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Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Write a Review

Dear Readers, you've been pestered by authors you know to not only read their book(s) but to write a review for it.

How scary!

You're not a writer. You got C's in English and that was because the teacher liked you. You can't remember the last time you wrote a thank-you note, let alone an essay. Best just to nod politely and scuttle away when your author friend is distracted, right?

Wrong. It doesn't have to be hard to write a review. It doesn't have to take all day, or even require spell check (which Amazon may actually have).

A review is for another reader. They don't expect you to write a treatise on the book. They don't expect you to sum it up for them. In fact, they'd rather you didn't. Amazon prefers reviews be fewer than 300 words. This post will be longer than 300 words.

Think of it as a "comment" about the book.

Just tell one thing you liked and one thing you didn't. That's not hard. The more specific you are, the better, unless you give away secrets. That's no fun for anybody.

Some examples: "I liked how the main character was always cracking jokes at the worst time." "I keep thinking about the story and wondering what they're doing now." "I loved the dragon! He was so cool!" Well, that one isn't terribly specific, but sometimes that's what you've got.

What you didn't like? Some examples: "She kept using 'like this' or 'like that.' It got on my nerves." "The story got pretty complicated in the middle. I had to stop and reread a couple times to make sure I understood." "I hated the ending. I prefer happy endings." OK, that's almost a plot-spoiler but it counts.

See? Simple. You're looking at 15 minutes, tops. Unless you get carried away. You may find you like writing comments about a book. Just keep in mind - no spoilers. Save those for that blog you're going to start for book reviews.

Give it a try. Amazon is really easy for review posting and it is the biggest online seller of books. You'll never have to avoid your writer friend again.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Star of Justice Pronunciation Guide

Yes, I gave you one.

I posted at The Cheesecake Thickens and I'll post it over at Ranunculus Turtle the Facebook Page.

I'll also print it here, just in case you missed it:

I had one. Created it years ago. I left it out of the book because...well, because I had enough of the "high fantasy" genre flags with a map, a quest, a story that took days instead of hours and a world different from Earth. I just didn't want that last nail in the coffin of sub-genre labeling.

TT: Not sure why I object to the label "high fantasy." It should appeal to the elitist in me. Maybe it does and that annoys me.

I also had a high enough page count I couldn't justify adding another two just so people could pronounce made-up words. I made a mistake. Not my first.

Readers appear to be more comfortable with a pronunciation guide. I've had three specifically ask for one, and I've had two others respond with "Oh, that's how you say that?"

Yes, that's how I say that, but it doesn't have to be the way you say it. I come from a State where creek and crik are the same thing (a tiny running stream, in case you're not a Kansan). You can pronounce my made-up words any way you like and I don't mind.

But, for those who absolutely, positively believe the only way to pronounce a made-up word is the way I pronounce it, here ya go:

Aerion (AIR-ee-on)
Aeriad (A-ree-ADD)
Caissa Ocren (CAY-shuh OH-cren)
Dryad (DRY-ad)
Ehsu (EH-soo)
Flamas (FLAHM-ahs)
Galena (Guh-LAY-nuh)
Gamaliel (Guh-MAY-lee-el)
Golor (GAH-lahr)
Gowan Rudebec (GOW-an Ruhd-a-BECK)
Grambage Garralar (GRAM-badge GAR-uh-lahr)
Indira Sampath (in-DEER-ah SAM-path)
Manarot (MAN-ah-row)
Merritt MacEwan (MARE-it mac-YOU-en)
Naiad (NIGH-ad)
Neriadim (NARE-ee-ah-DEEM)
Oread (OR-ee-ad)
Nauvoo Vehle (NOW-voo VELL-uh)
Radiac (RAY-dee-ack)
Rhami Harvarkoset (RAH-mee HAR-VAR-koh-set)
Shanti (shawn-TEE)

See, Kansans tend to emphasize the first syllable of a two syllable word. That's really the trick to pronouncing any word in my world. If there's a word you don't see up there and want to, leave me a comment. I'll be happy to tell you how to pronounce it the Kansas way.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Speculative Faith and Kat Heckenbach

My good friend and vicious editor Kat Heckenbach guested over at Speculative Faith yesterday about mixed messages and preachy fiction.

While I would normally give her inordinate amounts of compost for suggesting opposing ideas can be equally true, she makes a good case for balanced presentation of opposing ideas. Check her out over there, and if you like what you read, check out her book Finding Angel (I helped edit) to see how she uses balance in her own writing.

You won't be disappointed.

She also mentions the Iguana's Winter, another excellent read for YA and adult. If you think the name is familiar, Iguana designed the cover for Star of Justice. He also just produced Winter as an audio book, so if you prefer your reading in the "out loud" category, Winter audio is for you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I intend to donate a copy of Star of Justice to my high school alma mater Cair Paravel. My first plan is to send them a copy with a nice letter, but it occurred to me it might need a bit more fanfare than that. My brain went to press releases, student gatherings, something with a podium and flashbulbs.

Yeah, I don't get it, either. I'm not generally one for grand daydreams of fame, but, hey, it's where my brain went.

It was followed almost immediately by the "wow, I don't know how to make that happen and it sure seems like a lot of work for such a small thing" dismissal, so I switched back to Plan A. At least, my waking mind did.

Last night, I dreamed I did the big book reveal at my high school and it was a total flop. Met with criticism, derision, contempt and in one case downright snobbery, I was thoroughly snubbed and humiliated by friends and family. Loads of fun.

Not that I think such a thing would actually come to pass, but it's nice to know my streak of self-doubt continues alive and well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Winner!

H.A. Titus won the Star of Justice ebook from my guest post at Melissa Finnegan's blog. A big thank-you to Melissa for having me and a "huzrats!" to Heather.

For those still interested in an ecopy, Smashwords.com is the cheapest place to order and they offer it in any ereader format. I haven't figured out how to load it to Nook, but it shows up just fine on mom's Ipad.

It occurred to me today (why am I always late in thinking of these things) to collect interview questions. I get tired of the same old "how do you get your ideas?" so I'll gather other questions to ask and answer. Problem solved.

Kat has sent Draft Two of Seeking Unseen, so that will keep me busy reading for a few days. I'm three pages in and already looking better, Kat. Don't remember those "sparkling green eyes" being there the first time, but I sure like them.

Have a great day, everybody. Gotta go read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Letting Go

You would think I learned this with Elementals, but I guess turtles need more reminders than your average elephant.

TT: I'm considering Cleft as a final title for Elementals. I got it from Obadiah 2 - 4: "The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, 'Who can bring me down to the ground?' Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down..." The verses refer to the destruction of Edom, but they remind me strongly of the Avese. Thoughts?

I tried something new with Price of Justice. Instead of putting things into a separate note file, I wrote them into the mss with the understanding I would take them out later if they didn't fit there. I hoped it would be a time saver.

Big mistake.

I have conclusively proved my writing style is lean with tendency to plumping, like a Ballpark Frank. Or the body reconstruction scene from The Fifth Element where they build Lelu out of a couple of cells. I write the skeleton first and I go back and add ligaments, then muscle and finally skin to hold everything together. If you're lucky, I'll throw some clothes on it, but not always. Cue Merritt's curtsy.

I tried to reverse the process by including everything I could think of in the first draft believing I would cut it later. Well, the cutting is what's getting in the way. What do I cut? Which part is too much? Is any of it necessary? Arrgh!

When I let go and slice down to the bare bones, I move forward. I also lose all the info I jammed in there in the first place, and I'm sure some of that will go back later. So I've wasted more time than I saved.

So be it. Lesson learned. Again.

I'll reopen my notes file and move those chunks of flesh over there while I figure out what kind of bones this baby has.

It's half-written but it's only just begun. Sigh.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Hard Work

People think writing is hard work. They're half right. It is hard to sit down and write. However, it is impossible to sit down and write without thinking.

I'm finally thinking about Price of Justice. I thought I had thought about it, but not nearly enough.
Star of Justice occurs on another world. That world has native inhabitants and you get to meet a smattering of half-breed versions of them. You discover a slice of Ah'rahk's history, but mostly you follow after Caissa as she stumbles around trying not to die.

Price of Justice is a far closer look at Ah'rahk. You'll meet full druids, fauns, neriadim, draken and an aeriad or two. You'll cover more territory - from far eastern Barrens to southern York to the western Steppes to Draklan. You'll meet real wizards and sorcerers and learn the difference between the two. At least, I hope you will.

Problem: I have to create all those people and places and I haven't done it. Not really.

I figured this out when rereading my WIP and noticing that the same person is traveling both east and west at the same time. Apparently, I don't know where he's going, which would explain why he can't get there.

I'm solving this problem by keeping my map of Ah'rahk open in "Paint" while I write. Every time we move, I check the map to see where we're going. If I don't know, I stop and think until I do. I make changes to the map and we all proceed.

A painstaking process, yes, but it's becoming rather fun. That's good. If writing isn't fun, it isn't worth it.

Ironically, the hardest part is changing my mind. I keep forgetting I haven't actually published this book yet. I can make all the changes I want, as long as they don't conflict with Star of Justice in an improbable way. Not sure why I can't keep this in my head but I keep losing it.

Maybe I'm thinking too hard.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I just noticed I've added a couple of "followers" to this blog. Howdy, folks! Here's hoping you'll find some entertainment value here.

There's still a chance to win a free ebook of Star of Justice at Melissa Finnegan's blog. Just leave a comment there and you're entered. You don't have to have a Kindle to make use of an ebook. Kindle has a free download program for your mac or PC that allows you read on your computer. We also have a straight .pdf file version that you can read with Adobe. We probably have other versions, too. Can't have too many ways to read an ebook.

Wow. I sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I? It's really just "blah blah, Adobe" to me. I'm throwing words out and hoping they land in some kind of rational order.

Anyhoo... Welcome. God's blessings on you and yours.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Write to the Point with Robynn Tolbert

I'm guesting at Melissa Finnegan's Genesis 50:20 blog today. If you're interested in a free ebook of Star of Justice, stop by and leave a comment to enter her giveaway (and make me look less friendless).


PS: This is the potentially sarcastic interview I agonized over, but Mom's wisdom ruled out and I toned it down a bit. *evil grin*

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I finished Great Expectations this weekend and was reminded what a true masterpiece of story-telling looks like. A co-worker finished reading Star of Justice and tells me she wanted to re-read it immediately, so I've gotten my kudos for the week. I'm not only waiting for Kat Heckenbach to send her second draft of Book II for edits, but I'm supposed to be writing a non-fiction article of 3000 words by the end of June, so I'm in the wonderful-for-procrastination-purposes position of having other things to do than write on my book.

Which means I'm ready to write on Price of Justice.

I thought I would start writing last night. I took the laptop and the turtle-shaped flash drive into the bedroom (away from the Internet and the newest Farmville release Jade Falls) and settled in for what I hoped would be a few productive hours of writing.

It wasn't quite what I expected.

I had to remind myself of what I have already written. It's changed so much in my head, I can't remember what's on paper anymore. That led to a strong realization that I need to edit while I go, which I simply cannot do on the laptop with that little finger-mouse-pointer thing. I hate those. Then Skamper decided the space between the laptop and my belly was exactly his size so I had to deal with a cat hair arm rest that didn't appreciate the use. Within minutes of turning on the computer, I had five fuzzballs within five feet staring at me with a "what'cha doing, ma?" intensity that was quite unnerving. Miss Kitty didn't join because apparently some ghost had entered the house and she was the only one capable of chasing it around and around.

I suffered another setback when I couldn't find my map of Ah'rahk or even remember where I last saw it. That was an intense two minutes, but I found it in a totally logical place. I need to draw more detailed maps of the specific areas my characters travel this time around. The wide-view is no longer adequate.

Not willing to be completely distracted (though Jade Falls whispered), I turned off the laptop and fetched that monster binder you've seen on FB for some pen and ink time.

I did (I hope) resolve some important issues in the first four chapters, mostly by staring at the ceiling while the cats stared at me and considering all the possible story implications. I also uncovered a few issues I'll have to think about some more. Yes, this time I took notes.

I am now prepared to make useful edits on the first 73 pages of the currently written 406. Those are double-spaced pages, by the way. I haven't hit the 100K mark yet in actual words. Fresh writing will come soon enough once these modifications are made and the cats will just have to adapt to the change of location.

So hurry up, Kat, or I might accidentally make progress on my own WIP. Can't have that, can we?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Warning: Christian

Hello. My name is Robynn and I'm a Christian. I will write Christian books. Find out why over at

The Cheesecake Thickens.

or right here:

I'm a member of several online writers' groups, and recently, one of them posed the question, "should Christian books carry a warning label?" To be honest, I cannot for the life of me remember which group or really any of the particulars. I mostly scanned from the sidelines.

The trigger incident involved an author getting a nasty review because he failed to clearly identify his fiction novel as "Christian," even though three of the tags applied to the novel contained the word "Christian" (I'll save a rant on the -ehem- silliness of readers for later). The author countered by creating a tongue-in-cheek warning to all that his book might contain material known to incite riots in avowed atheists or something to that nature. Good on him.

The thread bounced around a bit, with some authors being pro-warning and some pro-"undercover Christianity" - as in avoiding any and all trigger words that might cause a Christ-hater to "go off" and stop reading, thus getting some Christianity into the reader by accident, as it were.

Wow. I sound a bit harsh there, don't I? Guess I have some issues of my own.

I faced this question for the first time when a person I later learned to be an atheist asked me what "Christian fiction" was. He caught me off guard, but I answered, and, I think pretty well for me, a book that expresses a Christian worldview.

I'll warn you upfront. I'm a Christian. It doesn't matter what genre I choose to write. My writings will stem from a Christian worldview. Do I mind? No. Will you mind? Maybe. Is that my problem? 

Absolutely not.

Jesus Himself said the world would hate Him and most people will reject Him. Why should I gritch and moan because they reject me because of Him? I'd rather proclaim Him before men and be cursed by them than be denied by Him before God.

I do have to point out the irony of an atheist complaining about Christian fantasy, though. Isn't that where all Christian writing should be? In the same genre with false, mythological beings like Ra and Gaia and Zeus? I would think atheists would be thrilled to have Christians writing fantasy. We're doing half their work for them.

I guess there's no pleasing some people.
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Are you reading this on FB? Have you "liked" my author page, Ranunculus Turtle? Why not? 

Friday, June 8, 2012

P.A. Baines Talks About Alpha Redemption

Not here. I suppose I should ask him, but then I'd have to ask other people, and it would become this whole big thing. Sigh.

Anyway, read his interview here and read my review of his book here (if you're interested). I compared it to cauliflower soup, which, if you've ever had cauliflower soup, you know to be high praise indeed. Anything I compare to food is good.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I Don't Read Reviews

I'm referring here to reviews of my own books. I'm also no longer saying "I won't read reviews," because I have read two of them despite all my good intentions.

I'd like to have three bullet-pointed reasons deftly arranged, but it boils down to this: reviews are for readers, not writers. The same way funerals are for survivors, not the deceased.

You have an opinion about my work, but I'm not entitled to know it, nor are you required to share it. If you like my book, great! Glad to hear it. If you don't like my book, great! Glad to hear it. I don't expect everyone to like my book. Oddly enough, I'm not that arrogant.

A review is given after the book is published. I can't make changes after that point. What you like remains the same; what you don't like remains the same. How can reading your praise or censure make one ounce of difference to me where this book is concerned? It can't. It can only make the difference to other readers who might like it or dislike it like you did.

I'm not saying don't review my book. Please, review away. Be honest. Tell what you liked and what you didn't. I'd ask you not to share spoilers, but, again, that's your choice. You don't need me to read your review to make it valid.

One might argue that a review will make my next book stronger. How, exactly? The next book won't be like this book. I've changed. The story has changed. The characters may have changed. Besides, I have crit-partners who regularly beat me upside the head for doing stupid, annoying things in my writing. I have a wide variety of test readers ready to berate me for being too predictable, too obscure or too wordy. I've encouraged them to be as honest as possible, and I listen when they speak.

So, I truly thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your reviews of my book. I'm gratified when you enjoy it, and I'm understanding when you don't. I hope your words make a difference to future readers or to readers who should not read my book because they would hate it like you did.

Your words are for them, not for me.

I respect that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Things I've Learned Since Publishing a Book

I'd heard about that point in the final editing process where you'd rather set your head on fire and put it out with a sledgehammer than read your mss one more time. I hit that point about four years ago, but I tried to squash my indifference and focus on the task at hand this April with Star of Justice.
Considering what I've found, I failed miserably in the squashing and allowed indifference to win out. So I'm making a checklist for the next book.

1) Run spell check on the entire document. Especially important for made-up names. Just be sure to spell them correctly the first time. This brings me to the addendum to 1): pay attention to spell check while running it.

2) Run grammar check on the entire document. This one will have you banging your head over every fragment of dialogue, but it will catch some (few) things. Not as many as you might hope. I also never trust it's suggestions, but it's a good way to make sure you're saying what you mean to say.

3) Run "find" for everything you can think of, in an orderly fashion, with a checklist. In fact, 1) should probably be "keep a checklist of things to check." Extra spaces, extra punctuation, words that should be italicized or capitalized. Words that shouldn't be italicized or capitalized. If you think of it, write it down and "find" it. Every time.

4) Keep a list of things to check and check them off when you've checked them. I found a couple of things I meant to check or change, yet apparently failed to check or change. Do you know how irritating it is to think of doing something and fail to actually do it? Yeah, you probably do.

5) Read the entire document (yes, I mean that) in a format other than the one you normally use. Really read it, too, not just skimming. I spotted the missing period while reading Star of Justice on my Kindle. Stupid me failed to note the spot, and despite my best efforts, grammar check and "find," that period insists on remaining missing. I figure it's God's way of humbling me.

6) I'd say ask someone else to help, but, frankly, I'm the best judge of this kind of little, piddling stuff. I'd rather save my friends for bigger issues like content and clarity than waste them on comma searches. I love you guys that much. You're welcome.

That's what I've got so far. Feel free to add any suggestions I may have missed. I am once again forcibly reminded how fallible I am. I'm also inclined to run grammar check on this post.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sleep Disturbance

About two years ago, my eyes started going numb when I get too stressed. I don't know how else to describe it except it's just like when the eye doctor puts those anesthetic drops in my eyes for the glaucoma test. Except it doesn't go away in a couple hours. It goes away when I get unstressed and that usually involves getting more sleep.

They started doing it last week, so I scheduled some vacation time. I've been dealing with it all weekend yet I haven't been able to take any naps or go to bed earlier than normal because of a busy schedule this weekend.

Last night I went to bed about 9:30 in the hopes of staving off some eyelid issues today.

My neighbor, who has been away for the last 10 days on vacation and returned Friday night, started cleaning out his car at 10 PM. He turned his second car's brights on, opened his storage shed and unpacked.

Let me explain that his driveway is four feet from my house. His storage shed is directly outside my bedroom window. I got to listen to every scrape, every door slam, every hinge squeak and every cell phone call he made until after 3 AM. I got to squeeze my eyes against the halo of light coming in around my bedroom curtains. And I got to enjoy his friends coming over around midnight to chat with him for an hour or so.

Had I known he intended to take all night to do this, I might have turned my fan on at 10:15 and been able to sleep. As it was, I would drift off and wake up again forty-five minutes to an hour later to another new, fun noise.

Why didn't I go out and talk to him, you ask? What good would it do? He wasn't breaking any laws.
He can have a light on at night. He wasn't making an unusual amount of noise. For once, he didn't have his car stereo on. He just chose the most ridiculous time possible to clean out his car. Am I supposed to give him grief for poor judgment?

So, I get to face a Monday of stressed-out phone calls from customers who tried to deal with our broken website over the weekend, and a mountain of paperwork left over from dealing with last week's customers dealing with the same broken website, on a two hour nap instead of a nine hour rest while my eyes refuse to focus and occasionally close without my permission. My neighbor, who is a teacher, gets to go to bed and sleep the day away.

Pray for me today. My customers will need it.

On a brighter note, a file I've been trying to upload to my publisher for the last two weeks chose last night to finally launch. Thank You, Lord.

Friday, June 1, 2012


After several years of quiet, my phone lines are acting up again. Spotty Internet connections, a mysterious "line in use" message that blocks incoming and outgoing calls and cannot be accounted for, considering I've unplugged everything that uses a "line" that I know about, and a monthly bill that increases like kudzu in South Carolina.

I'm "this close" to switching to cable. Except I hate cable. I hate paying for channels I don't watch. I hate ugly lines connected to my house. I hate that I apparently still have to have some kind of interface box or something? We had those when cable started in the 80's. Have we really not found a better way in 30 years? Come on!

I don't want to switch to anything. I hate changing services. I hate start-up fees and special deals that only last 3 months and then you get the REAL bill and dealing with sales people who don't speak English 'cause even if the words are English, I don't speak "tech." I don't know what "wi-fi" is or "DSL" or "single channel service." Argh!

Cable is no better. It's just a new set of lines and boxes that will go bad and have to be replaced for more money. I know this, but I don't want to switch to some other phone company to find out they still use ATT lines, so I still have all these line problems. I HATE TECHNOLOGY!

I appreciate the irony that I'm using technology to say that.

Which begs the question, why are my phones down when my Internet is working? Aren't they THE SAME LINES?! I don't understand, and when I don't understand, I get cranky.

Stay out of my way today. I am not happy.

On a slightly brighter note, Big Brother installed my new storm door last night. It's beautiful, it's functional, and it's much, much warmer. Thank you, Big Brother.