Buying Influence

ImageReviews are on my mind today.

I’m irritated with my Readers Favorite review. They corrected the spelling and most of the grammar/sentence structure on their site, but the original review stands at Barnes & Noble – where the reviewer, an ex-teacher no less, appears to have had trouble with the English language, and where racquetball is spelled racket ball. RF would be happy to post the edited review, but only an author can request the removal of their first one. Good luck with that. It’s irritating, but not worth losing time or sleep over. I’ve made the request to B&N twice, and if they ever remove it, I’ll the RF people know.

It’s hard for a new author to get reviews. I wrote to an online friend of many years and asked if she would have time to read my book. I told her I would send a gift card through Amazon, and all I wanted was an honest review. She was excited for me and said yes. Three months later she is sheepish, but she simply hasn’t had time to read the book with summer, kids, back-to-school, etc.  I told her I completely understood, and I wouldn’t be offended if she never read it.

Now I’m reading across many forums that it was unethical for me to ask for the review in the first place. Giving a book away for free in return for a review, or paying someone to read your book then leave a review, is a shunning offense as an author.

The payment to Readers Favorite was to have someone read the book and post the review within two weeks – nothing more. There was no guarantee of a positive review. They will review any book for free if you are willing to wait three months or more. But with five stars across the board in all categories, and then the racket ball misspelling; well, I can’t help but to wonder if the payment had a bearing on the review.

Charlie, thatgirlwhoreadsbooks, posted this article in a reply to one of my posts. It’s from the New York Times and is an article about book reviewers for hire. By the way, I enjoy Charlie’s blog immensely as she attempts to read every book in her house. You should check it out.

The entire article was interesting, but I found the mention of John Locke to be especially noteworthy. Everyone who self publishes knows who John Locke is. He is the first self-published author to sell more than a million eBooks through Amazon. I would love to know his true sales numbers, as I believe even his free downloads were considered a “sale.” Oh, I’m not taking anything away from the amount of money he’s made; I’ve contributed! A quick check of my Nook shows 13 John Locke books which I purchased at 99 cents each.

What interested me so much about the article was that Mr. Locke “commissioned Mr. Rutherford to order reviews for him, becoming one of the fledgling service’s best customers.” Mr. Locke went on to say “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”

It reminded me of the disc jockey scandal of the 60’s. Disc jockeys took payment in return for playing certain music tracks more frequently on the radio. Just as hearing a song over and over again can run it up the charts, seeing a book with hundreds of positive reviews can bring more and more buyers.

I’ve set aside a budget for advertising. When I originally set my budget, I allowed for free books in exchange for honest reviews. So far, I’ve only done that with my friend who doesn’t have the time, but I’m wondering if I should even consider this given the current review climate – especially at Amazon. I received a glowing review for one of my books, and it has disappeared. It was a verified purchase, I didn’t know the person, and I have no idea why the review is gone. Do I really want to pay for reviews via free books when they could disappear at any time anyway? I think not.

Having at least one positive review on each book right now is just fine (none were paid for!). I can live with that.

But I am curious … have you had any experience with offering a book in exchange for a review? Or have you paid for a review? Did you change your mind about the practice after you did? What does Scrooge McDuck have to do with any of this?

Ice Cream and Horse Manure – Yum!

Since I seem to be determined to post a fair amount of silliness on my blog, I thought this would be a good topic for a Saturday when nobody is supposed to be reading blogs anyway.

My husband has a guyfriend who would be his girlfriend if he wasn’t a guy. I’ve never seen two men who have so much in common. They text each other during the day and make each other laugh with their own brand of humor. The funny thing is, his wife and I are quite alike as well.

On Friday evenings, after dinner, we hop on the motorcycle, as do they, and we meet up out in a little town in the heart of Amish country.

ImageI don’t even know the name of the place we go to every week. It looks like a house that was converted to a business. It’s a little general store where they also serve pizza, chicken, sandwiches, and they have soft-serve ice cream.

We walk up to the outside window to place our order, and it takes for-ev-er for someone to come to the window. Then it takes for-ev-er to get your order. Hubby and the other couple always order tall cones, but I’m a hot fudge sundae kind of girl. I like eating with a spoon rather than chasing ice cream around in a circle before it melts all over my hand in the 80 degree heat.

There’s a round wooden picnic table next to the building. It kills my back to sit on it for a couple of hours, but the company and the conversation are so good, it’s worth it.

ImageRight behind my spot at the picnic table is a hitching post. There are always horses. Lots of horses and horse crap. Today we were in luck. There was only one horse and less manure than usual.

Depending upon how the wind is blowing, the delicious smell of pizza wafts over our ice cream, or the stench of the horse manure. Tonight we had an added treat. A tanker truck, fresh from picking up a load of some god-forsaken chicken mash from the local chicken processing plant, parked across the street from us. The driver ran into the store for some tasty treat before heading on down the road. The smell was enough to make you gag, and I longed for the horse manure smell.

Besides our normal visiting chatter, there is usually a story or two for the evening’s entertainment, and they usually come from my husband. Tonight was no exception. He shared his one and only experience when he went frog gigging . . .

One of his friends, along with his sixteen-year-old son, took hubby out one dark night in a canoe. Hubby was wearing a new pair of shoes and a new pair of jeans. It took a while, but they finally heard a cacophony of croaking frogs – in a swampy area where the canoe couldn’t go. If we were going to feast on frog legs, the men were going to have to go on foot. It was nearly midnight, and no one was around, so hubby whipped off the new tennis shoes and jeans and hopped into the water with the other two guys and the frogs. Burlap sacks were rapidly being filled until a flashlight was directed at them through the weeds. Uh-oh. Hubby was standing there in his underwear – not boxers to give the effect of shorts – but good old tighty whiteys. It was the game warden. The man never batted an eye. All he wanted to know was how many frogs were in the sacks. I bet he had a story to tell the next day at work about the bonehead in the swamp in his underwear. But we had a frog leg feast.

You don’t get this kind of lifestyle in the big city. Good friends, ice cream, and horse manure. Yum!

A Ghost at Grandma’s House

ImageIt feels good to be working on my newest book again, but it needs an additional 2,400 words. I had to re-read it to refresh myself on the details and search for where a scene or two could be added.

Once again, I found myself smiling. I obviously write to entertain myself, but I hope my books will entertain others as well. Sometimes, I think to myself, “Did I really write this? Where did this come from?”

But I know where a lot of it comes from. It’s the old “write what you know” mantra, and it sure is helpful to have your own life experiences to scatter throughout your writing.

My first book has so many of my own experiences, I should have used this for a disclaimer: “Oh, who am I kidding? A ton of it really happened, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” At one point in the story, Susan is deep-sea fishing on a boat which has a broken radio and one of the engines is out. This happened to me in real life. The conversation in the book is almost identical to the one I had when chatting with the first mate. I don’t want to give away what happens next, but some of it involves a big fish, and the music from Jaws rolls around in Susan’s head – as it did for me in real life.

Part of this fourth book takes place in New Orleans, and once again I wondered how much of my own life I could put into the book. I’ve been to New Orleans, but my experience there was pretty tame.

I started chapter five on a day when I was in a funk. It translated to my writing when Susan was suddenly childish and whining from the back seat of the car, “Are we almost there?” I knew I was writing something which wasn’t in her character, but I kept writing anyway. She was on her way with two of her friends to visit one of the friend’s elderly relatives. They were headed to a plantation home, and had a shock when they pulled up in front of a run-down, weathered house:


Our mouths hung open in astonishment.  Nate pulled up in front of the house and turned off the engine.  It was so quiet in the car, you could have heard a snail crawl.

I threw myself back against the seat as uncontrollable laughter once again gushed forth.

“Shhh! Shhh!” Darby was shushing me with his finger to his lips. “Susan! They’re going to hear you!”

His words brought another peal of laughter, and I flopped over onto the seat, putting my hand over my mouth in an effort to quell the laughter.


That’s not edited, and I’m uncertain as to the changes to be made, but you get the drift. The fun thing about all of this was I had no intention of sending these three off to visit relatives instead of going directly to their hotel. And I wrote the house to be exactly as my grandparent’s house was in real life.

I have such wonderful childhood memories of being there. You had to drive at least a mile-long lane to reach the house. There were woods, fields, and a pond. The upstairs of the house scared the snot out of me, and Grandma always said of the door which was always closed, “Don’t ever open that door.” The bathroom was huge, but only had a few fixtures – (from the book) “The rest of the room was wide open, and you could easily hold a party here with twenty of your closest friends.”

I tossed in a ghost, who is in my postscript as being real, and the entire chapter was a mess of silly nonsense. I fully intended to throw the chapter out of the book – until I read it again a few days later, and it tickled my funny bone so much, I had to keep every bit of it.

I suppose I wanted to write about this today because the “refresher reading” reminded me again of several things:

~ Writing about what you know really does work.

~ Sometimes writing something you know isn’t right for your book just might surprise you.

~ Putting things from your own life into your writing can bring unexpected joy.

I can’t put into words the emotions I feel when I read about our dog, Joe (especially when he’s so great in the book!), and having Susan and her friends visit my grandparent’s home was really special.

Even though I’ve had some challenging and miserable ups and downs with formatting and editing, this entire writing experience has been amazing and, dare I say, joyful.

If you are so inclined, I’d love to know how much of your life experiences you put into your writing and/or any comments relating to unexpected joy from your writing.

Six Sentence Sunday

ImagePick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

Rather than to continue with Susan in Vegas, I thought I would go back to the beginning where Susan Hunter made her first appearance in a Word document. Here is the opening paragraph from the first book in the series, Sunshine Hunter (with a slight modification to accommodate the entire paragraph):

My perfectly restored ‘67 Chevy Chevelle careened around the corner at Walsh and Park, the tires squealing in an effort to get my attention. I was angry, and my mind was reeling. I was thinking of all the ways I wanted to kill him. People on the sidewalk were staring as I flew by, and I knew I had to get a grip on more than the steering wheel. Carbide City was known for speed traps, and I didn’t need another ticket. Why are restored muscle cars magnets for cops and tickets anyway?

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site:

Twitter – #sixsunday

Is Your Life a Musical?

Music has always surrounded my life.

I have four siblings, and we were all teenagers at the same time. Thanks to my mother, our house was filled with music – blues, jazz, top 40, country, and yes, even rock.

I wanted to expose our son to music, too. He was pretty young when we started taking him to our local Imagedinner theater to see musicals. Every Friday night for an entire winter, we watched a movie musical – Singing in the Rain, Oklahoma, Man of La Mancha, etc.

We did unit studies for music. We jumped on beds to classical music, sampled opera which we first heard from Bugs Bunny, and the kid eventually taught himself to play the guitar.

It was nothing for one of us to ask another a question and get a response in song. Sometimes the stuff we would come up with would send us off into gales of laughter, and we thought we would die laughing (see Roly at Comedy in Crisis). Of course, the rest of my family thought we had gone bonkers, because we turned our life into a musical.

It’s been quite a few years since then, but there is still a lot of music in our home. My husband and I play Dr. Mario on an old Nintendo 64. We turn the sound off, put our own music on, and play into the wee hours of the night while we chat and listen to music. I’ve noticed he likes to sing along with the girl backup singers. Just the girl backup singers. It’s hilarious. And he’s ruined about a bajillion songs for me because he changes lyrics, and then I have his lyrics stuck in my head.

So, that’s it. My musical life. I have nothing profound to say. I simply wanted to veer away from a writing post today. But I did put song lyrics in my first two books, and then panicked when I found out it could cost me a fortune, and I had to REPUBLISH!

Six Sentence Sunday


It’s easy! Pick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

My six are, once again, from Sin City Hunter, the third book in the Susan Hunter Mystery series.

Last week, we left Mick and Darby in their underwear on either side of the hotel room bed. Susan wasn’t expecting Mick, her fiancé, to arrive for two more days. … Her parents are staying on the same floor of the hotel, and as they are returning to their room, they hear the shouting from Susan’s. My six are from a few moments later:


Mom was ogling back and forth between Mick and Darby. Her eyes were wide as she was clucking and saying, “Oh my. Oh my.”

I looked to my dad with misery oozing from my eyes and said, “Mom, Dad, this is Mick. Mick, these are my parents, Lilah and Earl.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Mick muttered in exasperation.


Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site:

Twitter – #sixsunday

Amo, Amas, Amat

Anyone who has ever taken Latin remembers this phrase. It means: I love, you love, he she or it loves.Image

When most of my peers were taking Spanish in high school, I wanted the romance language. I liked the idea of learning to speak romantically. Wasn’t I surprised to find I had signed myself up for a dead language with an ancient teacher and books that looked like a snooze fest!

I wasn’t a good student in school. If I came home with a B, I was delighted. The C’s kept my head above water. An A in Home Economics didn’t count. It wasn’t that I wasn’t intelligent; I was simply too interested in my friends and having fun.

It took a while, but something finally clicked for me. Latin was like a puzzle. I spotted bits and pieces of English words hiding in the Latin words. I was good at memorizing, so the vocabulary words and their meanings were easy for me. Declensions, on the other hand, made me want to pull my hair out! If it weren’t for a cute boy who helped me during tests, I wouldn’t have made B’s across the board.

What I wasn’t prepared for was when my English grades jumped from C’s to A’s. The difficulty of reading and declining Latin words made English seem like a piece of cake. I compare it to racquetball. I sought matches with the faster, stronger guys in the club, so when I went back to playing with the girls, it was easier. I signed up for a second year of Latin.

My family thought I had lost my mind when I started our son on Latin in the third grade. It was easy for him to memorize, and to this day, I think a year of Latin at a young age helped tremendously with his vocabulary.

Latin helped me to appreciate words. That’s kind of funny to me now, since I write so simply in my books. Having two years of Latin, enjoying English in high school, and then later reviewing and teaching both to our son … well, I think it was probably one of the things that gave me so much gumption to think I could write and self-publish a book.

Did learning another language help you with your writing? I still want to learn French. If I arrived in Paris today, I would only be able to ask for le fromage.

Would You Wife Swap?


Several years ago, we were contacted by ABC Television with an invitation for our family to appear on Wife Swap. They thought we would be a good fit.

I was horrified.

I didn’t for one nanosecond think this was a good idea. How dysfunctional must my family have appeared online to be contacted? I had seen the show a few times, and there was always a little bit of the crazy train in each episode.

But I knew what caused them to seek us out. They wanted a family who homeschooled. In some way, they were going to show us as a crazy homeschooling family.

Homeschooling was a lot of things, but crazy it wasn’t. It was one of the best things I ever did in my life. No one ever asked what we were doing or what our son was learning. All they ever wanted to know was, “What about socialization?”

Their children should have been so lucky! It was wonderful. Not only did we have homeschool groups to interact with, but our son practically lived on his bike and found every kid around in a three mile radius. He not only knew every child who would have been in his public school classroom, but he knew all of the children in the few grades above and below his as well.

I could write a blog about homeschooling. It wasn’t something we planned to do; it came out of necessity. When our son was screened by the public school system for kindergarten, it was strongly suggested we take him to our doctor as the screeners felt he would need medication for school. I quit my corporate job to stay home and school him myself. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when we started, but I figured it out.

I thought about the Wife Swap invitation again today as I scrolled through the books on my Nook. I don’t often think about homeschooling now that our son has graduated, but the books brought up memories. When I first looked for books to download, I didn’t go for the free books from today’s authors; I went right for the public domain books. There are still so many I want to read.

We read aloud for years – way beyond when our son could read for himself. It was simply enjoyable for us to share a book together. We bypassed dry history texts for wonderfully told history from wonderful writers. Even though most of the authors are considered juvenile authors, the enjoyment an adult derives cannot be argued.

Some of my favorite vintage authors:

– Charles Carleton Coffin … Through the day Marion remains in the swamp. His men rest beneath the leafy shade of the oaks. Long trails of moss hang pendent from the trees, waving in the summer breeze. So deep the shade, that at midday there is only twilight where the brave men lie concealed. At night, no one could find them there. ~ The Boys of ‘76

– Jacob Abbott … The news of this battle spread everywhere, and produced the strongest sensation. Hannibal sent dispatches to Carthage announcing what he considered his final victory over the great foe, and the news was received with the greatest rejoicing. At Rome, on the other hand, the news produced a dreadful shock of disappointment and terror. It seemed as if the last hope of resisting the progress of their terrible enemy was gone, and that they had nothing. ~Hannibal

– James Otis … The night was cold indeed and we suffered not a little before morning; but, as Ben said, it was better to be a trifle chilly than to feel ourselves beholden to anyone, even for that which we covered ourselves. ~Benjamin of Ohio

– Joseph Altsheler … Henry Ware walked to one of the windows and looked out for a long while. He relished little the idea of being a prisoner for the second time, even if the second imprisonment were a sort of courtesy affair. He saw from the windows the roofs of houses amid green foliage and he knew that only a few hundred yards beyond lay the great forest, which, now in the freshest and tenderest tints of spring, rolled away unbroken, save for the few scratches the French or Spanish had made, for thousands of miles, and for all he knew to the Arctic Circle itself. ~ The Free Rangers

– Elbridge Streeter Brooks … The moon struggled out of the flying clouds as Ned, for the fortieth time, slipped aside for the litter bearers to pass. And as he did so, he looked upon the face of the still form on the litter and his young heart fairly burst over the sacrifice he saw. For the moonbeams fell upon the face of the dead Colonel of the Ninth, the brave Liscum, who obeyed orders even though he knew them to be a blunder, the gallant veteran of four wars, dead in his fifth, unconscious of his country’s reward for gallant service, slated for the promotion that was never to come to him on earth. ~ Under the Allied Flags

There are many, many more vintage authors whose works we enjoyed. Their styles of writing varied. For some authors, the descriptive writing was lovely and flowing; for others, it was chopped and halting. Some authors wrote with simple words and painted simple pictures; while others used more complex wording, and we gleaned some of our understanding from context. It was, after all, no fun to read with a dictionary at your elbow.

I originally told myself I would read a book from a current author, and then read a book from a vintage author. I forgot my plan. I’ll have time again to read this winter. I think I’ll start with A Loyal Lass, A Story of the Niagara Campaign of 1814 by Amy E. Blanchard. It’s a romance.

Baby Steps


My internet and social media headache continues, but I’m making progress.

My husband is my hero when it comes to computers. No matter what problem I seem to be having, he can always solve it – 100% of the time. When he says, “There you go,” I always smile and say, “You’re my hero!”

But I’ve tried to handle everything with my books by myself. I fought for a week with a new web design program and thought I would never figure it out, but I did. If I could have reached around to pat myself on the back when I managed to figure out the settings to actually send the web page up to my ISP, I would have. That was always hubby’s department in the past, and it was completely foreign to me.

I finally figured out I had to make a personal page on Facebook before they would allow me to have the business page for my books. I’m getting the hang of actually writing something on the page now. I have a whopping seven likes.

I listed my books at Goodreads. They are swallowed up over there, but I don’t have time to do anything about that yet. At least they are there.

I finally made one little tweet on Twitter. Twitter is probably last on my list of social media to conquer.

Yesterday, it only took a little over three hours to figure out how to put a Like button on my web page. No kidding. I made hubby look over my shoulder several times because I was struggling, but every time he offered to help, I said, “No, I’ll figure it out.” How hard can it be to drop some code into a program that specifically says, “Add Code Here.” He ran off to Lowe’s to do some shopping, and I was finally able to send a text to him which read, “By Jove! I think I’ve got it!” And I did. Stupid little button.

I even secured my own PayPal account this weekend. I can stop using my husband’s. I feel like such a grownup now.

So, I have a feeling of accomplishment today. Little by little, I’m learning and getting things done. I’ll eventually figure out how to use social media to help me with my books. In the meantime, I’ll just keep trying to do things myself, and see where it takes me.

My Website – Breezy Books

My Facebook Page

My one little tweet on Twitter


Six Sentence Sunday


Pick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

The six I’ve chosen are, once again, from Sin City Hunter, the third book in the Susan Hunter Mystery series.

Two days after Susan and pro hockey player, Dell Grady, were featured on a sports newscast, they made headlines in the sports section of the newspaper. Susan plans to tell her fiancé about the incidents when he arrives in Vegas at the end of the week. He shows up two days early – in the middle of the night. My six are from a few moments later:


He was standing on one side of the bed in his boxer shorts, while Darby had jumped out on the side closest to me in a much tighter boxer brief. For a split second, I visualized these two gorgeous men modeling men’s underwear on a runway in Milan, but I quickly realized Mick had slipped into bed with Darby, and it hadn’t gone well.

“Mick!” I shouted. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m registered to this room,” he bellowed . “What’s Darby doing here?”


Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site:

Twitter – #sixsunday