ARTICLE POST: Book Reviews, an Author’s Favorite Gift

As both a writer and a reader, I have come to realize the importance of book reviews. I want to emphasize reviews–I am not referring to a book’s ratings. While ratings are important, the review is much more precious. Ratings are subjective because there will always be someone who absolutely hates it and wants to spit on it, but then across the world there is someone who adores it and will reread it until the pages are falling out.

No book will ever please every single reader who reads it. And I would bet my life savings on that statement.

Ratings will show how the majority of the readers feel about the book. Is it popular? Is it mainstream? Whether a book receives a 1-star rating or a 5-star rating, you’ll never know if you’ll like it or not until you read it. That’s why as a reader, I don’t look at the star ratings of a book. First, I look at the summary. Am I interested? Yes. Then, I read some of the reviews (1-star & 5-star reviews). I choose the extremes because I like to read what readers really hated about the book and loved about it. I never read reviews consisting of spoilers though–I hate if I know what happens.

Reviews. What do I look for? I’m mainly searching for red flags of a book’s characteristic in the plot that I know I’ll hate. These red flags are purely personal, so while I might hate something, another reader may love it. For example, there are thousands of readers who love the “The Selection” series by Kierra Cass. However, many of the reviews (good and bad) I’ve read for these books state the main character is extremely annoying because she is an indecisive protagonist. If there is one thing I hate, it’s an irritating main character who can’t make up her mind. So, for this reason, I will not be buying this series anytime soon. Not to say, if I did stumble upon it somewhere for free, I might pick it up to read to see for myself. But, as of now, I have books on my TBR pile that are more appealing with characters I’d enjoy reading about.

Authors live on book reviews. I love reading reviews about my books and to talk to readers to see what they expected, what they were surprised from, and what they were disappointed about. I don’t take anything personally, because I understand that I can’t and will never please every single reader. That’s the human condition in life. No matter how hard you try, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it for some reason. How boring would it be if everyone loved every single thing about the book? There has to be some tug and pull to keep it interesting. A little debate never hurt anyone!

However, there are many times where I have seen readers get unfairly treated for leaving negative reviews of a book they read from other readers who loved it, and vice versa. READERS, RESPECT OPINIONS. Everyone is subject to their own opinions about the books they read. Whether they loved it or hated it, doesn’t mean it’s okay to attack them for their opinions. Agree to disagree.

So readers, I really encourage you to leave ratings and especially reviews of the books you read. Even if it’s only a sentence or two, let the author know what you loved about it or what you absolutely hated about it. Authors love to hear what readers feel about the stories that consumed hours, days, weeks, months, and years of their lives whether it’s praise or criticism.

Check out my young adult fantasy book Karnage (The Phoenix Ashes Book 1)! If you love special powers, dragons, and fantastical worlds then you’ll enjoy it!

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ARTICLE POST: Two Types of Writers

Writers write because they have something to share. Whether they get something back in return is entirely out of their control, so they should focus on what they can control, and that’s their writing.

Some writers will write for their reading audience. They want readers to like their stories (I mean, who doesn’t?) so they end up catering the plot to what they believe will bode well for their audience; books like this are referred to as commercial lit. These writers may twist the plot so that everything works out and nobody important dies and there is a happy ending.

Then, there are the writers who don’t really care whether the readers will like it or not. These writers focus on how they want the plot to progress. If they kill off a reader’s favorite character, so be it. If the heroine ends up dumping every guy and spends life alone at the end of a seven book series, that’s that. Readers can throw the book across the room or cry their eyes out, but that’s how this author wanted it and maybe it was their intention all along. Basically, these writers have a vision for their novel and that’s what they focus on during their entire writing process.

I’m not saying there is a right or wrong to either types of writer. I’m sure there are even some writers who fall somewhere in between the spectrum of the two. In the end, the writer needs to be passionate about his or her story for it to really touch those who are reading it. If readers can feel the passion and toils it took for a writer to complete their story, it’ll be a success whether it receives a 1-star review or a 5-star review.

Most writers don’t write to get rich. They actually assume they’ll be broke. And most writers never get rich off their writing. Even if their book is a literary goldmine, it’s all about the market, and the market is a fickle son of a b****. Writers can try to “read” the market and guess what the next big thing is going to be, but that’s like picking a needle out of a haystack, and finishing a novel is hard enough. First it was vampires, followed by risque erotica, and the current fad dystopian worlds. Who’s to say, maybe the next thing to blow the literary market off its feet will be talking animals who have humans as pets! (You read it here first!)

So, with a market that’s always flopping around as quick as readers turn a page in a book, writers need to focus on the one thing they can control, their writing. Write what you love and never lose your passion, because at the end of the day, whether ten people read it or 10,000 people read it, it’ll be a good day.

 

 

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ARTICLE POST: Writing Convention

So I recently went to my first writing convention this past Saturday. It was a one-day affair and about an hour away from my home, so I wasn’t forced to dish out an obscene amount of money to attend it. At the convention, they allowed writers to purchase 10-min pitch times with agents. I decided I would pitch a new trilogy I started writing to two agents, Nephele Tempest and Sara Sciuto.

Before attending, I had no idea what to expect and I was ridiculously nervous about the pitch. I memorized my 1-2 minute blurb and ran it through my head repeatedly the night before, on the drive there, and even during the event. Both my pitches were scheduled early in the day, so I wasn’t pacing throughout the event.

My first pitch was to Sara Sciuto. She represents a variety of works ranging from picture books to young adult books. Which is perfect, because I have a young adult fantasy and a middle grade idea that I’ve been tinkering around with. The beginning of my pitch sounded rehearsed, but it became a more colloquial toward the end (at least I hope it did). She asked me a few questions about it and I answered with more in-depth explanations of the different fantasy concepts woven into it and she said she was intrigued! She handed me her business card and asked me to send the first 50-pgs of my manuscript. I was downright giddy at this point, but I still had about 5 minutes left from my 10 minutes. I didn’t want to just get up and waste half my time, so instead I asked her questions (because from the articles I read about pitches at writing conventions, that’s what you’re supposed to do). I asked her what other fantasy books she’s representing and what style of writing she most particularly enjoyed so I could get to know her better. Overall it was a successful pitch and if she does like my manuscript, I know I would really enjoy working with her!

My second pitch was with Nephele Tempest. By this time, my head was still bobbling from my first pitch, so I was a bit more relaxed and natural. Since I got Sara’s card and interest, I didn’t have all my eggs in one basket. (Of course I wanted it to be a success, who wouldn’t want the interest of two agents instead of one?) My second pitch was more natural and conversational and Nephele made a few ooh’s and ahh’s during it that made me smile. She was also very intrigued by it and gave me her business card to send her the first 50pgs of my manuscript as well. I was ecstatic.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if maybe the agents were just giving their cards to all the authors who pitched to them out of good measure since they went out of their way to pay for those short, precious 10 minutes, but it really didn’t matter to me. I felt that in a way, we skipped the first part of querying agents, the part that has them opening the initial email to read your query to ask for a longer sample. And to me, that’s worth every penny. Plus, now the agents are able to put a face to the query/manuscript, which humanizes the process. There’s no guarantee they’ll like my manuscript. They might have enjoyed the idea of it, but writing style is a whole other beast.

I’ve been working on finishing and refining my manuscript in order to send it to them. (Although, I did learn that an agent’s request for a longer sample has no deadline) Therefore, I’m trying not to rush myself because I really want to send my best work. But I have made a self-induced deadline of October 31 to get the first draft completed and the first 50-pgs refined to send out. I figure that I’ll have another 1-2 months after submitting the first 50-pgs to polish the rest of my manuscript while they read my longer sample.

I’m glad I registered for the Los Angeles Writing Workshop 2015 (#LAWW15). It was a very positive experience and I learned a lot. I think the only thing that I might have enjoyed would have been to connect with other writers more. Because the convention was so short, you didn’t really have much time to get to know that many people. I’m thinking it would be great to attend a writing retreat or even a longer writing convention in the future.

This is the first sentence of my new trilogy!

“A wish made was a price paid, and no power could undo it.”
-Death Life Taken

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ARTICLE POST: The Pen vs. the Keyboard

Where do writers come up with some of their stories? Some of the worlds created in these portable pieces of magic we call books, are insanely descriptive, as if they truly exist. And whether it is in our minds, or another dimension we cannot see, these worlds are real to those who read it. So the question is, where do these authors come up with their ideas for books?

Sipping on a piping hot cup o’ joe in a small nondescript cafe?

Venturing the blazing deserts of Egypt?

Dreaming during a very deep REM cycle?

Spinning around in the office chair making sense of the passing blurs?

I’m positive the experience is very different among the millions of writers out there. One thing I do know for sure, is that these ideas come completely unannounced, so you really need to be ready for it. You know that feeling when you leave your house in the morning and the sky is shining blue–a few clouds shaped as bunnies pass by–but then all of a sudden it starts to rain and you don’t have an umbrella, so you get drenched? That’s what I feel like when I get an idea and I don’t write it down, and I’m sure I’ve lost one too many good book ideas this way, which is why I always carry around a notebook. I’m old school like that. Yes, I know we live in a time where technology is prevalent in all aspects of our lives and I can bust out my handy-dandy iPhone 5s (did you see what I did there??) and type my idea in my notepad app, but I love notebooks and I love to scribble.

I have notebooks galore. I never really need them, but if I come across a beautiful one, then I can never really say “no” to buying it. My shopping addictions aren’t the point of this article, the point I’m trying to make is that I think everyone should carry some form of paper & pen with them at all times.

You not only want to write sudden epiphanies and ideas, but you also want to be able to draw, and you will always be limited with the ability to draw on your phones–the screens may be getting bigger, but your fingers aren’t getting any less fatter!

There are actually scientific studies that say those who practice the art of paper and pen (ok, it’s not actually called that) are more productive and creative. I imagine it has to do with the way your mind works. Your brain is shooting specific nerves to make your fingers move to click the right button. When you type, you’re just clicking a button, each button has a different letter on it, but all in all at the end of the day, it’s still just a button. Your fingers move more by muscle memory as you’re taught at a young age that your left index finger rests on the letter “f” while the right one should be on the letter “j.” However, when you use a pen to write, you are physically moving your hand to write the letter “i” and you can’t forget to dot it or it might look like a midget “L.” When you’re actually writing the word, ideas flow naturally through your mind right onto the page.

I tend to lean toward blank notebooks (because I’m a rebel and I refuse to be confined to the social standards of using lines! jk). Blank notebooks allow me to scribble, write very tiny for ants to read or very large for giants, and draw as if I’m the next Leonardo da Vinci.

Notebooks are like a diary and everyone has had a diary at one point or another (pssst–I still have one today at the ripe age of 24). You can pick up a notebook you wrote passing thoughts in years later and it may strike a chord in you or remind you of something important that you forgot. Those fleeting ideas that seemed trivial may be the next big thing. After a couple days, weeks, or years, if you look back on a simple idea, then you may see it in a different light and it can evolve into a beast of an idea you never imagined it could.

It’s 1:30am in the morning on a Thursday and I’m writing about notebooks and pens, while ironically typing it all on a keyboard. Anyway, give yourself a chance to be creative and carry around a notebook/pen for a month and see what you can come up with–I guarantee you’ll be surprised.