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Review This!

Sunday’s New York Time’s article about the company that produced fake reviews of books highlighted the importance of 5-star Amazon reviews. If you have a lot of positive ones it attracts people and generates excitement.

I don’t have a problem asking people to read the book and review it, but to hire a company to create fake reviews doesn’t make sense because when the book fails to live up to this false praise, the hype fizzles.

But it’s not surprising that authors and companies fake reviews to hype their crap.

What is surprising is that so many people rely on these reviews.

‘Average Joe’ reviews in conjunction with independent, credible commentary can be effective, but sadly, the general public isn’t that discerning.

Pushing the boundaries of reviews is not new. Look at those full page movie ads that run in daily newspapers. They’ll take a single phrase or word (out of context) to sell the movie. “Exhilarating” could be the only positive word in an otherwise awful review, but it will be in huge type as a headline.

The challenge for the indie release is getting anyone of credibility to pay attention. Given the amount of self-published garbage now being … Read the rest

The Rich Have No Idea What Working Folks Go Through

It was on the cool side Friday afternoon when Tommy, the AAA guy from Bridgeport, CT, knocked on my door. He was here to test my battery, a free service for AAA members.

I offered Tommy some water or a coffee. He declined and got started testing the battery. He was dressed in a blue, polyester outfit and yellow safety vest.

“How bad has it been this summer, with the heat?” I asked.

“Oh man,” he said, “sometimes when I get home at night, I’ve baked for so long, I can’t even talk to my kids until I cool down.”

“Jeez,” I said, “what’s it like in winter?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t been doing this that long.”

It turned out I needed a new battery, so he swapped out the old for a new.

“What’s the trickiest battery situation you’ve seen?” I asked during the installation.

“The battery in a Dodge Stratus is in the wheel well. You’ve got to take the tire off to get at it. In a Ferrari, the battery is under the seat.”

I had no idea. We talked a bit more about batteries and then I went back into the house.

A little later … Read the rest

Feedback from Ireland’s Declan O’Rourke

This week I had the good fortune of getting assistance on some of my songs from the Irish singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke. If you don’t know Declan’s work, visit his site.

Paul Weller said this about Declan in the April edition of the UK music magazine Mojo:

“He writes the sort of classic songs that people don’t write anymore, songs that sound like they’ve been around forever . . . Listen to Galileo, which is possibly the greatest song written in the last thirty years.”

There are no right or wrongs in songwriting, but there are clearly better choices. Declan’s made a lot of great choices over the years. What I love about his attitude is that he’s into wrestling with a song for months, agonizing over each word, prepared always to kill his darlings if necessary.

We spent several hours on a Skype call the other day. I was in Westport, CT; he was in Galway. By the time we finished, the sun was rising in Ireland.

We came up with some great ideas on how to improve my songs and for the past few days I’ve been trying to work those in.

It was a great experience … Read the rest

Richard Ford versus the Game of Thrones

Last week I finished Richard Ford’s Canada, a book well worth reading. I’ve been a fan for years and this doesn’t disappoint.

Next I bought Games of Thrones because I love the HBO series and wanted to take the experience to the next level. I also haven’t read any science fiction/fantasy for years. I thought it would be a nice change.


After a page I knew I’d made a mistake, but I trudged through the next few chapters hoping that my knowledge from the series would make up for the lazy descriptive choices, the clunky sentences and overuse of clichés. To be fair to George R.R. Martin, if I hadn’t just read Ford’s Canada, I may not have been so bothered; but Ford’s sentences flow like a Five Series BMW, Martin’s chugged along as if I was in a Chevy.

Games of Thrones is a fresh twist on familiar stories based on Tolkein, Star Wars, Shakespeare, Mythology and the Bible. That’s not a knock, aren’t most stories derivative of the last three on that list? But following Ford made me realize that I don’t want to fill my mind with just serviceable sentences. I want to raise … Read the rest