Book Reviews, Opinion, Writing

Why give 4 stars to a book when the climax disappointed me?

I read Stephen King’s latest novel, Revival, this month. I didn’t look at reader reviews until after I finished the book. But I’d seen some quotes from professional reviewers who called it terrifying, scary, or horrifying. But then, King’s publisher wouldn’t choose to quote any reviewer who said otherwise, would they?


When I checked the reviews at Amazon and Goodreads, I saw the majority of them had rated the book with four or five stars, but a considerable number, especially on Goodreads, had given only one star. Many of the low-raters cited the “ending” as their reason for dissing the book. It was clear from the comments they were not talking about the actual end of the book, which is an epilogue, but the climax of the story, which I also found disappointing, yet I gave Revival four stars.

Why give 4 stars to a book when the climax disappointed me? Simple answer: the fault is not Mr. King’s. Though the climax failed to terrify me as illustrious reviews promised, I was captivated by 399 of the 403 pages in this book.  I even correctly anticipated Jacobs’ final “healing.” On those remaining 4 pages, Mr. King described what horrifies him and, obviously, many other readers. But his vision didn’t horrify everyone, and some of those not scared rated this book with 1 star.

I’m an author, and I know it’s impossible to write a book that pleases everyone. If I were to write a horror novel that ended with a peek behind that “hidden door,” I would describe a far different scene—what horrifies me. Some readers would shiver in terror with me; others would shake their heads or maybe laugh. King’s vision didn’t horrify me, but because of the solid writing, the skilled storytelling in 99% of the book, I rated it with four stars.

Have you read Revival? How did/would you rate it?


Opinion, Writing

Can a Scatterbrained Writer Get Organized with Scrivener?

In a recent post I mentioned Scrivener, which is a word-processing and project management tool. The Scrivener site calls it a “complete writing studio.” I tried the Windows version when it was in beta testing, but trying to learn how to use new software while in the middle of writing a novel slowed me down. And though I loved the organization part, I felt the word-processing part was lacking.

Guess what I’ve been doing this past week? Yep, I downloaded the current free trial version of Scrivener for Windows, and I’ve been setting up Projects for my two WIPs. I still love the Corkboard and Binder and all the other organizing bits, but in the current version I’m also happy with the word-processor function. And I hear Scrivener easily converts your work to digital files now too!

Click the photo to view in detail.

No more do I have to open ten Word documents and switch back and forth between them. In Scrivener I can still create as many files as I need for each Project, including character sketches, style sheets, editing notes, unfinished scenes or ones I haven’t decided where to fit in yet, and all those web links and bits of info culled during research. But the difference is it’s all in one place and easily accessed from one screen!

I’ve enjoyed adding photos of celebrity stand-ins to my character sheets and index cards, and now I can just click the Corkboard view whenever I need to get newly inspired. I’m also adding photos for the locations where my story takes place and any other photos that I’ve gathered during research.

Some quick and easy editing features are the ability to take a “snapshot” of a scene before you edit it. Those versions are listed on the right-hand side of the screen, accessed with one click, and can be viewed in split screen mode to review changes or copy and paste from, if you decide you like the original better. And if a scene needs to be moved, just drag it into proper order in the Binder.

Please click on my graphic above to view it larger. This is a view of the Project for my WIP with the working title Fish (this is incomplete and first draft state—so cut me some slack.) As you can see, I’ve divided my chapters into scenes to work on individually, but if I want to view the chapter as a whole, I only need click on the “Scrivenings” button at the top and voilà!

If I find I’m distracted by all the goodies on either side of the Editor, which is what Scrivener terms the larger middle section, I can switch to full screen mode to hide everything, but the “paper” I’m typing on—and by everything I mean: both sidebars, menus, status and taskbars. (In full screen mode, a pop-up taskbar appears when you move the pointer to the bottom of the screen.)

And I can change the colors or icons for key chapters or scenes—including the color of the Editor background, so if I get the urge to write a sweet first kiss scene in purple font on a pink background I can do that. One application of the color settings is to see at a glance the structure of your novel. For instance, in this WIP, I’m using two colors to denote which scenes are in which character’s viewpoint. I also use a third color for front matter pages and a fourth for back matter pages.

I could go on and on—there’s the multi-purpose split screen mode, templates (if you want them), compiling for print or export (yes, you can convert to Word documents) and much more, but this post is a whopper already. And besides, others can tell you about it better than a newbie can.

Users who love Scrivener are vocal about it. There are numerous videos, articles, and blog posts showing how to use various functions of the program. One such user is Lucinda Whitney who wrote a terrific article, complete with screen shots, titled “What I Love About Scrivener.” She also maintains a Scrivener Pinterest page with links to many other helpful articles.

I learn something new about Scrivener each day I use it, but I quickly learned all I need to know to get organized and start making better use of my writing time. By the way, there’s a Mac version with even more features than the current Windows version. So why not check out the free trial? At least watch the introductory video to see whether Scrivener might be useful for you.

So YES, to answer the question in the post title, I believe this scatterbrained writer can get organized with Scrivener. My trial period will run out in less than three weeks—it runs for 30 full days, no matter how many times you use it during those days—and this time I’ll be paying to register it. Finally, my brain feels uncluttered, which relaxes me and that’s always good for getting the words to flow.


Blog Stuff, Opinion, Real Life, Writing

Am I blogging?

When I first started this blog, almost five years ago, almost every writer I knew had one. Of course, at that time, almost every writer I knew was unpublished. We blogged our writing progress, our highs and lows in agent searching, our frustrations, insights, and dreams. We visited each other’s blogs and actually left comments—the Like button wasn’t here on WordPress and has never been on Blogger. We also had fun.

emptyh1I miss those days, but I’m as guilty as anyone for losing the blogging spirit and becoming too busy or inwardly focused to comment—or even read—as many blogs posts as I used to. Also, I think each of us blogging writers found our niche and gravitated to bloggers who wrote in the same genres we did. As we grew in our craft and became published writers, not just aspiring writers, of necessity, we got more serious about the business side of writing.

(I’ve been using the editorial WE. Feel free to opt out of any statement that doesn’t reflect your experience. From this point on, I’ll be more cautious and speak only for myself.)

My view of blogging turned serious. I tried to make sure nothing I said on my blog could reflect badly on my public image. I felt pressured to offer sage advice. I dared speak with authority on the writing craft. I tried to hide my doubts and disappointments, always projecting positivity in hope of creating good karma. (Failed on that one.)

The word blog is an abbreviation of web log. A blog was meant to be a journal, a daily peek into what’s on your mind. As evidenced by my infrequent blogging this year, it would seem that not much is on my mind. Actually, the opposite is true. So many things are on my mind that I’m overwhelmed into silence—mostly because I’m still in the mindset of the previous paragraph.

So, I have this blog. Although about 500 people are subscribed, I think about 10 actually read my posts—and on a good post maybe 5 leave a comment. Essentially, I’m talking to myself—like journaling. The words are still here as a subtitle, but before I became a published author, this blog was titled Out of My Mind. Though some might say it’s debatable, that title did not refer to my mental state. Rather, it referred to the origin of my writing, which is mainly fiction.

Now, I’ve decided to return to blogging out of my mind. This could get scary, but I think it’s necessary for me to avoid the alternate interpretation of my blog subtitle. Even if I’m only talking to myself, it’s better than this dark silence I’m stuck in now.


Books, Opinion, Publish, Writing

Truths About Self-Publishing

I’ve been honest on this blog, sometimes embarrassingly so, and yet I feel I’ve also deceived. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to share and what to keep to myself, but I’m going to be straight with you today because someone might benefit by hearing some truths I’ve learned from two years of self-publishing. Whichever side you’re on, please read to the end before you nock your arrows.

La Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth)
La Bocca della Verità
(The Mouth of Truth)

In short, I’ve learned that I am not a successful indie author. Let me clarify that. I’ve succeeded at writing two novels, and I succeeded at doing the work necessary to self-publish them, but I’ve failed at giving them a real chance of being read.

Self-publishing is a fantastic opportunity—for some writers. It might be a no-brainer if you write certain types of non-fiction. And it’s almost that good a choice for certain genre fiction writers. Self-publishing works well even for non-genre fiction writers—with the right qualifications.

But I write upscale women’s fiction and I do not have the right qualifications to self-publish that.  What do I lack?

  1. Money: This is a biggie! I have a fixed, very limited, income. Right now, I can’t even afford professional editing or cover design, so I definitely don’t have the funds for professional blog tours, ad space, reviews, or elaborate giveaways to increase my books’ exposure.
  2. Influence: I’m not a member of any organizations (social, religious, political, etc.) virtual or real. I don’t even work outside the home. My few thousand followers on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and the like amount to a tiny blip in the grand scheme of social media. I, and consequently my books, are invisible online and off. And visibility is everything.
  3. Confidence: I have the time, energy, and focus, but at this point, I just don’t have the necessary confidence to sell my writing—or myself. I need my work vetted by industry professionals. There, I said the forbidden word.

Did I know all this about myself before I published The Brevity of Roses?  Most of it, yes, I did. And yet I stepped in line behind the self-publishing pipers, the ones raking in the money, the ones who didn’t really talk about the qualifications I lacked.

They made self-publishing success sound like it was just hanging on the tree, ripe for picking. “Just write good books,” they implied, “and the readers will flock to them.” And that may be true for them, in part because their fan bases were already established from their traditionally published books, or a high-traffic blog, or international news coverage for some other career. It has not proven true for me.

So, what does all this mean for my future? I still plan to self-publish. I have a start on a novella, some short stories I’d like to compile, and maybe a novel that doesn’t fit under the WF umbrella. Those will be published by me. But my next novel needs to be one I can query to agents. I need a publisher who has the experience, influence, and money that I don’t have because if my book has the editing and financial backing of professionals, I’ll have the confidence to promote that book.

Every day I read how the stigma of self-publishing is fading. That may be true if your self-published books are on the NYTimes best-seller list—or even in the Top 100 Paid list on Amazon.  Mine aren’t.

Every day I read how authors are stupid to give part of their royalties to an agent and publisher. That may be true if your self-published books rack up 100 or more sales a day—or month. Mine don’t.

In my confusing post last week I talked about having a dream to keep me going. Well, my dream is to see my next novel basking in a ray of limelight. And I just don’t see that happening if I publish it myself.

Your mileage probably varies. This is about me, not you. Maybe you have all three qualifications I lack and a solid plan for your self-publishing future that will get you to the top. Yay! I’ll support you in every way I can. Or maybe you are perfectly satisfied with the scope of the current readership of your self-published books. Yay! I’ll raise a toast to your reaching a personal goal.

I’m thankful for every person who’s read The Brevity of Roses and An Illusion of Trust. And I’m thrilled the majority of them enjoyed the read. But I can’t help wondering how many other readers would enjoy those books just as much—if they knew they existed!

Is my dissatisfaction really just about money? Considering point #1, I can’t say I’d be unhappy with some of that, but no. It’s more about needing the satisfaction of knowing that something I created, something I love, is appreciated by others—many others. It’s about wanting to know to what level professional guidance could lift my writing. And it’s about needing respect from writing professionals—and also from myself.

Every day, I spend several hours working on some aspect of writing. It’s my full-time job. I’m devoting too much of my life to this effort to not give the result a real chance to succeed. I have to try. I have a dream.


Books, Family, Opinion, Polls, Reader, Writing

Print books are dead!

“Print books are dead, Mom,” said my son in a recent phone conversation. Lest you think this mother raised a fool, Daniel is Dr. Lewis, with a PhD in English, and teaches that at college level. He loves books. He begged me to teach him to read at the age of three.

Daniel and his wife, Sarah, in Ireland.

But he’s also a member of the first generation to be raised with video games, which led to personal computers, CDs, DVDs, cell phones, DVRs, and eReaders . He’s fully ensconced in the digital age. As my son says, “Digital is faster, easier, and cheaper.” I can’t argue with that. I have a Kindle and I read a lot of books on it.

That’s not to say I don’t still love the feel of a “real” book in my hands. And I confess that print books still seem more substantial to me. More important. As I said in a previous post, once again I’m dependent on public library borrows for most of my books, and though they have access to some eBooks through Overdrive, most of the books I’m looking for are not among them.

So print books are still very much a part of my life. But are they a part of yours? Will print books be less important to the current generation of children and mere old-fashioned curiosities to the next? What form do you favor now?

I’ve taken a poll on this topic twice before, so let’s update again. If you’re reading this through email or a blog reader and don’t see the poll, PLEASE click through to vote.