Currently, I am on an Orangeberry Virtual Book Tour and enjoying it immensely. While “on tour,” I ran across fellow author Richard Stephenson’s blog. I found his post so compelling and important to to both today’s Indie readers and writers that I am posting his blog in its entirety here.

Richard Stephenson – Stop Criticizing Me!

By On December 29, 2012 

Stop Criticizing Me!

by Richard Stephenson

Okay, we need to talk.  Gather round my fellow indies, this is a safe place. A happy place.  Relax and take a deep breath.  Pull up a chair, some stale coffee is on the back table but the doughnuts are fresh.

Whether you are new to the self-publishing biz like me or have come to accept rejection and criticism like a pro after years or decades of writing, let’s be honest with each other – criticism hurts.  If you’re like me, your writing is a very intimate part of your soul.  You open up your very being and put pieces of yourself on the page.  In the simplest terms, you make yourself very vulnerable.

I knew going into this whole thing that Collapse would not be everyone’s cup of tea.  People’s tastes are particular.   I know my tastes are particular.  I’m a huge fan of the TV show Game of Thrones, however, I can’t stand the books.  I found the first one much too difficult to follow along with the dozens of characters. I tried my best to read it but had to stop about a quarter of the way into it because I just couldn’t get into it.  Martin is obviously a successful and talented writer, but I’m not a fan.

Do you remember your first negative review?  I know I do.  The funny thing about it – it was a three star review.  The reviewer was not kind, claiming that my writing style was horrible and that my dystopian thriller was aimed at twelve year olds.  Not sure how a book with graphic violence and language, a racist skinhead, and the victim of Richard Dupree’s crime was material aimed at twelve year olds.  That particular review bothered me a lot.  It raised my blood pressure and upset my stomach enough to warrant some pepto.  Then another negative review, another three star mind you, came just minutes behind the first one.  This review made the claim that Dupree’s escape from the courthouse was lifted completely out of Silence of the Lambs.  This upset me even more because I couldn’t see the parallel at all.  Dupree didn’t cut someone’s face off and wear it as a mask or dress up a corpse in his own clothing to confuse his captors.  I chomped on some more pepto tablets and realized I had a serious problem to contend with.  If three star reviews bothered me so badly, how on earth was I going to cope with one and two star reviews?

Then I got my first two star review.  My stomach started churning and I could feel my heart pounding.  My hand was actually shaking when I clicked the mouse to see what horrible bashing was in store.  Was a grown man about to cry?

It didn’t bother me in the slightest.  In fact, I had nothing but respect for the reviewer’s opinion.  Collapse was just not his cup of tea.  He was expecting a different type of book.  He thought the book would be geared more towards survival fiction in the same vein as James Wesley Rawles Patriots.  He also wasn’t fond of the main characters.  I totally get that.  To each his own.

As more time has gone by, I’ve collected seven two-star reviews and four one-star reviews to tarnish my combined fifty-nine four and five star reviews.  Most of them didn’t bother me at all, they made claims that they didn’t enjoy the story or the format of multiple storylines was too confusing.  Not a big deal.  Two in particular freely admitted that they gave up after a few chapters and stuck me with a one-star review.  Really?  You read less than 10% of the book and think that your very limited knowledge qualifies you to leave a review?  Gimme a break!  This is just my own personal gripe, if you think that you can give up on a book very early on and leave a review, that’s your right to do so.  I just find it to be unfair and in poor taste.  If I give up on a book a few chapters in, I simply move on to something else and wouldn’t dream of leaving a review.

Over at GoodReads I got two reviews that really offended me.  The two reviewers could not separate the storyteller from the story.  The first reviewer directly accused me of being anti-Islam.  Not the story, not one of the characters, me personally – ”The author doesn’t seem to like Islam very much…”  The other reviewer stated ”…the writing of a man that not only has major issues with the current US Government but has little faith in the populous to fix the problem of corruption.”   Let’s be clear, I wrote a piece of fiction.  Actually, let’s take it a step further and point out that I wrote a piece of dystopian fiction.  Clearly this reviewer doesn’t understand the definition of dystopian.  Let’s take one final step further and point out that I actually work for the US government in my full-time job.

On the last page of Collapse, I included a list of contact information so that readers could interact with me via Twitter, Facebook, this blog, and by email.  I understood that this decision would expose me to both glowing praise and harsh criticism.  A gentlemen sent me an email all but condemning me to hell for the offensive language in the book and was shocked that I let my wife read it.  (I’m guessing he believes that a woman’s delicate sensibilities couldn’t handle an F-bomb.)

Did I write this blog post to garner your sympathy?  Am I fishing for your complements to boost my ego?  Not at all, far from it.  Well then, Mr. Stephenson, what is your point you may ask?   I hope that by sharing my experience that other indies will learn the simple fact that you are going to get a lot of negative criticism.  That fact might be obvious to everyone, you might even be waiting on your first negative review at this very moment confident in the fact that you are prepared for it.  I thought I was prepared and ready, but I was not ready for criticism that just defied logic and reason.  I was prepared for criticism about a great many things.  Towards the end of the book I wrote a love scene that I knew would offend some people, I was prepared for that.  I wrote several scenes containing graphic violence that I knew would offend some, I was prepared for that as well.  Some portions of the book might lead you to believe I’m a hardcore liberal that hates conservatives and wishes to offend them (I’m not, by the way).  Much of Collapse requires the reader to suspend belief as a lot of fiction does, I was prepared for people to not being able to make that leap.

What I was not prepared for was criticism that, in my opinion, came out of left field and just flat confused me.  I had to fight the urge to leave comments on those reviews and engage the reviewer in debate, explaining my side of things and hopefully change their mind.  I decided against it because in my experience, once someone has made up their mind about something, it is often an exercise in futility to make them agree with you.  It often makes the situation far worse and in my opinion, is just not worth the time.

My advice, prepare yourself for anything.  Get ready for criticism of all types -constructive criticism that is tactful and polite, criticism that makes you ask yourself “Did this person actually read my book?”  Be ready for criticism that is harsh, rude, offensive, and even says your writing style is terrible.

Even better, if you can resist the temptation, don’t even click on the ones and twos.  😉


Women’s History Month Remembrance of Ruth Blay

March is Women’s History Month, and this month I would like to remember a very special young woman, someone who perhaps very few people might remember or have even heard of outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a young woman who was brutally and coldly hanged on the 30th of December in 1768 for the crime purportedly of murdering her child, but truthfully was so publicly punished, humiliated, and executed for the unspeakable crime of having sex out-of-wedlock. As per usual in that day, as per usual to this day in so-called “modern” Middle Eastern societies, the man who engaged with Ruth Blay, the father of the child, the other half of this equation, was never even publicly identified; to this day, he remains unknown.

I first discovered the story of Ruth Blay while I was in Portsmouth with my husband actor/director Dave Florek (Prince of Belle Aire, Grace Under Fire, Ghost Busters ll, Audi Ahab Spot, and most recently Grey’s Anatomy among countless other credits) who was  playing Happy in a revival of Death of a Salesman starring Dan Frazier (Kojak) over 25 years ago. I was dumbfounded by what I read and knew it was something I would have to write about. Consequently, I wrote the play Act of Grace which was a contemporary metaphysical/mystery/suspense interwoven with the historical story of Ruth Blay. Act of Grace ,because of its inclusion of two elder characters the Shirley sisters Amalthea and Druscylla, was chosen to participate in the Professional Older Women’s Theatre festival at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre in New York City.

Subsequently, I adapted Act of Grace to a screenplay. Interesting note: the play was an all-female cast; I wrote the screenplay accordingly. Pitching the screenplay, I was told an all-female screenplay, Thelma and Louise not-with-standing, would never sell. I needed to write in a “love interest” for my lead Beth Rutledge. I adapted. The screenplay went on to win several awards including the Women in Film and Video Screenwriting Competition.

Was it a better vehicle now that it contained a “love interest” for Beth Rutledge? It was different. Did I like it as much as the all-female version? Short answer– yes. Would I have liked to have written the modern American film version of the House of Bernarda Alba? Do you really need to ask that? Here is my question– Why is it that we can have X to the nth degree of all-male movies, perhaps with the one you-know-what female, yet we still cannot promote, encourage, make a film with an all-female cast?

Act of Grace had a huge fan in Cynde Harmon of Really Real films in Vancouver, but Canadian Development is tricky, and they couldn’t get the development money. The film was never made.

Recently, I adapted Act of Grace to the novel Gallows Ascending.

Applying some of the critique from the Women in Film and Video Award, I expanded the role of the love interest. I also changed his name and his identity from the rather flat character I had written in the film ( the source of the critique I had received) reviving it to the rounder, much more interesting lead character Luke Stone. Thus, I was able to incorporate GALLOWS ASCENDING into the Stone Quest series, incorporating as well the story of Ruth Blay.

Gallows Ascending will be offered as a Kindle free book this Sunday March 24th and Monday, March 25th. I hope the offer will attract many readers to download the book. Amazon prime members can download the Kindle book for free any time. After the free giveaway, the price for Gallows Ascending is only $2.99.

On December 30, 1768 an innocent young woman dressed in white was dragged through the streets of Portsmouth in a horse-drawn cart. Her shrieks filled the air. Some say a rude wooden coffin sat beside her. She was taken to the Old South Cemetery where on a rise facing the sea a gallows had been constructed. She was scheduled to be hanged at noon, but the Sheriff, Sheriff Thomas Packer, was cold and he was hungry, and so he gave the order, and Ruth Blay was marched up the gallows stairs two hours before her time. And even as the noose was placed around her neck, a messenger from Governor Wentworth’s office was riding to the cemetery with a reprieve. But the messenger could not make it through the throngs that had gathered to watch the public spectacle. And so Ruth Blay flew screaming to her fate.

In memory of Ruth Blay– rest in peace, my sister.

You can find out more about Leigh and her work @ and @ her Amazon Authors Central page:; or follow her @ twitter/leighpod52 and on FB @ FB/leighpod