Published Author, Self Publishing, Writing

Why Your Four-Star Review Sucks!

Ok, I’m going to jump right in here and vent. As an independent author, reviews mean so much. Seriously, every time I release a book, or someone tells me they’ve read one of my books, the first thing out of my mouth is always, “Thank you.” The second thing is, “Will you please leave a review?” Most of the time people say yes, but also most of the time, they don’t do it even if they said yes. I’ve had to get my mind past that and not take offense. At first, I thought if they’ve agreed to it and haven’t left a review, they must hate it. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people just don’t leave reviews. They don’t want their name out there, or they’re not comfortable leaving one. I understand that, so I move on… but that doesn’t stop me from asking.

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I’ve been told that in order to feel like I’m not alone in this world of writing and self-publishing, that I should connect with other writers. I’ve tried that, and I follow quite a few on social media and they follow me back. But I’ve never felt a full connection with other writers. I’ve been in groups, and I see people connecting and talking about how they love each other’s books, and I’ve always felt like I’m on the outside looking in. What I’m constantly irritated by is the 4-star reviews I see writers giving other writers. I have seen more than one person lately talking on social media about being banned from Amazon or being reported on Amazon for leaving bad reviews. If you’re a beta reader and you’re giving poor reviews, you deserve to be blocked and reported. Seriously, WTF? Especially if you’re a fellow author. What’s the point when you yourself are striving for 5-star reviews, yet you’re so stingy with them and even go so far as to boast about the fact that you only leave 4-star reviews on principle? What’s your principle? Do you hold some special status in the literary world that we don’t know about? Do you feel better about yourself for withholding that one star? For the love of God! If you’re another author, you know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into writing, editing, then self-publishing a book. Not to mention marketing! For those efforts alone, you should be giving 5 stars. Even today, I saw a review that an author left for another author. She posted it on Instagram. Of course, she only gave it 4 stars, then she went on to insult the plot, and even added, “insert eyeroll here” in her review. And the author she reviewed actually thanked her for that?!?!

This is why I don’t want to connect with other authors. For some of you, that 5th star may not be a big deal. For me, if I know you’re also a writer and you’ve held back that final star, I think you’re a jerk. A big, fat, hairy jerk! One of my recent books got a 4-star review… not only from another writer, but from one who had read all of the other books in the series and given me 5 stars. She not only withheld that star, but she insulted my writing. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that because now I’m fired up about that. How rude! My first instinct was to turn around and do the same thing to her, but I have more class than that.

I can think of at least 5 people I’m connected with who wear their “4 stars only” rule as a badge of pride. Not that they give a crap, but I don’t think that makes them seem intelligent or hold them in higher regard because if they happen to give me that 5th star, I’ll bow to them. Pfftt, hell no. I just roll my eyes and vow to never buy/read/review any of their books. Sidenote… I know of someone who bought The Art Of Zen and she’s a 4-star stickler. I’m thankful she bought my book, but I don’t want her to review it. Especially since I bought her book and gave her a 5-star review before I ever knew this about her.

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I know some who read this are probably thinking, “Geez, lady. Get over it and move on, it’s only a review.” That’s true. But this is my blog so I can vent about whatever I want. 4 stars is a good review, but if you’re willing to give it 4, there’s no reason not to give it 5. Oh, and another thing! My very first 4-star review on my debut novel was from someone who is not a writer, but a childhood friend. They have a strange screen name, so I didn’t know who it was. But I dug and I figured it out. I was shocked, and hurt… and 4 years later, I’m still irritated by it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, fellow authors and people who have known you since you were 8 years old, shouldn’t be jerks when leaving a review.

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Just my point of view… If we’re all in this together, we should lift each other up and give praise, especially if we want it in return. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!

Novel, Published Author, Self Publishing, Writing

Falling In Love… With Fictional Characters

Any reader can attest to this… to say that they love to lose themself in the story of a good book… and to fall in love with the characters. It happens. A lot!

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. For me, it was because of my love of acting. Taking on a role, and becoming that character was the best part about acting. It provided that escape from life, that escape from homework, friend drama, family drama… any drama! It created its own drama and I thrived on that. I still do. I’ve seen a ton of memes floating around on social media about readers falling in love with characters. But what about the writer? Has anyone ever wondered, while they’re reading a book, did the writer feel what I’m feeling?

One of my favorite quotes on writing is by Robert Frost. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” I love this so much because it’s so true. As a writer I feel all of the emotions that my characters feel. I cry when they cry. I’m angry when they’re angry. I’m surprised when a twist in one of my stories happens, because if the reader is surprised, you can bet that I shook my head in confusion and said, “Didn’t see that coming!” And of course, when my characters fall in love, you can also be assured that I am head over heels in love with them, too.

It’s kind of funny to experience those feelings, but I look at it as a positive side effect. Those chills and flutters are exciting in the beginning of any relationship, so it’s fun to embrace them as a writer. Right now, I’m currently working on the third book in a trilogy. I just released the first book titled, Where We Belong. Just like I did in Where We Belong, and in the follow-up book that’s yet to be released, Coming Home, I’m falling in love with my current character in The Courage To Return. I love the visual of him (more on that in a future blog post), I love his quiet nature, I love how he loves.

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I fall in love with the female characters, too. I even have a different kind of love for my evil characters. They create conflict and of course we want to see the protagonist overcome any adversity, but those villains are there for a reason, and I kind of love them. I think more than loving them, I just enjoy the hell out of writing them!

What about you? Do you fall in love with your characters when you read or write? Drop a comment and let me know! Thanks for stopping by!

Queries, Self Publishing, Writing

The Query Experiment

At the end of 2021, I was talking to a good friend. She’s been a huge supporter of my writing and did a full creative edit on my very first book, Set It Free. We go way back… about 25 years ago (Yikes!) we did dinner theater together and we’ve stayed good friends ever since. When I first told her I wanted to write, we had a long conversation about how I wanted to publish. Would I pursue an agent, or would I publish independently? I chose to go the Indie route. Not because I didn’t want to face the expected rejections until I find the right agent, I chose it for a few reasons.

  • I wanted full control of my book
  • I wanted to write and publish it ASAP
  • I didn’t want to have wait years to hold it in my hands

There are other reasons, but of course I can’t think of them right now. I’ll add them in as they come to me.

Since I decided to self-publish, I’ve published 5 books, and my 6th book will be out on March 23, 2022. (In all honesty, I’ve published 6 books and my 7th book will be out in March. There was a collaboration in there that isn’t to be spoken of.) It’s been quite a ride! There have been many moments of frustration, impatience, work overload, and of course tears. Lots and lots of tears. At this point I’ve just accepted that it’s all part of the process. Even though I’ve been proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished, there has always been a part of me that wants to be represented by an agent and have my work picked up by a major publishing house. Well, just like I remember in my acting years that the parts weren’t going to come to me, I had to go find them, I am now telling myself the same thing about an agent. It’s time to go find one.

My plan was to start sending out queries at the beginning of 2022. As I’m writing this, it’s now March 2, 2022, and I haven’t done anything yet. Another friend of mine has frequently asked where I am in this process. I told her nowhere. I’m procrastinating, because it’s what I do best as a writer. She challenged me to set aside time every Wednesday to work on it and send at least one a month. I like that idea. It seems doable. Yet here I am, on the first Wednesday of March and instead of querying, I’m blogging.

The thing is, sending a query is not only daunting, but queries are also hard. It’s not like a job resume that you update and upload to Indeed and put it out there into cyberspace and hope for offers. No. You have to tailor each letter to the specifics that each agent wants. It’s a lot of work. It feels like editing. I loathe editing.

I know rejections are part of the process and as my creative editor/dinner theater actor friend likes to say, “The person with the most rejections wins!” Meaning, I can’t get rejected if I’m not trying. Those rejections are badges of honor that I’m putting myself out there in the hopes to find my agent.

So, here we go. Today begins what I’m calling, my “Exquerience”. I’m going to document this journey as I search for an agent and I’m going to share it all. The good, the bad, the ugly, and those rejections. Wish me luck!

21 Days of Wisdom, Meditation

21 Days of Wisdom, Days 5-13

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I just finished day 13 of the 21 Days of Wisdom course I started at the beginning of the month. At first, I thought I’d journal every single day, but then I stopped. Why, you may ask? For a few reasons.

  1. I wondered if anyone was truly interested in reading about what I was doing every day with this workshop. Since I’ve had a bit of traction with my posts, maybe people are interested. But I stopped documenting every day because I didn’t want to be boring and repetitive.
  2. There have been a few workshops that have been in-depth and I honestly wouldn’t know what to write about since I’m not an expert on the techniques being led.
  3. I was trying to participate and jot down notes at the same time and I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of it that way.
  4. I decided to be completely present in the workshops, then write about it later.

So, what’s happened in days 5-13? Honestly, I can’t put it into words. I feel a personal victory that I’ve made it this far. Showing up is half the battle. A lot of the breathing techniques take focus and I’ve realized I don’t have a lot of focus. This workshop is helping me in that area.

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I’ve learned different mantras, how to stay present in a moment, and as I mentioned different breathing techniques. It’s been very interesting. Not all days are Zen and Om, some days I feel very warm and energized after a workshop and that’s pretty amazing to me since all of it is done sitting down.

But, most of all, after every workshop, I feel calm. I think that’s a beautiful state of mind, to feel calm, especially in our world right now.

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I’ve alternated using essential oils in Clary Sage and Lavender. I also have been lighting incense for the workshop, also alternating between the scents of Sandalwood and Lavender. Can you see a pattern? I love Lavender!

I won’t be doing a daily post, but I will follow up on this workshop once it’s complete. One more week to go, then I’ll get back to writing about writing. Thank you for reading and joining me on this journey!

21 Days of Wisdom, Meditation

21 Days of Wisdom, Day 4

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I just finished Day 4 of 21 Days of Wisdom. Today we started class with a small chat about how we’re liking the course. Since it’s so early in the morning and a weekend, I stayed off camera but was happy to contribute via audio. It’s nice to interact with others who are also on this journey.

As it seems will be the pattern, a mantra and a breathing exercise were included. Today’s mantra was, Om Namah Shivaya. This mantra is associated with qualities of prayer, divine-love, grace, truth, and blissfulness. When done correctly, it allegedly calms the mind and brings spiritual insight and knowledge.  (FYI, I didn’t come up with that pearl of wisdom, I read it on Wikipedia.)

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The breathing was challenging again. You might read that and think, “Really, how hard is it to breathe?” Well, depending on how controlled the breathing is, or the rhythm of it, it can be quite challenging. Today’s breathing was very energizing. There were frequent moments where I stumbled. I’m learning that’s ok. I’ve never done this before so I can’t expect to be perfect. I’m allowing myself the grace and patience to learn, and I think that is growth right there! Any time I found myself stumbling, I paused, watched the instructor, then jumped back in.

At the end of today’s session, I felt cleansed and energized, almost as if I had worked out. Tomorrow is going to be ceremonial. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m anxious to find out. So, come back tomorrow and see what it is!

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re enjoying my thoughts on this course. Make sure to check out my other posts for my thoughts on writing, and while you’re at it, check out my books!

Published Author, Self Publishing, Writing

Screw The Review

As a writer, I like to share my reviews. By doing that, I hope to entice readers to check out my books. It’s a great way to thank a reader for a positive review, and to show potential readers that it’s worth their time. It’s all part of how us independent authors promote our books.

Yesterday, I went to Amazon to screenshot a recent review that I could share on Instagram. Because I had recently looked at my book, it was in my browsing history. I saw the number next to the book had increased by one, which meant I had a new review. Then I noticed the stars had decreased from 5 to 4, so I braced myself for a bad review. Sure enough, there was a new review. It wasn’t… bad… until it was.

A 4 star review is a bitchy move in my eyes. It means you enjoyed the book enough to give it praise, but your ego is in the way so taking away that one star makes you feel powerful. This person who deemed my book only worthy of her 4 precious stars is someone who has read the first three books in my series and loved them so much, she often promotes me on Instagram. I’ve been forever grateful that she gives me constant shout outs. She hasn’t promoted me recently, and really, that’s fine. I just figured she was busy writing because she’s also an author, or maybe she’s been reading. I know she’s an avid reader and is always talking about her latest read.

Why did I put the fact that she’s an author in bold? Because I think it’s important to point that out. In her review, she praised the path of the story and the happy ending these characters finally get to have. (Trust me, I got some hate from books one and two!) That was great, she loved how it moved forward. Then she insulted my writing. She used a term that is so demeaning to other authors because we’re all “warned” against doing it. Head hopping. Moving from one perspective to another. Look it up. Everything you see about it will tell you that it’s basically writing suicide.

I disagree for several reasons. I believe that in writing, the rules are… there are no rules. Write what you want to read. I like to read books that have different perspectives in the same chapter. I write in third person. One reviewer called it semi-omniscient. When you watch a movie, you see reactions and emotions from all the characters. Why shouldn’t you experience that in a book? Also, because I see this term pop up frequently, I’ve done my research and if there is a genre where that rule can be broken, it’s in romance. Why? Because romance is the main point of view. Guess what? I write romance.

I have wonderful editors and final readers. Highly intelligent individuals who would tell me if my work didn’t make any sense. This person- who put that term in the review that’s available for the whole world to see on Amazon and Goodreads- had the decency after reading book 3, to email me and point out a few things she thought should be changed. Ok, I was a little taken aback that she would do that. I mean, I’d never think to do that to her, but at least she kept it private. This wasn’t private! I was so insulted, hurt really, that I got in my head all day and chastised myself for being a horrible writer!

Was that what she hoped to accomplish? Did she need to tear me down in order to build herself up? Has she never heard the phrase, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all? I wonder, if she knew how horrible I felt about myself after reading that, if maybe she wouldn’t have said that. She’s an author! A fellow writer! We’re all in this together, especially in the independent world. I’ve read several self-published books that I didn’t like. Because I’d never publicly shame someone or insult them, I gave them a positive review, pointed out what I did like, and kept my mouth shut on what I didn’t like. What’s the point?

As my editor’s husband pointed out, it’s one thing to leave a bad review about a product that didn’t work correctly but to say that about another person’s work is just plain shitty. I know that reviews are only opinions. But if her opinion of the overall story was a good one, why did she feel the need to take a dig? And it was a dig. How would she like it if I did it to her?

When I first started my journey as a writer, I received this advice, “Connect With Other Writers”. I did that. I went to a conference, met fellow romance authors there. I’ve connected with several writers on Instagram, done those stupid follow loops where people follow you, then unfollow you when you follow them back. I’ve collaborated with another author (More on that in a future post.) Do you know what connecting with other writers has done for me? It’s made me feel like shit about myself. I’ve participated in several author takeovers on Facebook and never gained a new reader. To me it was just a gathering of authors to see who had the best graphics and I never felt like I did compared to theirs. All I’ve seen are cliques of people who are never going to let you into their circle. No matter what I’ve done, or how I’ve tried to connect, I’ve always ended up feeling like the odd girl out. For the love of ***!!! I’m in my forties, I have no desire to feel like an awkward teenager again!

I honestly don’t know why this person said what she said. It was mean-spirited. End of story. I won’t reach out to ask her because if I wanted her critique I would have asked for it. In private. I hope she feels better about herself now. Maybe she needed to feel like she got her $3.99 worth from the purchase of the eBook.

If you’ve made it this far in this post, thank you for reading. Several people have told me to take it as compliment. “Brooke, you have a hater! You’ve made it!” Just be careful with your words when you’re leaving a review. Hundreds, probably thousands, of hours went into creating my book. For any author reading this, I know you can relate.

Rant over, but I’m still upset. I know a thick skin is needed in any industry if you want to succeed. I try to stay away from reviews because all it takes is one “meh” one to get into my head. But those good reviews really help us writers move forward. The bad ones make us want to walk away from something we love so much. So, from now on, my motto will be, Screw The Review!

Job Interview, Workplace Drama, Writing

Current WIP

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Through my years working as a receptionist, administrative assistant, and an executive assistant, I’ve experienced some pretty crazy things! From bad bosses, to outlandish gossip, I’ve seen it all and I’ve heard it all. Some situations are so out there, you’d have to actually be there to experience it in order to believe it.
At one point, I started to outline a book sharing all of my experiences, but I decided to do something different instead.

For the past 2 years, I’ve been working as a virtual assistant. (Check out my Facebook page here!) I’ve taken my years of office experience and I’m now offering my services to solo professionals and small business owners. I specialize in helping them with all the admin pieces of their businesses, like email newsletters, website updates, and calendar management.

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If you’ve followed my writing, you may remember that a few years ago, I started to document the interviews I was going on in my search for a new job. Some were great experiences, some of them were absolutely ridiculous, none of them ended with a job offer.

So, you may wonder what one has to do with the other. Administration and writing fiction. Well, instead of writing a non-fiction book about my observations as an admin, or about all the tea I could spill, I decided to merge the two.

My current work in progress, or WIP, is titled Executive Decisions. It follows the story of blogger Lauren Lane, who has had a year filled with 17 job interviews and not one offer. In the 17th interview, Lauren meets Drew Hanson, the CEO of Hanson Enterprises. Drew peeks at her blog ten minutes before her arrival and decides right on the spot that he’s not going to hire her. During Lauren’s interview, he even quotes her writing back to her about her job interview experience.

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While most writers might be thrilled to have their work quoted back to them… Remember that scene from When Harry Met Sally? Harry’s friend Jess says, “No one has ever quoted me back to me before.” This should be a writer’s dream for Lauren, but not the way Drew Hanson does it. A run in after their interview shows the reader that these two might never see eye to eye. Instead of doing the mature thing and moving on from a bad interview, Lauren decides to take the low road for a bit and make Drew a perfect example of what a bad CEO looks like.

I have been having fun writing this book! When I write, my characters become real to me. It’s been nice to have Lauren to “share” my experiences with. She’s bold and honest when it comes to speaking up about the interviews she’s had, along with crazy workplace drama that she shares along the way.

I write contemporary romance, so somehow these two make peace and have an epic love story. Stay tuned for this one, you won’t want to miss it!

In the meantime, Meant To Be, book 4 in the Heart & Soul series will be available on October 5. Take a look at my author page on Amazon to see all of my books.

Thanks for stopping by!

Writing

It’s Been Awhile…

I haven’t written much lately… well, let me rephrase that. I haven’t written a blog lately. I know in the past, I’ve chronicled my writing journey, as well as my job interview experience. I don’t think I have the energy to get into what life is like in the job world. Let’s just say I’ve been unemployed since April 2020. More on that later.

I’ve been writing, a lot. If you read my books, you’ll know that I published book 3 in the Heart & Soul series. Through The Storm follows Alexandra Lorraine and Slater Heart as they navigate the scandal of a lifetime. They’re finally together, making up for lost time, and dealing with a media frenzy. I truly love Alexandra and Slater, but I haven’t been writing in the Heart & Soul series lately. More books are to come that follow them through life and introduce new characters, but it’s been put on pause for now. I’m really getting inspired to write other stories. Stand alone novels that have happy endings. My very first novel that is not part of a series is releasing on 2/14/2021. The Art of Zen. It’s an opposites attract love story.

So, what have I been working on for the last year? Well, I finished Zen last February. For a year, it’s been through editing and having people read it who I know I can trust to give me honest feedback. Now I’m ready to share that with you. I’m excited about this one. Like I do with all my books, I fell in love with these characters, and I hope you do, too! Up next is Where We Belong. It’s a friends to lovers story. Two people are brought together by a family tragedy. Through their grief, they rebuild their lives and fall in love.

When I finished writing Where We Belong, I felt like their story wasn’t completely over. In my heart, I knew there was more to it. So, this is now book one in a trilogy. I’m almost finished writing the second book in this trilogy titled, Coming Home. The second book tells the story of a man who returns home and falls in love with someone he knew from the past. They’re both coming out of troubled relationships and form a friendship that turns into love.

I also co-wrote a novella! My first collaboration, and my first novella. It was an interesting experience to learn another writer’s process. It is a holiday story that starts on New Year’s Eve. It’s called The Wish. We’ve gotten some good feedback on it and I’ve learned that people like fast reads. My books are long. The kind that can take either a few weeks, or a snowed-in weekend, to get through. To write something this short was a challenge for me. I’m glad I did it and grateful for the experience.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m finishing up Coming Home, then I need to check in with Alex and Slater and get the fourth book from the Heart & Soul series published so you can all enjoy their journey. It’s titled, Meant To Be. Thanks for reading this post, and make sure to spread the word if you’ve read and liked any of my books!

Until next time,

Brooke