BookBub results, one day in

I don’t have any sales figures, alas, for my BookBub promotion for Dover Beach.  But I do have some sales rankings.

Yesterday, before the promotion, Dover Beach was ranked 129,749 among books in the Kindle store.  (This isn’t actually too terrible, by my standards.  It may reflect the price reduction, which occurred a few days ago.)

Today, it’s ranked #470 in the Kindle store.  It peaked in the low 300’s, I think.  It’s currently #13 in the Science Fiction Action category, which puts it in the neighborhood of books by George R. R. Martin and Hugh Howey.  It’s even higher in a couple of Technothriller categories.  (This categorization is insane; don’t read Dover Beach if you’re lookiing for a technothriller.)

The book is ranked #135 on the Barnes & Noble site.

On Kobo, which I never visit, it’s ranked #15 in the Science Fiction category.

This seems promising!  What is also promising is that the book’s very fine sequel, The Distance Beacons, has also moved up from about #270,000 on the Kindle store to about #60,000 (on Barnes & Noble, it’s around #15,000).  The hope, obviously, is that people will gobble up Dover Beach, and then quickly move on to the sequel.  After that, they will be ready to move on to volume 3, which I’m close to finishing if I’d just quit blogging for a while.

Because this is my blog, I’ll take this opportunity to reprint one of the five-star reviews for The Distance Beacons:

The President is coming to town and Walter, the one and only private eye, isn’t given an opportunity to say, “No!, when the government requests his services after threats are made against the very distinguished official. From the beginning, nothing the government does makes sense (LOL) but Walter keeps chipping away at the case, in between repeatedly being beat up and thrown in jail. The closer he comes to solving this complicated case the worse things get for him. You will love this unusual story and get to spend more time with Walter’s menagerie of friends. You will also bellow out a few good laughs at poor Walter’s expense. I can’t wait for another book about this private eye of the future!

 

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Two legs to darkclaw and weasel

That’s the title of a five-star review of Dover Beach on Barnes & Noble.  Here is the text of the review:

He kicks darckclaw into a tree and takes weasel to my house result twelve.

I dunno.  Somehow, this review did not make me all tingly and proud.  Those of you who are familiar with Dover Beach  will recall that it contains no weasels, and probably very few trees.

My publisher says I should respond to all my customer reviews, but I can’t figure out how to respond to Barnes & Noble reviews.  If I could respond, what should I say?

Thanks for the insightful comments!  Somehow, you have intuited deeper truths about my novel than even I have heretofore recognized.  For that, I will be forever grateful!

Does that work?  By the way, I Googled Darkclaw and found out that he is a character in Brian Jacques’s Redwall books, which my kids liked once upon a time.  I never thought they went anywhere, but I wasn’t a kid when I read them.

Meanwhile, here’s a review from Amazon that does make me tingly and proud.  It’s entitled “I won’t bore you with praise…”:

This is an incredibly good book. Clearly, the absolute best post apocalyptic detective novel I’ve ever read. I want more, Richard Bowker. More!

That’s more like it.  On the other hand, I was unaware that there are more post-apocalyptic detective novels out there.  That’s a little discouraging.  I thought I had cornered the market!

Authors are hard to please.

Is it just me, or are Nook customer reviews somewhat lacking?

. . . at least, compared to Amazon review.

That “Free Fridays” publicity got a lot of people downloading Dover Beach.  And some of them apparently have more free time on their hands than I do, because they’ve already left reviews.  Some are reasonably well written, but then there’s this sort of one-star review:

DO NOT EVER LEND LendMe BOOKS TO NON- EXISTIENT PEOPLE!!!!!! NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER DO THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I left out about 50 exclamation points.)

The good news is that only three of out of 73 people (currently) found this review helpful.  The bad news is that there are three people out there who found this review helpful.

Here is a one-star review that I’m actually OK with:

This was a weird book. It started out almost as if missing half of it or it was part 2 in a series. You just felt lost like they were talking about things that happened and you werent a part of it. There was no explanation for anything, while the premise might have been good, a little more explanation would have made this book much better. As is, it sucked. Woild not recommend at all. Terrible.

Somewhere on this blog I’ve probably mentioned that I made a conscious decision not to give the backstory of the war in whose aftermath this story takes place.  The war happened in someone else’s world; these characters inhabit another world altogether.  If that doesn’t work for a reader, my apologies. If you’re a Free Fridays reader, all you’ve lost is your time.

At least I can get some consolation from this.

Christmas Eve in the world of “Dover Beach”

In this excerpt from my novel Dover Beach, the bookish would-be private eye Walter Sands spends Christmas Eve alone in a grim London hotel room, where he is haunted by memories of Christmases past.  Things have not always gone well for him in the bleak post-apocalyptic world he inhabits.

The e-book of Dover Beach is still free on Amazon, for some reason.  Which is a pretty good deal, when you come to think of it.  It is ranked #21 among technothrillers, for some reason.  It is not a technothriller; technothrillers don’t quote Dickens, at least not this liberally:

I took a bath. I reread the newspaper. I reread the Gideon Bible. I stared out the frosted window of my dreary room and gazed at the ruddy faces passing by in the dark, alien world. And I waited for a visitor.

It was the Ghost of Christmas Past. I knew he would come. He always came, so why should he make an exception now that I was in London, in his hometown?

“Rise, and walk with me!”

There was no refusing him, of course. Some nights, perhaps, but not on Christmas Eve.

Through the window, across the frigid London sky, over the fierce, churning ocean—to the awful abode of memories, still alive, still waiting to claim me…

“Why, it’s old Fezziwig!”

Not likely. It was a solemn, gaunt man—too gaunt, far too DOVER-BEACH-COVER1Lsolemn—his bony hand resting on my shoulder, light as a leaf. I was warm—the wood stove was kept well filled. But I was hungry. Always hungry. The man’s eyes glittered, reflecting the oil lamp’s flickering flame. “Tomorrow is Christmas,” the man said. “Least, Mrs. Simpkins says so. I’ve kinda lost track myself. Thing is, well, there’s nuthin’ to give you. I’ve tried—you’ve seen how I’ve tried, haven’t you? But everything’s gone. The entire world is gone. Oh, I’m so sorry.”

The man’s glittering eyes turned liquid and overflowed, wetting his leathery skin, his gray beard. His hand moved down onto my back and pulled me toward him. He held me against his chest, and I heard the ka-thump ka-thump of his heart beneath the frayed flannel shirt. The intensity of the sound scared me. The sudden strength of the hand scared me. I stayed there, listening, and eventually the hand loosened its grip, and I stepped back. The man looked at me—looking (I know now) for forgiveness, and if not forgiveness, at least some sort of understanding. But he was looking for something I was far too young to offer.

“Daddy,” I said, “what’s Christmas?”

“These are but shadows of things that have been,” said the Ghost.

“That’s swell,” I said. “That’s really swell.”

The Spirit pulled me along.

And I was chopping wood outside a familiar, broken-down barn. I was sweating, despite the cold, and my arms ached. A woman came out of the barn, carrying a scrawny chicken she had just killed. Her face was lined and wind-burned, her body shapeless under a heavy coat. She stopped and looked at me, and I kept on chopping. “Walter,” she said, “things is tough.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. I kept on chopping.

“Mr. Simpkins says we’ll have to leave here pretty soon if things don’t get better. I don’t know what we’ll do if we leave, where we’ll go, but there’s got to be someplace better.”

“I expect,” I said. I put another log on the block.

“But we’ll take care of you, Walter. We made a promise, and no matter how hard things get, we keep our promises. You understand?”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am.”

The woman nodded, satisfied. “Christmas is coming, but I’m afraid there won’t be any gifts. We can have a tree, though. You like them old ornaments, right? We can make the place real festive. Won’t that be nice?”

I split the log neatly. “Very nice,” I said. “Much obliged.”

The woman nodded some more. Chicken blood dripped onto the snow. “It’s the spirit that counts, that’s what I always say. We don’t have much in the way of things anymore, but we still have the spirit, don’t we, Walter?”

“Yes, ma’am. We still have the spirit.”

The woman smiled and went inside. I picked up another log and put it on the block.

“Spirit,” I said, “show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?”

“One shadow more!” exclaimed the Ghost.

“No more!” I cried. “No more. I don’t wish to see it. Show me no more!”

But the relentless Ghost pinioned me in both his arms, and forced me to observe what happened next.

The three of us were sitting in the parlor that first year together, and Stretch was expounding. “If we’re going to preserve our civilization, we have to preserve its rituals. Rituals are what bind us together. They shelter us from the terror of loneliness and death. They give life meaning and shape.”

“Christmas sucks,” I said.

Gwen smiled.

“It isn’t Christmas that sucks,” Stretch explained earnestly, “it’s your experience of Christmas. That’s why it’s so important to create our own experiences—to overcome those other experiences, to connect with the best of the old civilization, to keep us alive. Don’t you see?”

Yeah, I saw.

And then it was Christmas Eve. The pine boughs had been strewn, the popcorn strung, the fire roared wastefully; and at midnight we all kissed and exchanged presents that we couldn’t afford.

I gave Gwen a typewriter I had bought at the Salvage Market.

Gwen gave me a book from Art’s special stock. It was called The Maltese Falcon.

“See?” Stretch said. “Isn’t this good? Isn’t this the way life should be lived?”

And then later, lying upstairs in each other’s arms. “What do you think of Christmas?” I asked Gwen. “Is Stretch right?”

“I think,” she said, “that I have never been happier in my life.”

“Spirit,” I said, in a broken voice, “remove me from this place.”

“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!”

“Remove me!” I exclaimed. “I cannot bear it!”

He let me go finally—back to my bleak hotel room, back to my guilt, back to this present that I had so longed for all my life—while he went off, presumably, to torture some other undeserving soul. No other ghosts came to call—I didn’t expect any—and eventually I drifted off to a tense and restless sleep.

When I awoke it was Christmas Day.

I get a two-star customer review on Amazon, and I brood about the nature of fiction

Here I described a review of Senator that started badly but it ended up full of praise.  I love trick endings like that!

But now I’ve got a review of Dover Beach that goes in the opposite direction.  Look:

Great plot…..excellent writing……FINALLY a believable private eye……interesting, unforgettable characters…..surprising twists……All this to say that I believe here is an author we will hear more from in the future.

So why did I give it only 2 stars? Because of his world-view. His main character is living in a destroyed world as a result of nuclear war — yet Bowker thinks humanism is going to rebuild it all????

Have long though[t] that good Science Fiction asks the right questions, but am afraid Bowker comes up with wrong answers. I don’t buy the humanist philosophy and if his next book has “Humanistic Science Fiction” on the cover I for one won’t be spend[ing] a dime on it.

I guess we shouldn’t have put that quote from Locus (“Humanist science fiction of a high order”) on the cover!  But anyway, I was brooding about that four-question-mark question in the review’s second paragraph.  Do I believe what the reviewer says I believe?  I do not.  But further, I have never even considered the question.  Even further, if the novel suggests that I have an opinion about the matter–or about anything, in fact–I’d consider that a flaw.  The purpose of fiction is to give pleasure, not to give answers–to strive for beauty, not for truth.  For me, the pleasure of Dover Beach was in plopping down a conventional literary genre in an unconventional setting, and exploring the tensions that resulted.  This may cause notions of humanism to creep in, because private eyes deal with human-scale issues.  But the private eye in Dover Beach isn’t going to save the world he inhabits–he is lucky if he’ll be able to save himself.

This gives me a chance to copy John Keats’s definition of negative capability, which we should all read every year or so:

At once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously- I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason — Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

Words for a writer to live by.

Here’s a five-star review to make me feel better:

What a treasure. Amazing how smoothly this author leads the reader into his jagged, apocalyptic world to reveal what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and leaves you to decide if such a world is worth saving or even living in. I was particularly impressed with his skill at giving you his characters bit by bit throughout to let them become gems of many facets, like a skilled diamond cutter. This is one P.I. whom you will never forget.