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My Take On . . . Reader Reviews (with some feistiness)

Modern Art

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to make this short and to the point. Reader reviews are what they are. Writing is art and reading is subjective. That whole beauty in the eye of the beholder thing. That’s what is wonderful about it. There’s something for everyone.

Yes, there are certain rules writers should follow that make for “good” writing but even those rules can be broken and broken with success.

But as for the reviews themselves, I put reviews into four categories: Positive about the story; Positive about the craft; Negative about the craft; Negative about nonsense.

I’m not going to dwell on the positive reviews because everyone enjoys positive reviews. For some readers the story captures their imagination or heart and they just love it. For others, the skill of the author impresses them. Positive reviews are awesome. Simple.

Negative reviews are another kind of bird. There are the negative reviews that actually mean something. They touch on the craft of storytelling or the skill of  word weaving. Pacing, character development, plotting, etc. This is called constructive criticism. I take these reviews to heart and seek to learn something from them.

Then there are the moronic reviews. Like this one for my family drama, A Thousand Sleepless Nights (written under a pen name, Michael King): The reviewer gave it 2 stars because “I ordered this book because my brother was recently diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I thought this would be a resource book.” Really? It clearly says “A Novel” right on the cover. My heart goes out to the brother and . . . he could still use it as a resource book.

And then there are comments like this attached to 1-star reviews: “Gives you the impression it’s going to be a horror novel, and ends up pounding religion into the reader.” And this: “This book is all about finding God, how your problems will all be solved and all will be right with the world. What a crock. If I want to find religion, I can do it without being tricked into reading a religious book. Shame.” Uh, did they read the book? Yes, it’s about finding God but all is definitely not right with the world. And these are the folks who accuse Christians of being closed-minded. Shame.

These moronic reviews really don’t bother me. They’re part of being a writer and you take ’em as part of the journey.

But sometimes negative reviews hurt. This one for Frantic still puts an ache in my heart. It’s honest and respectful and I appreciate that. I wrote a post on it before that discusses why it hurt so badly.

Other times I’m just baffled by positive vs. negative reviews. The two following reviews exemplify perfectly how subjective reading is. Both are for my short story The Last Hunt.

The positive one: From the first line of the story, Dellosso’s craftsmanship shows through. The story begins with boyhood memories of hunting trips with his dad, his uncle, and his grandfather. The tale includes anecdotes of how the narrator grew up on these hunting trips and approached manhood. Then the story delves into the fateful night and the hunting trip that was the final one. The story is narrated at just the right pace. It is a masterpiece.

And the negative one: I really enjoy Mr. Dellosso’s books, so I thought I would try this short story. It was very disappointing and definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it. The story was rushed and the conclusion just left me confused. Questions were not answered and storylines weren’t finished. I think this would make a good full-length book so that more things could be fleshed out. As a short story, however, it fell way short of the mark.

Did they read the same story? Obviously they did. But you see how the same story can affect people in two totally different ways. For a writer, this is frustrating.

Now, the negative one here would fall into the “Negative about the craft” category and is worth learning from. Except one thing that, I’m sorry, just irks me: “definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it.” I wish this reviewer would have used his real name because I’d gladly track him down and refund his dollar. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Okay, that was a little more than short and sweet. Sorry.

FearlessCoverHey, if you haven’t read my newest thriller, Fearless, yet I’d suggest getting a copy and leaving a review when you’re done. And I’ll thank you ahead of time for any positive or thoughtful negative reviews. But please, if your review is going to be moronic, save your time and skip it. Or don’t use your real name.


A Thousand Sleepless Nights Nominated for an INSPY

ATSNcoverFound out yesterday that A Thousand Sleepless Nights was nominated for an INSPY award in the general fiction category. See what the other nominated books are. What a great collection of authors and stories! I’m honored. Truly.

Is Suffering a Privilege?

010 | Suffer

(Photo credit: The Doctr)

March is colon cancer awareness month so I’m going to be posting occasionally about cancer, occasionally about colon cancer, and occasionally about suffering. I’ll state a disclaimer now that most of what I post will be re-posts from last year on my Michael King blog. But since this blog gets so much more traffic than King’s blog I figure it can’t hurt to post again. Besides, I need to read this stuff more than once . . . just to remember.

I have a friend who suffers from a malady that affects him every day, several times a day and sometimes totally incapacitates him, leaving him unable to move or even speak. And yet in spite of this thorn he presses on and serves God wherever he can, sometimes to the point of near total exhaustion.

He told me, “Jesus did so much for me, following his call is the least I can do for him.”

Our conversation led us to the topic of suffering and trials and what it all means, what the “point” of it all is. We talked about the thorn in the flesh that Paul wrestled with and how those thorns drive us closer to God, relying on Him for strength when we have nothing.

“When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Not in our own strength, but in His strength.

Suffering pushes us into God’s arms, the point of total reliance on Him.

My friend, who’s thorn affects every aspect of his life, then said, “You know, if I could do life all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Sounds strange, I know. But there’s a blessing in suffering, a certain privilege that goes with travelling that valley of the shadow of death. Those who hurt–the wounded, the afflicted–get to experience God in a way others never do. They see a side of their Father that is reserved for those who share in Christ’s suffering. They feel the tenderness of Daddy, His arms around them, His breath in their ears. It’s an experience that far outweighs the pain of the trial.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

I’ve often said that people have one of two reactions to suffering: either they turn from God and want nothing to do with Him, or they run to Him and fall into his open arms.

When suffering strikes, when trials push themselves into your life, run to your Father, rely totally on Him, abide in His presence.

There’s blessing to be found there.


A family torn apart by neglect and hurt…
And brought together again by a most unlikely force  

In the 1970s, escaping a home where he knew nothing but violence and hate, Jim Harding found work, and love, on the largest horse ranch in Virginia. The object of his affections, Nena St. Claire, is the daughter of the owner—a man who ruled his ranch with an iron fist and would do whatever it took to keep Nena and Jim apart.

Against the wishes of her family, Nena marries Jim, and after her father dies, she sacrifices everything—including her family—to keep the ranch alive. Now their three grown children have lives of their own and want nothing to do with Nena. She was never the mother they needed.

When cancer strikes and Nena is given a devastating diagnosis, can Jim reconcile the family before it is too late?  

Purchase the book during the week of October 15-20 and receive free stuff!!  

Details: Purchase your copy of A Thousand Sleepless Nights from any vendor during the week of Oct. 15-20 and email me (as Michael King) at  saying you did so. PLEASE put “free stuff” in the subject line and where you got the book in the message box. In return you’ll receive a link and password to a secret page containing free downloads. No need to provide proof of purchase; we’re going by the honor system here.

Offer only lasts until October 20!


Mirror Image: A short story I co-wrote with Aaron Reed. Aaron, a pastor, won the “Write a Short Story With Me” contest I held over the summer. This is the first time the story has been made public. Written in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho-thrillers, Mirror Image is about a man who discovers he has a double who has a much more exciting life than his. Believing he deserves the life his double is living, he plots to switch places. But reality isn’t always what it appears to be and what Dennis finds isn’t exactly what he expected.

A collection of 5 short essays I wrote including:
“The 3 Things That Matter the Most”
“Benefits of Being an Alien”
“Things I’ve Learned from Those Who Have Suffered”
“The Virtues of an Irritant”
“5 Things Suffering Reminds Us Of”

An 84-page journal of some of my most personal thoughts and devotionals written while in the midst of that valley that is cancer.

***Charisma House Book Group and Michael King (a colon cancer survivor) are donating a portion of the proceeds of this book to the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) and their vision for a world free of colon cancer. The CCA is the nation’s leading colon cancer advocacy organization and is a community that provides hope and support to patients and their families while saving lives through screening, access, awareness, advocacy and research.   Read Michael’s story on the CCA website . . .

Don’t Buy My Book!!

Not yet, anyway. A Thousand Sleepless Nights, my newest novel under my new pen name, Michael King, is available for order from all the major online booksellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book) but please don’t purchase it yet. The book officially releases October 16th and I’m asking folks to please wait until that week to buy the book, whether from an online retailer or a brick and mortar store. We want to concentrate the sales into one week and see if we can bump up the sales rankings.

Now, comes the benefit to you for waiting.

If you buy the book during the week of October 15-20 and email me saying you did so I’ll give you access to a page containing a bunch of free downloads. I’m going on the honor system here, no proof needed . . . I trust you!


Mirror Image: A short story I co-wrote as Mike Dellosso with Aaron Reed. Aaron, a pastor, won the “Write a Short Story With Me” contest I held over the summer. This is the first time the story has been made public. Written in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho-thrillers, Mirror Image is about a man who discovers he has a double who has a much more exciting life than his. Believing he deserves the life his double is living, he plots to switch places. But reality isn’t always what it appears to be and what Dennis finds isn’t exactly what he expected.

A collection of 5 short essays I wrote as Michel King including:
“The 3 Things That Matter the Most”
“Benefits of Being an Alien”
“Things I’ve Learned from Those Who Have Suffered”
“The Virtues of an Irritant”
“5 Things Suffering Reminds Us Of”

An 84-page journal of some of my most personal thoughts and devotionals written while in the midst of that valley that is cancer.

And just to note: A portion of the proceeds of every book sold in 2012 is being donated to the Colon Cancer Alliance to support their mission of wiping colon cancer off the face of the earth.

Please  help spread the word about this effort by Tweeting, Facebooking, standing on street corners, or whatever. Thank you!

Are you in?

In Need of a Recess

Sometimes in life you need to come apart, lest you come apart. I wrote a few weeks ago about being in the middle of a writer’s perfect storm: editing one book, writing another on deadline, preparing to promote yet another one. Now, as if I didn’t have enough to consume my brain, I recently started a new position at work, one that brings with it much more responsibility and a huge learning curve.

In short, I’m feeling a little stressed and need to take some time off.

My novel, A Thousand Sleepless Nights, (written under my new pen name, Michael King) releases October 16. The book is available for pre-order at most online retailers but PLEASE DON’T BUY IT YET. I’m asking readers to wait until the week of October 15 to purchase the book. And if you wait, there will be something in it for you. Free stuff. Everyone likes free stuff, right?

When time gets closer I’ll give more details, but for now, please wait to purchase the book. It will be worth your while.

How I Write: Characters, Part 3

character arc

(Photo credit: mrmayo)

People change over time. They do. Whether they want to or not. Things happen in our life that cause us to look inward and re-evaluate our motives, our passions, they force us to see our own weaknesses or develop our strengths. Circumstances shape us, sometimes even define us.

The point is, no one stays the same. We are constantly changing, evolving. We are works in progress.

And nothing accelerates change like a traumatic event or life-altering ordeal.

Case in point. Four years ago I battled colon cancer. I can assure you I am not the same person today as I was when it began. It was quite the journey and challenged me on many different levels. All of this caused CHANGE. And I think change for the better. For me, cancer was a blessing in disguise.

In fiction, our characters should be no different. They should face a traumatic or life-altering event and they should CHANGE. Some call it a character arc, I call it reality.

If you want your characters to come off as real people (which you do, yes, you do) then you must give them flaws, give them an ordeal to face that shines the spotlight on those flaws, then give them a means and a will to not only face those flaws but to conquer them and come out changed people on the other side.

Here’s a quick example from my upcoming novel, A Thousand Sleepless Nights, published under my pseudonym, Michael King (releasing October 16). When Nena Hutching was a young mother she was so absorbed in the family horse farm that she totally neglected her kids. Now they’re grown and want nothing to do with her. She doesn’t blame them but neither does she seek to do anything about it. She figures they’re too busy for her. Then she gets cancer. This incident causes her to do some real soul-searching, some reminiscing, some accounting. Over time she realizes what a lousy mother she was and regrets her neglect. When death is just around the corner she wants to see her kids, make amends. Will they come home? Can reconciliation happen? Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out but I promise you, Nena changes. Everyone changes.

Here’s the bottom line, stories are based on CONFLICT. No conflict, no story. And conflict (internal, external, or preferably both) needs to cause CHANGE, an evolving of the character. Move him or her from point A to point B (or C or D or whatever, but MOVE them).

What was an incident in your life that changed you? For better or worse?

How I Write: Characters, Part 2


(Photo credit: rexquisite)

Characters rule. I said that in my last post, I’ve taught it at conferences, I’ve spoken it in my sleep, I’ve screamed it from the top of Mt. Everest. Well, okay, I’ve never climbed Everest, but metaphorically speaking . . .

Here’s a simple truth: If you can get the reader engaged with the characters, seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, feeling what they feel, then you can throw anything at them and they’ll buy it. Hook. Line. Sinker.

Readers want to not only read a story but experience it and the way they experience it is vicariously through the characters. In fact, they want to forget it’s a story; they want to believe it’s real, that it’s really happening to real people and they get this peeping Tom’s view of the whole thing.

One of the primary ways to create realistic, jump-off-the-page characters is through emotion. Give your characters lots of emotion. Give them tough things to deal with both externally and internally. Give them flaws to battle. Let them hurt and fear and cry out in frustration.

Here’s another truth: We are emotional beings. No one goes through any given day with a blank emotional slate. We’re happy, we’re sad, we’re frustrated, scared, anxious, angry, excited. Some of us show emotions more than others but we all feel them constantly throughout the day. Show your readers the emotions your characters feel (notice I said SHOW?).

So how do you do this? It helps to talk to people, really talk to them on a deeper level than, “So how’s your day been?” Get to know them, what they’re struggling with, how they’re dealing with it all. But the most important emotional bank to draw from is your own. You’ve no doubt experienced every emotion your character is experiencing. Maybe not on the same level, maybe not because of the same inciting incidents, but the raw emotion is the same. Spend time doing some self-assessment and get in touch with that part of you that wrestles with those emotions or basks in the glory of them. Feel them all over again then draw on that for authenticity.

Ask yourself . . . What did I feel at that moment? What physical response did I have? What thoughts went through my head? What kind of mood did it put me in? Did I then take it out on others? These are all ways you’ll show your reader the characters’ emotions, their ups and downs, their struggles and triumphs.

In my next novel to be released, A Thousand Sleepless Nights (October 16), I draw heavily from my own experience with cancer and the emotional roller coaster ride it was. I also draw from my wife’s emotional experience as a caregiver.

I’ve been blogging my cancer story over at my pseudonym’s site, Check it out and see what I mean by getting in touch with those emotions you’ve felt.

Do you incorporate emotions in your own writing? Where do go for that emotional inspiration?

Yes, I Finally Caved in and Joined

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

First it was Facebook. I swore I’d never use it. I even used to mock my wife for using it (shame on me!). But eventually I saw the benefit of it or caved under the social pressure to use it and got myself a genuine Facebook page. A little later a fan page came along. Then a page for my other self, Michael King, then a fan page for him. Now, I manage four Facebook pages.

Then it was Twitter. Again, I scoffed, I smirked. What kind of guy “tweets”? Who wants to read that I had turkey and cheese for lunch? I didn’t understand the power of the tweet. Until I caved and got an account. Actually, two accounts now, one for Mike Dellosso, one for Michael King. I was slow getting started and still don’t use it the way I should or as often as I should, but I’m getting there.

And now, it has truly happened. Again, I swore it wouldn’t. Scorned my wife when she spends time on it (but she has gotten some amazing recipes from it). Laughed, mocked, saw no benefit in it at all. Until I read an article that said it was the third largest social media site in the world behind Facebook and Twitter. Yes, you guessed it, I caved and joined Pinterest (as Michael King). Now, mind you, this all just happened last night so I don’t have much pinned but please take a moment to follow me if you are also on Pinterest. And if you have any neat little secrets for using the site I’m all ears.

So there you have it, the trifecta of social media sites. I believe that will be it for now, enough to keep up with . . . until someone comes up with “the next big thing.”

What’s your favorite social media outlet? Which one do you most benefit from? Most enjoy?

An Author’s Perfect Storm

Image of Hurricane Grace of the 1991 Atlantic ...

Image of Hurricane Grace of the 1991 Atlantic hurricane season on October 27, 1991. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve seen the movie “The Perfect Storm” or read the book with the same title by Sebastian Junger you know the story surrounding the swordfish boat, the Andrea Gail. On October 28, 1991 two storm fronts converged with Hurricane Grace in the Atlantic Ocean to form a monster of a storm. The Andrea Gail was caught in the middle of it and all six hands on board perished.

For authors, this convergence of storms happens occasionally as well. I call it the author’s perfect storm and it looks something like this: promoting an upcoming or just released book, editing another book, writing yet another book on deadline.

I’m in the middle of it now and feeling the effects. Here are the components:

  1. I’m gearing up the promotions and planning for the October 16 release of my first Michael King novel, A Thousand Sleepless Nights.
  2. I’m in the middle of editing my next thriller, Fearless (releases Feb, 2013). First round of edits are due October 1, final edits are due November 1.
  3. I’m writing my next Michael King story, A Million Miles From Home, due October 1.

As you can see, there’s a lot of overlap there. So how do I handle something like this? I do what I can. Right now I’ve set the writing of A Million Miles From Home aside to focus on the edits of Fearless but I’m continuing to plan for the release of A Thousand Sleepless Nights.

I’m just hoping I don’t capsize in the middle of this.

What does your perfect storm of life look like? Are you in the middle of a convergence of major events?

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