Saturday, January 24, 2015

DON'T Believe the Hype. . .


Hello Glorious Readers!

You know I'm a huge advocate of writing good solid reviews of books you've read.  It's one thing to give a 1 to 5 star rating, but when you don't say anything about the book, those stars mean absolutely nothing to me. A star doesn't tell me how the book impacted your thoughts and feelings.  

I decided for this year, I'm going to try and do better by making sure all my reviews go on Amazon, as well as other popular reading sites.  Reviews, whether they are for a book or any other type of purchase, helps other consumers and/or readers to make selections based on what others feel.  Of course, you don't have to go by what others say--it's just a process to help aid you in making a decision. By all means, you should always think for yourself regardless as to what someone else says.

So, imagine my surprise when I went to add some of my reviews to Amazon, only to receive a response from them stating my review didn't follow their guidelines.  Ok, I thought, let me take a look at what I wrote and see what I did wrong.  It was at that time I realized I had a couple 'hells' and 'damns' in my review.  Those words certainly weren't directed toward the author, but more so toward the story line itself and the characters.  I figured no problem, I'll just remove those words and the review should stand as is.

Hmmph, I hit the submit button and went on about my business.  I checked my emails later that day, only to discover Amazon still wouldn't permit my review to stand as it was.  Again, it said I didn't follow their guidelines.  This time I was baffled because for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what did I say that was bad?  I re-read my review for the third time, and discovered there weren't any bad words to speak of in the review. And, I must add, the review itself wasn't bad and there weren't any spoilers mentioned, so I was confused as to why my review wasn't being submitted?

Ok, so I try again and change some of my sentence structure and I even went as far as changing the headline of my review thinking perhaps it appeared too honest for Amazon. Once again, I hit the submit button and waited.  Welp, wouldn't you know it, Amazon wasted no time in responding to me again stating my review could not stand as it was.  I was being told I wasn't following their precious "guidelines!"  Now I was good and pissed by this point.

I re-read my review again and determined there was nothing in my review that was bad, rude, threatening or insensitive about what I said.  Not one damn cuss word, no spoilers, didn't threaten or attack the author, so what the heck was Amazon's problem?  I went onto my author page to see what books I had listed on there for my fans to see who I enjoy reading.  And I noticed that the review I was trying to submit showed up on my author page, however, when I clicked on it to see if it went live, I discovered it was blank.  I'm like what the hell is going on here?

I went to the author's page of where I was trying to write my review and I made a startling discovery.  This particular author had tons, and I do mean, tons of five star ratings.  My rating of this particular book was three stars.  I gave my honest reasons for why I gave it three stars so there was no doubt how I felt about this story.  I began to wonder if Amazon didn't like the fact that I gave this author a three-star rating seeing as how most of the reviewers gave this book five stars.  Amazon is always encouraging its customers to give reviews of their products.  Sometimes they drive me nuts asking me to review things, so I couldn't understand why when I decided to be better about reviewing everything I purchase through Amazon, which is usually Kindle books, why my review was being cast to the side?

That's when I decided to take this a step further.  I began reading the reviews left on this author's book page, and when I really began reading what allegedly these readers said, I wasn't so sure I believed those reviews were on the total up and up.  In fact, most of the reviews just said, "the best book ever," "well written good book," and "couldn't put it down." But if you think about those statements, what do they really tell you?  Why was this book the best ever?  Why was this book considered well written?  Why couldn't the reader put it down?  Do you see where I'm going with this?

Every review I read said the same exact three to four word statements, with five stars given, but none of them explained why they felt this book was all that as they seemed to suggest. After I read this book, I told truthfully what was wrong with the characters and how the cast pissed me off and how shallow I felt these characters were.  I explained everything that, to me, was wrong with the story line.  That's when I got the idea to check what the ones with lower ratings said. Hmm, wouldn't you know it, I couldn't find many.  In fact, I found maybe two and they were at the very bottom of this author's book page.  There wasn't anything to compare to.  Immediately, I knew something wasn't right here.  

My anger was fueling my investigation even further.  I began reading more about this author, and I discovered that Amazon had ranked this author pretty high as having all these supposed five-star ratings.  Of course, when I came along and actually told what I really thought about this story, it would hurt this author's rating status on Amazon. For those of you who don't know, those star ratings mean a great deal on Amazon because it places the author in a certain rank and quite naturally when a reader gives too many less than four-star ratings, it lowers the author's rank and therefore, the author may lose out on how many people will actually read their book.  Ok, I'm an author, I certainly get it, but what I don't get and what pissed me off is, that's NOT right and it's totally unfair to the public as well as the author, whether that author wants to admit it or not!

So what was there left for me to do?  Yep, you guessed it, I wrote Amazon with my concerns and anger.  I took each review for that particular book and pasted it in an email, showing them the various ways I changed it.  Next, I cited their "guidelines" and agreed with them that the hells and damns would be considered profanity, and I took them out, although I've seen plenty of reviews on Amazon that had worse words than that, but we're not going to go there.  Anyhoo, I asked Amazon how they could do this to people and why the hell do they ask for our opinions if you only want the ones that are good?

You want to hear what's so funny?  After I wrote my letter to Amazon, they never responded. But they put my review on the author's page as it stood, and again, my review wasn't bad, it just was honest and truthful about things I found incomplete and wrong in the story line and how it made me feel.  Of course, when I checked to see where my review ended up, it was near the very bottom of that author's page.  It ranks on that author's page, but if you don't look for it, you'll never know I put it there.  

I learned some things from that experience with Amazon and it got me to thinking.  Just how many of those reviews are "true" reviews?  I don't care what you write, there are going to be people who love your work and those that don't!  ALWAYS!  There's no ands, ifs, or buts about that!  And that goes with anything.  I realize Amazon has its favorite authors and although I don't have proof that there was any shade going down, from what I just wrote to you, I'll let you draw your own conclusion.  

Just remember, when you're selecting books to read, check out the reviews and I mean really "review" what is being said.  I guarantee you, you'll almost always be able to tell the "real" reviews from those who are friends of the authors, or hired help to assist the author in getting better ranks on Amazon.  Oh I tell ya, the literary world is shady at times, and very cut throat, which is why I'm in no rush to get back in the game again.  It's rough out there!

Until next time, Happy Reading, and be cautious of the reviews you see--they may not be what YOU think they are!



Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

Don't Believe Everything You Read!



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Do YOU Really Want to Know?

Hello Glorious Readers, 

I bet you thought I forgot this weekend's blog post? Welp, I hadn't forgotten, just a day behind that's all. How many of you watched the movie premiere of Whitney on Lifetime last night?  It was pretty interesting stuff.  I still feel the casting director got some of the characters wrong, but outside of that, I felt it was a pretty good depiction of what I've read and heard about the iconic star.  I do miss her presence in the R&B scene and with a voice quite like hers, I'm pretty thankful I got to be here to experience it.  She's one of those artists that only come around once in a lifetime.  There will never be another Whitney, much like there will never be another Luther Vandross.

And while I'm on the subject of legacies, recently I've heard there's a fire chief who was fired from his job because of a book he wrote.  Forgive me if I don't know exactly all the facts, but from what I've listened to, this guy was first suspended for his actions and then it was decided he should be fired, as some speculate, due to the author's view of homosexuals. From the way I understand it, the rules and guidelines on this man's job prohibited an employee from doing the very type of thing in which he did, and although he was supposed to follow protocol and check with his employer before writing the book, he went ahead and did it anyway, and the fire department decided to end his employment.

When I first caught a glimpse into this story, immediately I was angry.  Not because of what this man wrote, but because he was being ridiculed for having done so.  He has a certain type of belief and feelings about a subject and he spoke out about it.  I feel his job did the right thing in the beginning by suspending him for not following proper procedures, but it gets a little sticky with me when I learned they fired this man.  What was the point of having done that?  The suspension should have sent a clear enough message to him, so what is the deal with the firing?  This would cause one to think that perhaps his firing wasn't so much to do with his lack of following procedure, but more so on what he wrote about in his book--his views of homosexuality.

I'm sure if you don't know by now my views on freedom of speech.  For some reason, it always seems to rear its ugly head from one time or another.  I agree that this chief should have been suspended for his actions in not following the rules, but being fired after the fact causes me some concern.  As much as I hear and see so many things that I feel should never be spoken, written or movies made about, those who wish to do so should be able to do it without having to worry about the repercussions--hence, Freedom of Speech, Expression, Creativity, etc.  

Which brings me to another point I've made many times on this blog.  When you're the creative type, you have so much responsibility in the art you project to the world.  No matter how much you are the artist and have a right to your personal views, once you release your creativity out there, it's there for the world to see.  You open yourself to judgment and opinionated people, haters, and the like.  You have to have a thick skin to be creative.  You may receive lots of heat for what you say and how it's perceived.  You may, unfortunately, lose a job because of your creativity.  

There's a fine line when it comes to freedom of speech.  Many of us hover right in between and we use it to our advantage and other times we want to run over the line and be done with it.  So you see, that's where the problem lies.  You can't have it both ways.  This is why I say regardless as to how I feel about anyone's creativity, how ignorant, vulgar, stupid, irresponsible an author's words may be or appear to you, I will always side with the author--ALWAYS!   If what I've heard about this fire chief is true, I agree with his job that he should have been suspended for not following procedure, but if he was fired simply because of words they didn't agree with or his views, that fire chief should fight them with as much fire as he can muster.  And I'd say he has a damn good case.  It certainly does look rather suspicious that he was first suspended, and then the department turns around and fires him. Hmm, that doesn't look so hot, now does it?

Being true to yourself comes with a heavy price sometimes.  Not everyone is going to share your way of thinking.  There are some pretty powerful people who run the world, and when they speak, the Powers that Be will listen.  When your creativity hurts a conglomerates bottom line, you better trust and believe you'll get gone when they want you to.  Don't believe me, ask Mona Scott-Young and VH1 about the cancellation of Sorority Sisters.  Think social media isn't powerful?  Think the Greek organizations aren't powerful?  A popular Reality show was cancelled due to some people's views of another's creativity and despite the show's disclaimer that it wasn't affiliated with any particular sorority or Greek organization. Do you see the line I'm talking about?

It's a mad, mad world we live in!




Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

If YOU aren't ready to wear the creative 
'Suit of Armor'. . .Then Don't Get Dressed!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Is This YOU?

Hello Glorious Readers,

I've penned 2015 the 'No Excuses' year!  And you better trust and believe there will not be any excuses.  One of the reasons I feel so strongly about that is from conversing with many women. I noticed that some of us stay in the same frame of mind and then wonder why things never change in our lives.

I'm going to be speaking to my sisters this weekend.  Not to throw shade at the fellows, but if you can get a blessing from the words I'm about to say, then by all means, I hope you get the message and use these words wisely.

Are you the 'Woe is me type?' Are you the 'Constant complainer?' Are you the 'Why me type?'  Are you the 'I'm never satisfied type?'  Are you the 'Me too type?'  Are you the 'Wear your color on your sleeve type?'  Are you the 'I have an attitude with everybody type?'  Are you the 'I hold grudges type?' Are you the 'It's everybody else's fault and never my own type?'

Do you recognize any of the types I've mentioned above?  If so, do you know the one thing all those types have in common?  No, you say.  I'll tell you.  All those types are what I call eternal victims.  That's what all those types are--victims.  Make no mistake there's a huge difference between being victimized whether it be criminally or happenstance and being a victim by your own doing.

Some of my sistas are walking around not even realizing they are victims of self. They're so used to doing themselves in that they are blinded by what they've done to their own soul, and that's just plain ole sad!  These are the same sistas that wonder why they can't get a man, or for those that have one, wonder why he no longer wants to be with you or why he's out prowling for something better and new.  I'm not saying your man might not have some fault, but have you ever looked at yourself?

I know a woman who had a good man but ended up losing him simply because she let what the last brother did to her effect the current relationship she was in.  And, of course, she had the nerve to wonder why the man got tired of hearing all her issues.  I can't say I blame the man for feeling the way he did.  This brother couldn't be late five minutes without her accusing him of being with someone else.  And the sad reality was, he wasn't cheating on her, which she later found out when it was too late.

There's another friend of mine who sees nothing but color in everything she does.  If someone looks at her wrong, or says the wrong thing, especially if they are outside of being African-American, immediately she jumps off and says that individual is racist.  When I say everything, I mean everything.  She can't see anything but color.  If the checker in the Wal-Mart says something she deems inappropriate, immediately she says they're only saying that because I'm a black woman.  But the funny thing is, the checker made the mistake of asking her if she noticed the price of a particular item, and right away, she's ready to turn up and throw the race card.  Lord have mercy, if asking a person about a price is racist, what the hell is the world coming to?

I know another woman who sees everyone else's faults except her own.  If you tell her something you're going through, she will give you great advice, but what she doesn't admit to the woman she's advising, is that she has a similar problem.  You'd think the advice she so readily gives to her she would automatically use for herself, but far from that.  When you try to tell her about the negative things she does, right away she's ready to place hands on a sista and cuss 'em out.  Everybody has problems except for her.  Everyone is the issue except for her.  She never sees what she does wrong--but she has 20/20 vision when it comes to your problems.  

How about another friend of mine is always down on herself.  She doesn't like her weight gain.  She can't lose weight.  She's depressed cause she's almost 50 years old, and she hasn't done anything exciting in her life.  Her life is boring and her son is in college and her husband doesn't take her anywhere and they don't do anything fun anymore.  Everybody else's life is great except for hers.  She joined a gym and very rarely goes, and eats like there's no tomorrow, and she knows in her heart she should try to be healthier, but doesn't do it. Her husband encourages her and offers to workout with her, and she still complains about what a sad person she's become.  Hmm?

I swear I should have gone to college to become a damn psychiatrist because I certainly feel like one.  You, the reader, may be thinking how can I say these things about women I know? They are the reason why I've changed my outlook on life.  These ladies are victims of self. Each of them know when they come to me with these complaints and/or issues, I'm not going to sugarcoat a damn thing I say.  As I told one of them, if you don't want me to keep it 100 with you, then don't ask my opinion because I'm going to tell it to you the way I see it.

The complaints they have, in my opinion, are small and useless.  Not to mention a waste of my time and theirs.  Hell, if you plan to live, you're going to get old.  Why on earth are you fighting a battle you'll never win?  What. . .are you going to just die because you don't want to get old?  Do you realize how dumb that is?  Just because a person of the opposite color says something to you that you took way too personal doesn't mean they made their comment because you're a person of color.  There isn't a human who is perfect.  We all have flaws!  You can't talk about my dirty laundry when your house isn't clean.  Do you get where I'm coming from.

When I heard about some of these women who accused Bill Cosby of rape and still carrying the alleged scars with them for over 40 years, one has to wonder when the hell do you ever get over it?  Why are some women victims of life?  Why do you allow others to have your power?  It drives me insane to see how some of my sisters act, and I mean women in general. I don't give a damn what color you are.  There comes a time when you have to STOP allowing others to have your power and take back your control.  After all, there isn't much control you get to have in life, so the very thing you can control, which is your life and your perspective, why wouldn't you do everything in your power to claim it?

I will never be a victim--period!  I made up in my mind a very long time ago that no matter what may happen in this life, I'm going to make the best of it!  I will never allow another human being to reduce me to self-loathing and self-victimization.  If this is YOU, you need to really take a good hard look at yourself and examine the key things that make you a victim. And many of you wonder why good things don't come your way, well part of the problem could start with you.  Until you're willing to make mental and in some cases physical changes in yourself, you'll never get anywhere as long as you continue to live as a victim.

Like I said, ladies, it's a new year, a new beginning, a new slate, clean up your damn act and stop blaming the world for your problems that nine times out of ten you made up and put yourself in.  Once you take back the power, you'll be amazed at how well you succeed in life and how others receive you as well.  Clean up everything around you and life won't appear so messy.

Until next time, happy reading. . .


Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

Stop Being the Problem. . .
Be the Solution!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR. . .

Happy New Year my Glorious Readers!  We here at Mello & June, It's a Book Thang! certainly hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season.  Again, I still wasn't ready for it due to the fact 2014 flew by so quickly.  Let us hope it will be a little slower for the 2015 year!

Did you finish your reading challenge for 2014?  Perhaps you didn't read all the books you wanted, but did you get any of them read?  If you read a few out of your challenge, that's better than not having tried at all.  For me, I read less in 2014 than in 2013.  Part of that is due to taking the month of October off trying to get some other things done.  But I still managed to read 58 books, and I would love to add at least 10 additional books to this reading year.  Make sure you head on over to Goodreads and set your 2015 challenges.  

And while I'm on the subject.  There are many of you who make totally unrealistic goals for your reading challenges, and then you get bummed out when you don't make it.  If you're a person who has a job, a family to take care of and a multitude of other things going on in your life, why would set your challenge for 500 books to read in 2015?  First off, I can tell you right now, you'll never make that, not with other areas of your life needing important attention.  If you're a busy person like myself, you need to set challenges that are much more reachable.  You can always go back and amend as year-end approaches.  For instance, I set my challenge to 52 books a year.  That's a book a week, which I can do easily and fits within my busy schedule--like writing my own novel, working, working out, managing the Blog, etc.!  You get my meaning.  There's no way in hell I'm going to set my challenge to 500 books knowing I wouldn't even come close to doing that?

Now, if you're one of those people who like to challenge yourself by setting your reading goal higher to push you more, then that's ok, but still, 500 books is a very hard challenge to meet within a year, unless you're like my mother who is retired, has nothing but time on her hands and spends just about every waking moment of that reading.  And she's a speed reader so she can read several books in a day and retain everything she read.  I'm trying to get to her level (wink, wink).  Trust me, that won't happen until I retire, and I've got a while to go before that time comes.   So, bottom line readers, set realistic goals and challenges you will be likely to complete.

Speaking of reading, this is not only a new month and new year, but it's that time for AAMBC to be in the house.  Of course, AAMBC took some time off too due to the holidays, but they are BACK and better than ever!   So kick back, prop your feet up and let's start the New Year off right. . .Here we Go!



Skyla Richards is a planner. But, all the forethought and organization on the planet can’t prepare her for the events that are about to alter her world. After her six year marriage ends bitterly, her job becomes her refuge until Jonathan Bass enters her life. He’s a young, handsome co-worker whose future includes an Ivy League opportunity and his upcoming nuptials to an unstable fiancĂ©e, Mia. But that doesn’t stop him from recruiting Skyla to help him sew a few wild oats before the clock winds down on his bachelorhood.

His relentless pursuit has her tossing her to-do lists into the fiery flames of passion and reacquaints her with feelings she’d long since forgotten. And her feminine wiles has him rethinking his engagement and ultimately, taking a ring off of it. But while their hearts continue to align, their careers split into opposite paths when she gets promoted and his Princeton plans are jeopardized when his manager accuses him of dark and menacing acts. With Skyla’s assistance, he rebounds and the two resume their future plans. But while they’ve been ring shopping and deciding wedding dates, Mia has been sulking and contemplating the fastest way to bring their relationship to a shattering demise. And what she comes up with permanently transforms all their lives.

Excerpt:

I was engaged to be married in six months, eleven days and five and a half hours. Yet, here she was in my arms with those haunting black opals looking up at me. Truthfully, I’d fantasized about this moment, but this wasn’t exactly how I envisioned it. Still, I didn’t care. This was an experience I’d longed to have with her, even if I’d gotten it by default during an emotional meltdown.

We’d shot the morning breeze at the coffee machine and at different office functions, but I honestly struggled to ignore her beauty every time I saw her. But now, in this moment, I could allow my eyes to travel the smoothness of her honey colored skin against the back drop of her shoulder length hair and explore the curvature of her breast and hips until our chemistry naturally united and formed an undeniable bond. Then, the door swung open.

“What the hell is going on in here?”


GETTING TO KNOW TISS


I have been a freelance writer for over a decade and have written and published various online relationship articles as well as material for the print publication Being Single magazine. This experience along with my occasional after hour stumble upon hiked up skirts and dangling belted trousers in my many years as an Office Manager has given me a unique and humorous insight into the widely seductive world of romance, particularly in the office. My other literary works range from political commentary to poetry. I’m also the owner of an online Zazzle store, Mahoganygear.com, (http://www.zazzle.com/mahoganygear), which sells everyday items bearing inspirational messages.

My debut fictional novel in a series entitled, Altered, is told from both Skyla Richard’s and Jonathan Bass’ perspectives and is a passionate tale of the evolution of their relationship and the many casualties who dare to get in the path of their heat.

Q – Why write urban romance?

A – I write urban romance because love is something everyone wants. Regardless of race or class, we all go through the same things in terms of relationships. I write about these experiences with a hood spin and unique way of viewing them through urban eyes.

Q – When did you first start writing?

A – I first started writing when I was very young and my old school grandmother gave me a diary to keep me busy. I have three older brothers and grandma didn’t believe in girls playing with all boys, all the time. So, she would make me go to my room, which was boring and lonely until my diary came alive with stories.

Q – What makes a good story to you?

A -- What makes a good story to me is when it involves real life situations that include romance, a little mystery, a little tragedy and lots of sex and laughs.

Q – Why did you choose the dual male/female narration format?

A – I chose this format because I think it answers that age old question women have which is, What the hell was he thinking? Jonathan lets you know exactly what he’s thinking and why.

Q – How did you come up with the book title?

A – I came up with this particular title because sometimes building a relationship can be like constructing a garment. You have to bind the two people together, cut out certain behaviors, trim the excess baggage, iron out issues, etc..

Q – Out of all the genres you write in, which one do you enjoy the most?

A – I enjoy writing fiction the most, poetry second. The other literary forms are fact driven, whereas fiction and poetry are emotion and imagination driven for me, making them more challenging.

Q – What do you want people to walk away with after reading your novels?

A – I want them to feel as if they’ve been entertained on multiple levels.


Find the Author:






Amazon Purchase Link:







Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

It's a New Year. . .
So be the Change YOU Seek!



Thursday, January 1, 2015

No More Excuses. . .

HAPPY NEW YEAR Readers!  

If you didn't get to do everything you set out to do in 2014, you have 364 more days to get it right starting with TODAY!

The New Year signifies new beginnings--a clean slate, if you will!  You can't worry about yesterday!  You can't worry about the future because it hasn't happened, BUT you can deal with the here and now!

I began my transformation a few short weeks ago, and I'm carrying on with my plan for the 2015 year.  This is the year for NO EXCUSES!  At some point, everyone must own up to what you have accomplished thus far in your own life!  So with that being said, I decided to clean up years of bad debt, forge ahead with a new financial freedom.  I've decided to leave all the things I've done wrong behind me and start cleaning up my act!

I'm paying closer attention to my spending habits--setting realistic goals I can achieve.  I want to continue to live the best life I can for myself and my family.  I'm leaving all the dumb shit behind me--and yes, that includes people who don't serve any real purpose for my life other than to cause discord, and if that is YOU, I will not put up with it.  

2015 is NO EXCUSES!  When you know you're doing wrong, I don't want to hear it.  When you have no real plan other than to destroy what others are doing, I don't want any parts of you.  I started a few years ago putting positive influences in my life and I am continuing on with that.  However, those people and things that are no good for me, I will not bother with them.  I will not allow others negative energy to impact my beautifully lifted spirit.  I've changed a great many things in my life, and I've never felt better.  

What I planned to do, I will do and nothing and no one will stand in the way of me accomplishing my goals, and that's including standing in my own way.  

So as we embark on a new year, a new day, a new beginning, take some time to reflect on where you've been so you may continue to march forward in this thing called life!

NO EXCUSES in 2015!  You know what you need to do and what you have to do, so get 'er done!

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

Pay Attention. . .
or Suffer the Cost!

NO EXCUSES!