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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Learning from Reviewing ~ Guest post by Charlotte Henley Babbs

Beginning writers are often advised to read widely, but what isn't usually explained is how to read like a writer. Reading for review, which requires some analysis, can bring writers insight for their own writing. Faults in plotting are most evident in some of the first novels I've been reading for reviews.

For example, in a book by a friend from a writer's conference, the author killed off the big bad villain fifty pages from the end of the book while several other plot lines fizzled. I'm sure the author was setting up the story for the sequel, but by then, I didn't care. It wasn’t that his writing was bad. Individual scenes were excellent, but the overall story just meandered, like the movie/book that was the basis of one subplot. No catharsis. Another one bites the dust.

A YA fantasy followed the plot of Twilight much too closely, but did not focus on the one main character. The story was told in alternating first person point of view between the male and female leads, which was confusing enough, but the action of the story hung on the many fights between the male lead and his friends who disapproved of the girl. They were well motivated, but he was not—again like Twilight. The story itself had potential, but the way it was told didn't work for me—half the time I could not tell who was narrating. That made it very difficult for me to care about the characters.

A third example is from a contact on LinkedIn, whose purpose in writing is to show Americans that Muslim people are not terrorists. This is a noble cause, and her approach is sound, writing romance novels. But she doesn't know not to dump five pages of backstory about the female lead in the second chapter. I don't need to know her whole life story, only a hint or two to make me ask questions about why meeting her perfect man brings her sadness and fear. Again, the concept is good, but the information is delivered too much at the wrong time. I did get some insight into the cultural differences, which would be fascinating if it were shown, not dumped.

On the other hand, I've read some middle grade fantasy that is well-plotted, where the characters are believable even though they do incredible things. In one story, a young witch decides to walk across the frozen Bering Sea, but the writer makes her rescue by polar bears work. In another book, a human girl is trying to capture a fairy to prove that her alcoholic grandmother is not crazy. I root for them, wanting them to succeed, no matter how fantastic the situation. It's not the beauty of the sentences but the logic of the story world that makes this work.

What becomes clear is that writers do need editors, in addition to proofreaders, and that some writers have not understood what a good editor does. I know that two of these books were edited by another person, mainly because I'm published by the same company. I'm not sure the others were. It's a shame, since their first books will likely be the last ones anyone reads.

Title: Maven Fairy Godmother: Through The Veil
Author: Charlotte Henley Babbs
Genre: Humorous Women’s Fiction
Broke, busted and despairing over the mess her life has turned out to be, middle-aged Maven Morrigan is offered a job as a fairy godmother, a one-time-only last chance to make something of herself and make the world a better place.

Not knowing who to trust: her boss, her slithery familiar, or her own Bump of Direction, she has to find her personal power by relying on herself, her real world failures, and her sense of the absurd, to survive in this imaginary garden with real trolls in it so that her clients get their happily ever after.

Product Details
·         File Size: 506 KB
·         Print Length: 289 pages
·         Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (March 30, 2012)
·         ASIN: B007QD2XW2
·         ISBN:  978-1-77127-000-7
·         Price: $5.95
 Publisher link:

Early Praise
Reviewed by Brenda C. for Readers Favorite *****

Wonderfully interesting characters allowed me to get lost in the pages of this story.
Fans of fantasy will certainly enjoy reading "Maven Fairy Godmother: Thru The Veil."
While there were a couple of instances of sexual innuendos, overall this book was a very clean read, one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to teens and adults alike!

Modern day fairy story..... June 23, 2012 ****
Format:Kindle Edition
Maven certainly isn't what we've all been raised to visualize as a "Fairy Godmother", but nonethless, "Fairy Godmother" she is!

Maven's having a tough time in life when all of a sudden the answer to her wishes falls into her lap. A dream job. I mean REALLY a DREAM job. Fairy tales aren't real, or are they????

It was nice for a change to have the heroine who wasn't drop dead gorgeous, young, skinny, kick ass, etc., etc., etc.... Someone older, imperfect and struggling who still has lots to contribute to this world and the one beyond the veil.

You Gotta Love Maven May 31, 2012 ****
Format:Kindle Edition
Maven isn't having much luck with life. Matter of fact, things suck. She's broke, out of gas, and at the end of her rope. But she tries for one more job and, after the weirdest interview ever, is hired to be...a fairy godmother? In training, of course.

A personal quirk: I'd as soon wait for the next book in the series to learn the story of Tulip, the human who desperately wants to be a fairy godmother, or Vivienne, Daisy, the Cook, and way too many other characters to keep track. Yes, all the stories spring from Maven's rewriting the old tales, but much of this could be imparted in a paragraph or two. Maven is the star here, and she's the one I want to read about.

 I loved this book! June 2, 2012 ****
Format:Kindle Edition
I love any book that restores my faith in fairy tales. And I loved Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil for that reason (among many other reasons on top of that). Immediately, I related to the main character Maven, a middle aged lady who has been struggling with not only having no job, but having nearly no life. When we meet her, she lives in an old van and barely has enough money to scrounge together a cup of coffee.
I loved this book …  the cast of characters, the recreation and twist to many familiar stories, and all the magic put into every word. If you love fairy tales, magic, and the idea that everyone can make a wish and not just pretty princesses (hey, trolls have wishes too, you know), than you will want to read this book. And by the way, should there ever be a Twilight Lounge that comes into existance, I would become the cool biker chick persona Maven dresses up as (you'll have to read and find out what I mean by that everyone)!

Book Excerpt:

"Be careful what you ask for," Maven said, "You just might get it."

The girl stared at Maven for a moment. She held up her fingers and started counting. "I just want to have (one) the fabulous, romantic evening with (two) the beautiful clothes and (three) the lovely music and (four) the elegant food I didn't have to cook." Wistful hope shone on her face even behind the calculations of exactly what kinds of fun girls just want to have. She stuck out her thumb and added, "I was very careful."

"You asked for it." Maven wondered how a fairy godmother cast her spell. She hoped the wand would work, but in a dream, what could go wrong? "I will provide the clothes and the coach and the whole kit, cat and caboodle. If you like what you see, then go for the prince and make yourself happy. If not, then come back home and decide what you want. You have until midnight before it all goes away. At the twelfth bong: busted."

"I'm ready." The girl closed her eyes, held her breath, and stood very still.

How to grant a wish? The Bump suggested bopping the girl over the head, preferably with a broom handle. Maven swished the wand, but nothing happened. There was a song in the movie, but she couldn't remember how it went. "BoopbettyBoopbetty Do!"

The girl opened her eyes again. "What? Do you need something for the magic...mice? A pumpkin?"

"Bring them on." The girl ought to wash her face, too. But if Maven had magic for horses and coaches, a bath should be no sweat. Maven never cast a spell before, but she'd written affirmations, meditations and invocations. She'd soaked her head and sunk her bankbook in all flavors of Manifest your Mojo workshops trying to make some sense of her life. Maybe they'd work if she did them for someone else.

Author Bio:

Charlotte Babb began writing when she could hold a piece of chalk and scribble her name--although she sometimes mistook "Chocolate" for "Charlotte" on the sign at the drug store ice cream counter.

When her third-grade teacher allowed her access to the fiction room at the school library, Charlotte discovered Louisa Alcott and Robert Heinlein, an odd marriage of the minds. These two authors have had the most influence on her desire to share her point of view with the world and to explore how the world might be made better.

In the meantime, Charlotte has fallen prey to steampunk and the gears are turning...corset, bustle and magic, oh my! She brings to any project a number of experiences, including work as a technical writer, gasket inspector, cloth store associate, girl Friday, and telephone psychic.

She has studied the folk stories of many cultures and wonders what happened to ours. Where the stories are for people over 20 who have survived marriage, divorce, child-rearing, education, bankruptcy, and widowhood? Here.

Charlotte loves Fractured Fairy Tales and writes them for your enjoyment.

Also Available:

Also Available: Maven's Fractured Fairy Tales – ebook and print book, 3 Maven short stories.
Three stories:
  • Bubba and the Beast
  • Mavenstiltskin
  • Fairy Frogmother
  • File Size: 157 KB
  • Print Length: 46 pages
  • Publisher: Charlotte Henley Babb; 1 edition (June 13, 2012)

Important Links:

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Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance: Book One, SEEKING A SCRIBE, and Book Two, HERITAGE AVENGED. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE.  For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.


Teresa Cypher said...

We can learn so much by reading the work of others. And it is amazing the difference in what we get when we read with a "writer's eye" rather than with a "reader's eye". I think one of the hardest things to get about writing is that we are only ever aware of that which we understand. If we don't know that we have a problem with our method--if we are incapable of comprehending a problem because we don't know it is a problem, then we can't fix it. Working with an editor would always be best, but isn't always feasible. So, for most new writers, reading books is one of the best ways to learn. Sometimes when I read a book, I know it isn't working for me. And occasionally I'm not sure why. I will research until I understand what has brought my zest for reading it--to a screeching halt. From that point forward, I'll recognize it when I see it. It is a hard lesson for some people to learn. If a writer is satisfied with their work and believes it to be their best, and refuses to develop their understanding of the craft? Then, as you wrote, "It's a shame, since their first books will likely be the last ones anyone reads."

This was a good post. :-)

M3nac3r said... offers mechanisms for reviewing others' works. There are many groups and guidelines, and it is free to join.