Thursday, November 20, 2014

Attention, Book Reviewers ... This One's for You

Today I'm going to address an issue that seems to be taking over the Internet and causing some real outward ripples. I'm talking about bad book reviews.

Now, I don't mean reviews that say things like, "This book wasn't for me" or "I didn't enjoy it" or "I never felt connected to the characters." Reviewers don't have to like everything they read - if they did, what would be the point of having reviews? If every author everywhere got nothing but five stars all the time, the buyer wouldn't have any basis to go from, and we might as well do away with reviews altogether.

I'm talking about the book reviews that slam and hurt and demean. I've seen reviewers say that authors should give up, that they never should have even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, in today's world), and any number of other hurtful things - including "This author is too stupid to live."

Let's pause for just a second and think about this.

There's a lot of power that comes from being a media reviewer. I know, because I am one. I wrote book reviews for years for and for about six months for Meridian Magazine. I'm a reviewer for the Association for Mormon Letters, and I post reviews here on my blog. With a little time spent tapping on my computer, I can tell the entire world (well, portions of it) what I think, and it's a pretty heady feeling. Power! Power at my fingertips! But with that power comes responsibility. The thing I must keep in mind at all times is the fact that there is a person at the other end of that review, a person who has put their heart and soul into that creation, whether or not I personally care for it.

When we live in a world of computer screens, when we don't interact with others face-to-face as often as we used to in our culture, we forget that this world is still very personal. We can't lose sight of that fact.

So think for a second about that author. Let's say that the book really did stink (from your perspective, because this is such a subjective area). Does that author need to be personally attacked, or does that author need encouragement? If you met that author in person, chances are, you'd want to encourage them to learn and grow and keep trying. Sadly, the anonymity of the computer tends to make some people lose that compassionate edge.

I'm not saying that all the reviews I've left have been warm and cuddly. I have pointed out things that the authors could improve upon, but that's because I've wanted those authors to learn and grow. There's a huge, huge difference between constructive criticism and hurtful, demeaning comments. If you've read a book that didn't click for you, maybe you could make a suggestion as to how it could have been improved. And I'm not talking about one I read today that used "WTF?" and "Oh, hell no" in lieu of suggestions. (How is that even helpful?)

The thing I wish all reviewers understood is this: It takes a huge amount of courage for an author to publish. They've taken their inner guts and stuck them on display for everyone to see. They're not just telling a story - they're showing the journey they've taken. And then they stand back with their eyes half closed, peeking out around them, to see not only if their story is accepted, but if they are accepted. And that scathing review, the one that calls them stupid or what-have-you, hurts more than just the criticism of a story or a character. A personal attack does not make for a better book, no matter what the reviewer might have intended by it. "It has to hurt to heal" does not apply here.

Let me be absolutely clear on something - I'm not saying that you can't leave a less-than-positive review. I'm not saying that you have to be glowing and sparkly and dance around leaving five stars wherever you go. As I stated at the start, what good would that do? Not only that, but we've got this amazing thing called freedom of speech, and we should get to use it. In fact, I'm using it right now.

What I am saying is this - compassion instead of raking. Education instead of mocking. Encouragement instead of demeaning. Support instead of backbiting. If you really want your review to make a difference, if you really want to use your reviewer power in the best possible way, if you really want to help the author, seek ways to be that moment of uplift, to be that voice saying, "You can do it. Try again." And if you're one of those reviewers who loves to run around spewing hatred and vitriol, all I have to say is, I think you need a warm hug.

Update: Be sure to read the comments - there are some great points in there about responding to reviewers. Courtesy goes both ways.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Christmas Tree Keeper by Tamara Passey

Though Angela Donovan is out of work and needs money for rent, she yearns for her eight-year-old daughter to have a carefree holiday. The last thing she wants is the pressure of her daughter expecting a miracle. But when they pick out a Christmas tree at a cozy Massachusetts tree farm that’s exactly what happens when they learn the trees might be miracle trees.

Mark Shafer is soon to be the new keeper of the Christmas trees when he inherits the family farm. He’d like to run it with a family of his own, but his girlfriend wants nothing to do with farm life. He makes plans to sell so he can propose to his girlfriend and pursue a career in music. Then he meets an unforgettable customer and her daughter, and an anonymous gift compels them to learn the truth about the trees.

With a buyer willing to pay top dollar for the land, Mark has the fate of the trees is in his hand. Will he be able to see what and who is most important? And will Angela the give the miracle of love a chance?

The ebook is available for pre-order on here, with the print version to follow shortly.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Call for Submissions: Hope for Mothers Who Have Miscarried Anthology - UPDATED

This is a repost of a call for submissions I issued some time ago. Several of the original contributors dropped out because they got busy with other commitments, so I'm in search of more. Please read and see if you'd like to participate.

Hi everyone,

I've been thinking about this for a long time ... five months, in fact, since I miscarried in October. When I lost my baby, many friends came forward and offered me hope and comfort, sharing stories of things they'd learned through their own miscarriages. And, being an author, I immediately started to think about putting together a book of stories about miscarriage that would, hopefully, comfort those who have experienced this loss. That's how I process things sometimes - by putting it in the context of writing a book about it. It helps me emotionally when I can put things into a framework - kind of an odd way of making sense of my life. But back in October, I wasn't ready. It was too soon.

But now I am ready, and so I'm putting out a call for submissions. If you have experienced a miscarriage and would like to share your story and the lessons you learned from it or the tender mercies that came along with it, I invite you to pop me a note at All stories must be received by November 30, 2014. This will be an anthology of stories, each submission not to exceed 5,000 words, and as the book's purpose is to bring comfort to the reader, each story must conclude with a message of hope. Submit your story in Word, Times New Roman 12, double-spaced. Please contact me now so I know to expect your story, and then submit the story by November 30. Not all submitted stories will be accepted.

All editing and production will be handled by me. No royalties will be paid on this book, but all the contributing authors can purchase as many books as they like at the author price and resell them to friends, family, on their websites, at book signing events, etc, keeping 100% of the proceeds they make. I will post the book on Amazon and Kindle so I can recoup my time and costs for editing and production.

I understand that not everyone is comfortable with sharing their story and that not everyone has been able to find hope within their own situation to share with others. Additionally, some experiences are too sacred to share, so this call is for those who do feel urged to tell their stories. It's a very personal decision to do so. And I wish to state that I'm not doing this as a money-making venture, aside from recouping costs from the production of the book. My main wish is that women who have experienced loss might find peace and comfort by reading the journeys of other women. Any money I make above the costs of editing and production will be donated to The Christmas Box International. 

As one last note - if you'd like to read a fantastic book discussing miscarriage from an LDS perspective, I highly recommend Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage for Latter-day Saints by R.J. Christensen. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cindy M. Hogan's Amazing New Book!

 The King's English!
If you can't make the party, the King's English will get you a signed copy. Just call.
5 out of 5 stars---Thank you so much everyone!
Pre-order now. Downloads automatically on 10-21-2014

"Hotwire keeps you biting your nails while on the edge of your seat which makes for an overall exhilarating read!" Bookstalker Review

"Oh. My. Gosh. This book has it all. Romance. Danger. Christy. Action. Adventure.
Subterfuge."  Mybookaday review 

"It made me forget to breathe while I waited to read if everything would work out." 

What's all the fuss about?

Hotwire- clean YA suspense with a dash of romance.
 Kindle I Nook IiTunes I Kobo I Smashwords 

Division spy Christy Hadden can't wait for her latest assignment posing as a student at a prestigious New York City academy and car thief extraordinaire.

The best part of the mission is her attractive handler, Jeremy, and her new team. The worst part? The sociopath masquerading as the academy's most popular guy.

But soon she realizes the car thieves are much more than they seem. Her simple spying mission becomes more dangerous than anyone imagined. If the organization discovers her true identity, they won't hesitate to kill her, and if she fails, others will suffer the same fate.

Young Adults, teens and adults will love this exciting suspenseful adventure with a dash of romance. You won't want to put it down.

Want to know what Cindy M. Hogan is all about? 
Watch this short video and get to know her. 
You can watch it HERE.   
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