Let’s Talk Bad Reviews by Mae Clair

Psst! I’ll tell you a secret. The first review I ever got was three-stars. Now, I don’t necessarily consider three stars a bad review, but I don’t count it as great either. I’ve given a number of three-star reviews and imagine them somewhere middle of the road.

Naturally, as a newly published author, launching my first book, I had dreamed of five stars. There were plenty that followed, but that first one came as an eye-opener. I even had one of my friends give a four-star review and then send an email explaining what I could have done better. I learned from that gentle criticism, as I have done from many others in the past.

female holding up finger arguing wearing glassesI didn’t agree with the reviewer who said I had too many characters or that my plot was too complex, but I do understand that romance readers don’t always like their stories ladled with mystery and multi-tiered plots. Lesson learned. Which is why I’ve made an adjustment to my genre, story-telling, and branding.

It wasn’t until I wrote my fifth book that I received my first two-star review. By then I realized every reader has an opinion and I’m not going to appeal to all of them. I have no problem with someone giving me a negative review, but I had a BIG problem with what the person insinuated. I won’t go into the details, but for the purpose of this post, let’s just say I was upset.

I remember sitting on my back porch, talking to my husband about it. Venting verbally. As an author, I don’t respond to reviews, positive or negative, even though I read every one. An unwritten rule that I learned early in the game. That made accepting that review even harder. I couldn’t defend myself.

During my spat of whining, my husband said something that resonates to this day—basically when you put yourself “out there” you open yourself to criticism, just like any artist. He asked me how many times I had dissed a movie or song, or even a book. Maybe I didn’t post those reviews online but I had an opinion, and everyone was entitled to theirs. If I was going to be a writer, I couldn’t stop people from saying what they wanted to say about my work. It goes with the territory.

Another lesson learned.

By the time I got my first one-star review (and I can’t even tell you what book it was for), I’d adapted a new attitude. I had read a blog post not long before that said something along the lines of “if Stephen King and J.K. Rowling get one-star reviews, why shouldn’t I?” And then it hit me—I’d arrived. I was no longer just getting reviews from friends and other writers I knew online, but readers who had no connection to me. Readers who were rating my work on the same scale they would rate the work of best-selling authors like Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (my favorite writing team). I was in a whole new realm, and although the three, two, and one-stars still crept up occasionally, there were far more four and five-star reviews. Instead of being discouraged by a mediocre review, I now take them in stride as part of my chosen profession.

Reviews are important to an author. Good or bad, we learn from them and they contribute to our growth. If you’ve gotten a bad review you’ve probably felt some of the uncertainty I have. If you haven’t—trust me—it’s just a matter of time. The larger your audience, the more opportunity you have to snag a reader who doesn’t quite get what you’re trying to say. Take it in stride. As my husband told me, when you’re “out there” you expose yourself to the opinions of others.

If you’ve read any of my books, I ask you to leave an honest review. Reviews are the equivalent of gold to an author, and all are greatly appreciated.

If you’re a writer, have you ever felt yourself the target of an unfair review? Has it impacted your love for writing? How do you deal with negative reviews?

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway: A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair #mystery #suspense #Mothman

Look at me, posting three days in a row!

I have some pretty exciting news to share, so I couldn’t wait another day. Kensington Publishing is doing a Goodreads Giveaway for a paperback copy of my upcoming release, A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. There will be two—count ‘em two—winners. The giveaway is open now through February 29th (how cool, a leap year). If you’re interested, you can enter here (I’d be jazzed if you did :) ):

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/172145-a-thousand-yesteryears

A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS is a tale of mystery and suspense centered around events that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. You’ll discover a small river town plagued by tragic history and rumored sightings of the Mothman—a terrifying creature said to haunt an abandoned WWII munitions site.

The characters are everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances—secrets, betrayal, murder. If you’re a regular follower of my blog you’ve probably seen the blurb before, but I can’t resist sharing it again.  :)

Book cover for A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair, depicting a wooded thicket at nightBehind a legend lies the truth… 

As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real…

Caden Flynn is one of the few lucky survivors of the bridge collapse, but blames himself for coercing his younger sister out that night. He’s carried that guilt for fifteen years, unaware of darker currents haunting the town. It isn’t long before Eve’s arrival unravels an old secret—one that places her and Caden in the crosshairs of a deadly killer…

~ooOOoo~

A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS releases on April 26th, but the ebook version is already available from Amazon and all other major book sellers. If you’d like to pre-order you can find a complete list of links here.

In the meantime, sign up for the paperback giveaway at Goodreads and tell your friends! The Mothman Cometh! :)

WIP Progress, Books, and Something Weird by Mae Clair

It’s the start of a new week, and I’m happy to say I had a productive weekend. Which is a good thing as I’m starting to feel the pressure of a looming deadline. I’ve got two months until the contract deadline for my current WIP, A COLD TOMORROW.

An open tablet, pen, and a pair of glassesI’ve never written on proposal before. In the past, I always had a complete manuscript which I sent to my publisher for acceptance. When I started my POINT PLEASANT SERIES, I submitted book one, A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. Books two and three were just vague ideas at that point. When the series was accepted, I suddenly had deadlines to produce both of those books. Do you know how hard it is to write a blurb and a synopsis of a book that is only a germ of an idea in your head?

Needless to say, the whole thing has been a challenge. I’m now writing on PROPOSAL instead of a completed manuscript, and I have concrete deadlines. I’ve been way behind with book two of the series, A COLD TOMORROW, but this weekend I put my nose to the grindstone and added 8200 words. Can we say jazzed? If I can keep up a similar word count for the next few weeks, I’ll finish the novel, then have a whole month of editing before having to submit the completed manuscript.

TOMORROW is a suspense/mystery just like the first book in the series, but it’s turning out to have a strong speculative/science fiction slant, which is something new for me. I’m enjoying hitting that angle, and most especially, feeling like I’ve stepped up to the plate with building suspense throughout the story. YESTERYEARS is a strong tale, but I feel like I’ve crossed a line I’ve been flirting with for a long time through TOMORROW. It’s even more exciting because the stuff I’m writing about has a basis in fact or folklore. Cross your fingers and wish me luck on my goals.

Book cover, Ellie Jordan Ghost Trapper by J.L.BryanAside from writing, I’ve discovered a very cool new series that has cemented my reading attention. I strongly believe Stephen King’s philosophy that if you’re going to be a writer, you have to spend a great deal of time reading. I’m one of those people who devour books, one immediately after another. Currently, I’m engrossed in my ninth title of the year, the fourth book in the Ellie Jordan Ghost Trapper series. I picked the first book up as a free read several months ago (it’s still free, so go grab it), and found it interesting. I won’t say it was over-the-top-stellar (I gave it a four-star review), but the characters were intriguing and the plot was interesting enough that months later I sought out book two. Since then each has gotten progressively better, and I’m already adding other books by author, J.L. Bryan to my Kindle library. If you like mystery, detective fiction, and the paranormal blended into one, I highly recommend the series.

Finally, something weird has been happening over the last few days. As many of you know, I have a newsletter. I normally get a handful of new sign-ups a month but over the last few days I’ve gotten four to five each day. The names are all women, first names only with email addresses. Names like Loretta, Carrie and Margarita. I’d love to think they’re all legit, but when I normally only get a handful a month and suddenly I’m getting that many in one day, I’m suspicious. And what are the odds that they’d all only give me their first name?

I don’t know if some “club” has suddenly discovered me or if a bot has found my sign-up form. I’m torn on whether I should add the names to my mailing list or not. Any opinions?

In any event, here’s wishing all of you productive writing (and reading) time, Cross your fingers that I can finish A COLD TOMORROW by the end of February. I’ve made it my new goal!

Digging Out by Mae Clair

I live in a northeastern state which means we have unpredictable winters. The last few have been cold, but we’ve been spared any major snowfall. Until recently. I’m sure most of you know a storm of historic proportions hammered the east coast over the weekend. It is now officially the Blizzard of 2016. To put that in perspective, our last blizzards occurred in 1996 and 1993.

In my area, Old Man Winter hit us with the largest snowfall on record—30.2 inches in a single day. Ugh!

The snow started Friday night, about an hour before I left work, and continued all day Saturday until approximately seven o’clock that night. At times we were getting an inch or two per hour.

Below is a shot taken from my front door looking down my driveway. The lump on the right side is my husband’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. And the light in the bottom left is the top of our lamppost, peeking out above the deluge.

Blizzard of 2016 snowfall showing buried vehicle and very top of lamppost peeking about the snow

Hubby spent that night snowblowing our drive and half of our neighbor’s (she’s an older woman) while I spent over an hour cleaning off his Jeep. The next day after the plow came through we were back at it again.

Check out this lovely image of my mailbox.

Blizzard of 2016, mailbox buried in snow mound

After digging it out and removing the snow row the plow left at the foot of our driveway, we headed next door to our neighbor. By that point, the snow was above my knees, much too deep for the blower. So I spent the time knocking down row after row with a shovel while DH followed behind with the snow blower. He wanted me to take over the blower, but I’m not very good with anything mechanical and gas-powered, unless it’s a car. :)

Monday the roads were a mess. We went out in the morning but were back by the afternoon. I used the time to change a major thread in my current WIP. That involved its own kind of digging out—going back through and reworking the thread wherever it cropped up in the story. I had hoped to use the time for writing, but the edit took longer than anticipated. No worries, as I had taken off work on Tuesday and planned to spend the day writing.

Tuesday morning arrived with freezing rain that turned the roads into a skating rink. I was glad I didn’t have to inch my way into work. Before I opened my WIP, I had a promo card I needed to create for A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. I figured it would take me no more than a half hour. Multiple computer issues, browser issues, three calls to tech support, and a glaring mistake on my end, and I finally finished the project—two and a half hours later. The low point came after I had created a rack card in Photoshop and then inadvertently saved something over the file.

The next few minutes involved choice words, the uncontrollable urge to sob, and two Excedrin.

Then it was back at it again.

When I finally completed the thing I needed to get out of the house. Hubby and I did some errands but it was far from relaxing. More like a Christmas rush. I don’t know if the whole world no longer holds day jobs, or just that everyone who hadn’t been out for the last three days decided to hit the roadways and flock to the stores. Insane!

We grabbed a late lunch to unwind. Finally a place free of crowds and mountains of snow in the parking lots. As I type this, I’m getting ready to hit the WIP again. The downside is I had planned to put a huge dent in the project with 4 days off in a row. Instead I reworked a single thread and managed a paltry 2059 in word count.

Which means…I’ve still got a lot of digging out to do. Hopefully, your last few days have been far more productive than mine. If I don’t see snow again until next year, I’ll count it a blessing!

My Favorite Tools for Twitter by Mae Clair

Twitter LogoWhen it comes to social media, I’m a big fan of Twitter. It’s quick, allows me to connect with other Tweeps, catch up on events, follow trending topics, and experience news as it happens. All in one neat little social media platform.

As good as Twitter is, it’s even better paired with other applications. Today, I’d like to share a few I’ve found particularly helpful.

One of the things I like best about Twitter is the ability to create lists. As an example, I have a Twitter list for my writer friends (that’s you guys) one for cryptozoology, another for family (not too many of them on Twitter) and another for celebrities and best-selling authors (i.e, Lana Parrilla, Jennifer McMahon, Jackson Galaxy, Australia Zoo). These are just a few my lists. I have a dozen of them and with all of those lists, things can get a little cumbersome.

That’s where Hootsuite comes in.

Hootsuite
Hootsuite LogoHootsuite is a free platform that complements Twitter and other forms of social media. There are pay plans, but I haven’t needed to go that route, and I’ve been using Hootsuite for three years. I like that I can turn my Twitter lists into “streams” within Hootsuite.

When I open my Hootsuite dashboard, all of my Twitter lists appear in one place. In addition to the lists I mentioned above, I also have streams for anytime someone @mentions me, and a stream for scheduled messages. Whenever I promote another author or guest blogger on my site, I schedule several tweets throughout the day connecting to their post, and Hootsuite sends them at the appropriate time.

I’ve also got Hootsuite set up to stream my Facebook page and my Facebook author page so I can view both FB and Twitter in one place. It also supports Google+ and Instagram.

Pretty cool, huh? There’s even more…

Hootsuite has a built-in URL link shortener called Ow.ly which is extremely handy. So now instead of http://maeclair.net/2016/01/04/cover-reveal-a-thousand-yesteryears-by-mae-clair/ I get http://ow.ly/Xmr4L This directs users to the same post and is a lot handier when sticking to Twitter’s 140 character count.

Statue of the Mothman in Point Pleasant, West VirginiaYou can also set up streams within Hootsuite to grab Tweets related to a specific hashtag. I have one set for #Mothman. Any time someone uses that hashtag in a Tweet, Hootsuite grabs it for me. Why would I care about those Tweets? Because I’m writing a series that prominently features Point Pleasant’s notorious cryptid. Whenever Mothy gets a mention, I want to know what’s being discussed. I might also want to follow the Tweeps doing the Tweeting. If they’re interested in the Mothman, they might be potential readers for my series.

I positively LOVE Hootsuite! You can learn more about it and create your own free account at https://hootsuite.com/

ManageFlitter
This is another freebie and it’s great for managing your followers. When you sign in with Twitter it gives you a list of how many people you’re following who are NOT following you back. Phhf! The nerve! :)

ManageFlitter makes it easy to prune your account and eliminate those followers. I follow a number of people who don’t follow me back, but most of them fall into the celebrity/news/bestselling author/specific interest category.

Generally, when I follow someone, I wait a week, then check ManageFlitter. If they haven’t followed me back, I click the unfollow button. ManageFlitter also lets me see which of my followers aren’t “talkative.” So, if I’m following someone and they haven’t made a single Tweet in eight months, I unfollow them. This keeps my Twitter account pruned to Tweeps who are active. Finally, ManageFlitter will also tell me if I’ve picked up any spam accounts so I can unfollow them, too.

Get your free ManageFlitter account at https://manageflitter.com/

Crowdfire
I’ve only recently started using Crowdfire and really like it. It’s also free and does everything ManageFlitter does, with some additional bells and whistles. The layout is a bit better, plus it has the added benefit of showing you who RECENTLY unfollowed and followed you, so you’re viewing less Tweeps at a time.

It has a handy “copy followers” feature, which allows you to import another user’s followers and see who you might want to follow (think target auidences for your genre). You can also pop a hashtag or keywords into Crowdfire (i.e, #Mothman, Jennifer McMahon) and it will kick back a list of relevant Tweeps. These are all people you might want to follow.

This link will tell you about Crowdfire and let you set up a free account https://www.crowdfireapp.com/about-us

Triberr
I didn’t expect this post to be this long, but this is the last one. I promise!

Triberr is a platform where bloggers with like interests have banded together to form “tribes.” Tribe members support each other by sharing other members’ posts with their Twitter followers. This expands the reach of each Tweet.

As an example, I have 4732 followers on Twitter, but I belong to three tribes. One tribe has a combined follower count of 77,746, another has 54,170 followers, and the last  43,310. As a result, any blog post I make has the potential of being Tweeted to 105,226 followers. I say “potential” because not everyone will share every post, and not everyone is active all the time. If nothing else, I’ve built a lot of great relationships through Triberr.  You can find out about it here http://triberr.com/

Triberr is free, but you have to be invited to join a tribe (at least that was the case when I joined three years ago). Suggestion: If you find a tribe you like, become a “follower” and comment on the tribe’s posts. I’ve heard that’s a good way to get invited in.

I hope each of you find something of value in at least one of these tools. They’ve all been of great use to me, and I highly recommend them. If you have other tools that work well with Twitter or social media in general, I’d love for you to comment about them!

That Magical Moment by Mae Clair

Have you ever struggled to understand something, then had a moment when it magically falls into place?

Recently, a couple who needed directions came into the real estate office where I work. They didn’t speak a word of English, only Spanish. Our receptionist, who knows I’ve been trying to teach myself, asked if I could help. *gulp* Learning a few words and phrases in another language hardly prepares you to converse with a native speaker.  Even so, I was willing to give it a try.

Once I greeted the couple, I knew I was in over my head. They rattled off three or four sentences and I only understood about two words. Not a great start. They had an address typed on a piece of paper and I understood they needed to go there. I was familiar with the location, a doctor’s office a short distance away, but was unable to relay the directions with my limited Spanish.

Spanish book and bookends in the shape of text Habla? (Do you speak?) Speak Spanish concept

Improvising, I pulled up Google translator on the reception computer, typed the directions for  Google, then read them back to the couple. Blank stares.  Apparently my accent was all wrong.

Next, I copied the Spanish from Google, plopped it into Word and printed it out so they could read it. For some reason that didn’t work either. They pointed to the phone number on the paper they had and mimicked calling. That I understood. I also saw the woman’s name on the paper—Guadalupe.

I led  Guadalupe and her husband to a conference room, got them seated, and called the doctor’s office. Meanwhile, our receptionist tried to track down an agent who was fluent in Spanish.

The doctor’s office couldn’t help me—no one there spoke Spanish— but by that time, our receptionist had reached Ricky, our Spanish-speaking agent. I put him on the phone with Guadalupe and she talked to him for a few minutes. Again, I tried to catch a few words, but most of what she said soared over my head. I ended up putting Ricky on speaker, relaying the directions to the doctor’s office in English, which he then translated for Guadalupe.

Afterward, he had me pick up the phone and told me that although he could understand everything the woman said, she spoke a Mexican Spanish with a very thick accent. It was almost like a mountain dialect, and thus understandable I couldn’t decipher what she’d been saying. That made me feel a little better.

After I hung up with Ricky, Guadalupe’s husband stood and began talking, but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. I had to reply “no entiendo”—“I don’t understand.” I could see he was disappointed which made me feel bad. Then, like magic, a lightbulb pinged on in my head.

“El bano?” (restroom / toilet) I asked.

Smiling, he nodded. “Si.”

We laughed, realizing we had communicated. We understood each other. *fist pump* I was giddy.

Once I knew what he needed, I was able to rattle off my limited Spanish and direct him to the men’s room. When I pointed out the door for the ladies’ restroom to Guadalupe and said “la mujer” she understood me.  Another score!

If this seems trivial, remember I spent a good 10-15 minutes with this couple, neither of us understanding the other. Those last few minutes of limited conversation felt like a monumental breakthrough. The elation kept me on a high for the rest of the day.

So what does this have to do with writing?

magic Aladdin genie lamp with blue smokeAs authors we try to reach our readers on multiple levels, hoping to engage their emotions. We can’t always be certain we’re expressing ourselves properly, reaching our readers on a visceral level. Sometimes, it may even feel like we’re struggling with another language as we try to build an emotional bond between readers and characters. But when it happens—when we know we’ve nailed it—it’s magic.

Here’s wishing all of you a little magic today.

Cover Reveal: A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair

Thanks for joining me today as I unveil the cover of my upcoming mystery/suspense novel A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. Kensington Publishing sent me the artwork the end of October, and it’s been torture sitting on it this long. Between a trip to the Dominican Republic in November, followed by holidays and family commitments in December, I didn’t want to roll it out.

But the time has finally arrived. It’s a new year and Yesteryears, the first book in my Point Pleasant series, releases in four months. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR list and/or pre-order it from Amazon and all major book sellers. But first, check out this cover. It’s different than anything I’ve released in the past, but the genre is different for me, too. My main goal was that the cover capture the ominous feeling of the story. What do you think?

Book cover for A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair, depicting a wooded thicket at night

Here’s the Blurb:

Behind a legend lies the truth…

As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real…

Caden Flynn is one of the few lucky survivors of the bridge collapse, but blames himself for coercing his younger sister out that night. He’s carried that guilt for fifteen years, unaware of darker currents haunting the town. It isn’t long before Eve’s arrival unravels an old secret—one that places her and Caden in the crosshairs of a deadly killer…

~ooOOoo~

I hope you’ll join me when the book rolls out. There’s a lot of research that went into this novel. Many of the events that are depicted, including the collapse of the Silver Bridge and sightings of the Mothman are based on historical fact. Release date is April 26, 2016.

Add to your Goodreads list

Pre-order from:
Amazon 
Barnes and Noble 
iTunes 
Google Play 
Kobo 
Kensington Publishing