How not to ask for a review

I thought this piece in today's New York Times magazine, in The Ethicist section by Kwame Anthony Appiah, is something all of us authors should think about. My husband pointed it out to me, and I totally agree. The Question More and more of my friends are self-publishing books; some I purchase just to support their writers. In this new situation, a dear old friend wants me to give him a five-star review on Amazon and post it on Facebook. I’ve seen a few pages of his book, and it’s a piece of self-indulgent drivel. I don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings, but I don’t want to sell out either. What do you suggest? Name Withheld Appiah's Answer If you are such good friends, wouldn’t it be better to give him, gently, your opinion of some of the book’s weaknesses? Possibly without actually using the words “self-indulgent drivel”? Self-published books have taken a long dive since the days of Jane Austen, and the new ease of making them, in the digital era, has turned a river of putrefact … [Read more...]

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Review number 214!

Thank you so much Christine L. Miller, Ph.D  for this wonderful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Dr. Miller has an enormous sense of what my family and I went through during our son/brother, Paul's battle with bipolar and after his suicide death seventeen years ago. Though it has been that long, Paul is still missed - forever. Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your sensitivity and understanding. Madeline Sharples’ book about her son Paul’s suicide and its aftermath is a searingly honest portrayal of the most intimate details of family life, encompassing everything from mundane daily events to the emotional vortex they were all thrown into.  There is no sugar-coating how difficult the onset of his psychotic bipolar disorder made their lives, no shying away from the occasional resentment she felt about his mental illness dominating their daily existence, or how his unapologetic re-entr … [Read more...]

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The jazz age, Chicago, and murder – read Sugarland

I’m happy to introduce Martha Conway and her new book, Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery, to my Choices readers as part of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book (blog) tour. About Sugarland: In 1921, two women, a black jazz pianist named Eve and a white nurse named Lena, join forces after a drive-by shooting nearly kills them. Eve is looking for her missing stepsister, and Lena wants to find out who murdered her brother, a petty bootlegger killed in the shooting. Sugarland recently received a Reader’s Favorite Book Award. Genre: Historical Fiction Hardcover: 314 pages (also available in paperback and e-book) Noontime Books: June 1, 2016 ISBN: 978-0991618552 About the author: Martha Conway’s debut novel 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur) was nominated for an Edgar Award while Thieving Forest won an Independent Publishers Book Award, the Laramie Award, a Reader’s Choice Award and the 2014 North American Book Award in Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has appeared … [Read more...]

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Book reviews – a roller-coaster ride

This week my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, received six new reviews for a grand total now of 198 reviews since its release in 2011. However, the reviews were not all good - three 2-stars and three 5-stars. Happily though, the week ended with two of the five-star reviews, leaving me with a huge sigh of relief. Even after all this time, my stomach turns over every time I see that a new review has been posted.  I don't suppose that feeling will go away as long as I put my writing out in public. Here are the two five-star reviews that came in, in the last two days. Thank you so much Sara and Joanne. Thank you for sharing your lives with my readers. Your words honor me and my book. A Must  Read: I found this book when I was still in the early stage of my son being diagnosed, fighting the struggle of his almost everyday behaviors, and at that point I was open to anything. Even with my son being substantially younger than Madeline's son, the book touched me and although I am for … [Read more...]

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More bragging

Even though I've bragged all over Facebook and Twitter I thought I'd do a little bragging here as well. The reason is that my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On is a finalist in the memoir, autobiography, biography category of the Independent Author Network's book-of-the-year award. And I've never been a finalist before. I'll know the outcome on August 15; however, being a finalist is all good as far as I'm concerned. The whole idea for submitting my book was to get it out there some more. So many people have told me how much they've benefitted from reading it that I'm always looking for ways to inspire more people to read it. Take a look yourselves. There's a sample on the right sidebar of this blog. Otherwise, my August has started with a bang. I'm back at my consulting job for one more month, and then I'll be free to go back to my full-time writing life. I can't wait. I also look forward to this job being finished so I can tell you what more I've learned about writing and … [Read more...]

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Saying thank you to a reviewer pays off

After three years since its launch, my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is still getting some wonderful reviews on Amazon. I can't help sharing this latest one: Incredible Book! This memoir is simultaneously heart-wrenching and incredibly hopeful. Madeline's story is a true triumph of the human spirit's ability to endure even the most nightmarish of scenarios. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone - whether you live with mental illness, have a loved one who does, have lost someone to suicide, or just looking for a beautiful story illuminating the human condition, you should read this book. Exquisite. This review touched me so much that I was moved to thank the reviewer. In doing so I found out more about her and her family: Oh wow, it's an honor to have you read my review and reply back to me! Your book has had such an impact on my life, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder m … [Read more...]

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Why LA?/Pourquoi Paris? – a perfect holiday gift book

Although I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1961, and I’ve visited Paris many times since 1969, it never occurred to me to compare the two cities. Fortunately author Diane Ratican has. In doing so she has created a wonderful book, Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?: An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities that highlights the features of both cities with short prose pieces and colorful and whimsical illustrations by Eric Giriat and Nick Lu. This is a book to treasure on your coffee table and use as a resource when visiting either city. I’ve found out about places in LA that I’ve never visited and must and places in Paris that I can’t wait to return to. The information in this book is invaluable. Ms. Ratican has divided her book into seven sections having to do with cityscapes and landmarks, culture, fashion and style, sports and leisure, art and culture, cuisine and dining, and how people get around in each city. For example, in her section called Cityscapes and Landscapes she pairs the LA … [Read more...]

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Company is coming tomorrow – Linda Appleman Shapiro

Linda Appleman Sharpiro will join me here tomorrow on the first stop of her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour to promote her memoir, She's Not Herself: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness. To give you a little advance information about her memoir I've posted my review here today. As you'll see I was very much taken by her book. My review of She’s Not Herself: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness I love survival memoirs and this is certainly one of the best I’ve read. It resonated with me and touched me in many ways: the author and I both grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, we were both children of immigrant parents – hers from Russia, mine from Eastern Europe. And most important of all we both had to find a way to grow up and thrive while our mothers were never themselves. The author’s mother suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and depression, my mother battled with borderline manic depression (undiagnos … [Read more...]

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My review of Lifting the Curtain by D. A. Russell

When I posted D.A. Russell's essay about how our urban high schools do not provide even minimal education on September 10, I hadn't yet read his book, Lifting the Curtain: The disgrace we call urban high school education. I have since remedied that. I found Lifting the Curtain fascinating, an eye-opening expose of how teachers and administrators, parents, and the students themselves have all played a role in the recent demise of quality education in our high schools. Here's my review of Lifting the Curtain: The recent convictions of high school teachers and administrators who changed students’ test scores drew me to D.A. Russell’s book, Lifting the Current: the disgrace we call urban high school education. And as I got into the book I found that changing test scores is just the tip of the iceberg. All involved – students, teachers/administrators, and parents cheat – just so the students will pass and the schools will continue to receive the funding they need to stay alive. … [Read more...]

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Reviews are powerful

Ever since my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, received its first review, I've felt how powerful reviews can be. Whether good or bad, what a reviewer says directly affects the author of the book reviewed and its salability. I found the following quote recently that I think all reviewers (besides book-review-editors) ought to think about when they write a book review: "Nearly every writer writes a book with a great amount of attention and intention and hopes and dreams. And it's important to take that effort seriously and to recognize that a book may have taken ten years of a writer's life, that the writer has put heart and soul into it. And it behooves us, as book-review-editors, to treat those books with the care and attention they deserve, and to give the writer that respect." - Pamela Paul, New York Times Book Review editor in a "Poets & Writers interview.  My Choices guest today, Nina Guilbeau, the author of God Doesn't Love Us All the Same, discusses her thoughts about … [Read more...]

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Summer reading blog hop

I’m so pleased that Susan Weidener invited me to participate in this blog hop and was so generous in her praise of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I'm now paying it forward by recommending a few traditionally and independently published books for your summer reading enjoyment. Please include some of your favorite reads in the comments below. Adventures in Mother-Sitting by Doreen Cox. In this love story Author Doreen Cox shares her experience as a "care bear" during the last three years of her mother's life and how she learned to live with her mother's slow progression from a viable, interesting, lovable, and happy woman to a woman overcome by dementia unable to handle even her most basic bodily needs. And Doreen doesn't shirk away from those details. She repeatedly quotes her mother's mantra: "You just do what you have to do." Doreen gave up her as a career group counselor at an alternative school for at-risk and SED high school students to care for her mother, and she never re … [Read more...]

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Support an author month

This is a reblog from Cate Russell Cole's wonderful site: CommuniCate Resources for Writers. Books have been on my mind lately, and this is just the push I need to buy some more. Next on my list is something by John Updike. I've decided to catch up on his and Philip Roth's work in the next few months. There's a little used bookstore up on Main Street in Santa Monica, called Angel City Book Store and Gallery. I plan to be browsing there one day this week. Now here's Cate: Support an Author: Grab that Book You’ve Been Wanting ~ #saam14 Posted on May 23, 2014 by Cate Russell-Cole There is a pie shop near here that has the slogan, “Buy one so we both don’t go hungry.” It is one of the best advertising slogans I’ve seen. Books feed both the reader’s and the writer’s soul in so many ways. So, you know you’ve been meaning to… this week, your love task for Support an Author Month is to go buy that book you’ve planned to get, but didn’t get around to. Don’t forget, wherever you … [Read more...]

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Five star review number 105

The 105th five star review arrived on my Amazon page on January 29. I was so impressed with what Stace of Australia wrote about Leaving the Hall Light On and her sensitivity to our son Paul's and our family's struggles, and the different ways people react to physical vs mental illnesses, I wanted to share it with your here. The gist is: mental illness is an illness just like a physical illness and needs to be recognized as such. "I really related to this book. Having experienced major depression I knew a lot of the scenarios and can imagine how Madeline's son Paul felt. How scared and alone he would have felt. This book is so heart felt and detailed. It's a real life experience that they can't take back but have learned so much from. I felt so sorry for Paul's family and friends. In some places in the book I felt angry with the parents for criticizing their son after he'd passed away, but at the same time I knew that they're hurting and angry that he left them. It hurts to hear … [Read more...]

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Company is coming: Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera

Heather Friedman Rivera, Ph.D. in Parapsychic Science and co-founder with her husband Mark of the PLR Institute, an organization for advancing past life research, will be my guest here on Choices this coming Wednesday January 22 and next Sunday January 26. She’ll discuss how her second book, Quiet Water – a past life novel, released in September 2013, and the first of a trilogy called the Golden Raven Series, came about. It’s a fascinating story. Please come back for Parts One and Two next week. I read Heather’s first book Healing the Present from the Past: The Personal Journey of a Past Life Researcher  (January 2013) last year. It is about her recent research and her healing journey through past life regression. Here is my review. As you will see I am still skeptical about this whole subject matter, but I am drawn to it as well. I give author Heather Friedman Rivera huge kudos for getting this reader to read and finish Healing the Present from the Past: The Personal Journey o … [Read more...]

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Book reviews matter

I’ve written about book reviews before. Frankly I wish they’d all go away. But since I’m an author I have to live with them. I also know that reviews matter. Good ones help sales. Bad ones hurt author’s egos. I reblogged a post about reviews from Kristen Lamb last June. She and I are on the same page about writing bad reviews. We just won’t. We know how much they hurt, and why hurt our author friends and colleagues? And, I’ve had some reviews of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On that were pretty ego-hurting. However, I’m fortunate that most been very positive. Like the one posted on Amazon yesterday. It is so in tune with my sentiments and what I wanted to get across in my book, I have to share it here. My only connection to the reviewer is she contacted me about how to get permission to use a Paul Simon song quote in her own book, and I gave her the information. When she told me she read my book, I asked if she’d write a review. Yesterday she contacted me again to tell me she … [Read more...]

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Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews? by Kristen Lamb

Reviews have been on my mind again lately - especially bad ones, especially those written by people who don't appear to have read the book. I took special notice of Pamela Paul's words in an interview in this month's Poets and Writers, which I think all reviewers should take to heart, Paul is the new editor of the New York Times Book Review section. “Nearly every writer writes a book with a great amount of attention and intention and hopes and dreams. And it's important to take that effort seriously and to recognize that a book may have taken ten years of a writer's life, that the writer has put heart and soul into it. And it behooves us, as book-review-editors, to treat those books with the care and attention they deserve, and to give the writer that respect." Then I found this wonderful post on Kristen Lamb's Blog on the same subject. I personally will not write a bad review because I know from my own experience that they hurt. Please let me know what your think. Here is K … [Read more...]

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I’m so proud to know Doreen Cox, loving caregiver

I first met Doreen in a women's memoir group on LinkedIn. We got to chatting and then moved on to reading each other's books and reviewing them. I was so intrigued with Doreen's story about caring for her mother - the pure love mother and daughter had for each other - that I wanted to get to know Doreen better. I found that not only did she give undivided love to her mother she gives it to all of the people in her life. I have been a recipient. No day goes by when I don't hear from Doreen either on Facebook, Twitter, a comment on my blog, or an email. I am indeed blessed to know her. Please read about her journey in writing her first book and how she got it published. I can relate since my memoir was culled from years of journaling as well. A Cathartic Journey By Doreen Cox Throughout the three years of my Care Bear experience, I scribbled in a journal at night in order to stave off despair, to keep my sanity; to cut loose the tears that had been bottled up inside while I … [Read more...]

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Mike O’Mary’s thoughts about book promotion

I couldn't leave my wonderful Dream of Things publisher, Mike O'Mary, out of my guest lineup. He has brought a whole new life to my book. His ideas for promotion have been priceless. I never would have known about most of this stuff had I gone on to self-publish after my first publisher went out of business. Please welcome Mike O'Mary and take lots of notes. Time and Commitment are Keys to Book Promotion by Mike O'Mary, My Dream of Things Publisher As the publisher of the trade paperback and e-book editions of Madeline Sharples’ Leaving the Hall LightOn, I’ve had the pleasure of working with someone who really “gets it” when it comes to what an author needs to do afterthe book is written. In fact, I’ve already told other authors about Madeline and encouraged them to follow her and learn from her example.When Madeline first contacted me about becoming her publisher, I was intrigued. The hard cover edition of her book had good reviews, but then her publisher went out of business. … [Read more...]

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Blatant bragging

This book is getting lots of kudos As of today my memoir has twenty-two reviews up on Amazon. Twenty are five-star, and even though they wrote terrific reviews, two people gave the book only four-stars. Really what’s up with that? But rather than complaining I’m just going to shout out Hip, Hip Hooray. I am just so thrilled with the response and with people’s reaction to the story and the writing in my book. Never in my wildest dreams did I think people would react so well to my words. A friend told me last night that she was just going to read my book to support me, and she found once she opened it she couldn’t put it down. She kept raving about it. Now I couldn’t ask for more than that. Plus, when I asked her to post a review, she posted almost immediately. That’s a true friend. I thank her so much. So, if you’re reading this and you’ve read my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, please post a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or … [Read more...]

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String Bridge – review and author interview

I recently had the great pleasure to read Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge. And I happily gave it a well-deserved five out of five stars. From the outside it would appear Melody Hill, the main character and narrator of Jessica Bell’s debut novel, String Bridge, has a perfect life. She lives in Athens with her charming Greek music promoter husband, she has an adorably precocious daughter, and she has a dream job as an editor for a publishing company with a promotion and raise in the offing. But getting deeper into her story, the reader finds what’s hidden behind this façade and her wanting-to-please-everyone persona. She is frightened by her husband’s abusive yelling and mortified at finding out he has had an affair. She is suffering from the effects of her mother’s erratic bipolar behavior and worries that she is bipolar herself. She is constantly searching for help from her silent but loving father. And she regrets giving up her music career for a life that she can hardl … [Read more...]

5,511 total views, 8 views today