Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Write Book Reviews?

It seems I’m always begging people who like our books to post reviews on and Goodreads. Yet most don’t. Why not?

Actually, all it requires is a couple of minutes and a couple of sentences. The star rating counts the most.

5-stars = Excellent read
4-stars = Good read, but not outstanding
3-stars = Just okay (On Amazon, it’s considered a negative review. On Goodreads, it’s neutral)
2-stars = Not great, but may have a quality or two worth reading
1-star = Should never have been published

I almost never write anything less than a 4-star review. I recognize tastes vary, and what may not appeal to me may appeal to someone else. I’ve only posted two 1-star reviews. One was so badly written I couldn’t get through the first page. (Amazon subsequently removed this one because of all the negative reviews and comments. I was far from alone.)

The other was by one of my favorite writers, but this book was dreadful. Quite a few others also hated it. I had previously written many positive reviews for this writer. This book had many reviews, and I felt obligated to warn others away from this title.

The vast majority of my reviews are 5-star.

You don’t have to write a treatise. One or two sentences will do. You can always start with: I liked this book because… Then list a couple of reasons you enjoyed it.

THEY ARE FRIENDS (and now Goodreads since they are now owned by Amazon) will not allow friends of the author to post reviews. How Amazon is aware of our friendships is beyond me. But it's worth writing one, even if Amazon removes it. You and the author will know in the future. (And Amazon may not realize you have a relationship.)

So why should you—and I—post reviews on books?

It may seem strange, but the number of reviews a book receives affects how it shows up in Amazon listings. The algorithms by which Amazon makes these placements is arcane and confusing to nearly everyone, but the more reviews, the better the placement. A well-reviewed book will show up on the suggested books list for other books and may be suggested as a bundle with other books.

Publishers will feature their well-reviewed books more often in their publicity. Since they do little of it anymore, good reviews give the author a boost.

Some other sites which feature authors and books require a minimum number of Amazon reviews before they can be listed. These sites have large followings and can give a listed book greater visibility. But if there aren’t enough good reviews on Amazon, they won’t be considered.

Readers looking at books to read on Amazon or Goodreads often use reviews to decide whether or not to purchase the book. Good reviews generate sales—always a positive for authors.

So, if you enjoy books, please follow up with a positive review.

And if you’d like to post a review on one of our books, here are the links:

We would appreciate your reviews, especially if you have enjoyed them!

Do you write book reviews? Why or why not?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Roses

The other day I looked at our roses. We have five bushes in the rose garden out front.
One is for Larry. He wanted a Sterling Silver, a pale lavender. Those weren’t available at the time, so we have a Stainless Steel—another light lavender.
One is Kim’s. It’s a JFK because she has been fascinated by the president since she was a little girl. It’s creamy white, but occasionally a streak of red appears on the petal. These streaks look like blood.
I don’t have one of my own. I let John, our landscaper, pick one out. He chose a Marilyn Monroe, since he is obsessed with her. (He has photos of her all over his house.) Marilyn is creamy pale rose to peach in color.
We planted a Double Delight for Larry’s mother. It was her favorite, and Dad always planted them for her. Looking at the blooms on her bush the other day, I realized how like her it was.

Letha was tiny and cute. She wore lots of prints and ruffles, jewelry and scarves. She never wore one bracelet when three would do. Her accessories—including shoes and bag—always matched her outfit. Oh, and her earrings did, too.

She resembled Betty White. Whenever she entered a room with her ever-present smile, the whole place lit up. She wasn’t a comedienne, but she always smiled and made anyone in the vicinity feel better. I was blessed to have had her in my life.

The Double Delight bloom is large and showy with a strong, sweet fragrance. The color varies. Just like Mother, it seems to be bored if it stays in the same outfit for too long. (She used to change clothes from head-to-foot at least five times a day.) The rose blooms early and continues to flower late into the season. The color can vary from nearly white, through rose, to deep red and varies from center to tip. The deeper color appears on the edges. We planted one in the church rose garden in memory of Mother and Dad. The first time we went to see it, the large, showy open bloom had a double center. Completely appropriate since it was in memory of both of them.
My mother’s rose is a Mr. Lincoln. It is a long-stemmed single blossom with a slightly tart fragrance I love. When I looked the other day, a single bloom stood tall and straight and proud, just like my mom. And like Mom, the rose is stubborn. While the Double Delight sends out dozens of blossoms all season long, Mr. Lincoln shows only one or two at a time, and usually when few of the other bushes are in bloom.

Mom herself always stood tall. Although she was only 5’4” everyone thought she was much taller. She always wore high heels and dressed in simple business attire—suits and dresses. She preferred a nice brooch to necklaces and rarely wore bracelets. She favored simple, conservative earrings, and her shoes and bag matched.

As I look on their roses, I am always reminded of the two most influential women in my life. Even though I miss them very much, their roses are a reminder of these special ladies.

Have you ever noticed how flowers reflect the people who love them?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lessons Learned

One of the great benefits of getting older is you actually learn stuff. Here are a few suggestions I made to a younger friend when she was frustrated in her job. I think they hold up pretty well.

Start every day by listing the things you’re thankful for. No matter how bad your situation, it always contains blessings. Find and acknowledge them. (Try the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. Each day, list something you are grateful for. It’s a good way to start the day.)

Start your conversations with everyone at work by thanking them for something—verbally if possible, mentally if not. Don’t be fake about it, but each time you see someone, try to think of one thing you like about them, one thing they have done for you, one thing they’ve helped you with. Then say it—or at least think it. Take the time to do this before rushing into other conversation. It will change your perception as well as theirs.

Continue to pursue doing what you love—whether where you are now or not. What is your real passion? If this is the most important thing to you, you shouldn't have to hunt for time to do it. You’d make the time, and the work itself would renew and refresh you.
Let me repeat: NO job is perfect. You’ll enjoy some more than others, but EVERY job has its issues. No boss is perfect either.

I vividly remember wanting to be a Department Head or VP early in my career. By the time I reached my early thirties, however, spending my days doing something I enjoyed made far more sense.

Everyone needs balance in their lives. Even if you have to put it on your calendar, start setting aside time to spend with friends. What is play for you? DO IT.

At least twice during my performance reviews I was told to lighten up. I was so intense and driven I made the people around me uncomfortable. I never expected as much from anyone else as I did from myself, but I didn’t suffer fools lightly—and it sometimes included the boss. I didn’t think I was conveying this, but I had to have been. Work became much more enjoyable when I really got to know the others around me as people. I recommend it.
Work is a bargain between you and your employer. No one in the organization is obligated to help you in any way. If some do, consider it a bonus. But don’t carry any false expectations about how far or how much they can or will do. They are each fighting for their own positions. Particularly in a failing department or division, those from the top down are fearful for their own spots. And they probably know quite a bit more about what’s going on behind the scenes than they can or will tell you.

Get your expectations in check. Do the best job you can, given the resources and authority you are allowed. YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE. Others are. And they make the decisions. Work as well as you can within those parameters.

Do what you are asked to do, and do it well. But don’t take on responsibility or expect to receive kudos for stepping on toes to take on more. Always try to make your boss look better, even if she is a real jerk. It will pay off in the long run.

Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God” has haunted me for years. I am woefully short on patience. I want to act and get things done NOW. The truth is control is an illusion. We can only do what is in our sphere to do. But we can’t control the outcome.

It’s a hard lesson and one I don’t always totally embrace. (I’m getting better about waiting, but I still don’t like it.)

Maybe your next position isn’t even available yet. Maybe you have to be at the nadir in order to accept the next offer. And it won’t be perfect either.

I can promise you this. Ten or twenty years from now, you will look back at your current place and say, “Oh, now I get it. This was what I needed to learn.” Or “I can see now I was being prepared for something better.”

What life lessons have you learned? Can they be helpful to others?