Book Review 101

According to Jane Friedman the most essential first step for authors is book reviews, not sales.  A good review generates symbolic capital, which helps sell books.  New and self-published authors have no symbolic capital, meaning they are an unknown in the book market.  The key to a successful book launch is acquiring reviews before investing in public promotions.

Many self-published authors and authors published by small presses don’t think about reviews until it’s too late.  The time to start thinking about reviews is about one year prior to publication.  This is because a list of potential reviews must be created before proofs are ordered.  The proofs are sent to selected reviewers as advance reader copies and it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months before the publisher has a review in hand and is ready to proceed with publication.

But where do these reviews come from?  Many first-time authors turn to paid review sites like YourNewBooks.com, Reading Deals, and Enas Review.  While some paid review sites, like Kirkus, are accepted and trusted sources by many in the industry, most are not worth the trouble (or the money).  The draw for many of these sites is that if the review is negative the author can chose not to have it published.  However, American Heart initially received a glowing review and was awarded a Kirkus star, only to have the star removed–Kirkus forced the reviewer to change their review post-publication.  So, if you are going to end up with a publicly available negative review anyway, there are plenty of places to acquire those for free.  Below are the five areas to tap pre-publication to get reviews. Continue reading


Book Review: The Winter King

The Winter King, a novel by Christine Cohen
Available from Amazon for $16.99 (Hardcover)

A Delightful Winter Read

I picked up an autographed copy of this book at an author signing event at BookPeople of Moscow.  It can be a little frightening to try a new author, but Christian Cohen did not disappoint.  Being a person who also dislikes having other people’s winter holidays thrust upon me, I found the main character’s resistance to winter festivities not only relatable, but a delightfully refreshing character trait.

Being an impoverished fifteen-year-old kitchen maid is tough.  Survival is even more difficult when the entire village believes your family has been cursed.  Yet, this is Cora Nikolson’s lot in life.  And she knows exactly where the blame lays, with the Winter King.  The God cursed her family, took her father’s life, and brought them to the brink of starvation.  Cora has no love for God, King, or country.  She despises religion and the Aldormany who carry out the Winter King’s cruel edicts.

After her mother loses her position as head cook, Cora takes on additional work as a housemaid, hoping the extra wages will keep her family from starving.  While dusting shelves in the library, she overhears a conversation between the Master House Steward and the High Aldorman.  They are discussing a book containing secrets regarding the Winter King.  Despite repeated attempts, they have been unable to destroy the book and it is imperative that no one in the village learns about its existence. Continue reading


Camp Grizzly History

My article, “History of the Camp Grizzly Area, 1900 to 1942” appears in the December 2019 edition of the Latah Legacy.

Did you know that before Camp Grizzly was a Boy Scout camp it was used by the Camp Fire Girls? 

And before that it was the site of a mining camp? 

And, despite the rumors you may have heard, it was not a logging camp?  Even though the property was owned by Potlatch Lumber Company for many years, managers William Deary and Allison Laird refused to log the property owing to its natural beauty.

Hard copies of this issue can be purchased for $5 from the Latah County Historical Society, in Moscow, Idaho.  Online versions of both of Camp Grizzly articles are accessible below: Continue reading



Laughter and Libations, 2019

Of all my favorite holidays, Christmas isn’t.  All the other December holidays come and go peacefully.  Unfortunately, there is something about Christmas that just brings out the worst in Christians.  The simple action of wishing someone “Happy holidays” has them frothing at the mouth, insisting everyone has declared war on Christmas.

This simply isn’t true.  No one has declared war on Christmas.  Christmas has declared war everyone else.

A short list of December holidays includes: Continue reading


Book Review: A Sharp Solitude

A Sharp Solitude, a novel of suspense by Christine Carbo
Available from Amazon for $12.99

Best Book I’ve Read All Year!

I picked up this book at random while perusing the library shelves and gave it little thought as I tossed the audio book into the front seat of my car.  It turned out to be the best book I’ve read all year.

In the Flathead region of Montana, a journalist has been murdered and FBI Agent Ali Paige is determined to find the killer. Unfortunately, the detectives with the County Sheriff’s Office have fingered Reeve Landon, the father of her child, as a person of interest, resulting in a conflict of interests that keeps her off the case. As the noose tightens, Ali must decide if she is willing to betray her partner’s trust in order to save the father of her child.  To avoid the law, Reeve escapes into the wilderness where he ultimately meets with disaster and needs to be rescued of the very agencies he’s been trying to aviod.  Continue reading


10 Tips for Beginning Writers

In every group of friends there is that one person who is always trying something new.  There was the new diet that failed, the new hobby that only lasted two weeks, and the new relationship that crashed and burned.  The reason all of these failed was because they were unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to make them work.  It’s no different for people who want to be writers.

It’s not uncommon to hear aspiring writers say, “I long to become a writer and land a traditional publishing contract, but I have never written a word and have no idea what to write about.  I just keep waiting for inspiration.  And, given all that’s going on right now, I just don’t have time to sit down and write.  Besides, I couldn’t bear to show my work to anyone.”

If this is you, then I cannot help you become a writer.  Like the dieter and hobbyist above, you already have excuses just waiting to be employed.  To quote Dan Poynter, “If you are waiting for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”

So, how does one actually become a writer?  The first step is to engage in less whining and more writing.  Abandon your high-faulting literary romanticism and vocal criticisms of the “lack of literary quality” in today’s published works.  No matter what you think of J.K. Rolling’s or Stephen King’s writing, the simple truth is they are making millions and you are not.  And understand that you will not be an overnight success.  As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller, it takes 10,000 hours, or approximately 10 years, of deliberate practice to become an expert in your field, so be prepared to put in a lot time at the keyboard.

Now that we’ve got the excuses out of the way, here’s how to start writing: Continue reading


National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  Founded in 1999 with just 21 participants, the movement has grown to including nearly a million writers annually.

Each November, participants are encouraged to write an entire novel in just 30 days.  The goal is to complete a very rough first draft, which will be edited throughout the following year.  Participants start by registering on the NaNoWriMo website where they will be connected to a local Municipal Liaison (ML) who will inform them the dates and times of write-ins.  The write-in is simply times when groups of local writers agree to meet for the purpose of diligently writing their novels. Continue reading


Samhain 2019

Halloween is the only time of year witches are in vogue.  Suddenly everyone is interested in black magic, spell craft, hexing their neighbor, and a host of other things that bear little resemblance to actual Paganism.  Despite the annual autumnal uptick in interest in all things occult, Halloween isn’t a Pagan holiday.  That doesn’t mean we Pagans won’t dress up in costumes and join our Christian brethren in unholy revelry, general debauchery, and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, but we do have our own holiday to celebrate, Samhain.

Samhain translates as sam, “summer,” and fuin “end.”   With fluttering leaves in shades of copper, amber, and crimson, there can be no doubt that summer is truly at an end.  To Celtic peoples the Feast of Samhain is a fire festival that marks the first day of winter and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Continue reading


Tips for Successful Book Signings

Reality Check: Unless you are on the New York Times Best Seller list, don’t expect book signings to bring in a ton of money.  So, if not for the money, why should the average Joe participate in a book signing?  Exposure.

Books don’t sell themselves.  If you are self-published, that also means self-promoted.  Small-time and self-published authors will likely sell less than 10 books at a book signing.  Many of the people who attend the event won’t even buy a book, they are curiosity-seekers, tire-kickers, and sometimes, just looking for a bathroom.  However, all the marketing and promotion that occurs prior to the event will help you reach new readers who may buy the book, even if they don’t come to the signing.

After hosting several book signings, I’ve created a list of tips and tricks for eager authors to help make their next book signing a success. Continue reading