Writing book reviews: The pros and cons and why I need a break…

So here’s a good way to deal with negative reviews.

I’m slowing down a bit on how many posts I have on my blog because it just takes a lot of time, and, well, I’m feeling a bit lazy about this right now. I could use the Holidays as an excuse, but that’s not entirely truthful. I plan to get back to doing more reviews at some point in the new year, but I also want a break to just read for fun.

Undertaking the writing of reviews was an endeavor I had some trepidation about, but it’s been a good experience for the most part. Reading a book with the intent of reviewing it at the end–in a more concrete way than a gut reaction–has made me think about the nature of reviews and writing in a new way. It’s hard to write a quality review, and I don’t know if I’ve always succeeded.

As a fiction writer, I already think about the nuts and bolts of writing while I’m crafting my stories, but in the context of reviewing, I’ve gotten a new take on the process. For one thing, I’ve had to refine and define what it is that I like about a particular story, writing style, word usage, length, etc. Art is subjective–both in the making and consuming of it.

It’s important to keep this subjectivity in mind when reading or writing a review. Sometimes a completely irrational thing makes me dislike a book–I don’t connect with a character, a situation reminds me of an unpleasant memory, I wanted more or less of a certain aspect. Also, there are many theories about style. Some are sticklers for grammar (like me, for the most part) and some don’t care as much or intentionally play fast and loose with rules for a particular reason. Honestly, I think it’s difficult to do the latter successfully because you have to convince the reader that you’re breaking the rules for a good reason.

So at this point, a break is in order. I want to focus on my own writing and take some time to read for relaxation. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts about writing and reading reviews. What do you look for in a book you enjoy? What makes a review helpful to you as a writer or reader?

Is ‘Said’ Dead?: M.S. Kaye’s Quick Writing Tips Tour Stop #6

Today I host stop #6 on M.S. Kaye’s Quick Tips Blog Tour. She’s put together ten short, easy writing tips. Follow the tour to see them all. Tour stops are posted on her website: http://booksbymsk.com/?page_id=616

Quick Tip 6:

I recently saw a Facebook post that claimed “said is dead.” It went on to list all the other “better” options to use, along with the emotion that correlates to each word.

I do agree that sometimes yelled, demanded, or murmured are the best words for the job, showing how the dialogue is being said, especially if it’s difficult to show the emotion through the particular dialogue. However, most of the time, “said” is exactly what I want.

Said is dead, huh? Of course it is. That’s the whole point!

Readers barely even notice it. It serves its purpose of clarifying the speaker and then shuts up and stands in the corner like it’s supposed to. Dialogue tags remind the reader of the author’s presence, so when you have to use a tag, why not use the one that’s almost invisible?

Kindling the Past

by M.S. Kaye

Kindle is fighting to survive on her own, to break free from her possessive and violent ex-boyfriend, and trying not to let her best friend, Anna, know she’s in love with her husband. Most of all, she fights the visions she sees of the past—she doesn’t believe in that kind of stuff.

Then Anna is shot and killed.

In their grief, Kindle and Ty, Anna’s husband and Kindle’s Taekwondo instructor, grow closer. Although Kindle is careful never to let him too close, he helps her learn to accept that her visions are real. Eventually, the truth about Anna’s death breaks through into Kindle’s visions, and she must find a way not to let it destroy her.

Buy Links:



I fought the visions. My mother used to tell me my expression turned stupid when I had them, but I didn’t care about that so much anymore. I hated when the visions were true somehow, actual bits of the past. I didn’t believe in that kind of stuff.

Chapter 1: Fight

“She’s such a snob,” one of the young women whispered on the other side of the locker room.

I stayed faced away, trying not to hear their gossip. I tugged my jeans on and pulled my shirt over my head. When I glanced in the mirror to fix my hair, I barely saw the dark brown framing my fair skin—only the way the other girls looked at me. I bent over to pick up my shoes.

“The guys don’t even ask her out because she’s so stuck up.”

I didn’t understand why they thought like this about me, but I didn’t much care anyway. As soon as I had my shoes on, I threw my gear bag over my shoulder and walked out.

Master Trahem was on the workout floor sparring with Mr. Schmidt. Master Trahem’s uniform was starting to come open, and sweat glistened on his well-built chest.

I looked away.

“Bye, Kindle,” Mrs. Trahem said as I passed the front counter. “See you tomorrow.”

I smiled at her, one of the few people I reserved my genuine smile for. She was a big part of the reason I came in early to help every day, her and her atrocious typing skills. She always held her fingers above the keys like a fisherman wielding a spear, as if expecting them to squirm out from under her aim.

But honestly, helping with data entry was just an excuse—Mrs. Trahem was the best person I’d ever known, and I felt calmer when I was around her.

“You’ll be there early, right?” Mrs. Trahem added. She tucked her silky dark hair behind her ear. There was a grace to her movement. No wonder Master Trahem had married her so quickly. At twenty-nine, she was a few years older than me but looked just as young.

“Definitely.” Then I kept walking. Before I gave into the urge to turn and watch Master Trahem.

The girls from the locker room followed me out into the parking lot. I sat in my car and started the engine.

While I drove the forty-five minutes home, I fought to stay awake. At least traffic at nine-thirty at night was thin. I always missed rush hour. I left my apartment before six every morning and didn’t return until after ten. Being tired felt normal.

As I pulled up to my building, I examined each car. I knew to whom each of them belonged, as well as half my neighbors’ friends’ cars. The girl across the hall traded boyfriends every week. She drove me nuts.

I had no way of knowing what Chris was driving. I had to know which cars were supposed to be here in order to know if there was a new one. Most of my neighbors drove beaters like me, and Chris had always liked something flashy. But with him, I couldn’t depend on consistency. He was smart.

I recognized all the cars tonight. I parked under the streetlight and kept the door locked while I pulled my gear bag onto my lap and slipped the strap over my shoulder. Keys ready, I jumped out of the car and jogged up the steps. I hated apartment buildings in Florida. The halls were open, no security doors to block unwanted visitors from knocking on your front door, from lurking in shadowy corners.

Within about ten seconds, I was up the stairs, down the hall, and at my door. Just being able to move quickly without running out of breath was worth the cost of Taekwondo classes. I felt more confident, less scared.

My door unlocked, I glanced down the hall one more time then slipped inside. I closed the door, locked it, and flipped the lights.

I was not alone.

He was right there, tall, thick, and blond as always. I was seeing as clearly as if through acid. I blinked to make sure he was really there. I always did that. It was stupid.

Chris was always there.

Author Bio:

M.S. Kaye has several published books under her black belt. A transplant from Ohio, she resides with her husband, Corey, in Jacksonville, Florida, where she tries not to melt in the sun. Find suspense and the unusual at www.BooksByMSK.com.


Grabbing Your Reader with a Great Cover by Janie Franz

I don’t know how many times I’ve walked through a bookstore or browsed one online and a book cover just popped out and grabbed me. That’s the first thing I notice and then the title, the author, and the first line of the book. If each of those gets its hooks into me, I’ll buy it—and read it.

A book’s cover tells me a lot about the story, though there are exceptions. In my two decades as a book reviewer, I have found marvelous stories inside ho-hum covers and once in awhile I’ll find a story I never expected at all because the cover told me a different tale.

I’ve been very privileged to work with some really great cover artists, especially my current one, Cora Graphics, in Italy. Cora joined my publisher, MuseItUp Publishing, just a few months ago. I was one of the first authors to work with her. She has been amazing!

I was nervous about having someone take the lead in three reissues for my Bowdancer Saga. MuseItUp acquired the contracts from my first publisher after they expired and is bringing the first three books under the MuseItUp roof to join The Lost Song Trilogy, the rest of the saga so far. My original publisher used a stock photo for the cover of first book, The Bowdancer. Most cover artists do use them. But to my horror, I found that same photo on two other books after my own was published. Mine was slightly different but not by much.

I also wanted to work with someone who would create a new logo for The Bowdancer Saga to go on the books and to really represent this important (to me) series. Cora and I communicated through email for a couple of days. She asked lots of questions and wanted examples of pictures of things I thought were vital to portray the story.

When she showed me the mock up of The Bowdancer, it took my breath away. We tweaked a couple of things and the finished product was stunning.

Then when The Wayfarer’s Road was ready for its cover, we again shot emails back and forth. I had no idea what she’d come up with and I nearly cried when I saw the cover. She had captured the heart of the story! It is about a mother and her daughter on the Wayfarer’s Road. Yes the woman meets a man but that isn’t the story. And Cora understood without even reading a word of the book. She has an uncanny gift.

I’m eager to see what she will do with Warrior Women, the last of the reissues. I know I won’t be disappointed. And I do think my readers will be very pleased as well.

The Bowdancer Saga continues in The Wayfarer’s Road. Healer Jan-nell, now a woman traveling alone with her precocious young daughter on the Wayfarer’s Road, meets a handsome wandering bard. But he is carrying his own secrets along with the priceless chance at hope for her and her child to belong.

Healer Jan-nell and her precocious daughter meet a handsome wandering bard, carrying secrets and the hope of belonging.


The stranger stepped a bit further into the room and pulled back the wet hood of her sodden, brown cloak, revealing a delicate, fair face. A thick chestnut braid curved across one suede-covered shoulder like a docile snake.

“It is the changing moon,” her soft voice answered. She untied the laces of her cloak and pulled the cloth free from her other shoulder, revealing the black curls of a three-year-old child against her thigh-length tunic. The girl’s little arms wrapped protectively around the woman’s brown leggings.

The traveler shook the water from her cloak and asked, “Might I have a dry bed, sir?”

The innkeeper’s eyes narrowed. “We be not offering beds to women alone. This be a respectable place.”

“I am not alone,” the woman answered, smoothing the child’s curls from off her face. “Would you deny a child a dry blanket?”

The innkeeper frowned. “Good woman, if that indeed be what you are, it is not seemly to be housed here without your man.”

“I take care of myself,” she said and struck her great staff against the floor for emphasis, ignoring the customers’ mumbled responses.

 Buy Links:

Find out more about The Bowdancer Saga and other books by Janie Franz here:

Author Bio

Janie Franz comes from a long line of liars and storytellers with roots deep in east Tennessee. Honed by the frigid Northern Plains and the high desert of New Mexico, as well as a degree in anthropology, her writing skill and curiosity generated thousands of feature and cover articles over a vast range of topics for more than a hundred regional, national, and international publications.

She co-wrote two books with Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox (The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book), and self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid!

She is a professional speaker and occasionally still reviews books, CDs, and concerts. Previously, she ran her own online music publication, Refrain Magazine, and was an agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, a radio announcer, and a yoga/relaxation instructor





Guest Post: The Novel Experience coming up in Atlanta

Hello, I am Leigh Ellwood and I write romance and erotica. Over the last ten years I have attended a number of book events, everything from signings at local independent stores to the big Saturday bash at RT. I experience different things at each event – I’ve been humbled to have people come to a specific event just to purchase my book, and I’ve managed to convince readers who never heard of me to take a chance. Part of the fun of a physical signing is seeing how people react to you.

During my first group author signing at a mall in Virginia, I had a book with a rather racy cover (that novel has since received a makeover). I often had to stifle a chuckle when passersby double-taked and gaped at it. Years later, a friend helping me at an outdoor book fair fashioned a sign for my booth which read Romance in All Colors, Not Just Grey. It was an obvious dig at Fifty Shades, and a few readers did get a kick out of it. It even got me a few sales.

Why all the talk about book signings? One would think an author with a long eBook back list shouldn’t worry, because everybody’s gone digital. While I read the majority of my books in e-, I do receive requests for print. Late in March, I’ll debut my latest paperback, Love is Bliss – a duology of my two shapeshifter novellas, Sheer Bliss and Pure Bliss.

When you come to The Novel Experience Event in Atlanta from March 28-30, you’ll not only get to meet me but you’ll find many more authors who romance, mystery, sci-fi, young adult, and other genres to share with you. In fact, the organizers of the event have given me one free VIP ticket to anybody registered with a room reserved at the host hotel.

If you are traveling and have reserved a room for the event, feel free to email me at kspatwriter at yahoo dot com to see if the ticket is still available. First come, first serve.

While you’re waiting for March 28 to roll around, here’s a look at Love is Bliss, which is also available in eBook at All Romance:

LOVE IS BLISS features two hot, erotic novellas by award-winning Leigh Ellwood. Both stories are also available separately.


Living in Bliss, New Jersey has it perks, unless you’re a shifter looking for love or a human looking for peace and quiet. Not only does Calla Savitch, owner of Shear Bliss salon, have to deal with warring panthers and werewolves with overlapping appointments, she’s fed up with their constant matchmaking attempts. The last thing she wants especially is a hook-up with the one shifter who broke her heart years ago. Handsome were-panther Caleb Houlihan still nurses the guilt of Calla’s heartbreak, but when presented with a second chance to woo her he is reluctant. Calla may forgive his youthful indiscretions, but when she discovers his aunt’s true motive for wanting them together, will she send him packing?


Betrothed for years to Malcolm Weaver, Trisha Houlihan has grown tired of archaic panther shifters ways and wants to live on her own terms. A chance meeting with a hot stranger serves to spark her rebellion, but backfires when she discovers she’s fooling around with her intended. Malcolm isn’t keen on old traditions, either, but there’s something about Trisha that inspires him to make an exception. Trisha is certainly exceptional, unlike other she-panthers, and he is convinced they were meant to be, regardless of the circumstances that brought them together. Trisha wants to resist, but her growing attraction to Malcolm proves problematic. Can these two find a balance between tradition and passion and create a happily ever after?

On this stretch of the Jersey Shore, it’s a different “situation”!


Hope to see you in Atlanta!

Leigh Ellwood – Variety and Spice!
Twitter: @LeighEllwood

Funny Nonviolence and Other Ramblings About My Writing Process

You may have seen many authors sharing their writing process on their blogs. I love hearing about how writers work, so I was happy to participate when asked by the talented Anne Lange. Be sure to check out her latest release:

And now to answer the questions.

Q. What am I working on?

I just submitted book three in my Hidden Lines series, and now I’m taking a break from that and playing around with other ideas. This boils down to starting various stories and tinkering with characters and plot lines. I’m leaning toward a light paranormal contemporary about a matchmaker who reads auras.

Q. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My books also closely resemble the contemporary world with a few paranormal twists. My goal is to make it feel as if my characters are everyday people, who just happen to also have extra abilities. I also hope that my books will make you laugh, both in what the characters say and some of the circumstances they find themselves in (especially in the bedroom).

In addition, a lot of paranormal stories, especially in the shape-shifter world, contain a lot of violence and/or characters who tend to be on the violent side. I write characters who eschew violence and seek other ways of dealing with their problems. They are still badass–they just fight a whole lot more with their brains than their brawn. Smart is sexy!

Q. Why do I write what I do?

There are several aspects of my past experience and beliefs that influence my writing. I have studied esoteric ideas from around the world, and some of these practices and concepts are reflected in my characters. I’m also an animal lover and veterinary technician, so it’s no surprise that you see animal characters (yes, the dogs and cats talk to the heroine, an animal psychic).

When it comes down to it, I am fascinated by the paranormal and extrasensory world. Even if I tried to write a non-paranormal, I wouldn’t be surprised if something snuck it’s way in. 🙂

Q. How does your writing process work?

I’m most definitely not a plotter, although as I write more books, I do find it helpful to spend time making bulleted lists of major plot points when I start, with revisions as I go along. I think the longest list I’ve made so far had about 15 points, each a sentence or two. For me, the story unfolds and coalesces as I write–and a fair amount while ruminating in bed at night. For each book, I tend to write about 30-60 pages, then I go back to the beginning, revise, and then add another 30-60 pages, etc. until I get a completed draft. Then I’ll go over the whole book to refine it a few times at least.

Q. Who will we meet next week?

1. Lynda Bailey. I snagged this bio from her website:I’ve always loved stories.  Especially love stories.  Growing up in the Midwest, I’d make up stories to my favorite TV shows – usually westerns.As I got older, the stories didn’t relent.  In fact, they only got stronger, the characters more insistent, until I had no choice but to put it all on paper.  It’s become an obsession for me.  One that I love.When not sitting at my computer, I spend my time working as a substitute teacher and fitness instructor.  Guess you could say I’m an equal opportunity “persuader” of the young and, ahem, not so young.

2. AJ Wiliams. From her blog: AJ grew up in a small southern town in Missouri. It was there that she discovered her love of writing. Having the ability to create a story from nothing into something, held her spell bound. She holds a bachelors degree, and will on occasion find it useful. Currently AJ lives in Kansas City Missouri with her husband and 2 small children and their small dog.Her very first story was a poem about the sun ending and the moon beginning which she wrote when she was ten. Since that time her stories have taken on their very own life. Her first published book is Bounty for Hunter, which is a twist on the normal take of a male role. She writes stories that make you think about real life, the what if this happened to me scenario. There is a story in all of us is a favorite saying of AJ’s.

3. Gioconda Lyss. From her book bio:“Heaven on Earth” is Gioconda Lyss’ first erotic romance novella. Born and raised in Romania, she now lives in Nevada with her husband, two wonderful children, and the world’s most spoiled cat and dog.