Saturday, April 26, 2014


To review or not to review...

One challenge for self-publishers is getting reviews. Right up there with getting them, is giving them. Reviews can be fun to do. However, if the author is a person who did a review for you, or they are a friend/fellow-group member, it can be difficult. How honest can you be? How objective? Even if the writer is unknown to you, how harsh do you wish to be?

As a reviewer, it’s important to be true to your objective-take on a book. If you always give 5-Star reviews, folks start to doubt the value of those reviews. On the other hand, no one wants to be hurtful or discouraging to fellow writers.

The 5-star rating limits choices. Sometimes a book is a 3.5, or the writing is warrants a 5, but the story evolution isn't as stellar. A book can be an enjoyable read without being a 5 Star book.

Additionally genres differ. A reviewer might not “like” a book simply because of the genre even thought it has a story and skilled writing. So what is that assessment worth in the overall scheme of ratings?

Most writers have considered the pitfalls of this review process and state that consistency in your reviews is important. Know why you like or don't like a book and translate that into an objective review each and every time.

More than one writer has defined a personal system. One way to help understand a reviewer's system, read other reviews they've written. Having a pre-determined system makes reviewing easier. I've read other defining commentaries on ratings and have devised a system I plan to use in the future.

  • 5 Stars – Excellent story, well-written, worth every penny, drew me through the story fast enough to turn off my internal editor
  • 4 Stars – Great book, satisfying read, skilled writing, well-crafted story/plot, would read more by this author and highly recommend it
  • 3 stars – Good overall, generally well written, easy read, has at least one strong component (writing, plot or characters)
  • 2 Stars – Mildly decent story premise, moderate writing skills, possibly predictable or boring, would not read another by this author.
  • 1 Star – Difficult to read line-to-line writing, unlikeable or boring characters, hard to finish or not finished at all, would not recommend it

Based on this ranking tier, I consider a book with a 4-Star review and positive comments well worth buying--strongly recommended.

Personally, I avoid reviewing books I consider worth 1 or 2 Stars. However, a lack of review could also be an oversight, not an implied rating. 

Do you do reviews? What do your ratings tell the reader?

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Once upon a time travel was the best way and sometimes the only way to research a story site. Writers these days have wonderful information available on the internet. And although visiting an area is still a preferred research method, my thanks goes out to the folks who take the pictures and write the text and make it virtual visiting available.

One of the best sites for my setting is the Hiking the LaHave Islands by John Hutton. Viewing the photos, following the map and reading the text pulled me back to the area. I could smell the ocean.

Typical house - Note Lunenburg "bump"

This house, which Hutton tells us in a typical home in the area, sports a Lunenburg Bump, the uniquely shaped dormer on its front. This could easily be Uncle Lem's house in my Caleb Cover mystery series.

Bush Island Bridge

In the first book, a hurricane washes out the bridge trapping the characters with a murderer on my fictional island. In book two, the official opening of the new bridge plays a role.

In reality, there are several bridges connecting the La Have Islands. this one is the Bush Island bridge. It's just like the one washed away in Sheldon Harris Came Home Dead.

For a unique experience try John Hutton's virtual Hike - better still plan your next walking vacation and visit the La Have Islands in person.

Friday, April 11, 2014



Crescent Beach and Georges Island

Devon turned onto the beach road leading to the island and Caleb’s Cove. Rain sheeted on the windshield, defeating the wipers and distorting her view. Hunched forward, she followed the spit, acutely aware of the white capped waves assaulting the fence between sand and road. Torrents dissected the road and blurred sky, ocean and land into one mass. (Came Home Dead)

The third and perhaps most critical inspiration for Caleb's Cove and the island it sits on, is Georges Island and the road access to it, Crescent Beach. Located in Lunenburg County, the LaHave Islands stagger out from the mainland, forested jewels in the Atlantic Ocean. Although details are altered for the fictional world, Devon drives along this beach road as the hurricane takes over the landscape.

Crescent Beach, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia

The LaHave Islands

Other information about the scenery and the history of the LaHave Islands and area can be found at Lunenburg Region, Nova Scotia. The area is closely connected to the sea, to the Bluenose which is found on the Canadian Dime and the prohibition era rum running.

The land, the history and the people provide a rich background for the Caleb Cove Mysteries. (Even if the actual community and all
the folks in it are figments of my imagination.) Writing the stories is so much easier with so many potential details available in the real world.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stronger Writing - Two quick tips


If your writing seems muddy, or wishy-washy the following items might be the problem.

1) Avoid Unneeded Qualifiers

Maybe, possibly, might, seems, very
(Unless your intent is to make your character look wishy-washy)
- Choose strong words and statements

Be careful - some words don't need any qualifier:
   Pregnant is pregnant; absolue is absolute; unique is unique; fatal is fatal

2) Eliminate Redundancies

Two words often sneak in where one is enough. Watch for them.
- two eyes
- stood up or sat down
- sky above or earth below
- ceiling overhead or floor underfoot
- end result