate goal is to have people click on the ads and buy the book. I’m light years away from it so I really need to work on my spaceship.

However, I did have a very successful free book promotion of “The Neighbor”, which reached #44 in free book downloads and #13 in the contemporary romance category on Amazon at the beginning of December. The promotion ran for 3 days with more than 3000 downloads. It was a combination of a booked feature on ManyBooks.net (which was really cheap), then another mention by bknights over Fiverr (even cheaper), and the most important thing – I got a slot in the newsletter of Freebooksy. This one was not so cheap but also not very expensive (120 $ for my category) and it was certainly worth the money. The newsletter ran on the second day of promotion and it alone brought me over 2500 downloads. Compare this to 200 downloads that Books Butterfly managed the first time I had a free book promotion for “The Neighbor” and the power of Freebooksy becomes clear.

Finally, I also have a Goodreads giveaway behind me, which is an option where one pays to have 100 e-books given away for free to the people of the Goodreads community that show interest in the book and register for the giveaway. I did it with an idea to see how people like what I wrote, to garner some publicity, and get some reviews. A lot of people wanted to read the book (over 1000), and I did get some reviews. Some of them were really great and made my day. Some were not so great – but they pointed out the faults in the book, which I must agree are there and which I will attempt to either correct or avoid in my future books. Finally, there was a one 1* review where the person said they hated the book and deleted it from their Kindle. I didn’t mind that one very much because people like different books and have a right to an opinion, but I wished the author of the review could have provided me with more information about what was so wrong with my book to provoke such a reaction. Today, interestingly, I noticed that that one review was retracted. I don’t know why, but it improved the overall rating of my book, so, thanks for the retraction.

All in all, of those 100 books I gave away for free, I only got 5 written reviews and 25 star reviews in total, which is very little. I guess for my future books the best way would be to organize some advanced reader’s copies in exchange for an honest review. Since I am already a member of StoryOrigin, which provides such services, it will probably go through that app. Now I just need to write.

With that in mind, I’m off to be creative.


A Book Review of “Mr. Pavalli” – or who the f*** is Nick?

What enticed me to read and review this book (or story of only 42 pages, to be precise) by G. Romany was the fact that it was for free and had very few reviews. I was thinking I could add my review and support the author. Little did I know… Well, actually I did, or I strongly suspected it, so, served me right.

This is a relatively short erotica story that makes as much sense as any of such stories and leaves an aftertaste of having watched a porn clip on some obscure site that does not care too much about the quality. It’s not badly written – the style is fluent, readable, the sentences not too complicated. If you like a macho male protagonist (youngest investment banker with a sixpack and a big, fat…bank account, you know, the usual stuff) and a chubby insecure female lead character (one of those who are smart, but convinced they are not good enough, and who melt at the thought of someone loving and protecting them) then you’ll be happy reading this story. Of course, if you can overlook several points.

First: The cover – why is the guy so red? Is it just my tablet, or was it the saturation problem of the image editor, or has Mr. Crab just spent too much time in the sun?

Second: The copyright page – I did not understand why the author would (quote) “continue to provide you with a reality we can all escape from when the life we run become just a bit harder to walk”? Are we running or walking, and why would the author provide me with something I would like to escape from? Bad marketing move is all I can say.

Third: The story – There’s this hot boss Mr. Pavalli, who for some reason likes his employee Lucy and wants to protect her from whatever, and there’s Lucy, whose boyfriend has cheated on her (because he’s a model and she’s an ordinary girl with (gasp!) a couple of extra pounds and stretch marks), but she still has qualms about having sex with the hot Mr. Pavalli, because she is not sure if she is morally allowed to get over her cheating boyfriend so quickly. And that’s it. That’s her big dilemma.

Fourth: The names – And here comes my final question, directed at the heavens above and any wise person out there who might know the answer – if Lucy’s boyfriend’s name is Josh, and Mr. Pavalli’s name is Nate (Lucy screams it a couple of times in orgasmic bliss), then who the f*** is this Nick, who not only pops up in the text but also in the titles of all chapters written from the POV of Mr. Pavalli?

And with this final puzzle, I will leave you to ponder about the reason for the existence of stories such as this and other mysteries of the universe.

My final verdict: 2* (And this only because I think this author can write, and with a better plot and some editing and proofreading might in fact produce a solid book one day).

“Mr. Dale and the Divorcée” – A Book Review

It seems to be a characteristic of wise and experienced authors that they plan their book releases in advance. This includes collecting reviews before publishing by giving away free books. I came across such an opportunity and received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Since I am a conscientious person and plan to maybe review a book or two in the future, I did my best to read the book on time and give the already mentioned honest review.

Truth be told, I always tend to write nicer reviews than a book might deserve if I was cruelly honest. On the other hand, I know how hard it is to write a decent book and unless I am simply horrified by what I read, I find no reason to get upset over every slight inconsistency or every little detail that is not believable. Like the fact that an older woman from the 19th century manages to give birth to twins and actually stay alive. Having said this, I will proceed to review the book and try to avoid any further spoilers.

This is the first book I read from Sophie Barnes, but it won’t be the last – if I manage to go through a virtual pile of books stored in the memory of my e-book reader and find time to read another regency romance. As a fan of Jane Austen, I was interested in reading a historical romance from a similar period, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The main character, Wilhelmina, is a woman divorced, and much of the ensuing conflict in the book comes from the fact that in order for a divorce to take place, she needs to create a public image of herself that is essentially the direct opposite of the person she truly is. Mr. Dale, the main male protagonist, is a slightly self-righteous barrister coming from a wealthy family who is attracted to Wilhelmina from the moment they meet but is repulsed by her (fake) reputation. Expectedly, there is a lot they need to learn and discover about each other so that they could find their happy ending, and this experience changes them for the better (although, to be honest, they were both almost perfect to start with, they just didn’t know it).

The characters are wonderfully described and developed and I enjoyed reading this book and following their interaction. Also, the book is well written and perfectly plotted, with just the right amount of misfortune to make me root for the characters, but not enough to spoil anything.

This is maybe my only point of complaint. I understand that a happy end needs to be happy, but the sugar-coated ending was a bit too sweet for my taste. That and those twins. Maybe I’m just a wretched person deep inside, but what about pox, mumps, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and the myriad of other horrible diseases that could have claimed the lives of one or all children as well as some of the grownups along the way? How about the hard realities of life? Sure, my heart melted with happiness that everything went well for everyone involved. But my head did not believe, and this spoiled it a bit for me.

Regarding the language – British characters in the book use “gotten” as the past participle of “get”, which I don’t think would be the case if they were speaking the same language as Jane Austen. I can understand the usage of American English in other novels, but in a historical romance maybe a bit more attention should be given to how the characters would really speak. This would enable me as a reader to become better emersed in the book and believe that something like the story described had really happened. Apart from that, other books from this series promise to be as charming and interesting as this one, and I hope I will get to read them as well.

My verdict: 4.5 * Well written and plotted, with a sugar coating that was a bit too thick for my taste.

NaNoWriMo starts TODAY!

NaNoWriMo starts today! A month of crazy writing, trying to reach that magnificent 50.000 words goal by the end of November. I have joined in with my new planned romantic comedy, which, to be honest, I have already started writing. My goal for this month is therefore to FINISH IT. Is it possible? Will I make it? No idea. I am a slug paced writer and often get stuck, but recently have come in contact with a great bunch of creative people, and with their support it just might happen.

Also in planning – another free story for my subscribers. This one will contain full moon, wolves, a lot of water, and some blood, and if you are thinking “werewolf romance” I’ll have to say – wait and see.

Goodreads Giveaway is finished

The Goodreads Giveaway is officially over. 1130 people requested the book – much more than I could have ever hoped, considering that I am a new author. Congratulations to all the lucky winners. I hope you’ll enjoy my book. To all the others – thank you for showing an interest in my book and for having included it on your reading list.

But this doesn’t have to be the end of our interaction – by subscribing to my newsletter, not only will you receive a free book (“An Angel for a Sinner”, a romance story with a touch of paranormal), but you will also be the first to know about my oncoming releases and promotions, which will give you the chance to get my books at a reduced price or free!

„Salford World War” – A Book Review

Another book I have received a free copy of in exchange for an honest review was the “Salford World War” (Will World War 3 start IN Salford?) A Romantic Crime Thriller for 2014 by Mike Scantlebury (published in 2014/republished in 2018). To describe the process – I was contacted on Twitter by a PR manager (hired by the author, I suppose) to ask if I was willing to read the book and post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. I said yes. It was straightforward and in good faith on both sides, and I was happy to do someone a favor, but also to read a romantic crime thriller, which guaranteed to be exciting and different from most of the books I’ve reviewed so far. Admittedly, I was also attracted by the promise of a romance, and there was some romance in the book, indeed – except that the main male protagonist turned out to be as romantic as a rotting piece of wood and I wanted to bludgeon him to death on several occasions throughout the book. But we’ll come to that later.

I will skip my usual rating system for this book as well and write a focused assessment fit to be posted on Amazon (or anywhere else), where people do not have much time to invest in reading long and rambling reviews.

The book’s main protagonist is Amelia Hartliss, who is a secret agent given an important task of protecting an official from China, who comes to visit Salford. The premise of the story is that there are many who want the Chinese official dead, and if they succeed, the consequence might be that China will issue an ultimatum to Great Britain, because the assassination happened on their soil, which in turn might lead to World War III, similar to what had happened in World War I. Here, I am not sure the idea holds water – for the start of the World War I it was not really important where the assassination took place but who did it. Therefore, even if the Chinese official was killed in Salford, it would still matter who killed him. You can’t just start issuing ultimatums because the secret service of the country supposed to protect the emissary you’ve sent consists of a bunch of people incapable of protecting their pet hamster, let alone a foreign visitor. Or you can, but then you don’t really need anyone assassinated at all.

However, the author makes a good job of selling the idea, so after accepting this as a possibility, we join Amelia in her efforts to organize the visit and at the same time figure out who has murdered a good friend of hers (and a former lover), while in parallel trying to understand if she has a personal life at all and any kind of future with Mickey, a fellow spy. By the way, Mickey is the one I’d like to bludgeon to death, simply because of the way he is treating Amelia throughout the book, and if she has any brains at all, she will delete his phone number and try to forget the guy existed. But, to get back to the main topic, the events unfold, and we discover that almost nothing is as it seems (except that Mickey is truly horrible as a boyfriend), and Amelia kind of succeeds in the end, except that it turns out it was not her success after all. Now, at that point, if I had been treated like they’ve been treating her, I would’ve probably quit my job, left my boyfriend, and found me a therapist, but Amelia is tougher than that, so she decides to stick around – for a couple of more books.

So, why should you read the book? It’s fun, and the convoluted story gets properly unraveled by the end of the book. Mind you, there are 11 books before this one dealing with the same character, so I missed the background information. Perhaps the author could put in front a short synopsis of the stuff that was happening before the book Nr. 12. Then it would be easier to understand certain references in the story. Also, I like Amelia (even though she seems a bit too trustworthy and quite incapable for a secret service agent). She is a nice character, and I am curious what will happen to her. I like even Mickey a bit (but only a bit) because he is kind of rough but honest. However, not boyfriend material. Not at all. What I didn’t like was the way dialogs were written, because I had sometimes a hard time figuring out who said what and if they have said it at all or only wanted to say it. I also did not fully manage to follow many characters who came in and out of the story and were insufficiently described and sometimes acted in a way I could not entirely explain. But if you can overlook these weaknesses, and if you like an action-filled story with a nice female lead character, then you’ll have fun reading this book.

My final verdict is 3.5 *.

Interesting, action-filled story with a twist at the end, but with some incomprehensible and confusing moments, and not much romance.