I’m So Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I’m thankful for so many things today. I’m thankful for health and happiness. I’m thankful to be able to write books, and I’m thankful for the many wonderful books that have given me so much enjoyment throughout the years.

Most of all, I’m thankful for family.
I was an only child, as was my mother. My father had a sister, but I never met her and know nothing about her. I did have great aunts and uncles, whom I loved dearly, but when I was five years old my beloved grandfather died, and shortly afterward my father took off for parts unknown. My mother was never able to locate him. So I was raised by my mother, who worked and struggled to support me and her widowed mother. My grandmother died when I was in sixth grade, leaving just my mother and me. I was often lonely, and I think that is why I cultivated a rich fantasy life which inspires me to write fantasy novels now.

But when I was thirteen years old everything changed! My mother died of cancer, and I was placed in a foster home, as my relatives–the children and grandchildren of those great aunts and uncles, all lived in the north. I entered the home with great trepidation, but soon found I had become a part of a warm, loving, and boisterous family. And growing. I wound up with four sisters and two brothers along with a multitude of cousins. Mom and Dad loved us all and never distinguished between their biological son and daughter and the “fosters”. Some children were placed only temporarily in Mom and Dad’s home, but five of us were more or less permanent placements. We weren’t adoptable but we couldn’t have felt more a part of the family if we had been adopted. We were brothers and sisters–and still are. Foster children “age out” when they reach 18, but Mom and Dad ignored that, and we all remained close.

Mom and Dad are gone now, but the seven of us still consider ourselves brothers and sisters. Some have moved to other places, other states. But those of us who remain here where we grew up get together as much as our busy lives permit. I’ll be having Thanksgiving with a large and loving family, for which I am so very grateful. And it’s not only brothers and sisters. Of course there are children and grandchildren now, and many cousins, and all are family.

But there’s more to the story. A few years ago I discovered a half-sister I never knew about. My father had married again after leaving my mother, and had a daughter. That daughter grew up and married and had children–a son and two daughters. They live in another state, but I did visit them on the occasion of the son’s wedding. I talk often to my sister on the phone. We’ve grown close and discovered much in common despite having been raised completely separately. So I have still another family to love. Such a wealth of family!

What a wonderful life I have, thanks to so much family. I have so much to be thankful for.

Here’s a photo of Mom and Dad and all of us on the occasion of Mom&Dad’s anniversary:

And here’s a later photo of all of us siblings:

Oh, and the Kindle edition of my newest novel, A Mix of Magics, is free today as my way of giving thanks.
Get it here.

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I am very pleased to have as a guest on my blog today a woman for whom I have great respect and admiration. Please meet Anastasia Charalabakos, Ana for short. Ana has written a memoir titled From Darkness to Triumph, describing the challenges she has had to overcome due to being blind from birth, growing up in a Greek-speaking household so that when she started school she had to overcome both the handicap of blindness and of speaking almost no English, and of suffering emotional trauma from her parents’ fights, both verbal and physical.Ana speaking at Inkwood Books

Ana, please tell us what persuaded you to write From Darkness to Triumph, despite the pain it must have caused you to describe the difficulties you have faced from early childhood throughout your life.

ANA: The reasons for writing my book are several. First, living life with blindness often means facing challenges such as difficulty finding employment or encountering skeptical individuals in relation to my abilities despite my intelligence. While persons with sight face challenges such as these as well, I face them more frequently as one with blindness. This is because regardless of the immense progress that has been made in computer technology and in the attitudes about mainstreaming persons with blindness into sighted classrooms and into the workforce, a significant lack of awareness and understanding about blindness continue to exist. With that in mind, I wanted to write a book that would answer many of the questions that people have asked me over the years about blindness and to dispel many of the myths, stereotypes, and prejudices about blindness. Additionally, I wanted a book that would provide insightful information to parents, teachers, and to others about raising blind children and ways of enabling them to become contributing members of society.

The second reason for writing my book is to bring to light issues concerning raising children, not just with blindness but those with sight as well. Coming from a family where domestic violence occurred often, my brother and I were greatly impacted by it emotionally, mentally, and physically. The anguish we experienced can be felt by any child, blind or sighted, in a home where domestic violence occurs frequently. Again, with that in mind, I wanted a book that would provide insightful information based on my own experiences and scholarly research to parents, teachers, and other human service professionals about the impact that domestic violence can have on children and how parents can strive to minimize that pain on children.

The third reason for writing my book is to encourage readers to become more understanding concerning issues regarding blindness and the impact of domestic violence on the family as a whole. Through such understanding, readers can think more deeply about these issues and how they, themselves, can become agents for change in an area of relevance to them.

The fourth reason for writing my book is to promote increased awareness and understanding of the many issues I address in my book, particularly blindness, through public speaking. I want the text to help serve as the basis for promoting that awareness and understanding in addition to speaking to audiences. Becoming an advocate is very important to me, since my life has, in many respects, been affected by the limitations imposed upon me by others due to their misconceptions of blindness.
front cover From Darkness
What obstacles in addition to your blindness have you had to overcome, and how do you deal with these in your book?

ANA: In addition to the barriers I have had to overcome in relation to blindness, I have had to overcome the effects of frequent moving to four different states as a child, the impact on me of constant arguing between my parents, and the effects of my father’s gambling on my family. Cumulatively, all these effects were so immense that I was at risk of performing poorly in school and not going on to pursue higher education. Yet I knew that only through education could I achieve important goals and break the cycle of abuse for myself. Through my own determination and with the help of good mentors, I overcame the challenges and went on to receive a college education.

In my book, I speak about these challenges not with shame or with blame, but in a manner that seeks to inform of their effects. In my final chapter, I reflect on what I have learned as a result and offer possible solutions to readers who might be experiencing similar challenges today.

What obstacle has been the most difficult to overcome?

ANA: My most difficult challenge today is dealing with the continued misconceptions that others have about me as a result of my blindness. I work with this barrier by openly answering any questions others might have, and I explain about the computer programs I use to perform tasks such as reading and responding to emails.

You’ve titled the book From Darkness to Triumph. Tell about your triumphs. What accomplishment are you proudest of and why?

ANA: My greatest triumphs have been overcoming the impact of domestic violence as a child, receiving a college education, and traveling abroad to study Arabic. I am proud of these triumphs for many reasons.

First, overcoming the effects of domestic violence of my childhood is significant to me because I am now aware of how to recognize patterns of abuse and as a result, the cycle will never continue in my home. It is also significant because, by overcoming the effects of the domestic violence, I became very resilient, which ultimately helped me to earn my masters degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of South Florida.

Second, receiving my college education is a very significant triumph because it has enabled me to expand my knowledge in a variety of areas and to gain skills I could not have without it. My education has given me the tools I need to live in a world that is fast-paced and difficult. I became independent not only academically, but in my daily living skills as a blind person in terms of cooking, cleaning, and shopping.

Third, my language study abroad program to Morocco through the National Council on U. S. Arab Relations in Washington D. C. challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways I never anticipated. It forced me to expand my understanding of my culture and theirs and to become an even more tolerant person. Most of all, it enabled me to gain friendships that have lasted until now.

How do you hope to reach readers, especially those to whom the book is aimed?

ANA: My hope is to reach a wide range of readers such as human service professionals, teachers, parents, and high school students through blogs, interviews, and speaking engagements. Possible venues are schools, centers for the blind, and centers for domestic violence.

Do you plan to write other books? Can you tell us anything about those plans?.
ANA: Currently, I am planning to write more books that would further expand upon many of the topics in my book. In addition, I am planning to write several children’s stories that would inspire children to become hard working and good, creative thinkers now and in the future.

Buy Ana’s book on Amazon in trade paperback or Kindle edition. Click here

1. Remember to sign up for the Author Kindle Fire Giveaway that runs from Nov. 1 – Dec. 7.
Click here for details.
2. Get ready for a Book Blast Announcement and Giveaway from Nov. 17-19 to celebrate the release of the paperback edition and the update of the Kindle edition of A Mix of Magics. Check back next week for more information on this in next week’s blog.
front cover final

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1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (US Only – $229 value), Amazon Gift Card ($199 value/International) or Paypal Cash ($199 value/International). Ebook prizes are the responsibility of the author(s). Ends 12/07/14. Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed. The winner has 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Indie Hoopla Services & Promotions and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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2. Mistress of the Wind, the book that is my contribution to the Indie Hoopla Author Giveaway, is the first book of the series Arucadi: The Beginning. The second book is Bringers of Magic. The third book is A Mix of Magics, at present only available for the Kindle. BUT … the paperback edition will become available within a week. View it and buy it HERE
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A Visit to the Dark … World

Greetings, all,

I have a guest blogger today. Let me welcome Toni V. Sweeney. Toni is a prolific author of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, and horror. She is here to tell you about her most recently published novel. So I’m just going to turn the blog over to her. Enjoy!Toni Sweeney

Toni, it’s all yours …

A Bit of the Dark World was the first novel I ever wrote…and the latest to be published. Thirty-nine years elapsed between the time I sat in front of my typewriter to begin “Chapter One,” and the day I submitted it to Class Act Books for consideration. Thirty-nine years, two typewriters, and four computers later… I’m writing a blog about it. Whew! That was a definite struggle…
Here goes!

Almost everyone is familiar with Edgar Allan Poe. At one time or another, we’ve probably read one of his short stories, even if it was in tenth-grade English where “The Pit and the Pendulum” was required reading. How many, however, are familiar with HP Lovecraft, a man who was influenced by Poe and in the Twentieth Century, became his equal in writing tales of mystery and imagination?

I don’t see any other hands raised…except my own. Okay…

Lovecraft was a New Englander, a sickly child who grew into an introspective man. During his lifetime, he kept up a correspondence with several aspiring teenaged authors, most of whom, because of his mentoring, later became well-known themselves. (Do the names Robert Bloch (Psycho) and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) ring bells?)

HPL, as he’s general referred to, authored stories often set in the harsh surrounds of his native New England, specifically the towns of Providence, RI, and Arkham—which some readers may recognize as the name of the Asylum where the Joker and many another criminal pursued by Batman eventually ended incarcerated. The tales concerned the god Cthulu and the other amorphous horror-inspiring“Great Old Ones,” beings older than Time, tossed out of their own dimension into ours where they were bested by enemies and imprisoned on our world. With the aid of human servants, they occasionally escape their bonds and wreak havoc on the unsuspecting New England countryside.

I was introduced to Lovecraft during my teenage years through a single story “The Dunwich Horror” in an anthology entitled Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, which I received as a gift for my twelfth birthday. This story was later made into a movie starring Sandra Dee and Dean Stockwell. In it, the heroine is tied to an altar and the monster makes forcible and ritualistic love to her after which she becomes pregnant with his monstrous child. Okay…I admit it…that scene right there triggered the idea for A Bit of the Dark World but I didn’t do anything about it just then. I was a mere college student. What did I know about writing anything? Hah!

Years later, nearly a decade, in fact, I had the privilege of living next door to a Lovecraft scholar. A truly fascinating man who was not only a professor of psychology and a karate black belt, he owned a library consisting of hundreds of books on Lovecraft as well as translations in German, French, even Japanese. He graciously allowed me to borrow some and read them. Initially, I didn’t know what a honor I was being given until his wife commented, “You really rate. He doesn’t let anyone touch those books.”

That’s when I decided to write that story which had been germinating in my little brain all those years.

Of course, being who I am, I wasn’t going to set my story in the far-off Yankeeland of New England and I justified changing the setting this way…Why did the Great Old Ones center themselves only around New England? Lovecraft’s followers placed them in England, the Middle and Far East, in abandoned cities, deep jungle valleys, or high, frozen mountain peaks. Why couldn’t some of them have traveled further South and found disciples among the southern population?

New Orleans would seem the ideal spot but every supernatural in the world heads there. I decided to make my haven for Cthulu and his ilk the islands off the coast of Georgia.

And thus I came up with the idea for A Bit of the Dark World…

…of a young man fighting his heritage while ambiguously reveling in the power it gives him…a foolish young woman falls in love with two men who both know the secrets of Land’s End Island…and a doctor genetically imbued with the truth fights to prevent the disaster he knows is coming…

The sex Lovecraft only hints at is full realized in my story, so I doubt if HPL would wholeheartedly approve, but perhaps he might at least give me an “E for Effort” for the general tone of the novel as well as the way I’ve portrayed his creations.


The island loomed before them and they were on land again, the road narrowing into a snake of a path with a layer of beach soil slithering from under the tires.
Leaving the safety of the bridge, they drove into a dead world. The car was in a tunnel, trees huddling together, overhead branches grasping each other hiding the sky. A low, thin mist hovered, plucking at tatters of Spanish moss. It fluttered in the breeze blowing from the shore.
Lisa looked up through the windshield. Though it was as sticky and humid as only a Southern summer night could be, she felt chilled. Perhaps it was the darkness and the enclosed sensation, as if the trees were creeping closer, slowly entrapping them. The wind blowing through the window onto her damp skin made her shiver. Pressing one of the buttons in the arm rest, she closed the window.
“Cold?” Robin glanced her way. It was the first time he’d spoken since they crossed the bridge.
“A little chilly.” She sounded apologetic, voice loud in the stillness. Rob was already turning away, attention once more on the road. His expression was set and urgent. Combined with the speed at which he was driving, that added to Lisa’s uneasiness.
As a distraction, she turned her attention outside again. It’s too quiet. Where were the familiar night noises…frogs, crickets, an occasional bird? In spite of its haven of trees, the lonely stretch of road held no sounds other than the noise of the motor and the swish of tires. As if beyond the shadows, all life ceased. Through Rob’s open window floated the scent of honeysuckle, thickly sweet and overpowering, mingling with the salt tang on the breeze.
We’re lost. She felt foolishly close to panic. That’s silly. All we have to do is turn around and— “Rob, let’s go back. It’s dark. We can’t see anything.” She touched his arm, afraid without knowing why. “Are we going to drive all night?”
For just a moment, he didn’t answer, just keep staring straight ahead. When he did look at her, his gaze was blank and uncomprehending. As if he were waking in an unfamiliar place and not understanding how he’d gotten there. He shuddered, blinked, and startled recognition flashed.
“Okay, sweetheart. Don’t know what I was thinking. I—” His attention was jerked back to the road. “What the Hell…”
Through a parting of branches, a glowing, swollen moon sprinkled light onto the road. From the corner of her eye, Lisa saw it, too. Something running, dark and man-high but shapeless—are those wings?—darting in front of the car to the safety of the ditch on the far side.
In the next instant, the creature was forgotten and she was fighting to keep her balance as Rob slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel, swerving to avoid hitting the thing. The sandy soil slid away, the car went into a skid. Rob struggled with the wheel, taking his foot off the brake pedal, trying to regain control. They felt the momentary shudder as a tire struck a rock jutting out of the road’s shoulder. The steering wheel was wrenched from Rob’s hands as the other tire went off the edge of the road.
Lisa’s scream hung briefly in the night air as the Mustang plunged down the slope of the ditch. In spite of their seat belts, she and Rob collided against each other with heart-numbing force as the nose of the car hit bottom and bounced up the other side. With a shattering of metal and glass, it dived into the trunk of a tree, air bags exploding from their compartments.
Something went wrong. The bags stayed flat, wrapping around them like yards of elastic. Encased in a rubberized shroud, Rob smashed against the windshield as his seatbelt ripped apart. Lisa’s body hurtled out of the seat, fear-stiffened legs striking under the dashboard with a loud snap-snap-snap! Fire shot up her right leg. In the aftermath of the impact rocking the car, she bounced back against the seat, and the first of the black clouds descended…

A Bit of the Dark World—the title is a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s The Phantom Rickshaw—will be available from class Act Books on October 15. You can find it here

Other places to find information on Toni V. Sweeney:

URL: http://www.tonivsweeney.com/
My Space
Twitter: @tonivsweeney
Author Data Base
Ask David

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When I was still teaching Spanish in public school but thinking about taking early retirement so that I could write full-time, I happened to be talking about that idea in the beauty salon one morning while getting my hair done. An elderly woman overheard the conversation and said, “Oh, you don’t want to do that. You’ll be bored to death.” She went on to expound on that thesis, saying that I would soon tire of not having enough to do as she had done. She found herself bored and miserable. For her retirement was nothing but a drag.

That woman’s prediction couldn’t have been more wrong. I have found that there is not enough time to do everything I want to do. Life in retirement has been exciting and fun, as I’ve realized my lifelong dream of writing and being published. I retired from teaching, not from life and not from work. Writing has become my career, though I don’t think of it as work. I love writing and learn much as I do it—much about the writing process and much about myself. Each book I write teaches me new things. Although I gain a lot of knowledge through research, I’m not primarily talking about that type of learning. I’m talking about the kind of learning that comes through doing and that teaches new skills.

There have been many times when I’ve said about some part of the writing process or something related to writing, “I don’t know how to do that.” But that statement is not the equivalent of “I can’t do that.” I have had to learn manuscript formatting. I have had to learn the manuscript submission process. I have had to learn the difference between “telling” and “showing.” I have had to learn that editors know better than a writer—at least than this writer—what works and what doesn’t, what readers will accept and what they won’t. And I’ve had to learn to accept rejection and understand that rejection does not mean defeat. WriterAtWork

Now that I’m doing some self-publishing, I’m learning a whole new set of skills. I’m learning a different style of formatting. I’m learning how to promote. Promotion involves skills different from writing but skills, nonetheless. Promotion takes time away from writing, and dealing with that involves learning to better allocate time. The need to promote also involves learning to do things I’ve said I could never do. I have learned to do my own promotional videos. I’ve had some done professionally, and mine certainly do not compare favorably with the professional ones, but I’ve learned not to make that comparison. I do the best I can, and I manage to get the message across. I use Windows Live Movie Maker, get advice from friends and acquaintances who are familiar with the technique involved, and experiment and redo until I’m fairly well satisfied. I’ll admit that the first videos I did are pretty rough, but I’ve learned more with each one. Now I’m learning a new program that will allow me to do more and produce better results with the promotional videos and may even allow me to do book covers using digital art. It’s exciting to learn and to discover that I can do things I never expected to be able to do.

Here are the videos for the three books in the Arucadi: The Beginning. The first one was done professionally; the second and third I did.

I’m not an expert on anything. I don’t pretend to be. But I am stubborn and I am persistent. And most importantly, I’m an optimist. I believe I can do things if I try hard enough. That belief carries me through many rough spots, many discouraging setbacks. I believe in “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It isn’t always easy. I get impatient, wanting to see results that refuse to come easily. I don’t like having to wait, to do over, to start afresh. But those things are a necessary part of learning.

Learning is what prevents life from becoming boring. And learning is a lifelong process.

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My Newest Book Is Out and I’m Excited!

I have a new book out now in the Kindle edition and soon to come out as a trade paperback. Its title is A Mix of Magics, and it is the third book in the Arucadi: The Beginning series. When I started working on it, I expected that series to be a trilogy, and that this book would complete it. But as I approached the ending, I decided I’d need a fourth book to complete the series. However, as I don’t like cliffhanger endings, the story in this novel is complete. And here’s the cover art: Front cover_Mix_of_Magics

Quite a few characters from Mistress of the Wind and Bringers of Magic appear in the novel, so although I’ve tried to supply all the information a reader will need who reads this book, it will be clearer to those who have read the first two books. But, I repeat, the story told in this novel is complete.

Here’s the blurb from the book’s back cover:
Old friends reunite. A childless couple adopts an orphaned infant. The Gifted Community gathers to celebrate the baby’s Naming-Day. At that most joyful time disaster strikes!

An old enemy, bent on vengeance, kidnaps the child and her nursemaid. The Community must pool its magical powers to defeat the evil one. Their several abilities all unleashed against him should easily overcome a solitary foe. But …

Egos clash. Powers collide. Tempers flare. Buried fears surface to paralyze the power wielder. Despair leeches strength. Death looms over them all.

If they cannot cooperate and learn to work together, they are doomed!

*Spoiler alert* If you haven’t read Bringers of Magic, you may want to skip the next paragraph.

Readers of Bringers of Magic will recall how Ed Robbins discovered that the idyllic place created in his mind as an escape from the abuse he endured from his cruel father turned out to be real and a refuge he could actually flee to in times of danger. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? At the conclusion of Bringers of Magic Ed takes Jerome Esterville to the land and leaves him there where the hate-filled man can do no more harm. A Mix of Magics begins five years after the events of Bringers of Magic. During those five years Jerome has destroyed Ed’s beautiful land, turning it into a barren desert.desertBut while the land has deteriorated to the point of devastation, Jerome has grown stronger, his magic powers have increased, and along with them his hatred and desire for vengeance.

When baby Dreama and her wet nurse vanish at the conclusion of the baby’s Naming-Day ceremony, Marta knows immediately that Jerome is behind their disappearance. She, Ed, Kyla, and Veronica all understand how dangerous Jerome is. But most members of the Community have never come up against such evil and don’t know how to combat it. As all the members try to marshal their powers for a concerted attack on Jerome, they find themselves getting in each other’s way, losing their tempers, not knowing how to apply their magical gifts, giving way to discouragement and despair. They must learn to cooperate and have faith in one another if they are to have any hope of defeating Jerome, rescuing little Dreama, and saving themselves. http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-baby-girl-lying-bed-portrait-alert-looking-four-week-old-covered-white-blanket-wearing-pink-knitted-hat-image33929415
Find the Kindle edition of this novel here.

The cover art above is by Gail S. Dark. The other images all come from Dreamstime.

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Authors love it when someone takes the time to review their book. We need reviews. They feed our fragile egos. More importantly, they encourage others to read the book, and they are helpful in promoting the book on other sites. What author isn’t thrilled to see a five-star review, not by Aunt Jane or Cousin Sid but by a total stranger who picked up the book, read it, and liked it well enough to take the time to write a review of it. That is gratifying in so many ways. It is validation, and above all, it means that your words resonated with someone, perhaps touched someone, that someone, at least for the time span spent reading the book, shared your vision. The reviewer may have gotten insights from reading the book; perhaps even saw something in it that you had not been aware of. It is not at all unusual for a reader to see a meaning or message in a work that the author was unaware of, but when it is pointed out says, “Of course! Why didn’t I see that?”

I doubt that any book, no matter how well received, gets only five-star reviews. After all, we don’t all like the same things. Tastes differ. But a four-star review or even a three-star doesn’t mean the reader didn’t like the book. It means only that the reader found some flaws in it, perhaps minor, perhaps more significant. Authors can learn from those reviews and should value them as much as or more than the five-star review. They are just as useful for promotional purposes, but they also point out places where perhaps we can improve our writing. In my own case, many readers found the ending of my novel Seduction of the Scepter ambiguous and puzzling although they enjoyed the book. I did not intend the ending to be ambiguous. To me it was perfectly clear, and I assumed it would be for the reader. But that is always a dangerous assumption. Readers can’t read the author’s mind. If several readers have the same problem with a work (as was the case with Seduction of the Scepter), it means that I as an author did not clearly communicate my vision to the reader.

But what about the reviewers that did not like the book and say so and tell why? We may consider those “bad” reviews, but they still show that the reviewer read the book and took the time to review it. A mix of good and bad reviews may simply indicate that the work is controversial, and if the author intended the book to be controversial that mix shows that she succeeded. Such a mix may intrigue readers and encourage them to read the book and judge it for themselves.

Some readers give a book a poor review because it isn’t the kind of book they wanted and expected. Again using my book Seduction of the Scepter as an example, the book has garnered many five-star reviews. However, it is clear from reading less favorable or clearly unfavorable reviews that in some cases the reviewer read the book expecting it to be a paranormal romance. It is not; although it does have romance in it, the book does not fit the pattern of a paranormal or fantasy romance. However, its title and cover may well lead readers to think it will be a paranormal romance. Others read it expecting it to be a historical romance or just a straight historical. Again, it is neither. Although it is set in although it is set in eastern Europe, the country in which it is set is an imaginary one. I did do research to have the clothing, food, and dances accurate for the period, but it is not historical in any other sense. And although I do call it a fantasy, the fantasy element is slight, so readers who expect a fantasy with wizards or mages or dragons or unicorns will be disappointed. There are no elves, orcs, trolls, fae, or other fantasy beings. The only fantasy element in addition to the novel being set in an imaginary country is that the protagonist sometimes hears someone’s thought in her mind. This happens randomly, and when it happens in a crowded room, as it often does, she has no way of knowing whose thought she has heard. It is not anything she can control, and it is not a gift she wants. But it is vital to the plot of the novel, which is why I label it a fantasy.

I fully understand why readers who come to the novel with expectations it does not meet will be disappointed. I would hope that some would be pleasantly surprised, but that will not always be the case. And a reviewer who expects one kind of novel and gets another may well be sufficiently put off by it to express his dissatisfaction by giving the book an unfavorable review. I don’t fault them for that. I am sorry that they were disappointed, but I do not get angry or take the review personally. An honest review may express disappointment, dislike, even disgust, but that is no reason for the author to be upset about it. No one can please everyone. No book is to everyone’s liking. We may consider a review to be bad, but rather than fret over them, we can ignore them or even learn from them.

An ugly review is another matter. It is a review intended to hurt or insult the author. It has no helpful explanation of why the reviewer was displeased with the book. It criticizes the author more than the writing. It might be intended to warn other readers away from the book, but in its language and tone it says more about the reviewer than the book or its author. I have only received one such review, for one of my early books, not Seduction of the Scepter. It consisted of a single sentence, a question. It simply asked, “What is this shit?” My initial reaction was anger, as you might expect. But then I thought, why be angry? This person obviously didn’t like the book. So what? The reviewer is showing nothing about what was wrong with the book or the way it is written but is only being rude and crude. An ugly review like that one reflects back on the reviewer, not the work being reviewed.

In conclusion let me say that authors need and value reviews. When you read a book, if you possibly can, please take the time to write a review. Good or bad, it will help the author to improve her writing and build her readership. Be honest, tell why you liked or disliked the book. Mention anything that especially impressed you about it. Recommend the book to other readers if you wish, or warn them not to read it if you prefer. Just don’t be ugly.

And if you haven’t yet read Seduction of the Scepter, I hope you will look at the reviews, read the novel, form your own opinion, and write a review. Of course I welcome reviews of any of my books. Find them on Amazon. cover art

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