Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Art of the Book Review

Both Reviewers & Authors Can Benefit from Thoughtful, Kind Reviews

by G G Collins     (Copyright 2014)

There is a discussion on the Shelfari forums about the book review rating system and the best way to review a book. If you want to read or take part:

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/101046/discussions/486865/5-star-rating-system

Here are my thoughts on the art of book reviewing.

I’ve been on both sides of publishing; working at a book publisher and as a writer. I began writing jacket and PR copy, then book reviews, moved on to reporting and now I write books too.

Mystery Scene Ed Gorman BookNo one ever sits down to write a bad book. Ed Gorman who is an award-winning author and former editor-in-chief of “Mystery Scene Magazine” once said: “You have to give the writer something.” Not just because that author may someday become famous, or that word will get around about your reviews and publishers will avoid you, but because it is the kind thing to do.

Book reviews should never be emotional in an angry or punitive way. Think how that author looks forward to seeing those reviews–with great anticipation! Having someone enjoy your book is better than money. It validates your hard work–and writing a book can take months, even years. Even fiction involves research.Book AP Stylebook

That said, you should be kindly honest. If the punctuation is poor (and make sure you’ve checked the “Chicago Manual of Style” or the “The Associated Press Stylebook” or some other good reference), then say something. Keep in mind not every book is meant to be “literary,” but it also shouldn’t be illiterate. Some books are written to be fun or adventurous or even fluff. That’s okay. If it’s not your thing it’s alright to state that, but don’t down grade for that reason alone.

I’ve never given a book less than 2 stars (or chiles or martini glasses). If a book is very poorly written, I don’t review it. And even if I do (rarely) give only 2 stars I always find something good to say about it too. So here’s how I assign stars:

1 star   –  I never give them. When I’m asked why by the publisher or author, I explain kindly–but not publicly.
2 stars – I explain what needs work and find something wonderful to say too
3 stars – Enjoyable and why, criticism might be a lack of research
4 stars – Good with a small criticism, maybe a chapter or plot element lost its way
5 stars – Excellent and why, what was that extra something that made it 5 stars?

Authors need to know what they are doing right as well as areas for improvement. If an author knows that readers really like their characters, that’s helpful. She/he will know that’s a strength and flesh them out all the more. If readers comment on the location, great, the author will dig out more local color. Maybe the climatic scenes are especially compelling. Terrific, add more suspense.

Book Tombstone CourageAnd if you’re a reviewer here’s a tip for getting “blurbed” on jacket copy and promotional materials: Always write a short catchy line that encapsulates the story. This is one of mine and it was blurbed over and over: “Every woman in America is obviously not a sheriff, but Joanna Brady is every woman.” (From J A Jance’s Joanna Brady mystery series.)

Reviewers and authors need not be an adversarial relationship, but a nurturing and helpful one that both can enjoy and learn from.

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Lemurian Medium Sample Chapter

Sample “Lemurian Medium”

Lemurian Medium Copyright G G Collins

Lemurian Medium
Copyright G G Collins

Click on the “Sample Chapters” tab above to read the first chapter of Lemurian Medium. I’ve also included the bibliography I used to research Lemuria, astral travel, crystal communications, space clearing and Mesoamerican ancient culture including Chichen Itza and the man-eating deity Quetzalcoatl.

— G G Collins 

For more information, the Kindle ebook is available only at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HE18XES

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On Location in Santa Fe: Palace of the Governors

Palace of the Governors Built Like Fortress

by G G Collins  (Copyright 2014)

In Lemurian Medium, reporter Rachel Blackstone visits the museum to meet former priest, Father O’Brien, who will help her learn astral travel. She must journey to Lemuria to rescue a friend.
The Palace of the Governors has witnessed four centuries of Santa Fe history.

The Palace of the Governors has witnessed four centuries of Santa Fe history. Copyright G G Collins

When you first see the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, it likely won’t resemble any palace you’ve seen. It is nothing like the Palace at Versailles or Buckingham in London. Think more Wild West, less European. Built in 1610, the building blocks were made of mud and straw, dried to adobe bricks in the abundant sunshine. Like its European equivalents, it has seen war, revolt, prosperity, want and peace—sometimes a bitter peace.

The long portal is much nicer than the first efforts with its vigas protruding through the brown adobe finish. The structure is used daily by artisans selling their works, each a member of the state’s Native tribes.

Gaining entry through the doors at the Palace is awkward at best.

Gaining entry through the doors at the Palace is awkward at best. Copyright G G Collins

The building encompasses the entire north side of the plaza. It is the oldest public building in continuous use. It was built as a seat of government in what was considered to be an untamed isolated frontier. For this reason, the walls were made four feet thick. The entry to the courtyard on the west side is a small door. It was purposely made too small for the average person so it is awkward to enter. That gave soldiers protecting the palace the upper hand as invaders had to step over and duck at the same time to get through the entrance.

Lew Wallace, author of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, was also the territorial governor during the turbulent late 1870s. After a day of edgy negotiation with Billy the Kid in the spring of 1879, he wrote the last scenes from his study in the palace during a fierce storm. Wallace huddled near a shrouded lamp; windows heavily shuttered fearing imminent attack during the Lincoln County War. The conflict was an Old West range war over a dry goods trade which accelerated into massacres and revenge killings.

The holes in floor fascinated. No one seems to know why they are there. They’re not long enough for an escape tunnel, but perhaps they had been used to hide valuables or even a person. Because the original floors were packed earth, it was easy to see why digging holes might be a natural for hiding nearly anything

Native American artisans at the Palace of the Governors

Native American artisans at the Palace of the Governors. Copyright G G Collins

The artists and jewelry makers sit on the porch—rain, shine or snow—selling their beautiful work to visitors hoping to take home a little piece of New Mexico. There is a seemingly endless supply of pottery, jewelry and sand paintings.

During the Christmas season, city crews wrap garland all around the Palace portal (porch) making it festive for the season.

Be sure to visit the New Mexico History Museum while at the Palace of the Governors. The beautiful new museum is just across the Palace courtyard. The museum also offers historical tours of Santa Fe. 

Call 505-476-5200 or check out: www.NMHistoryMuseum.org for more information.

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