Update April 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
This would usually start with ‘Out and About’ but as none of us who are sensible are doing much if any of that I’ve not much to share. Most of my ‘out’ was related to food shopping and a couple of local walks for fresh air, exercise, and to post a birthday card. Truly hate shopping at this time, not just because of the need to be careful but because we can’t shop the way we like: together and doing a large monthly shop with a small top-up. We’re having to shop more than we’d like and it’s costing a little extra because we can’t always go where we want, which makes it more annoying. Still, we’re doing our best to remain safe, especially as my other half is a key worker. We’re feeling lucky right now to have some small local suppliers, a front and back garden, and somewhere to walk; not the best — I’d really appreciate being more coastal right now, but there is a view well worth seeing when things get too much.

FILM/TV:
We’ve started watching The Rookie and so far so good. Not through the first season yet, but they’ve kept the stories going. Been watching, or I should say, re-watching an old British favourite: Only Fools and Horses. Some great lines with memorable characters and comments, references, and slang only a Brit might be likely to laugh over. I quite enjoyed October Faction but, seriously (and this is a note to all writers), when someone has a massive knife shoved into their gut or side unless you’re healing them by supernatural magical means don’t have them walking around within minutes or even hours. I’m so tired of programmes supernatural or otherwise where someone is stabbed or shot and they shake it off as though it’s nothing. You might — only ‘might’ mind you — keep going a short while in the heat of the moment in a life-threatening situation with the help of an adrenaline rush, but that won’t last long and the pain is liable to be crippling.

READING:
The Eyes of Darkness, Dean Koontz
A re-read, this book reminds me of why I’ve been a longtime reader of this author whose work is best described as supernatural thrillers. Though sludgy in places plot-wise with a few coincidences this is solid plotting. More than that, Koontz must be one of the first in this genre who regularly started producing drop-kick heroines. More recent reviews seem to connect this book as being precognitive considering the troubles of 2020, but this is simply coincidence, and a subject written about by many authors; would be a pity if this happenstance puts anyone off an excellent read, although this novel is one to read for the journey more than the outcome. My only negatives is a wish to have connected to the character of Danny more and the ending feels a little abrupt after the investment of a great build-up.

The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski
After watching the first season of The Witcher, I understandably wanted to read the books. Though the writing isn’t fancy the narrative works well for this story making for a warm, comfortable read that lends itself to the creation of a world that feels real from the outset. There are storylines that will be familiar for those who watched the series, and others that diverge from what they know but they all work. Like the non-linear story telling of the show, the book breaks up the various storylines making for especially interesting reading, and the first leaves on a perfect cliffhanger of note. I read a review calling the characters soulless and perhaps seeing the show makes me feel otherwise but I wouldn’t call reserved the same thing as soulless and find the details and inventiveness of The Witcher and the world he inhabits captivating enough to make up for anything the book lacks. While some depth may be lacking this still brings the world of The Witcher to life and I’ll read the rest in the series.

The Siren, Tiffany Reisz
This is a difficult book to review without spoilers. First, the writing and plotline is superb, yet, while I far from dislike this book the BDSM elements were unexpected from the simple blurb but it pleased me the erotic content is far from lascivious and often not even graphic. The story tears the reader apart in so many places, pulling in so many directions, it should win hands down. But it’s toward the last quarter of the book the story lost me. I couldn’t see what there was to love about Soren, though I see this is now part of an 8 book series and hear we learn more about him as the story progresses. And when I thought one or more character should be content with a chosen path, they surprised me. I’m unsure whether I was satisfied with any of the decisions and I ultimately found the character of Nora frustrating, even fickle, though some might view her way of loving more forgiving. Perhaps too forgiving. I felt this is really Nora’s story and I would have preferred she were the first introduced to make this more obvious. I’ve read the blurbs for the series and, though I doubt I’ll commit to reading more, this works as a standalone novel and was worth the time spent with it. I couldn’t fault the world this author weaves or her writing.

WRITING:
I signed a contract with JMS books to re-release my (personally re-edited) novella, An Act of Generosity. I still cannot believe how much my writing and editing has changed. I also completed a few minor edits on a short story that will appear in an upcoming edition of Night to Dawn. Meanwhile, I’m working on another project I’ve been asked to write for, but I’m unable to say more at this time.

Stay well and Happy Reading!

Sharon x

Reacting to Reviews

Having heard about a writer getting an unfair review the other day (I read it and agree) this seems as good a time to talk about reviews from a personal perspective that I hope applies to both writers and readers, (who are both potential reviewers), and professional reviewers who assess books and stories regularly. All writers dream of receiving great reviews, but negative feedback affects everyone differently. I can only tell you how I handle the subject.

I forget exactly where I read this statistic, but as a guide, 20% of readers will hate your book. Don’t believe me? Read this wonderful take on negative reviews by author Beth Revis: How to Respond to Negative Reviews. She puts it so eloquently. Once you read some statistics, you’ll have a clearer picture.

Another occurrence, brought to my attention by an acquaintance, was of someone who had compared Dracula to Twilight and said they felt Twilight was the better book. No, I am not here to argue or dissect either work. I will say that IMHO no one can compare the two books. I am 99% certain that the author of Twilight might even agree with me. I don’t care whether you love or loathe either work or both: they don’t belong in the same sentence. They are two different fictions, written with distinct styles, at distant points in history, with a difference of purpose in mind, and with different influences. My acquaintance felt quite upset readers were touting Twilight as the best book of all time. Again, I, and the author of said book, would probably understand where my friend is coming from. There are many books I love in all genres, but ‘best book of all time’? Think of that phrase for a moment, of what it truly means.

I have to say for me to choose such a book would require more thought than I have time to spare. It would have to be a classic. It would have to be something that has already outlasted the test of time. Conversely, maybe such a book has yet to be written, doesn’t even exist yet. Be careful when rating books. It’s fine to give a book 5 stars on its own merit, but if you’re *comparing* it requires more thought.

How fair is it to compare one work to another, though? I give out 5-star reviews for good reads, but if I was giving stars to my personal library judging by those I loved the most, the grading would be noticeably different. I don’t put that classification *out there* when reviewing other authors. I would feel I was doing them a disservice.

It’s all subjective, anyway. What one person loves, another hates—wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all liked the same thing? It might be one thing to downgrade a book owing to poor presentation, but a story that isn’t one person’s ‘cup of tea’ may be the favourite read of another.

When writing a review I would urge to remember whether one is grading a book by the level of enjoyment or against other books. I would keep in mind that while I might have quibbles with the book, it has already passed inspection—in most cases a team has worked on it (not just the author) and have decided it is good enough for publication. Some ideas in the book may not have come from the author at all. Edits happen. There may be something in the book a reader dislikes the author also didn’t want but had no choice other than to accept after signing a contract. Yes, that is a fact of publishing. Or, the part the reviewer hates may be the part the writer most loves. In the words of J.K.Rowling, “I’m not taking dictation.” There’s little point wishing a book had *gone another way*. Don’t enjoy the books coming onto the market, then go write ones you like. Maybe you can become a writer yourself, maybe you already are. Either may ‘discover’ a new brand of fiction with fresh ideas.

If you’re a writer and receiving a bad review…well, this is how I deal with them. Set it aside. I read it and put it down for twenty-four hours. I put it completely out of my mind and let my blood cool. Then I read it again. Then I take the time to consider it. I judge whether the reviewer had a point. If so, I try to learn from it. If not, I dismiss it.

A bad review can be very helpful if the reader has something constructive to say. Equally, a reader can miss a point you were trying to make. I’m not saying the reader is *wrong* when that happens. I’m saying — And This Is The Important Thing — we are all influenced by our life experiences. We all have our own likes and dislikes.

I once received a bad review that neither I nor my editor agreed with. My editor at the time told me the reviewer couldn’t have understood the pressure one of my characters was under. Even though my editor felt the same way I did, that review stung…for about two days when I received a message from a reader gushing in delight over the very thing the reviewer had hated. That distinct point made the book for the reader where it killed the story dead for the critic. Neither was wrong, but nor was I. I had written that scene for a good reason. The reader *got* it; the reviewer didn’t. It came down to preference and ‘personal experience’, and that’s something both writer and reviewer have to keep in mind.

Try to learn from negative reviews. Take them seriously. Consider the points raised and decide whether you would have written the story any differently. If the answer is no, then dismiss it. To do so can be harder than it sounds sometimes, but I urge every writer to practise it. If there are issues the writer does not have answers to, keep those points for the next book, or use them should the book ever get the opportunity for a revision.

NEVER respond to a bad review. There have been too many public meltdowns of authors getting into arguments with reviewers. Who is in the wrong or who is right doesn’t even come into it. Online trolls write too many bad reviews and there’s no getting through to them; often the tone of that review reveals their intentions, anyway. Such simple disagreements can ruin careers. Then you have writers such as James Scott Bell who advise the writer not to read reviews at all. I understand that thinking equally, although I also know sometimes reviews can be useful. There are reviews of my work that I read, and others where I do not.

I will leave readers and potential reviewers with one last thought. Many times those who hate a work are more likely to say so. If you love an author’s work, truly the best way you can help them is not to contact the author—although that’s always wonderful and much appreciated—but to tell the world. Do you love a book? Review it publicly. There’s really no better thing a reader can do for an author whose work they love so much—for the author and for the reader who wants that person to keep writing.

Dragon #5

At this time I thought to share something a little brighter so chose another of my dragons. In this instance, my smallest dragon. He’s maybe an inch long made from natural stone. At the time I bought this one from a gift shop in Boscastle, there were many available in various types of stone and I considered buying a few more then the next thing I knew they seemed to disappear. Plenty of other animals are still available but the dragons appear to have vanished back to myth and legend.

My smallest dragon.