Thursday, September 29, 2011

How Do You Review?

Do you review books, articles, curriculum, movies, or websites? How about art, restaurants, stores, sports or other events?

What is your review criteria? Do you approach a review the same way no matter what your opinion is? Are you game to review anything, or do you tread carefully, thinking you might not like it?

I review for publishers, fellow writers, the Coffeehouse for Writers blog and the Amazon Vine program. Most of you have read my reviews here, so are familiar with my style.

A writer/friend and I were discussing reviews recently, and it got me thinking about my review methods and policy.

I do:

  • Try to be objective and lay aside preconceived notions. It can be hard, but I figure it builds character. :)
  • Look for the positive, particularly if I don't like it at all - any smidgen of something that can be highlighted as a good thing. 
  • Wrap the negative with positive when possible, and place myself in the author's shoes. I aim for constructive rather than scorching input.
  • Write the kind of reviews I like, those with a brief overview of content with enough hints to whet the appetite. I think a review should have take away value.
  • Offer reasonable warnings when necessary. For example, I reviewed a great Young Adult/Adult fiction series set during the Civil War. Because of the realistic content, I cautioned parents that they might want to preview the books before reading aloud to the whole family. It was fine for bigger kids, but a tad strong for little ears
    • Read every book through the eyes of a writer. I can't help it! But it does sharpen my observational skills and make my writing better.

    I don't review everything offered because:

    • I might not care for the genre or topic. Although I do try and branch out when I can.
    • Time limits. I only have 24 hours in the day, and laundry must get done sometimes...
    • If I know it's something I can't embrace. I'd rather decline than hurt someone's feelings.

    So, that's my two cents. Tell us, how do you review?

    Have a great weekend!


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    Monday, September 26, 2011

    It's Monday, Are You Awake?

    So are you? Awake, that is? Not sure I am just yet...

    Have had a busy weekend (you too, right?) and cannot seem to muster any creative thoughts for this post. Had a few gems I've been meaning to share, so figured there's no time like the present. Here goes:

    Talk about a smart idea, author Alex Cavanaugh recently started the The Insecure Writer's Support Group. The purpose is to "share and encourage" and "express doubts  and concerns without appearing foolish or weak." So who couldn't use a little support along those lines, right? Click here for more details.

    Think I need to add another book to my TBR pile -  Hope Clark's review of Living Write by Kelly L. Stone is to blame, but in a good way of course. Stone's book deals with a writer's self image and offers tips on how to improve this often neglected facet of the writer's life.
    "Ditch the Pitch" - Jennifer Brown Banks of Pen and Prosper offers savvy advice for making the most of our time in this post. Whether you write fiction or non fiction, you'll probably find something to help streamline the writing process. And you know what that means, right? More time to go out and buy chocolate.

    So what's on the writing schedule this week?

    Happy writing,

    Photo credit: Stock Exchange

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    So What?

    “The guiding question in research is ‘So what?’ 
    Answer that question in every sentence and you will become a great scholar; 
    answer it once a page in a ten page paper and you’ll write a good one.” 

    Donald N. McCloskey

    Research is on my mind. Why?

    Reason number one: I'm currently teaching an online class for teens on how to write a research paper. They are in the thick of it, researching things like political corruption and women's 18th century fashions. I learn a lot from reading their papers.

    Reason number two: The book that Susan J. Reinhardt and I are writing is historical fiction. I enjoy research. Well, usually. Sprinkling it accurately into fiction can be tricky. Chocolate helps. Just in case you wanted to know.

    Reason number three: I am working on lessons for a new class at the Coffeehouse for Writers. Research is a key ingredient to a good set of lessons. But you knew that already.

    Reason number four: Upcoming features at Write Now include interviews with the fabulously talented historical fiction authors Jody Hedlund and Sarah Sundin. They will be sharing a bit about their research. Oh, and they will be giving away a copy of their latest books! Stay tuned for details. 

    Bottom line - research is an adventure. You never know what interesting things you'll find, you know? 

    What's the most unusual thing you've ever come across in your research? What have you been researching lately?

    Have a great weekend,

    Image credit: Stock Exchange

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Review - Out of Control

    Out of Control

    by Mary Connealy

    Bethany House

    Rafe Kincaid thinks he is in control. And he is, mostly. Then he meets Julia Gilliland. They are introduced when he rescues the fiery redhead from the dark recesses of a cave near his ranch.

    Sparks fly immediately, and Julia insists that Rafe take her back into the cave to investigate fossils she spotted. But the cave holds memories from Rafe’s tormented past, so he hesitates to make any promises to take her back in.

    Their connection tangles further when Rafe returns Julia to her home. Wendell, Julia’s oft absent father is ailing, and Audra, Julia’s stepmother, is due to have her baby any minute. To complicate things even more, Rafe’s brother Ethan appears after a long absence.

    A confirmed bachelor, Rafe isn’t interested in making room on the ranch for a woman. Things run just fine the way they are, thank you very much. Julia can relate somewhat; with her father gone most of the time, she is content doing things by herself. When Wendell marries Audra, a woman young enough to be Julia’s sister, everything changes. The women forge an unlikely friendship, however, and actually prefer it when Wendell disappears.

    As if all of this isn’t enough of a puzzle, Rafe and Ethan are tracking the man they think nearly killed Julia in the cave. Add the growing interest between Rafe and Julia and you have all the makings of a good old western romantic mystery.

    I had a little trouble getting into this book at first, as it had more than two points of view. For some reason, I am better with only one or two. I guess it just takes me a while to keep everything straight. Once things got going though, I was drawn in, wondering what was going to happen next. I won’t give anything away, but if you like a mystery with strong characters, you just might like this one.

    What's on your reading list these days?
    Happy reading and writing,

    I received this book from Bethany House for review purposes. No compensation was received. 

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Thursday's This & That

    Need practical advice to help make money? Carol Tice points us in the right direction in this post, Top Ten Articles for Writers - August 2011.

    Doe Branch Ink offers writer's retreats and workshops in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Check out their fall 2011 offerings here.

    The Tenth Annual Funds for Writers' Essay Contest offers a first prize of $400. Not too shabby, huh? Deadline to enter is October 31, 2011. Click here for details.

    Blogging friend Maria Morgan is part of a group of writers who have launched a new Facebook page called Living by Grace. They're calling it a "modern day meeting at the well kind of experience to foster relationship building while encouraging a closer walk with the Savior." Features include discussions and daily devotionals.

    Did you know that Linda Formichelli of The Renegade Writer is also a Personal Fitness Trainer? She is, and she's offering a free one hour personal training session. There is no obligation; Linda just wants honest feedback about the session. Space is limited, so contact her asap. Click here for more details.

    Got any new tidbits to share?

    Have a wonderful weekend!


    Photo credit: Stock Exchange

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Grammar Blues

    I'm going to tell you something, but you have to promise to keep it a secret, okay?

    I was reviewing an article when I spotted the word "your". There it was, just sitting there, minding its own business. No big deal, right? I use the word all the time.

    However, it should have been "you're". I mentally slapped myself. I rarely make this kind of mistake, even in a draft. As an online writing instructor, I am always on the lookout for slip ups. I have to. It comes with the territory, you know? 

    I was more aggravated than I should have been (hadn't had chocolate yet that day). This particular error is one of my pet peeves, so I was surprised my typing fingers and thinking brain hadn't connected. Anyway, I've moved on and have attributed the incident to the lack of chocolate.

    It reminded me of the portion of my lessons where I talk about homonyms and homophones. Do you know what they are? You might not recognize the terms; I am sure, however, that you are acquainted with the the definitions.

    Here's a hint. Take clues from the Greek and Latin roots. 

    phone means sound. And so…

    Homophones are words that sound alike but have a different meaning and spelling.       

    to, too, and two, their, there, and they’re, your and you’re  

    The prefix homo means same, and the suffix nym means word or name. So it makes sense that…

    Homonyms are words that are spelled the same and sound alike but have different meanings, like this:                                                                   

    The cart is full.                       
    We will cart the boxes into the house.
    We swam in the pool.              
    They played a game of pool at the party.

    See? I knew you knew what they were!

    In honor of my chocolate deficient grammar mishap, thought I would share a few helpful links:

    What grammar gaffe gets your goat?

    Happy writing,

    Photo credit: Stock Exchange