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Reaching for that 5 Star Review

By Another Name, by Ashley Elizabeth Ludwig

By Another Name, by Ashley Elizabeth Ludwig

Today, I have some questions for my fellow authors, readers, and book reviewers:

What’s in a book review?

What makes a good reviewer?

This book, By Another Name, has struck readers on a variety of personal levels:

  • Were you bullied in High School?
  • Were you a target of bullying?
  • Did you know someone who was?

Chances are, you can answer yest to one or more of the above without blinking.

My character, Rosalee Timmons, chooses to return home with her new life and new name, to face down the demons of her past.

That said, the topic of today’s post is reviews. How to accept one, even if it’s not what you’ve hoped it would be. Do I want 5 star reviews on everything? OF COURSE. Do I receive 5 star reviews on everything? Not on my first release. My full length novel, All or Nothing, has received startling and humbling reviews thus far. I wait with bated breath to see what will happen next on that one!

It isn’t that the By Another Names reviews are saying – RUN! Don’t purchase this book! – these are carefully crafted, thoughtful, thought provoking reader reviews from people who’ve been impacted by this tale.

Case in point, I just received a 3 1/2 star review from : Manic Readers:. Of course I wanted 5 stars. Who wouldn’t?  It’s these 1/2 stars that keep me guessing. Keep me reaching to write a better book. One that will go that extra mile and push it to the next level.

Conversely, I received a 4 star review from You Gotta Read Books, classified as a You Need to Read – my reviewer had some interesting points on being the brunt of bullying.

My Manic Review was written by someone who deals with bullying on a daily basis. Wow. Talk about being slayed, instantly!  She wanted more interaction and explanation from Lindsay — Kade’s sister. She wanted to know WHY Lindsay chose Lee as the focus of her torments. I suppose, this is where your reviewer’s life experience weighs in to how they feel about a story. (this kind woman is a former DEAN for crying out loud! Talk about the perfect person to review this book.

So, I appreciate every word she said. I also went to the Manic Reviews site to peruse other ratings and see where this story measured. (I also stumbled on a few that I want to read, to see how I might improve my ability to pen a tale that leaves such a feeling of immense satisfaction.) After reading more reviews at Manic Readers, I also appreciate the extra half-star, and the suggestion for readers to pick it up.

PHEW.

So, how much do you bring to the table when you sit down to review a book? I’m guessing about as much as you take with you when you write that story. It’s about life experience seasoning your writing (or flavoring what you’re reading).  And if it makes me strive to write a better book, then I appreciate every review.

Some questions to ponder:

  • What are your favorite book review sites? or do you go with your gut on Amazon?
  • Would you buy a book that someone else rated with a less than sparkly review?
  • Have you ever slammed a book — or flung it against the wall — and then recommended readers stay away from a book? and why?
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#RWAChange – What is it? How can you get involved? And, should you?

GreenRibbonThis conversation has been going on for a few weeks, and I’ve had the opportunity to take part – both in my new online RWA Group: ESPAN – and online at the RWAChange Yahoo loop – both which I discovered while participating in the Twitter Hashtag: #RWAChange

So, what is it – and let’s talk about it.

People on Twitter are only too happy to mention when a technology, application, device, or group fails in one way or another. Just create your own hashtag and share it with your followers. See #Amazonfail, #Agentfail, and #queryfail to name a few. (My own personal favorite was born when @SmartBitches mentioned that she looked up something on YouTube, didn’t find it, and stated that there were not enough hashtags for that fail! Hilarious. At any rate, I digress.)

#RWAChange was born when we decided to stop with #RWAFail already. We don’t want RWA to fail. Romance Writers of America serves a key purpose for romance writers of every genre, every heat, whether published or not. Ebook, or print. Mass distribution, or POD. We are romance authors and we need to be informed, in the loop, and talking to each other in order to continue to succeed in growing our careers. Thus – the Change.

Led by the charge of Dierdre Knight, author and agent — we primarily feel left out. Left out of decision making, due to the greening of our industry. The transition to small presses. The inability to enter in the prestigious RWA Rita contest as a published author. And, therein lies the rub.

As the romance writers either dive in (or dip their toes into) the new world of publishing, we just want our founding members to be able to support us. Rate our work. Know that just because a book is POD doesn’t mean you won’t sell enough to qualify as a PAN member (earning over a price point).

My publisher took a gamble on my success. They gave me a fantastic editor who worked with me, and has dragged me into good writing habits. I still shudder from some of the egregious errors I made on All or Nothing, but she did her magic and made it a fun read. I’m getting good reviews. I’d LOVE to enter it into the RITA contest. I cannot. I may enter it into the EPPIE contest. Or may not. But, I’m missing the peer review that I desperately need to keep my head in the game. Build upon my platform, and ultimately succeed in the Romance Marketplace.

Are you a reader of romance? A writer of romance? If not, chances are that you know someone who is — so, wear your green.

Follow #RWAChange on Twitter

Join:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RWAchange/

Read up on the back & forth with the RWA President and industry professionals at ESPAN:

Plus, you can read a whole breakdown of the happenings at GalleyCat.

Join this century, and move with the times. I can’t wait to see what’s next for this exciting group of techno-savvy women, and I’m thrilled to be one of them.

All a Twitter

I’m an Anthropologist.

I’m a novelist.

I study people. I write about people. And now, facing the release of my first novel – and analyzing the beleaguered publishing industry – I’ve been analyzing the social networking platforms that we writers can use to promote our wares.

First of all – there’s the blog. No brainer. Here, I can show you (not tell you — wink) my writing style. My sense of humor. Where my interests fall. If yours match up, we’ve found each other. The music can play, and we can run across a field of flowers, spinning while the hills come alive with music. Or, at least, you can get a free read, a cheap fast, fun e-read, and news of the much awaited Novel… note to self! start the countdown clock! it’s almost May 1!! So, I have my “About Ashley Ludwig” Blog – current place of residence. I am also a regular blogger at www.mamawriters.com. This is where other ladies, like myself, who work, write, and raise kids, discuss our foibles and follies. The ups and downs. The ins and outs of the trade. On Wednesday, we highlight the authors who have “made it.” With publishing contracts or agents, or what have you. I drool over someday being a Wednesday MamaWriter.

Secondly – there’s FaceBook. I’ve friended many. I love FaceBook. Where else can you refriend someone you sat in front of in Journaling class in 4th grade? 🙂 Waves to Kym!

Third – there’s twitter. Now, Twitter is something that I have eyed much like the container in the back of the fridge that could be cookie dough, or could be meat loaf from two weeks ago. I’m happier thinking it’s cookie dough, and leaving it alone as testament to my new bent on health! but, it’s probably meatloaf. Still. I must determine the truth. It must be inspected. It must be dealt with. One cannot put off moldy meatloaf forever, however one wants to.

The point is this: The world is twittering. The news is twittering. The entertainment industry is twittering. And no one really knows why.

So, as an author – who could use some followers, and as an anthropologist, who is vastly interested in social behavior – I’ve taken two steps to twittering:

One, I am @QuickieReads. I read and review books in 140 characters or less. Is this fair? Well, as an author – I’d say, yes. I want to know how the review moved you. But ultimately, I want to know if you recommend it or not. SO, @QuickieReads will tell you this.

Two, I am @WireMamma. (See MamaWriters Blog above.) This is where I plan on twittering about the novel, about interviews, about my writing career in 140 characters or less.

The question becomes, who to follow and why? Should I follow Nathan Bransford, literary agent – because everyone else does? Should I follow fellow authors? Editors? Publishers? Publisher’s Weekly? The New York Times? As my list of following and followeds gets larger, this really gives me pause. Too much information ceases to be news and becomes noise. If everyone is tweeting, does anyone really pay attention? that said…if everyone is following each other around (mental picture of Verizon ads)…is anyone actually going anywhere? Are we all just stumbling around in circles, yammering into space?

Now, I realize I’m an inspriational author. But I have to give props to a blog I follow: Smart B*****S, Trashy Books. They are only following about 30 people. Their following is much larger – close to 3,000. But, these ladies are actually vetting their follows. In that small bit of information they receive, they are actually filtering out the noise to determine some sort of news. I’m fascinated with how they operate. Though the content is abrasive – ahem, that’s their point: They call them like they see them – their method is pure. I’m a fan. I love the irreverence. I respect the platform in the spirit it’s being given. And, (hangs head) I follow them on Twitter.

My goal over the next few weeks is to see how @QuickieReads and @WireMamma can work to deliver meaningful content to the twitter-sphere. I promise to strive to deliver meaningful news, and not random observations about cleaning out the fridge. Give me a follow… We’ll see where we go, and return to analyze the results one month from tomorrow…which, incidentally, is All or Nothing‘s release day.

Book Trailers

Thanks to everyone for taking a look at the All or Nothing trailer. I’m still weighing in on the validity of having a book trailer. Does it make you more apt to buy a book? Or is it just a sign that the author just wants to live in their story a bit longer? Or perhaps, a small shot at the small screen? NOT every story is big-screen or small-screen worthy. I know that. But as a former employee of a movie trailer production studio, I’m curious.

I’m still reeling from having my publication date bump up from September 25 to MAY 29, 2009!  So, what does that mean, exactly? It means that things are suddenly going to get VERY busy around here. We’re switching quickly into marketing mode. I’m open for suggestions and ideas on how to market books, how to get the word out, how to host a book signing, and how to find readers who are interested in inspirational romance. LOL. Okay. Enough of that. My pulse is racing. I can’t decide if this feels like getting ready for a baby, or planning a wedding. It’s somewhere in between.

And, in the mean time – I’m releasing By Another Name through the new Wild Rose Press imprint, White Rose Publishing – on April 11th. April 11th is Holy Saturday of the Easter Weekend. I’m in shock. Seriously. Someone send the paramedics. Or maybe my sister. I could use a good dose of family right now. My sister is an amazingly strong woman, and someone I have always admired. More about her later – because it’s the only way I can get her to pop in and read my blog. Paige is more a woman who enjoys a good murder mystery than a romance. I’ve done my best to weave some in to my stories… but will do my darndest to write one that she’ll want to read. That’s my goal. To turn my sis into a romance reader. Shh. Don’t tell.

At any rate – Please take a look at the stories that are coming out this spring – Ordering Information will be posted as soon as it’s available.

~Ashley

Writing in Haste…

Haste Makes Waste… an interesting thought for the day, really. Today we’re told that haste makes waste in publishing, so be careful what you write when writing quickly. Isn’t that the truth? And here I am, hastily blogging about that subject.

I’ve recently switched WIPs away from contemporary – which was fun (my promotional short story Tessa Takes a Chance will be available soon from Wild Rose Press – YAY! 🙂 — so, I’m back to re-writing a White Rose Historical – set in the golden era of Hollywood. It was one that was tabled and reviewed by Harlequin ages ago – but never made the final cut due to (looking back on it now) some hasty writing that was long on dialog and short on research and historic detail. *How mortifying to admit to this! but I was young. What can I say?*

What I love about writing historicals – is that you must research a subject, know it, practically live it before you can etch one word – rather than just streaming it all down off the top of your head. Granted, we are living in contemporary times – but I digress.

When researching All or Nothing – I made a home for myself in the reference room at Fort Lowell Museum. Now, I have my favorite online research sites I haunt on a regular basis; there’s nothing like hesitating mid-sentence to wonder: What sort of underclothes would my heroine be wearing? What does her hat look like? Her hair style? how would she voice that particular thought? The deeper I research, the more in tune with her I become, and the better able I am to weave her plights, and share in her victories!

I remember Jude Deveraux once saying that she was always most interested in underclothes and where people went to the bathroom. Think about it. What’s more intimate than that? I’ve also read that with regards to setting – the worst thing a writer can EVER do is to jar their reader out of the universe you are creating. Setting is such an important part of that universe. As is avoidance of all anachronisms.

So, perhaps the internet allows historical writers to conduct our research a little more hastily – however, it also enables us to get the details spot-on as we don’t have to stop writing, get in the car, drive to the library, get sidetracked by the new releases, etc. and so on.

Finally, this begs the question: Where do you, as readers, find yourselves most intrigued when diving into a historical? What gets you flipping pages? What do you want to know about – regardless of the time period you are reading? Do you want to know how they cook? sew? gossip? shop? how much things cost?

Please comment – I’d love to know your thoughts