May 30, 2015

Rick's Thoughts on Writing Reviews - a guide for the rest of us

I've seen a lot of blog posts out there by authors regarding books reviews.  These can be both positive odes to how awesome people are for leaving them as well as negative rants on the big meanie bullies of the world who dare tell them their precious works of timeless art suck donkey balls. I've hopefully made my thoughts fairly clear on these matters in the past. Today I wanted to touch upon another type of post - those helpful guides out there telling people how they should and shouldn't write a book review.

Sadly, I'm here to tell you that I've read quite a few of them and found most to be a bit lacking. My advice would be to ignore the vast majority.

"But wait?" you might ask. "How should I know what to write about a product if the product maker doesn't tell me what to say?" Fear not!  For I am here to offer what I hope to be the comprehensive guide to these things.

Step 1) You need to decide where to leave your review. Often times this will be the website from which you purchased the book. However, you might choose instead to do so at a dedicated book site such as Goodreads, on a Facebook group, or even your own blog.

In the case of the former, though, most shop websites have fairly easy to find buttons next to the reviews others have left.  One need merely click upon it, log in  if required, and then proceed to the entry form.

Some websites will let you get away with simply filling in a star rating and then going upon your merry way.  This is all fine and well, but you're here to learn about writing an actual review, dammit!  So let's get cracking already.

Step 2) Write whatever you feel like saying for however long you feel like saying it. Some websites have a minimum of required words for a review, so in those cases you'll need to reach that before you can hit the submit button.  If necessary, feel free to elaborate a bit on your thoughts, or don't. You can always post the ubiquitous "here's a bunch of words so that I get to Amazon's limit on reviews and can hit the damned button already." at the end of it.

Step 3) Hit submit

Step 4) Rejoice! You're finished!

To help you with any further questions on this topic, I leave you this handy dandy
Reviewing FAQ:

Q) Wait, that's it?  Aren't you supposed to tell me to only leave positive or constructive reviews?

A) Nope.

Q)  What about that thing you mother used to say about only saying something if you have something nice to say?

A) Yeah, well, my mom wasn't really into that crap.  Besides, I look at it this way - have you ever read any of those articles in the news about restaurants threatening customers who leave them lousy Yelp reviews or the apartment owners trying to put clauses into their leases stating no negative reviews are allowed?

Did you enjoy those articles?

I know I don't.  I am a firm a believer that once I have paid for a product, service, or meal then I am free to have whatever opinion of it that I please and I am likewise also free to share whatever that opinion is - be it positive or dripping with enough acid to dissolve a queen Alien.

Q) But shouldn't I take into account the author's "feelings"?

A) Hell no!  You paid for a book, not a guilt trip. If you loved that book, great.  If you hated that book then I don't see any reason why you should worry about someone else's feelings.  Publishing is a business, not a group hug.  If that business disappointed you, you should feel no qualms about telling the world.

Q) But what if the author leaves a nasty comment / sends their fans to leave nasty comments / tracks me down and sends me a threatening email / does anything else that only an asshole would do?

A) Depending on the severity, I'd say anything from getting an idea what kind of person they are and never again giving them your business all the way to calling the authorities.  You're a customer.  You're spending your hard earned money on a product. You shouldn't have to tolerate anything from the marker of that product that you feel is hurtful, harassing, or just plain unprofessional.

Q) Cool! Oh hey, by the way that is a thumb you're holding up, right, because it kinda looks like a...

A) Yes that is a thumb!  Why the hell would I show off know what? I don't want to know. Let's just agree to never discuss it again. Sound good?

May 25, 2015

Riding on the coattails of those who have come before

Some authors will swear that one must be their own person and blaze new trails through the jungles of this wild industry.  Others will go out of their way to shove down your throat the notion that their latest masterpiece is every bit as good as the chart-toppers of the day.

Personally, I feel the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  That's what I explore in this latest edition, the 20th video to date, of Tales of a Midlist Author.

As usual, I hope any prospective and/or novice writers out there find this useful.

May 7, 2015

A New Look and Feel for The Tome of Bill

Hey everyone.  It's time to share the reason I've been a bit quiet as of late.  It's not because I've quit, died, or run off to enjoy tropical drinks on some island somewhere (although I reserve the right to follow through on that last one at some unspecified point in the future).  No, it's because I've been busy working with my cover artist Mallory Rock to completely rebrand The Tome of Bill series.

Yes, Bill The Vampire and all of the numbered books in the series have a new look and feel as you can see by the above. Now I know that some people were quite fond of the old covers (and, to be fair, some folks hated them too), so the question you have might be "Why change a good thing?"

The answer is simple: while I too was quite fond of seeing Bill's bespectacled self on the original cover, the problem was the series as a whole lacked cohesion.  Looking at random covers from the series side by side one couldn't easily tell they went together.  As standalone covers they were pretty darn awesome, but as far as a series goes they fell a bit short of my expectations.

Part of this is my fault.  Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but let's face facts, there are very few authors who start off in this industry having anything even remotely close to a clue. I can't say I was any different. I used to look at each book as no greater than the sum of its pages, a standalone entity. The problem is, you do that with a book and maybe its sequel and that's fine.  Once you reach three or more books in a series, it starts to be a stretch - especially if people are celebrating the storyline of that series.

A series is more than just the stories that make them up. It's a whole identity from top to bottom...and it was time for me to make that identity whole.

Now in all fairness, I did have some external issues too that led me to this point. I lost my original cover artist after The Mourning Woods.  Rather than pick that time to start fresh, I made the mistake of asking the new cover artists I was trying out to try to match his style. Cover artists are a unique bunch and, while some have similar styles, more often than not they're going to shine best when you allow them to play to their individual styles and strengths.

Tis a lesson that took me a while to learn, but learn I did. At the same time I've been studying the market in much greater detail, learning my comparative strengths and weaknesses in the Urban Fantasy space.  Finally, I felt it was time to move on this and bring The Tome of Bill under one cohesive umbrella.

All that being said, I am pleased to move forward with Bill's new look and feel.  I for one love the way they look together.  I hope you do too.

Bonus: for any authors reading this, I also decided to use this opportunity to broach this subject on another Tales of a Midlist Author.  I hope you find it useful. 

May 1, 2015

Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson

Hey everyone! Sorry if this blog has been a wee bit empty lately. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not dead. I've just been busy with a multitude of projects including: writing The Wicked Dead, rebranding The Tome of Bill, launching a new pen name, and putting together several new episodes of Tales of a Midlist Author.

However, even the most crazed workaholic needs to come up for air every once in a while, and thankfully my fellow Westmarch author Melissa F. Olson popped by to give me a good reason.  Not only is she a talented writer and purveyor of witty repartee (seriously, check her out on Twitter if you don't believe me), but her new book has been absolutely tearing up the charts over on Amazon.

I'm happy to host her as she launches Boundary Crossed in two new formats and offers up some cool swag in the process.  Take it away, Melissa!

Thank you so much to Rick Gualtieri for being part of this multi-webpage blog blast. If you’ve already heard of me and my books, you can scroll down to go straight to the contest entry. Otherwise, please let me introduce myself.

My name is Melissa F. Olson, and I mostly write urban fantasy novels, which are stories about the intersection of two worlds: the real one that we live in and a world that involves something supernatural: fairies, vampires, werewolves, mutant killer hedgehogs, or all of the above. My new novel Boundary Crossed is about a young woman, Lex, trying to protect her baby niece from bad guys who have discovered that the baby has serious value on the supernatural black market. Lex is determined to keep her safe, but unfortunately she dies at the end of the first chapter.

No, seriously. She dies. But then she gets better, because it turns out that there’s more to Lex than she ever knew. She needs to figure out why she’s still alive and what the bad guys want with her niece, and she’s going to need a lot of help to do it.

The book has been available all month as a Kindle First deal on Amazon, but it comes out in paperback and audiobook for the first time today. To celebrate this release, I’m giving away signed books, a $20 Amazon gift card, and some killer swag. (That’s a metaphor; the swag will not hurt you.) To enter, just click on the link below to go to my website and enter up to four times for the four prizes. Thanks for reading!

Click for Rafflecopter giveaway

Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa landed in Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master's degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at

Feb 16, 2015

Tales of a Midlist Author - the saga begins

It's been a while since I last darkened your computer doorstep.  Fortunately it hasn't been time spent idly...well, mostly.

I'm hard at work on the next book in The Tome of Bill series, The Wicked Dead. The audiobook for Half A Prayer is well underway, once again being voiced by the awesome Chris Fetherolf. I've also been working on a new series of video blogs aimed at helping novice writers.

I've been fortunate in my writing. While I may not be driving around in a sold gold Pagani Huayra (yet!), I've been lucky enough to have found an awesome audience.  I am, right now, what one might call a mid-lister - typically a writer who has attained a decent following and is able to do quite alright for themselves through a combination of quality and quantity in their writing (as opposed to one big blowout hit). All in all, it's not a bad place to be in this business and for that I am extremely grateful.

That being said, I've also tried to learn what I can along the way - even if it was mostly through my own mistakes. While there are no guarantees in this industry - one person's path to success might yield nothing for the next - my hope is to pass on some of these learnings so as to give a little guidance and perhaps help those who are just starting out to avoid a few of the landmines along the way.


The first couple of installments are up on YouTube at the link above. My hope is to add at least one new installment per week on different topics of interest...that and also work on my shifty-eyed, sputtering screen presence a bit.  :)

Here's the first chapter to either whet your appetite or ensure you never ever want to hear me speak in person again...

Jan 12, 2015

Guest Post: Introducing Junior Inquisitor by Lincoln Farish (coming soon)

From time to time I like to open my blog up to guest authors with upcoming books that I've taken a look at and gone "Damn! Why didn't I think of that?" err, I meant "That looks like a fine read."

As such, I'm pleased to have with me today Lincoln S. Farish, author of the upcoming dark fantasy:


He's here to whet our appetites a little for what looks to be a bloody fun read...emphasis on the bloody part. Check out the blurb below and tell me that doesn't make your mouth water just a little bit.

Brother Sebastian is halfway up a mountain in Vermont, hell-bent on interrogating an old woman in a shack, when he gets the order to abandon his quest for personal vengeance. He has to find a missing Inquisitor, or, more likely, his remains. He’s reluctant, to say the least. 

Not only will he have to stop chasing the best potential lead he’s had in years, this job—his first solo mission—will mean setting foot in the grubby black hole of Providence, Rhode Island. And, somehow, it only gets worse…

If he’d known he would end up ass deep in witches, werewolves, and ogres, and that this mission would jeopardize not only his sanity but also his immortal soul, he never would’ve answered the damn phone.

Q&A with Lincoln S. Farish

When did you start writing?

On this series I started about ten years ago. I'm not sure if I will ever use it, it is a kind of Origins story. But once I wrote it I was kinda hooked, I realized there were many many more stories about Sebastian that needed to get out. I wasn't in a hurry, and I took my time, hence the slow pace. Since then I am almost finished with my fourth novel in the series.  It's funny I wrote my first book long before I'd ever heard of any of the other authors that write along similar lines. The first time I read Larry Correia,  Junior Inquisitor was with my editor. I wish I'd read him earlier, his creation of a useful silver bullet is better than mine.

Why dark urban fiction?

I was really stuck trying to shoe-horn in my story into a genre, because it just didn't quite fit. I'm not trying to scare anyone, act as a warning to the populace at large on the dangers of Cthulhu, or teach a moral lesson like horror usually does. At the same time if you have a group of people who have powers that can and usually do harm regular people, your story is not going to be a happy one. Bad things will occur, people will die, and mayhem will run rampant. It's not dystopic, for most people magic never enters their lives and they go about quite happily unaware it actually exists. Those that do, however, experience all kinds of terrible events and traumas. Set more or less today that kinda makes it urban fiction, minus the romance. So dark urban fiction almost horror.

What research did you have to do?

Quite a bit on Providence, it's been a long time since I've been there. And lest anyone think I hate Providence, I do not. I just needed a decent sized town for creatures of madness and mayhem to run around in. I could have picked Worcester, New Bedford, even Hartford. I went with Providence. I also spent time learning about the different orders of monks, so that part of the story would be authentic. On weapons I had a lot less research to do since I've used weapons ever since high school and quite a bit through out my twenty-eight years in the military. I've been over to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, three times for the military, and spent about a year in Afghanistan working for a private security firm. Every bit of equipment the Inquisitors use I have experience with, the same with their tactics, which made it easy to describe but boring to read. Most of the time when there is a fight people focus on what is right in-front of them. To give a story any kind of continuity and avoid “Well  if you remember Bob,” or “Tell me again what happened when the Ogre attacked,” dialogue I had to expand Brother Sebastian's peripheral awareness. At the same time I didn't want to descend into omnipotence, so it was a balancing act.

So tell us a little about the magicians in your world  All evil S.O.B.s or any heroes like, say, the Harrys (Dresden or Potter)?

Those are differently worlds with different rules. Jim Butcher has within his series, The White Council and the Laws of Magic to reign in true evil. That kinda sorta works for Harry Dresden, but that does leave a lot of room for abuse as Harry's mother pointed out. If you notice in Harry Potter, Arthur Weasly, as nice as he is written, makes remarks about how clever Muggles are for inventing things like electricity and phones because they don't have magic. Like they're an occasionally bright child, there is a kind bigotry of low expectations. This is shown pretty clearly when the Minister of Magic visits the Prime Minister, and of course how Dolores Umbridge acts towards non-humans. There is some real nastiness in the margins of Harry Potter's world, and I think the stories are better for it. The other difference is in both of those worlds, one is born into magic or not, and they grow into their power, no one reads a strange book and has magic unleashed upon them as in my world.

I took, I think, a harder, and more realistic approach as to what would happen if there was magic. It's power. People rarely handle power well, especially if they get it suddenly. A decent comparison is when people win the lottery. They tend to go a bit crazy with all of the new possibilities open to them now they are a millionaire.

Imagine you had the power, magically, and from across the room, to slap someone who was rude, maybe they're yammering away on their cell-phone in public, perhaps they're driving like a jerk, maybe talking during the movie, cutting in line, whatever. Now if you could do that, and no one would know that it was you doing the slapping, and there was no way you'd be punished by the law for doing so, would you be tempted?

Even if you never slapped anyone, but knew you could, how would your attitude change towards regular people? Would you start to hold them in contempt, just a little, because you had abilities they did not? How would your attitude change towards following the law knowing you were above it?

Now toss in some evil entities encouraging you to do more than just slap around people who get in your way and you have a real monster being created.

Some heavy stuff there. So where do you go from this book?

The Soulless Monk, the next in the series is with my exceptional editor Danielle Fine and I am finishing up The Witch's Lair now. With luck that will happen in the next week or so.

When are they coming out?

Not sure. Should be later this year, but I'm sure The Soulless Monk will be out by fall, if not sooner, but there are lots of factors like re-write time, outside influences like the wife and helper dog and their willingness to put up with my antics that will have an impact on timing. A big one is, obviously, how many copies and how quickly they are sold of Junior Inquisitor. From those sales I'll be paying my editor, to work on the other two. I'm hoping to sell a lot as she gets real cranky when it comes to her money, and she does such a good job it feels wrong to try and pay her in kindness and with my good looks.

I know how that is.  :)

Please join me in thanking Lincoln for introducing us to his dark twisted world!  Junior Inquisitor comes out on March 1st 2015 and is currently available for pre-order at:


Check it out!

About Lincoln S. Farish:

Called an adventurer and quite possibly insane, Lincoln has traveled to many continents and countries on his own and at his country’s behest to determine from whence the darkness comes. Despite persistent rumors, Lincoln maintains that he had nothing to do with the tiger, was not involved in illicit wiener dog races, and has never used his knowledge of genetics to create a better life form. He lives in Virginia with a very patient wife, a Godzilla level engine of destruction named Veronica, and a helper dog named Calvin.


Jan 6, 2015

HALF A PRAYER (The Tome of Bill, part 6) is here

Getting there is indeed half the fun, but it can likewise be tiring as all hell. Regardless, I am pleased to announce the release of

HALF A PRAYER (The Tome of Bill, part 6).

When last we left Bill Ryder and his friends, their lives had gotten a wee bit more difficult. Sadly, that was just the tip of the iceberg.  The world is hanging on the brink of annihilation and a few folks are ever so ticked at Bill for his role in things.

But enough of my yammering.  See for yourself in the below teaser...

"Are those..."

"Yep," I replied to Ed's unfinished question.

"Are we..."

"Fucked beyond all possible measure of the fuckery scale? I'd say so."

The crowd began to murmur amongst itself, no doubt commenting on our obvious discomfort. I couldn't bring myself to turn my head away from the Draculas, but I picked up bits and pieces of it anyway thanks to my superb vampire hearing.

"See how guilty they look?"


"Five bars of gold says they kill the abomination first."

"They should strip the blonde one. She is one fine slice of gorvu."

I was tempted to scan the crowd for the owner of that last one. There's always gotta be at least one perv among the bunch. Asshole. That was my job.

Before I could turn my head away, though, Alex's mismatched eyes met mine. I expected to find fury radiating from them, enough to scorch me where I stood. Instead, he grinned and inclined his head ever so slightly. That motherfucker was one seriously weird dude.

I tore my gaze away and looked over the rest of the bunch. Each of them was dressed in regal finery, obviously befitting their station, but wearing fashions and colors which I assumed to be of their own respective preference. To Alex's immediate left and right sat Theodora and Yehoshua, respectively. I recognized them, and not just because Thea was probably the hottie the wicked stepmother in every fairytale was modeled after.

They'd been the ones who ultimately had let me go back in Europe, confiding in me that they weren't all that pleased with either Alexander's rule or his plans for decimating the world. Yehoshua wore a neutral expression. He might as well have been sitting down to watch a particularly dull game of golf. Theodora was far less collected. The look on her face was one of utter loathing. At first, I thought it might have been toward the crowd in general, but every so often, her eyes would flicker in Alex's direction.

With the exception of James, the rest of the Dracs were all new to me. I counted three other women amongst their number and six men, all of various lineages. Interestingly enough, none of them seemed to fit any stereotypes of what I might have imagined a vampire ruling counsel to be. There were no obvious Mayan high priests, Spanish conquistadors, or Roman consuls sitting there, looking like they'd stepped out of a time warp. Hell, most of them looked like you could pass them on the street without giving a second glance.

I wasn't fooled, however. Each and every one of them possessed several times the power needed to pulverize a vampire newb like me into a puddle of Bill-flavored goo.

For all I knew, the only one who lacked the inclination to do so was James and he was...what the fuck?

He sat at the last chair to Alex's right, dressed as regally as the others, but there was something very much off about him. Normally, James was bright-eyed and very full of life for a man who was over six hundred years in age. It wasn't unusual to find a wry grin upon his face. Not so today. The best I could say was he looked haunted. Sadly, I couldn't glean any further insight as he refused to look my way.

"What happened to his arm?" Sally whispered under her breath. She was just barely audible to me, but I didn't fool myself into believing that some of the others present hadn't picked it up too.

Regardless, I had no answer for her. His left hand rested upon his knee, but the right sleeve of his suit jacket was pinned to his side. It was the same arm he'd lost in battle to Vehron. That made no sense, though. It had already started growing back when last we'd seen him. It should have been fully regrown by the time he'd reached whatever destination Colin had spirited him off to after the fight.

Whatever was going on, it wasn't good. James was typically our lifeline; a guy strong, smart, and influential enough to pull our asses out of whatever shithole we'd gotten ourselves stuck in. Things seemed to be different now. For all of his rank, he had the look of low man on the totem pole with this bunch. What the fuck had happened since he'd left us?

Sadly, I got the feeling we wouldn't get an answer to that anytime soon. One of the vampires guarding the inner circle in which we stood turned and stepped toward the Draculas. Judging from the way he carried himself and the crispness of his dress, it wasn't hard to guess he had some position of authority here - maybe a vampire general or something.

Words were exchanged, but thanks to the continued yammering of the crowd, they were lost upon me. The only thing I got out of it was the guard asking what sounded like a question.

Alex gave a single shake of his head, then inclined his gaze toward another door leading out. Who knows? Maybe he was having second thoughts and was gonna let us go.

Never let it be said I'm not an optimist at heart.

I hope that whets your appetite a bit. If so Half-a-Prayer is currently available for:

Google Play
Coming soon to Paperback and Audio.