“Fall into Fantasy” Tour Line-up


It’s August, and that means Fall is upon us! To celebrate the cooler weather and keep your mind off any back to school blues, we’ve put together the Fall Into Fantasy Tour. This tour celebrates the wonderful fantasy books that you can dive into–right now!

But what’s a tour unless we are giving away free stuff? That’s right! Each week, we will be giving away some awesome prizes from the author being featured. And to wrap things up at the end of the promotion in December, we’re going to have a huge Facebook party all weekend long featuring these authors and more!

Want to get an idea of what is ahead? Check out the calendar below!

August 25th: The Darkness & Light series by K.L. Schwengel
September 1st: How to Date Dead Guys by Ann M. Noser

September 8th: The Undead: Playing for Keeps by Elsie Elmore 

September 15th: The Enchanted Bookstore Legends by Marsha A. Moore
September 22nd: The Curse Merchant by JP Sloan
September 29th: The Ragnarok Prophecies by Ayden K. Morgan
October 6th: The Daath Chronicles by Eliza Tilton
October 13th: Me! The Heirs of War series by Mara Valderran

October 20th: Salvation by James Wymore

October 27th: Strings by G. Miki Hayden

November 3rd: The Shadow Series by Anna Hub
November 10th: Between by Lisa Swallow

November 17th: Darkness Watching by Emma Adams
November 24th: Bound by Kate Sparkes
December 1st: The December People series by Sharon Bayliss
December 8th: The Disciple series by L. Blankenship

December 15th: Evensong by Krista Walsh

Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here! And be sure to check out these awesome blogs that will be hosting the tour for us:

Bilbo’s Book Ends

Katie’s Stories

Book Crazy Gals


Read Me

Kelly P’s Blog

SW Fairbrother

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour? 

  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.
  • If you are an author that wanted to take part, be sure to add me on Twitter or Facebook to hear about the next promotion I plan! This won’t be the last. :)


Today’s the day, my friends! Today I reveal the brand new cover art for the upcoming release of THE CURSE MERCHANT.

I’m not going to spend endless paragraphs burying the lead, so without increasing ado… I give you Dorian Lake:

The Curse Merchant: Book 1 of the Dark Choir series.

When I tell you that Dorian Lake is the best damned hex-peddler in Baltimore… I mean that in every literal sense.

What we have in this cover is a focus on both the mood of the novel, and the city itself. Curse Merchant is “urban” fantasy more than a simple genre nomenclature. For me, the city of Baltimore is as much a character of the book as anyone else, and I hope the readers agree. I’ve tried my best to situate the book as indelibly in its setting as has Richard Kadrey for the city of Los Angeles in his Sandman Slim novels.

The Curse Merchant will be available for purchase on September 15th. Spread the word, if you would, and feel free to join me for an online release party on Facebook from 5pm – 6pm on the 15th. Details forthcoming!

Go and tell others, my friends, and keep your karma shiny!

#MyWritingProcess Blog Hop

Holy cats… I got tagged by the illustrious 2014 Kindle Book Awards nominee Sharon Bayliss to participate in the MyWritingProcess Blog Hop. It’s like some kind of social media contagion… I’m a carrier. I’ve been infected. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, Put me down before I turn!

Seriously, though, thanks to Sharon for tapping me to participate. I have plenty of opinions, and it’s rare that I’m actually invited to voice them. So… when I devour your brains, you all can thank her on Twitter @SharonBayliss.

Here’s a quick blurb of what this blog hop is all about:  “We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…”

Here are my responses to the four questions:

1) What am I working on?

Right now, I’m roughly 38,000 words into a horror/western stand-alone novel with the working title of YEA THOUGH I WALK. It’s a creature feature set in the Wyoming Territory during the frontier expansion. In a nutshell, it’s vampires vs. wendigo vs. cowboys, with some serious mind-fuckery sprinkled throughout.

Meanwhile in the back of my head, I’ve been tossing around a rough skeleton for the third Dark Choir novel, THE CURSE MANDATE. I have larger points which will land, but it’s like trying to stitch together a dinosaur skeleton without knowing if the bones you’re sifting through all belong to the same dinosaur.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

The genre of the Dark Choir series is categorized as Urban Fantasy. From my experience reading in the genre, The Dark Choir books play their magic way closer to the vest than some of the more visible properties out there… The Dresden Files, for example. The magic is far more subtle… you’ll never see Dorian Lake launch a plume of fire from the end of a staff, nor will you find vampires lurching around in feeding dens. The feedback I received from THE CURSE MERCHANT upon its initial self-published release seemed to echo the sentiment that it makes suspension of disbelief easy and immediate. This is precisely what I wanted… a world-building experience that was more similar to the recognizable real-world Baltimore than some parallel universe with witches and giant panda-bats.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write the kinds of stories I’d want to read. Well… not ALL of the stories I’d want to read. I leave some of the next-level extreme science fiction to others better equipped. At least for the time being. I enjoy the atmosphere of the Dark Choir series. It’s a world into which I enjoy escaping, filled with fine liquors, engaging femmes fatale, and a protagonist I’d spend real time with in the real world.

And as for YtIW, it’s an ambitious novel… perhaps my most ambitious to date. It’s a period piece, and there are some storytelling conventions which require LOTS of attention and fore-planning. It’s rather like going to the gym for a nice, solid workout.

I write what I write because it’s an utterly immersive experience for me, and it’s a blast!

4) How does my writing process work?

Ho HO… glad you asked. Actually, loyal readers of the Fistful are pretty well-versed in my anal, left-brained system of spreadsheets and outlines. In case you’re new, here’s a flurry of links for you to check it out:

- I begin with an idea. I have enough story ideas to fill up an entire Word document, so I can’t expressly say how it works. They just come. I tend to bat the idea around in my head for several weeks before I can tell whether it has legs.

- Then I make a plot outline.

- Then I take the plot, flesh out bullet points into a list of scenes, and then make individual scene worksheets for each.

- Then I take each major character in the story, and cook up an extremely long and thorough character worksheet for each.

After that, I simply start drafting. By the end of the exhaustive pre-writing phase, sitting down to bang out word counts isn’t that difficult. The keys are to keep writing without stopping to edit, leave the polishing for a day after the first draft is complete, and spend “down time” (usually in the car during my commute) hashing out dialogue out loud. If anyone were in the car with me, they’d assume I was having a psychotic break.

When the first draft is complete, I let it age like a smelly piece of horrifying cheddar. When all emotional bonds between me and the manuscript have withered on the vine, I pick it up for a ground-up reread and revision pass. The first pass is spent hunting down plot holes, testing believability, pruning abandoned leads, and shoring up weak characterization.

On my second pass, I test for readability… pacing, dialogue, prosody. Yep… prosody. I end up reading quite a bit of the manuscript out loud. I’m surprised at how many people don’t do this. At the same time, I hammer it with a course editing mallet, catching the really glaring typos and misspellings.

With that entire process complete, I farm the manuscript out to my alpha reader (spoiler: it’s my wife). When she gives me all of her notes on plot and characterization, I tidy up the manny with a third pass, then send it out to my beta readers. I give them a month or two to really hash through it, wherein I tend to launch into my next project. Yep! These overlap.

When my betas come back with their notes, it’s time for the final plot revision pass and edit. Following this, it goes out to acquisitions… or at least it will when I get around to wrapping up YtIW.

There you have it. I try to write every evening after my boy hits the hay, and usually get between 1500 and 2000 words in per day. I tend to finish first drafts in the space of three months, not counting pre-writing.

ALRIGHTY, BUCKAROOS! I can feel the virus necrotizing my flesh, and the hunger for brains has become all-encompassing. Time to tap some people to spread the contagion, and share with the world their writing process. First on the meat-train:

HEATHER MARIE, YA Fantasy author. She’s always posting up “for reals” Tweets, and I bet she’ll be highly forthcoming with regards to her writing process. She has a pretty sweet novel coming out soon…

DEBRA DUNBAR, urban fantasy and paranormal fiction author, horse owner, and critique group partner. Debra is prolific with a capital FFFFFFFfffffff…. Her ragingly successful Imp series has garnered a legion of fans, and she just keeps pumping out the awesome. I bet her writing process includes way more Gatorade than mine.

SAM CURTIN, self-published author of paranormal horror, student of anthropology, and advocate for pagan interests. She’s got quite the full plate between work, study and her recent nuptials. I’m curious how she continues to make the word counts rain.

And of course… COURTNEY SLOAN, author of horror, sci-fi, urban fantasy, and my wife. I know her writing process… but YOU DON’T!!! So there.

Off to chew brain stems, kiddos… om nom nom…


Author Support Blog Hop – Making the Time to Write

This blog post is primarily for all of you practicing and aspiring authors out there who struggle to make the word counts rain while holding down a day job, a family, one or more hobbies, pets, world domination, an illegal panda trafficking ring, co-ed slip-and-slide tournaments, or whatever the hell else you horrible people are into.

Welcome to The Fistful for the Author Support Blog Hop. I’d like to walk you briefly through my life as a writer.

To start off with… I’ve been at this for ten years, plus or minus. To be more specific, that’s when I started writing for the purpose of getting published. It wasn’t until I’d wrapped revisions on my seventh novel, The Curse Merchant, that I decided I was ready to put it forward for consideration by industry professionals. I spent a year querying before deciding to self-publish. I then went on to write the sequel, The Curse Servant. Just prior to releasing Servant, I was put in touch with the literary marauders at Curiosity Quills. One thing led to another, and they ended up signing the entire Dark Choir series. In the space between then and the re-release of Curse Servant, I’ve been busy hammering out short stories and a new stand-alone novel which has me pretty damn excited.


How do I do it? How do I find time to write?

I’m not a full-time writer (yet). I do, in fact, have a day job. For those of you who are interested, I work in the city of Baltimore for an office furniture manufacturer. My boss is aware of my aspirations to transition into full-time writing, and he supports that… which is pretty amazing in itself.

Nonetheless, the day job is an hour away from home. That’s two hours each day sacrificed to the gods of commuting. On top of that, I have a wife and a son who take priority over everything else in the entire Universe. I’ve resolved long ago never to crimp my family’s well-being in the pursuit of a writer’s lifestyle.

We work out at the gym three to four times a week. That’s another two hours (including the drive to the gym, workout, shower, etc.) committed to that.

I’m also a homebrewer… regular followers of this blog know that already. I commit to semi-regular beer-related events, meetings, gatherings, festivals, etc. at least three times a month. On top of homebrewing, I’m a National-ranked BJCP beer judge, which means I find myself dedicating Saturdays to beer competitions every so often.

Then there’s the dog. She has to eat, drink, pee, poop, and play an amount of Frisbee-fetch that borders on obsessive.

Cram a lot of that into one day, and when Homeslice Jr’s bedtime rolls around, you’ll find me sitting at my laptop, a single bead of drool tracing a line from the corner of my mouth to the space bar.

"Oh look, it's Pass-the-Fuck-Out-Thirty."

“Oh look, it’s Pass-the-Fuck-Out-Thirty.”

Energy drain… it’s the biggest obstacle this writer faces. How do I manage to find the will to write after reaching the point of bone-wearying exhaustion?

Answer: sometimes I don’t.

Oops… this was supposed to be miracle blog post to show you the secret to writing success, wasn’t it? Well, hate to break it to you, but there is no miracle cure for having a life. As a wise man once told me back when I first started writing: “You’ll never find the time to write… you have to MAKE the time to write.”

So I do. From eight-thirty to ten at night I tend to hammer out between 1500 and 2000 words. I don’t make it every night, though I feel like King Failure of the Failure Tribes of West Failure when I do. Sometimes I scrape for motivation. Sometimes it comes easy. Sometimes it sits on my computer like a spectral catball and glares at me until I go away.

When I do manage to muster the will, I do find it helpful to bear the following in mind:

1. It’s possible I might never earn enough from my writing to quit my day job. However, if I don’t commit to as much writing as I can now… it’ll be an absolute certainty. I keep my eyes on the prize. I know what I want. And instead of wallowing in uncertainty, I kindle the hope. Hope that I’ll succeed.

And the only way out is through.

2. I have to stay connected to others who are going through the same thing. I have a critique group I attend once a month, and beyond the advice and manuscript deconstruction we offer one another, we tend to lend an ear for our peculiar bellyaches. Writers have a specific set of anxieties which only other artists can really understand. If I didn’t have other writers to vent to, either in person or online (NETWORK, PEOPLE!!!), I’d easily buy into the assumption that this was a pointless endeavor.

3. There’s always going to be someone who’s better at this than I am. It’s like going to the gym. I know I’m only bench pressing 115 pounds, and if I looked to my right and saw Stafford Manchisel pounding out 300 pounds without breaking a sweat, I’d assume I was a noodle-armed slackard and give up. But just because someone else is successful, that doesn’t mean I won’t be… or even that I’m not already. Once I stop comparing myself to other writers and start focusing on the quality of what I have written, it’s easier to improve.

4. I must write what I enjoy reading. Writing outside of my comfort zone is fine… writing outside of what I find appealing? Not such a great decision. Anything born from a miserable writing experience tends to become a miserable reading experience. Which means…

5. I must keep reading. I must read widely. I must read successful, quality works within my chosen genres. If I don’t, then I’ll never know a cliche or a tired trope when I see it. I won’t know quality prose when I write it. My advice to my critique group won’t be as valuable. Those inner demons will be more effective in their needling. Just gotta keep reading.

Well, these aren’t cure-alls. They’re just thoughts. These thoughts have kept me going, and going strong. But I do happen to have a secret weapon that not everyone has access to.

My wife.

See… she’s a writer, too. And generally speaking, when the boy’s in bed and I’m cracking out the manuscript, she’s pulling hers out, too. When one of us is feeling tired, but the other is ready to write, we get positive peer pressure. Hell, it’s positive spousal pressure. She’s available as an alpha reader, as I am for her. She never begrudged my pursuit of publication, and was the first to celebrate with me when I signed my contracts… as I was when her short story was published in the Burial Day anthology.

Writing is a family value in our household. It’s a focus. Neither of us allows it to define our family, but it certainly helps that it’s a welcome and familiar presence in our lives.

So… aspiring author. Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to float them my direction in the comments section below. I’m available on Tumblr and Facebook as well. I try to be flippant and distracting, but honest as well.

Just don’t ask me about pandas. Big Tony hates it when I “go public.”


Other sites on the Author Support Blog Hop:


Image courtesy of stockimages | freedigitalphotos.net

Author Interview with Ryan Hill, THE BOOK OF BART

Happy June to all my loyal readers!

I have a special guest today on the Fistful of Fiction… Ryan Hill, author of the newly released THE BOOK OF BART from Curiosity Quills Press. If you’re a fan of cheeky, irreverent humor, read on!


"Trust me."

“Trust me.”

JP: First off, give us your elevator pitch for THE BOOK OF BART.

RH: THE BOOK OF BART is Fletch meets John Hughes, with a demon running the show instead of Chevy Chase.

JP: That’s quite the passel of 80’s zeitgeist! Is this a dark comedy akin to American Psycho, or something a little less pointed?

RH: Good question. I don’t really see it as a dark comedy, just a comedy with a lot of snark. It’s asking a lot to ask a reader to spend 280+ pages inside the head of a demon, so I tried to keep things fun more than anything else, since I’d imagine most readers would get bored spending time with a demon doing typical demon things.

JP: For those not familiar with your work, is comedy your regular gig? Or was this something new for you?

RH: I’d say silly is my regular gig. My favorite writer is Christopher Moore, who sort of owns the silly genre right now. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s written Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Fool (which is King Lear from the POV of the jester), and You Suck (the funniest vampire novel I’ve ever read). The combination of silly and fantastical really appeals to me, and I feel that’s more my wheelhouse. I do try to “stretch my muscles” and go in different directions, like with my upcoming zombie novel DEAD NEW WORLD, which is Black Hawk Down with zombies.

JP: Outside of Christopher Moore, which other authors would you say inspired you, or whom you say the style of Book of Bart resembles?

RH: Book of Bart resembles Moore’s work, as well as Gregory Maguire, who wrote the Fletch series. Also Douglas Adams. I’ve just always been fascinated with stories involving otherworldly beings, and I love books that don’t take themselves seriously. I feel it provides more of an escape, I guess. I don’t know. Stop trying to confuse me!

JP: I’m getting a real Stone-Parker “Book of Mormon” vibe from the book cover, by the way. One thing about those guys, as well as Adams and Moore if you dig deep enough… their light-hearted fantastical whimsy has roots in social commentary. With a demon as your main character, one expects The Book of Bart to have a sprinkling of that as well. Is there any social satire at play for your readers?

RH: There was a bit of social satire in earlier drafts of the book, but a lot of it was cut out in the editing process. There’s still some in there, but I’m a big believer in something Alfred Hitchcock said, which is (paraphrasing) focus on the plot, and let the audience decide the themes for themselves.

JP: So what’s next for you as a writer? You mentioned you have a more on-the-nose zombie action novel coming out soon… what’s on the horizon after that?

RH: Quite a bit, actually. DEAD NEW WORLD is coming in October, and I’m putting the finishing touches on another bonkers book called The Conch Shell of Doom. I’ve started writing a sequel to THE BOOK OF BART, which is going to be absolutely insane. I’ll probably write stories about Bart for the rest of my life. DEAD NEW WORLD is planned to be a trilogy, so we’ll see if that happens. I also have a 1984-esque story that’s still in the incubation phase.

This is all on top of pimping out my books as much as possible, of course.

It sounds like a lot, but you have to take it one at a time. I will say it’s kind of reassuring to know I don’t have to really worry about what book to write next for a few years!

JP: Sounds like you’re insanely busy… so I’ll just float one more question before I let you get back to work. It’s a question I tend to ask everyone because it’s hard to answer and I’m kind of a dick. Here’s the question: How would you define “evil?”

RH: Hmm. In terms of writing, I try to avoid writing straight up “evil” characters. I like to think of my villains as more misguided than anything else. But in real life, evil comes in all shapes and sizes. Killing someone is obviously evil, but I’d say if you do something that intentionally hurts someone solely for your own personal benefit is pretty evil. Actually, it’s kind of like porn. You know it when you see it.


You can find THE BOOK OF BART on Amazon. Here’s a blurb to wet your whistle:

Only one thing is so powerful, so dangerous that Heaven and Hell must work together to find it: the Shard of Gabriel.

With a mysterious Black Cloud of Death hot on the shard’s trail, a desperate Heaven enlists the help of Bart, a demon who knows more about the shard than almost anyone. Six years ago, he had it in his hands. If only he’d used it before his coup to overthrow the devil failed. Now, he’s been sprung from his eternal punishment to help Samantha, an angel in training, recover the shard before the Black Cloud of Death finds it.

If Bartholomew wants to succeed, he’ll have to fight the temptation to betray Samantha and the allure of the shard. After an existence full of evil, the only way Bart can get right with Hell is to be good.

What I’m Doing About Misogyny

This past weekend has been like watching a nightmare unfold in real time. A man guns down women in Santa Barbara after posting a bone-chilling manifesto actually titled “Retribution.” This man targeted sorority girls, planned his attack, and his rhetoric shared the same DNA as many Men’s Rights “Activist” groups. It’s an unspeakable act, and it’s more than just a spree killing.

It’s the bloody wound that lies beneath a scab which most men are choosing to ignore. That scab has been peeled back this week, and we’ve been given an opportunity to have a renewed conversation on male privilege in our society.

I’m a cis-gender white-middle class male. I’m swimming in privilege. I was born into privilege (on more than one front), and I know this. The cards have been stacked inordinately in my favor. I haven’t had to share the same concerns, disadvantages, or outright fears of women, people of color, or LGBT Americans. I choose not to deny, overlook, marginalize, or lean upon these privileges. I benefit from them, indeed… but I refuse to allow society to haze the lens for me. I refuse to allow myself to re-scribe our modern existence as one that is actually equal. Though I often feel frustrations and fears in life, I refuse to believe that my specific frustrations are universal.

I do care that women have to run scenarios through their minds when encountering men. These scenarios are not the same scenarios men have to process when dealing with women. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever worried that a woman was likely to lash out against me in violence. The precious few times this has actually happened in my life, I’ve been able to ride out those moments without feeling as if my life were in jeopardy. When I’m alone in public, or even at home, I don’t put much thought into my sense of personal safety.

The notion of a madman driving past me on the street and gunning me down is so remote in its feasibility, I invest zero emotional energy into such a possibility. My friends who are women, however… they can’t afford such blithe nonchalance.

Because this has happened. And though these were the acts of a madman… they weren’t “simply” the acts of a madman. They were the lashings of a vicious, toxic beast that has festered in the sewers of our societal myopia. We as a whole have fostered a world in which men feel as if they are entitled to access of a woman’s body. They are encouraged to disregard the person of a woman, instead seeing them as objects. What’s worse… men are trained in a specific kind of doublethink which not only denies the existence of misogyny, but turns their generalized frustrations into a fantasy of victimization at the hands of women. It’s sick, and it has created a nightmare in Santa Barbara.

The most bone-sickening aspect of this latest event has been the outpouring of support for Elliot Rodger. Beyond that, men have stepped onto as many public and online platforms as is humanly possible in order to exempt themselves from what they feel is a personal indictment from women at large. These women who have had to play against a stacked deck their whole lives, who have labored under an entire spectrum of oppression, victimization, and brutalization to the point of outright murder, are fully entitled to their anger. And though it’s understandable that an individual would want to feel as if they are not being accused of the deeds of others… they lack that pause of consideration wherein they realize that adding another voice whispering “not all men” becomes a low and menacing growl that drowns out the burgeoning conversation, robs these angry women of their platform, and hooks them with the all-too-familiar message bullhorned through the media: “You Don’t Get To Feel This Way!”

They do get to feel this way. They’ve felt this way for a long, long time. And now that the Internet is giving a larger signal boost to the outrage, the same Internet is giving voice to those who actually believe in what Rodger has done. It’s an alarming mirror to hold up to oneself. This isn’t comfortable. It’s not supposed to be. Let’s not rush toward comfort. Rather, let’s take that pause of consideration and process what is being said.

Now, I’m not really adding anything to this conversation that hasn’t been said more eloquently, succinctly, passionately, or widely by greater voices. But I can add my single voice to the whisper of allies who are saying “too many men.”

So, lacking a more direct means of salving the pain, I can tell you what I plan to do about misogyny.

I have a son.

His mother and I have spent his entire life fostering a sense of universal respect for all people. We have encouraged a view of the person instead of the body. As he ages and comes into manhood, the conversation will become more direct. It will deal with emotions, sex, consent, and how to deal with his peers who have had been fed the doublethink. And as brilliant and amazing a mother as my wife is, I do, in fact, have a means to reach my son that she does not. I can be a model of male behavior for my son. He sees how I treat his mother. He sees how I interact with his teachers and principal. He hears how I describe women in leadership. He watches as I share joys and pain with my friends who are women.

This is what I plan to do about misogyny. It’s the best I can do. I intend on rearing a young man who will not buy into the rhetoric shared by those who support Elliot Rodger. I will add one more ally to the next generation. And I’ll urge all other fathers to do the same.

Option Zero, or Why I Never Review Other Authors

Lately I’ve become somewhat outspoken in my refusal to review or rate another author’s work. This stance has drawn some questions from my fellow authors, so I thought I’d take the most appropriate platform to air out my thinking on the subject.

To me, it’s a no-win situation. Let me outline some very basic scenarios:

Option 1… you read a book and you like it. You might have a criticism here or there, but overall you’d give it a four or five-star rating. You post up said rating/review, and people thank you… warm fuzzies all around.

Option 2… you read a book, but you don’t like it. There were issues with pacing, plotting, characterization, fat rabid pandas swatting at vampires with steak knives… whatever. You have to decide whether to a) post up the lackluster rating and/or review, or b) don’t post up anything at all.


Here’s the problem.

When authors adopt option 2a, holy shit is there drama! I’ve seen it. And sure, we all like to think we’re grown-ups, and that we can handle criticism. Some of us actually can. But there are levels of butthurt at play, here. You have a typical Defcon 1 Author Drama, where the abused author launches a scorched Earth campaign against you, rallying swaths of Visigoths to swarm Goodreads in their name.

Pictured: a typical Goodreads message board.

Pictured: a typical Goodreads message board.

But there is also the passive-aggressive flavor of chapped ass. This is where, when it comes time to reciprocate the rating/review (and this is, indeed, the implicit contract among indie authors who rate one another), they remember that blistering review you left about their steak knife panda army. They remember. And even without attempting to do so intentionally, their reviews are tainted by that memory.

So what about option 2b? Seems fitting… that whole “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” Well, we aren’t stupid. When an author gives Mary, Sue, Jane, and Bertha all five-star reviews, but poor old Gertrude gets no reviews at all… Gertrude knows what the score is. And she defaults back into the whole option 2a drama.

So, what about Option 1? Why don’t we just swallow our negativity and leave only good reviews, whether or not we feel the books deserve it? After all, aren’t we really here to make each other look good?

Uh, no. No, we’re not. It’s nice to help one another, but when we start leaving positive ratings when they are undeserved, we not only further dilute the entire review system and thereby reduce its effectiveness for both reader and author, but we also betray the trust of our readers. Let’s face it… sometimes a book isn’t that good. And if we huck a five-star review at said book, and our readers jump on it only to discover it’s more like a two-star novel… they’re going to think twice about trusting our judgment in the future.

So, I get it. We’re all human. We all get butthurt from time-to-time. Hell, it’s the hip thing to do now. Butthurt is the new black. But here’s the problem with butthurt.

It’s none of our readers’ business. They deserve to choose what they read without our extra baggage attached. And thus I have adopted what I’ll call Option Zero:

No ratings or reviews.

It is my humble opinion that reviews ought to be the sole purview of readers… not the authors. They’re the only ones equipped to render an honest review without having to coddle the admittedly fragile egos of their fellow writers. We authors don’t have that option. We’re always going to consider how every word we say publicly will affect our careers (if we’re smart, anyway).

And I do understand that authors are also readers. But we aren’t “strictly” readers. We have considerations that filter what we say. Why not leave the ratings to the ones we’re really trying to sell to, and help our fellow authors out in other ways.

So how can we help one another out without violating Option Zero? We can share one another’s news and release events and cover reveals and any other kind of bias-free announcements. We can grant honest input in private. We can offer words of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, and a high five when needed. These are honest, constructive ways to benefit both the author community and the readership at large.

So much of our author branding has to do with honesty. Readers have very little time for pretense, misdirection, or our sewing circle nattering. I suggest that Option Zero helps to save the readers from all of that. That said, we truly do need reviews and star ratings from our readers. Let’s hand the ball off to them, and get back to writing new work for them to review!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | Freedigitalphotos.net