Monday, November 29, 2010

Fake Book Reviews

Most authors have probably now read the article related to fake book reviews on Amazon. If not, the link is:
As written you would assume this is something new, but those in the book industry have seen this going on for years. And it isn't the only problem facing authors and readers.

There's also fake promotion. I see this on forums as well where restrictions apply to self-promotion. Authors gang up to "you promote me, I'll promote you". I don't truly have a problem with that if the author doing the promotion has actually read the book and really likes it, but a trade off on promotion where the book hasn't been read looks bad on both authors. Especially if readers of your work buy that book based on your promotion and hate it, find it full of typos, formatting errors and basically a book just not yet ready for publication. What does that make the readers think of you?

I, as an author, and as a reader despise fake book reviews and fake promotion. Amazon's policy on reviews actually prohibits authors from reviewing each other's work, and I can live with that. If I've read a really good book and I want to review it then I do that on my blog site. I also try to provide an author interview at the same time, giving my readers a glimpse of the author as well as their work. And I never review or plug a book I haven't read myself, nor do I do 1 or 2 star reviews. Truthfully, if a book deserves 1 star or even 2 stars--I can assure you I didn't finish reading it. And if I didn't finish reading it, then I have no right to offer a review.

Fake tags are another problem occurring in the book industry. Readers searching for a Stephen King book may pull up several others also tagged as Stephen King. Believing the book is similar to Mr. King's work they may even buy the book, only to be extremely disappointed. Authors and readers add tags to books to help readers find a particular type of book. My tags for my book were simple: Mystery, murder mystery, kindle, kindle author, psychological suspense, thriller, 99 cents - etcetera. Other tags were added by other people that have absolutely NOTHING to do with my book. Are they bad tags, no, they're not bad tags, they just don't apply to my book and I HAVE NO WAY TO REMOVE THEM. Which is something readers really need to know--Authors on Amazon cannot remove reviews or tags placed on their books by anyone visiting their book site. We can email customer service and ask that it be removed, but we have no control over whether Amazon will remove it.

Tags, book reviews and promotional sites were put in place to help authors and readers find the types of books they would enjoy reading. The abuse and misuse of these areas creates a black mark on the industry, especially when publishers and/or authors become part of the abuse.

So what can we do to stop this:
1) Check reviewers and/or reviews. If you click on the reviewer it will take you to their profile showing how many reviews they've done and on what type of books. I personally don't trust a reviewer if they have only reviewed one book ever, or if their review is out of their genre. Except friends and family, which we naturally assume are somewhat prejudiced, but still may be true. Example: If a fiction writer suddenly reviews a non-fiction book, and yet has never reviewed a non-fiction book before--their review, at least to me, is highly suspicious. Technical writers reviewing ONE fiction book is also highly suspicious to me. Reviewers, like authors, have specific genres they read. When a reviewer steps outside of their genre to give a glowing review or bad review, that to me is suspicious.

Are reviews important? Yes, they are. Or at least they were. With the information leaking about "paid" reviews and "fake reviews" they are losing their credibility, and thus, losing their importance to authors and readers looking for a good book.

Are tags important? Yes, they are to help the reader find a specific type of book. But without some control by the author, and without honesty by the authors, searches for a particular genre or types of books are losing their credibility, and thus, losing their benefit to readers.

Now that publishing has been literally made available to anyone with computer savvy that can format an acceptable document for Amazon and Smash Words, or other upload sites, the competition in the book market has become vicious. More previously traditionally published authors are crossing the line and going Indie. I myself crossed that line for personal reasons. Still, authors and publishers, traditional and Indie have a responsibility to their readers to put out a good product, and to promote it fairly and honestly. A good book will stand the test of time. And honest promotion will build an author's readership one book sale at a time. Whereas, poorly formatted, horribly edited work will make the "word of mouth" rounds.

My final words--if you're reader and you've truly enjoyed a book do your best to give an honest review on any site you feel comfortable with. Your personal blog site is a good site. If you read a review that you don't believe is appropriate there is a "vote down" button, or disagree button. Of course, those are misused also. Unfortunately. If you see a tag that you believe is not appropriate (my own book has a tag of "animal abuse" - excuse me??) then you can also vote it down and that keeps the book from showing up on those searches. If you come across a review that you believe is a "fake review" report it to Amazon or the review site so that they can investigate. Hopefully they will, and if they find it was posted against their posting rules, once again, hopefully they will remove it and ban that particular account from reviewing.

If authors and readers work together we can bring creditability back to reviews, tags and promotions. Working together we can restore public trust in written reviews and tag searches.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Writing - Words as Visual Cues

Writing – Visual Cues

Every author loves words. And I love words as visual cues. It really takes very little to get my imagination provoked into opening lines and opening paragraphs. Your opening line may be the most important sentence you’ll write, and your opening paragraph has the tough job of pulling your reader into the story. They may read on to finish the first page, or even the first chapter, but only if they find those first lines and first paragraphs worthy of their time.

Today’s word for me was swirling. The dictionary describes this as: 1. To move with a twisting or whirling motion; eddy. Or 2. To be dizzy or disoriented.

For me it brings up the image of descending into darkness. But, of course, I write murder mysteries. So, swirling is the final mental descent into the dark regions of my mind.

He was quick. Veronica wanted to scream, lash out, but the cloth was pressed firmly over her mouth and nose. The smell was vile, and her mind was swirling with images and words, senseless trivia driving her mad as her limbs weakened, and the darkness pulled her closer.

Or perhaps a first kiss. The swirling sensation as passion wraps itself in and around you. (Sorry, I don’t really write romance); and your mind closes off everything except this moment when his lips close over yours for the first time.

Swirling is a beautiful word, and a wonderful visual cue to open the doors to imagination. Water swirls, as do emotions. The smoke from fires slowly rises, swirling toward the heavens.

I don’t truly believe in writer’s block. Perhaps writer’s frustration in not being able to convey with words the mental images and emotions you feel towards the scene you’re writing. Take a break. Chose a word and allow the visual cue to guide you wherever you need to go.

Happy Writing!

Take a chilling glimpse into the mind of evil. Justice comes with a price.

The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Holiday Season - When Things Change - and Turkey Recipe With a Bang (humor)

When Things Change

I remember the first year of my divorce and the holiday season. Everything had changed. Friends were gone, or at least felt as if they were gone. Family circumstances had changed. I felt alone in the world. The boys were young, and although they tried hard not to show it, I knew they were hurting too. The first holiday season after life changes is always the worst. But something made that a little better for me. On Christmas Day I received a call from my boss. He wanted me to know that he and his family were thinking of me and the boys. He talked to me about life changes, and how in time this too would pass. That call, that simple reaching out by someone who understood how lonely the holidays can seem when you’ve lost someone through divorce or death, or simply gone through life altering changes from the loss of a job changed my whole perspective on the holiday season.

Each year I try to reach out to someone who may have lost a loved one, gone through a divorce or lost their job. To let them know that I’m thinking about them. And that yes, life changes, but love is still around you. People who care are still around you. If you’re experiencing the loss of a loved one this year, or any type of loss, or if you know someone who is experiencing a loss, reach out, let others know how you feel and that you understand.

May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed with love, light and laughter.

Received this in my morning email from a neighbor down the street. Made me laugh, so thought I would share it.

I thought this sounded good! Here is a turkey recipe that also includes use of popcorn as a stuffing ingredient - imagine that. When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when the turkey is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out.
Give this a try.

1- 15 lb turkey
1 - cup melted butter
1 - cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is good)
1 - cup unpopped popcorn (Orville Redenbacher's low fat is best)
Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush turkey well with melted butter, salt and pepper. Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan making sure the neck end is toward the front of the oven, not the back. After about 4 hours, listen for the popping sounds. When the turkey's ass blows the oven door open and the bird flies across the's done.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Writing - Eyes

If you’ve followed any of my previous blogs on writing, body movement and show don’t tell, you know by now that body language can be an excellent tool for conveying the internal emotions of your characters. Today I want to talk about eyes. Eyes are, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest tools an author has to convey emotion.

Every movement of the eyes says something about the emotions of the character. Sending a signal to your reader of what your character is feeling. Remember the old cowboy movies. In every gunfight they squared off and watched each other’s eyes. Why? Because the eyes would show an involuntary movement just seconds prior to the hands moving toward the guns.

The muscles of the irises are controlled by the nervous system. The pupils of the eyes dilate in response to emotional stimuli, especially excitement and sexual arousal. Keep that in mind if you’re admiring someone—they just may know what you’re thinking by the size of your pupils.

Eyes are more than just blue, green, grey, etcetera. Eyes speak in ways that our voices can’t. And unlike the spoken word which is often controlled by the speaker, eyes speak the truth.

And it isn’t always necessary to actually use a color. “Her eyes were the color of a deep pool of shimmering water.” Although the color is not used, the reader can use their imagination here. A deep pool of shimmering water could be green or blue bordering on black.

Eyes can set up a scene, but you have to extremely careful that the foundation is properly laid out. For instance, women’s eyes will get misty when they’re happy, sad, anxious or scared.

Accusing eyes: Your character has walked into a scene where you’re standing over the body, holding a bloody knife. You can see the accusation in his/her eyes. This perhaps might work better in a romantic setting where you walk in to find your lover embracing another man/woman.

Hungry eyes: A small waif on the street, standing outside a restaurant gazing longingly at the food.

Watchful eyes: Her eyes were watchful, searching his face for signs of betrayal.

The sultry look. A come hither look that says I’m ready, are you?

Lashes lowered over misty eyes. How could he have done this to her?

Downcast eyes. A possible signal of guilt, shame or sadness.

Fear normally causes the eyes to widen, but desire also causes the eyes to widen and the pupils to dilate. Angry eyes widen and are usually fixated on the object of their anger.

Beady squinted eyes: Could be a sign of interest as the character squints at something of interest. Normally a character with beady squinting eyes is distrusted.

Combine your character’s eye color/movement with eyebrow, mouth and nostril movements and you have an emotional picture painted with words. The color of eyes also changes with emotion. Darkening during angry or passionate moments and becoming lighter during happy or excited moments.

Remember – sometimes less is actually more. Too much description will bog down the reader and interrupt the flow of your story. Carefully placed tidbits create a mood the reader can not only see and feel, but empathize with.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Writing - Character Development - Body Language and Show Don't Tell - Part Three

One of the things I love about writing these blogs is that I learn as much as I share. My approach is rather simple at times, but developing real life characters is as simple as watching those around you or a good TV show or movie. Profiling – the physical looks of your character, as well as their little ticks and quirks, and then adding the internal mental/emotional baggage to their persona.

Kentucky has a comedian that has always used real life episodes for his comedy. He can truly entertain you for hours as real life is often funnier than fiction. Of course, if we’re lucky few of us know serial killers or the “bad” guys/gals we write about. Or perhaps we do, and once again if we’re lucky we don’t become a part of their agenda.

I was watching Criminal Minds last night. It was an old show, and one I’ve seen before. But truthfully I’ve never really seen the killer in the light I saw him last night. The show opens with him in his house and his actions clearly show you in the first few minutes that he’s obsessive compulsive. Perhaps someone unfamiliar with obsessive compulsive order at first glance in the apartment would merely sum him up as a neat freak. But closer examination of his movements, the three turns of the door handle before opening it, the measured number of brushes with the tooth brush, the fanatical placing of items exactly as they were before he picked them up all point to something more than just neatness.

As I’ve been blogging on facial expressions I watched his this time. He has a look of innocence, and possibly a little “book wormish”. Not unattractive, but what some of us older people would have labeled “geekish” in our day. Even though I’d seen this show before I at first saw him as the victim (which if I remember correctly, he was a victim as a child, so perhaps that image wasn’t totally off). He leaves the apartment walking down the street and an older woman drops something as she’s getting into her car. He picks it up and gives it to her. A nice, quiet, helpful young man. And so polite. As I stated, he has a look of innocence, and also a look of skittishness. Not someone you would expect as confrontational.

He approaches a house for sale where he’s greeted by the realtor. This throws me in his character just a little, for this action requires a certain boldness. It’s broad daylight, and anyone could walk into this house at any time. He allows her to see the knife for just a moment before he moves in close, shoving the knife underneath her heart. Here his facial expression is truly a work of art. He closes his eyes, his head tilts back just a fraction, and a look of total satisfaction crosses his face. Perhaps sexual satisfaction, but the one thing you know for sure is something about shoving the knife into this woman relieved some inner need. An inner need so strong it was impossible for him to overcome it.

The woman stumbles away and he asks her in a voice that has just the right amount of innocence and curiosity – “Where are you going?”

He follows her as she stumbles into the living room and sits down on the couch. He isn’t too close, not threatening nor helping. He leans over her and looks into her eyes watching her die. Here once again his face is a painting of curiosity, as if he has no understanding of what he’s done, or the consequences of his actions.

My first thoughts—wow, a perfect killer and one no one would see coming. And even though you fear the character you also have just a little sympathy for him because you realize immediately this isn’t who he wants to be—it simply is what life has made him.

Profiling – your characters must fit your story in age, physical looks and internal emotional/mental baggage and/or needs. Work with them by watching others who have similar “needs”. Start with people you know describing them in ways that would probably surprise them, as well as may surprise you as you look underneath the physical persona. Keep a note pad by your side as you’re watching your favorite movie and profile the characters. Play with it and have fun. The next time you sit down to write I believe you’ll find your characters taking on new life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Breathe into me,
The breath of life,
Once again, my love

For without you,
My soul has withered,
In the darkness,
Of my loneliness.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Writing - Character Development - Body Language and Show Don't Tell - Part Two

Having written yesterday's blog related to "anger" and using body language to show don't tell, I wanted to expound just a little more on facial expressions. Facial expressions, especially the eyes, create the most obvious and immediate cues to the formation of impressions related to that person's emotional feelings and/or mental thoughts.

And as stated earlier you have to give your readers some reason to care enough about your character to want to follow them all the way to the end of the book. Of course you need a good story as well as a great character. It isn't all about looks. Take a moment for introspection. Haven't you met a person that although physically attractive there was something about them that put you off? Something you just couldn't bring yourself to like? Perhaps it was their eyes, or a fake smile. Something about their general aura that made you want to put distance between yourself and them. And no matter how much you tried to like that person you just couldn't. You really just didn't care. In writing this isn't always a bad thing. If you create a character that readers dislike enough they may follow the story just in hopes this particular person gets what's coming to them.

On the opposite of that, haven't you met someone at some time that although perhaps not physically attractive you immediately felt drawn to them. Someone that you wanted to get closer to, get to know better?

It takes the whole package to create a believable, likeable or dislikeable character. I don't want to read a story about a handsome hulk with a wonderful physique. He has to have redeeming qualities also. Or vice versa, a beautiful woman who has no personality isn't going to interest me.

In the male category I often think of Jason Statham. He isn't the most handsome man I've seen in the movies, but he immediately drew me in. And it was his face that drew me in. That tinge of loneliness in his eyes. The tightened jaw that has a certain quality of gentleness to it. The desire to see him happy. Make him smile. I loved the first Transporter movie, although the others weren't that great in my opinion. What made me follow those movies was Jason Statham.

So what can faces tells us? We've already discussed anger, so let's discuss some other emotions.


Cold sweat; pale face; dry mouth; refusing to meet the other person's eyes; damp eyes and trembling lips. Voice tremors, rapid pulse and/or heartbeat; tension in muscles; holding breath or ragged breaths.


General drooping of the body, trembling lips, tears, eyelids droop and corners of lips generally pull down.


Raised eyebrows, widening of eyes, open mouth, the upper eyelids and brows rise and the jaw drops open.


The corners of the mouth life in a smile, eyelids tighten and the cheeks rise. A genuine smile goes all the way to the eyes causing a certain lighting up of the eyes or twinkle in the eyes.

As you can easily see some facial expressions can be attributed to more than one emotion, and that's why it's important to designate your character's reactions in ways that your reader knows your character as well as you do. For example trembling lips can be attributed to both fear and sadness.

Some great descriptive sentences that at least for me, give you much more than just words.

Dean Koontz in One Door Away From Heaven: Her aunt, from whom fate had stolen everything except a reliable sense of humor . . .

This is Micky thinking as she sunbathes. What we get from this is a general internal description of her aunt. A person that although life has been cruel enough to leave poor still has the ability to laugh at her own problems. We get an internal look at the aunt, and at least for me she was someone I wanted to meet. Someone I wanted to know more about. There's no physical description and yet in my mind I could see her as I imagined her to be. And I could relate her to my own aunt or grandmother.

She wore her beauty with humility, but more impressively she kept her pedigree in her purse and never flashed it. . . .

A description by Noah of the Congressman's wife in Chapter 6. With a very few words, Mr. Koontz, has given us a beautiful woman whom we know to be wealthy, and of some importance, and most likely born into that importance. However, we can forgive her all of that as it apparently means nothing to her. We're ready to give her a chance to see if we can like her.

Providing for Laura was the reason that he worked, the reason that he lived in a low-rent apartment, drove a rustbucket, never traveled, and bought his clothes at warehouse-clubs. Providing for Laura was, in fact, the reason that he lived at all.

Noah again on page 129. This passage truly gives you insight into Noah's character, his ability to love someone more than himself, and sacrifice his own life to provide a life for them. It also hints at perhaps something we don't quite know yet - why does he feel so guilty, and what happened to Laura. All answers that we can only get by continuing to read.

You may wonder why I chose Dean Koontz for the example. Well, the answer to that is quite simple--I find him the master of using words in ways that describe far more than just scenery and physical attributes. Even if you're not a Koontz fan, I would urge every writer to read his work at some point. You never want to plagiarize another writer's work, but you can learn. Learn to use to words not just as flat descriptions, but in ways to bring your characters to life. Make them real people with real emotional feelings. Turn them into someone your readers want to follow wherever they go and whatever they do.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writing - Character Development - Body Language and Show Don't Tell - Part One

Readers expect a great deal more than just words on a page. They want to become a part of the story. Be able to not only see the characters and the scenery, but also feel the love, hate, joy and emotional tension of every scene. Every character has a specific physical look, but they also have internal mechanisms that affect their physical appearance. For Part 1 we're going to take a look at Anger and the physical attributes that a character might express that will clue in the reader to the emotional status of the character. In other words, we're going to show the body language related to anger.

The word Anger is often used to describe a variety of emotions - resentment, wrath, rage, fury, passion, indignation, displeasure, vexation. Most of these are associated with a strong feeling of extreme displeasure accompanied by a desire to punish the object of your displeasure. Anger can be passive or aggressive. Today I'm going to focus on facial expression of anger.

Facial Expressions of Anger:

The face is a perfect indicator of human moods and emotions. And a perfect writing tool to emphasize the emotional turmoil or mood of your characters. Let's break it down.

Anger signs:

Eyebrows - Lowered eyebrows, pulled together to form wrinkles in the skin of the forehead

Eyelids - lower and upper eyelids tighten as brows knit together. Intense anger may cause the upper eyelids to raise

Eyes - eyes wide with fixed gaze or stare; squinted - a light tick at the corner of an eye usually following the tightening of the jaw muscles

Mouth - flattened or clenched; teeth bared

Jaw - tightened or jutting

Face color - red

Also keep in mind there are various degrees of anger. Your character may go from minor frustration to a slow boil, and then an all out fit of rage. Anger can also be evoked by other emotions such as fear, emotional pain and grief. Many times anger is expressed through words either screamed at the source of the anger, or soft-pitched words that are dangerous in their undertone.

Anger can be expressed and shown in many ways. It can be hot and explosive, or slow and seething. Anger can also be cold. A stiff and rigid back, a cold shoulder or soft words spoken in an icy manner. Ragged shallow breathing. Rapid heart beat. Anger can be shown through written passages, or heated dialogue.

So with this in mind, let's develop our character and his/her characteristic of anger. For the purpose of this demonstration I've chosen "Joe" a retired police officer now private investigator. Knowing this, we know that Joe most likely has dealt with angry people throughout his career and is an expert in recognizing the signs of anger, as well as an expert hopefully in controlling his own anger.


Marie handed Joe the current readout on Cosgrove. The report wasn't good, but she knew Joe would take it in stride. After all he wasn't a hotheaded teenager prone to fits of rage. A slight tremor of fear started in her stomach as his lips tightened and a dull red flush started at the base of his neck. She took a step backwards as the trembling hands holding the report slowly ripped it into tiny pieces.

Okay, now the scene above shows that Joe is getting angry. What appears to be a slow seething anger. We have the tightening of the lips and the dull red flush, and the slow ripping of the report. We then have Marie stepping backwards away from him. Of course, Marie stepping backwards could also be a sign that Joe at times has more of an explosive personality.

I personally see Joe as the slow, seething, soft icy word type.

Now you've developed your character's reactions to anger. You can change them throughout the story, however, you will need a clear explanation for you readers as to why his reactions change.

Check back tomorrow as we explore other emotions and body language.