Monday, April 21, 2014

Tagged Authors and Vine Reviews

So today is the day my buddies I tagged last week are posting THEIR writing process posts. Please go be super supportive, as these are some of my favorite people (as are all of you):

Helena Soister

Stacy Gail

Jade C. Jamison


And for anyone curious... I was one of the lucky people who passed into the quarter finals in the ABNA contest last week. As early career writers, feedback can be hard to come by, so we savor the chance to hear from strangers what they think of our work. This round was a review of our first 3000-5000 words and they were done by Amazon's Selected Vine Reviewers. Now this job is a TON of work. I am ever appreciative they take the time. Initially all are given 40 reviews to do (that is up to 200,000 words if you are calculating, in just... I think 3 weeks)--and not just to READ, but to provide thoughtful reviews.

So a big THANK YOU to the Vine Reviewers who help. I think they get a nice gift certificate for it, but it has to amount to well below minimum wage for the time required. And while I've occasionally heard grumbles, I have always been treated more than fairly and believe that is a case of one or two bad-actors. MOST people do this sincerely and are doing a huge service to the writers in the contest.

Before I share my reviews, I should probably give you all the pitch, to let you know what they are reviewing:


Shot in the Light Pitch

A beach covered in dead seagulls brings Sidney Knight's quest for quiet to a halt. She's come to the Oregon coast to hammer out a few freelance deadlines but this breaks her concentration. According to her brother, a scientist at the Centers for Disease Control, the avian flu has reached epidemic classification. His warning not to get the flu shot, contrary to authority recommendations, scares her.

Back in Portland she begins to dig and notices a disturbing trend: the shot, rather than reducing risk, is increasing deaths. Health departments, hospitals, and news sources are silent and care providers have been warned not to "scare people". Sidney, young and inexperienced, doubts she can handle a story this big, but what if she's the only one looking? When the CDC is locked down with her brother inside and one of her closest friends dies from the vaccine, Sidney's mind is made up. Green or not, she has to figure out how this happened, who is responsible, and who can set it right.

A Shot in the Light is a new adult epidemic conspiracy thriller and will appeal to people who like a complex plot, powerful relationships and an emotional roller coaster.

This collection holds the first four books of 12 in the serially released A Shot in the Light.


And now for the Reviews:

ABNA Expert Reviewer #1
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The sense of tension is the striking aspect of the excerpt. It opens well with Sidney at the beach with the dead birds and never lets up even with the scene change from Portland to Oregon.

What aspect needs the most work?

The aspect that I found the most distracting while reading was that some of the sentences tried to do too much with not enough. An example: "They went to Mountain Sun, because Shana was a beer snob, and ordered a pitcher of something amber." When I read that, I thought, "What does Mountain Sun have to do with being a beer snob? And if she is a beer snob, wouldn't the beer that was ordered be a specific brand?" Sentence would seem more direct if it was simpler like "They went to Mountain Sun because Shana preferred the beer that was served there."

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I really like the tension in the excerpt and in spite of the awkwardness of some of the writing, the plot and interaction of characters remained intriguing that I wanted to find out more.

ABNA Expert Reviewer #2
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The excerpt is written very well: good structure, grammar, and pace. It was easy to read and flowed nicely.

I also thought the character development was strong. I like that the author didn't introduce too many characters at once and, instead, chose to focus on and really flesh out just a few.

The dialogue is believable and effortless to read, which I appreciate. It all makes sense and is easy to follow.

The story is also intriguing. A crazy outbreak that kills off a huge part of the population is definitely one of my worst fears, so this topic is scary, but also interesting and definitely engaging.

What aspect needs the most work?

Chapter 1.1 moved a little slowly for me. On the one hand, it was nice to have the author take his or her time to calmly set up the premise of the story, but I also think it dragged just a bit. I'm not sure I needed all the back-and-forth between characters while they were setting up the barrels--or at least not as much.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Overall, this excerpt was really solid. It's well-written, and I am already invested in the characters. Plus, the storyline is very engaging, in my opinion. I would love to read the rest of this book to know how this mysterious illness progresses (even though I know it would completely freak me out). :)


My thoughts? Fair reviews, and food for thought. I am flattered, but see there is a bit of work to do, which, since I've published these, is a wee bit disconcerting, but I can always tighten a bit and re-release--that is the beauty of self-pubbing, eh?

16 comments:

Old Kitty said...

Oh Tart!!! Well done you and what helpful lovely reviews too!!! Yay!!
Global naked domination is totally happening! Take care
x

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

This is wonderful news, Hart! So happy for you. :)

Teresa Powell Coltrin said...

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! This is GREAT news. It IS a good book. You know I love it.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Well done, Hart! And good for you for looking at the reviews - and the reviewers! - objectively. :)

Mason Canyon said...

Congrats and well done, Hart.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Hart! Interesting how they all had a slightly different take on your work.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I had no doubt you'd make it this far this year. I hope you keep going!

Also, this made no sense to me:

An example: "They went to Mountain Sun, because Shana was a beer snob, and ordered a pitcher of something amber." When I read that, I thought, "What does Mountain Sun have to do with being a beer snob?

Umm, they went to the Mountain Sun BECAUSE that's where you go when you're a beer snob!

I dunno, it seemed pretty obvious to me what you meant there.

Hart Johnson said...

Thanks gang!

And Sarah, I could tell when that reviewer thought I should list the brand that the reviewer really was not a beer snob, eh? Drink locally! But that is something to keep in mind--that I'm only communicating with connoisseurs when I word it like that, and I really want to be more inclusive.

I try to keep Neil Gaiman's wisdom in mind--when they tell you something is wrong, they're probably right. When they tell you how to fix it, they're probably wrong.

The tougher thing for me is one thought I was trying to do too much with my sentences and the other thought I had nice concise writing... those two things are contradictory. Ah well.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Congratulations Hart! Your critique partners are hard but fair.

Helena said...

Congrats on making it into the ABNA quarter finals! I knew you could do it and that A SHOT was solid. Sure, the reviewer suggested some changes, but they're relatively minor ones. The main thing is the plot and characters are solid and that you've got a good chance now to move onward and upward in this contest. May you win!

jack welling said...

Slow clap. Nice job.

Jan Morrison said...

Yay! No surprise to me!

D Biswas said...

A Shot in the Light is a new adult epidemic conspiracy thriller and will appeal to people who like a complex plot, powerful relationships and an emotional roller coaster. --- sounds like my sort of book!

Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2014, My Latest post

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge

Margie Ortega said...

Hart,
I noticed you left a review of an excerpt and after looking at your Amazon profile page saw that we write in the same genre-cozy mysteries. It would be so great if you could look at my excerpt, Donuts and Doorknobs and give me some feedback!
It was nice visiting your blog. Good luck in ABNA 2014.
Margie (MLO)

Teresa Cypher said...

Hart, how wonderful! Congratulations. All that hard work validated. :-)

debi o'neille said...

What an interesting post, and congratulations!
Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com