Guest Post: ACCEPTING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM by Beth Rodgers

Mistletoe & Magic coverIt’s a pleasure to invite Beth Rodgers to take over my blog today as she shares her  thoughts on accepting constructive criticism – an issue that all authors have to face up to at some time in their careers.

Beth Rodgers is an accomplished author of YA fiction, who is currently celebrating the release of Mistletoe & Magic, a multi-author anthology that includes  “Hearts & Homes” – a contemporary young adult romance.


Accepting Constructive Criticism by Beth Rodgers

It may seem difficult at times to put your work out there for someone else to critique, whether it’s for editing in the process of publication, grading, or otherwise. The fact of the matter is that without hearing other people’s opinions, you are obviously bent on your own opinion on the writing you have done, and, let’s be honest – you think it’s great. We all do. It’s only natural to have emotional ties to the writing you have done. It is also possible that something you hated writing or hated the outcome of once it was fully written could be completely loved by one or more of your readers.

Criticism gets a bad rap. The word has a negative connotation. When people hear that someone is being critical or is criticizing something, they think negatively. Again, this is only natural and is a part of life. An important idea to remember, however, is that criticism does not have to be bad. Without criticism, think of how many pieces of writing, movies, TV shows, or other works of art would go out to the masses due to the biased opinion of the work’s creator.

Have you ever read a book you didn’t like? Have you ever watched a movie or TV show that you wish you hadn’t bothered with? Have you ever thought how nice it would be to be able to tell the author or creator of whatever it is you read, watched, etc. what you might have done differently? Everyone is a critic. Everyone judges. It’s something that is as normal as a typical daily routine. Yet, criticism and judgment can turn out positively. There are always at least two sides to every idea/topic/issue/etc. Just because you think something is great doesn’t mean the rest of the world does, and just because you think something was awful doesn’t mean the rest of the world didn’t love it. You are entitled to your opinion just like anyone else. Just because someone tells you that they suggest changing something doesn’t mean you have to do it. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. What it does mean is that you have to attempt to see that person’s viewpoint and analyze not only whether you agree with it, but determine whether you feel that others may see things the same way as the original critic. That is why having more than one person read your work and give you feedback is important. Even if the people you choose to read your work do not give the same advice, even if one person tells you how feedbackgreat it was while another says it was good but there was room for improvement, while another tells you they couldn’t stand it, sharing what other people had to say with the group of reviewers you have established for yourself will help you to gauge whether they truly noticed everything in your writing.

Just because you are the writer does not mean you are the only reader that writing will ever have. The definition of constructive criticism is “the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.” It is essential that this definition is not only remembered, but taken to heart. No writer has ever penned the perfect piece the first time around. If they say they have, they are lying to you. Read the following quotes from well-known people and authors to further your understanding of the power of constructive criticism:

Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister:
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Hillary Clinton, Politician and Former Presidential Candidate:
“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

Neil Gaiman, Author:
“I suspect that most authors don’t really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so.”

user-satisfaction-2800863_1280 Why do you think there are reviews on sites that sell books, appliances, and any other item you can possibly think of? The reason is simple. It is because people want to know what others think. They want to see differing opinions to help them make the most informed decision possible. So should it be with writing. Writers must be able to make informed, intelligent decisions based on suggestions that others have made. When something sounds negative, consider the actual intent behind the suggestion, and then determine whether the person is in any way coming up with something that is a possible revision that can be made. Just as you are entitled to your opinion, so are your readers. This is why only certain books make the New York Times Bestseller list, why certain movies and TV shows win Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmy Awards, why certain music wins Grammys and American Music Awards, etc. If you have ever thought someone unfairly lost an award, an election, or anything else, you have a different opinion than those who did the voting. You are entitled to this. Remember this when someone reads your work and gives you suggestions. Your emotional and other connections with the Beth Rodgers Author Posterwork you have written is essential to you being motivated to continue writing. This is extremely important. Never forget this. However, don’t forget that others are entitled to their opinions as well, and their opinions may just help you improve your writing and sustain a more solid style from that point forward. Every little bit helps. You just have to see it that way.

About the Author

Beth Rodgers is the author of two contemporary young adult novels, Freshman Fourteen and Sweet Fifteen, as well as “Hearts & Homes,” a short story that follows her second novel, but can be read as a standalone story. It can be found in Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology. She also works as an editor and creative writing presenter.

In her free time, Beth loves to watch binge-worthy TV shows, travel with her family, and read plenty of good books that she spends time reviewing for her blog and as a staff reviewer for YA Books Central. She lives in Michigan with her husband and children.

Connect with Beth on:

Find her books on Amazon at the following websites:

Advertisements

Guest Post & Giveaway: THE SPIRIT IN QUESTION by Cynthia Kuhn

SPIRIT-IN-QUESTION-BANNER-184
As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am happy to host Cynthia Kuhn on my blog today.  She is here to tell us about her writing and her recent release, The Spirit in Question.


Surprise! I’m in Your Book by Cynthia Kuhn

Recently, the family went back to my grad school—which I haven’t visited in about 15 years — for a sporting event. When we arrived at the center of campus, I realized with a jolt that the beautiful building facing us, where I had happily attended many classes, may have (subconsciously) been the inspiration for Randsworth Hall in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series.

Building

In the books, Randsworth is described this way:

We headed out of Crandall Hall and kept to the outer perimeter sidewalk, passing Randsworth, the colossal building that housed the chancellor and other administrative VIPs. Crandall’s columns, while moderately impressive, were nothing compared to the embellishments of Randsworth, which could have been a cathedral with its lavish turrets, spires, and other ornamentations. Presiding over campus directly across the circle from the entry gates, Randsworth announced its own importance. – The Semester of Our Discontent

I passed the administration building, Randsworth Hall, which dominated the north side of campus. The gargoyles perched on the edge of the upper levels appealed to my Gothic sensibilities. Though many found their existence baffling and inexplicable, my humble opinion was that they added a certain whimsical charm to the campus. The designer had been a close friend of the university founder, Jeremiah Randsworth, and had been given carte blanche. He was also responsible for the pair of stone gryphons positioned at Stonedale’s main gates as well as the underground passageways linking many of the buildings together—though not everyone knew about those. – The Art of Vanishing

Obviously the building in the picture does not have numerous turrets, spires, or gargoyles. But I still feel as though the real building and the fictional building are related. It’s difficult to articulate, but it has something to do with aura. (Can a building have an aura? Let’s say yes and move on.)

To me, they both exude the same sort of presence: an undeniable embeddedness within the landscape. They clearly belong where they are. And since Lila—a new assistant professor in book one—is unsure whether she fits into the community, Randsworth serves as a visual counterpoint for her ongoing emotional journey in some ways. If you’d asked me before I went back to campus, I wouldn’t have even known that there was a connection.

Immediately second-guessing myself now. What does it mean that they “belong”? Doesn’t every building? They’re put there on purpose.

I know, I know. All I can say is that when I caught a glimpse of that building, I gasped and took a picture.

Yes, of its aura. If that’s a thing.

If not, we can just admire the blue skies…


About The Spirit in Question

EnglisSpirith professor Lila Maclean knew drama would be involved when she agreed to consult on Stonedale University’s production of Puzzled: The Musical.

But she didn’t expect to find herself cast into such chaos: the incomprehensible play is a disaster, the crumbling theater appears to be haunted, and, before long, murder takes center stage.

The show must go on—yet as they speed toward opening night, it becomes clear that other members of the company may be targeted as well. Lila searches for answers while contending with a tenacious historical society, an eccentric playwright, an unsettling psychic, an enigmatic apparition, and a paranormal search squad.

With all of this in play, will she be able to identify who killed her colleague…or will it soon be curtains for Lila too?

Giveaway

Click here to enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win any two Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries (ebook) and a $25 Amazon gift card.

About the Author

CynthiaKuhnCynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series: The Semester of Our Discontent, an Agatha Award recipient for Best First Novel; The Art of Vanishing, a Lefty Award nominee for Best Humorous Mystery; and The Spirit in Question. She teaches in Denver, serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado, and blogs with Chicks on the Case. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Author Links

 Purchase Links

Amazon   B&N     Kobo  BookBub

Guest Post & Spotlight: CONFOUND IT by Maggie Toussaint

CONFOUND IT BANNER 448

As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours to celebrate the release of Confound It, Maggie Toussain  stopped by to share her thoughts on her main character, a single mom.  Enjoy.


Single Mom’s Club by Maggie Toussaint

MaggieToussaint.jpgThis is a true fact: like attracts like. If you were locked in a room with fifty cows and one person, you’d automatically gravitate toward the other person.

Dreamwalker and crime consultant Baxley Powell has been on her own for several years. She’s a single mom of a ten-year- old daughter, Larissa, and there have been times in the recent past where she got behind on her bills.

So it galls her to no end when the cops gloss over a victim’s death in order to catch bigger fish in the drug pipeline. A woman died. A mother. Don’t they get it? Doodle lost his mom, and now he’s an orphan.

Mandy Patterson was a single mom, and her death must count for something. After each
Dreamwalk visit with Mandy’s spirit, Baxley feels more convinced that she has to find Mandy’s killer.

Baxley understands the struggles Mandy went through and the tough decisions that had to be made. Childcare often costs more than a single mom can afford. Old cars break down. Kids outgrown their shoes. Life just keeps coming at you at full speed and single moms have to find ways to survive.

Sure, Mandy made a few decisions that weren’t great, but that shouldn’t mean she’s a disposable person. As a member of the single mom’s club, Baxley leads the charge to get justice for Mandy. The thing is, Mandy’s killer has no intention of getting caught…


About Confound It

Confound It_frontCov -smallerWhile hosting out-of-town guests at her Georgia home, Dreamwalker Baxley Powell is called upon to help investigate a suspicious fire. One of her guests, close friend and fellow dreamwalker Deputy Sam Mayes, accompanies her to the scene.

A meth cook is dead, and when Baxley visits her beyond the Veil of Life, she determines that the woman was murdered. Baxley pities Mandy Patterson, a single mother with aspirations for her teenage son Doodle. Unconcerned about the death of a criminal, the authorities pursue the drug-supply chain angle. Baxley worries about Doodle and vows to find out who killed his mother.

As the case grows more baffling, Baxley struggles against her attraction to Sam. Although her husband is missing and declared dead, she does not feel free to love again until she is sure of his fate.

Two suspects have the strongest motive, but Baxley has reason to believe they are pawns in a deeper game. And unless she can stop them, the world will never be the same.

Confound It (A Dreamwalker Mystery) is available on Amazon.

About the Author

Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery, suspense, and dystopian fiction. Her work won the Silver Falchion Award for best mystery, the Readers’ Choice Award, and the EPIC Award. She’s published seventeen novels as well as several short stories and novellas. The next book in her paranormal mystery series, Dadgummit, releases August 2017. Maggie serves on the national board for Mystery Writers of America, is President of Southeast Mystery Writers of America, and is Co-VP of Low Country Sisters In Crime. Visit her at http://www.maggietoussaint.com.

Connect with Maggie:
Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Booklover’s Bench | Amazon Author Central | Bookbub | Website 

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: WHAT FRESH SMELL by Jeffrey Marks

what-fresh-smell-large-banner340

As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Jeffrey Marks as my guest today as he celebrates the release of What Fresh Smell, the third book in the Marissa Scott Mysteries series. A fan of puns,  Jeffrey is offering a free copy of his holiday-themed book,  Love Stinks, to anyone who leaves a punny title in the comments.


Ho-Ho-Homicide by Jeffrey Marks

Jeff_new.jpgWith the holidays coming up, I thought I might say a few words about another book in the Marissa Scott series, Love Stinks. All of the books in the series take place around a particular holiday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Father’s Day. Love Stinks, the second book in the series, takes place around the Christmas season, which is historically the busiest time at a mall.

This book was published second, but is actually a prequel to The Scent of Murder. If you prefer to read books sequentially in that universe, then Love Stinks would come first; however, if you prefer to read them by date of publication, then The Scent of Murder would precede it.

Love Stinks begins with Cincinnati’s favorite celebrity, Steve Douglas, coming back to town to tout his new cologne. When he arrives at Kantor’s department store, he begins his spiel, only to keel over dead on the podium. Since the death occurred in the cosmetics department, which Marissa manages, she is tasked with trying to bring order back to the department so sales are not impacted. Given the stress of dealing with Christmas sales, Marissa has to work with her friends to find out the murderer and get the department back to normal.

I love the title puns that I’ve been using in the books (Love Stinks, What Fresh Smell). I am thinking that the next one may be Smell in a Handbasket, but I won’t know for sure until the book is finished.

I’d be happy to give a free copy of Love Stinks to anyone who leaves a pun title (about noses, smells, scents, odors, etc) in the comment section.


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00061]About What Fresh Smell

There’s Murder in River City – Daycare that is.

When Marissa learns that a teacher at the daycare center has been murdered, she comes to the realization that she really didn’t know much about the people who worked there, especially the murdered woman. She’ll now have to manage her son, her mother, her mother’s Scottish terrier, and an ex-boyfriend as she tries to hunt down the people behind a robbery ring and the person who killed a daycare teacher. If she’s not careful, she might meet the same fate.

You can purchase the book on Amazon.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win  a copy of What Fresh Smell by Jeffrey Marks.

About the Author

Jeffrey Marks is a long-time mystery fan and freelancer.  After numerous mystery author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. His works include Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s, and a biography of mystery author and critic Anthony Boucher entitled Anthony Boucher. It was nominated for an Agatha and fittingly, won an Anthony. He won a Malice Domestic Grant for The Scent of Murder, which has spurred the Marissa Scott series. What Fresh Smell is the third novel in the series.

His work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize and he was nominated for a Maxwell award (DWAA), an Edgar (MWA), three Agathas (Malice Domestic), two Macavity awards, and three Anthony awards (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his spouse and three dogs.

Connect with the author:

Spotlight, Guest Post & Giveaway: CANDIDATE FOR MURDER by Lauren Carr

iRead Website new logo

As part of a Blog Tour organized by iRead Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Lauren Carr  as my guest today as she celebrates the recent release of Candidate for Murder.  In her post, she shares her perspective on writing and the need for writers to raise the bar – to be fearless in writing.


Fearless in Writing  By Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr 2A few years ago, I attended a banquet at yet another conference. The special guest speaker, whose name I can’t remember now, was telling the audience, all authors, about his journey to success.

His very first book, he was blessed to be picked up by a big New York publisher with a huge advance and his book was a hit. His second book was not so great because, as he explained, he wrote the book he wanted to write. The readers, expecting it to be like his first, deserted him … as did his publisher.

So, for his third book, he went back to the formula of his first book, expanded on it, and regained his success. That book went to Hollywood.

As he explained it, this author’s journey was really not that uncommon. Generally, authors write their first books for publishers and literary agents. After obtaining their goal of snagging a literary agent and publisher, many authors proceed to write what they want to write. Upon being chastised by lack of sales (and most likely the loss of their publisher and/or agent), they return to their proven formula for success.

After working more than thirty years to make it to best-selling status and having consistent sales and fabulous reviews from readers and book reviewers, I can understand the fear that some successful authors may have about changing anything in their books, especially if it is a series, for fear of losing devoted readers.

Most likely, this may explain why I have heard many readers say about some of their favorite, or rather one-time favorite authors, “All of her/his books are the same. Each one has the same general plot. All she/he does is change the names.”

These authors are afraid of messing with success. Why fix what isn’t broken? they may ask.

That’s not me. When I was nineteen years old, I went up in an airplane for the first time and jumped out. Fortunately, I was wearing a parachute. Even more fortunately, it opened. I didn’t go up in a plane and land in it until I went to Washington, D.C. four years later.

If I wasn’t fearless I would never have struck out to be an independent author and tried to make my way through the world of publishing on my own.

Several years ago, after my second book A Reunion to Die For was published, I attended an event in which two cozy authors spoke. Both of these writers had been published by New York houses. During her presentation, one expressed frustration with both her publisher and literary agent because now, a successful cozy author, she found herself in a box. She had written a romantic suspense but her publisher rejected it because her fans knew her as a cozy author and her literary agent was uncertain if he could sell it elsewhere for the same reason.

Actually, the categorization of genres (mystery, suspense, thriller, romance, humor) was created by brick and mortar bookstores for a simple reason—so that they would know which shelf to place books for customers to easily find—based on the genre they are looking for.

As a result, many authors, upon succeeding in one genre, can be afraid of writing outside the confines of that box for fear of not being able to get back inside if they fail.

However, I believe, the tidal wave of independent publishing has overturned the apple carts in which authors have allowed themselves to be confined. Writers and as a result, their readers, are now allowed to reach outside the box with their imaginations and be thrilled by the experience.

I’m not only talking about crossing genres, but stepping out of safe spaces to touch on subjects that some readers or reviewers may consider hot-button topics.

The first time I stepped out of the safe space was in January 2015, when I released Three Days to Forever. Inspired by recent events and issues, domestic terrorists show up in Spencer. Of course, since the mystery was set against the backdrop of Islamic terrorists, the topic came up and was discussed by some characters.

Did everybody love it? No. While the book was praised by reviewers and is still one of my best-selling books, a small fraction of readers who identified themselves as ex-loyal readers because I “insulted” them with my politics—in spite of an author’s note in the front of the book stating that it was not meant to be a political message.

Authors are like athletes. We need to write every day or our writing muscles lose their strength. Also, like athletes, we need to push ourselves harder in order to reach bigger goals in our craft. When authors are afraid to touch on hot topics for fear of offending a reader or two or three or hundred, then their writing becomes dull, not only for the writer penning it, but for their readers.

Despite the risk of offending sensitive readers, in my heart, I’m still the same girl who jumped out of an airplane at nineteen.

I admit, I do keep my readers in mind when I pen my mysteries. With them in mind, I don’t expect my readers to have any more fun reading the same book with the same backdrop and setting over and over again than I would have writing it over and over again. So, it is not only for my own selfish reasons that, when I sat down to write Candidate for Murder, this time using politics as the backdrop, I set out to—

Be Fearless!

Am I excited? Yes!

Am I scared of offending some readers who read unintended messages between the lines? Of course!

But, I look at it this way. Sometimes, when you jump out of an airplane, your chute doesn’t open. But when it does, you get to enjoy a wonderful ride that others can only wish they could experience.

Candidate for Murder promises to be just such a ride!


Candidate for MurderAbout Candidate for Murder

It’s election time in Spencer, Maryland, and the race for mayor is not a pretty one. In recent years, the small resort town has become divided between the local year-round residents who have enjoyed their rural way of life and the city dwellers moving into their mansions, taking over the town council, and proceeding to turn Deep Creek Lake into a closed gate community—complete with a host of regulations for everything from speed limits to clothes lines.

When the political parties force-feed two unsavory mayoral nominees on the town residents, Police Chief David O’Callaghan decides to make a statement—by nominating Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German shepherd, to run as mayor of Spencer!

What starts out as a joke turns into a disaster when overnight Gnarly becomes the front runner—at which point his political enemies take a page straight out of Politics 101. What do you do when you’re behind in a race? Dig up dirt on the front runner, of course.

Seemingly, someone is not content to rest with simply embarrassing the front runner by publicizing his dishonorable discharge from the United States Army, but to throw in a murder for good measure. With murder on the ballot, Mac Faraday and the gang—including old friends from past cases—dive in to clear Gnarly’s name, catch a killer, and save Spencer!

Check out the trailer! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvCB5VnQlmU

Giveaway!

For your chance to win a Fire Tablet, enter this Rafflecopter giveaway.

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries. The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, Candidate for Murder will be released June 2016.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with Lauren: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook