Writing again

Musings on reviews & reaching readers

I don’t go looking at reviews often, but when I do, sometimes I find pure gems. Take this observation, from an unverified 2-star Amazon review left in June. (Why am I posting this now, when it happened in June? HI HAVE WE MET? HAVE I NOT MENTIONED MY ABILITY TO OVERTHINK THINGS FOREVER?)

But I digress early this time.

The reviewer found Controlled Descent unappealing in large part because there were repeated instances of “characters dealing with physical suffering and acting like jerks.”

Friends, I confess THIS IS A VALID TAKE, and that makes this a valuable review.

Not sure where the reader got their copy. Since the review is unverified & not linked to a Goodreads, it’s not an Amazon purchase. Might have been a convention? This means someone cared hard enough about their disappointment in a book they bought at least 2 years ago to hunt it down online & vent.

I admire that kind of dedication, and I’m (perhaps perversely) pleased I was able to inspire that passionate a reaction.

I mean, sure I’d rather inspire excitement and joy and other positive responses like loyalty and enthusiasm, but the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. I’d rather fifty people passionately but thoughtfully hate my writing than five hundred think it’s too MEH to bother rating at all.

I’ve learned over the years that my perspective on this is far from universal. Your mileage may vary, etc.

That same review complained about an “obligatory intertwined love story” and that remark kinda underscores that the book was a bad fit for them. Which happens. But not because there’s and intertwined love story.

There isn’t. Pinkie swear. There are multiple characters who are sexually attracted to others, yes. That’s hardly unrealistic. And there are comedic elements involving one character’s obliviousness, because that’s my lived experience & fun to write. But it’s a group of people who all respect consent & accept responsibility for their own attraction, so that’s that. There;s a straightforward pair-up within the embrace of a supportive, approving friendship group, and nothing more.


If a reader was braced for/expecting matters to fall out as a Typical Tropey Lurve Triangle, well, I can see why they might read the interactions differently and not appreciate it. I’m not a fan of love triangle angst myself, so I can respect others being sensitive to it and having a different perspective.

I’m sharing all this as an example of why an unfavorable review can still be a good one — nay, even an excellent one.

Now, there are bad reviews aplenty out there. Vicious, vitriolic, meanspirited, hating, hateful ones. Getting a lot of those can sink a beautiful book into obscurity forever. I’ve seen stories smothered that way on Goodreads, on Twitter, on…well, anywhere readers are gathered together. Like some other authors, I fear attcks like those. So far, my obscurity has protected my writing.

(Low-star pile-on attacks have little to do with the quality of the book. Even in cases where problematic elements offended and enraged people, the massive inundation of bad reviews come from people who never. read. the. book–which is a little piece of proof that a review reveals something of its author along with its analysis.)


As long as the review is a good, honest, thoughtful one, the reasons one reader did NOT like a book inform other prospective readers about things they WILL like. That’s why I welcome good unfavorable ones. I’m grateful to all the people who took the time to share why they didn’t like my books.

Some provide insight into choices I made unconsciously about characters or style or themes–the kind of choices beta readers and editors might not question, but ones which I would rather make consciously. Other “bad” reviews highlight imperfections in plot or structure that are part of the craft ‘m always striving to improve. And yes, a few of the reviews are pure entertainment in a classic “WTAF, did they read the same book I wrote?” way.

But anyway. I thought I’d share my ponderings on this topic, and now I have done so.

That’s all for now. Until later!


New Post Writing again

This is a writing post. Sorta. Kinda.

It’s also a post with bonus heaping helpings of navel-gazing, because hello, it my blog, so don’t say you weren’t warned.

The springboard to today’s topic is little self-indulgent graphic I made a long while back:

Right after I posted it, I got this response from my friend and mentor and all-around spectacular, talented, kind, and generous human being, Tina Jens:

“I think that’s what makes me love your books so much: you write about people with disabilities and pain believably, but never cast them as victims. I haven’t encountered another writer who does that well and consistently, other than Lois McMaster Bujold.”

attibution: a Facebook comment from way back when

It’s quite the compliment. I have added it to the small shiny-stones collection of remarks I open up and re-read when the anxiety rats gnaw through my ego armor and chew holes in my confidence. It pleases me immensely to know I wrote books that other people with disabilities find relatable.

But here’s the thing. When I wrote those books, I had no clue I was writing anything about disabilities. Zero idea. None.

All I did was follow the advice of The People Who Give Writing Advice. They say, “write what you know,” and “write the stories you want to see,” so I wrote complicated adventures (the kind I like to read) for characters who had lots of traits I could relate to.

It’s taken a lot of wonderful conversations with readers since then, plus a lot of time spent on the internet, and yes, some informal discussion with mental health professionals (hi, fam) for me to get comfy with identifying as disabled. (Still no comfy with it. But this post is part of trying.

I’ve written about my physical issues at length. Mostly because they annoy me and I like to complain a lot. They’re also unavoidably visible. So it’s been easier to accept that they disable me.

But today I’m gonna go into some depth about Unccoperative Brain Things.

First example: I’m dyslexic. Just writing it makes me feel like a fraud, but I am determined to stake my claim.

I had major difficulty learning to read. It was one of Those Family Stories, how my younger sister was reading at a higher level than I was when she was in preschool, AND it was a known thing that my father was officially diagnosed dyslexic. Still, I somehow never put those points together to create the obvious conclusion, not even when my wonderful geometry teacher had to go over quizzes verbally with me because I kept mixing up the letters of the theorem abbreviations.

Additional elements were there all along too. I have hella major dyspraxia–couldn’t tie my shoes until I was 7+, unable to perform simple hand-eye games into my 20’s despite constant practice, for two examples. And I don’t think in words. I could explain complex concepts from an early age because verbal rules allowed for wandering down digressions and through parenthetical thickets with ease. Getting those same thoughts into comprehensible written word form has always been like wrestling worms. Before the existence of word processors, my paper drafts looked like complex sportsball diagrams with arrows & symbols and blots everywhere.

Once I took enough education classes, it was obvious that I had been dyslexic as a child, but did it matter as an adult? I figured out ways to sneak around my word comprehension issues. I became an exceptionally fast reader, I was a high-achieving student, and I’m a freaking writer to boot. I’ve never pursued a formal diagnosis. It would be tedious, time-consuming, expensive frustrating, and to what end? I don’t need help reading.

So claiming the label feels a lot like selfish humble-bragging, taking attention away from people whose dyslexia means they struggle hard every day.

But let me tell you, learning Irish is kicking my ASS because I’ve discovered can only write it OR listen to it, not both at once. If I listen, I cannot see the words right. (This also explains SO MUCH about why I routinely flunked listening comprehension in my French & Spanish courses. Dyslexia is strongly associated with proprioception problems, and I have those in heaps, with a literal impact on my daily life. I am forever bruisingly unaware of my body’s position and speed in real space. I never did master legible handwriting. The list goes on and onnnnnn.

So yeah. Anyway Dyslexic here. Just lucky enough to have support that provided me with the many schema needed for mitigating its educational effects (this is a theme for me)

Second, there’s the ADHD. My parents acknowledge I only missed official diagnosis because elementary schools didn’t screen for it until I’d hit middle school. I was officially labeled a hyperactive child, and a “high strung” one. My many sensory processing issues, need for constant motion & stimulation were all documented. Plus I was all about hyperfocus & topical obsessions to the detriment of social & emotional development.

But I was never told I was too lazy, or crazy or stupid to succeed. How could it be a disorder if it wasn’t getting in the way of me living my life, right? Simple question.

Thanks to those determined & supportive parents, one thing I internalized super early was that failure is never a reason to stop. Not by itself. Failure is an expected thing that happens to everyone. Sometimes it’s a step on the way to success. Sometimes it’s a sign that it’s time to change paths or turn back. But on its own? It’s like the sun coming up or rocks being rocks. There’s no fault to failure, no blame, no shame.

My energy & focus issues were accepted facets of me, not failures of action or omission. If my traits came between me and achieving a goal, it was never me that needed changing, not on any essential level.

So my gut-level reaction to failing (a thing I do A LOT) is simply fall back, regroup, review, move on. Life is a challenge of finding ways to make being me and reaching my goals compatible. And since I am a competitive little shit at heart. I loved finding ways to meet those academic & some of the simpler social challenges. (I still do love competeing. Too much, in some ways.)

But there’s a significant difference between coping with a problem and not having a problem at all. Things I cannot do have shaped & limited my career, my social options and my finances. I have made choices.

Who’s to say what path my life might’ve taken if I’d been diagnosed and externally supported by a system? What if I’d gotten counseling that saw past my immediate choices to the root causes for them and offered booster assistance for goals I could not reach without external help? (F’rex I steered clear of corporate office jobs as a graduate because I could not BEAR the idea of sitting at a desk.) A good counselor these days would have a whole list of high-energy, low-detail-reading-required career possibilities, not just corporate vs academic vs sales.

I shouldn’t deny the challenges I’ve faced merely because they didn’t defeat me.

All this is to say, yeah, okay, I am disabled.

Or I’m a person with disabilities, if you prefer “person first” phrasing. I don’t. As this whole post demonstrates, disabilities are one of many facets that describe me, not things with me that I can ever or have ever put down. But I digress. That’s a whole post on its own.

It took writing about characters fighting together to navigate a world unsympathetic to their needs for me to recognize I’d been doing the same thing all my life. It’s taken years longer to accept that I’m still doing it.

It’s hard to look at things that make me…me…and call them disabilities, but on the flip side, refusing to acknowledge the massive influence they’ve had on my life? That would be dishonest and it would be disrespecting all the work I’ve done to become who I am.

I try to be honest, once the truth hits me in the face enough times.

This post has been a long time on the composing. It’s time to drop it into the ether and let it go.

Until later!

Writing again

Bathtime adventures with furbabies

Major Kitten Drama happened over the weekend.

We introduced a new room to the furbabies on Saturday to celebrate their first successful week with us. Okay, no, that’s a fib. We expanded their range by a room because I wanted to take a bath without hearing sad kittens howl their separation anxiety to the uncaring universe from behind their Kitty Safe Zone wall.

Sir Pippin BigFeels toured the new place, found it uninteresting, and decamped downstairs (galumph gaLUMph THUDthudthudthUDthud) to the basement to pester Spouseman, who was trying to play video games.

Master Merry Slippyfeet was similarly unimpressed. He wandered back to the kitchen to have a nosh and a drink. Me, I brought down my post-bath comfy clothes and started the bathwater. While I puttered about, setting out my fluffy towel and bath sundries, Merry returned to the scene, flopped onto the bathmat, and pretended to fall asleep.

I say pretended because the INSTANT my back was turned to pick out a bath fizzie, he jumped onto the tub ledge and–being nicknamed Slippyfeet for a reason–promptly fell into the half-full tub.

Now, this isn’t my first inadvertent dunking rescue. I’ve had cats most of my life, and several of them were NOT surefooted precision jumpers. It’s why I never add bath fizzies until I’m in the tub and thus obviously on-hand to intervene.

All that is to reassure you, dear reader, that Master Merry fell into clean water, not water full of soap and perfumes that would have to be laboriously rinsed off. Still, it was deeper than his little paws could touch bottom. Much frantic paddling, sneezing and crying ensued.

Like I said, not my first cat-dunking. I reacted fast. Maybe 3 seconds from first splash-and-squeal to scoop, scruff, and a swift water skim-down with both hands. The noise attracted an audience. Pippin arrived to supervise although he wisely watched all the action from the hallway. Spouseman helped by handing me extra towels and taking pictures.

Fluff soaks up water.

Then it was swoop into the big fluffy bath towel. I cuddled him and rubbed him dry for a minute or two, then let him loose when he was ready to attempt putting himself to rights.

Life is hard when you are smol and wet.

He was dry in 15 minutes and took a nap on a blanket with Pippin. And I admit it was nice seeing him Clean and Fluffy a few hours.

Since that exciting night the kittens have endured their first toenail trimming, suffered through a couple of personal hygiene wipedowns each, and enjoyed a visit from the air conditioning technician. Their Kitten Safe Space became VERY cold while many New and Mysterious Noises happened, but the whole time they were intrigued and curious, not scared. Brave boys, these two.

They’re growing like weeds, too. They were 3 lbs when they arrived, and now they’re both 3 lbs 12 oz +/- an ounce. It’s wild how fast they chow through kibble, and not as thrilling how quickly they produce waste for me to haul away, but that’s all part of the process. BUT THE CUTENESS!

New furry overlord hard at work growing big & strong.

Life has been mostly pets, purrs, cleanup, feeding and Creative Cardboard Construction since their arrival, BUT! I have added 1000 words to Ghost Town, so I don’t feel like I’m losing all forward momentum.

(But mostly pets and purrs. And watering the new plantings.)

Hm. I owe the blog an update about the yard. Perhaps next time. This is enough news for one post.

Oh, right–EXCEPT FOR THESE SHORT WORDS FROM OUR SPONSOR! (Me. It’s more words from me.)

I write books about moms & grandmothers & saving the world, you will love them & should read them. Check it out here: The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday

I also have a whole series about not-evil inventors, mysterious mercenaries, & an intrepid knitter saving each other and also sorta the world. Get to them here:

Until later!

New Post nuts & bolts Writing again

A little book update with crunchy numbers

It’s hard to believe, but we’re coming up on bookbabys 1-month birthday! Time sure does fly. How are things going? Glad you asked!

Does it seem like book promotion, silly memes, & writing are all I ever post on social media these days?

First, The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is my first new book release in 4 years, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that playing with the baby is my whole life right now.

Second, congrats, you’re among the approximately 15% of my following that sees book posts! I get better engagement on my lunch photos. (unless I mention books or writing in them.) I’ve been posting a lot of shared memes lately because I have a Facebook surfing problem, but after Sharp Edge’s one-month birthday, the apps will get deleted from my devices & I’ll take time offline except for some scheduled book posts.

Which is all to say, the evil Facebook algorithms will disappear me from your newsfeed entirely, unless you like & comment on whatever posts FB deigns to show you. Just saying.

I’m committed to doing the whole transparency thing about my publishing experience, so I’m about to throw numbers out there. Skip down to the cute red panda pic if you aren’t interested in nuts & bolts.

Sharp Edge out-performed all its predecessors by a 3x multiplier. 32 copies was my previous first-week release record for a new title. Sharp Edge came in at 110 copies. Is that good? That depends. For me? Absolutely yes!!! I’m over the moon ecstatic about achieving triple digits. But in a strictly commercial sense? It’s a non-starter.

But look. I didn’t expect to take the bestsellers list by storm. Do I wish everyone who read it was telling every other person they know to go buy & read it, in the kind of numbers that make a word-of-mouth bestseller? Hell, yes, of course I wish that. I HAVE BIG PIE-IN-THE-SKY DREAMS. But 2 decades of retail bookselling means I’ve always known the odds. Books sell when they get in front of a lot of eyeballs, getting books in front of people is a bear of a job, and I’m a bad bear wrestler.

I don’t have a large following either as an author or as a human being, this book has a good hook but no critical pick-it-up “wow” factor, and I didn’t go Amazon-exclusive & perform the pricing tricks necessary to attract the all-powerful algorithms. And live conventions haven’t been happening, so I couldn’t engage new readers that way.

True to my expectations, sales crashed after the first-week flurry, excepting a blip here & there on Amazon.

I don’t even know where most of the sold copies went. They aren’t showing up as scanned at bookstores, (yet?) and no one’s ‘fessed up to buying a bunch from Ingram just to make me happy. (Why would someone do that? How? I don’t know, ask my Impostor Syndrome, it’s the irrational little weasel who thinks up weird ideas like that.)

But I digress. That makes this a great spot for a word from our sponsors. Behold, my books!

The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday

Moms with superpowers making the military nervous.

Working mothers, radical teens, & cynical Marines team up to battle bureaucracy & bigotry. Also contains gardening tips, family secrets, carrots, kittens, and more. Ebook & Paperback

Rough Passages

Enter a world where every midlife crisis could cause a national disaster.

Where it all began: a novel in eight stories about five people whose lives are upended–for better or worse–when they receive mysterious new abilities. Ebook & paperback.

Back to the crunchy numbers & meandering prose…

Bookscan (a database that literally records how many copies of a book were scanned at participating bookstores) indicates my paperback sales have been overwhelmingly local, which not a huge surprise. It also shows sales in eleven states overall, and that’s both exciting and unprecedented.

Sharp Edge is still not in WorldCat, which is one of the bigger library cataloging databases, so I guess no libraries have picked it up yet. Or at least none who use WorldCat’s database (like my local ‘brar) Or it’s still in the acquisition process. Or something else I haven’t guessed. Basically, it’s early days and unknowns outnumber knowns. I’m gonna pretend lots of folks have recommended library purchases that haven’t gone through yet.

The review tally is stalled at 7 ratings on Amazon, 3 on Goodreads & 1 on B&N. Are those numbers good? Depends on perspective. The numbers are spectacular considering I did nothing to ensure that I came out of the gate with any at all.

In a perfect world, or a world where I had lots of extra silverware or the willingness to let go & hire someone to organize my life, I would have spent the months before opening up pre-orders lining up reviewers, scheduling interviews, readings, and pursuing many other marketing & promotional opportunities. Initial sales success is grounded in PRE-publication build up. And I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t give myself enough time.

Sharp Edge was long overdue already. I needed to get it out there in the world before something else horrible happened in the world or my personal life to delay it again. That was my choice, and I’m comfortable accepting the consequences.

My marketing efforts weren’t a total crash & burn. I lucked into a podcast interview and I was generously offered the chance to be featured at a local (online, thanks pandemic) reading series. And I might do more. Maybe a Goodreads giveaway or throw a copy up onto NetGalley. I could throw money at a Bookbub ad or try for the golden ring of a Bookbub promotion, even. Post new-release, return on investment isn’t historically good.

The reviews so far are all fair to glowing, which is gratifying and a huge relief. But it takes a LOT of ratings to make shoppers pause, especially when the ratings are all high. (Except with romance. With romance, the blurb is ALL) Sharp Edge has a long way to go before it hits the “Hm, other people appear to like this, I should take a look” tipping point.

Full disclosure, only 1 of my books has more than 20 reviews, and another is a romance. They’re also the only 2 titles I get occasional surprise sales on.

Photo by Ivan Cujic on

All done with numbers stuff.

Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is now heading into the big world of “it isn’t new anymore.” Before we go, I’d like to get in one last pitch to please review it if you’ve read it, even if you thought the book was meh, maybe especially then.

The more reviews & word-of-mouth interest Sharp Edge gets, the better it will do long term. Reviews raise the visibility of the book and legitimize it in the eyes of potential readers. Goodreads or other places that let you post “want-to-reads” and “reading” flags–those are the online version of “word of mouth” and they’re platinum.

Every mention by people other than me helps. The more the merrier, the more the better. Not just online. Real world. That advice, if it’s advice, goes for all your favorite authors. If you love someone’s writing, put a ring on it tell friends, tell family, tell perfect strangers.

And on that note, in the next post, I’ll make mention of all the great books I’ve been reading lately.

Until later!

New Post Writing again

Learning by doing: my latest project

I only did 2 virtual conventions during Our First Pandemic Year because Discord became the default interaction platform, and it was not only a New And Scary Thing, it was a complex new social one. I was already two social media programs past coping, so navigating Discord servers was overwhelming, bewildering. It was impossible for me to get bast anxiety blocks to process how Things Worked. Not the technical side, that was refreshingly clear, but in a basic, human “how do people use this thing?” way.

Learning to drive is the best analogy I can think of. Complex, multi-channel learning. It’s so difficult there are CLASSES and people have to CERTIFY, right? The difficulty has less to do with mastering the pedals, levers, and buttons to make things stop & go, and a lot more to do with learning the rules of the road, and MOST to do with learning to apply those rules to physical experience in real time so you don’t hit the wrong pedal at the wrong time and crash.

Social interaction is like that for me. ALL social interaction. But each new environment isn’t like a new car. It’s like a whole new kind of driving, period. Think car vs airplane, or electric scooter vs sailboat. New mechanics, new rules, new integration. Some elements transfer, but you don’t know which until you’ve put in the time in the new system.

With Discord, the mechanical part was simple, but there were so many different types of interactions that the patterns weren’t readily visible (To me. Things that are as clear as glass to many people are opaque to me, and vice versa. But I digress.)

Imagine trying to avoid a crash when you couldn’t learn the rules first because you’re already driving, so you can only learn the rules of the road only by watching other drivers while also learning your pedals and lever mechanics. Pretty dangerous, huh?

On social media, crashes translate as mortifying humiliation with the potential to drive me into solitude for, oh, years. That made Discord a no-go zone for me for ages. But that bugged me. Things I can’t do always bug me.

So I made Discord this year’s Hibernation Project.

Late winter is the best time for me to tackle Scary New Things. Once my energy starts to build up after the mid-winter crash, I find something shiny and carry them into my nest and get to know them better by combing & petting & squeezing the stuffing out of them.

Almost everyone learns better “by doing,” but it’s the only way I learn multi-channel processes. When I first wanted to understand website design, way back in the day, I bemused my friends who worked in web design by teaching myself to code sites from scratch using HTML & CSS. Why didn’t I focus on learning the web design programs, they wondered. But see, those programs didn’t make sense to me At All until I mastered the underlying language structure.

This year, I dragged Discord into the nest and made it my own. I built my own little server, nice and tidy, with all the usual parts & pieces, then brushed and polished it up to Discord’s Community Guidelines so eventually I can make it public.

That was a long read to get to the news that there now exists a Dawnrigger Discord server, huh? But there it is!

Right now it’s private, invitation only. If you’re a reader and/or fan of my books, if you have room in your Discord for a quiet little server where there’s not much clutter or content yet, you’re welcome to join Dawnrigger’s Den and share the fun.

This also means that when the day I flee Facebook inevitably arrives, I’ll still have an interactive space online, and I’m a LOT more comfortable surfing my way around other servers & occasionally even posting comments & engaging in conversations.

Not comfortable, but not as uncomfortable. And that’s progress. Wins all around.

That’s all for now. Some heavy shit happened online this week. I’m still processing, but there will be blog on ot eventually.

Until then, have a random cat with a book.

Photo by Heather McKeen on