Look inside the book–and close the cover

The other day I was searching on Amazon for a good book to read. I like zombie fiction, and that’s the specific genre I zeroed in on on  this particular day. I found one that looked interesting. Nifty, though a bit crude, cover. Good reviews. An editor listed in the description.

Because I didn’t know the writer’s other work, I followed my usual procedure and clicked “look inside.” I was a bit annoyed by the way the e-book was laid out – reviews, copyright information, table of contents, and so on all at the front, thus cutting down on the amount of actual book text I’d be able to read in my “look inside.”

Then I got down to the text.

I found a grammatical error in the second sentence. I found weak writing (to put it kindly) in the second paragraph, followed by several more examples of poor grammar, bad punctuation, and weak writing in the two or three pages I slogged through.

Did I pick up this book? No. No, I didn’t. Not even at the low-low-low price of free was this book worth it. The story sounded interesting. The writing turned me right off.

Now I have to add that a perfectly grammatical story peopled with cardboard characters and weighted down with a blah or confusing plot will also turn me off. I just can’t detect those flaws in the first two or three pages of the book.

Do you need an editor? Yes. Do you need an editor who’s not afraid to tell you what’s wrong? Also yes. Do you need an editor who knows his/her stuff? So much yes.  Sometimes an editor has to be the Bad Guy and tell her client that a section isn’t working, that a word doesn’t mean what the client thinks it does, that the client is relying on the same word or phrase too much. When we do that, it’s not because enjoy crushing a client’s creativity or voice. It’s because that’s what the client is paying us for: finding those errors before they turn off the readers.

All that said, it’s also true that a lot of readers don’t know the nuances of grammar. That doesn’t mean they won’t know when the meaning of a sentence is unclear. They might not know why they’re uncomfortable, but they’ll know they are. After all, a person doesn’t have to understand music theory or be able to read music to know when someone’s singing off-key.

Indie writers have to be especially careful, I think. Readers are, unfortunately, a lot harder on indie writers than those published by Big New York Publishers. It’s like that old saying, “You have to be twice as good to get half the respect.” Is it fair? No. Will this perception change? Probably. Does that probable change matter now? Nope.


photo credit: gregparis at




Mary Ann here: I’m turning over my blog to the amazing Leigh M. Lane today so she can tell you a little bit about her new novella, “Jane the Hippie Vampire: Love Beads.” I will be reviewing this book in a few days, too. Spoiler alert: I am enjoying it a lot. 🙂 Without any more yattering from me, here’s Leigh:

Jane the Hippie Vampire: Love Beads

Jane the Hippie Vampire: Love Beads


Why a Hippie Vampire?

It came to me one day, name and all, while I was brainstorming for a completely unrelated book, and immediately I shifted gears to explore the idea. What captured me was the juxtaposition of theme and composition. When people think “vampire,” usually the first images to come to mind are black-clothed, gothic icons; compare that to the imagery that comes with “hippie”: colorful, carefree, let-the-sun-shine-in, free-lovin’ burnouts. Stereotypes (as accurate or inaccurate as some may be) aside, Jane’s character came together surprisingly quickly, and I fell in love with her tortured yet quirky nature as soon as she hit the page.

Jane is the iconic flower child. She’s spirited, generous, and lives in the moment. Unfortunately for her, “the moment” has become one long trek spent seeking out a glimmer of light in a world of darkness. Still, she sees the good in people and does her best to be good to those around her—unless, of course, she’s got munchies of vampiric proportions.

Jane is a slight shift from my typical writing. I guess you could say her personality ended up shining through on multiple levels. She’s got a dry sense of humor, but she’s also tormented by her dark past. She believes in karma, and that point of justice drives her stories. She wants to do right by humanity, but trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes. She doesn’t let that get her down though; for Jane, life is an adventure, and I can’t wait to share more of her journey with you.


About Love Beads:

She’s broke and homeless. She’s a vegan. She’s undead.

Jane has had one hell of a time ever since she bumped into the wrong guy during the Summer of Love, but she’s taken it all in stride. Wandering from town to town, she seeks out the needy and the broken in hopes of breaking the curse that’s left her bloodthirsty and forever seventeen.

In Love Beads, Jane crosses paths with a middle-aged man who’s encountered her kind before—but he seems happy just to have the company. Of course, appearances can be deceiving, and his secret might just prove to be the end of her.

Love Beads is the first novella in the Jane the Hippie Vampire series.


THE LATE AFTERNOON SUN negated any relief the light breeze might have offered, and the mottled shadow cast by the massive oak tree stretching overhead wasn’t much more helpful. Jane slumped on a park bench, dozing on and off, a wide-brimmed hat and boxy sunglasses obscuring her face. Her backpack sat beside her, one arm threaded through the shoulder straps to deter potential thieves, and she crossed her legs at the ankles. She wore a ragged pair of blue jeans and a Doobie Brothers tee shirt so old the applique had cracked and faded beyond recognition. Her bare feet were calloused and in desperate need of a good scrub.

She’d find a decent place to crash soon. There was at least one Good Samaritan in every town, and they were usually easy enough to spot. Patience was the key. That—and a practical sense of when the local heat had decided she’d overstayed her welcome. Hanging around anywhere long enough to be recognized was a bad thing. Recognition led to suspicion, which led to a slippery slope that began with harassment and ended with the gas chamber. She’d seen it happen before, and it was a pretty hellish fate for those on the difficult side of killing. There was no respectable place left in this world for vampires, not at least that she’d found, and it was not at all hospitable to a burned-out flower child who couldn’t seem to pull her head out of the sixties.

A handful of adolescents infiltrated the park, putting an end to the peaceful quiet she’d been fortunate enough to have enjoyed for the last couple of hours. The disruption had been inevitable, and she took it in stride despite her exhaustion. She sat upright, watched the kids play flag football for a few minutes, and then donned her backpack and made her way to the sidewalk. It was a sunny day, not at all comfortable, and the heat instilled an aching desire to curl up on the side of the street and slip quietly into a coma. Such extended exposure would undoubtedly do just that—before it reduced her hide to burnt leather—so she moved as quickly as her sluggish legs would take her to the shady overhangs of the buildings across the street.

The town she’d found herself in was small and quaint, with boutiques and small shops packed within a tiny radius. The smell of fried food permeated from a nearby greasy spoon. She considered going in, but she only had a few bucks and some change on her. Moreover, a diner was far from ideal for mingling with the locals. Mingling was the objective; luxuries like food—“people food”—were secondary.

Not like food wasn’t a necessity in its own right, just like water and doobage. A girl could only go so long without her doobage. Life was mundane enough as it was. A little variety, beyond blood type, was all that stood between her and insanity.

About the author:

Leigh M. Lane has been writing for over twenty years. She has ten published novels and twelve published short stories divided among different genre-specific pseudonyms. She is married to editor Thomas B. Lane, Jr. and currently resides in the hot and dusty outskirts of Sin City. Her traditional Gothic horror novel, Finding Poe, was a finalist in the 2013 EPIC Awards in horror.

Her other novels include World-Mart—a tribute to Orwell, Serling, and Vonnegut—and the dark allegorical tale, Myths of Gods.

For more information about Leigh M. Lane and her writing, visit her website at

Love Beads is available on Kindle for .99:


Leigh M. Lane

Leigh M. Lane

A review of “Bob The Sequel (Bob The Zombie)” by Jaime Johnesee

This book is short – possibly a bit too short – and a boatload of fun.

If you haven’t read “Bob The Zombie,” you should. It’s not necessary to enjoy the sequel, but it’s certainly helpful. And fun.

Bob is a hapless young man who died in a tragic rose-trimming accident, was raised to zombie-hood by his grieving mother, who then couldn’t handle his actual zombie condition.

In the sequel, Bob has adjusted fairly well to his condition, and he’s found a horde (read: family and friends) to live with. We meet one of them, Face, and get to know him pretty well.

The plot (which, in keeping with my habit, I’ll not go into deeply) involves terrorists, double-crosses, supernatural politics, and intra-species relations.

Humour abounds. This book made me laugh out loud a half-dozen times and smile throughout.

Being the obsessive editor-type that I am, I cannot avoid remarking that there are a few (very few) rough patches. A couple of missing words. The occasional comma splice. The word “site” used when “sight” was intended. Did that dim my enjoyment? Nope.

One thing I would say is that the conclusion of the major plotline was a little . . . sketchy, maybe. I wanted a little more development of the big plot twist at the end.

I recommend this novella. Jaime Johnesee is a writer to keep your eye on.

Jaime has written three books so far in the Bob series:

Bob The Zombie

Bob The Sequel

Bob The Valentine

New Anthology!

The Alexandria Publishing Group Winter Anthology 2013 is now available. This anthology contains some very different sorts of stories, not your typical “Christmasy” collection, for sure.

One of the stories, I must confess, is particularly close to my own heart because I wrote it. Smile

If you like dark, fantastical, touching, and funny stories, you will find at least one or two in this anthology to your taste.

At only $2.99, it’s a bargain.


Alexandria Publishing Group Winter Anthology 2013


All right. Let’s say, just for argument, that Polly Prolific has written a novel. She thinks it’s a marvelous piece of literature, for sure. Now Polly could send out a query letter—or seventy-three queries—and contact agents and publishers, or she could go indie and self-publish.

This being today and not, say, 2006, Polly decides to go the indie route. She works up a cover, maybe hires a freelance editor, formats her book, and publishes on Kindle. So far so good.

Then she starts the marketing and promotions. She arm-twists her mother and sister-in-law into downloading a copy. She persuades her preacher’s wife and her next-door neighbour.

Finally she picks up a few reviews on Amazon. Five stars (and she’s thrilled!), four stars (and she’s happy), three stars (and, instead of being pleased, she’s annoyed but can’t quite figure out why). And then, of course, it happens. The blasting, flaming, scorching, “I hated this book and everything about it right down to the punctuation!” review.

Now, how is Polly going to react?

Every writer gets those reviews, even the greatest.

Lately, I’ve seen a few writers, mostly indies, administering a smackdown to those whom they feel have “wronged” them in their reviews. Right there in the comments.  Telling the reviewers that their opinions weren’t valid, that the points they made were wrong, that – in the words of one I’m thinking of now, “giving this book a two-star rating is just wrong!” Well . . . I have a bit of a problem with that. The review is that person’s opinion. See that word: OPINION. It’s not gospel. It’s not going to ruin your book if someone doesn’t like it.

I know, you put hours—weeks—even years into writing this book. But calling out reviewers who don’t happen to care for it isn’t mature, isn’t wise, and in the long run isn’t going to win you any fans.

Grit your teeth. Take a deep breath. Ignore the living daylights out of a bad review.

Unless, of course, the reviewer has bothered to mention something you might need to take note of. When I write a less-than-happy review, I always give my reasons: bad grammar, shifting point-of-view, errors in punctuation. These things need to be fixed, not fumed over.

Sometimes a bad review can actually intrigue a reader anyway. I have picked up a couple of non-fiction books precisely because a reviewer went off on such a clearly biased rant that I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

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