Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Re-run: Wednesday Word Sangfroid

Last September, I did a Wednesday Word for sangfroid. I thought I would run it again, just to put my wedding-day self back on the blog. Am I vain or what?

When I was about 16, my mother and I left Massachusetts, where we'd lived for three years, and drove across Canada with a car load of our stuff and our surly cat back to California where we plopped back down with a sigh of relief. Well, I did anyway. I'm a Californian girl at heart and always have been, although now as an adult I have an appreciation for Massachusetts.

For some reason, my new high school in California wouldn't let me start on the first day of school even though we arrived in town a month before. They made me start on the second or third day, which meant that I had to enter every class as the new girl and disrupt everything while I handed my pass to the teacher and she or he wrote me into their book and then directed me to one of the last empty seats. In other words: a ton of attention drawn to me.

I hated this because a few years earlier we had arrived back in the US from our time living in Greece. We landed in West Virginia of all places (my mother had family there and it was easy), and let me tell you: the West Virginian kids were not at all pleased to see this little flashy girl come in from Athens. The teachers all thought it was great of course and asked me allllll about Greece in front of the class, no doubt hoping to use it as a teaching lesson, but the only thing I got was daily threats to be beaten up for being "preppy." (Because, as everyone knows, arriving from Athens means you're preppy. Or something.) It wasn't a good time.

Then, as years later in California in my junior year of high school, I quaked with fear having to draw so much attention to myself. So imagine my surprise when in that Californian school I entered my US History class and a girl named Anita invited me to work on a project with her. I said yes. I said that I'd been really nervous having to come into class a few days late. She said, "Really? Cause you looked totally confident and together."

This was huge news to me. Apparently, I had some kind of sangfroid outer shell. It means coolness or composure, especially under strain or stress. At first I thought that this unknown sangfroid ability was just a fluke, that maybe Anita hadn't seen me shaking or anything because she was sitting too far back. But as time went on (and we became very good friends), I came to believe her-- that I had some kind of confidence or coolness that I could exude. I mean, hey, it's better than sweat-stains in your arm pits, isn't it? And it wasn't all good, this ability. Sometimes it left me looking cold and uppity.

I don't actually know if I've been sangfroid in other stressful periods of my life. I do know that I didn't quite manage it on my wedding day when I walked down the aisle. My lips were quivering because I knew all eyes were on me, and let me tell you--I was not sangfroid about it. I pursed my lips and clamped them shut so no one could see me shaking, but that didn't look so cool-- as you can see in the picture. Also, a family friend told me that he spoke to me right outside the church before we went in to walk down the aisle and all I did was stare at him like a deer in the headlights, but I have absolutely no recollection of that.

(In the picture, yes, it looks like a coy little expression doesn't it, but it is not, NO it is not, it is me pursing my lips to keep them from trembling from nerves!)

Even so, I don't know whether Anita, who is still a dear friend today, knows what effect her words had on me back then on my first day in a new school in a new town when she extended kindness and friendship to me, allowing me to think I'd been sangfroid even if I'd been a mass of nerves inside.

Bonus: In contrast to walking down the aisle, here I am being accosted by a lion on my wedding day and I'm totally sangfroid about it. (Yes I have blurred out Mr. Sierra and covered his head with an arrow because I didn't ask him if he would like to be put on the web to protect his privacy.)

Did you know this word? Tell me about it in the comments.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cookie recipe winners

I know! An unscheduled Tuesday post! But I totes forgot to announce the winner of my very special wonderful awesome really-very-nice-indeed chocolate chip cookie recipe. Thanks for checking out and following my design and usability blog, Don't Leave Me This Way (which you should totally take a look at, it's really quite interesting if I do say so myself, even if saying so is rather obnoxious).

So I couldn't really pick a winner so here are the lucky recipients of the recipe, which by the way I designed all special and pretty for you:

  • Julie Dao
  • Linda Grimes
  • Susan Swiderski
  • Kristen Lippert-Martin (who may need me to feed her)
Susan, can you please email me? I don't have your email addy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Plot is Like...

I love visuals. Here is one for you that particularly works for me:

The beginning of the novel:
You are shooting a bow and arrow. You want to shoot the target. The target is what you want.

The middle of the novel:
You aim. You shoot.
The arrow might fall along the way. You might have to reshoot.

The end of the novel:
The arrow hits the target. Or not. If it doesn't, it affects you. If it does hit it, it also affects you.

Thoughts? Does this work for you?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

First of all, I would like to re-announce the launch of my new design blog, Don't Leave Me This Way, a blog about usability and design and blogs and web sites. I've got a beautiful graph up there now for your designy pleasure. And, as promised, I'm giving away my super excellent chocolate chip recipe to people who follow that blog--winners announced on Monday.

  • I don't normally lead off the Roundup with my own post, so forgive me for being obnoxious...but yesterday I did a post about finding a writing mentor. I really loved writing that post because I got to shout out to some of my mentors. And, the author who sparked the whole idea, Sarah Pekkanen, dropped by to comment on it all.
  • Martha Alderson has a wonderful series on writing and structure and plot--truly excellent. I started watching the videos some time ago but she hadn't finished them at the time; now there are 27 of them. Her agent Jill Corcoran has them all in a convenient list for us.
  • I really liked this story of how author Robin O'Bryant got her agent, from her agent Jenny Bent. There are a lot of background similarities between myself and Robin. Except Robin is damn funny, and you can tell that by her story.
  • Roni Loren discusses convenient contrivances, and contrives to give us a convenient list of things to avoid conveniently contriving.
  • I love this post from Janice Hardy on better queries through movie trailers. I've long been fascinated by the ease with which movies seem to convey plots-- and trailers are supposed to entice you to view, just as queries are supposed to entice people to read.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

4 Tips to Getting a Writing Mentor

I recently read Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen. In Ms. Pekkanen's acknowledgements page, she said that she'd received wonderful mentoring from Jennifer Weiner, and that in return for the mentoring, Jennifer had told her to mentor another writer. To pay it forward. It really got me thinking about my own writerly mentors.

You see, I've been on the receiving end of incredible generosity from other writers, all of whom are published and/or agented. The mentoring I've received from these writers since I started writing novels and blogging and studying the craft and living and breathing stories has made me a very, very lucky girl. The luckiest. What? What's that, you say? I've been lucky, yet I'm not yet published or agented -- the two things that are shangri-las for us writers? Yes, indeed. Here are some of the delicious snacks you get from (more) established writers:

  • They can critique your query or first pages -- or whole manuscript-- with a much more practiced eye than you can bring
  • They can encourage you because they've been where you are, and lived to tell you that not only does it get better, but it gets successful
  • They might refer you to their agents, which is a huge leg up in the slushpile experience
One of the things I am most pleased about with each of my writing mentors is that I've never met any of them. Face to face, that is. All of them I've met as a result of social media-- which is yet again a reminder of how enriching the online writing and publishing community can be. I consider this community essential in the development of a savvy writer's career.

So, let's get to the good stuff - how do you get a writing mentor?
Good thing you asked. It really all comes down to relationship-building. Here's how I did it:

1. Blog.
I got to be friendly with certain bloggers early on-- I supported their blogs, and they supported mine. A foundation was established. With those I really clicked with, I have developed a deeper connection -- through off-line dialogue like email. Roni Loren is a great example of this, and she and I click on a lot of levels, from blogging to writing to mothering. Roni has been a big supporter of mine, and I know I am thrilled for all her success. And she's really given me both great help and opportunities.

2. Tweet.
Some people I met through Twitter, and some I knew through blogging and tweeting, and both played into the building of the relationship. Quick little dashed bits of conversation are fun, helpful, and sometimes leads to questions or answers from people--and sometimes more, like offers to read your dreck. Two authors who really get tweeting--as in, they engage with their followers and have real conversations--helped me out hugely. All because that personal connection was made through Twitter.

3. Ask for interviews.
I no longer remember what led me to ask Janice Hardy if I could interview her for her debut book release, The Shifter, in 2009. Probably I saw that her book was being released, and I thought, hey, I'd like to interview her about it. Janice kindly consented even though my blog at the time was only read by my mom and people googling silverfish. But then a year later when Janice's second book, Blue Fire, came out, she asked me if we could do another one. Of course I was delighted because I had all kinds of new questions about the second book experience. And our offline email exchanges were richer. I asked questions. Ultimately, Janice offered me some critiques and help. And since then, she's given me two very awesome guests posts-- one on inciting incidents, a very popular post, and her latest on middles. Janice has been such a great guest to the blog that she has her own tag here on the blog. Kind of like her own toothbrush at my house. And I consider her one of my writing mentors because of the help and opportunities she gave me off line...all as a result of our first interview.

4. Appreciate the help you get.
Sometimes it seems like saying thank you is a dying art these days. I know I've offered help to writers before and gotten no thanks. That's okay--I don't offer help just to get thanks. But I didn't offer again. The people who took time out of their busy schedules--their busy actually-writing-a-book-that-will-be-published schedules -- these people deserved my heartfelt thanks at the very least. You need to really, really thank those people--and then support them hugely when their books are published. I'll never forget the psychological support Kristen Lippert-Martin gave me when I had some down days in the querying process. A few days after her baby was born (and mine was yet to be), she took the time to give me one of the best pep talks ever-- and then I had my baby and couldn't believe she'd taken the time to write what she did--because then I understand just how very much of a sacrifice it was to take the time and write me when she could be sleeping or eating or taking a shower--all things that you can no longer do at all when you have a newborn. Kristen has been a great mentor to me in many ways, and I hope I always make it clear to her how much I appreciate it. (In case I haven't, she'll know now.) And the aforementioned Janice Hardy-- I once delayed thanking her for something and she e-mailed me asking if what she'd given me was okay, and the shame I felt could have been bottled and sold. Eu de Shame.

Finally, the important thing to remember is...

If writers have been generous to you, you should pay it forward and be generous to other writers, whether you're published or not. When you're agented or published I think this matters most, because even though you put on your pants the same way unpublished or unagented writers do, you get more respect for having won an agent or book deal. It's just the way of the world.

Have you been mentored by anyone? Has it helped?
As for me, I'm off to go e-mail or tweet to Sarah Pekkanen and see if I can add her to my mentor menagerie.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Parenting Trick for Writers #1

With summer coming, those of you who are parents with kids who are not in year-round school suddenly have lots of kid on your hands. And because you are likely a writer or creative type if you're reading this, that means less time for you to write in your accustomed solitary fashion without someone whining and demanding snacks every half hour. (I am talking about your kids, here, not you.)

But I have solutions, ones that will occupy or creatively satiate your kids so that you can retreat to your cave and write more.

It's this fantastic set of measuring cups shaped like babushkas (or, matryoshkas as they are called on the box), called M-Cups. These awesome measuring cups are perfect for kids to play with and measure with and help bake yummy sugary snacks with you, which as we all know is what keeps writers going. What's not to love about these measuring cups? Baking with your kids is one of the best things you can possibly do because it teaches little kids cause and effect and mixing and amounts, and it allows you and big kids to bond, and it results in lovely foodstuffs. It's a win-win situation.

These are made by Fred & Friends and here they are on Amazon. Also, if you search on Amazon for Fred & Friends, they have a ton more awesome products like this 2-carat ring cup and these pick your nose paper cups.

To go with your new M-Cups measuring cups, or whatever, and because I love you so much, I am going to award two lucky beasts the recipe to my fabulous chocolate chip cookie recipe. My uncle, whose nickname is Cook, short for Cookie, and with good reason since he is quite the cookie connoisseur (I swear I'm not making it up about his name), even agrees my chocolate chip cookies are some of the best ever. What you have to do is go follow my new blog on design and usability, called Don't Leave Me This Way. That's a reference to the awesome song (I prefer the Jimmy Somerville/Communards version, I mean really what's not to love about Jimmy Somerville?) and also a reference to all the bad design out there that blows our heads up and could so easily be fixed. On that blog, I post about design issues and how you can solve them-- be it on a web site, customer service, or elsewise.

Anyway, go sign up as a follower on that blog between now, Monday, June 20, 2011, and Friday, June 24, 2011, and I'll award two random followers my lovely chocolate chip cookie recipe in a pretty PDF. Winners will be announced here on Monday, June 27.

Important note: I have not been approached by Fred & Friends nor have I been sent for free these M-Cups, no, I bought some myself for my whippersnapper and loved them and thought I would blog about them. But no, I have not been given them for free or am otherwise being paid for this post. Although Fred & Friends is more than welcome to email me (sierra [at] and we can discuss it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Google Reader Roundup Re-run

This GRR originally ran on January 8, 2010. Sorry to be back on re-run today but I'm really exhausted.

  • Five things to do before querying from Jody Hedlund. One interesting thing she said that stuck out at me was that she sees writers move from word count and book to book without increasing skills. I don't know how that happens. Do you?
  • Things are changing for me in 2010 (more about that in weeks to come) and so this post by Meghan Ward on balance in life particularly struck a chord.
  • And last but never least is Roni at Fiction Groupie on standing out.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest post: The Hunger Games - A Lesson In Plot

Today I'm really excited to welcome my friend Meghan Ward to the blog, and I'm super excited about her post. When Meghan sent me the post below, my first thought was, "Dang it lang it, now I have to hurry up and read The Hunger Games, even though I've had it sitting in my pile for a very long time (it's in hardback, even) and promised myself I would read it and then didn't and feel silly because I know it's fabulous and I need to read it even though I'm deep in the fourth book of the Game of Thrones series." So I picked it up and read it downstairs while I nursed, as opposed to upstairs when I nurse and read A Feast of Crows, and was instantly hooked. I could not put it down. And in fact, my reaction to it is almost word for word the same as Meghan's below--including purchasing the second book within 30 seconds of finishing.

I thought a lot about the strength of the plot and the protagonist, and Meghan's points below are right on. Now, take it away, Meghan!

The Hunger Games - A Lesson In Plot

I first heard about the Hunger Games last summer when the Internet was ablaze with talk about the forthcoming Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I was intrigued by the title of the series because I love playing board games (Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride) and because it reminded me of the 1997 movie "The Game" starring Michael Douglas. I bought The Hunger Games before I read the description of it: in a post-apocalyptic country that has replaced the United States, two children from each of its twelve territories, a boy and a girl, must fight to the death while the country watches on TV. I don't read much YA, and fantasy and
sci-fi aren't my thing either, so I set it aside, almost regretting the $4.69 I¹d spent to purchase the e-book version.

But when I heard Woody Harrelson was to star in the movie that would be coming out next year, I decided to give it a chance. (I once saw Woody Harrelson on stage with Sean Penn and Nick Nolte, and he upstaged them all). If I was going to read it, I wanted to read it before the movie came out. So one night after completing a marketing book I was reading for a class I am teaching, I opened my iPad and tapped on The Hunger Games. And it had me from page one. I stopped tweeting, I stopped responding to e-mails and I stopped reading blogs until I finished it. And within about 30 seconds of reading the last page, I had downloaded book two, Catching Fire. What a wonderful feeling to let the world go on without me while I lay in bed absorbed in a book that I couldn't put down! But what does it take to write such a book? What sets it apart from all the books I've muddled halfway through and then set down, never to pick up again? Great writing? Beautiful descriptions? Complex characters? In the case of the Hunger Games, none of those. The only thing that matters is plot, plot, and more plot (along with an extremely likable protagonist). Sometimes we get so caught up trying to craft clever dialogue and write interesting descriptions that we lose sight of what storytelling is really all about‹telling a great story.

What kept the The Hunger Games moving for me were three things:

1. The ideal protagonist. Katniss is a wonderful character because she's smart, because she has a good heart, and because she is tough as nails. We know from page one that she is going to win the games, the question is how.

Q4U: Is your own protagonist a winner? Is she someone readers will root for? Is she intelligent and determined or is she too passive, reacting to events instead of taking action?

2. A continuous flow of seemingly insurmountable challenges that the protagonist must overcome. I won't go into detail because I don't to ruin the book for you, but just when Katniss overcomes one obstacle, another is waiting for her with just the right amount of time in between to allow both her and the reader to rest and reflect.

Q4U: Does your own protagonist have obstacles to overcome? Are they important enough for the reader to care? (potential death, loss of a loved one, breakup, loss of a job, loss of a home, hunger, etc.) Do you allow the right amount of time between dramatic action scenes and non-dramatic (reflection, internal conflict) action scenes? (Martha Alderson's Blockbuster Plots expands on this.)

3. Twists and turns. Just when you think you've figured out how Katniss is going to win the Games, the game changes, keeping you turning pages (or swiping your screen) until the Author Notes at the end.

Q4U: Is your plot too predictable? Can the reader guess after the first couple of chapters how the book will end? What can you do to keep the plot moving, to keep the reader invested in your characters?

Of course, because this is a teen novel, it doesn't hurt that there's a love interest, lots of kissing and holding hands, but that's not necessary to make a novel work. It doesn't hurt, though.

What about you? Are you experienced writing plots? Do you have any tips on how to write a page-turner like The Hunger Games?

Meghan is a writer and editor working on a memoir titled, PARIS ON LESS THAN $10,000 A DAY, a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Paris modeling industry in the late 80s/early 90s. Meghan worked as a high-fashion model in Europe and Japan from 1988 to 1994 before returning to the U.S. to pursue a career as a journalist. She has written for dozens of publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and 7x7 Magazine. She holds a BA in English from UCLA and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. She writes out of her office at the San Francisco Writer¹s Grotto and lives in Berkeley with her husband, two children, and fluffy new kitten.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

Crap, I'm tired.

  • Bookends Literary has an interesting post on ever being disappointed in a client they've already signed. Jessica Faust also admits that they sign clients because they see potential in the author. For those of us not yet agented, let's not read too much into our rejections with that in mind, okay? For sanity's sake?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How Angry Birds is like Rejection

When I was waiting for my baby to be born, I didn’t have the attention span for much. But one thing I could do was play games that didn't require too much thinking, and Angry Birds was one of them. Despite its hype, I’d never played Angry Birds before but figured it was high time I got on the bandwagon, especially since my four year old knew more about it than I did.

And that was unacceptable.

So the premise behind Angry Birds, if you’re not familiar, is that you sling little presumably furious birds at nasty green pigs who taunt them and you try to knock out the pigs. It’s all about trajectory and it’s hideously addictive. And if your incensed little birds miss, the pigs laugh at them. For me, it was the little derisive laugh of those pigs that really spurred me to keep playing. I may or may not have been heard on more than one occasion to say, "Who's laughing now, you little green bastards?" when I won.

Somewhere around level 11 of the first section, it struck me that Angry Birds was a lot like rejection. You fling the birds at the pigs, and when you fail to knock them out or break down the structures surrounding the pigs, you are faced with a huge pile of frustration. You can either redo the level or quit the game.

And isn’t querying manuscripts in an attempt to get published really the same thing? When you’re rejected, you can either redo the level or quit the game.

So anyone who is playing Angry Birds is actually preparing to be a writer or submit something for publication or presentation. Give it a try. If you’re the type who is easily put off by rejection, maybe a few rounds of Angry Birds will help. You never know.

As for me, I’m off to redo the levels and smash those little pig bastards with my fuming feathered ammunition. Quitting the game has never been an option for me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Re-run: Can't vs. Won't

I hate it when I hear people tell they can't.

"Sorry, can't do it without the proper form."
"Oh, we can't do it that way."

And I hear it from people in customer service all the time.

Me: "Can you please make sure my three-day service package arrives at its destination in the three days I requested?"
Them: "Oooh, sorry. We can't."

The word "can't" necessarily applies to some situations: I can't go to the moon tomorrow. But what "can't" really means is: you won't.

That's probably why it's so irritating to hear "can't." I'm sorry to go all self-helpy on you here, but how many times have you said "I can't" or "I won't"? It's okay to say you won't, but don't pass it off as can't.

  • You can't be a published writer? Or you won't put the time into it to make it happen?
  • You can't get an agent? Or you won't take a look at what's wrong with your plot, query, letter?
  • You can't finish your book? Or you won't find the time to?
  • You can't find the motivation? Or you won't give up watching American Idol in order to?
  • You can't be a better writer? Or you won't put the time into learning how to write?

It's up to you to do what you will and won't, but personally, I try very hard not to say can't anymore.What I am really saying is I won't-- and I try not to say this, either.

Listen to the next time you hear someone say they can't do something for you. See what they're really saying.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

I had some very bad nights this week with pretty much no sleep so this is a quick list for you -- but as always with some great (I think so anyway) posts. Thanks to all the bloggers below for writing such great content for me to then make a list out of. :)

  • Kristen Lippert-Martin keeps us laughing with the best blog post title ever: Obituaries and You, a post about what we can learn from those creepy little newspaper items.
  • Amber Tidd Murphy did this post on the eve of the supposed Rapture and it's quite lovely because it communicates very simply what it means to be a mother. And as mother to a newborn myself, with hormones raging and going on like 2 hours of sleep (not consecutive either) for the past three days total, I teared up just a wee bit. Not much. But anyway, it's a lovely post.
  • Finally, Perri at her blog Lesser Apricots (love the name) gave me an award, and called me "terrifically stylish" which might well be the most lovely thing anyone has ever said about me, and instantly made me want to marry her. But you should also check her weekly One Hit Wonder posts, wherein she is incorrect about Madness being a one hit wonder (Madness! Hello? Best ever! One Step Beyond? Yesterday's Men? Suggs = HOT!), but picks amusing other ones. Here is this week's.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Learning from Reviews, Part II

Following on Monday's repost about book reviews, I always find that I can learn a lot from the reviews of other books. A few years ago I noticed a particularly scathing review of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol in the NYT Book Review, and I was really dismayed that the review was essentially a vehicle for trashing Dan Brown, rather than a discussion of the faults the book actually has, or why it remains popular despite its faults--both topics we might have been interested in, as opposed to yet another trashing of Brown.

And in Monday's re-run post, I started out by saying how negative the reviewer seemed to be for a sci fi book review column in my local Sunday paper.

That was in November 2009. Now, March 2011, nothing has changed--the reviews from the sci fi reviewer are just as nasty as ever and a recent column from him proved this.

A few weeks ago, he trashed three books in a row on a lavish scale, making me wonder if he'd sat on a chair full of tacks or had a dog die while reading the books or something. I wanted to see what this guy took issue with, exactly, so I read his reviews carefully. For the first book, "The Remembering" by Steve Cash, the reviewer pointed out right away that the book was the last of a series, and that Cash was merely turning the book in to fulfill a publishing contract. Thus, obviously, the book was the equivalent of a steaming pile of armadillo poo. The reviewer ends with, "Don't waste your time or money."

Fair play, I haven't read the book or the series. But really? Is this how it works? Writers get awesome multi-book series contracts and then get tired and submit ramblings from their golden retrievers as the final book, because they're "tired"?

If our intrepid book reviewer had pointed out where Cash gone wrong in the book and left it at that, I might have believed him. But he went a step further to assume weird things about the author, and thus negated the credibility of his review.

But maybe this first book was truly bad--who knows. I read on to the next two reviews.

They were for "At the Queen's Command" by Michael Stackpole. Stackpole, the reviewer starts out, "is a professional writer...who has published more than 40 novels since 1988 and he understands the craft of book writing." Oooh, alarm bells rang right away. We're starting with the author's credentials, not the book. The reviewer goes on to say that, "At the same time, though, cranking out two 100,000 word novels a year is more about production than deep thinking."

Oooh, Mr. Cranky Pants reviewer, just because you don't have the drive or typing speed or even intellect to write two long stories a year doesn't mean other people don't. As you point out, Stackpole is a pro, and probably does this as his day job. And anyway, who cares? The reviewer points out that the book is a "fun ride in alternate 18th century America." So, what--Stackpole didn't write a dissertation on American history? And that's a bad thing? Strike two!

Cranky's final review is for "The Habitation of the Blessed" by Catherynne M. Valente, and our soldiering reviewer says that Valente has written "some interesting books and I've stuck with her through strange digressions, but with [this book] she's lost me."

Sigh. Cranky never quite gets to the heart of why this book annoys him so, except to say that he dislikes Valente's way of showing the concept of the Word of God made flesh through her characters. Once again I haven't read the book so I can't really say, but surely that's an example of showing not telling?

These reviews are all fine if Cranky didn't really like the books. But when I read a book review, I want to hear why the book works or doesn't work-- I want to hear whether the story question was answered, whether the characters were fully developed, whether the author wrote well. Not this silly complaining about the authors themselves and how they obviously threw in the towel. That's not really how writing a novel works unless you're James Patterson. (Snap!)

This is the danger I find with book reviews, online or newspaper. When the reviewer makes it personal, I have to start discounting the actual review. When the reviewer takes pot shots at the author rather than the writing, I have to assume he or she has eaten some bad pork and spent all night with his or her head over the toilet, because he or she has clearly forgotten that book reviews are about writing, not about authors. Or that they shouldn't be about authors.

The point of my post today is to please read the negative reviews that you see carefully --and decide for yourself if the book merits the thrashing it gets, and if the reviewer has thought about the story and its themes, rather than how shoddy the author is.

It shows.