My Fellow Writers…Step Away From the Review

Most writers I know are obsessed with reviews; getting reviewers, reading reviews, sobbing in our coffee (and sometimes something stronger….) over reviews. Reviews should serve many purposes. They tell a writer what people like about his or her work, what he or she might improve on, and what others might think of the book. Promo sites use reviews as a basis to whether or not they will feature certain books. Readers make their reading choices based on reviews. As helpful as reviews SHOULD be to readers and writers alike, I have found they tend to be utter crap and here’s why.
There are very few people who read and review to begin with. Most people, whether they like a book or hate it, tend to forget about it the moment they close the last page after reading THE END. Very few people feel compelled to read about what others thought of the book or share their own thoughts. The ones who do tend to fall in one of four categories.

Honest Reviewers: These are a rare gem. The honest reviewers weigh the pros and cons of a particular work. They give insight into why they have given a book a certain amount of stars and why they liked or disliked the book. The honest reviewer takes everything into account…plot,character development, editing, cover, ending, etc. These reviewers are helpful to everyone involved. Yes, writing is completely subjective, but these people are avid readers who seem to have their finger on the pulse of the novel reading world and want to do their part.

Smoke Blowers: These are your mothers, friends,and fan girls (or boys…) of the writer. The writer can do no wrong. They give out five stars like Smarties in a piñata. This helps no one. Most other reviewers and readers can smell a Smoke Blower a mile away and take their recommendations with a grain of salt. Everything can’t be five stars, people, otherwise five stars actually becomes an average three stars. In a way, the Smoke Blowers hurt writers because when you get a dozen five stars, you don’t try to improve. Amazon is trying to ferret out the Smoke Blowers and remove their reviews if they think they might “know” the writer. That is utterly ridiculous. How do the sleuths at Amazon determine this? From who you connect with on Facebook and Twitter? Most writers connect with hundreds of readers they’ve never met this way. And as much as I think Smoke Blowers should tone it down, their five stars are a necessary evil to balance out the next group.

The Trolls: Trolls are the worst. They seriously are worse than barnacles under a boat. Trolls either troll the “free Ebook” section and write half-assed reviews on books they didn’t read or only read half of, or they are pains in the necks who are absolutely NEVER happy with any book. I actually found a person on Amazon who rated over 350 books and 95% of those books she gave one star. And wrote practically the same thing about how she hated slutty female characters…stop reading erotica then!!! Some trolls have an alleagence to a particular writer and purposely trash other books. Some trolls just have nothing better to do than try to ruin someone’s career. They should get a cat instead and step away from the internet. These are the people Amazon should be cracking down on. Trolls can hurt in more ways than they realize. One star reviews can seriously damage someone’s rep as a writer. Writing a book is hard (and self publishing is harder). Unless someone filled an entire book with the letter G, don’t be a…troll.

Confused Reviewers: These are the folks I’d like to help. Maybe a class or a rubric to rate books. They frustrate me to no end when I’m trying to pick out a book. I’ve read reviews like this: “I loved this book, plot was great,characters were fun, but I didn’t like the cover…two stars.” Um, what??? Haven’t you ever heard, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Or, “I couldn’t finish this book. It was too boring…five stars.” Helloooooo???? Backward rating? And “Heart wrenching tale that left me in tears. Seriously one of the best books I’ve read this year…three stars.” Huh??? Do you understand how ratings work???
I think people need a checklist and Amazon can tally a rating based on answers to questions…that would take the pressure off some people who honestly would like to write a review but don’t want to hurt the writer or don’t know how they should rate a book.

Writers put way too much stock in reviews. We need to stop stalking our Amazon and Goodreads pages. While it is buoys your spirit to read that someone liked (and even loved) your hard work, it can be soul crushing to read harsh criticism that serves no purpose other than to make you feel like crap. Sometimes you want to shout back at the reviewer…how can you say that? But you can’t. You need to put on your big girl (or boy) panties and deal with it. Writing is subjective and we writers need to let it go. (I’m just full of cliches this morning…I need to get out more). Writers, put down that review and go write some more.

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Why My Son is Going to Starve Today

To all you parents out there holding a daily battle of wits with your 3 year old who is only eating blue food this week, liquids, or food that doesn’t touch other food, hold onto your hats. I am here to tell you, it doesn’t get any better.
“What? I was told it’s just a phase! My pediatrician assured me that little Timmy would grow out of it and be a healthy child with a voracious appetite for a variety of foods!”
Isn’t that what you’re thinking? Well your pediatrician lied. Sort of. By the time he’s a strapping teen, Little Timmy will definitely develop a voracious appetite, hungry nearly every waking second of the day, but the variety? Ha! My teen has to be even pickier than the most picky in the toddler set. And I know a toddler that will only eat pudding. Chocolate.
I should preface this by saying, this is not necessarily gospel. I have one child who pretty much tries everything and will at least take a few bites of her food before she flings unpalatable cuisine across the room. She loves veggies and fruits (and anything that even has a hint of sugar). She was never really picky as a toddler though; in fact, I don’t even think she went through any of those food jags.
The other one…not so much. When he was a toddler would only eat pasta for awhile, chicken nuggets for another few months, and even went through an “only crab and lobster please” phase. (Let me tell you how expensive that was.) The only acceptable veggie was broccoli and he would only eat the “tree” part. I attempted to grind up other veggies to cleverly disguise in his food and one night he held up a minuscule piece of green fleck that was hidden in meatloaf, demanding to know what it was. He wouldn’t eat pizza for nearly a decade because of the oregano, claiming it was “icky”. He will take a baked potato out of the skin and mash it up on his plate with butter to eat, but God forbid you give him actual mashed potatoes. And so on and so forth. And in ten years, not much has changed other than his preferences.
Right now, his dietary repertoire consists of cereal for breakfast (only Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, and PLAIN Cheerios will do), a poppy seed bagel with cream cheese (don’t dare suggest he use butter when the cream cheese is CRUNCHY , what ever the hell that means) for lunch, and then an additional lunch of a poppy seed roll with roast beef, pepperoni, lettuce and ranch dressing. I really hope he never has to go through drug testing because his opium level would be off the charts with all the poppy seeds he consumes in a 24 hour period.
Then he’s sniffing around for dinner around 4; we have to hold him off by throwing some English muffins with peanut butter his way till the rest of us are hungry. Yeah, he is addicted to carbs. He has a bright future on some 600 pound show somewhere when middle age metabolism catches up with him and he suddenly doesn’t look like an emaciated child from some third world country anymore.
Since we usually end up going somewhere to eat for dinner (I can’t cook and hubby can be a tad lazy…don’t judge), he will inevitably complain about our restaurant choice 9 times out of 10. Within minutes of consuming dinner, he’s pouring cereal again; we go through a gallon of milk in two days. Or scooping ice cream. He’s under the impression that dessert is an entitlement.
Well, he’s gonna starve today.
“But why?” You ask. “Are you out of milk?”
Why? Well, I haven’t gotten to the grocery store in days. There’s milk from the convenience store, but the only cereals are Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Life, Kix, and Corn Flakes. You know, the semi healthy stuff. He has already announced “there’s no good cereals in the house” five times already and it’s not even noon.
There’s a bagel left but he won’t eat that. Wanna know why? It’s “misshapen” and “ugly”. Um, what??? Who cares what it looks like? I knew teens were superficial, but hell, this takes the cake.
I offer him the English muffins, but he claims they are “hard as a rock”. Translation: stale. Impossible since I bought them on Wednesday…unless of course, he left the bag open and that’s very possible. That’s the other thing…I throw out so much stale and uneaten food that Sally Struthers would have an angina attack.
What about the roast beef? Surely there is roast beef! Well yes, there is! But there’s either no rolls (and heaven forbid we use actual bread) or no pepperoni and we can’t have a sandwich like that! What kind of mother are you, expecting your kid to eat something outside his comfort zone? You should run to the store immediately and purchase all his favorite foods!
I’ll tell you what kind of mother I am…apparently bad because I’m staying here and watching him forage through the overstocked cabinets for food. Heck, maybe he will find a cracker with his name on it.