5 tips for writing a good review

21 Nov

Want to know how to write a good book review?

I don’t mean a favorable review. That’s easy. Just gush.

I mean a useful review. One that will help other readers decide if a book is worth their time and money. Well, here are five tips – tips I hope you’ll put to good use writing reviews for my books …

  1. What books is it like? One of the most helpful lines in any review goes like this: “If you liked [insert name of popular book here], you’ll like this book.” It gives people something they can easily compare the book to. It’s even better if you can choose two or three books, and perhaps even say why or how the books are similar. Of course, if you didn’t like the book, you can always compare it to this book.
  2. What specifically did you like? (Or not.) Often there is one thing that really stands out to you as a reader. Tell people what that was – without spoilers, of course. And make sure you tell them why it stood out so much, for the good or the bad. If more than one thing stood out, well, you have that much more to say.
  3. What one character was memorable to you? Perhaps it was someone you loved. Maybe it was someone you hated. It could have been someone who made you laugh. Or someone who made you cry. It might be someone you identified with. Or on the bad side, it might have been someone completely flat. Tell potential readers about that person – again, without spoilers – and why that character stood out.
  4. Was there a line you loved (or hated)? Quote a memorable line from the book. It might have been dialog, or description. It could be a chunk of dialog. (Yes, that’s legal. It doesn’t violate copyright to quote from a book in a review of the book. That’s considered “fair use.”) You might need to give some context so it makes sense, but often, if the line is truly memorable (or truly awful), you won’t need to.
  5. What makes this story unique? People don’t want to read the same old story. They’re looking for something new and interesting. What can you tell people about the story that will tell them this is worth their time (or not worth their time), without giving away the story? What captured your interest? What held your interest — or sent you running from the room?

Now, if you’ve read any of my books, would you please write a useful review? Thanks!

The House in the Old WoodKaria's Path 

Watch out for The Man with Two Eyes

20 Nov

the-man-with-two-eyes-kindle-coverThe Man with Two Eyes is the barely awaited sequel to my immensely unpopular science fiction/Western/paranormal/romance/hard-boiled detective humor book, The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway. If the demand for this second book is anything like the first, it’s sure to end up as a doorstop.

I’ve completed the first draft of The Man with Two Eyes. While I await feedback from my critical readers on The White-Silver House, I’m working back through to create the second draft. So here, to whet the appetites of the three people who’ve read the first Nascent Payne mystery, is the first chapter of the second one, The Man with Two Eyes …

Chapter One:

Nascent Payne sat at a little table near the back corner. In the dim light cast by the fireplace and the single candle perched on the bright red gingham tablecloth, his knees glinted from beneath his kilt. His sleeveless “highlander” style shirt was open, revealing a shock of jet-black chest hair and a tantalizing hint of his rippling pectoral muscles.

Fiona sighed when his tattooed biceps bulged as lifted a glass of white wine to his manly, muscular lips.

Payne rolled his eyes.

“Fiona,” he said quietly, “knock it off!” He would have added that pectoral muscles don’t ripple, but didn’t want to say that much just now, just here.

He had to glance down to assure himself he was still wearing khaki pants and olive shirt, as always. Then he tried to refocus on the case. It was supremely distracting when the victim of his last murder case, Fiona Galloway, got into his head.

She was dead, sort of. Through some weird set of circumstances on Hillsdale, her consciousness lived on. Payne thought of her as a ghost, but his mechanic, Robin Flynn, insisted it was science. To prove it, he even rigged up a little device that allowed Fiona to go with them when they left Hillsdale.

And then he’d cobbled together a portable version so she could go anywhere with Payne. This did not sound like a good idea to Payne, but Flynn pointed out that it could be useful to have a companion along that no one else could see. So here he was, on a case, and here she was too. With her romance-novel-inspired thoughts leaking into his head.

He took a sip of his water and set the glass down. He scanned the room again, and tried to look like an ordinary guy waiting for a friend, and not like a private investigator waiting for a murderer while a murder victim’s fantasies played out in his head. Whatever that looked like.

Payne would’ve preferred to do this in a place with a little more light, but he knew this was the kind of place he’d find the man he was looking for. Low-ceilinged, dim and a bit dingy. Frequented by men and women desperate for something, anything, to take them away from their dull, numb, hopeless existence, if only for a short time. And popular with the women and men who serviced them. Cheap liquor, cheap company.

These were the type of women his suspect stalked. Though Payne couldn’t figure out why he killed Helena. It didn’t fit what he’d pieced together about the man, or about Helena. Maybe that was why he was so intent on finding him. It sure wasn’t because the Colonel asked him to.

He settled back to wait. He’d find him. Maybe not tonight, maybe not here. But he’d find the killer.

The man with two eyes.

Want to read the first book? Get it here.

10 factoids about Book 5

17 Nov

Here are ten things about The White-Silver House that you may find interesting:

The White-Silver House1. From six to five: When the series The Day Magic Died was first drafted, there were six books. But when I re-read the first drafts, I saw that the original fifth book looked good for about the first 20 percent of the book, then wandered like a confused faerie. When I cut the last 80 chapters, that first 20 percent fit perfectly with Book 6. That grafted draft was the foundation for Book 5, The White-Silver House.

2. From five to six? In the process of creating the final draft, I came to the point where the original fifth book ended. It was, I thought, working really well up to that point, and I knew there were some issues ahead. Also, I was about the half-way point in the book, which is the longest yet. (See the next point.) So I considered splitting it into books five and six again. I decided that would be stringing readers along, so I kept it as one book and kept hammering away at the draft.

3. More to love in Book Five: Book 1, The House in the Old Wood, is 90,000 words. Book 2, Karia’s Path, is almost the same length. Book 3, The Hall of the Prophetess, clocks in at 95,000 words. Then came Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy. That reached 115,000 words. But you have not seen anything yet. Book 5, The White-Silver House, is nearly 135,000 words. (That’s more than a half-million words for the series, by the way.)

4. In the end, I got to the ending: The ending of The White-Silver House, in many ways, differs greatly from the ending I wrote at first. I wrote the original ending when I was about 20,000 words into The House in the Old Wood, and knew I needed to know where I was going if I was ever going to get there. (That’s right. It “only” took me 20,000 words to figure that out.) But when I wrote it, I was anticipating writing one book. Just one. When I hit about 60,000 words, and I had barely started the story, I figured I had three books. When everything shifted on me in the third book, I thought I had five. As noted above, I ended up with six books initially. Needless to say, the ending changed as the story changed. On the other hand, the elements that are probably most important are still there from the first version of the ending. They guided me through a half-million words.

5. In the end, I decided against another ending: I wrote an alternative ending. On the basis of that alternative ending, I outlined a sequel. I bounced the alternative ending off two of my critical readers. (Someday, perhaps, I’ll let others see it. Perhaps.) Their response? No no no no no no. Yes, two people told me six times not to do it. I took their advice.

6. It’s back: Some astute readers have asked me about a particular object that seems very important in The House in the Old Wood, and comes up again a few times in Karia’s Path. But then it disappears. It’s not even mentioned in The Hall of the Prophetess or The Dwarf’s Legacy. (Well, not overtly. There actually is a reference to it in The Dwarf’s Legacy, but it’s veiled.) Now I can tell you, astute readers, it does indeed play a key role. You’ll just have to wait until near the end of The White-Silver House to find out if you’re thinking about what I’m talking about.

7. They’re back: Likewise, two characters who played major roles in the first two books, The House in the Old Wood and Karia’s Path, also disappeared, and for good reason. But in the final analysis, they redeem themselves in The White-Silver House.

8. The problems continued: The fourth book, The Dwarf’s Legacy, took far longer than I expected to complete because I had to replace a major character. That character was involved in almost every part of the book, and this necessitated a serious rewrite. The character played less of a role in the fifth book, The White-Silver House, but I still needed to do more work than I had anticipated in order to complete the changes begun in the fourth book.

9. Wait, how many races are there? The House in the Old Wood introduced readers to three races: Teneka, Dr’Zhak and Inamali. But one more came up in the fourth book, The Dwarf’s Legacy. And book five, The White-Silver House, introduces a fifth race. But they’re actually people you’ve met before – at least, one of them – in the third book, The Hall of the Prophetess. Oh, and by the way, that fourth race that you met in The Dwarf’s Legacy? You may have missed it, but there are references to them in The House in the Old Wood and Karia’s Path – references that you probably won’t be able to connect until you read The White-Silver House.

10. Three years in the making: I started writing my series, The Day Magic Died, in November 2011. So I think there’s some poetry in the fact that I completed the final draft of the final book in November 2014. So basically, in the time that Song of Ice and Fire fans have been waiting for one more book from George RR Martin, I’ve released five books. OK, so the fifth book in my series isn’t actually out yet. Anyone care to bet that The Winds of Winter will be out before The White-Silver House? I didn’t think so. Therefore, Game of Thrones and Song of Ice and Fire fans, I have given you something to read while you wait. And wait. And … well, OK, I won’t rub it in. That is, I won’t rub it in if you buy my books. All of you. Now.

Priceless in three ways

15 Nov

I just read a priceless book that makes me feel good about a recent decision.

The book was Priceless by Shannon Mayer, and it was indeed without a price – for the Kindle, at any rate. (It’s now $2.99 — not a bad price still.)

But it’s not just the name or the fact that it was free that lead to me calling it priceless. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

The story kept moving, but not too fast for me to get a glimpse at the characters. I saw depth in the characters, and I saw issues between the characters, but not all of either one. It made me want to read more of the series, to get to know the characters more.

The pacing was very good. It seemed too frenetic at the end, but then I saw that she was introducing another dark character that, I am guessing, will continue to pose problems down the line.

One of the keys to me was that it didn’t fall into a formula. I didn’t know what was coming next. It was full of surprises and complications.

I should note that Priceless really could have used another round of proofreading. It wasn’t too bad, but the proofreaders didn’t catch everything they should have.

Overall, the story reminded of the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I liked that series a lot at first, but when the latest book, Skin Game, came out, I decided I was done, not only with the series, but with ebooks from major publishers.

I already felt like the series was falling into a formula. This is one of the big issues with books from the major publishers. It’s all about selling books –and why shouldn’t it be? They’re a big business. So they steer authors toward writing to formulas that sell.

The price of Skin Game put me over the edge and made me swear off ebooks by major publishers. $11.99 for an ebook? Are you kidding me? Some of the older books in the series run $7.99, but that’s still way too much in my opinion.

For instance, Immune, the book that follows Priceless as the second book in Shannon Mayer’s Rylie Adamson series, was 99 cents when I bought it, and now, like the rest of the series, costs $3.99. I’ve just dropped the price of the first book in my fantasy series to $3.99. The rest are $4.99. And the ebook version of my first science fiction/Western/paranormal/romance/hard-boiled-detective/humor book is $2.99.

Why? Because I want people to be able to afford to read. And I don’t know about you, but at $11.99 an ebook, I can’t afford to read many books at all. (In fact, for $11.97 you could buy three of my books.)

And you want to know what’s sad? I probably earn more from a $4.99 ebook than Jim Butcher gets from his publisher for an $11.99 ebook. So in my opinion, publishers are gouging readers and writers.

I’m not one of the writers they’re skimming from, and I won’t be overcharging readers. Nor will I be one of the readers that publishers are overcharging. I’ve bought books 2 and 3 in Shannon Mayer’s Rylee Adamson series, and tucked them away on my Kindle for an upcoming trip. I’ll let you know how they are.

Get Priceless for the Kindle …

Cheaper than a Pooping Moose Holiday Scarf!

14 Nov

With the recent price reductions for Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy, you can now purchase the Kindle versions of the first four books of my series, The Day Magic Died, for less than the price of a Pooping Moose Holiday Scarf!

Think about it: These four books will give you hours and hours and hours of enjoyment. The scarf? You will likely wear it only once or twice before someone who loves you burns it.

Longer lasting than a Polly the Insulting Parrot Keychain!

Yes, that’s right! The Kindle version of The Dwarf’s Legacy is now $4.99. That’s almost a dollar less than a Polly The Insulting Parrot Keychain!

Rude parrots get boring fast. The Dwarf’s Legacy doesn’t get old for a very, very long time. (Inside joke there, if you’ve read the book. Haven’t read it? Then get the book and get the joke!)

More versatile than an Inflatable Van Gogh Painting in a can!

And the paperback version is now $11.99. That’s less than an Inflatable Van Gogh Painting in a can.

Let’s face it, folks. How many times do you think, “Wow, I wish I had a painting in a can so I could spruce this place up a bit”? I bet it’s not many compared to the number of times you’ve thought, “I could really use a good book to read right now.” Right?

Just plain better than bad pun salt and pepper shakers!

So if you’re looking for a great gift for friends and family, don’t get them Assault and Battery Salt and Pepper Shakers.

No one likes an overused pun. Help them enjoy the journey – get them one (or all) of these:

The House in the Old WoodKaria's Path

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