Ratings Trolls: A warning and a revelation

ThreegoatsA member of a popular website recently gave out more than 7,000 one-star ratings (no review) to seemingly random books, some out-of-print for ages and difficult to obtain. It quickly became obvious that this person hadn’t read the books and had a different agenda than merely providing feedback.

Shocked, I posted a comment about it to an online writer’s group. Many of the authors weren’t surprised, having heard it all before. Another writer called the person a troll.

But my favorite response came from best-selling author John Gilstrap: “I actually won an award at ThrillerFest a couple of years ago for the worst review ever. Of my first novel, Nathan’s Run, a New York newspaper wrote, ‘The glue boogers in the binding are more captivating than Gilstrap’s torpid prose.” You can’t let the small stuff get you down!”

And John is so right: life is full of trolls lurking underneath bridges. All one can do, like the Three Billy Goats Gruff, is remain brave and fearless, ignoring every obstacle and charging forward, forcing the trolls to shamble back beneath their bridges and drown in their own venomous pools.

Knitting Memories Into Yarn

Afghan for my niece... almost finished!
Afghan for my niece… almost finished!

“Did you finish it?” my nephew Jonah asked me.

No further explanation was necessary. I knew what he wanted; he’d been asking the same question for months.

This time, though, instead of saying, “No, not yet,” I nodded and beckoned for him to follow me outside to my truck, where I dipped into the backseat and pulled out a red-white-and-blue knitted afghan.

Jonah, excitement flitting across his face, wrapped it around his shoulders and swooped back inside, as quick as Superman, to show the afghan to the rest of his family.

My nephew Max, standing nearby, asked, “Will you make me one too?”

I hesitated. It had taken me more than a year to knit Jonah’s afghan, and I was ready to move on to smaller projects. But how could I say no to Max’s request, his expression so serious and voice tentative?

“Of course,” I said, “What colors would you like?”

Soon another red-white-and blue afghan clung to my circular needles. The choice of colors reflected Max and Jonah’s shared love for American history, as well as Jonah’s interest in super heroes. Next came a blue afghan for my niece Kadance, the yarn perfect for an outdoorsy girl with energy as expansive and boundless as the sky.

In a sense, the blankets act as mirrors, a slice of my nieces’ and nephews’ personalities, perhaps even a form of storytelling, an approach to knitting I borrowed from my novella, Blood Stitches. In an early version of the book, the main character, Gabby, snuggles next to Abuela, grandmother in Spanish, as she knits. Together they interpret the yarn: green reflects the color of Gabby’s eyes, and specks of pink become tulips dotting a field. Gabby eventually learns that Abuela’s knitting has a deeper meaning with magical results.

On a smaller scale, it’s an idea that can add a touch of magic to anyone’s knitting, from beginners to experts, making each project unique and memorable and, particularly for children, a way to engage the imagination.

I hope one day my nieces and nephews will understand that the afghans I knit are reflections of them, our shared experiences woven together, memories, I pray, they’ll keep forever.

 

This essay was originally published on Hobby Reads.

Of Authors, Mothers, and Maugham

MoonspinnersDuring the summer of 1979, between morning and afternoon swim-team practices, I read my way through Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Daphne du Maurier.

Rocking in my hammock, under a hot Idaho sun, I traveled to windswept moors dotted with heath, swooned over brooding lords of the manor, and identified with governesses, plain yet intelligent, full of thoughtful observations. They not only won over my heart but also the love of the lord, as well as solving mysteries.

But by July 31, having come to the end of my self-directed summer-reading program, I uttered the words that all parents dread.

“I’m bored,” I said. “There’s nothing to do.”

I cringe now. Nothing to do? Impossible with endless libraries to explore and subjects to study. But I was 13, restricted by immaturity and narrow-mindedness, which, of course, I never would have admitted at the time, let alone recognized.

OfHumanBondageMy mother, not one to accept boredom, took to me to the library and introduced me to another favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham. Of Human Bondage became the cure for my boredom.

I approached the book with skepticism, even though my mother had introduced me to Mary Stewart’s Moon-Spinners, the beginning of my summer-reading-binge. I soon softened, though, to the main character Phillip, and Of Human Bondage joined me in the hammock. Other Maugham novels followed. Then school began with its predictable reading lists, and I found myself daydreaming about ramshackle mansions and secrets hidden in attics.

So it was appropriate that, almost 35 years later, my mother, a life-long letter writer of extraordinary ability, sent me the following quote, taking me back to my hammock, piles of books, and endless summer days stretching as long and wide as an Idaho sky.

MoonandSixpenceFrom The Moon and Sixpence (Chapter 2) by W. Somerset Maugham: “It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them.  What chance is there that the book will make its way among the multitude?  And the successful books are but the successes of a season.  Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered to give some chance reader a few hours of relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey.

And if I may judge from reviews, many of these books are well and carefully written; much thought has gone in to their compositions; to some even has been given the anxious labor of a lifetime.  The moral I draw is that the writer should see his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success.”

Now another summer begins with a note on books from my mother, her ability to send the perfect message at the most appropriate time still finely tuned. Books gather around me in piles, waiting to be read. The only thing missing is my hammock, and the cupcake or two always waiting in my mother’s pantry.

Happy weekend everyone!

And if you have a moment, please share your favorite summer books and/or quotes from authors in the comment form.

Myth, magic, and a free ebook

Myth And Magic-highresMae Clair has joined me today to talk about her new books and a special upcoming promotion for her novel, Eclipse Lake—it’s free!

Now, here’s more from Mae…

~~~

Free June 8 to June 10: Eclipse Lake

If you enjoy romance, mysteries, and suspense, I invite you to take advantage of my limited time offer for Eclipse Lake. Grab your Kindle copy, June 8 to June 10 for FREE. This is a stand-alone full-length novel of old wounds, buried secrets, and sweet romance. It’s not part of a series, so you can enjoy the complete tale.

Description:

Small towns hold the darkest secrets.

Eclipse Lake FinalFifteen years after leaving his criminal past and estranged brother behind, widower Dane Carlisle returns to his hometown on the banks of sleepy Eclipse Lake. Now, a successful businessman, he has kept his troubled past a secret from most everyone, including his seventeen-year-old son.

But memories in small towns are bitter and long.

Ellie Sullivan, a nature photographer for a national magazine, has a habit of ping-ponging across the map. Her latest assignment leads her to Eclipse Lake where she becomes caught up in the enmity between Dane, his brother Jonah, and a vengeful town sheriff. When freshly-discovered skeletal remains are linked to an unsolved murder and Dane’s past, Ellie is left questioning her growing attraction for a man who harbors long-buried secrets.

Grab Your Free Copy from Amazon here

If you don’t have a Kindle, download a FREE Kindle Reading app for the device of your choice

I hope you enjoy Eclipse Lake and ask only that when you’ve finished reading you’d leave an honest review on Amazon. Authors love hearing what readers enjoyed about our novels (even what didn’t work). It’s a favored reward.

I’d also like to ask for your support in the release of my brand new Halloween-themed romantic suspense novel, Myth and Magic. There’s nothing like a little October spookiness for weaving a touch of magic into your summer.

Description:

Love and danger intertwine

AS CHILDREN THEY PLAYED GAMES OF MYTH AND MAGIC…

Veronica Kent fell in love with Caith Breckwood when they were children. As a teenager, she was certain he was the man she was destined to marry. But a traumatic event from Caith’s past led him to fear a future together. He left Veronica, hoping to save her from a terrible fate. Twelve years later, Caith, now a P.I., is hired to investigate bizarre incidents at the secluded retreat Veronica manages. Returning to his hometown, Caith is forced to face his nightmares—and his feelings for the woman he’s always loved.

THEN ONE DAY THE MONSTERS BECAME REAL.
 
After the callous way Caith broke her heart, Veronica isn’t thrilled to see him again. But strange occurrences have taken a dangerous toll on business at Stone Willow Lodge. Forced to work together, Veronica discovers it isn’t ghostly apparitions that frighten her, but her passion for a man she has never forgotten. Or forgiven. Can two people with a tarnished past unearth a magical future?

Release day for Myth and Magic is June 9, but you can pre-order prior to that. It’s available from all of these bookstores:

Amazon ~ Kobo ~ iTunes ~ Kensington Publishing ~ Barnes & Noble

Purchase Myth and Magic and grab your copy of Eclipse Lake  for free. You get TWO full-length books of suspense, mystery and romance for under $4.00! Either way I hope you will enjoy the free book. Both stories plus their characters hold special places in my heart.

Thank you for your support and I’d love to hear from you! You can find me at any of the following haunts: Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter (@MaeClair1) ~ Google+ ~ Facebook  ~ Amazon  ~Kensington Books  ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest

Mae ClairAbout the author:
Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.

Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with mystery and romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about cryptozoology, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.

Hidden Fire Blog Tour and $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Congratulations to Deidra Eden on the release of Hidden Fire, the second book in The Watchers series! Everything about this book–from the cover to the characters to the plot and theme–screams page-turning summer reading…

Finding your own unique strength and courage is a major theme of The Watchers. The characters in this series are as diverse as they come: different nationalities, male, female, dwarf, human, dragon, pixie, noble, peasant orphan, young, aged. Yet, no matter the situation, whether tragic or triumphant, they find ways to grow and develop into something stronger.

The main character, Auriella (Aura), is born and lives in a society and time when girls, especially of her social status, didn’t have opportunities for education or growth, let alone a chance to be a hero. The Watchers must learn to work together, despite differences, to defeat Erebus and the Shadow Legion, just as we, no matter our gender, race, age, circumstances, etc., are capable of great things.

Strong men and women grow in all situations and become heroes when one is needed. They don’t think about it, they just do what’s right.Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers Series

Summary

Auriella’s new life as a royal protector is in shambles. The new king ignores her warnings of a Shadow Legion invasion and he is determined to marry her off. Ghosts from her past, the discovery of other Watchers, and a handsome Scottish warrior throw her off guard and weaken her emotional defenses. Caught in a web of secrecy and betrayal, Auriella struggles to control and protect the devastating power of Starfire. A terrible truth and a fateful choice will lead her to her destiny as the fabled Lady of Neviah, or could shroud the entire world in eternal darkness.

Filled with action, romance, drama, and comedy, Hidden Fire is an addicting read that you won’t want to put down.

“Deirdra Eden has surpassed her earlier achievement in this daring tale of struggle between good and evil forces that exist in every universe.” Mark F. Cheney, author of Mark of the Jaguar.

“Thought provoking and full of action, I didn’t want to put the book down! I really loved the symbolism and it was a fantastic read.” Mary G. – age 15

Check out  the book trailer:

And be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

 

Home again from the wilds of the web

The crew from my novella Blood Stitches and I are back from our tour across the webosphere. Esperanza is knitting in her room (no surprise!), Frank and Gabby are flirting in the living room, and Tory and Mr. C are bickering over who gets to make breakfast.

And I’m about to tiptoe away, leaving them to their own devices… at least for a while or maybe forever. After all, we’ve been together for quite some time, years, to be perfectly honest, and it’s time to stop smothering them, give them some breathing space.

It’s been long journey, but well worth it from creation to editing (under the tutelage of the insightful Penny Barber) to publication (an enormous thank you to Renee Rocco and everyone at Kensington/Lyrical) to promotion, which couldn’t have been done without the help of Michelle Forde and numerous selfless bloggers and authors. Of course, it’s not over yet—promotion never really stops–and I hope Blood Stitches finds its way into endless homes, entertaining many with its story of magical knitting.

McCallMTBFor now, though, summer is calling with books to read, rivers to paddle, and trails snaking into the mountains to hike and bike. I can already feel sun warming my skin, see damselflies flitting across shadowy waves, hear the call of loons, and see ferns bristling like dragon tails over hilly woods.

More stories and essays will come, they always do, filling my mind with new characters and settings, pushing their way out through my fingertips. Until then, though, I surrender to the change of the seasons and the wonder of the world, looking forward to closing my laptop for a while and simply observing.

Happy summer everyone!

Hitting the Road with Blood Stitches

Gabby, Frank, Esperanza, and the rest of the gang from Blood Stitches are joining me on a tour, starting today, to every corner of the Webosphere in celebration of the novella’s publication. Finally!

Blood Stitches-highres

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~Kobo ~ Google ~iTunes

We look forward to seeing you at one of our stops… And be sure to the enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.

May 12
Cate Masters
Calisa Rhose

May 13
Christa Maurice
Desiree Holt

May 14
Dani-Lyn Alexander

May 15
Mae Clair

May 16
Tracy Bilen

May 18
Sandra Cox
Jenny Colly

May 19
Krysten Lindsay Hager
Nina Crespo

May 20
A.S. Fenichel
Daisy Banks

May 21
Kristi Rose
Anise Rae

May 22
Pamela Turner

May 23
Patti Richards

May24
CD Brennan

May 25
C. Lee McKenzie

May 26
April Vine

May 27
Cindy Fazzi

May 28
Dark Faerie Tales