Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sigh.

The last few weeks have been pretty crazy for me, with lots of little things happening, none of which left me with an awful lot to say. Therefore, the five biggest bullet updates from my last few weeks:

  • I've been writing, though not as regularly as I have wanted to - but this second version of Michael Kingsley's story feels so much more authentic. It flows more smoothly, and I think my muse is with me again, though the going is still very slow. I was hoping to have this story finished and in print by February, when I'll be at a meet and greet at the Maynardville Public Library, but it isn't looking very likely. It is coming along nicely though, and I am loving watching this story unfold.
  • My family had a pretty decent Christmas, even though several of us got the flu (there are still two sick and one extra paranoid, thanks for asking), including me. It was so awful. But on the plus side? I got a snuggie this year ... Finally! And I love it!
  • I read a book that is so amazing, it almost makes me forget the many times that I had an author crush collapse in 2014 after reading the author's well marketed but terribly executed books. This books outshines every book I've read this year, and I seriously loved it so much that I'm still not sure how to review it. Let's just say that particular author reserved her place pretty much forever on my author heroes list. I'll tell you more about that soon though, when I review the book.
  • I thought up and wrote down an AMAZING plot for a story series, but that's all I can tell you about that just yet. I have the outline of the series already started, the first book and all of its chapters already titled, and suffice it to say I am wildly excited -- even though that particular project is pretty far down my list. What's the list, you ask? First up, I'm putting all of my energy toward finishing More Than Friends, which is the fourth book in the Kingsley Series. This one follows Michael Kingsley as he learns to let go of past love so that he can try again with a well loved character from an earlier book. Next, I'll be working on the second book in my fantasy Selkie Trilogy, which will be simply titled, Selkie II. After that, I'll be throwing myself into the sequel to Fighting For Freedom, which will be called Still Fighting For Freedom and will follow the second part of Christine Matthews' journey of escape from domestic violence.
  • This one's for writers: I've been joking for years that I need to go on a writer's retreat, just lock myself away somewhere, shut out the world, and write. But then I thought, how much more fun and productive could that time be if there were other author's along to learn from and talk to and stay accountable with? I spent some time thinking on that, and ended up with an AWESOME idea to plan a writer's retreat! So I'm moving forward with plans for something of that kind, and I couldn't be more excited. Interested authors please fill out this form.
Oh, and my PA/cousin/editor/bestie/right hand? She got engaged and will be getting married in 2015! So if you're reading this, leave a comment to congratulate her and send her your best wishes. I'll make sure she sees it!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Back To Basics

In recent posts I've talked a lot about some of my less than encouraging experiences in the writing world, and I've talked about how social media burnout has pretty much killed my ability to write in recent months.

But there are good and savory parts to the writing world too, and I love how blessed I am to be an author. It's humbling to even have readers, and I wouldn't trade that for anything - so in the last few weeks I've been trying to think of ways to downplay the bad points while still keeping the good points good. I've also hinted at some plans I'm making for 2015, plans that will hopefully get my writing back on track and get me moving again in the direction that I (and my readers) want to go. And that's what I'll be talking about in this post.

I wish I could find it again, but a few weeks ago I saw this awesome photo someone had uploaded to Facebook with their goals for 2015 written on it, and I loved it. I was sure I had saved it, but it seems to be gone. Anyway, this whole thought process really began with that photo, because one of the goals mentioned on the graphic was to back up and take more time to just be. Another one said something about getting back to the basics of writing, and that one really got me thinking.

What are the basics, really? Writing, in its simplest form, really is basic. You just sit down, and you have a blank space, and you fill it with words. And then, if you're an author, you'll read them, rearrange them, throw them out, write different words, and repeat three or four hundred times until you like the arrangement of the words you've finally settled on. After that, you swallow your pride and you pretend you aren't afraid, and you show those words to someone you trust, asking them to "check it out" and let you know "if it's good." Once you get some feedback, you read and proofread some more, edit some things, add and remove some other things, and then you think you might be ready to show the world. So you find or design a cover, you read and polish the writing yet another time (or twenty), and then you send your precious words out into the world, hoping that someone else will love them the way you do.

It's a process, one that opens up your heart and soul so that other people can look inside.

For me, that's almost the whole of my "writing goals" for 2015. I want 2015 to be about writing, and I want it to be about the readers who love my writing - and all of my "little" goals add up in some way to that one major focus. I really do want to get back to what I think of as the basics, the things that make writing a way of life for me - the things that make writing a part of my life that I simply can't live without.

And we'll see how that goes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: 'A Girl Called Malice' by Aurelia B Rowl

*About The Book*
It's not easy being the Queen Bee. Alice Taylor should know.

You know that girl. The one that the whole school's social life seems to revolve around. Alice used to be that girl until she decided to quit sixth form college. Suddenly her 'friends' aren't so interested in following her around and her attention-grabbing behaviour is about to get her kicked out of home. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, her world starts spiralling seriously out of control.

Only new friend Zac Newton seems to believe in her. Lifeguard and poolside hottie, Zac is quite literally her lifesaver. But then, he's never met 'Malice', her mean-girl alter ego, and Alice wants to keep it that way. She knows this is her last chance for a fresh start until her sordid past catches up with her at the worst possible moment.

As everything Alice has worked towards comes crashing down around her, she realises that the hardest thing of all is being yourself ...

(British spellings are used in this blurb, as the author is British.)

*My Review*
In August of this year, I reviewed 'Popping The Cherry', the first book in what is currently called the Popping the Cherry series, and I loved the story. So when an opportunity came up to read and review this second book, I jumped at it (although it did take me some time to actually get around to typing this up).

While I loved Lena in Popping the Cherry, and I especially loved the friends-turned-lovers aspect of that story, I have to say that I really, really loved A Girl Called Malice. I think I was supposed to fully hate Alice after having read her antics in Popping the Cherry, but I didn't - other than a mild dislike, I simply didn't care all that much about her.

But in A Girl Called Malice, I got to know the girl behind the bully. I got to know, and relate to, and fall wildly in love with Alice, the heartbroken young woman hiding her vulnerabilities behind an unshakably bitchy exterior. I cried with her, I laughed at her. I suffered beside her. And so many times, I was so disappointed in her ... because she kept not living up to my hopes for her recovery!

But in the end ... oh, in the end ... well, I can't very well spoil the ending, now can I?

So I'll leave you with this: you *want* to read this book. You *want* to experience the torn and tangle heartstrings. You *want* to experience the ultimate understanding and the best aspects of true and honest friendship with Zac Newton. And you really really *want* to watch Alice learn to stand on her own.

I promise, you'll love her as much as I did. It's a five star read, but only because it couldn't be six.
Give this book a shot - you won't be sorry. You can even one-click it easily on Amazon.

*More About Aurelia B Rowl*
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

One Bad Apple Ruins The Bunch?

In my last post, I mentioned that I've recently been pulling back from the writing community. I have no intention of pulling back from my readers -- I love hearing from people who have read my books, and I love meeting people and interacting with fans of my stories. I even love the pleasant surprise that comes from realizing I've made a legit new friend through my work. But I don't love the dingy background behind the happy facade of the writing community.

The first blogger I met had me completely smitten. She was a doll, funny and sweet and helpful. Until I expressed some uncertainty about a book cover (one of my early ones) and she let me in on a little secret -- that she had a little mean-girl squad where she and about four other well-known indies would sit around and just make fun of people's books and book covers. Considering the timing of this confession, I instantly had a loss of confidence and trust, not in myself, but in this blogger that I had previously respected. Apparently they had nothing better to do with their time. A good number of other bloggers I have met and interacted with since then have either faded into the woodwork or come out with books of their own. A few have even confessed to me that the whole point of their starting book blogs was to build a following that would launch their own books. I find it dishonest, and it really hurts my ability to trust people's motives.

This bleeds into the authors themselves, too -- there are whole groups out there devoted to discussing the bad manners and foul personalities of certain authors. These little "back rooms" in the author community are where you find out that so-and-so used to be known as such-and-such, and he or she runs a fake company but never pays the authors they sign or some other related type of drama. These are the places where you get the down and dirty truth behind the frills of good marketing. These are the places where you find out who to avoid, which ones are the "wrong crowd."

And that leads into events. My first signing event was the Tennessee Valley Author Event (TNVAE); it was an amazing first experience and I learned so much. I met lots of new people, I sold some books, I got some cool stuff, and I had a great time. But it was really busy, and more than a little overwhelming; there were over 100 authors there, and it was a pretty rowdy crowd. There are people I met at that event that I will never forget, because they reached out to me or in some way proved that they were exactly as awesome as I had thought they were. Others, I will remember because they sit around after the event and talk about how ugly or stupid or unworthy their own fans are. This was the beginning of my disillusionment with authors themselves.

Now look, I get it, authors are people too. I myself have said that no matter how hard I'm trying to build a public persona as an author, I am still, first and foremost, a person, a human with feelings and emotions, with problems and things that come up. I have good days and bad days too. But it doesn't matter how bad any day gets, I'm still never going to be the kind of person who sits at a table surrounded by fans who have followed me across the country, just to meet me and buy a book signed by me, and then sit around later and talk about how those people who just paid my bills with their book purchases are not pretty enough to have met me or good enough to have spoken to my cover model. That moment will follow me for the rest of my life, because I had previously idolized that particular person ... she was a success story that I looked up to, until I realized that she was a horrible person. I mean, it's not like I happened to overhear her gossip in an empty parking lot or bathroom while she talked with a friend after the event was over. No, I heard it in a room full of authors AND fans, at the after party. And that's not the only experience of its kind.

So understandably, I was a little nervous going into my second signing, the little one that was held in the Maynardville Library in Maynardville, TN in November. I knew some of the names, and I had chatted a bit with the sweetheart who was in charge of coordinating everything. I was really pleasantly surprised that it went so well, and it went a long way toward encouraging me to sign on to another big event.

Next up? The Sweet Southern Charm Indie Explosion, which was to be held in Peachtree City, Georgia in July 2015. This event has since been cancelled and there is a lot of speculation as to why. Wild accusations about the author coordinating the event are flying, and it looks like anyone who had put much money into this event are now posting a financial loss without much chance of recovery. And I've heard about this so many times!

It angers me, because I've been lied to. It disappoints me, because the sense of community that I felt is now shattered. It hardens me, because I am now unsure if I will be able to reach out in trust again within the writing community.

Fortunately for me, I'm not in this for the writing community. I'm in it for the readers, and that's why in 2015, I'm going "back to basics."

But that's yet another post.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wrapping Up 2014 ... It's Been A Mixed Year

December 18, 2012, I clicked "publish" on Amazon's KDP service, and I sent my first full length novel out into the world. People loved my characters and they got lost in the story -- and this was a beautiful thing until they got to the tragic ending and ended up FURIOUS. Not just angry, not just a little upset, but outright FURIOUS. I still cringe over the reviews.

Lucky for those people, I just wasn't ready to see the end of Annie and Malik yet, so at the end of summer 2013, I read through and republished their story after doubling it in length, with plans for two more books to follow in the future. The Selkie Trilogy is what I like to call a contemporary romantic fantasy, and I'm still just as in love with that story today as I was when I first wrote it.

During that same year (2013), I also published the first three books in the Kingsley Series, 'Fat Chance,' 'Prescription For Love,' and 'Wrestling Harmony,' and the first book in what will probably be called The Freedom Series at some point in the future.

But you know what else happened in 2013?

I got caught up.

I got caught up in learning how to network. I got caught up in trying to connect with book bloggers. I got caught up in the different social media websites everyone I knew kept telling me that I "had" to use. I got caught up in seeking reviews and marketing mayhem and constant giveaways. I got caught up in watching the sales rankings and what all the "success stories" were doing.

And I got burned out.

I lost my love for the writing -- and the more I got away from the basic joy of telling a good story well, the more blocked I was. My characters stopped "talking" to me. Scenes and bits of dialogue stopped randomly popping up in my mind. And I got really, really disillusioned with the dark side of the writing community -- the bullying that does go on, the people pity-crying about bullying that isn't really bullying, the way people sacrifice each other and spread rumors and lies and gossip. Bloggers that aren't what they seem, other authors that are shady and dishonest. Grown men and women acting like middle school mean girls.

By the beginning of 2014, I was in a full panic. I couldn't write, and I was letting people down. People were emailing me and messaging me about my books, telling me what they loved about my characters and their stories, asking for more. And I gave honest answers:

"It's coming soon."
"I'm working on __________ right now."
"I'm about this far along, so it should be published by __________."

And then it became:

"I'm a little behind, but __________ should finally be published by __________."
"Well, up next on my schedule is __________, and then __________."

And those were all truths. At that time, I was still at least attempting to write daily, even if all I could do was a paragraph that I ended up deleting because it was awful. But I was freaking out. Why?

Because my first signing was just around the corner -- July 2014. And I had nothing new to offer!! And the more time passed, the more likely it became that I wouldn't have anything new to offer at that signing. So I let it go; I gave myself the freedom to take a break. A break from the pressure, from the anxiety, from the fear of failure.

And you know what?

I needed it, because for most of the first half of 2014, my personal life was in shambles.

So as my personal life dissolved and fell apart around me, I stopped writing and I went into prep mode. I made swag for the signing, I ordered books for the signing, I networked with authors who were coming to the signing. I tweeted and facebooked and newslettered and blogged about the signing.

By the time the summer of 2014 was over and fall was moving in, I couldn't remember the last time I'd really sat down and written. I couldn't even remember the storyline I'd been following, and as I read it back, I hated it. So, as I solidified new plans for my second signing (November 2014 in Maryville, TN), I trashed the story that had taken me over eight months just to get halfway written.

And I began again.

In the meantime, I backed away from bloggers and stopped courting them. I stopped posting as much in marketing groups, and I unfollowed or unsubscribed to pages that I found discouraging. I gave myself permission to not like certain things or certain people, and then I backed away from those things and those people, pursuing instead the things that I find fulfilling and encouraging.

And, I got my personal life back into some semblance of order. So as I approach my second anniversary as an independent author, I acknowledge that it was a slow year on the surface, and I apologize to anyone who felt disappointed by my changes. But I also am proud of what I've learned this year, and I've set some serious goals for 2015.

But that's another post.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: 'Mangled Hearts' by Felicia Tatum

*About The Book*
*Francesca and Cade*
Can two loves find their way back to each other despite an addiction and a hardened heart? Will their love overcome it all?

Francesca Taymon is young, successful, and broken. A tragic accident years ago haunts her to this day, and she blames only one person - the one that holds her heart.When she finally gets her first case, will she be able to handle seeing him again? Can she do her job and keep her heart intact?

Cade Kelling doesn't take life seriously. He's reckless and irresponsible, drinking his problems away. When his parents bail him out for the last time, will he be able to handle seeing Francesca after all these years? Will he be able to tell her what really happened that night 5 years ago or will he lose her forever?

And the most important question ... Can these Mangled Hearts be mended?

*My Review*
In this story, Francesca and Cade are struggling to find their way back to each other after a serious misunderstanding ended their relationship - but not their love - when they were younger.

Fast forward a few years and Francesca's an attorney still pretty fresh out of law school, already finding herself trapped under a sexually discriminating glass ceiling at work. By day, she struggles to build a future; by night, she struggles with the past.

The years have not been as kind to Cade, who is still just what he's always been - an alcoholic troublemaker. But when Cade steps into Francesca's office, that changes everything - for both of them. Past and future collide when Cade becomes Francesca's first real client.

This story ... *insert conflicted sigh here* ... I don't have a solid review. Just like with most books, there were errors missed in editing, and some were a little distracting. The characters, especially Francesca, often acted in ways that I felt were unrealistic. These are down points for me, for sure.

Then again, the story was incredibly well planned, the back story between the characters felt solid and believable, and I liked that the side characters never stole the show. The author's portrayal of alcoholism through the character of Cade Kelling was spot on, and I loved the way his love for Francesca inspired and motivated him to finally change his ways.

And the fact that "Francesca Taymon" is so like the author's name, "Felicia Tatum", gives me a smile despite myself - and it tells me how very much this story must mean to this author personally.

My overall impression (that's sticking with me days after I actually finished reading) is that this is a really sweet story with characters that are completely relatable even when they aren't being entirely logical. And I can't help myself: I loved Cade's redemption.

This book lost a star for the presence of so many errors, but I am already planning to read Entangled Souls, which is the rest of Francesca and Cade's story. But it's still a high four stars.
Want to give this book a shot? One-click it easily on Amazon.

*More About Felicia Tatum*
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: 'What Endures' by Katie Lee

*About The Book*
Jason Kincaid is young, hot and successful.

An All-Star outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, he finally had everything he ever wanted, including a second chance with his high school sweetheart, Megan Williams.

But their hopes for a "happily-ever-after" are dashed by tragedy.

A horrific car accident wipes out most of Jason's memories. Unable to recall anything from the last fifteen years of his life, Jason is suddenly adrift, his once charmed life is now in ruins.

Megan finds herself in the untenable position of having to deal with the fact that the man she's helping to rebuild his life may look, and even act, like her beloved fiance, but in reality, isn't and longer.

Trying to protect herself, as well as Jason, Megan fights the attraction between them ... to no avail. As their potent connection inevitably draws them closer, Megan wonders, with the memories of their relationship gone, can love endure? 

*My Review*
This book centers around Jason and his fiance, Megan. Jason, a major league baseball player, has been in a horrible car accident that left him unable to remember the last fifteen years of his life - unable to remember anything about his romance with Megan.

On recommendation from Jason's doctors, Megan moves out of their house and hides their relationship from him - until he finds out the truth in maybe the worst possible way. From this point on, Megan and Jason endure the rocky ups and downs of an on-again-off-again relationship, complicated by Megan's memories of the past and Jason's constant feelings of loss and confusion. Through it all, their love for each other is obvious and their willingness to sacrifice for each other is inspiring.

Although this book is (like most others) peppered with errors, typos, and grammatical mishaps, I couldn't help but fall in love with Jason and Megan. This story made me laugh, it made me cry, and it was an undeniable pleasure to read. In the end, even though this book could use a good deal of extra polishing, it's clear to me that Katie Lee is a great storyteller with a true heart for inspiring romance. 'What Endures' will be sticking around on my Kindle (which is a rare accomplishment), and I already can't wait to read it again.

This one is a solid five stars, and if I could give it more, I would.
Want to give this book a shot? One-click it easily on Amazon.

*More About Katie Lee*
Facebook / Amazon / Goodreads / Blog / Twitter

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: 'Burned' by Krista Lakes

*About The Book*
"Sometimes the deepest burns are hidden from view..."

All 20 year old Holly ever wanted to do was escape the boring Colorado mountain town where she was born. However, when she arrived at college, she found herself having too many wild nights. Worse yet, she had one too many mornings of waking up in an unfamiliar bed, and she couldn't keep her scholarship. Now that she's back in Conifer, she has no idea what she is going to do with her life and no hope for the future.

Andrew's father died a couple of years ago in an electrical accident, and while Andrew wants nothing more than to leave town, his mother's mental instability makes it impossible for him to go. He feels trapped in a no-win situation and his options are slipping away.

When a mutual friend has a crisis, Holly comes up with a plan that will change all their lives for the better. She knows that, despite previously being burned, all it takes to start a fire is a spark. However, she realizes that once again, she may have stood too close to the flame, and the torch she carries for Andrew burns brighter than ever.

Will Holly manage to rekindle old loves, or will the destruction fire in their hearts consume everything they hold dear?

(This book was previously sold as 'Fire Always Burns', and has received editing and some additional content.)

*My Review*
I'm not really sure how to review this book, and I actually almost decided not to - but since I've been making it my "policy" lately to review everything I read (including reviewing books that my kids read, written in their own words on Amazon), I decided to give this a shot.

Let me begin with the low points; I was surprised to see that this book had been re-edited even prior to my reading it, because I really felt that it needs more polish to find and fix errors - although the cover is really very beautiful! At the time of my reading, there were several glaring errors in the text, places where I felt that characters were horribly unrealistic and/or nauseatingly immature, and places where I felt that the story was rushed. These things left me more than a little frustrated - however, it could be argued that "new adult" isn't really my genre, and these are complaints I tend to have with any "young adult" or "new adult" book.

Which leads me to say the following:

This story was completely heart-wrenching! The author did a great job expressing the heroine's inner thoughts and feelings, and I felt like I could relate to her issues even when I was annoyed with her. I wanted things to work out for her so badly! There were places in this story that dragged streams of tears from me, and there were several places where the prose was truly beautiful. I especially loved the way the chapter introductions somehow seemed to perfectly match the deeper themes of the story while still standing apart enough to tell a story of their own.

I can't help it - errors or not, I truly loved this story, and I'm thrilled to have read it through (I almost didn't). I'll be watching for more from this author, and I've already added "Champagne Kisses" to my TBR.

Thank you, Krista, for a beautiful story of overcoming the past, moving on, and rebuilding. The deeper themes in your story were incredibly inspiring to me.

Despite the lows, this story is definitely five stars.
Want to give this book a shot? One-click it easily on Amazon.

*More About Krista Lakes*
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Be Aware. Stop Domestic Violence.

Domestic Violence isn't a game, a joke, or just a passing topic of conversation. It isn't just something for the NFL to talk about for a little while in order to look good. Domestic Violence and other forms of domestic abuse are a way of life for women (and men) all over the world, and domestic crime is epidemic in our society.

Right now, someone is currently being beaten to death by someone they loved and trusted.
Right now, someone is being raped by someone who once promised never to hurt them.

Right now, women (and men) and their children are homeless, living in cramped quarters in shelters for domestic violence, trying to rebuild what's left of their lives.

Right now, there's a victim living in fear, who can't or won't leave the danger zone they call home.
Right now, there's a victim barely getting by, stuck in a helpless situation due to a lack of funding for a local shelter, or the fear that there's nowhere safe to run.

But there ARE safe places for victims of domestic violence, places that are the real life versions of what I imagined when I wrote the Safe House in Fighting For Freedom.

In providing shelter, hotline assistance, and legal advocacy to victims of domestic violence and abuse, organizations that focus on helping victims of domestic abuse take a strong stand against domestic crime and provide desperately needed support to countless victims all around us.

Right now, at least 1 in 3 people have fallen victim to domestic partner violence and/or abuse. One in three. We campaign against violence all the time, don't we - against guns and terrorists, against war. But in 2012, 6,614 men and women were killed at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But 11,766 women were killed as a result of domestic violence.

The violence we speak out against isn't just on the other side of the world, or even just in the politically charged cities of our countries. It isn't just in places where racism still runs rampant, where poverty drives desperate people to crime in order to survive, or where mentally damaged men, women and children seek to victimize each other in malls, theaters, churches, schools.

Violence is right in front of all of us, in our homes, in our neighbors homes, and we turn our heads. We pretend we don't see. We pretend we don't realize. Or worse, we tell ourselves that it isn't our problem.

How many people told themselves that what was happening to Angela Brower wasn't their problem? Luckily, she was able to save herself - she was able to escape without suffering the prosecution that plagues Marissa Alexander.

I grew up in a world where domestic violence was normal - it occurred in almost every living situation I had as a child, regardless of where I was or who lived there. It occurred in the homes of many of my family members. It occurred in the homes of many of my friends.

I saw things thrown, I saw things broken.
I heard ugly words, and vile threats.

When I was young, I saw a man strangle my mother, holding her body against a wall, her toes barely touching the front porch of the single-wide trailer we lived in ... because she didn't put enough mayo on his sandwich. In another incident, he hit her with his truck, pinning her leg between the truck he was driving ... and the car his only daughter had taken shelter from him in.

I remember having to be pulled out of class at school, humiliated in the guidance counselors office. I had to strip my clothes off so that police could take photos of the bruises on my body.

I remember rage. Fear. Helplessness.

My first serious relationship, I got slapped in the face, just once. I never allowed it to happen again, but for the longest time, I believed with all my heart that it was a little bit my fault, that I asked for it.

By the time, I realized how wrong that was, I was in another relationship, one that also got abusive - just once. He grabbed my wrist, held me back from walking away from an argument. I panicked; I turned around with fear twisting my gut and fire in my eyes. And I hit him in the face. Maybe a part of me was warning him, maybe a part of me had gone back in time, finally standing up for my personal right to space and the control of my own body. It doesn't matter why, really - he let go. Later, we talked and it never happened again - although we both knew his brother would regularly beat his girlfriend ... he even beat her all through her pregnancy with their child, and she wouldn't leave him. Violence was rife in that family too.

Now that I have children of my own, I watch them closely, even with other family members. Even with their dad. Even with people that I've trusted all my life - because all too often, it's the people you trust who hurt you the most.

That's why domestic abuse is the worst kind of violence - it isn't just ugly. It isn't just sad, or scary. It's sneaky. It's so quiet, like a dark demon shadow walking through our homes, through our families. And we don't stop it - we turn away.

Don't turn away. Help me spread awareness for domestic violence and victims who spend their lives suffering silently. Lend your support here.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mirror, Mirror

With my recent blogfest (except for the last post, where I talked about my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge), I talked about review bullying. pansy authors, and bully authors. Often I made little jokes, and sometimes I downright made light of the situation, but the truth is, bullying is real. And it is painful. It is damaging, and it has lasting consequences that you probably can't even imagine.

Even the strongest people have their weaknesses. Even the strongest predator can become prey, and all it takes is the changing of a small tide for the hunter to become the hunted.

It makes me wonder what these people - both the bullied and the bullies - see when they look in the mirror. I mean, I was always taught as a child that a bully is a bully for one main reason: insecurity. And we all know what bullying does to a victim - it makes them insecure. It makes them doubt. 

I guess misery really does love company.

But what's behind the scenes, behind the eyes and the outer fa├žade of the average person?

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see hair color, eye color, skin color? Do you see freckles or wrinkles, scars or weight or stray hairs? Or do you really see the person within?

Do you look into the mirror ashamed? Do you see "liar" or "thief"? Do you see "attitude"? Do you see "slut" or "pig" or "snob"?

Or are you able (yet) to look into the mirror and see "beautiful" and "lovely"? Can you look into the depths of your own eyes and see a person worth knowing?

Some of us can, some of the time.

I have to assume that you will look in the mirror and see some mix of those things. You will see your eyes; you will see the color and the style of your hair, and whether it is messy or neat. But you will also see the innermost truths of who you believe yourself to be, and this is where you gauge not only your level of confidence, but who you truly are.

If you were me and you didn't like me, you'd see eyes that don't match, a face that's just too far over the line of symmetry, a round-tipped nose that's just not perfectly straight. If you were me, you'd look in the mirror and see round shoulders, too-big upper arms, and a round body that just won't slim down no matter what.

But if you were me and you did like me, you'd see pretty eyes, just a little slanted - and enchanting because of their uniqueness. You'd see kissable lips and a ready smile. You'd see the softness of a mother, protected by the hard edges of a tough life, a body that's been put through hell and is still going strong.

And if you know me like I do, you'll see a little girl who grew up poor and afraid, a little girl who was an unwilling witness to unbelievable cruelty and sometimes unspeakable sadness. You'll see a little girl who grew up too fast in a world where innocence was stolen fast and early. You'll see a mother who fiercely protects that innocence in her own children. You'll see the ravages of empathy, evidence that "the weight of the world" is a real measurement of the burdens of life.

You'll see the grown up product of domestic violence. You'll see a grown up product of bullying.

But, because of my experiences and the experiences of the people I love, you'll see a friend to victims of rape, violence, and insanity. You'll see an advocate for the underdog, a hopeless romantic.

You'll see a heart that beats mightily, a soul that bleeds words, and a spirit that can't help but stand strong.

You know, if you were me.

What would I see if I were you?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I know, I know. I should have written about this over a week ago when I got challenged. I should have, but sometimes, life gets in the way, and I was doing other things, sorting through my feelings over the recent various author/indie dramas, and trying to get my writing mojo back.

Because, as many of you have noticed, there's a bit of a time lapse going on ... my last book release was some time ago. But I assure you, I am writing ... it's just so desperately slow.

Anyway, in the midst of social media marketing and other non-writing things that take up my daily life, I managed to get tagged for the Ice Bucket Challenge. Not really on purpose, but hey, it's a craze, right?

Everybody's Doing It.

So I got tagged by a friend, and I did it. Because the hugeness of ALS touches my heart. And of course, I made a video - with slow motion replays. Wanna see?
Check me out, freezing down in the YouTube box below.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: 'Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes' by Denise Grover Swank

*About The Book*
"It all started when I saw myself dead."

For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad, even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She's had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone's toilet's overflowed, but she's never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: there isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.

Rose realizes she's wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Walmart receipt; twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She's well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won't help with number fifteen - do more with a man. Joe's new to town, but it doesn't take a vision for Rose to realize he's got plenty secrets of his own.

Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they'll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn't her biggest worry after all.

*My Review*
This book did what you want a book to do - it sucked me in and forced me to feel something. Rose is a sweet character, and although she's a bit immature at times, I found her mistakes and her thoughts to be fairly realistic. I also really loved how things grew naturally between Rose and Joe ... and I loved Joe, even when I hated him a little.

The romance aspect of this story had me laughing, "awww"ing, and smiling to myself, and the mystery aspect of the story was spot on. There were some good twists, some good turns, and a few unexpected little happenings. I read the book without reading the summary, simply because it was next in line on my kindle, and the death of Rose's mom really threw me, as did the other death in the story.

I loved that the little bit of country flair in the story wasn't overdone, and honestly, I can't wait to read Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons, the next book in the series.

Due to a few grammatical and formatting errors, 4 stars for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes.
Want to give this book a shot? One-click it easily on Amazon.

*More About Aurelia B Rowl*
Facebook / Amazon / Twitter / Website

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Disillusioned - The Ugly Side of Authors

In recent days, I've guest blogged about how to write a good-but-still-honest book review - and I talked a great deal about my feelings on the recent fuss over "review bullying", and whether or not you might be what I call a "pansy author". And then, just to be clear, I talked about what really constitutes actual "bullying" and what's really more of a bad review that a pansy author couldn't take.

And then, I just took some time off to reflect and think on what's been said - and what hasn't been said.

And you know what's sad? While I was reflecting on the sadness of bully reviewers (because they do exist) and the really really sadness of pansy authors, I had several different conversations with fellow authors who are currently undergoing personal attacks from other authors.

You know, when I first published To Love a Selkie, I met authors and bloggers aplenty, some of whom I'm still friendly with, others who were part of my life for a short time and are mostly gone now. But I've been an author now for one year, eight months, and thirteen days, and in that time, I've seen more ugliness than any of us would care to admit.

There's an element of competitiveness in writing, especially if you do it for a living, and there's no getting around that. We're all trying to make a living, and we all dream - at least a little bit - of hitting that top spot and riding the wave of fame for a little while. There's no escaping that, no getting around it. And there can only be one person in the number one spot at a time. There's only room for one "best".

But did you know that under the Brady Bunch image that is put on by the indie community, there is a truly ugly undercurrent? There are authors out there who beg for reviews, and then attack their reviewers as "bullies" if they don't say what they were expected to say. There are authors out there who attack each other's fans because they read the wrong genres (contemporary romance readers are "boring" or "prudes", erotica readers are "dirty" or "gross", YA readers are "immature" - it goes on and on), or they liked (or disliked) the wrong characters.

There are authors out there who attack each other as authors, because we differ in political views, views on gun laws, gay/racial/economic equality. And that's not even the worst of it.

THEY SABOTAGE EACH OTHER, TOO, WITH NO SHAME.

AND I'M DISILLUSIONED.

There are authors out there who send their fans and street teams to leave bad reviews on other authors' books, because if they can keep other authors down, maybe they can feel elevated for a while, or keep their spot on top for a little longer. There are authors out there who, after having a falling-out or disagreement with another author, will actually post about it, sharing all the details of their side of the story with the public, in order to be sure they look "good" and the other author looks "bad." All to make sure they get closer to the top faster, all in competition.

AND I'M DISILLUSIONED.

In the last twenty-and-a-half months, I've seen four authors go down, three of whom were really incredibly talented, simply because they couldn't take the competitive pressure from their peers. Because they lost the beloved illusion of the all-welcoming Indie family and got caught up in the cutthroat competition for the top spot. Because people they had once counted as peers, as friends, ganged up with the crowd and acted to take them down. Because their hearts were trampled in the stampede. Some of them were willing to tell me their stories. One gave me names - in trust - which I could honestly admit that I'd heard before, in dark whispers in the corners of the internet. But most? Most keep those names to themselves, out of honor, out of professionalism and integrity, out of a desire not to stoop to gossip and name-calling and shit slinging.

AND I'M DISILLUSIONED.

I mean, look - I love my books, I love my characters, and I love writing. And I'll write until the words in my spirit have dried up and gone forever (no danger of that, if the length of this post indicates anything), but I will confess - I'm disillusioned. And I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that one of my favorite bloggers no longer speaks to me at all because I read a book for an author friend of hers and I didn't like it as much as she wanted me to. I'm disappointed because I've had way too little conversations about author "fan-girling" and way too many conversations about author "mean-girling". I'm disappointed that suddenly it's all about the hottest models and the horniest book covers, and many of us have completely forgotten about the stories within. I'm disappointed that most of those stories will never shine the way the author wanted them too, because they aren't polished, or because we're all too caught up in the drama to share the good books we've read, or too scared to review them because one wrong word written in a review, one wrong name whispered quietly to a friend you don't know will turn on you next week, can just end it all before you've even begun.

When I walked into the Indie world in December 2012, shy and fragile and terrified, I was welcomed as a new friend, a new member of a family, a community of creative people just like me. Now, as I walk into September 2014, I'm a little harder, and maybe just a little jaded. And I'm glad I didn't get as sucked into the whirl as some others have, because my spirit is still intact. Because I can still write, though it's impossibly slow going these days.

Because as disillusioned as I am with the Indie community, I still have something valuable to give, and because as long as I'm in the game, I know that at least one of us isn't going to show their ugly side.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Just In Case You're Confused.

Lately, I've been blogging a lot about the difference between a bad review and actual bullying. But I've actually had people message me on Facebook and ask me to really come out and clarify what I think the difference is.

So just to be clear:

According to StopBullying.Gov, bullying is defined as "unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance." And "in order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include" both an "imbalance of power" and "repetition" of the aggressive behavior. These terms are further identified as follows, quoted (in part) from StopBullying.Gov.

  1. An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power - such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity -  to control or harm others.
  2. Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Hmm.

You might be wondering why I used a site that deals with bullying as a childhood behavior, and I'll tell you, I did it because generally, bullying is a childhood behavior. So how do I apply this to the adult "review bullying" thing? Okay.

It is not bullying to go leave a bad review because you hated the product, the packaging, or whatever. If you're sorry you bought it, and you say so, that still isn't bullying. If it's a paperback and you cut the book up for crafting because you didn't like it enough to keep it, that still isn't bullying. And if you write a review blog and you write a post about your craft that also includes your somewhat hurtful bad review of the book?

It's mean, but it still isn't bullying.

But ... if the author of said book finds the review and slowly comes to a boiling rage because one reader had the simple audacity to not fall madly in love with said book, and if the author shares the negative review, asking for comments, and if said author has a prior history of sending her fans to lash out and verbally beat down people who don't like her books ... Well, that's bullying. Sorry, Anne Rice. You can't cry about bullies and play the martyr'd pansy author if you're so busy actually trolling and bullying your readers that the entire world begins to take notice.

A bad review is the personal opinion of a consumer, who has the right to review the product in really whichever way they want to. That's how marketing works, and no one is so completely perfect as to completely avoid negative reviews. The only books with all positive, sparkling reviews are the books written by authors so desperate to look successful that they are willing to pay for good reviews - or authors who just happen to have lots of friends willing to lie to them to keep them feeling happy. Or maybe authors (like me) who haven't really broken completely into the industry just yet and haven't been thoroughly discovered by a wide range of readers.

The crazy thing is, in the midst of all this outcry against "review bullying," authors are now threatening the reviewers. Not just with immature bullying, but with adult bullying. Serious adult stuff like libel lawsuits. It's no wonder reviews are so hard to come by - people who read books are AFRAID to review them, they are afraid of being personally attacked, they are afraid of being the target for online trolling ... They. Are. Just. Afraid.

Why? Because authors are now making a habit of biting the hand that feeds them, the hand of the reviewer. (Check out this article for some astonishing references.) Instead of thanking someone, whether they liked your book or not, for taking the time to read it and give it a chance, instead of thanking them for taking the time to even write the review in the first place, authors are now in the habit of either writing a bad review in return for a bad review, or simply changing a previously written review.

I can speak that as a fact, because I've seen it happen personally. An author contacted me once, and after some time spent in small talk and needless flattery, this author finally got around to their point - would I be willing to read and review one of their books if they would read and review one of mine? Sure, no problem. So I picked what I wanted to read, and they picked what they wanted to read. We read. The other author reviewed, gave me five stars. I reviewed too, honestly stating that while I liked the story and acknowledged it's listing as a "short story," I felt that it ended too abruptly and left me hanging. I was being nice - the entire truth was that the very abrupt ending didn't feel like an ending at all, and I was actually outright disappointed. But I didn't say that, I was honest, but gently honest. I gave four stars. Well, the other author saw my review, wrote me a rude facebook message about how my review "disappointed them" and I "let them down," and has not spoken to me again since.

But in truth, even that isn't "bullying" - it's just rude and unprofessional. Because what that author's behavior ultimately said to me was, "I don't care if I have talent (they did), I don't care if my work is any good (it was), I don't care what your actual opinion/review is ... all I want here is an ego stroke, and my sense of integrity is low enough that I'll stoop to 'getting even' with you if you don't give me what I want."

That author also went back to amazon and changed their five star review of my book to a four star review. Can you imagine the smug look on their face? "Ha, Brandi Kennedy, that'll show you!"

But it didn't. I later went on to leave lower-star reviews for several other books that I felt either weren't well polished or just generally sucked. Sorry, I guess I'm just not that big of a pansy. I'm not afraid of a review. Not even a bad one. In fact, I will welcome constructive criticism. If you see an error in one of my books that was missed during three+ rounds of editing and polishing and then still missed by several beta readers, please send me a message - I'll fix it. If you didn't like my story, or you thought the hero was "too perfect" (yes, I got that once), or the heroine was to vapid or didn't have enough dimension, or if you really just felt like I was writing out of my ass and shouldn't have published that one, then that's okay.

Say so. I'm strong enough to take it. And I won't cry and call you a bully. For three reasons.

  1. Because I've encountered actual bullying before, and bad book reviews absolutely do not qualify (unless of course they are instigated by a bully author who is generally acting out of basic pansy-ness). And ...
  2. Because I'm not a pansy. I came into this business to succeed - to work honestly and build both my following and my talent, however unimpressive it may be to some people. I came into this business because I couldn't not do it. I came into this business, not to have my ego stroked by a world full of yes-men, but to make an honest living.
  3. I'm afraid of snakes, sharks, spiders, slugs, and snail goo. I am not afraid of opinions.

Now that we know the difference between being a "consumer/reviewer" and being a "bully", come back tomorrow for a more humorous take on how to find out if you're a bully ... or if you're a pansy.

Are You A Pansy Author?

Yesterday I wrote a blog post (post #2) about a guest post (post #1) I wrote earlier in the week for Kristen, over at Pretty Little Pages Book Blog. You should really check them both out, but just for the sake of summarizing, I talked about the recent buzz with what I usually refer to as "review bullying". Tonight I'll shout out to the pansy authors AND the bullying a-hole authors. Tomorrow, I'll talk about how you can figure out whether you fit into either of those categories ... and in a future post, I'll tell you what to do about it.

Okay. You ready for this?
Okay. Here goes.

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To start off, and I know that in light of the whole worldwide, anti-bullying, everyone-should-always-be-NICE-and-almost-disgustingly-PC-all-the-time thing, I probably shouldn't say this, but ...

"Come on, pansy authors. Stand up and stop being pansies. It's just a review! It's not 'bullying'. So get over yourself, and understand that you can't please all the people all the time. And each review, regardless of the rating that comes with it or the words that are in it, each review is NOTHING more than someone else's opinion. And if you're such a pansy that you can't take a bad review, you seriously have no business in this business. Because even the authors that you can't even dream of coming close to in talent ... they have bad reviews too. Scathing ones. Ones that would make a pansy author like you crawl in a hole and just die. So if you're thin-skinned and you can't handle someone else saying your book sucked? You're a pansy - toughen up, or give it up. Because you'll NEVER have a book that's rated all five stars, all the time. Never. Seriously."

Now, with that off my chest (because I've been carrying it around for a LONG time, now), I can finally get on to say this:

"Hey, a-hole authors who use their fan bases as overgrown high school mean-girl cliques. Knock it off - all you do is ruin the fun for everyone else. And even though most people are too scared to really call you out, your names do get around. People find out who you are and what you're up to. People find out when you get your blogger buddies to completely shun another author because you were displeased about a review that didn't bow down and kiss your ass. And when you notice that your fan base stops growing? That's why. When you notice that sales stop happening? That's why. When your name drops out of conversations and people forget about you just you were so afraid that they might? That's why. Because you're an a-hole. So stop using reviews on other author's books as a way to forward your vendetta or fast-track your career. It's childish. And because you're too much of a coward to make it on your own steam without taking someone else down ... you're a whole different kind of pansy. Maybe the very worst kind."

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You know, what really upsets me about the whole thing is that because of a-hole authors, there really is a kernel of truth in the "review bullying" thing. There are authors out there who really do behave that way, and there are bloggers who get in on it. There are fans who get in on it. But the majority of this "bullying" stuff is actually normal in the world that we're all trying to break into. I mean really, what's the goal - to make enough money writing to be able to write full time, right? To write books that are so well-loved that people come to our signings specifically to meet us? To be recognized in restaurants because people actually read our books and care about who we are?

To be celebrities in the reading community.

But don't you know what that means? Haven't you ever read a tabloid magazine? Seriously? Celebrities are threatened. Stalked. Constantly watched. They get set up to look like fools, with people freaking out every time they eat a french fry or forget to put their eyeliner on. And then they get mocked ruthlessly by the entire world when they crack under pressure and go nuts. And this is what we're working for? Are we stupid?

Maybe we are a little stupid to seek this out. Maybe we aren't. But my point is, when you ask to be in the eye of the public, whether your "public" is ten people or ten thousand, you're asking for attention. You're asking to be noticed. And when you make - or don't make - a living based on the public opinion of your books, your products, then you're asking to have your feelings hurt. There's no way around it.

YOU WILL RECEIVE BAD REVIEWS.

I'm sorry, but no matter what your mother or your best friend or your kindergarten teacher told you, you are NOT flawless as a writer. You are NOT impervious to failure.

YOU WILL RECEIVE BAD REVIEWS.

The thing is, those reviews aren't all there is. There's the self-satisfaction of finishing that novel. The pride you take in your work as an artist. The professionalism that requires you to polish your work, and polish it again. The big girl panties that you pull up when someone tells you they found an error in the book. And yes, the tears you shed, the first time you get a review like this one:

"This book gets one star from me for having a really unique and interesting premise. I might have given a 2nd or even 3rd star if I weren't so angry and confused by the last few pages and most especially the ending! To ease my frustration I had to come up with some reason for it... Maybe the ending was cut off while being uploaded? Perhaps the author died before the ending was written and well-meaning family, having NO clue what the author had planned for concluding the story, just uploaded it to Amazon without even looking!"

And then, there's the somewhat self-righteous laughter you can't hold back when you get a review like this one:

"Okay story line but badly wrote! Not worth the time spent to read it! The ending sucked so bad and was horrible! Took so long to get into it too!!!!"

Because, really? Badly wrote?

That second one is actually my #1 top favorite review so far, and has actually encouraged me in so many ways. I mean, really? "Badly wrote?"

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But seriously. And you know what? I can see where a pansy author might have a hard time drying up their tears - some of the reviews out there are really brutal. But we all need to toughen up and remember that it's just someone else's opinion. And maybe you owe it to yourself to sit back and think about whether the review is right. Does your story lack something? If it did, I bet you felt it when you were writing it, but you pushed it off and called it "nerves" and kept going even though you knew the story wasn't working and wouldn't be worth reading. Does it need more polish (mine probably do)? Are there errors in it (I have found and fixed a couple in mine)? Does your cover suck (one of mine does, but I can't fix it yet)?

Be Honest.

Take that into account, stand up and accept it, then fix it if/when you can, and see what happens. But don't play the martyr and pretend the whole world hates you just because you got told something you didn't want to hear.

Stop being a pansy. I know it's hard, but really. You gotta do it. Be a grown-up.

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And to the A-holes? Remember:

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Downtime.

The month of August has been pretty busy for me: there were two takeovers (which were fun), a radio show (which went swimmingly), a thunderclap (which still needs your support), efforts to step up the frequency of my tweeting and facebooking, discovering the deep dark truth of why Kingsley Book #4 still isn't finished, and sadly shaking my head at my overactive muse, telling her that I can't write the stories she's throwing in my direction, because I still want to write the twelve other novels she's already given me.

This, of course, pisses her off, and then she just stops talking to me altogether, which leads to just a little bit of what I jokingly call "downtime", simply because it's mostly non-writing time.

But I can't just do nothing ... I can't. I have to feel like I'm doing something, prepping something, planning something, even when I'm not actively writing something. So I prepped, and I planned, and I did some soul searching. But then I needed to write, because the part of me that's always been a writer started to cry out, and I couldn't stand it. I needed to write.

So as part of a blog event for a certain little sweetheart I know (Kristen, the girl behind Pretty Little Pages Blog), I committed myself to writing a guest post. See, she had a birthday on the horizon and wanted to celebrate it in a big way, so she got a bunch of authors together and organized a birthday bash on her blog. I felt totally privileged to be one of the authors participating, and so I spent a few of my downtime nights scowling at my bitch muse thinking hard about what would make a good guest post. I asked Kristen what her readers might want to see, and she told me to write whatever my readers might want to see. Hmm, dilemma.

But that was right around the time that my facebook was staying totally crazy with posts about "review bullying" and things like that. And those posts really got me thinking. What really constitutes bullying, especially in the context of a review? I mean, we all know that people are mean, just flat out mean, and hateful - and sitting anonymously behind a computer screen just makes it worse. But what's "mean" mean, really?

Is it really bullying to give a book a one-star rating or review because you didn't like the characters? What about because the book was full of errors, misspellings, or gross errors in continuity that actually diminished the quality of the purchase made by the reader? I'm sure we can all agree that those are viable complaints, but I'm also increasingly sure that we don't all agree on the reality of that one star.

I've seen things on facebook (and other sites) on the subject that cite the old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

But you know what?

That adage doesn't apply in marketing and purchases. Five million five star reviews are worthless if you only have them because you were too soft-hearted to handle the one stars. Or if you were so cowardly and small that you sent your fan base to bash and attack a fellow author because you didn't like a review they gave you, or because you don't like ... whatever.

I don't think a low review is bullying. Sure, we could be kind about it - I mean, we're readers and authors and bloggers! Many of us make our living by the power of words, by our abilities to spin a picture so convincing that it melts your heart, or brings you to tears, or yes, even makes you angry. And furthermore, wouldn't you leave a negative review if you went for a haircut and got your classic style butchered? What about if you went to a restaurant that was dirty and made you sick? Would you feel that it would be "bullying" to negatively review a clothing purchase that had a pin in it that stabbed you because the company was careless?

Well, a book is a product too, and if you didn't like it, you do have the right to say so.

So I thought about that, and it didn't take long for that thought process to gel with the idea that I owed Kristin a guest post.

And that's why I sent her a post called

You should check it out - in the post, I outline a few of my favorite things to always do, and never do, when writing a book review. And because I've got the courage it takes to take those reviews with a grain of salt (and maybe an alcoholic beverage), I never once recommended that you hold off on a negative review.

Why? Because you shouldn't. You shouldn't hold back - you should write that review, IF you read the book, and IF you have something real to say, and especially IF you have the class to speak constructively about the product you're reviewing without personally attacking the author of that product or using the review to further someone else's petty vendetta.

I know - it's a lot to take in. That's why I'm going to come back tomorrow to talk some more on this, with a post about how not to be a pansy author who can't take a bad review without playing the martyr. So come on back here tomorrow to find out if you're a pansy author - and if you are a pansy author, find out how to toughen up so that you can stand up and take reviews as what they are - simply someone else's opinion.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: 'Popping The Cherry' by Aurelia B Rowl

edited to reflect new cover
*About The Book*
From driving tests to relationships, Valentina Bell thinks she's a failure, with a big fat capital F. At this rate, she's certain she'll be a virgin forever. So Lena's friends plan Operation: Popping the Cherry to help her find the perfect first time. Yet somehow disastrous dates with bad boy musicians and fabulous evenings with secretly in-the-closet guys aren't quite working out how Lena planned. Soon Lena's avoiding Operation: Popping the Cherry to spend time with comforting, aloof Jake, her best friend's older brother, who doesn't make her feel self-conscious about still clinging to her V card. But could Jake show Lena that sometimes what you're looking for most is right by your side?

*My Review*
This was a book that I picked up largely because I love Aurelia. I've chatted back and forth with her a little on Facebook, and I find that I can't help but like her as a person. Still, without that initial sense of friendship, I might not have read this book simply because it isn't my usual genre. That said, I'm completely won over and so glad I took a chance on Popping the Cherry. Aurelia did a truly amazing job creating a lovable young character that felt real.

Initially I wasn't sure how I'd feel about a book that implies a certain pressure to have sex whether you're ready or not. I spent the early parts of the book a little annoyed with Lena for being ashamed of being a virgin, and a lot annoyed with her friends for making her feel that she had reason to be ashamed.

As an old fashioned conservative mother of two girls, I was disappointed - and more than a little afraid for my own young daughters - when Lena gave in to her friends "intervention" and agreed give "Operation: Popping the Cherry" a try.

But as a woman who was once a young girl, I could relate to Lena on so many levels, and as a mother, I was proud to see Lena hold onto her standards. She may have agreed to Operation; Popping the Cherry, but never once did she cross the line or overstep her own personal boundaries. She stood up for herself, for her standards, and for what she felt was right or wrong. Did she make some mistakes along the way? Sure she did - she's a teenager!

As the book moves along, though, a long-time acquaintance with her best friend's older brother suddenly takes a much more serious turn for Lena when she needs rescuing from a dangerous situation. Jake is right there with her, strong and supportive with no pressure and no awkwardness. Fighting their budding attraction, Lena and Jake find themselves spending more and more time together, which complicates Operation: Popping the Cherry - and Lena's long-time friendship with Jake's sister, Gemma.

Reading this book brought back so many memories, and by the time I read the last page, I was enthralled with all of the characters (except for "Malice," Lena's completely obnoxious arch-nemesis), impressed with their strengths, and completely in love with the innocent-yet-sexy romance between Lena and Jake.

I loved the characters, I loved the concept behind the story, and I loved Aurelia B Rowl's ability to give a believable voice to a teenaged girl. The only thing I could find fault in was the editing - there were several very noticeable errors missed in the editing process. But all in all ...

Will I be on the lookout for 'A Girl Called Malice', the sequel to this sweet-yet-steamy read?
You bet I will. In the meantime, 4 stars for Popping the Cherry.
Want to give this book a shot? One-click it easily on Amazon.

*More About Aurelia B Rowl*
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