Authors Writing Customer Reviews on Books

Amazon’s customer review policies are about as clear as a frosted-over windshield, and in light of several scandals, the question of “what constitutes an acceptable review?” has come forward. I am writing this as my interpretation on some of the more ambiguous points on the review policy. Debate and discussion are welcome. If there is an area where I got it wrong, please let me know (with sources).

Authors reviewing other authors:

Taken literally, authors would not be allowed to write negative reviews on any books because all other books, in terms of marketing, are competing products. However, in its FAQ section, Amazon explicitly says that authors are allowed to write reviews on other books, as long as they do not have a personal relationship with the author or were not involved in the creation of the book:

The latter is self-explanatory, but in the former, where are the lines drawn? Obviously, my brother can’t write a review for me, but what about my second cousin’s next-door-neighbor? How exactly does Amazon define a close relationship? Since my guess is as good as anyone else’s, I’ll give my opinion on who can and can’t give an author a review (Notice the word “opinion.” This should not be taken as any type of legal or professional advice).

1. First, the obvious no-no’s: the author him- or herself, a member of the author’s immediate family, or anyone who might have any type of financial benefit from the sale or creation of the book.

2. Friends: this is an area where it may get a little sticky. Once, I read where an author had a review removed because “your account activity indicates that you know this person.” (This to me smacks of Big Brother. Plus, I’m a little interested to know how Amazon can tell from a person’s account activity that they know a person, unless they themselves said it in the the comments section (“Hey, thanks for the review. Wanna meet at Bob’s Bar for drinks later?”). I guess in theory if you’ve ever sent something (such as a gift card) to the reviewer’s email, that would indicate a possible relationship, but to me, this doesn’t seem like sufficient evidence of a close relationship. A lot of authors have emal lists of readers). For this purpose, I’m using the operative word “close.” So, who can write review for me?

a. My best friend in the world?- No. Although I can’t imagine how Amazon would know that, but I’d rather err on the side of ethical. Besides, I couldn’t put any of my friends in the position of choosing between lying to me or hurting my feelings. I would think this would be a good rule of thumb to follow: if you feel like you would have to lie to avoid hurting a person’s feelings, don’t review it.

b. An acquaintance, coworker, classmate, etc.?- Probably safe in terms of Amazon policy, but once again, I’d advise against it if relationships could potentially be damaged.

C. People you only know from social media-acceptable. For most indies, using social media (the correct way) may be the only affordable, feasible way of reaching readers. In fact, in Amazon’s marketing tips section, they advise you to use social media to promote your book. ( However, if you can’t handle negative criticism from people on the web, don’t use this method. Another caveat: be wary of “author support” or any other type of group that emphasizes “positivity.” This could be code for “only positive reviews are allowed.” If a group does not allow for constructive criticism or a chance to send the book back, leave. They are forcing  you to lie to maintain your membership (which is usually designed to benefit the “elite” of the group) In fact, leave any group if posting a critical review creates bad blood. Bottom line: if you ever feel pressured or intimidated to leave a positive review, back away. You should always feel free to be honest (I don’t approve of rude, nasty reviews, and when I see them, that reviewer’s credibility is shot in my eyes, but that’s just me).

3. People who are members of your author club (including a Facebook group)-of course. The thing to remember here is that you must allow unconditional reviews. You cannot, for example, tell your members “I’ll enter anyone who leaves a review in a contest into a drawing.” It’s also very important that you don’t make a positive review (or a review at all) a condition for continued membership, as this is inherently coercive and not a very good way to make or keep fans.

4. An author whose book I reviewed: there is a lot of debate over the so-called “review exchange” but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The right way: buy the book, read it cover-to-cover and give honest feedback. If you purchased a product with your own money, you have every right to review it like any other customer (unless you are a  family member or another clear conflict of interest is present). I don’t make a review of my book a condition of getting a review from me; I want people to read because they want to, not because they feel they have to. But if an author whose work I have previously reviewed WANTS to read and review my work (even if done simultaneously), I don’t see how there’s a problem or anyone else’s business (including Amazon’s). Can I work at Wal-mart but recommend Target? Sure I can. The key here is that both parties have to do so on their own accord and there has to be an understanding that the reviews will be honest and may be critical. Where it becomes problematic is when two authors make a prior agreement to only give each other positive reviews, with or without an actual reading. The key word here is “honest.” Any prior agreement for an automatic positive review is unethical.

5. A paid reviewer: the short answer is no. The long answer is absolutely not. There are places for paid reviews (such as the Kirkus) but they have no place among consumer reviews.

Now, whose book can I review? And how should I review? Obviously, the same terms apply to me as any other reviewer. Here’s what to avoid as a reviewer:

1. As previously mentioned, avoid any type of sweetheart deals. Don’t give someone a positive review just because they gave you one, unless the book truly merits it. Ask yourself: am I only doing this because I feel I have to? If yes, then don’t do it. You can always give feedback privately if you don’t feel comfortable leaving a low review.

2. The opposite is true: don’t give someone a low review just because they gave you one, unless you have truly read it and it’s really bad. Instead, see if they may have a point. If the review is truly spiteful (and it may happen when you have a personality difference with vindictive individuals), I personally will refuse to support them financially by purchasing their book or to waste my valuable time reading it. Ask yourself: am I doing this to get even? If the answer is yes, don’t.  And this applies to #1 and #2: never leave a review on a book you didn’t read. Which brings me to the next thing:

3. Don’t leave a low review if you are only doing it because you don’t like the author as a person. Admit it: you are only reading their books to pick it apart (if you are reading the book).That’s unprofessional and bad karma. In light of a certain incident that happened on Goodreads a few weeks back, many have now openly admitted that they consider it perfectly acceptable to leave a one-star on a book if they didn’t like the author as a person (whereas in the past the mantra was “it’s an attack on the book, not the author.”) ask yourself: am I doing this to teach this guy a lesson? If so, don’t.

4. Don’t leave a review if you are being compensated or coerced. In fact, report this person to the group admins. Bribery, threats, and intimidation are not acceptable ways to gain reviews.

5. Don’t promise someone a specific review. It’s ok to say, for example, that if you can’t give someone a four or higher, you will not review at all (my policy).

6. Don’t post a review written by someone else. Reviews should reflect YOUR thoughts and feelings on the book. There was even a ring ( who was busted) who were pre-writing different reviews on their own books (which included some criticism to make them seem legit) and then distributed to each other for posting.

7. Don’t include in a review anything that does not relate to book content.

What are your thoughts on this?


Presenting a Special Guest: Michael Fedison, author of The Eye-Dancers

Michael Fedison is a native of new York and author of the YA thriller, The Eye-Dancersan adventure novel about four young boys who are called into another dimension to rescue a missing girl. To see my original review, click here:
You can also check out The Eye-Dancers here: It has been mainly well-received, and for good reason. It is a very well written novel, with a fantastic plot line, well-developed characters, plenty of twists and turns, and just the right amount of humor. Although it is targeted to middle-schoolers (the protagonists are rising seventh-graders), this is a novel that I believe readers of all ages will enjoy.
Here is the official blurb:
Seventh-grader Mitchell Brant and three of his classmates inexplicably wake up at the back edge of a softball field to the sounds of a game, the cheering of the crowd. None of them remembers coming here. And as they soon learn, “here” is like no place they’ve ever seen. Cars resemble antiques from the 1950s. There are no cell phones, no PCs. Even the spelling of words is slightly off.

A compulsive liar, constantly telling fantastic stories to garner attention and approval, Mitchell can only wish this were just one more of his tall tales. But it isn’t. It’s all too real. Together, as they confront unexpected and life-threatening dangers, Mitchell and his friends must overcome their bickering and insecurities to learn what happened, where they are, and how to get back home.

The answers can be found only in the mysterious little girl with the blue, hypnotic eyes. The one they had each dreamed of three nights in a row before arriving here. She is their only hope. And, as they eventually discover, they are her only hope.

And time is running out.

I wanted to learn more about what inspired the novel and some of the background that went it its creation, so the author agreed to an interview:
Interview with Michael Fedison
1. What made you want to be a writer?
You know, I actually believe this is the other way around–I don’t believe I wanted to be a writer so much as the writing chose me.  Ever since I can remember, I have felt a need to capture something–my perspectives of the world, of nature, of relationships, of reality–and put it down on the page.  I believe the need to express yourself via the written word is innate, inborn, something you are called to do.

2. What inspired you to write The Eye-Dancers?
Several things!  First and foremost, when I was in high school, I had a dream one night.  It wasn’t the sort of dream you forget or brush aside.  It stayed with me for years.

In the dream, I felt compelled to look out my bedroom window.  When I did, there was a girl out in the street–perhaps seven or eight years old.  What was she doing out in the street at night, alone and unsupervised?  But those questions seemed unimportant when I noticed the light of the streetlamp filtering straight through her, as if she were only partly there–more spirit and ghost than flesh-and-blood girl.

She beckoned for me to come outside, and I knew, knew, that she intended to take me somewhere, lead me somewhere–perhaps to a place from which there was no return.

I woke up then, the bedsheets a mess, kicked aside, my skin slick with sweat.   After gaining my composure (I was shaken up–it was such a vivid dream), I immediately jotted down some notes about the dream–little details I didn’t want to forget.  Even that night, I felt a need to write about this “ghost girl” of my nightmares, to revolve a story around her, somehow.

The trouble was, I didn’t know how.  I tried writing a short story with the dream sequence in it, and it fell flat.  I attempted another story and then another, and then another–still, nothing seemed right.  Frustrated, I decided to file the “ghost girl” away in a mental vault of ideas, hopefully to be mined later.  At the time, little did I know just how much later “later” would be.

Fast-forward two decades, to 2009, and I had the same dream.  Unasked for, unplanned–out of the blue, out of my past . . .  Only this time, when I woke up the next morning, I had the germ of an idea, and I knew–this was the one.  This was the “ghost girl’s” story.  The dream sequence meshed with other ideas, interests, passions of mine (coming of age, childhood, friendship, discovery, comic books, parallel worlds, exploring the very concept of what we term “reality”), and eventually I had a full-blown novel to write.  It was exhilarating.

3.  What attracted you to the YA genre?
Actually, I write in many genres.  I’ve written several novels (though The Eye-Dancers is currently the only one seeing the light of day!) and many short stories, which encompass several genres–mainstream, literary, sci-fi/fantasy, horror, historical . . .  I enjoy the YA genre, too, primarily because of the coming-of-age aspect, something we can all relate to and remember, no matter what our age.  Also, there is something special about the friendships we form in childhood.  The Eye-Dancers explores these themes, along with others.

4.  How long did it take to complete The Eye-Dancers?
The first draft took over two years to write, and, start to finish, including the editing stage and rewriting stage, the book took nearly three years to complete.

5. Is your final product different than the original idea you had for the book, or are they roughly the same?
That’s a great question, and the answer is–a little of both!  When I started, I had a broad, general idea of the story and where I wanted it to go.  However, when I begin a novel, I don’t do an outline and try not to pin myself down with any specifics.  The reason for that is, as I write a long piece of fiction, the characters will eventually surprise me with some of the things they say and do.  I never want to restrict their growth and development.  There were many times over the course of the writing process where things turned out differently than I originally would have thought.  That’s one of the joys and mysteries of the creative journey.

6. What genre of literature do you prefer to read?
Any and all!  I love to read–fiction, nonfiction, you name it.  Put a book in front me, chances are good that I’ll read it!

7. In The Eye-Dancers, one of your protagonists is dealing with the stress of his parents’ marital conflict. Do you think a lot of kids his age could identify with him? How about the character who is overshadowed by his more popular older brother? Or the unpopular only child?
I hope so!  One of the aspects of The Eye-Dancers that I hope resonates with younger readers, readers around the same age as the protagonists in the novel, is the relatability of the main characters.  I hope young readers will empathize with the characters in the book, and perhaps see some of themselves–their own struggles, confusions, thoughts, feelings–in Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski.

8. The Eye-Dancers does a great job of exploring the Butterfly Effect and the theory of multiple universes. What are your beliefs on these theories?
I believe everything is connected, even the smallest, seemingly most insignificant of things.  I also believe, as Mitchell himself points out at the end of the novel, that people, places, events that seem so far away, a universe away, are, in actuality much closer to us than we ever dared to think.

9. Your protagonists travel to an alternate universe in a very unusual way. What gave you that idea?
I would say it stemmed from that old dream I had, back in high school–the one that served as the impetus for the novel.  In my dream, much as with Mitchell’s to begin the novel, the “ghost girl” had blue, swirling eyes.  I suppose the thought just came to me–suppose those eyes were far more than “just” eyes; suppose they were pathways to a faraway place on the other side of reality . . .

10. Three of the four “eye-dancers” has one sibling. Sibling relationships are also an important recurring theme in The Eye-Dancers. Do you have siblings? If so, did you base any of your characters on them?
I do!  I have an older sister and two older brothers.  I didn’t consciously model any of the sibling relationships in The Eye-Dancers on my relationship with my siblings, but, as with anything with creative writing, sometimes aspects of our lives, nuances, points of view, bleed into our fiction almost without our being aware of it.

11. Is Bedford based on your own hometown or a different town?
It’s actually an amalgamation of several of the places I’ve lived.  I grew up in western New York State, which is where The Eye-Dancers is set.  So–Mitchell’s house is modeled after the house where I grew up.  Bedford itself is modeled after an Erie Canal town where I lived later on, and so on and so forth.

12. Based on the conversation and banter among the protagonists, I get the impression that you work, volunteer, or in some way spend time with that age group. Are my impressions correct, or is the conversation just based on memories of your own childhood?
Thank you!  That is very good to hear.  Actually, I don’t spend that much time with junior-high kids these days.  The banter in The Eye-Dancers stems from my memories.  The characters of Mitchell, Joe, Ryan, and Marc are all inspired by friends I knew growing up.  We had a lot of playful arguments and conversations back in the day.  I had much of it stored away in my mind, and it was a joy to let it out in the novel!

13. One of your protagonists often makes up wild stories as a way to get attention. Is the group’s adventure symbolic of Mitchell’s “escape into fantasy?”
In this case, I don’t think so–at least not intentionally, though it’s fantastic that readers would consider that.  Mitchell’s wild stories are nothing more and nothing less than an extension of his character, manifestations of a deep-rooted insecurity and a gnawing, pervasive feeling that he isn’t good enough the way he actually is.  It is one of the major stumbling blocks he must overcome over the course of the novel.

14. Another protagonist has an almost supernatural way of communicating with dogs, a symbol of loyalty. Was this intentional on your part?
It was.  Joe can be acerbic, and not everyone likes him!  But his love of dogs, his desire to protect the innocent and the weak are traits that show, beneath his bravado and propensity to throw a punch before thinking things through, Joe is a very loyal person who always has his friends’ backs.

15. Monica Tisdale calls to Mitchell and his friends and explains that they are the only ones who can hear her? Do you care to explain why these boys were chosen?
That is one of the mysteries of the novel, something Mitchell himself questions at the end.  There really isn’t a hard-and-fast answer to the question.  In some ways, the question can best be “answered” with another question!  What is it that can, inexplicably, cause two people, or a small group of people, to be psychically linked, even over great distances?  The answer is a mystery, elusive, like trying to grab a handful of a flower-scented breeze–but just asking the question, acknowledging and appreciating the mystery is, in itself, a kind of answer . . .

16. The four boys experience a lot of culture shock when they quite literally travel to another world. Have you ever traveled somewhere different and experienced culture shock?
That’s a great observation, and I am hoping it’s one of the things that will resonate with readers.  The journey to another world in The Eye-Dancers is more extreme than anything we could ever experience, of course, and yet–we all, over the course of our lives, travel to “other worlds.”  Remember your first day of junior high?  Talk about a parallel universe!  Or the first day on a new job?  Or moving to a new state or country?  There are so many things . . .  Hopefully each reader will be able to relate to the feeling.

17. I love the cover. Who designed it?
A lifelong friend, Matt Gaston–who does fantastic work.  Matt, who I’ve known since I was eight years old, also served as the inspiration for one of the supporting characters in the novel!

18. Does your family support your writing career?
They do!  They always have, and for that I am very grateful.

19. Are you currently working on anything? If so, can you give us a hint to what it’s about?
I am working on the sequel to The Eye-Dancers!  Five years have passed between the end of the first book and the beginning of the second, which gives it a different flavor.  The protagonists in The Eye-Dancers are seventh graders.  In the sequel, they are about to enter their senior year of high school.  And Monica Tisdale is featured more in this book–she becomes one of the POV characters herself.  And is she ever in a bind!

20. Any other thoughts you feel like sharing?

I would just encourage anyone who wants to write to pursue the subjects, ideas, themes, and characters that resonate for them.  Don’t write for “the market.”  Don’t try to mimic what’s “hot” or in vogue.  Write from the heart.  Let out the stories that are kicking and screaming within, that demand to be written.  Write your stories, in your voice.  Your readers will be glad you did.

Presenting Special Guests-Jen Winters and Yuruch

Jen irwin

Hello, everyone. This is my friend, Jen Winters. She is the author of the Guardians series. In addition to being an accomplished author, she is also a married mother of two and co-admin for Author Promo Co-Op. She works very hard to keep a balanced life, which includes reading, writing, parenting, and promoting other authors! Let me tell you a bit about her books:

kissing demons

Kissing Demons is Book 1 of the series. Narrated by the kick-ass Guardian Geneva Archer, who, upon her natural death, was appointed by God the task of cleansing people’s auras when they are affected by evil and protecting the world from demonic attacks. One evening, she decided to have a drink at a hideaway bar for supernaturals, where she meets her soulmate, Alex Wolfe. The two begin a hot, steamy relationship. Unfortunately, Alex is the son of the demon Yuruch, who has been a thorn in Geneva’s side since she first became a Guardian. When Yuruch calls together Alex and his other children to assist him in a mission of mass destruction, Alex is powerless to disobey his father’s command. Geneva, of course, is pissed to no end! She, along with her trustworthy team, must come up with a plan to outsmart Yuruch so she can have Alex back and hopefully save as many lives as possible.

kissing the rain

Kissing the Rain is a novelette that tells the story from Alex’s point of view. He lives a peaceful existence as a math teacher in a secluded school for halflings in France. When his father, the demon Yuruch, calls him to Texas for a mission of destruction, Alex resentfully obeys. Trying to avoid facing his father for as long as possible, Alex hides out in the Hunter’s Moon, a hideway lounge for supernaturals. It is there he meets a beautiful, redheaded Guardian that he knows immediately is his intended soulmate.

Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels is Book 2 of the Guardians series. Narrated by the brooding, workaholic fallen angel Ambrose, he tells the story of his fall from Heaven, his despair at having no mission or purpose, and his serendipitous encounter with the demon Yuruch, with whom he enters into a covenant for mutual protection. Over the millennia, Ambrose and Yuruch form an eternal, unbreakable bond, and although Ambrose finds him insufferable at times, he would give his very life for his best friend and constant companion. Ambrose, through his friendships with Yuruch and his romance with Guardian Lavinia, learns a lesson about fate and destiny that frees him from a long lifetime nihilistic melancholy.

Here is the link to Jen’s Amazon author page:

Now, what is the common link between the three stories? Here he is:

Close-up portrait of a young masculine good looking man

This is Yuruch, the delightfully evil demon that you just can’t help but love! I wanted to get his side of the story and to learn more about what makes him tick, so he agreed to an interview:

Interview with Yuruch

J: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me today. And congratulations on the upcoming birth of your grandson. I think Geneva and Alex are going to make wonderful parents. I have some questions for you, but please feel free to skip any that you feel are inappropriate or would give away too much of your top-secret plans (not trying to incur the wrath of Hell here…)

Y: Thank you for thinking of me! I rarely get the opportunity to get my voice heard. People are so involved with my son and my brother that I never get a word in edgewise!

J: Sounds frustrating! What was your job as a “machine” under the Divine Will?

Y: Oh, I did a little of this and a little of that, but mainly I was in charge of delivering souls to creatures in need of them. I can tell you it was an ok job, but it seems to me that I could do better with fewer directives and more imagination.

J: Of course. Something all of us with monotonous jobs can relate to. So why did you choose to fight on Lucifer’s side?

Y: I wanted more freedom to be who I thought I should be. Lucifer offered me that chance. Unfortunately, he then changed his mind and tried to enslave me as much as the Other one did.

J: But you seem to despise Lucifer. Do you wish you had chosen differently? Or, were there any choices that were acceptable to you?

Y: If you knew what went on in Hell you wouldn’t like Lucifer either. He’s quite self-involved and the power he has is what had been given to him by others. I am disinterested in giving him what he hasn’t earned. The moment we all got souls, his deceptions became evident to me. I lost my power and my connection to the Creator because he lied to me. I may despise the Creator, but at least He has never lied to me. Lucifer deceived us all and apparently I am the only  demon that noticed. I will fight Lucifer until the end of time for breaking me with lies.

J: Sounds like a daunting task! Can you tell us what Lucifer and Hell are like? I’d rather hear it from you than experience it firsthand.

Y: The only power Lucifer has over Hell is what has been afforded him by the demons there. I hate to break it to you, but Hell isn’t for your kind, so you don’t have to even consider the possibility of ending up there yourself. There are places for your kind, but Hell is not one of them. Hell itself isn’t so bad, really. It’s the company that gives the place its reputation. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Fires of Hell, right? Myth. Sort of. The fires of hell refer to the fiery pain inflicted by the fiery swords of the angels. There are certainly many demons who are on fire for eternity in hell, but it’s not because Hell itself is on fire. They are the demons stupid enough to follow Lucifer into battle and lose.

J: I wish someone would say that to all those so-called “Christians” who are constantly screaming “You’ll burn in Hell!” Not very Christian-like at all in my opinion. But I digress. Do you have any theories on why the Creator gave you and Ambrose (and presumably, other demons and fallens) the ability to procreate, knowing that the offspring would be abominations and predestined to eternal damnation?

Y: Well, Ambrose thinks that way about our offspring, but I happen to think that if I wasn’t supposed to have kids, I wouldn’t be able to.  I don’t believe in predestination. I was given a soul and I am a free agent; my ability to choose is vital to the point of this universe. Alex maybe half demon and all werewolf, but as we all know, he is good to the core. I don’t know where I went wrong with that one.

J: Yeah, I do get the distinct impression that fatherhood isn’t Ambrose’s cup of tea. I know you’re not exactly thrilled that your arch-nemesis, Geneva Archer, is about to be your daughter-in-law. However, there are times when you seem to genuinely respect and admire her. I would like to hear more about Geneva from your perspective.

Y: Ah Geneva–she is a beauty, isn’t she? I am actually quite proud of Alex for that one! Who knew my genes would become the son of a Guardian? I wouldn’t say she is my arch-nemesis. I think I have proven to be my own worst enemy, haha; but she has been quite meddlesome, hasn’t she? I’d like to think that given time to get to know me, she would actually enjoy my company. Though, now that I am thinking about it, she reminds me of Eve. Now that woman scares me! I think given a few thousand years under her belt, Geneva could very well become the next Eve. She’s already set up for it being the mother of my grandson.

J: Learn to cook enchiladas. I think that will win her over ;). I’m curious: Why, of all places, did you choose Fort Worth, Texas?

Y:  *evil laughter* I chose Fort Worth because it was an easy target. All those humans milling about, complacent toward terrorism because they had never experienced anything so traumatizing as Chicago had. Ten years and they had forgotten what it was like to lose a limb. I reminded them. It was also helpful that the most powerful werewolf pack and the most powerful vampire coven were there. I had been sprinkling my genes into both of those lines since their inception and I was able to use the pack and the vampires to set off the bombs. Suicide bombers who couldn’t tell me no. It was a perfect plan.

J: That makes sense. And although I can’t say I agree with the taking of innocent lives, you do have a point about people becoming overly complacent. Now, let me ask you about Ambrose. You two are like night and day. Whereas you are excitable and impulsive, he is mainly an over-serious workaholic (unless you give him an Xbox, and then nothing gets accomplished). The flip side to that coin is that you two complement each other in a lot of ways, and he has expressed deep feelings for you. However, he never tires of telling anyone who will listen what a royal pain-in-the-behind you are to him at time, and I’m sure you think the same of him. The Covenant aside, how would you describe your longstanding, mutually beneficial partnership with Ambrose?

Y: I trust Ambrose with my life. I have to–he sustains it. But beyond that, he is a good guy. Sulky sure, and he holds on to his misery like no one I have ever met, but he’s good. He treats me as well as I can expect and he respects me as his brother. I don’t know anyone who sees me for who I am not just what I am. Yes, I am a demon and yes I do eveil things, but that’s all everyone except Ambrose sees. Ambrose sees me differently–maybe through some rose tinted glasses at times, but always as his brother first. And while it may seem odd coming from a demon, I love that guy too. Hes my only friend in the universe and I would do anything for him. Anything. I would save the immortal representation of Divine love for Ambrose. The only thing I have ever regretted in my life was disappointing Amrbose. I’d do anything to make it up to him.

J: It’s so rare to find a loyal friend. You have been blessed to have found Ambrose. What was it about Ambrose that made you decide he would be a good partner and companion?

Y: I spent quite a lot of time listening to the screams of the demons that Ambrose sent back to Hell, gift-wrapped for Lucifer. When Lucifer sent me after him, I knew that my time as second in command was at an end. Lucifer never wanted Ambrose dead, he wanted Ambrose to do his dirty work. When I became that dirty work–well, let’s just say I was a bit angry about that. Ambrose was an accident, but a good one nonetheless for me. Making that deal was the best thing I have ever done–even if Ambrose regrets it.

J: It’s pretty clear that Lucifer underestimated you both. What do think of Ambrose’s budding romance with Lavinia? What advice would you give him as a friend? Please note that it’s a little too late to tell him to go buy a pack of Trojans…

Y: HAHAHAHAHA!! When condoms came out, Ambrose tried them and found out too quickly that they didn’t work for him at all! Fortunately for him, the woman he got pregnant died shortly after in a freak accident. I had nothing to do with it no matter what he tells you. I have always enjoyed his offspring and would have really loved to see what became of that one. Personally, I don’t go for the whole soul mate thing, but I can see that he loves her in his own way. I personally don’t know her well. I encountered  her once about five thousand years ago, but she didn’t know me from any other demon at the time and I haven’t been inclined to remind her that I was the one who got away. As for advice? I’ve never loved anyone like that. I have kept a cool distance from the mothers of my offspring. So, I guess I should tell him not to screw it up! He’s pretty committed though. He’s an all or nothing kind of person.

J: Um…well, my sources are telling me that there will be a great love in your future. We shall see. What, besides tormenting Guardians and devastating major metropolitan areas, are your favorite hobbies?

Y: I do so love seeing what my offspring can do. Unlike Ambrose, I wait around for them to be born and I keep tabs on them. I also love to read and I have taken up the habit of journalling. I have journalled since the invention of papyrus. I have a whole shed of my life experiences hidden away (no I won’t tell you where). I also enjoy sports, especially the ones where balls are required. Tennis is fascinating. I find the human mind’s ability to invent games astonishing.

J: Can you tell me who’ll win the World Series this year? No? well, it was worth a shot…Anyhow, do you have a preference for any particular being’s “chi” or does it matter?

Y: By far, Ambrose is the best I’ve ever had. But throwing him out of the equation, I would say that the best I’ve ever had was this little thing in Ancient China. She was just a tiny thing, dying from starvation because she was  abandoned by her parents. I thought I would end the baby’s suffering and I took her chi away. It was perfect in every way. Not nearly as powerful as Ambrose’s, and it couldn’t sustain me for long, but it definitely tasted just as good as Ambrose’s.

J: So it’s true: you do have a soft side :D. About your son Alex: he seems especially willful and defiant, more so than your other children. What kind of antics did he get into as a kid? Any humorous stories to share? Did you ever have to give him a fatherly butt-whipping (or at least thought he needed one?)

Y: This is the one time I wish I had kept better track of my offspring. After he was twelve, I didn’t see him. Before he was twelve, I didn’t worry about him. It turns out that I should have taken a more active interest in him. In order for him to be my avatar I had to place a special bond on him. Unlike his siblings, he couldn’t be called until I was absolutely sure he had overcome the halfling side of himself. I had to do a whole deadly and disgusting ritual just so that Alex would be able to eventually control his wild side. Then Stephan got a hold of him and, sure he learned control, but then he also learned to be utterly good. Do you even know how inconvenient it was having him fight me the entire time I had him? I honestly believe that if he had just given up and let me be, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am in now. I would be comfortably ruling world already.

J: Yeah, probably. I don’t think DFACS comes after the supernatural, so maybe a little more discipline (your way) was in order. But despite being classified as a demon, you seem to have a lot of good qualities (as mentioned previously), such as loyalty, helpfulness, and a tiny bit of compassion (don’t worry; we won’t tell Lucifer). Are we to understand that no one, be they demons, fallens, angels, Guardians, humans, vampires, or otherwise, is 100% evil or 100% good?

Y:  We weren’t made to be good or evil. We were given the choice. So yes, I suppose that we all have the potential for good and evil in us–some of us lean more toward one than the other. But we are all free agents and we do what we want. I don’t feel particularly evil. Sure I’ve done some pretty horrible things, but those were just a means to an end. My ends aren’t particularly nasty. Ambrose once pointed out that everything I do is either sticking it to the Creator or sticking it to Lucifer, and that’s true, but that’s not the ultimate end for me. What I want is to be free and safe from the ones who have been hunting me my whole life.

J: That’s understandable. Ambrose seems to have an incredible knack for bungling up his assignments. I can almost see you do that Patrick Stewart-style face-palm. The first one changed the course of human history in a profound way. Do you have any idea what became of the twins? We have met their well-known mother. And since we’re on the subject, any idea of what became of her gullible, costally-deficient husband?

Y: Well that one he almost couldn’t help making a mess of, haha. Well of course the older brother killed the younger, but he survived long enough to pass on his soullessness to his offspring. Actually, there are many like him. Plenty of my unfinished assignments became soulless creatures. If you look hard enough at some people you can see it. There are people alive today that don’t have souls. I spent some time recently searching out those soulless individuals; they make great employees. they don’t have any moral obligations keeping them from accomplishing their tasks and they can be quite easily manipulated. I have used the soulless to accomplish many things including getting them into seats of power around the world.
J: Heck, yeah! Just watch the news and you see soulless people every day. Soulless people. One of the most recent examples occurred in a church, where people go to worship the Creator. If that isn’t soullessness, I don’t now what is.Now, in a suspiciously short time, two of the supposedly infertile Guardians conceived. Do you consider this to be a bad sign for demons? I mean, the last time such a miraculous conception occurred, the resulting child (the Son of the Creator and an ordinary human woman), wielded tremendous power over demons, including the ability to send them directly back to Hell. I bet your demon brothers are still complaining about the humiliating experience of having to occupy swine bodies.
Y: evil laughter* oh that was HILARIOUS!! I couldn’t have done it better myself! As for the Guardians, this has happened once before that I can remember. However, that one chose to remain human and died at the end of her human life. Now that we have two Guardians pregnant with the children of my kind, I am very curious to discover what and who they are. I would never remind Ambrose that his child with Lavinia is up for grabs for me. I think he may never forgive me, but if she’s useful, I might take advantage of her powers.
J: Oh, I think you’d have an easier time fighting Lucifer himself than Ambrose over Lavinia and their child. He’s really attached to her, you know. Do you believe that you (and other demons, fallens, and angels), have any control over your own destiny? I believe you alluded to this a time or two in a conversation with Ambrose (Ambrose: I’m going to Hell anyways. It’s just a question of ‘when?’ You: “Oh, stop being such a Negative Ned and go get that witch pregnant!”)
Y: Ambrose is quite fatalistic, isn’t he? It’s part of his charm. Personally I do think that we control our own destinies. Yes, I know there is the whole Divine Plan and that can’t be thwarted, but outside of the overall plan, we make our own destinies and lives. No I am not convinced about the whole soul mate thing that Ambrose is on right now. Soul mates isn’t something I ever experienced before the fall and I certainly haven’t seen proof of it since. Guardians claim certain men are their soul mates, but I think that they are exaggerating the circumstances. I’ve managed to take many Guardians’ powers away from them and none of them lived long enough to think me their soul mate.
J: I’m not so sure about that. It seems to me that Geneva is quite determined, and whatever she sets her mind to is pretty much gonna happen!. Can you give us a hint for any of your future plans? The ones that Ambrose seems to think are all hare-brained, idiotic bids for attention? Perhaps a tsunami? A nuclear power plant explosion? Oooh, how about another Ice Age?(Note: this third idea is of particular interest to the interviewer. She lives in Georgia and it is currently summertime. She’s not sure if Hell itself is very much hotter).
Y: I like how you think! Ice Age! That’s a BRILLIANT idea! Unfortunately for me, I’ve been cursed. I don’t even know what is going to happen. Hopefully this whole judgement thing will be over quickly and I can get back to sticking it to the Creator and Lucifer. Hopefully…

J: I think with the folks you have on your side, you’ll be back in the swing of things before you know it. Now finally, any words for your REAL Creator and Master, Mrs. Jen Winters? Keep in mind that you are subject to Her whims and desires, and She can do as She wishes to you without any prior warning, and that includes unspeakable eternal torment. I’d speak kindly to Her if I were you.

Y: What I would like to know is, what in the hell were you thinking cursing me like that?! I could have gone on forever without losing all the best bits of me! How are you going to put me back together? And where am I going?

Jen: Oh, Yuruch, if I told you that you would never learn. Good luck in Norway! See you soon!
J: (whispers) She’s pretty merciful and kind hearted. I think she’s on your side. And just between you and me, I think she considers you her best work. (normal voice). Well, I do thank you for your time. And I hear you have some rough days ahead. Good luck with that and I wish you the best.
Well, folks, you’ve heard straight from the demon’s mouth. To read more about the adventures of Yuruch and his family and companions, click on Jen’s author page above, which will include links to all three books. Youcan also find Jen on Facebook (, Twitter (@JenWintersNE), and Goodreads ( (But as for Yuruch, well, I don’t think he’s going to have very much Internet access in the days ahead….)
I hope you enjoyed this character interview. PLease reblog if you can. Thanks JW

Author Spotlight-KD Forsman

Since my time reviewing indie books, I have met many fabulous, outstanding talented authors. But it’s rare that I find a novel that simply won’t allow me to put it down. Fraud and Fabrication: Leighton Park: Cassandra by Kd Forsman was one of those novels. It had been on my to-read list forever, and now that I’m out of school for the summer, I thought I’d catch up on my reviews. Ms. Forsman’s novel was at the top of my list, so I settled in for a few hours’ reading.

I started yesterday at noon, and felt slightly resentful when I had to stop to deal with mundane tasks. Today, I continued at noon and it is now 3:30. I polished the whole thing off in just two sittings.

A delightful wild ride of a thriller, Fraud and Fabrication revolves around Cass, who, after a bad break-up, is relieved to find work at the top-notch horse-breeding ranch, Leighton Park. The gruff patriarch, John Leighton, is well-known for his iron-fisted ways, but is generous and respectful to Cass. When she meets Geoff, John’s son who’s someone of a black sheep, she feels certain she’s met her soul mate–and ignores giant red flags that something is amiss at the ranch and the family has a bad habit of keeping secrets and putting on a persona. Even after she and Geoff marry and have a child, she continues to deny anything is wrong. Until the moment comes when she cannot ignore it any longer.

The characters are so well-crafted that you just can’t help but feeling for them. Cass, who’s fiercely independent but also unwilling to let go of her fairy-tale domestic life, her shady father-in-law, her seemingly charming brother-in-law Johnno (who shows a more sinister side to his personality later), John’s alcoholic and grating but somehow endearing girlfriend Cheree, who has an unexpected nurturing, maternal side, Cass’s best friend Hannah, the ultimate partner-in-crime, and of course Geoff, who believes that by creating the ultimate domestic paradise for his new wife, he can hide from her some of the less palatable sides to his personality.

You pretty much got my point that the plot is completely engrossing and will make you feel like you’re riding a wild horse without a rein.

Which brings me to one of the best parts of this book: Ms. Forsman obvious love for and knowledge of horses is present throughout. I learned so much about horses, their care, the way they are traded, and their value in a lucrative horse-racing industry than I ever knew before just by reading Fraud and Fabrication. (i think it was pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever read Ice that my knowledge of horse-breeding is at best, very basic).

 Check out this equine-themed mystery/thriller today: I promise you your heart will gallop and it will be difficult to put the reins on your reading time.

Sorry, I can’t just pick five.

For the #indieRoar 10-day Challenge, I was asked to name five of my favorite indie authors/books. My first though was “Just five? I can’t do that! That’s like asking me to choose five of my favorite cousins” (and I have a LOT of cousins-all of them cool people).

While There are a lot of rockin’ people in the indie world, for this list I’m naming the folks whose works I have read and reviewed and found inspiring (in alphabetical order by first name). Read on. Maybe you’ll find your next favorite.

1. AJ James (author of Crave: The Celestial Grigori Chronicles)- divinely romantic fantasy suspense about a fallen angel in love with a human woman that will leave you wanting more

2. Alan Stroe (author of Against Her Gentle Sword and related series) there is a “WTF?” Moment at nearly the midway point, but looking past that you will find a thought-provoking young adult dystopian that definitely explores the “what if?”

3. A.S Aramiru (author of Black Halo: The Witch and the Guardian): highly creative and suspenseful, a young adult dystopian that will keep you guessing until the end

4.  Becki Willis (author of the Mirror, Mirror trilogy) three romantic suspense thrillers.

5. Bryce Allen-(author of The Spartak Trigger)- hilarious spy thriller/comedy combo. Interesting narration.

6. Carole Parkes-(Author of Tissue of Lies)- psychological thriller about a woman’s search for her past gone horribly wrong.

7. Catherine Walter-(author of The Harmony of Isis)- the ancient and the modern blend seamlessly in this lyrical tale of a museum curator called upon by the goddess Isis to be a “harmony”

8. Chess Desalls (author of Travel Glasses: The Call to Search Everywhen): young-adult sci-fi about time travel, the butterfly effect, and finding yourself. Best characters ever!

9. Christine Sherbourne (author of Imogene’s Message)- edge-of-your-seat, jarring fantasy/suspense thriller with a very diverse cast of characters.

10. DB Nielsen (author of Seed: Keeper of the Genesis I) suspenseful, romantic fantasy, contains allusions to Jane Eyre and Great Expectations.

11. Dean Moore (author of The Warlock’s Friend: The Crystal Spear)- highly erotic fantasy thriller. Extremely well-written with humorous dialogue.

12. Deandra Stephanos (author of I Am Dee)- fast-paced, heart-pounding sci-fi thriller with just the right touch of romance.

13. Ian Probert (author of Johnny Nothing)- creative, clever kid’s novel reminiscent of A Christmas Story

14. Ian Williams (author of Transitory)- action-packed and thought-provoking sci-fi adventure

15. Jeff Mariotte (author of Empty Rooms)- pure suspense. Fast-paced action, a pedophile-hating main character. You’ll polish this off in a day or so.

13. Jen Winters (author of Kissing Demons: The Guardians Novel 1): highly erotic fantasy thriller with a kick-ass female main character.

14. Jessica Wren (author of Ice: Minterville Series Book 5 (?))- What, is it bad form to like your own work? Paranormal psychological thriller in a small-town setting. I’ve been compared to Stephen King several times.

15. John Matthews (author of A Game of Greed and Deception)- fast-paced cat-and-mouse psychological thriller

16.  Jonathan Taylor (author of The Forgotten Mission: The Return)- sci-fi thriller about government conspiracies

17. KD Forsman (author of Fraud and Fabrication: The Leighton Park Series)-I just started this one and I’m finding it very hard to put down

18.  Linda Prather (author of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt): fast-paced pure crime thriller starring an ass-kicking female district attorney who, not surprisingly, reminds me of Alex Cabot.

19. MA Demle (author of An Immigrant’s Journey to Success)- memoir of the author’s childhood in rural Ethiopia to his voyage to Israel, and finally to the U.S. He taught himself Hebrew and English and this book includes lots of language-learning tips.

20.Mark Shaw- (author of The Keeper of the Wind)- young adult fantasy thriller that teaches about multiculturalism.

21. Michael Fedison (author of The Eye-Dancers)-young-adult action adventure about four young boys who go on an unforgettable adventure.

22. M.K. Graff(author of The Scarlet Wench: A Nora Tierney Mystery)-still working on this cute, cozy mystery, but loving it so far.

23.Phillip T. Stephens (author of Cigerets, Guns, and Beer): hilariously spoofish and highly erotic cat-and-mouse thriller

24.. Robert Williscroft (author of Operation Ivy Bells)- Cold War-era military thriller.

25. Roger Laidig (author of Finding Purpose and Joy: It’s a Journey)- one of only two nonfiction I have reviewed to date. Insightful, informative, Christian-based advice about how to free yourselves from self-inflicted stressors.

26. Stone Marshall (author of Rescue Island: Flynn’s Log 1)- based on the Minecraft game, a cute young adult adventure

27.Tristan Cruz (author of The Space Between)- high-drama romance/suspense combo.

28. Vanessa Wester (co-author of A Festive Feast)- collection of short stories revolving around Christmas. From hilarious to heartwarming, these Yuletide tales will entertain you when the weather outside is frightful.

And a shout-to the equally awesome authors on my TBR list (NOT all-inclusive)

1. Lynne Murray (author of Gravitas)

2. Ryan Guy (author of Atomic Aardvark)

3. EL Ervin author of Michael Hanson and the Desolate Woods)

4. Cleo DeLancey (author of Kieran the Pirate)(

5. CK Dawn (author of Cloak of Shadows)

6. Miranda Shanklin (author of Soul Journey)

7. Tom (Fallwell (author of A Whisper in the Shadows)

8. Veronica DelRosa

9. Lu Whitley

10. Kelly Marsden

11. Jamie Jeffries

12. Maggie Thom

13. Rochelle Campbell

14. Markie Jordan

15. Sunshine Somerville

16. Stephanie Stacker

17. Julie Nichols

18. Julie Ramsey

19. JC Brennan

20. MarnieCate

Author Spotlight-Linda S. Prather

“Why is Lady Justice blindfolded?”

In Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Linda S. Prather creates a world where the rich and powerful operate above the law with impunity. Greed, corruption, and murder are par for the course. People, even family, are as dispensable as last year’s cashmere sweater, and can be eliminated when they start talking too much or become useless or burdensome.

Jenna James, a morally upright up-and-coming district attorney in a Texas office that is a hotbed of corruption, is involved in an unsatisfying relationship with Michael Elkins, the son of of a powerful and feared judge. When she is called upon to look into the suspicious death of the judge’s wife (at the request of Judge Elkins’ other son, who had been imprisoned) the obstacles become higher and higher. The situation spirals out of control and the death toll rises. it seems the “bay guys’ have all the power, and needless to say, Jenna’s faith in the justice system is irreversibly altered and she no longer knows whom to trust.

Ms. Prather creates some terrific characters. The judge and his sexually aggressive son are pure evil, Jordan Elkins is the furious “black sheep” son who will challenge his father and brother to get justice for his mother. Jenna is the brave DA who refuses to back down. In fact, the deaths of a few people close to her only fuels her rage and determination. Clifford Beaumont, although not above using coercive tactics, is portrayed as a family man who cares more about protecting his family than about wealth and prestige. Marcus Dade, an irritable defense attorney for the rich and powerful, seems to have an agenda of his own (though what that agenda is is not made entirely clear). David Garcia, the district attorney who is dying of cancer, who, at the end of his life, repents of the times he got sucked into the corruptive schemes. And the various henchmen hired to do odd jobs for them, such as Drago, Gregory, and two unidentified terrorists hired to detonate a bomb. There are also characters on the side of good, such as the butt-kicking Loki and her team. However, my favorite characters are the hilarious, dynamic Jake and Harry, two police officers hired to watch Jenna when it becomes clear her life is in danger. They provide comic relief in an otherwise serious novel, and I hope they are back in the sequel.

As far as the plot, it starts a little slow, but soon picks up, and when it does, the reader is hooked. A few concerns I had were the mention of a supposedly accidental killing that Michael committed when he was a teenager (of someone hinted to be a prostitute) that never went anywhere (I’m more forgiving of loose ends like this when a book is first of a series). Also, the whole shooting at the airport scene is a little strange. Someone is shot in an airport, police gun down the “shooter” and the real shooter gives his target a flesh wound and somehow escapes with his victims in tow? I think I misunderstood this scene. Otherwise, security at this airport is extremely incompetent and lax. All writers have to take fictional liberties to move along the plot, but I felt this particular scene could have been better handled. Otherwise, although the plot is a tad predictable and cliched (most pure crime thrillers are-no offense intended to the writer), it is well-written, fast paced, and keeps you hooked to the end.

No issues that I saw with grammar, stylistics, or formatting.

To summarize, I give an A+ for characterization, an A- for plot flow, and a B+ for plot development. Well worth a read if you enjoy a fast-actioned crime thriller. I am looking forward to the sequel.

To buy:

Money for Twenty (a Parody)

It has always been a dream of mine to be the female Weird Al Yankovich. Parody-writing is a lot of fun. Here is a parody of the song “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits that summarizes my novel Ice. Enjoy!

Money for Twenty

(I want my, I want my lost money…I want my, I want my lost money…I want my, I want my lost money…I want my, I want my lost money)

Now look at them weirdos

What the hell’re they doing?

They act like they got some kind of ESP

But it ain’t working, that’s the way we’ll do it,

Money for twenty, or we’ll let them freeze.

Now that old building, that is where we’ll do it

Let me tell ya, that cop is dumb

Maybe then we’ll take his daughter with the others

We need to get a hold of the rich one.


We got to hurry up and get this plan moving

Cuz we got spaces for twenty

We got to get back Manuela’s millions

We got to get back to Miami…

Old Man Watson is the mayor of this hellhole

Yeah, buddy, he’s been hiding here

Old Man Watson thought he was gonna outsmart us

Old Watson’s daughter, she’s a billionaire.


Get ’em in there! Now!


Look at that, look there…

She should’ve known to stop all that yellin’

She should’ve known to shut her mouth

Now look at that blood spot that happened when we crushed her skull in, yeah

Against the pool side

Now what’s in here? What’s that? Why are my eyes stinging?

There’s something in the air and now it’s hard to breathe

Ah, this ain’t working. I’m done with this shit, screw it.

Money for twenty, or we let them freeze.


Listen here, now. This ain’t working. This ain’t how to do it. They took too long and we let them freeze.

This ain’t working. This ain’t how to do it.

Money for twenty or we let them freeze

(Money for twenty, we let them freeze….)

(I want my, I want my, I want my lost money…)

This ain’t working!

The Five Hundred

In case anyone is interested, my brother Winston Blake Wheeler Ward runs a cool monthly writing challenge called The Five Hundred. What happens is on the first day of every month, Winston gives you a theme. You write a short story between 400-600 words on that theme. I just entered a short story in this month’s contest, and it’s a lot of fun.

For more information or to enter the contest, check it out here: