This weekend marked the 52nd Vermont Maple Festival. Perhaps you've heard of it? It's been featured in several prominent U.S. magazines and draws thousands from around the U.S., and even the world.
This celebration of all things maple is one of perks of living here in northwestern Vermont. In the past few days I've discovered the bliss that is maple syrup dipped French fries (wow!) and met some wonderful "neighbors" at the local craft show where I shared a table with two other awesome Vermont authors.
For the past few years fellow Vermont author, Beth Kanell, and I have shared a booth at the Maple Festival craft show. This year we were joined by a third Vermont author, Lori MacLaughlin.
Beth writes beautiful poetry and historical novels for the YA crowd (her newest has just come out, The Long Shadow, and I can't wait to read it!). Lori focuses on fantasy and writes entertaining and adventurous books that are hard to put down. Her newest book, The Road Once Taken, has just come out on Kindle and will be available in paperback very soon.
And if that wasn't enough, I also got to finally meet the wonderful, witty and completely personable Vermont author, Kathryn Guare, last week as well. We've chatted online before but it was lovely to meet her face-to-face and talk shop. The hour and a half we spent discussing plots and exchanging publishing tips felt like 20 minutes!
It's always a pleasure to join forces with other local authors. Do you like to read books based in your area? Why or why not?
I love to meet fellow #bookworms. It's a lot of fun connecting with a stranger over a book that we've both enjoyed. It builds instant rapport.
"And remember the part where she goes into that old house? Wasn't that nuts?"
"Argh! I couldn't believe she did that! I wanted to hold onto her legs and pull her back."
What's especially humorous to me is the way that people tend to classify "suspense readers," or "mystery readers," or "thriller readers," in some very humorous ways.
"Well, she reads suspense, you know," whispers an older lady to me from behind a hand near her mouth.
"He's a mystery fan. Can you believe it? And he seemed so normal..."
"I wouldn't leave my dog at her house when you go away. She's a thriller reader."
Okay, I'm exaggerating. But doesn't it sometimes feel as though people who read other genres think we're weird because we love to read suspense, mystery or thriller books? "Why would you want to read about death and killing?" a woman once asked me at a book sale. "I want something that relaxes me, not makes me stress out."
The thing is that mystery and suspense and thriller books DO relax us. They're like giant puzzles that your mind works away on, providing a temporary escape from that truly stressful thing in life called reality. These types of books help us to put things in perspective, too. Kind of hard to feel so disgruntled with a nosy boss when the main character is being chased by the mob, right?
Suspense, mystery and thriller books also help us to problem solve. What would we do/have done in that situation? Where would we turn if that had happened to us? How can the protagonist make the outcome more favorable? What if he/she doesn't? What are the risks and rewards?
Best of all, most novels tie up the loose ends leaving us as the readers feeling good. These are a few of the many reasons that I love to read and write in the suspense and mystery genre. What are yours? Please share a comment.
You'll remember in my last post I was discussing the reasons that I don't like writing book reviews, and what I like to do instead.
This isn't to say that I don't like reading some book reviews. I find sites like I Wish I Lived in a Library and Kay's Reading Life and Rebel Mommy Book Blog to be great places to find new-to-me-books/authors to check out. Each of these reviewers does a fantastic job of writing good reviews. They also include just enough information about their personal life that you feel like a close acquaintance is sharing information with you on coffee break. Want a straight book review site for mystery and suspense reads? I recommend Mysteries in Paradise or Bitter Tea and Mystery, both of which use straight review format.
Even if they didn't particularly like a book, these reviewers make sure to point out its good qualities. They also state that the parts they didn't enjoy are because of their own reading preferences, not because they believe they are the end-all and be-all of book reviewers. I respect that very much.
Oh, and I'd be remiss not to send you to check out the clever and well-rounded book review site by writer/author/editor Beth Kanell, Kingdom Books. It's a fantastic resource for any reader who is a fan of mystery, suspense and great thrillers.
What book review sites do you rely on? Or are you an Amazon, Goodreads or LibraryThing-only type of review reader? Please share in the comments.
Tell me the truth: when you read a poor book review, does it make you want to run out and buy the book anyway, or cause you to have second thoughts?
Like art critics, I believe that book reviewers can hurt authors. While reviews are important (how else will anyone online discover your work?), I choose not to write them for a few reasons. Here they are:
3 Reasons I Don't Write Book Reviews
1) Book reviews say, "I'm an expert," and I'm not. I think that two people can read the exact same book and one will leave the experience in love and the other will be wondering why they wasted those hours of their life. Who am I to say, "yes, read THIS book," or "no, don't read THAT book"? Reading tastes are so individual that it's impossible to predict whether or not someone will love or dislike the book that as a reviewer you tell them they "must read."
2) I hate reading things I don't want to. Just the thought of having to read something makes my skin feel itchy and my legs twitch. I did loads and loads of that in high school and college. I don't want to "have to read" anything. This is also why I have never joined a book group. I tried and failed.
Book reviewers often have lots of free books coming their way and they are expected to actually READ them. Shiver, shiver. My reading time is so limited that in the few precious minutes I do have, I want to focus on something that I love. Reading is an escape. It's hard to "escape," if you're reading something that you'd rather not be.
3) Reviews can hurt. I nearly gave up writing books a few years ago. I allowed a series of negative reviews online and in person at book events to really discourage me. I thought that I sucked as an author. "Maybe I should just give up," I thought. "There has to be better ways to spend all this time and money than on writing books that I put so much of myself into, only to have them criticized and belittled. Maybe I should take up extreme ironing. (Guys, it's a real thing.)
Anyway, after a long time, a lot of reflection, prayer and introspection, I eased back into writing novels. But my point is this: critical words hurt. It doesn't matter if you're a baby beginner or a stalwartly pro. Creatives are sensitive creatures (some more than others). Putting your work in the world, the work that you've put your heart into, that you've spent hours upon hours on is risky. One too many barbed comments or scathing reviews take their toll.
What I Do Instead of Writing Book Reviews
Rather than writing book reviews, I choose to write book recommendations. The biggest differences?
a) I only write these about books I really enjoy and
b) I follow Mom's rule: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
With that said, though, I do like to write and verbally share book recommendations. Book recommendations are fun! I love making these and do so monthly in my newsletter for readers of suspense. I will also occasionally read something really good and then reach out to the author and ask if I can interview them here on the blog. I also often promote their work on Twitter or Facebook or a private suspense reading recommendation group that I'm a member of. It's a great way to share other authors great work, without writing traditional book reviews.
In the next post, I'm going to tell you more about some suspense reader review sites that I do enjoy. Just because I choose not to write reviews, doesn't mean that I don't like reading them...and enjoying the community that these review bloggers have created.
Welcome to the website of author J.P. Choquette (pronounced, "show-kett"). Join the Reader Group and nab a free short story, along with the latest news, goodies, upcoming event announcements and more.
Already read a book? Have you checked out her other suspense novels?