Conundrum: Should Authors Wear the ‘Reviewer’ Hat? (Part 2)

Hello again, and thank you for stopping in a second time this week. Here is where we left off (should you be a blog-post behind and want to catch up 🙂 ).

I’ve posted plenty of ‘thoughts on books’ at this blogsite. (They’re categorized under ‘Reviews’ and ‘Thoughts on Books”, but I no longer consider them formal ‘reviews.’ Perhaps I don’t feel qualified to ‘review’ someone else’s work. MHO maintains that critiquing someone else’s story implies I know something more and maybe that just ain’t so. )

Aside: Remembering to post my thoughts at bookseller sites is a whole ‘nother ball-of-wax. Kind of messes with the reasons why one writes them in the first place. 🙂

Like Carrie Rubin, if I do blog about a specific book, I’m going to keep it positive. Most authors invest a lot of time, effort and heart into their works. It’s no fun to feel all that input trashed by someone who didn’t like it.

I know first-hand how it feels to be on the receiving end of some really nice reviews. I’ve also had lower-number-star reviews. These were generally kind, but suggested my debut novel was just okay. (I appreciated the kindness and took the positive out of the reviewer’s thoughts.)

So how do I handle it when my (Ahem!) constructive feedback outweighs the encouraging thoughts?

One: If the book just doesn’t do it for me—even if I promised a review in exchange for a copy of the book—I’ve gone one of two ways. If I can get through it, I’ll keep it positive and hone in on the good stuff. Recently though, I emailed an author with my concerns and why I couldn’t FINISH his/her particular book. (Not that I received a response. Shoulder shrug.)

Two: I will voice my issues with a story in a blog post. I plan on doing so next time—namelessly. Not to trash the author or the book, but to offer suggestions to other writers about tactics, etc, that put me off as a reader, but as a reader-turned-writer too.

And this is where things get mucked up for those of us who wear the author/writer/reader hat. Is it a conflict of interest to consume the very product I produce? I’ve yet to meet a writer who wasn’t an avid reader. (I imagine most of us remain the latter.) My problem: my increasingly critical writer/editor side has messed with my willingness to slog through work that isn’t up to the standards I’ve learned—or have been told—should exist.

Finally, if the reader/writer ‘reviewers’ take that step back and don’t offer their opinions on fellow authors’ works, I think we’d be losing a host of highly insightful thoughts into what makes a book palatable. After all, I’m thinking we be the toughest nuts to crack when it comes to deeming a story a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ read.

Should we post constructive thoughts, or just the glowing positive thoughts—at our blogs, review and/or bookseller sites?

If the constructive feedback is not terribly discouraging, disparaging and not necessarily overriding the good in the story, sure. I.e.,  ‘this worked for me, but I might have preferred if the author had…”

Hain’t ya glad I didn’t dump all this into a comment on your blog, Carrie?

Your turn, friends. Can’t imagine we’re lacking for thoughts on this. Let ’em ride! 😀

Happy rest of the week and weekend,

Joanna

 

 

 

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Conundrum: Should Authors Wear the ‘Reviewer’ Hat? (Part 1)

And should they do so at their author blogs?

Welcome, friends! Warmer temperatures are hinting at spring–Yay!–and we’ve sprung our clocks forward. (I’ll get over the loss of an hour’s sleep. More sun and light, please!)

So the other day fellow author and online friend Carrie Rubin referenced a blog post by social media guru Kristen Lamb. The question: should authors write reviews for books they’ve read and/or publish them on their blogs?

Of course, both articles got me thinking, enough to get into one of my long-winded comments. (The kind that has blog-post-of-my-own potential—all as I happened to be trudging through a book whose characters caught my interest, but had me tangling big-time with issues relative to the prose.)

As per Carrie Rubin’s post: “One of the things (Kristen Lamb) recommends is never writing a bad book review. In fact, Kristen suggests writers should not publish book reviews on their blogs at all: ‘“Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’ My opinion is we can’t do both.”’

Carrie tends to agree and ponders the notion that an author writing reviews could be a conflict of interest. She also supplied valid arguments for both sides of doing so—more so for NOT writing a bad review—with support noted for the benefit and/or need for reviews by indie authors.

I don’t disagree with Kristen Lamb on “Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’” At the risk of sounding full of myself (which I pray I am not), and as a reader—a.k.a., consumer-of-books—AND writer/author, I hope I bring an expanded (?) set of skills to the ‘review’ table.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll get into those a little later this week. What are your thoughts so far?

Have a great day,

Joanna

Is YOUR Family on Technology Overload?

Hi all! School is underway, things are busier–again–and this parent is often (uh always) trying to keep up. Ever-evolving technology adds more pressure to our time-crunched situations. Here are some tips/ideas for staying sane in a world that moves way too fast and never seems to sleep. 

Parenting Issues Caused by Technology Overload. Help!

   

Summary:  Therapist, author and Positive Living Expert Diane Lang addresses a common question clients ask her: “How can I be a good parent with all these distractions? Between my cell phone, texting, e-mails, etc. I feel I never get a break.” Today’s technology overload creates three main fixable problems that parents should address with these specific tips listed below.

Fixable Problem #1: We Are Always “Plugged In”: Parents always felt overwhelmed and busy, but now with all the added technology, our work weeks are much longer and we feel like the world never stops. The new work week looks way different then the days of 40 hours a week. Most people work 60-80 hours a week due to longer commutes and always being “plugged in” due to technology. But this is just part of the battle…

Fixable Problem #2: Communication Issues Within Families:Technology also causes communication issues within families. I hate to tell this true story, but it nails the point. I was at dinner the other night and I saw a family of four sitting around the table waiting for their food. The mom was reading the menu but the dad and the two kids were all texting or searching on their phones. It made me sad to see a family actually have the opportunity to spend quality time together and not take advantage of it. Unfortunately, this example is quite common and becoming the norm. I know in my own household if I’m in the house and my husband is outside in the yard, he will call me on my cell before walking inside to talk to me.

Fixable Problem #3: Instant Gratification and Laziness: We have created a society of instant gratification and laziness. We see the problems in kids as a result. Their lack of physical exercise, social skills and obesity are big issues today. It’s one thing to have a group of friends, but nowadays we hear kids say “I have over a 100 friends on Facebook” but yet they only have met a few in person.

Five Tips to Fix: Because of the technology overload, we are up against new issues in parenting and relationships in general and there are no new rules or handbooks to help families handle this situation. However, some basic tips still apply to keeping a happy, healthy home:

1. Communicate – we always tell parents to spend quality time with their kids. It used to be have family dinners together. We now have to add to the dinner that there should be no technology! The dinner table should be a sacred time where everyone joins in the conversation: parents, children and other family members. Ask open ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” 

2. Be an active listener – in the world of technology, we don’t have as much face to face time BUT when we do it’s important to be a good listener. Make sure to have direct eye contact. Watch your non-verbal language, show you’re listening by nodding your head, facial expressions, etc. Listen to the whole story or question, pause to think about it and then answer. Really listen when someone talks – don’t think about your answer or another topic while they are speaking. Show you care.

3. Socialization is a key factor in our happiness.  Join in with family events, the community, friends, etc. Make sure a lot of your socialization is in person; we need face to face interaction.

4. Lose the attachment – all the latest technology is great and helpful, but we don’t NEED it. Don’t allow your life to be controlled by technology. Have technology free times such as after 8pm at night and during dinner time as mentioned above. This is your time to spend with family, read a book, etc.

5. Be a good role model – you teach your kids through your actions. Kids are visual learners so if your kids constantly see you on the phone, texting, etc. they will follow suit. If you’re ignoring your kids to text or sitting at the dinner table with your laptop or TV on, you will have your kids repeat the same behavior. Kids will imitate what they observe. What do you want them to see?

Visit Diane at her website: www.dlcounseling.com.

As always, pertinent, practical information that’s right on time! Thanks to Diane for sharing her wisdom and for allowing me to pass it on to you! And please feel free to SHARE below–I thanks ye!

Have a great day,

Joanna

On A Virtual Visit with Babette James…

Happy first Friday in August folks–hey! Didn’t July start just the other day? Where did it go?

I’m visiting with fellow Liberty States Fiction Writers member Babette James today! She’s been kind enough to offer me the opportunity to share the topic of my recent talk at the Howell Twp Public Library in NJ. So if you couldn’t be there in person, here are the highlights of my chat with some very nice folks who took time out of their busy Saturday to hear what I had to say.

You’ll find a little sneak-peak there as well. Come on over: http://babettejames.com/2012/08/03/what-id-do-differently-by-joanna-aislinn/

Joanna

Quick FlashBack: Why Wordpress Rocks

Ten Reasons (Okay, Eleven) Why WordPress Rocks

It’s been a busy weekend, folks. So, since I originally thought this was running at fellow Liberty States Fiction Writer Nathan Rudy’s blog today–it ran on the first Wed of April instead–I figured I’ll do another catch-up thing and run it here. If you’re here for the first time, welcome and to you this is all new!

So I was hopping through the blogosphere, dealing with some technical blog-post issues when I realized it might do many well —including myself—to sing the praises of WordPress: my blogging software of choice (WP, from here on in).

Disclaimer: I’ve never used another type of blogging software. This article is based solely on my experience with WP and not intended to take away from other brands, if you will.

First, please allow me to credit multi-published author and LSFW secretary Caridad Pineiro for introducing me to WP. Several years ago, this ever-generous-and-amazingly-patient soul gave several hours of her very packed schedule to this ridiculously green newbie writer. Caridad did her best to show me how to create a site and add content that evening. I took notes but may as well have written in Polish, Slavic, Chinese or some other foreign language; I couldn’t make sense of my own notes.

That was in the fall of 2008. Took until the following spring before the ‘a-ha’ moment happened. (I wrote about it on my first post, I was so excited.) I was at least a year into the process before it all started making real sense.

I’ve been blogging with WordPress ever since. Back then, I learned first and foremost: write my posts in a word-processing application then copy and paste into my blogging software. (I’ve lost information and/or changes writing directly into the software. Plus, I have my own draft of the article on my hard drive and/or backed up otherwise. Although WordPress is most likely in no danger of this at all, I’ve read the horror stories of bloggers whose blogging companies shut down and all their posts lost.)

Okay, on to the reasons I’m very happy with WordPress:

(1) Support: (a) “Happiness Engineers” have always gotten back to me via email, usually within 24 hours of my query. Responses have always been helpful and subsequent questions always answered by the same HE; (b) tons of support articles and WordPress TV (video help) available with one click on ‘Help;’ (c) forum of fellow WP bloggers willing to chime in with their experiences on a given topic.

(2) A multitude of free themes designed to meet different blogging needs/likes. One click is all it takes to change the look and feel of your blog, and more custom options (i.e., headers) than I can share about. (This is great for someone like me who gets tired of the same look after a while.)

(3) Inexpensive domains ($24/year), though some folks have described the .me domain as ‘cheesy.’ (I’m still thinking about that one. My website costs a lot more than that to host.)

(4) Newsletter subscriptions of choice: I subscribe to fellow bloggers’ blogs and at least three of WP’s informational blogs. (The latter keep me updated on many things WordPress! J) I also subscribe to The Daily Post, “an experiment in blogging motivation from the folks atWordPress.com.” These lovely folks post blogging ideas and tips to help bloggers get the most out of their blogs. There are also daily and weekly post challenges, photo challenges—you name it. Each is delivered straight to my inbox.

(5) I LOVE this feature: number of comments, likes, etc feature posted at the top of my screen when I’m signed in to WP and reading mine or any other WP blog. Clicking on this lovely little number at the top shows me who “liked” and/or commented on my post. Best of all: this same feature shows responses to my comments at other WP blogs; this means I don’t have to remember where I commented in the event there was a response! Cool, right?

(6) Also at the top of my screen: access to a new post screen on the very WP site I’m visiting. If I’m inspired to write a post of my own, I don’t have to leave the article that inspired me! (For those of us who have the focus of a flea, this is a godsend. J)

(7) My favorite: Reblogging: An awesome feature recently re-introduced (and very similar to the PressThis! share button at the bottom of my post.

Here’s how it works:

I’m at someone’s blog and read an article that totally speaks to me. I hit reblog. I get the option of writing a little intro before hitting send. Now that write-up becomes my next post and is instantly delivered to my followers’ inbox as well. Easy-peasy promo for the fellow blogger and instant content for mine. Awesome, yes? (And on that note, check out the WordPress landing page. Freshly Pressed offers a page of thumbnails to a variety of blogs. Promo from the WP folks themselves to help get your name out there and drive traffic to your site. Ask social media maven Kristen Lamb what making Freshly Pressed did for her blog! Not sure what it takes to get picked but I’m hoping to get there one of these days!)

(8) Simple importing/exporting of content: more on that here.

(9) Maybe it’s coincidence, but seems like many of those making a name for themselves in the writing world (i.e., Kristen Lamb, Sean Platt, etc) recommend using WordPress. Honestly, I’ve yet to read different.

(10) This is the newest reason: badges for celebrating milestones. Cool and fun!

(11) Way more features, incentives and ideas that I’m by no means aware exist. BUT: go to WordPress.com and start looking around. Promise you’ll come across something that meets your needs.

So, there you have it. MHO of why WordPress is the way to go if you’re looking to start a blog or switch from the software you’re currently using. Now, the audience participation part: assuming you’re a blogger too, which software do you use? Are you happy with it? Why or why not? And as a blog reader, do you notice any difference between blogs hosted by different companies?

Again, I thank you, Nathan, for having me here! For those of you who liked what you read, won’t you please take a moment and help spread this content into cyberspace by clicking one of the share buttons below? Thanks for taking the time to read!

My thoughts on a great, romantic weekend read on Friday. Hope you stop in!

Have a wonderful day!

Joanna

Blogging Etiquette–Faux Pas or Nah?

Happy Thursday all,

Not sure if sharing this is my best move, but an episode involving a comment I posted during a recent first-time visit to a blog inspired these thoughts. I came by said blog via a link in a loop; I’d never heard of the blog author or her guest but really liked the site.

Long story short, my comment included a link back to my blog. The post I linked to was so on-topic, you could read it in the URL. When I checked back at the site a while later, I noticed my comment had been ‘removed by the blog moderator/administer.’

Honestly, I was a bit taken aback. Yes, it was my first visit there, but I really wasn’t trying to be rude. Maybe I was excited to read content that reminded me of my own very similar post so I linked back to it, thinking it might be beneficial to someone else. BTW,  I have no problem with someone linking back to his/her blog from mine. (I might take exception to linking to content that I don’t believe family friendly, but that has yet to happen so I’ll deal with that on a case-by-case basis, should the occasion arise!)

I thought about why so many of us blog in the first place: to establish relationships with people and to create a presence online. Maybe I’m too steeped in social media etiquette as per Kristen Lamb’s teachings, whose we-are-not-alone approach encourages us to be out there as much as we can, supporting and promoting others, and when appropriate, ourselves too. (Perhaps I’ve missed something? IDK, someone would have to write something ridiculously offensive for me to consider removing any comment, or even editing it. Cyberspace—particularly the blogosphere—is so vast, I believe there is room for all of us. A final thought on the sharing part: perhaps anyone who clicked on my link might have found my content helpful. And said link-clicker would have already read the blog where comment was posted, so I don’t believe I was taking away from the original blogger.)

So what do you all think about this? Did I err or break a rule of blog etiquette of which I am unaware? Please feel free to comment away (email me privately, DM me on Twitter or send me a message via Facebook) and enlighten me. I would love some other thoughts on this—really!

Thanks, TTFN and a great day to all,

Joanna

Just Video Games or A Social Network?

Good day, everyone!

Since we talked about Christmas on Tuesday, let’s finish this week’s blog-set with one related to the same holiday. Then, we’ll put Christmas to rest—until after Thanksgiving (or maybe July ;)).

My 13-year-old son must have revised his 2011 Christmas list six times (and not for editing purposes, I can assure you.) Can’t tell you how many times I told him this particular holiday isn’t “mail order.” Kids, however, will be kids and this one was true to form.

He waxed and waned between a new gaming system (PS-3) and several other pricey game-related items (for X-box 360, which he has). He finally settled on the former as he handed over the final draft of his list.

       https://gustavus.edu/gts/Xbox_360

When hubby and I got to the gaming store and looked over the list, I noticed at least one-third of the PS-3 items he wanted he’d recently acquired for X-box, at the tune of $150-200. Seriously? After I asked the young guy behind the counter some questions why one system would be favorable over another, a judgment call was definitely in order. We picked up games and acc  essories for his X-Box 360 that were on his list as back-up, plus some other goodies Mom thought he could use: a robe, NY Giants’ hoodie—you know, essentials. 😉

   http://us.playstation.com/ps3/

FYI: The big draw for PS-3 is said to be free online gaming, but Sony had been hacked earlier that year and was down for three months. X-box 360 requires X-box Points to play online and must be purchased separately, at the tune of roughly $8/month or $60/year, a significant savings if you’re willing to put the bigger cost up front. (BTW, video games are no longer an individual activity. Kids play online with each other, within the online framework of the gaming system they have. They invite each other to virtual “parties” or play football games against each other, work as teams on other games, etc.)

Most of my son’s friends have X-Box 360; the system, so far, seems to have the staying power of Windows XP. In other words, it’s been around and most likely will remain popular a while longer. (Dang! When did I learn all this stuff? I hated computers when they first arrived on the scene. Hubby bought me my first one, lol. )

Fast-forward to Christmas morning: To say I had a very disappointed child on my hands is an understatement. Folks, we had DRAMA, and all that talk about the real meaning of Christmas, expectations, mail order, etc wasn’t going anywhere. (Thank goodness our visit to church changed his mood, as did having Christmas at our house.)

Of course I questioned the choices hubby and I made as a different aspect of the potential problem hit me: Were we cutting our son off from the social network his games provide by not having gotten the new system? I decided to delve further by asking my son some questions. Turns out, only one friend got PS-3 and plays X-Box along with the other “core crowd” of gaming buddies. (Sounds like I’m not the only parent who thinks this way.)

I’m grateful to report things worked out. (Somehow they always do.) By evening, after the festivities wound down, my son came to me and said, “I feel like a fool about the way I acted this morning.” (And, he was glad he didn’t get the PS-3; the next day, he stood in line for at least thirty minutes and came home with an I-phone, which he bought with his Christmas money. He did need a new communication device). Even as I wrote this, he rethought his behavior and vocalized his feelings on having missed looking forward to opening gifts because of his attitude. I found it especially saddening on Christmas day to know how upset he was. Besides it being every kid’s favorite holiday, this same child pretty much decorated the house and did all the wrapping (save his and his brother’s presents; momma handled those). He brought the festive look to our home and saved me tons of work. But, if he learned something from the experience that will stick with him, then I suppose the rough start to the biggest day of the year was worth it.

One more notice: He recently played on a friend’s PS-3 and decided he didn’t like it after all. Then he started talking about what he wants for Christmas 2012. (That’s when the hand went up—I was, after all, watching the NY Giants’ Wild Card game and was in no position to consider the next holiday season, lol.)

So what are your takes on this subject? Have you ever had to make that call that you know would so disappoint someone? What did you do? How did the situation turn out?

Have a wonderful weekend–it’s an extended one for us–and ttys! Go Giants (and Packers)!

Joanna