Applying Writing Formulas to Your Own Work—Part II

(This article is part of a series. If you missed the first part, here it is.)

So, now that we know what the formulas are, let’s apply it to our own work. Take a look at all the stuff you’ve done and see if it’s following one of the formulas.

What Formula Am I?

The Last Golden Dragon is a Golden Fleece quest. Aine sets out to find the last golden dragon so she can hear his story and go tell the tale around the country. You find out during this quest that she is stubbornly independent and not content with a normal woman’s life. But during her quest, she learns that love and marriage doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game where all her hopes are dashed and she lives in a cage; love means both partners give so that they can be happy both as a couple and as individuals. She ends up not only fulfilling her quest, but finding much more than she was looking for.

However, the (as of yet unpublished) sequel, The Return of the Dragons, is a Buddy Love story, because it’s about the maturation of Aine and Eamonn’s relationship. I’m contemplating writing a sequel to that which would probably be a Rites of Passage, because it would about Aine having to come to terms with the fact that she can’t have everything she wants at once, and that she’s going to decide what’s more important to her and give up the other thing (at least temporarily).

(In other words, your sequels don’t necessarily have to follow the same formula as the original story. After all, how many times can one person go on a quest of introspection and self-discovery? If you’re following the life of one character over a period of time, you might want to change up the formula, because in life, we go through periods where we’re questing, but not all the time; we have problems that we need to fix, but not all the time; we have buddy love, but that typically comes and goes as friends and lovers come and go; we’re part of the institution, but usually only when we’re in school; etc.)

The Widow is an example of Bubby Love. Carol is trapped in her grief and can’t move on with her life—even though it’s past time for her to do so. Daniel acts primarily as a friend to help draw her out and get her functioning normally again. He is the person who is constant and acts as a catalyst while she is the one that does the changing.

The Flames of Prague is a Dude with a Problem story. First, Jakub’s problem is that he’s getting too old to fight and he doesn’t know what to do with himself; he’s facing his remaining years being a bored homebody. Then he meets a girl and he thinks his problem is solved; he’ll marry her, have children, and have a purpose again! Then he finds out there’s a problem with her: she’s a Jew. He has no solution to this, so he goes back to being bored—plus he’s now lovesick as well. Then he gets a new problem when he finds out that people are killing Jews and his love-interest is in danger. Does he risk his life to save her? And if he saves her, then what? He still has the problem of her being a Jew, but if he doesn’t overcome that problem, he’s left with the problem of being lonely and purposeless. The book concludes with him solving his various problems—sometimes with brute force and sometimes just by deciding that a “problem” is really just a design feature.

The sequel, The Children of Israel is the same thing, only there are 2-3 dudes with problems because I tell the story from the POV of two different characters. Samuel has to deal with the problem that his wife was raped prior to their marriage and she’s terrified for him to touch her. His sister has to deal with the fact that her parents can’t seem to arrange a marriage for her, but then she finds out her father’s man-at-arms is in love with her. And although she finds herself feeling the same way about him, they have the old problem of she’s a Jew and he’s not. And then Jakub has to deal with the problem that his family has been denounced as Jews and there are people who want to kill them. (His problem, however, gets taken up by Samuel, so Samuel is the one who has to find a solution to it.)

I’m contemplating a sequel to that which will follow another child of Jakub’s, and it will also be the same dude-with-a-problem format in that Jonatan has to deal with two sides of his family being at odds with one another and arguing over what he should or should not do, and later someone kidnaps his woman and he has to get those warring family members to unite to help him get her back.

(Unlike my dragon series, this series has a different main character(s) each time (albeit all from one family), and it’s about how each of them deals with their own unique problems. In each book, the reader is rooting for the character to win, but overall, she is rooting for the entire family to win. So, in this case, repeating the formula works.)

The Bloodsuckers is one long Dude With a Problem story. It is all about Scott and all the things he has to undergo and how he overcomes them.

Even my Zelda fanfiction follows a formula—and is, in fact, a perfect textbook example of the Golden Fleece quest. Link and Zelda have to go on a literal quest to find the necessary magical items needed to defeat all of the bosses, culminating with the defeat of the final bad guy and the saving of the world. But, along this long (long) journey, the two of them change rather significantly.

My Problem Child

So, that was easy; all of those stories are pretty clear-cut. Yes, there are some places where they sort of overlap with other formulas—quests can have romantic/buddy love subplots, etc.—but the main plot is clearly one specific format.

Then there’s Acceptance.

When I originally came up with the idea of vampires in Tennessee (this was even before I had the idea to have Jewish vampires in Tennessee), the (short) story was supposed to be a sort of supernatural mystery (Monster in the House formula). Kalyn (who is an adult) is out on a dark, snowy night and gets stuck in a ditch. While she’s sitting there, trying to figure out what to do, a guy appears and takes her out of the car. She then enters a period where she feels as if she is in a dream and isn’t really in control of herself. She gets taken to a cave that people—strange people—appear to be living in. The man with her bites her and she finds herself—perhaps of her own choice, perhaps not—giving herself to him fully. At some point, she passes out or falls asleep, and the next thing she knows, it’s morning and she’s back in her car. She looks for some evidence that she was kidnapped by a vampire, but can’t find any (but also can’t find any confirmation that she was in her car all night, either). So was it real or just a dream? She can’t be sure and neither can the reader.

But, somewhere in writing that, I decided that I wanted to know more about her and especially about the vampire with her. So the story morphed away from the monster formula to a romance/buddy love. Ciaran and the Imuechmehah were introduced and Kalyn found herself entering this strange vampire world just when they’re getting caught up in a war between two vampire races.

I wrote quite a bit of that novel, but became increasingly unhappy with it, primarily because Kalyn had no personality and I didn’t know how to give her one. (Also, she and Anselm only seemed to be in love because I said they should be; there was no natural development of their relationship.) I ended up scrapping it and I didn’t look at it again for nine years.

When I decided to resurrect my story, I started from scratch and put Kalyn in the vampire’s world from the very beginning. But instead of being an (adult) outsider being introduced to the vampire’s culture, she is a teenager getting introduced via a rite of passage.

I set out with the intention of writing a romance novel, and that’s what the story had been in its previous incarnation. Acceptance and its sequels were going to be all about Kalyn and Anselm’s relationship.

I’m not sure where I lost control of that formula… or if I ever really had control over it. But when I take a hard look at Acceptance and where its sequels are going, it is not a romance because it’s not primarily about Kalyn and Anselm’s relationship; there are too many other things going on and too many other characters winding their way in and out of the story with important stories of their own. There is no focus on just the two of them, the way there is in The Widow.

Okay, so what is it? Is it Institutionalized? After all, Kalyn is part of a group (her local group, the Yaechahre group, and the vampire/human group—all three come into play in different ways) and she has to learn how to work within all of those groups and she has to fight to save all of those groups. And yet, through all of that, she stays true to herself and her own moral compass—even when she has to go against the groups’ social customs. She becomes a reformer of sorts—a light showing a better path for other people in the group.

But is that really what the story is about, or is it another subplot? I really didn’t set out to write a story about a group of vampires and the human who teaches them a lesson. And, in fact, Kalyn’s not the only rebel in that regard; her friends in her local group share her desire for more integration between human and vampire. Even Joshua, the leader of their people, is supportive of her and is the first person to hold her up as a good example.

I think the institution is a subplot.

Is it a Whydunit? In all of the books, there is the underlying question of where the Imuechmehah came from and why they want to kill the Canichmehah. And we eventually see who is behind the murders and sort of why (as much as you can ever understand why someone is evil). But the real revelation is that all of the death and misery could have been prevented if, at a single moment in time, the Canichmehah had chosen to do what was morally right, even if it was technically illegal. When they decide that the law has supremacy over morality, they set in motion their own destruction.

While that’s a pretty dark revelation, the Whydunit isn’t really driving the plot. The characters are being taken towards it without their knowledge (unlike a detective in a mystery who actively follows the trail). So I think that’s another subplot.

Is it a Golden Fleece quest? Kalyn doesn’t know it in the beginning, but she’s destined to be the savior of her people and she will the ultimate righter of an old wrong. Her quest, in short, is to fight the Imuechmehah and save her people. And she certainly changes along the way and learns things about herself.

But she never realizes she’s on this quest and she never really has a revelation at the end of the story, like you would expect with a roadtripping story. She doesn’t undergo a life-altering change; instead, she just grows up, little by little, along the way.

Which leaves us with Rites of Passage. And I think that this is really what Acceptance and its sequels (both individually and as a collective whole) are about. Kalyn learns—usually the hard way—that there are bad people in the world. Some of them aren’t necessarily evil, but they make bad decisions that put them on the wrong side of morality. Maybe they can change, but they have to want to change. And some people are indeed evil, and you will never know why they’re evil and you will never get them to cease being evil. And being a good person is more than just not being evil or not making immoral choices; being a good person means actively fighting evil. Because if you don’t, it will grow and it will eventually come after you and after the people you love.

And other characters end up doing their own growing up alongside Kalyn. Micah has a particularly acute moment of revelation in the second book (I feel this is the best thing I have ever written) when he realizes that he became a vampire because he didn’t want to grow up and become a responsible adult; he had a Peter Pan moment where he ran off to Never Never Land with the intention of remaining young and carefree forever. But when he ends up spending a week essentially playing the role of husband and father, he realizes that not only does being responsible not suck, but it’s actually deeply rewarding and fulfilling. But, unfortunately, he can’t undo what he did to himself so long ago. He can never have biological children, and given that he looks like he’s a teenager, he’s not likely to find someone to settle down with. His revelation is bittersweet because, while it’s great he’s finally grown up mentally, he will never be able to grow up physically.

Anselm also has some personal demons he has to exorcise. For a man who doesn’t lack courage when it comes to breaking into a den of vampires and shooting all of them, he has little courage when it comes to Kalyn. He is attracted to her early on (and she’s certainly attracted to him), but he tries to deny this and keep her at arm’s length. He says that this is because Kalyn is too young, he’s her guardian, etc. but we eventually see that these are just excuses. In reality, he’s tormented by the memory of the first woman he loved and lost and he’s terrified that the same thing will happen to Kalyn. When he finally allows himself to open up to her, and then something bad happens to her, he sees it as a Divine Punishment for his actions and he retreats even further from her. He has to figure out that in trying to protect himself (and her) from loss, he’s creating a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby he loses her anyways. In short, he has to find the courage to love, even if he’s not guaranteed a happily ever after. (A basic life lesson that we all have to learn when we’re growing up.)

Which actually leads me back to the question of whether this is a Buddy Love story (but instead of it being about Anselm and Kalyn, it’s about the three of them). Or, perhaps, it’s a Rites of Passage tale that morphs into a Buddy Love story somewhere around the third book.

All the Things

I found a post I wrote in 2012 where I said this very thing: that there are a lot of “plots” in Acceptance. (Really, there are a lot of formulas.)

Or maybe I just don’t know and this is why I’m having trouble. What is my book about? You should be able to put that into a single sentence, but I really have trouble with that. It seems my book(s) are about a lot of things, and I have never been quite able to decide which thing I should emphasize.

I see now that’s because I can’t figure out which formula is driving the plot. Or maybe it’s because I’m trying to apply a single formula to four books about one main character and that’s not reasonable. After all, as I seemed to have intuitively grasped in my dragon stories, it makes sense for the formula to change in subsequent stories about the same character because different formulas rule different parts of our lives. If we aren’t following one formula constantly, why should a character?

I’m almost positive that Acceptance is a Rites of Passage formula. Kalyn has a literal rite of passage, inducting her into the world of vampires and their human counterparts. She has to deal with loss. She has to deal with being personally assaulted. She watches as people are killed. She learns that vampire justice is not the kind you see in Law & Order, and she has to come to terms with that. She also faces a bit of existential disappointment when she realizes that the image she has of Anselm in her mind isn’t who he is in reality. Probably the best piece of writing in that book is when Kalyn finds herself staring at him “across a gulf that seemed much wider than a few yards of poured concrete.” She sees that, for all his outward appearances of modernity—his cell phone, car, guns, etc.—he is, in reality, a product of the middle ages, where torture and execution justice could be executed without batting an eye. And she has to decide if she can accept a man who is, to modern standards, violent, but only for good and moral reasons (i.e. he’s a vigilante, of the Western hero variety).

If I accept that Acceptance is a Rites of Passage story, it makes it easier for me to describe the book, because I need to describe the characters and all the action from that point-of-view: it’s a coming-of-age story. Everything else is a subplot that the reader can discover on their own.

Now, as I’m piecing together the various parts of the second book, I need to decide which theme it should convey. I’m leaning towards it also being a Rites of Passage, but that might have moved to a subplot. So I need to read what I have and decide what story it’s telling. (And I may need to edit out bits that make the subplot too strong and muddy the actual plot formula.)

Part III

Next time, I’ll cover why it’s important for your novel to follow the formulas (and not just because it makes life easier on you when it comes to distilling your novel into a one- or two-line elevator pitch).

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Happy Hanukkah, Part II

cat-yarmulkeWe put flea collars on our cats last night. Oh. Dear. God. You would have thought we were trying to kill them. The only thing worse are flea drops, which are clearly acid. Although other types of medicine are just as bad. My husband put some cortisone cream on one of the cats and she ran away from him for two days.

I can’t imagine tying a yarmulke onto a cat.

0198d948fcf8f56af24b83130d0d41e2e015781c-thumbAnyways, happy third night of Hanukkah. I have another gift. From now through December 16, you can get a free copy of my contemporary romance novella, The Widow, at Smashwords. Just use coupon code DE78M. (This is a sweet romance–no sex–so it’s safe for grandma.)

The First Day of Hanukkah

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My hanukkiah and its bling.

Okay, we’re going to pretend that I didn’t nap through sunset and today is still the first day of Hanukkah. (Have I mentioned lately how much I hate doing anything on dial-up internet?)

So here’s your gift:

Use coupon code EF45L at Smashwords to get a FREE copy of The Last Golden Dragon.

(Coupon good through the end of Hanukkah (December 16th).)

Don’t have an e-reader? You can still read it on your computer in .pdf or HTML format. (And, who knows–you may get one for Christmas.)

I Need to Write a Story About Some Dames

I’ve noticed several recent Demotivational posters which featured 1940’s-50’s book art, and I have to admit it makes me want to write a story that would feature such a cover. (I love how the strapless dresses are glued on. No wardrobe malfunctions here!)

I need a heroine in high heels, full skirt, and a bullet bra. I need a hero in a three-piece suit, fedora, and shoes so shiny, he can see his face in them.

The thing is, I don’t know how interested I’d actually be in setting the story in the 40’s or 50’s. I have some interest in WWII history, but none at all in 1950’s history. Maybe I just need an alternate universe where those things are still common. Maybe a futuristic world as people in the 50’s imagined it, with flying cars, robots, and silver lamé space suits. And maybe the robots will become sentient and start plotting to take over. And only Wallace and Priscilla–thrown together by circumstance–can save humanity’s moon-colony.

It’d be like steampunk, except with rocket-everything instead of steam-everything. And you’d be left wondering if it’s actually supposed to be taken seriously as a warning against modern technology, or if it’s an Austin Powers-like spoof on old sci-fi.

Hmm, that has potential. I’ll have to add it to my list of things to write. I might also have to do some reading up on period science fiction. Can’t spoof it if I don’t know what it is.

Playing with Plot Cards: Show and Tell

Last week I did a plot card spread and offered it up to everyone to see what we could come up with.

I didn’t finish my story because 1) I’m working on that whole book launch thing, and 2) I don’t do short short stories. It takes me several pages just to get warmed up and ready to tackle something important. (Which is why my short stories are always borderline novellas.)

But, I did get a start on it and it does have potential. I stepped out of my comfort zone by setting it someplace I’ve never been: Alaska. I had to spend an hour or so looking up facts and pictures and YouTube videos on Barrow, Alaska.

Doctor George Daglish locked up his clinic for the evening, lit a cigarette, and started his walk home—the gravel and dirt road crunching under his feet. It was a positively mild summer evening in Barrow. The wind off the ocean was soft and almost warm. It must have been close to fifty degrees out. He didn’t even need to button up his wool summer coat.

Doctor George—as all the natives called him—lived a quarter mile from his clinic. It could be an almost pleasant walk in July, but when a blizzard was raging he might as well have tried walking to New York.

When the clinic was closed, desperate people sometimes showed up on snowmobile or dog sled at his front door. He delivered his neighbors’ third child in his living room floor, but in most cases, he bundled up and let whomever—the police officer, worried father, anxious brother or friend—take him where he was needed. They had a proper hospital in town, but when the weather was really bad, there wasn’t any way to get someone who was very sick or hurt to the hospital. So he made a house call and stayed with the person and did what he could until conditions improved enough to get better care. He was on a first-name basis with the Coast Guard and Medivac helicopter crews that covered their portion of Alaska. They were the only way to get serious cases to Fairbanks or Anchorage; there weren’t any roads out of Barrow.

After two full years in Barrow, George hadn’t decided if he hated winter or summer more. He hated the cold and perpetual darkness in the winter, but he also hated it when the snow melted. Barrow was quite ugly in the summer. There wasn’t a strip of pavement anywhere; the roads and parking lots were a gritty—almost sandy—sort of dirt mixed with rocks. The dirt got all over everything, leaving a thick coat of dust on the drab houses and beat-up old cars and trucks. At least in the winter the snow was white and clean, and for as long as the sunlight lasted, everything looked pretty. And he had to admit that he liked the Northern Lights. It was quite amazing—and a little eerie—when the snow glowed green and purple under them.

So, all in all, he probably preferred winter. Although he really hated it when it got so cold piss froze before it hit the ground. Shattering piss was a rather amusing novelty right up until the point your dick got frostbite.

A small bus came barreling up the road, and before he could get out of the way, it went past and sprayed him with a coating of dirt. He had to turn and duck to avoid the rocks.

“Goddamnit, Charles!” he yelled. But the bus was already gone. No doubt some laughing tourist had gotten a nice picture of him as they went past.

Grumbling under his breath, he stomped the rest of the way to his house. Yes, he definitely disliked summer the most.

“That you, George?” Darla called out as he came into the house.

“Who else would it be?” he said irritably, tossing his cigarette butt in the pot just inside the front door. It was lucky it was a big pot; it had two year’s worth of ashes and butts in it. In the winter, George spent a lot of time standing at the door and looking out—evaluating the weather—and trying to decide if he was going to work or not.

“God, around here you just don’t know, do you?” Darla came into the kitchen rubbing her wet hair with a towel. She was wearing a lavender bra and matching panties. “Oliver came by a little while ago—just opened the door and came on in. Didn’t knock or anything.’

“What’d he want?” George asked, completely undisturbed by the news of home invasion.

Darla gestured to the refrigerator. “He brought you some caribou.”

George looked a little more animated. “Excellent.”

He and Oliver had an unofficial arrangement: Oliver brought him caribou, and George gave him a discount on his visits. Oliver had congestive heart failure, so he had to check in regularly. But caribou meat got hard to find in the summer as the previous fall’s stores dwindled. George hadn’t expected to get any more for another month. He suspected Oliver had hoarded some just for him.

George draped his dirty overcoat over the back of a kitchen chair and began working on dinner. Darla was a vegetarian and refused to even touch meat, so they usually cooked separate meals.

“How was your day?” he asked, as he examined his meat selection: one pound of hamburger and two big steaks. It wasn’t much meat, but more than he would have expected to get so late in the summer. He was really glad he didn’t have to share it with Darla.

“Fine,” she said from the bedroom. “I slept in this morning, then did some sketching. I’m going over to Patty’s this evening to do some work. So you’re on your own tonight.”

“Oh, alright.” A summer evening alone at home? That called for a grilled steak, a beer, and an evening in front of the TV in his underwear watching baseball.

“How was your day?”

“Meh. Sniffling kids and cirrhosis of the liver.” He slammed the fridge door shut. “Everybody’s got goddamned cirrhosis of the liver. Alcoholics everyone of them. Not a decent liver in the entire North Slope.”

“That’s rich coming from you, Mr. Emphysema,” Darla retorted. “I’d like to see the state of your lungs.”

“Smoking keeps me warm in the winter.”

“Drinking probably keeps them warm, too.”

George made a face, but didn’t reply.

“Honestly, I’d probably drink if I had to live here through the winter,” she continued. “It’s got to be horribly depressing to not see the sun for two months.”

It’s pretty surreal,” he admitted. “After a while, you forget what time it is; you can’t tell midnight from noon. And all the days blend together until you don’t know the day of the week, either.”

Darla was an Oregon artist, and she had come to Barrow the previous summer to study the indigenous art. She had made some good contacts in the Inupiat community—not to mention hooking up with George—and she decided to continue her study under a couple of specific artists. But she had refused to stay the winter.

“I couldn’t live like that,” she continued. “I’d be all out of sorts.”

This is a little slow to start for me; there’s a lot of description. I will probably go back to the beginning and cut out some of the description and move it down into the story so that I don’t have so much right at the start. But I do like George already. He’s sort of an anti-hero, which is departure from my other characters, who are good people from the outset.

This is Maddie Cochere’s story from the exact same plot spread. Feel free to share a link to yours or paste the first page in the comments.

Formatting is a Pain in My _______ [Fill in the Blank]

I got the proof copy of my book, Acceptance, in the mail Friday. The cover looks good (my husband said it looks professional) and the formatting inside looks nice, with one exception: the spacing of my words is hinky. S o y  ou get s ome thi g t hat lo oks like this.

Unacceptable to the nth degree.

I went back through my documents to figure out where the error crept in and found it in one of two .pdfs. CreateSpace really prefers .pdf/x documents because that file type imbeds fonts. As I’m using several different fonts–not all of which are standard–I’m thinking I should definitely use the .pdf/x file type. The only problem is, I can’t save as that font type directly from Word (not even when I’m at work, where I have a newer version of Word and a full version of Adobe). What I was able to do, however, was save the Word document as a .pdf, then open that in Adobe and convert it to a .pdf/x.

Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Except that making it a .pdf/x created those spacing problems; they’re not in the original .pdf.

So, it’s back to futzing with Adobe for me. I may have to take my chances with a regular .pdf and see if CreateSpace guesses my font types correctly. But, I can look through the book virtually, so I shouldn’t have to order another proof copy and wait. As of now, I’m still on schedule for having the print copy available on August 31. (The e-book is going up that day regardless.)

On a more positive note, my two novellas were reviewed over on Michelle Proulx Official and I got good reviews. I’m feeling really pleased that my first published romance (and my first attempt at writing contemporary romance ever) seems to be pretty good. It makes he more confident going into my historical romance (I plan on publishing The Flames of Prague next fall).

The Last Golden Dragon and The Widow are both just 99 cents/ 70 pence–which is about the price of a candy bar these days. They’ll last longer than a candy bar and contain no calories, so why not treat yourself? (A few more sales and I may actually earn a royalty check before the end of the year!)

Getting and Giving Reviews

I got a review for my contemporary romance, The Widow:

what a wonderful story! i’m not normally into contemporary stories or “internal” stories (ones that deal with emotions and thoughts). i blush to admit that if something’s not exploding every five minutes or if there’s no dragons/spaceships/time travel/etc, i just can’t hold my focus.

but this story kept my attention through to the end.

one quibble: normally i truly appreciate things to be kept down to the need-to-know. by that, i mean i get impatient with the type of writing that goes on and on and ON and after fifteen minutes’ reading, the character has managed to get in the door and take off his coat. in the case of The Widow, however, it’s a bit *too* spare. i can see her as the 1920s model – but only as a faceless mannequin. same with the other characters – i cannot visualize them. not sure what’s missing, but something is.

the other thing is that the last bit, describing how his art finally takes off, is rushed. there was no hint that their relationship was evolving – i’d gotten the impression they’d parted ways. perhaps a mention of, for example, “she clapped wildly as he was presented with [something or other]” or “after yet another wildly successful gallery show, they collapsed onto yet another hotel bed” or whatever.

i think otherwise it was wonderfully done – the line about being stuck in a moment is fantastic and really encapsulates the book, like she’s trapped in a bubble that finally goes “pop!”

I’m really pleased, because I must confess that no one read this story before I published it. Normally I consider that a cardinal sin, but I don’t actually know a lot of people (none, really) who like contemporary romance. In fact, I never read contemporary romance and this is the first such story I’ve ever written.

Then why did I write it? Because it was there. I used my tarot-plot cards, laid out a plot, and instantly came up with the story. So, given that it was all a big experiment–from using the tarot-plot cards for the first time, to writing contemporary romance, to publishing something without first getting feedback off the record–I’m pleased that it did so well.

The reviewer makes some valid points–and I may redo the ending (ah, the benefits of an e-book!)–but overall, it seems to be a win. (And if Ms. Hare is reading this, be sure to get my debut novel, Acceptance, which is coming out in October; there are vampires and a very large body count. I think you’ll get your fill of action.)

The more I read about marketing, the more conscious I am of providing reviews/feedback when I read, because that’s so important both to help the author sell a book and–when the book sucks–to help them improve it and/or the next one.

But question for the other author/reviewers out there: I know people can feel guilty about giving a bad review to something you’ve been asked to review (been there, done that), but do you ever feel paranoid that an angry author will come back and give you a bad review just out of revenge? Is it something that makes you hesitate to leave a review? Do you hold back comments that you wouldn’t hold back if you were just a reader (and not also a writer)?