Writing A Book Review

When you purchase a book from Amazon or Barnes & Nobel online have you ever noticed that there is a place for you to write a short review? Goodreads.com also provides a place for reviews. Most readers don’t leave one because it intimidates them. People think that there are certain requirements you must have to be a book reviewer. Not true anymore. In most cases, even if you didn’t purchase the book online, you can still go on the website, log on, and enter a review.

Amazon has changed some of the rules and you need to be careful about saying things like “buy this book” or “if you liked James Patterson, then you’ll love this.” However, there are still many things that can be put in your comments that don’t cross the lines and you can really help your fellow or favorite authors by leaving a review.

Let me help you out with some suggestions:

  • The theme represents …
  • I enjoyed the story because …
  • The relationships between characters demonstrated …
  • It is well written …
  • My favorite character …
  • The story is well researched …
  • Read some of the reviews posted for examples and write one in your own words.
  • A review does not have to be only positive statements but can include points that you feel are negative. Just be sure that you stick to the subject and the writing, do not get personal about the author.
  • If the writing is not professional, then it is alright to say that.
  • If the research in a historical novel is obviously well done, then mention it.
  • It can be a great story that isn’t told very well.
  • Tell whether you like the book or not.
  • Would you recommend it to others?
  • Don’t just give the book five stars because you liked the story. Not every good story deserves five stars.
  • Be honest.
  • If you read a book and don’t feel like you can give the book three stars or more and are not comfortable doing a review, then tell the author that you’d rather not do a review. Be tactful, but don’t lie. You’re not doing us a favor when you give us a review we don’t deserve and the reader feels cheated and won’t read our next book. Personally, I’d rather you tell me it needs more work and isn’t as professional as it could be. Believe me, it wouldn’t be the first time I heard a rejection that said I needed to work on my book to prepare it better for public consumption. Hopefully, my book is still in a place where I can pull it and make corrections before the general public sees it.

I hope this helps take some of the anxiety out of writing a review.

 

A Long Dry Spell

book - pencil writing

Life happens and sometimes blogs and writing are sidelined for awhile. Without getting into details, I’ve spent the past several months readjusting to a new season in life that interfered with my writing process. Things went on hold. Some writers push through and write anyway. Others of us, not so much. However, if you love books and love writing, the call of the unwritten stories never completely leaves.

I hope you’ve read wonderful and memorable books while I’ve been away. I’ve read a few myself including The Nightingale, A Gentleman in Moscow, and Max Perkins: Editor of Genius.

It’s good to be back with my fellow writers and readers again.

Free Kindle today and tomorrow

FREE on Kindle today and tomorrow! Rebekah Redeemed, by Dianne G. Sagan

PhototasticCollage-2016-01-30-10-44-28Rebekah Redeemed Rereleased by the author with a new cover, this is the story of a shepherd’s daughter who is orphaned and forced to endure a life of servitude. Find out how her life changes after she meets the extraordinary young rabbi from Galilee. http://amzn.to/1Sd8H21

Dianne G. Sagan has been on the Amazon Bestsellers list 45 times for Rebekah Redeemed and The Fisherman’s Wife from her Women of the Bible series.

Get your copy now http://amzn.to/1Sd8H21

“Beautiful and touching …” Kim Black, Pres. Panhandle Professional Writers

“The insight shown in this book amazed me …” Review by J.M. Perhach

“Engaging, authentic, I loved this book …” Review by Katrinka Mayus

The Hybrid Author: A Guide to Publishing 99¢ #Kindle sale

Saturday and Sunday, January 16 – 17, The Hybrid Author: A Guide to Publishing, 2nd Edition is on sale for $.99 on Kindle as part of a countdown sale that ends January 22nd, 2016.

This new guide to the evolving publishing industry is written with candor, insight and Ms. Sagan’s personal experience as a seasoned hybrid author.alternate Hybrid cover (3)

In this second edition Mrs. Sagan answers every request from readers of the first edition. You’ll immediately find:

  • Active resource links for all your writing needs
  • Discoverability tips to reach current and evolving markets
  • Advice for the Author/Entrepreneur that you can put to work today

Nancy Drew Turns 85!

(copied from post on Facebook by “A Mighty Girl”) I just had to share this with you. I read and loved Nancy Drew as a girl and so did my daughters.

 

Nancy Drew's 1st book in seriesHappy 85th birthday to Nancy Drew! The first volume in the long-running girl detective series, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” was published 85 years ago this week under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. In a tribute on The Mary Sue, author Theodore Jefferson writes, “Agency. It is that which forms the foundation for any hero’s ability to save the day. In America, agency for teenage girls in literature made its debut in 1930 in the person of Nancy Drew.” This original Mighty Girl character paved the way for many more heroic female characters and inspired generations of real-life girls and women.

Ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson and later revised by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the first volume of Nancy Drew had a huge influence on young readers. Jefferson writes, Nancy Drew provided them with “stories of someone like themselves who had a positive effect on the world instead of passively sitting at home… She is a character with that magical ‘what if’ question woven into her identity, and one that effortlessly captures the imaginations of readers by allowing them to participate in a world where the answers to that question are just as entertaining as the stories themselves.”

Jefferson adds that the “echoes” of Nancy Drew can be seen in “Gidget, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Katniss Everdeen, Black Widow, Jessica Halloran and numerous other literary characters, television stars and comic heroes.” She also was at the forefront of a new literary idea: “the character upon which a universe could be created” for a series of related stories. For the first time, a whole world could be built around the adventures of one character, an idea that Jefferson notes was “powerful enough that Nancy Drew unseated many leading book series for boys in the process.”

At the time, some viewed Nancy Drew as a poor role model, “contradicting adults while she squared off with the villains… she is mechanically inclined and at the same time doesn’t act like most people in the 1930s would have expected a teenage girl to act.” In fact, many libraries and bookstores refused to carry the Nancy Drew stories. Despite — or because of — that disapproval, kids collected the books voraciously, and in the midst of the Depression, used copies were shared and traded like trading cards are today. As a result, “any kid, even those who couldn’t afford new books, would very likely get to read every adventure starring their favorite character.”

The tremendous influence of Nancy Drew continues to this day asserts Jefferson: “It is difficult to overstate how powerful Nancy Drew’s presence remains in literature and in other media. She has influenced film, comics, video games and animation for 85 years, and will continue to do so as long as teenage girls take the lead as our heroes in the imaginative worlds of adventure.”

Did you grow up reading Nancy Drew? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below. You can read Jefferson’s essay in honor of 85 years of Nancy Drew on The Mary Sue, visit http://bit.ly/1bk0r1o

To introduce a new generation to this classic girl detective, the Nancy Drew Starter Box Set featuring the series’ first six books, recommended for ages 8 and up, visit http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-box-set

Nancy Drew’s stories have also been brought to life in a wide range of Nancy Drew Video Games athttp://bit.ly/1c37uNp

Nancy Drew is also featured on a “Twisted Candles” t-shirt for teens and adults (http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-shirt) and in a Nancy Drew Paper Doll Set at http://www.amightygirl.com/nancy-drew-classic-paper-dolls

For more mysteries starring Mighty Girls — all for readers ages 8 to 12 — we recommend “The Case of the Missing Moonstone” for ages 8 to 12 (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-case-of-the-missing-moonstone), “The Fairy Tale Detectives” (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-fairy-tale-detectives), “Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes” (http://www.amightygirl.com/ruby-redfort), and “Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief” (http://www.amightygirl.com/sammy-keyes-and-the-hotel-thief).

To discover more Mighty Girl mysteries for readers of all ages, visit our “Mystery & Suspense” section athttp://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/mystery-suspense

Z is for Zealotry

Roman Soldiers At EasterIn the first century the Zealots were those who fought outwardly against Rome. They tried to start revolutions to overthrow their oppressors, and the usual result was that they were crushed and the survivors crucified. About the time Jesus was a boy the Zealots staged an uprising, and the history resources I’ve used say the roads entering Jerusalem were lined with hundreds of crosses bearing the rebellious contenders as a warning for the people to go home and submit to Roman rule.

And it wasn’t just that the Romans ruled over them. Rome taxed them and even demanded that Roman subjects bow down to the image of the Emperor. Among the Jews, bowing down to anyone but Yahweh, the One True God, was forbidden by the Mosaic Law, and in bowing to a mere man a Jew could be put to death. However, if they did not bow down to Caesar then the Roman governor of Palestine could have them crucified. This was undoubtedly the origin of the dilemma, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

The High Priest tried to reason with the Roman officials but with little success. The Zealots incited riots, killed Roman soldiers caught alone in the streets of Jerusalem, or attacked small cohorts of soldiers marching across the countryside. Palestine was considered the most rebellious province in the Empire by many officials in Rome and the worst place to be stationed by most legionnaires. Why?  Because of the Zealots and their One God for whom they would so readily die.

This is the turmoil that is the backdrop of my stories, and it provides a constant, visceral tension on top of everything else that happens to my characters. It is into this world that Jesus was born.

I’d like you to consider another side of zeal for a moment. This is the side that Jesus had and that his dreamstimefree_27664970disciples shared. It’s constructive, not destructive. It’s what Rebekah, Johanna, Miriam and Mary all found after their encounters with Jesus. The dictionary defines zeal as great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. It is a passion, a devotion, often for only an idea.

In those private moments after each woman meets with Jesus she is changed forever in the way she thinks and in the way she acts. She finds a new sense of purpose for her life and a new zest for living it. She is filled with both joy and passion.

My own path in this life has been an answer to the “Jesus question”: What greater cause is there than love for and service to your fellow man?

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I hope I have helped you answer this question for yourself, and I hope you live the rest of your life with zeal.

Y is for Yahweh

Intense LightningLet me start with a little historical background. If you were to step back in time and travel across the Roman Empire in the first century then you would find an empire that ruled over many cultures. Even though most Jews lived in Palestine, some Jewish settlements were scattered around the the Mediterranean from the time the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel about 722 B.C. Four hundred years later Alexander the Great would rule much of the eastern empire and spread a Hellenistic culture that would last well into the first century of the common era. The Greek influence in architecture throughout the Roman Empire can still be seen in ruins across Europe and the Mediterranean regions as well as Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. Judea was not dispersed permanently until 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Herodian Temple.

Across the Roman  Empire the people – both Romans and many of those the Romans had conquered – worshiped multiple gods, but the Jews persisted in claiming one God who was so sacred to them that they did not even use his actual name. The cultures around the ancient Jews even erected monuments to “the god with no name.” You may remember in the story of Moses and the burning bush he asked God what he should call Him. God replied, “I am that I am.” Let’s face it: this is, at best, ambiguous, and religious scholars have been arguing for centuries about just what it means.

“I am that I am” is a little cumbersome as a reference to or a name for God, and in Judaism they developed some alternatives that were easier to apply and still observe the prohibition of calling God by name. One is Yahweh. If you go to a synagogue today you find Him called Hashem. There are others, but you get the idea.

When Jesus came he spoke about “God our father,” and the Jewish religious officials said it was blasphemy because the carpenter’s son spoke in such familiarity and his words made Jesus “God.” Such an utterance would have been considered a grave offense then, and even today it might get the speaker commited to an asylum.

The message that Jesus brought gave the people a God who was approachable, not a God who only stayed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, jealous, angry and terrifying. Jesus even called Him “Abba,” which roughly translates to “daddy.”

In Jewish tradition God is hard, demanding and vengeful. But the way I see God – through Jesus – He is compassionate and loving, and he beckons his children to come to Him. He wants us to return to Him so that He may heal our bodies and our hearts. He does have expectations that we will treat each other with love and that we will be of service to one another, and I believe we are accountable to God for our actions, someday and somehow.

But the enduring lesson of Jesus was the message that when we fall short of God’s expectations the result is not anger but forgiveness.

That is how I try to present Him in the Women of the Bible series.

X is for Xerxes

Jerusalem PalmWhat does the Babylonian King Xerxes, husband of Esther, have to do with first-century historical novellas?

The kings, or wise men, who visited Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus were from the East. Resources say that at least one of them was from Babylon. If you remember the story of Esther then you know that she saved the Jewish remnant of her people who remained in Babylon after some of them had been allowed to return to Palestine during Darius’ reign.

Another connection with Judaism is that the Jewish scribes in Babylon wrote down the Torah for the first time. Prior to that time, Torah was passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. The priests had taught the young boys by repetition, word for word, until they could recite the entire Torah from memory. In Jesus’ day the priests and rabbis read from Torah scrolls which were probably copied from those same original written works from Babylon.

Centuries later the Torah would  become the first five books of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. The  stories in its content are as familiar today as they were to the first-century Jewish society that I write about in my books. They are a foundation for the research of the social and religious make-up of the people in my Women of the Bible series.

Without the development of the written Torah in Babylon and the tolerance of Xerxes for Esther’s people, we can only speculate about how long it might have taken for a written version to inform the works of those who wrote the Christian bible.

It is an over-simplification, in my opinion, to treat the Christian Bible as a work separate from the Torah. The Christian Bible continues a story that the Torah began.

W is for Worry

Holy MultiplicationWorrying is a familiar pastime for most of us today and has been shared over the centuries by men and women alike. In my Women of the Bible series I incorporated this common human characteristic into each of the women. After she becomes a slave Rebekah worries that she will spend her whole life in bondage. Johanna worries that with the miscarriage of their child her husband, Simon Peter, will divorce her for being barren. Miriam worries that she cannot be both mother and father to her son, John Mark, after the death of her husband, Ezra. Mary worries for the safety of her son, Jesus, when they escape to Egypt.

Each woman, like us, worries and focuses on the events in front of her, not able to see beyond the present challenge. She broods about it. She only speaks about her heartache if those around her force the issue. Her worries become fears that control her thoughts and behavior until she finally encounters Jesus.

These meetings turn into what psychologists call “pattern interrupts” for each of them. He listens to them, seeking out and examining what concerns are driving each one in her own direction. When he speaks to them his words and his attitude of loving acceptance for all that is grant each one a perspective of timelessness. In the process they each surrender the quality of worry for some other quality that produces both inner peace and altered actions. Even Mary feels this from the young Jesus when she needs it the most.

In the four gospels, we read about Jesus’ life. They each tell us that when Jesus felt tired, when he was at a low ebb, when he worried about the future he faced, he prayed.

Each of my stories is an example of this transformative power of prayer. Our prayers may not remove the source of our worries, but they can, should and often do “reframe” that which we worry about to permit answers that may have eluded us before.