Independent Writing from an Independent Mind

Open discussion about writing and reading

Tag Archives: review

Should I ever take a review personally?

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine, (it is funny  how many blog postings come of discussions), and an interesting question came up:

Should you ever take a review of your writing personally?

This question reminds me of what a friend of mine who has spent a career in the restaurant business once said to me. “You know, people say that the customer is always right. In my business, sometimes the customer is a drunken asshole!”

To me as long as the harsh words are constructive criticism and are delivered in a positive way, then it would be wrong to take the review personally. However, if the reviewer has obviously not read the work, at least thoroughly, or if they are unduly crude or rude in their delivery of their critique then, yes, take it personally. But be professional if you follow it up.

Remember, if you sling mud you can expect some to get on you as well.

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Why I as an Author do Book Reviews

As many authors and readers already well know I have been a book reviewer for BookPleasures.com for a few years now and I also write reviews for many international publications.  Though my reviews have had thousands of readers around the world I still have had one or two people, including fellow authors, refer to my book reviewing as a “hobby” of mine.  But in fact I don’t and have never before considered my reviewing books as a pastime.  The reviews I produce are as much for my growth as a writer and author as they are to help the potential reader made an informed decision about a book.

Why do I say that?

Simply put I use the review process as my own exercise for improvement in the craft of authoring books.  And I recommend to any author who could commit the time and effort to get into reviewing as well.  Here’s a list of the four main reasons I am so into reviewing other authors’ books:

1) I grow technically as a writer – When I review another author’s work I am constantly learning from their style, the structure of their product as well as their editing and content.  I compare this to works that I have produced in the past and also see which ideas that might work on projects that I will undertake or are currently working on.

2) I grow as an author in the broader sense – There is so much to learn about the themes presented and how authors get their message across.  This is very important because you not only have to find a voice when you write but you must also have something to say in the first place, otherwise you are you are simply rehash and not interesting.  Then what’s the point of writing at all?  This is all about learning how other authors find their own message and deliver it in a way that is unique to their style and personality.

3)  I grow intellectually and personally – I learn the lessons of the books I am reviewing and internalize these lessons.  I look for the parallels in my life and seek the wisdom in the writing.  I want to know exactly the point, the raison d’être, the author had in writing the book and how the book can make its own change in the world.  I always try to pinpoint the connections I have found with my own life or the lessons I have learned and make these examples available to the book’s potential reader as well.  And these lessons aren’t only found in non-fiction books either.  Even fictional books that many would consider that are just for entertainment purposes have these lessons.

4) I promote the art of writing – There are so many books published out there annually, I have heard between 200,000 to 250,000 new titles every year, that it is incredibly difficult for the worthy books to be sorted and found in this huge pile.  This means that it is very hard for authors, especially new authors, to find their audience and be heard.  I consider it my duty as a reviewer to try to help the curious reader to know what they should expect from the books that I review and I try to make sure that deserving authors will find more of a readership through my efforts.

Though books are readily available in today’s world, many readers everywhere take that availability for granted.  But to someone who has written a book, we “know it don’t come easy,” to paraphrase Ringo Starr.  Authors spend a good part of their lives in researching their books, making business plans, outlining the scripts, doing the actual writing, editing, publishing, etc., and quite honestly much of the time it is a thankless job.  A well written, solid review is my way of saying thank you to all the other authors out there who have written the books that have made me what I am today.  This is why I would like other authors to consider writing reviews every now and then.

Where can authors post their reviews?  Of course, many places, but just a few:  Their local newspaper, a literary magazine, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Gather.com, their own blog, an online book club (Shelfari, GoodReads, WeRead, LibraryThing, etc.) or on some other form of social media such as Facebook, Gather.com, etc.

Honestly, if you are a writer doing a few reviews here and there is an excellent way to pay it forward.  Get the conversation started… Remember, what goes around comes around!

Not all my Readers are Crazies!

thou-shalt-not-bear-false-witness1I was pleased today to see a well thought out reader’s review on my book Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. Up until this point I get lots of e-mails about my book but have had not so many reviews. That isn’t so curious for me due to the fact that it is easier for someone to go to the Gary Dale Cearley website and send me a message through the contact form than it is to put your thoughts on the book at one of the book sites like Amazon, Shelfari, GoodReads or AuthorsDen.

Anyway, I quite often get “hate mail” from “Christians” who support Jack Chick, Alberto Rivera and their Vatican Islam conspiracy. This amazes me to be quite honest…

I would never have suspected that people who are presented with the truth about a subject would shunt the truth rather than reading it for themselves and trying to understand where it is coming from. Take for instance this guy Thomas Richards, the one who branded me a “Jesuit coadjutor” and a “Vatican shill”. Now for his own part, Mr. Richards is apparently a follower of that nut job Tony Alamo. This Richards guy keeps trying to pretend that he has read the book but at the same time he knows nothing of it at all, other than I had an interview with a professor at the University of Bethlehem, a man who is a Muslim but works at a Catholic University.

Nonetheless, I hear from these guys every now and then who are telling me that I am going to Hell and that my soul cannot be saved at this point. Oddly enough they are coming from everywhere. I have had folks write in from the United States (several regions), the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Belgium, Germany, etc., none of who seemed to have even cracked the book’s cover.

Many of my friends told me that I would have all this ire from the Islamic community but I sensed early on this would not be the case. Muslims would have no problem with what I wrote in the book. It is aimed like a dagger at Jack Chick’s sadistic world of hateful biblical tracts.

I have news for all of my hate mailers…

The controversy isn’t inside the covers of my book. The true controversy is what my book refutes. If you’d read it you would know that.

Now I have a request for them…

Don’t send me an e-mail or contact me in any other way to tell me that God is displeased with me and that I am going to Hell until AFTER you have read Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness! You only make yourself look a fool, like Richard Thomas did.

LA Times – Taking a Step Backward!

This morning I read the very unfortunate news in Publishers Weekly that the Los Angeles Times would no longer be running their standalone Book Review section.  This is to me much more a reflection of where we are going as a society than the sad picture that can be painted of the Los Angeles Times.

Newspapers have been having it tough for years and anyone who knows how newspapers are surviving now know that it is from their own unique content.  For instance, in a daily newspaper you will note that most of the national and international stories are from press agencies.  The stories of interest and local stories are generally carried by their own reporters.  So when you see an article in the travel section, books section, etc., this was planned and written well in advance.  These writers don’t get their scoop in the morning, do their research and writing in the afternoon and have the story in the paper the next morning.  Nope, it is planned well in advance.  This takes lots of investment on the part of the newspaper.  So when a newspaper closes a standalone section it generally doesn’t reflect on the personal opinions of the paper’s management but rather the financial consideration of keep the section open – Is it profitable or not?

Newspaper readership took hits when people were turning to television but it has taken black eyes and bloody noses from the internet.  If the advertising money was in the Book Review section it would not have been in danger.  Simply put, the readers didn’t care.  And that is a crying shame.

I don’t want to be the voice of gloom and doom but when we de-emphasize reading, people, we lose our civility.  Sure, we can all become technophiles and spend our time on the internet (Lord knows I have done lots of that lately) but when we lose our love for books and all things about books then we fail ourselves.  We have no one else to blame but us.

How do you read?

Me?  A voracious reader? 

Some call me that but the truth of the matter is I read when I am at home, which is not often due to my social life and business activities.  But I have been working recently to become more efficient in my reading.  Of course, I am read up on the latest in speed reading courses and I do use the principles outlined in these courses to help me get even more reading done than normal.  But I think besides the amount of time available for reading I have a problem with the reading material itself.

For instance, I read for many reasons.  One important reason is research for my writing projects.  I also am a reviewer for BookPleasures.com so it is very important to get through this workload as well.  And just as important is the reading that I do for my own pleasure.  So damn!  I have one hell of a stack of books next to my bed.

I suppose if you were to take them out and count them you’d find 25% of the books are for research, 25% for my own pleasure and 50% for review.  But don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy them all!

So I have been asking myself if there is a system I can create so that I can spend more time with the books I read for my own curiosity.  If you know of one or if you think of one, let me know!