Forum boards, reviews and badly behaving authors …

Becca C Smith
It’s funny because I didn’t even know about
sock puppeting until I started reading some of the Amazon Forums and literally
in the title of the board it said “NO SELF-PROMOTION.” I had no intention of
self-promoting; in fact, I find it awkward to self-promote. I know I’m supposed
to, but I’ve never been the kind of person to say, “hey, read my book! It’s

When I went through the boards, I realized how many writers have
absolutely no problem telling the world how amazing they are. Even if they are
using fake names, it’s so obvious that it’s the author or at least one of their
friends. It’s usually when they go into loglines and details that give it away. 

The really great puppeteers recommend a bunch of other books first, then later
after they’ve developed a rapport with the board members pitch their book. At
that point, at least they had the courtesy to connect with the other
contributors to the board.

But when an author or one of their
advocates blatantly spams the boards with their book advertisements, that’s
when I understand why someone would add “NO SELF-PROMOTION,” to the title. It
completely took away from the discussion that people were trying to have. It’s
disruptive and forced and actually makes me not want to read their book. Do
people really think that just randomly going on to message boards and
recommending their own book will actually bring in sales? Does it? I can’t
imagine that it does. If anything, it would turn people off.

The other kind of sock puppeting that I
find hard to stomach is when authors respond to bad reviews.  Either they respond as themselves or as “an
angry fan.” It always sounds sad and pathetic. If I had any advice to authors
it’s simply: Never respond to a bad review. Yes, bad reviews are hard to read,
but they are actually a good thing. 

I had a bad review that ended up being
great for sales. The reviewer said how much they hated my book Riser because it felt like reading a
cross between Twilight and Percy Jackson. To that particular person
that was a bad thing, to me, it was exactly what I was going for when I wrote
the book so it was a great compliment to me. And it was very helpful to
potential buyers. They would know that if they hated both those books they’d
probably dislike mine, but to the people who loved those books chances are
they’d really enjoy my book.

C Smith received her Film degree from Full Sail University and has worked in
the Film and Television industry for most of her adult life. 

Becca is the author of the teen horror/sci-fi novel, Riser. She is also the
co-author of the teen graphic novel Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted and also
wrote and illustrated Little Family Secrets, a graphic novel based on the true
story of her great aunt who was famous for murdering her husband.

She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two cats Jack and

Riser is Book #1 in The Riser Saga

Black swirling holes churning madly in the center of every corpse. This is how eighteen-year-old Chelsan Derée sees the deceased. Her ability to connect to the black spinning holes allows her to control every dead thing within a four-mile radius. 

But that’s the least of her problems. It’s 2320 and Chelsan Derée has to survive another year of high school, which for her is pure and utter torture, mainly due to the fact that her schoolmate Jill Forester’s favorite activity is making Chelsan’s life a living hell. If that isn’t enough, Chelsan’s impossible crush on Ryan Vaughn makes her brain do somersaults on a regular basis, especially since she is positive he doesn’t know she exists. And being eighteen Chelsan has to deal with the pressure of whether or not she should take a little pill called Age-pro, which cures aging, making the world eighteen forever and highly over-populated.

When Chelsan’s mother, Janet, is brutally killed, along with everyone else in her trailer park, Chelsan finds out that she was the intended target. Chelsan must use her power to raise and control the dead to save herself, protect her friends and take down the man responsible for murdering her mother.

And something to whet your appetite: 

Becca C. Smith
Year:  2320
          Okay, let me
explain. My gift, or curse (I’ll let you decide for yourself) to put it simply
is I can raise the dead.  I know, sounds
cheesy, but fortunately, or unfortunately it’s true, and I don’t mean just
people.  Basically, anything that had any
kind of life:  plants, animals, insects,
plankton, anything, I can bring
back.  The only catch is they’re not
really alive anymore, they’re just animated, like zombies I guess, but I
control them.  Plants are the
easiest.  My mom’s garden is the prize of
the trailer park, and she should take no credit whatsoever.
Animals and people are more
complicated, maybe because there are so many working parts.  I’m really not sure.  My ability is still kind of a mystery to me.  I have no clue why I have this power.  It’s not like I’ve ever heard of anyone else
having this particular skill either, except in books and movies.  I appear to be an anomaly in this world.
I was three-years-old when
I knew I saw things differently than everyone else.  My pet goldfish, Larry, died and a black
spinning hole appeared in the center of his body.  I thought it was just about the coolest thing
I had ever seen.  When I told my mother
about it, she gave me a look that I’ll never forget.  It was a mixture of confusion and
horror.  She simply nodded and made me promise
that I would never under any circumstances tell anyone else about what I
saw.  I was instantly ashamed and scared
at her reaction, but something in the way that she said it made me keep my
After that, I saw the black
holes everywhere, from the tiniest dead insects, to the neighbor’s dog when he
was hit by a hover car (don’t ask), to Ms. Thompkins when she died from a heart
attack.  The churning black masses had
become second nature to me by then.   At
that point, I still didn’t know why I
could see them and I was scared to death to talk to anyone about it.  I kept to myself mostly, afraid I would slip
and say something to a neighbor or friend. 
It was a very lonely
It wasn’t until I killed my
stepfather Bruce that I figured out that I could raise the dead.  I never wanted to take Bruce’s life: hurt
maybe, kill no.  And that’s saying a lot
seeing as he used to use my mom as a punching bag.  He’d make me sit in the corner of our beat up
trailer and watch him kick the living crap out of her.  He’d laugh when I’d scream, he’d laugh when
she’d scream, he’d laugh when he’d
scream on the few occasions my mom fought back and actually inflicted pain on
          Bruce was
a jerk, but he didn’t deserve to die, not like he did, not like how I killed
him.   I still can’t believe it had been
eleven years since it all happened.  It
felt like yesterday and forever ago all at once.
           It was a day like any other day, Mom did some
invisible transgression to piss Bruce off and he took it as a cue for another
beating.  Mom was having one of her
comatose days, where I could tell she was just going to take it and hope that
he got bored quickly from her unresponsiveness. 
slammed her against the flimsy trailer wall of the kitchen with his beefy
forearm.  Tiny bits of ceiling floated
down like snow on his greasy balding scalp. 
He sneered at her with glee, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction
of eye contact.  She just kept her eyes
down, arms dropped harmlessly at her side. 
Bruce went on a furious rampage. 
He punched her, pulled her hair, kicked her stomach, tried anything to
get a response out of her, but she just lay there like a rag doll on the
peeling linoleum floor.
          Then he
wheeled around to face me.
          Finally, a
reaction from my mother.  Bruce was in
ecstasy.  He stormed towards me like an
enraged bull.  I could almost see steam
coming out of his bulbous nose.  Then
          I could
literally feel every vertebra in my spine as all forty-five pounds of me
slammed against the wall from the impact of Bruce’s fist to my stomach.  My world started to spin; everything was in
blurred double vision.  My mother’s
hysterical screams echoed in my head like a horrific nightmare.  I couldn’t focus.
          I could
feel my nose crunch when he hit me a second time.  It felt like it was really runny, but when I
tried to wipe it clean my hands came away covered in blood.  The combination of Bruce’s frantic laughter
and my mother’s anguished screeches made it impossible to think clearly.  I think I started to whimper at this
point.  My ribs were so bruised it hurt
to breathe let alone move my chest to have a good cry like I wanted to.        
These are the moments in
life where you don’t think rationally. 
In fact, you don’t think at all, you just let your survival instinct
take over.  It becomes about you or your
And I was no martyr.
          I tried to
blink fast enough to clear my vision.
          My right
eye started to swell from Bruce’s backhand making it even more difficult to
focus.  At this point my mother, like a
wailing Banshee, propelled herself onto Bruce’s back and started pounding her
fists onto any piece of flesh she could find. 
I could hear Bruce’s low chuckle at my mom’s feeble attempt to stop him.  From the sound of his amusement I could tell
that today was the most fun he’d had in years.
short controlled breaths I took this moment of solace to re-gain my
bearings.  And that’s when I saw it:  a blurred swirling black hole in the corner
of the trailer.
          Bruce had
thrown my mother clear across the room. 
Her body collapsed into unconsciousness as her head punched a hole
through the trailer’s wall.
          I screamed
a horrible, terrible scream: a scream that only a child could make whose world
had just been crushed, whose mommy had just been smashed against a wall,
leaving her daughter alone, defenseless, a scream that would make any human who
possessed an ounce of parenting instincts come running, without thinking,
without rational thought.  And I couldn’t
stop.  Even Bruce had to cover his ears
from the onslaught of shrieking.  But
Bruce’s instincts weren’t to mother, they were to destroy and he started
towards me.
          And seeing
him, fists raised, plowing forward, I suddenly felt inexplicably tied to that
black swirling chasm across the room.  I
was a part of it.  It was almost as if
strings connected us together.  And I did
the only thing I could.
          I made it
attack Bruce.
          At first I
didn’t know what I was doing, but I suddenly understood that I physically
controlled the black holes.  I was
connected to them like they were an extension of my own body, like they were my
own limbs.
bellowed in pain as we both realized at the same time what I had brought back
to life. 
A black widow spider, full
of venom and ready to attack.
          Over and
over I made the spider tear its fangs into Bruce’s body: his neck, his arms,
his legs, his chest.  Bruce swatted the
spider, squished the spider, tore it in two, but nothing he did could stop it. 
It was mine. 
It was already dead. 
He couldn’t kill it
He fell to his knees.  The poison was flowing through his body
now.  I could see a small black tornado
forming in Bruce’s chest.
overtook every fiber of my soul as I realized what I had just done, what I was
still doing.  I dropped my connection to
the spider instantly.  It fell lifeless
to the floor once more, the black void churning madly in its center.
          I crawled
over to Bruce’s body, leaving a trail of blood from my broken nose.  He was convulsing on the ground, his body
seizing from the poison coursing through his veins.  He was dying and there was nothing I could do
about it.
          “What did
you do?”  My mother’s voice cut through
the near silent grunting and gagging of Bruce’s dying moments.
          She had
seen the whole thing.
          “I…”  I couldn’t think of what to say.  My mother looked relieved, guilty and
horrified all in one condemning expression. 
I wasn’t sure if she was upset about losing Bruce or that her seven-year-old
child had just become a murderer.      
Bruce’s eyes rolled back in his head. 
His last breath was rattling and eerily hushed.  It seemed to last an eternity.  As if the oxygen in his lungs didn’t want to
leave his body and clung to whatever life it could hold on to.
          I stared
into my mother’s eyes.  She couldn’t
speak.  She couldn’t move.  A small line of blood trickled into her eye
from a gash on her forehead, but she didn’t flinch.  She just looked into my eyes with a blankness
more terrifying than any emotion could be.
she finally croaked.  Her voice was
gravelly from screaming.
          That was
all she could say.  It was agony to see
her so dead in the eyes, face, body… just staring.  I would have given anything I had just to
stop her from looking at me with those empty eyes.  Her vacant stare felt like a howl of pain so
excruciating I almost covered my ears from the silence.  At least then I would have been able to hear
my own muffled heartbeat.  Any noise
would have been better than the oppressive judging stillness.
          And that
was when I realized what I had to do.  To
break her out of this coma she was encasing herself into.  I turned to Bruce.  To his raging black abyss spiraling like a
whirlpool deep inside his chest. And I switched him on.  Just like the spider.  He was a bit clumsy at first.  I had to concentrate as hard as my
seven-year-old brain would let me just to get him in a sitting position. But
after a moment or two it became easier and easier and he began to feel like an
extension of me.  It was an eerie
sensation as my thoughts mirrored Bruce’s movements.  I would think of his arm moving and it would
move.  I would think of him speaking and…
          “Janet?” I
made Bruce call to my mother.
          His voice
snapped her completely out of her stupor. 
She watched him in shock and overwhelming relief.  “Bruce?”
          And then I
made him cry.  Cry like he never could do
when he was alive.  I made him cry until
his face and clothes were drenched with his tears.  “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry,” I made him repeat over and
over as he sobbed in the aftermath of the day’s destruction.
crawled over to the two of us, renewed hope in her eyes.  Whether she knew what I was doing or not, she
didn’t say.  All that mattered was that
she wanted to believe it.  She needed to
believe it.  I could see it in her
face.  I made Bruce embrace the two of us
with a tenderness he was never capable of before.  I was doing this for me as much as for my
mother at this point.  Feeling his strong
arms around me, holding me close, affectionate, loving. It was the first time
in my life I felt like I had a father: a real dad.  I nestled in closer.  When my mom saw this she did the same.  We both had contented expressions on our
bloody bruised faces.  I let Bruce
sputter and jabber about how much he loved the two of us, how he would never
hurt us again, how he was a changed man…
          And he
          After that
day he became the best father anyone could ever ask for.
I still find it funny in a strange and
disturbing way, that Bruce is a better father dead than he ever was alive.
  He’s the easiest for me to control now
because he was my first, and I’ve had a lot of practice since.  It’s almost as if he’s really alive
sometimes.  But every time I watch his
face go slack when he’s watching his holo-tv or he stinks so bad I have to puppeteer
him in the shower, I remember. 
dead.  Truly dead. 
And it’s my