Friday, June 22, 2018

Please leave a review.

I have such mixed feelings saying those words. 

Here’s why…

I know reviews can help build my platform. The more reviews, the more exposure a book will receive, which in turn will jumpstart readership. And since social media is a prevalent source of advertising, asking for a review on those platforms is the most effective way to get a response...But asking anyone, especially friends, to give an opinion of one of my books is uncomfortable.

Of course, most people buy books other people recommend, which is why reviews found on social media will carry the most weight. A good review can and will positively influence someone who is considering your book for purchase.  

Outside of a friend’s recommendation, reviews guide my reading selections.

After reading a book’s description, I usually scroll down to read the perspective of other readers. Though some may only mention whether they enjoyed the book or not, others give guidance on what to expect—relevant, but difficult social issues are presented—it contains language or graphic material—the book touched the reader on a deeper level.

As an author, I can tell you I’m looking for constructive criticism when I read a review on something I wrote, but honestly, I’m looking for the third thing I mentioned—I’m hoping it touched them. 

Another author once told me she didn’t read reviews anymore. She didn’t say why, but I think it might be something we all have to guard against—not tying our work, perhaps even our worth, to another person’s opinion, which is why we must remember reviews are just that—a personal opinion.

Another reason I struggle asking for a review is though we can ask, many people won’t actually take the time to write a review, even well-meaning friends so why bother? Even I have trouble writing a review unless I can praise the book with four or five stars. But opinions widely vary. We don’t enjoy the same genre—the same style of writing—even the story’s point of view will matter to some readers. I read a review that said they connected to the main character, while another reviewer said they didn’t like the main character at all, which simply supports we're drawn to different stories for different reasons. A story with realistic circumstances, dialogue, and a spiritual takeaway are usually motivators for my next purchase. 

Lastly, and the most awkward reason asking for a review is the how I feel about reviewing fellow authors. Their opinions feels weightier, and on the flip side, leaving an honest, yet encouraging review if I didn’t enjoy the book the way other reviewers have isn’t fun. 

I know writers more seasoned than I have advice they can offer, and I hope they will. 

Until next time, keep writing, because your voice matters!

Penelope grew up in Tennessee, but has lived in various states and a few countries outside the United States. She holds a BS in Business/Political Science and a MS in Multinational Commerce from Boston University. 

After working in the field of banking and finance, she left to invest her time with her children at home, and occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. Today, she resides in Indiana with her family where she serves in her church, and occasionally teaches a Bible study or Precepts.

An avid reader of fiction and perpetual student of Biblical truth, she is pursing the life of a writer. She believes her roots, faith, and her experience with other places and cultures, all meld into the voice that splashes onto the pages of her novels.

A Powerful Voice and A Furrow So Deep are Christian Romances published through Anaiah Press, LLC. And her Christmas novella, My Christmas Hope, will be released November 16, 2018.

To follow Penelope on social media:
Facebook: PenelopePowellAuthor
Twitter: @penpowell89

Monday, June 11, 2018

Confessions of a Weekend Writer

By Darren Kehrer (June 2018)

Today's task list:
  1. Wake up! (Very important step in the process)
  2. Get the family off to their day.
  3. Leave house, fight traffic, and be at work by 8am or better.
  4. Long stressful day. Get home by 5pm.
  5. Dinner prep, pay bills, help with homework, watch the news, spend quality time with family or spouse, and feed the animals.
  6. 11pm: Bed Time!! Wish it were earlier.
  7. Tomorrow: Repeat steps 1-6, just faster paced.
     I'm guessing many of you are not able to write during the week because your life revolves around your family, your work responsibility, or your spouse's life; however, you still have the desire and dream to be a writer. I know some of the above duties are on my daily list. I would suggest to you that even if you only have time to write on the weekends, that still counts!

    My week day life revolves around family and my primary work responsibilities. There just isn't enough time to write during the week. Given that fact, I've had to come up with some ideas to at least keep the ideas flowing, but more importantly, to keep my ideas recorded for later usage. 

    Here are a couple ideas for you, should you also find your writing life exists only on the weekends.
  1. Smart phones really are SMART.
    • Most phones have the ability to record verbal notes. I use that many times while I'm driving and need to record an idea on the fly
    • Most phones have great built-in note taking apps. I keep a list of plot ideas, character names, story beginning ideas, and story endings.
    • There are many writing apps available to help you categorize, record, and transfer your thoughts on story ideas into a useful format for later usage.
  2. If you travel for work, always be on the look out for great images, settings, and interactions that could be used in a story. Grab brochures, take pictures, and jot a few notes. You never know if those will inspire a story at some future point.
  3. I have to put all my work appointments on my phone calendar, be sure to enter a "writing time" event too. Even if only an hour, those monthly hour weekend sessions can add up to finished short story in no time at all.
  4. If you spend a significant amount of time in your car, listen to podcasts about writing and related topics. Turn your drive time into learning time.
     Finally, and possibly the most important, don't give up. Just keep writing. As long as you don't stop writing, there will always be the possibility of getting your story finished (or published). You can't edit something that doesn't exist (so a good friend of mine says); therefore, keep the words flowing...even if only on the weekends. In the words of Jim Watkins, "This is GOOD!"

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Thanks, Dad

by Jean Kavich Bloom

What encouragement to write do I most remember? I'll tell you, but first, about that name, Kavich.

Kavich was my last name before I married into the Bloom family decades ago. Shortened from a Polish name, it's a challenge for people to know how to pronounce it. Yet the pronunciation is simple, if not phonetically a hoot.

Say it with me: “cave-itch.” 

Despite my maiden name’s challenges, I decided long ago to include it on anything I published. Why? To honor my father and his encouragement.

Way back in my teens, Dad encouraged my writing and to “maybe work in publishing one day.” Not in a pushy way, but enough that it made an impression on me. I wish I had fully embraced that idea when I entered college, although I don't think many programs related to writing or publishing were available then. And I thought all you could do with an English degree was teach. Instead I majored in social work and then established a short career in that field. Guess what I enjoyed most about my work in a crisis intervention position. Writing my reports.

When my husband and I decided it was time for me to go back to employment after I’d been a stay-at-home mom for ten years, I was hired into one of a nearby publishing house's editorial departments. (That was one hundred percent a God thing.) From the start, my dad’s encouragement rang in my ears, giving me courage to take advantage of opportunities there to train and learn editing and all aspects of the publishing world. I worked there for twenty-four years, and after becoming a freelance editor and writer, I was commissioned by that company to write a couple of children’s devotional and activity books.

“How do you want your name to read on the cover?” my editor asked. Without hesitation, I told her, “Jean Kavich Bloom.” 

My father, who passed away a few years ago, wasn't too impressed when I handed him copies of those books. By that time, his frail, ninety-plus-year-old body had begun to take its toll on his spirit. He wanted nothing more than to be with God (and soon after that, he was). Yet his lack of response didn’t dampen my gratitude for his encouragement, way back when I was a teenager and an avid reader, dipping my toe into writing. 

And as I write now, his encouragement still rings.

Thanks, Dad.  

Has a parent or someone else significant in your life encouraged you in your writing? Do you know someone you can encourage?

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries (Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren, with foster grandchildren in their lives on a regular basis.
Photo credit:

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Get Out of the House -- and Write!

I’m writing this on Memorial Day, which is the latest in a series of bright, pleasant spring days here in Central Indiana. The sky is clear, a light breeze is blowing, the fragrance of fresh-mowed grass refreshes me, and a chorus of birdsong cheers my heart. On such a day last weekend, I looked out my window into the shady backyard and thought, What a perfect day for writing!

It reminded me of similar spring days when I was a boy. A winter of poring over textbooks so thoroughly ingrained the study habit that I wouldn’t notice a change in the weather until my mother shouted up the stairs, “It’s such a beautiful day. Why don’t you go outside?” And I would!

I must confess that such a day poses a dilemma for me now that I'm an adult. When I’m writing, I want to be outside; and when I’m outside, I want to be writing. I’m stung by a guilty conscience either way, and weather doesn’t affect my conscience in the slightest.

But there’s another solution: I could go outside to write.

I could carry a pen and writing pad anywhere to write the old-fashioned way. A longhand draft can open creative springs that would be stifled in front of a computer screen. Alternately, I could take my tablet or laptop computer to a shady spot and continue my story.. (In such a situation, I put my machine in airplane mode so that incoming emails don’t distract me.)

So here’s my advice: Don’t let a good day spoil your writing. Enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, let the birdsong lift your spirits, but don’t let these things become a writer’s block. Get out of the house and write!

Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.