Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to Write Reviews

Authors need reviews. We need to know that our time behind the computer screen matters. A good review is like warm, gooey chocolate—savored and enjoyed. A poor review is like a water balloon to the face—it hits like a rock and soaks you with chills from head to toe. You might dry quickly, but it’s hard to forget.
That’s why, personally, I never give less than a four star review. I know how hard it is to write a book. I know how long it takes. I understand the dedication and discipline.
I think of the star ratings as a report card.
5 stars an A
4 stars a B
3 stars a C
And so forth.
If I think a book is less than a 4 star, I keep those thoughts to myself.  Unless I really hated the book, then I might spout off.  I think I’ve done that once. If I find mistakes, but still enjoyed the story, I will find a way to let the author know, because I know how easy it is to fix mistakes.
As a reader, I don’t believe that an author owes me a thing. This is especially true in today’s world of free, or nearly free, books. Every story is a gift that someone took the time to share. If I wanted to be a part, I stayed to read. If not, I put the book down.  Life is too short to waste time reading something I don't love.

For some, writing a review is hard, and for those who struggle, here are a few basic templates. Fill in the blanks.

For a romance:
I _____ (loved, liked, enjoyed, relished, adored, savored) this story. I found the hero ______ (scrumptious, delish,  yummy.) And the main character was ______ (delightful, brave, heroic, charming.) The plot kept me _____ (riveted, captivated, enthralled.) I found the dialogue ____ (witty, entertaining, heartwarming.) I thought I would swoon when______. And I was sad, but happy, when it was over.

For a mystery:
This story kept me _____ (on the edge of my seat, awake all night, captivated.) I thought the main character was _____ (resourceful, clever, ingenious.) The plot twists kept me ______ (in constant suspense, tied up in knots, in a sweat.) And when I close my eyes, I imagine the villain _____ (coming at me with a knife, lurking in dark corners, leering at me from the shadows.) I love it when the good guys win!

For a fantasy:
I found this world to be _____ (totally believable, fascinating, mesmerizing.) I loved the ______ (magical, legendary, mythical) characters and their quest for the_____ (mysterious, elusive, fabled) ______.

For a literary novel:
I found this story _____ (haunting, heartbreaking, inspiring.) The message stayed with me for days and colored my perspective in new and _____ (life-affirming, provocative, meaningful) ways. Because of this book, I now see life ______(differently, with a fresh mind set, with more compassion.)

The literati take reviews very seriously, but you are free to _____ (extoll, laud, praise, applaud.) 
Or not.

Here are snippets of three of my favorite reviews:
5.0 out of 5 stars
I read this through the night. As I read kept reading, I lost all track of time and only resurfaced at the end. I can't wait to see more adventures from this set of characters. Well done!
This review is from: On Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent (The Beyond series)

5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling and fun historical romance
I thoroughly enjoyed Ms.Tate's book. From the very start I was held spellbound by Mercy's adventures. From beginning to end I was captivated by the suspense and romance.
This review is from: Stealing Mercy (Seattle Fire series)

5.0 out of 5 stars fast becoming an author for me to watch for in the contemporary mystery genre
In the second book that I have read from this author, she is fast becoming an author for me to watch for in the contemporary mystery genre. The Rhyme's Library is a clever murder mystery, rife with family and small-town secrets and an engaging, intelligent heroine at its center.
From The Rhyme’s Library
Buy now:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Popular Blog Posts, exposing the underbelly of my blog

It’s curious why some posts are more interesting to the world than others. Some posts I think are quite good are basically ignored while others that are neither insightful or witty for some inexplicable reason pick up traction. Here are the top five most viewed posts on my blog,

Sep 16, 2011, 19 comments
2380 page views
Aug 8, 2013, 3 comments
2119 page views
May 10, 2013, 3 comments
1929 page views
Sep 24, 2012, 5 comments
1258 page views
May 1, 2013, 1 comment
998 page views

And the audience! For awhile I had a host of Russians reading my blog. Vlads and Omars were leaving comments. I personally don’t know anyone currently living in Russia, nor do I know any Vlads or Omars, and I don’t know why the Russians would be more interested in my blog than the Belgians. Here are the stats from the top five countries that follow my blog.
United States




United Kingdom

It’s not surprising that the posts that are the most helpful are also the most popular….That might be a good life lesson, as well. If you want to be popular, be helpful. That's something everyone should learn in grade school.
In an effort to be increasingly helpful, for the next three months, I’m donating all of the proceeds from my Rose Arbor books to the Oso Relief fund. Oso is a tiny community on the outskirts of my home town, Arlington, Washington, the fictionalized setting of my Rose Arbor books. (Read my blog post on my decision. And to make donating easy, for a limited time A Ghost of a Second Chance, the first in the series is now only .99 cents.
Because, as my mom used to say, when you’re helping you’re happy. And I'm more than happy to help the victims of the Oso mudslide.
Click on photo for purchasing link.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Book Covers

I spent the weekend with my amazingly talented daughter and came home with three new book covers. I LOVE them. What do you think?
Stuck With You, is a novella loosely based on my adventures in a sticky elevator. The models are my son and his fiance. I love them and this cover. And the story, of course. The story has been done for a few weeks, but it won't be published until June.
This is Hailey's third cover. I think we finally got one I love.
Beyond the Pale is the final book in my Beyond series. It has caused me some grief (the story, not the cover. LOVE the cover.) I made an outline, wrote the story and ended at about 100 pages--200 pages short of my typical novel length. There is a part of me that wants to give the series the time and attention it deserves, but I have so much happening in my real, non-fiction life, I had a hard time thinking outside of my original outline.

 I managed to write another 50 pages, debated on whether to set it aside and work on something else or call it good. After much internal arguing and screaming, I decided to end it. At 150 pages it was done. So what. Who cares? It was done and so was I. Determined to give it one last go-through, I picked it up this morning and as I read ideas and scenes came to me. I don't know, actually I doubt, if it will carry me to page 300, but it doesn't matter. I do love this story, after all. Somehow I had forgotten that. I'm so grateful I got to be the one to write it.

Also, I'm pretty sure that every author and every publisher wishes that they had an amazingly talented daughter like mine.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Twenty Books, .99 Cents Each

For a limited time, the books listed below will be available on Amazon at 99 cents. Twenty books for less than $20.  Books of all flavors: mystery, adventure, fantasy, romance, Young Adult, paranormal, women’s fiction, historical, and western, including the first book in my Beyond series, Beyond the Fortuneteller's Tent, a teen time travel romance. 
My book has been bobbing off and on Amazon’s Bestseller list. Currently:
#64 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Time Travel
#82 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Romance > Historical
Now only .99 cents

Kathy Bennett, A Deadly Justice
Dee Ann Palmer, Where Eagles Cry
Linda Carroll-Bradd, Capturing The Marshal’s Heart
Mindy Neff, The Bad Boy Next Door
Susan Squires, Waiting for Magic?
Sandra Paul, Last Chance for Marriage
Patricia Thayer, Colton Creek Cowboy
Kathleen Creighton, The Prince and the Patriot
Susan R. Hughes, A Baby for Christmas
Gillian Doyle, Mystic Memories
Edie Ramer, Christmas at Angel Lake
Angie Ray, Ghostly Enchantment
Jacqueline Diamond, The Cowboy and The Heiress
Michelle Knowlden, Indelible Beats
Kristy Tate, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent
Michael H. Payne, A Curial Quartet
Heather MacAllister, Counterfeit Cowgirl
Louella Nelson, Cora Lee
Kitty Bucholtz, Little Miss Lovesick
Lyn O’Farrell, Worth the Risk

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Books for Oso Relief

This is the clock on Main Street next to the town green.

The Oso mud slide hit close to home. I grew up in Arlington. My dad and brother still live there, and both of my brothers own and operate businesses there. The school across the street from my dad’s house, is now serving as the command center for the rescue teams.
These are the deer that come to my dad's garden every morning.

So, I know something of Oso, a tiny community a few miles north of my brother’s house. If the slide had hit my brother’s home, he would have lost not only his home, but also the staples of his fishing business: boats, rods and reels, computers. If my dad’s house had been hit when my dad still owned his construction company, my dad would have lost not only his house, but also his dump trucks, bulldozer and excavator. I’m guessing that in Oso there were also mechanics with garages full of machinery, carpenters with costly tools for their trade, and an assortment of cows, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, dogs and cats.
This is a picture of the mud slide.

Growing up, my dad’s garden was bigger than my Orange County, California backyard. And gardening wasn’t a hobby, nor was it about being organic. My parents gardened and canned our food to feed our family. I wonder what will the land be like when, and if, it’s ever unearthed. What will be left?

I know that the families in Oso have lost much more than homes and property. And what and who they have lost can’t be quantified.

I love my home town. I’m grateful I grew up there. My Rose Arbor novel series is set in Arlington, although I did change the name. Locals will recognize a few of the town's landmarks and street names. They will also realize I took a lot of liberties. For example, the library is not on Olympic Hill. And my apologies to whomever owns 22 Cobb. When I wrote the books, I never thought I would offer them up for a cause. But that’s what I’m doing.

For the next three months, I will donate all of the net proceeds of the sales of my Rose Arbor books to the Oso Relief fund. A hundred percent of the donations go directly to the Oso families. (You can read about the fund here, and if you wish, make a donation.) I even dropped the price of the first book in the series,  A Ghost of a Second Chance, to .99 cents, making the opportunity to give within (almost) everyone’s reach.

When the idea was first suggested to me, I felt uncomfortable about using a tragedy to promote my books. But I soon realized that this is a way I can give much more than I could on my own. Please share.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Try this experiment.
Using pen and paper, write down three goals. Use full sentences, for example: This week I will train a lion.
Now, write down three things you have on your calendar tomorrow—doctor’s appointment, a trip to the bank, grocery shopping, whatever. Again, be sure and use full sentences. Example: Tomorrow I will catch the train to Walla Walla.

Now carefully consider the difference in your handwriting. Notice anything? Are there spaces between the words of your goals? Did you know that you can tell if someone is lying by their hesitations? According to professional handwriting analysts, the same hiccoughs happen when we write. If you’re lying to yourself, your subconscious knows it and your words will have extra spaces. For example: This week  I   will  train  a  lion. As opposed to: Tomorrow I will catch the train to Walla Walla.
Did the experiment work for you? It totally worked for me. Consider this when making goal, make your goals absolutely realistic—things you know you should do, but, for whatever reason, you aren’t, and things you know you can do.

Years ago my sisters and I attended Education Week at BYU. (If you don’t know what that is,click here). Each morning, we would coordinate which classes we wanted to attend and when we would meet for lunch. Sometimes our schedules matched and sometimes they didn’t and that was okay.
On a whim, I decided to ditch one class and attend another. According to the schedule, the class was based on the Old Testament scripture, Jeremiah 1:5
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.

(Want to know why I was taking this class? Because I thought it would be relevant to my current work in progress, Beyond the Pale. I was wrong. )

It was held in the Marriott Center—a conference center with 22,000 seats. I walked in and found my sister sitting directly in front of me. Neither of us had intended to take this class, and it was surprising to find her so easily in such large building filled with thousands of people.

Turns out, the class had little to do with what we had thought and everything to do with the dangers of perfectionism. As we left the building, my sister and I both commented on how disappointed we were in the class as neither of us considered perfectionism something that we struggled with. Just then a very large, noisy bus rumbled by. Plastered on its side were the words “Perfectionism: are you ready?”  (It was an ad for a housing development.) My sister looked at me and said, “I think someone is trying to tell us something.”
It made me reconsider perfectionism and the way it may be holding me back.

I love this poem by Shell Silverstein.  It’s called the Little Blue Engine
The little blue engine looked up at the hill.
His light was weak, his whistle was shrill.
He was tired and small, and the hill was tall,
And his face blushed red as he softly said,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
So he started up with a chug and a strain,
And he puffed and pulled with might and main.
And slowly he climbed, a foot at a time,
And his engine coughed as he whispered soft,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
With a squeak and a creak and a toot and a sigh,
With an extra hope and an extra try,
He would not stop — now he neared the top —
And strong and proud he cried out loud,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!”
He was almost there, when — CRASH! SMASH! BASH!
He slid down and mashed into engine hash
On the rocks below… which goes to show
If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!
Shel Silverstein.
It’s important to try. Growth requires stumbling, falling, and getting back up again. To be successful, we need to be patient with ourselves, our blunders and our weaknesses.  We need to remember to counsel with the Lord and not to take counsel from our fears. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to be weak.

Consider a candle, even the brightest flames flicker. We never know how brightly another’s flame can burn or what darkness they are trying to overcome, and I love that we don’t need to know. All we need to do is do our best to shine as brightly as we can.

Even the brightest flame will flicker.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Little House on the Prairie vs Church

When I was 12 I faced a dilemma. For years I LOVED—read and reread— the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  And in my twelfth year the book series was going to become a television series! And here’s the problem—the television show conflicted with our Wednesday night church activity. I had to choose, Little House on the Prairie or church.
To be honest, my parents made that decision for me and I went to church. Looking back, it was a silly dilemma, but it was wrenching at the time. How could I know that for many LOOOONNNGGG years later I could watch my fill of Little House on the Prairie reruns? How could I know that in just three years at age 15 I would consider the TV series hokey and trite? How could a television show even compare to the experiences and relationship I shared with the young women at church?
A realization came to me yesterday while I was at church. (Yes, I still go, even though my mom, the driving force behind my choice between Little House and church, is gone.) Someday, maybe 40 years from now, will I look back at all my book-selling angst with same kind of head-shaking wonder as I now have for my Little House on the Prairie vs. church dilemma? Will I wonder why I watched my books’ rankings rise and fall so often and why I cared so very much? Will I remember the poor reviews and wonder why I let them hurt me?
This poem by William Martin is real life.

And this poem by e.e. cummings is real love and death. And in the end, I don’t think anything else really matters. We live, we love and we die. And if we happen to watch a TV show or sell a few books along the way—that’s nice—but it’s not why we live. We live to love and be loved. Period (or if you happen to e.e.—then no periods at all).
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain