What is a Beta Reader?

What is a Beta Reader?  A Beta Reader is person who reads a book or story before it is sent out to the harsh cruel world of agents, editors, or epublishing.  A beta readers should give constructive critism and helpful advice to the author.  Copious notes are returned to the author, and then they consider whether or not that advice should be heeded.  There are usually multiple beta readers for a book or a short story.

Book Review – Dragonsbane

Barbara Hambly wrote this book in 1985.


By the end of page two Hambly has thoroughly etched out her main character.  Female, magical, and in her mid-thirties.  She’s canny, experienced, and  knows about the three robbers that lay in wait for her and her horse.  She is well aware and able to take care of herself.

This is a great opening and serves as a reminder that all books need to grab you from the start.  This was important back in the days when the author was trying to sell the book among the giant stacks of books at the used books stores.  It’s even more important that most ebooks feature a pre-view to look at the first few pages.

Most new authors or self published authors start with dreary happenstance viewings of the hero in mirrors, flash backs to nagging mothers, and information dumps.  If it takes you 15 paragraphs to talk about the heroine’s hair color under the light of the blue moon, but it’s starting to get cloudy and that reminds her of her childhood home that was near the city dump where her father used to shoot the crows that were the same color of her eyelashes, perhaps you should tighten up your prose.

The first few pages are for establishing the tone and color of the book.  Hopefully, it will also sell books.

Try taking a peak at a few book openings and decide what works and what doesn’t!  Dragonsbane is a great example of how to open a fantasy book.  A saucy heroine, a perilous situation, and a fight.



Draft sent out to Universe!

Last night, after some tortured thoughts, I sent out my draft to createspace to have them print a sample.  This is the book that inspired this website and service.   So many friends and family have declined to read or at least review the books.  What did they think of the illustrations?  What about the instructions?  Are they clear and reasonable?  Do I go on too much about this or that?  Sentence structure?  Too CPA?  Or is relaxed enough?

Fed up with the silence, I hired an editor.  She immediately agreed to do it.  And then did nothing for months.  While waiting I wrote three more books.  Last November, I finally got some feedback and sat down to make the changes.  I spent two precious weeks before Christmas to hammer them out.  Exhausted, I sent them to her.  I requested the editing be done before Christmas, so I’d have time to finish any edits before tax season started.  Nothing.  But what did I expect at that point?

So what is holding the process up now?  The dpi on the images.  I have over three hundred images in the book.  It turns out that createspace requires more than 300 dpi to print books.  It turns out that word, flattens them to dpi of about 144 or 96 automatically. So I did a bit of this or that to fix it.  Nothing seemed to work.

So last night I sent the draft out to see how bad it really was vs.  any unfounded fear of the unknown.

Charge!  Once more into the chasm of the unknown!


Tempest in a Teapot – Review of The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Dexter Palmer wrote this gem in 2010 .   This is his first novel and well, it suffers from some first novel problems.  I’m looking forward to his next book.

It’s a steampunk novel which uses the Tempest by Shakespeare for inspiration.  The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and I immediately picked it up after reading the back cover.  Anything that mentions Prospero and I’m in. :)

Mood:  Like the Tempest, the author never really gives any sense of ease or comfort to the reader.  The machine men are constantly moving in the background and well, they kind of creeped me out.

Characterization:  Overall, I think the characterization was pretty strong.  However, at times, I had go back and reread sections to make sure that I didn’t miss something.  Miranda is a mysterious character, I wish she had been portrayed a little bit stronger towards the end.

Repetition:  The author did suffer this new writer problem.  We are told to repeat themes and ideas, so that readers will see our point.  I knew it was based on the Tempest when I picked it up.  I didn’t need repeated references to Propero’s magic, Miranda’s beauty, or that it was based on the Tempest.  I was wondering what would have happened if the author had simply used different names and had a slightly lighter hand.

Overall, a great book I highly recommend reading it and watching for follow up works by the same author.


Review of 1421 The Year China Discovered America


Gavin Menzies published this book in 2002.

He was a submarine captain for many years with the British Navy.  I say only this because his view is from a sailor’s point of view and not a classically trained historian.

Did China send out a fleet of immense fleet of merchant junks for a round the world journey?  I don’t really know, however, he certainly tells an interesting story.  Bits and pieces of history are interwoven with speculation to arrive at some unlikely conclusions.

For instance, he states that possibly Chinese artifacts in Australia might be from this journey.  However,  Australia was probably the focus of other lengthy journeys.

By the end, since he had so many junks sinking throughout the book, I was picturing one lone raft and one survivor clinging onto it.

I did learn quite a bit about midevil Chinese history and boat technology, so overall it’s a good read.



Overflowing Bookshelves

I was contemplating entering all of my books into goodreads or a similar progrem to catalog all of my books.  I decided against it because, I like the randomness of my bookshelves.  I like that the cookbooks are next to mysteries.  That the fantasy books are next to the travel books.  I must have consulted that Scotland travel book against a map in a sword and sorcery book.  Or maybe I was looking at pictures of castles.  They are in an orderly manner, I promise!  There is no need to alphabetize the books or to straighten them out.  They are perfectly cross referenced as they should be. :)

Frictionless Reading

Smooth writing that doesn’t jump around is frictionless to read.  Some of my favorite authors have a very smooth style.  Nothing jumps out.  There are no spelling mistakes, sentences flow one into the other, and well, it’s a pleasure to read.

Friction reading is full of:

  • Misplaced Commas
  • Dialogue that swims.  (Who said that anyway?)
  • Speling Erors
  • POV Confusion
  • Awkward Sentences
  • Jumps in Time and Space
  • Plot Holes

Have a beta reader help you with the basics!

A Comfortable Place to Read

I think we should all have a comfortable place to read.  We, or at least, I spend many hours reading each week.  My reading chair is an ancient adirondack chair that I replaced the ancient cushions.  The new cushions came from IKEA and Ross.  Surprising, exactly fit.  They have an extremely loud appearance compared to the rest of my house.  The cushion covers also came from IKEA.

There is an overhead light that I purchased from Home Depot.  It was on sale and didn’t have any partners.  But it has been an amazing light.  My cat to brush up against it, but it has withstood all of Daisy’s attentions.

The chair has wide wood arms and is perfect for Daisy to hang out.  Alternatively, she hangs out on the top cushion and reads over my shoulder.

How to Spot A Troll

Are they critiquing your work or are they trolling?  When you receive a blistering review that looks straight out of the gates of hell, do you:

  • Take it Personally? (They hate me, they really do!)
  • Take it in Stride?  (Anything successful has a few haters.)
  • Take it as ways to improve? (Submit a new copy or take it down?)
  • Ignore it?

There are a few ways to tell if they are trolling your book/product or service.

Anything positive is now a negative.

A list of helpful hints is described as advice for idiots.  A backstory is labeled an excessive information dump.  The mystery is obvious for a children’s book.  It goes on and on.

They did not buy your book or service.

There are professional reviewing services that troll people and then ask for a fee to remove the horrid reviews.  This is more common than you would think.  Competitors are one source of these reviews.  Some of these are misguided SEO professionals who are trying to promote their clients.  Restaurants can increase their income by 10% or more with positive reviews.

There is a gleeful tone 

Trolls enjoy trolling.  Unhappy customers have a different tone.  Know the difference.  For example we went to Portland Hotel that is an economy hotel chain.  Horrid, Horrid, Horrid reviews.  And there was truth to some of them.  There were limits on the Free Breakfast Bar, I had ask the maid for toilet paper, and well, it was bit worn.  But was it the worst hotel in the world?  No.  A prize goes to a London Hostel where the toilet exploded leaving only one toilet for 200 plus travelers. :)

They recommend a competitor’s product or service.

Misguided business owners or SEO professionals.  This was old five years ago and I still see those types of reviews.

They will not let it die.

Once you have responded to a negative review in a professional manner, does the responder become even more belligerant?

This is my favorite type of troll.  They misrepresent everything that you say or do as a negative.  If the sky is blue, then they hate the color blue.  If you offer a refund, then you are bribing them to be quiet.  If you offer them a coupon, then they wouldn’t use your product to line a bird cage with.

Comments or Thoughts?  I do have the comments locked down for approval.