Hi!!!! Yep, I am always that smiley and am known to be a bit giggly. Things not available in my bio. Hmmmm, a bit of personal trivia? I am a trained Dungeon Master. I have trained Submissives and Dominants. I still do a little online training, but it is more advising these days.
I work movie quotes into conversation. In my immediate family it is a thing we do. We also play guess the quote. If you guess wrong, you owe a refresher. This also applies to actors and actresses in movies too. Some of the quotes you may hear if you talk to me in person: “Who dis? Who dis woman Harpo?”, “Holy Rusted Metal Batman!”, “Who’s a baaaaaaad daddy?”, and probably my favorite, “Get off the babysitter, daddy’s home.” I have only used the last one in certain settings.
First, if you don’t mind what’s it like working for the Department of Defense, being a Technical Writer and Editor for them has got to be a pretty intense job. What, if anything, can you tell us about it?
I have been working at the same location for eight years now. Most days are great. Supporting the military in such a direct fashion is wonderful. Honestly, I had moments of intensity, but now I spend my workdays technical editing and writing. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can be just as wonderfully trying and challenging as any other author.
(Chuckles) Good to know it’s not just us authors who can be ‘challenging’.
Thorns & Ink is your website and you do more than just book reviews (which I want to talk more about a next). You have a variety of services, which I was delighted to see, what is it about not only reviewing but providing Personal and Executive Assistant services for authors that you enjoy so much? Because I know how much work that can be and just how challenging it is for just myself, I can’t imagine doing it for others.
I much prefer to be in the background. My professional career and reputation has been built on making sure other shine brightly with my help. Even in my previous job, being front and center was a lot of stress for me. Handling all of the administrative tasks for authors keeps the author focused on what’s important.
And, I’m sure it’s very much appreciated. I don’t know anyone with an monochrome of success can handle it all.
That’s why I’m here.
Excellent. Now, moving on to Reviewing. I have to know what got you interested in being a book reviewer?
I started writing reviews in high school. I was on the school paper. I always had an interest on others opinions on the arts. My grandmother worked at the Post-Dispatch, and her best friend (Ms. Hughes) was an entertainment critic. The only way I could pick out of the submission pile after the critics picked their books, was to promise to write a critique. A lot of times Ms. Hughes sent the critique back to the publisher so they would have feedback.
This is how I learned about and how to review and critique books.
Wow! You got to learn the process from a young age and have your critiques taken seriously. That is very cool. So, what is your goal when you read and review a book?
Goals when reviewing. That is interesting. My primary goal is to inspire purchase.
I want to open up the possibilities of new characters to potential readers. I also like to show off the authors talents. Whether or not I like a book, I want a person to be curious to read it to find out for themselves.
Since I do not use a rating system, I try to choose my wording and phrasing carefully. The challenging part is when authors and readers dismiss my reviews because they have to be read. They do read more like critiques, so I get the frustration at the lack of rating system. Providing a one stop rating system doesn’t work for me. I want the potential reader to see the book, the characters, and the author. Not a bunch of stuff they can find at a myriad of other places.
Are there any genre’s you won’t review?
When it comes to professional or personal reviewing, I will read anything. It really doesn’t matter. The lines that are drawn are pretty clear. I absolutely do not read bestiality or incest. (I feel the need to clarify on both, human step-parent, step-siblings are not blood related. Royal marriages, and things of that nature in historical fiction are acceptable. For the former, I am not referring to partial shifts, I am straight up referring to sex with animals.)
I think that makes sense. Now what are your favorite types of books to review?
I don’t have one. I know that is strange, but I don’t. I keep my personal reading separate for the most part. It is very rare for me to review a book I purchased on my site. In fact, I think the only one is Nervous by SM Johnson. The reason that one ended up on the site is that I was completely blown away.
After thinking about this some more: I wish I got more science fiction, magical realism, and paranormal. Romance not required. Hell, sex isn’t even a requirement.
More thoughts: I do love a good romance. I am especially fond of courtship rituals. So even if there is mating, bonding, marriage, etc., I like to see the wooing.
(Laughs) I know I’m not the only one who is happy to hear that. I wish we had more LGBTQIA books that focused on story and not sex. So thank you for not make some of us feel so alone. And what would you say is your reviewing style?
Conversational with a bit of formal critique. I try to keep a specific flow going. I try to cover plot, characters, world building, personal feelings/how I relate. That doesn’t always work. While I will use swears, I do not go into any graphic nature about sex. Nor do I add trigger warnings specifically. One of the reasons I review the way I do, is because my nephew has been helping me since the beginning. While I don’t review children’s books, I don’t want to have reviews that are so graphic in nature that he can’t read them.
I don’t know if anyone has ever noticed, but I do always add a specific catchphrase for the review at the end. Those are the single most challenging bits to write. I am a poet at heart, so it can take a few minutes to get the feeling right.
Actually, I did notice. When I read your review of The Calling, I saw what you put at the end and it made me laugh and brought a smile to my face. Seeing little touches like that, to me, shows just how much you enjoy what you do.
I do enjoy it despite how challenging it can be.
Now that we have a feel for what and how you like to review, what do you do if you just don’t like a book?
Dangerous question this one. If I don’t like a book. Hmmm. I start every book that is submitted with this thought, “Will I be entertained?” While there are books I have reviewed that I PERSONALLY did not like, I keep in mind over all how well was the story written. This especially comes into play with modern contemporary. (I don’t buy a lot of them for my personal reading pleasure.) I will not pan a book because of personal preferences. I suppose this is a lot of compartmentalizing, but it helps.
So, than do you simple say ‘Did not Finish’? Do you contact the author/publisher and tell them that you cannot provide a review?
I tend to be silent about it. I have seen many authors behaving badly, and I don’t like confrontation. I know this doesn’t help the author or publisher in anyway. The one time I did, I saw a bunch vaguebooking about me. I was pissed because I provided a detailed outline (something I generally only do for pay) as to what was wrong. I mark it as DNF on Goodreads, and leave it as that. If a friend asks, I will discuss privately. If the author/publisher ask, I have a canned email/message response.
For me it’s a tough call. I’m not sure if I want a bad review but a DNF is a tough pill to swallow. I got one of those, and it was not a good day for me. But at least the reviewer didn’t blow up my book. So there is that.
I know the dreaded DNF is hard to swallow. When I see those, I wonder why, and then buy the book to see. Most of the time I don’t agree. I created a shelf on Goodreads for books that, while I would have wanted to DNF, I went ahead and finished them. The shelf is called “Just No”. These are the one and done, would not recommend books. My philosophy: If I don’t shelf the book there, the author has a better than average chance of me buying their other books. The other shelf I use is called “WTF am I Reading”, and if you land here, I will recommend you.
Okay, enough of the scary talk about DNFs let’s move on. If you could wave your magic wand what would be the perfect book to read?
I like this question. I would love to read something that has a woman of color Dominant and she has, or comes to have a male Submissive or 3. (Actually, I tried writing this myself. 3500 words later and I am not a novelist. I am a poet. No doubt about that.) She would not be rich or anything like that. Middleclass. No traumatic or dramatic upbringing either. Just something that is a slice of life, but with LOTS of kink. Add a little science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal and I will love it. I would also like it to have courtship. Wooing, if you will. She would have to show that she is worthy of the gift of submission. (This so very often left out. Even in kink books that I really enjoy, this is over looked.)
Well, now that you’ve throw it out to the universe who knows someone may write it.
That would be cool. I would BUY THAT!!!
As a writer, reviews are so important to what we do and they are never easy to get especially if they are less than flattering. What do you tell people about reviews?
Reviews are trifold. First, they are promoting a book. Regardless to whether the reviewer liked it or not, the review itself serves as marketing. Secondly, they can* provide insight for the author. A well thought out and well written review can give an author tools to improve a series, see something they missed, or even see the pure reaction to the words they have written. Whether the review is positive or negative, if it is thoughtful and well written, it can sway another reader into checking the book out.
Okay, but, let’s say I came crying on your shoulder about an awful review I just got, what would you say?
I first ask to read the review. The first thing I look for in a review is quality. Was this thoughtful and well written. (I don’t mean random typos and syntax either. I mean are the thoughts coherent and easy to follow.) I look to see if the review attacks the author personally. By that, I mean is the reviewer attacking the author’s person versus attacking the story itself.
It is a danger for any artist to read critiques of their work. I do remind them of that.
All of that being said, if it is a review of a book that I have read, and the interpretation is different, I can’t fault the other reviewer for that. I also can’t fault a fellow reviewer for applying personal bias, likes, and dislikes. Where I do tend to find fault, is when a negative review that an author has brought to me reeks of personal attacks. This is where I draw the line. A good reviewer can leave the author’s person out of it.
After I go through my checklist of things that I look for in a review, I get back to the author with my assessment. If I think it is fair (even if I don’t agree), I tell them to let it go. You can’t win all of the time. I also remind them that a good negative review will beat out a voiceless 5-star review. Negative reviews inspire curiosity.
I get that ultimately, reviews will be taken personally. As authors you have the right to express your thoughts on those reviews, however you wish. I do take into account how you handle things publically with regards reviews you or your publisher have solicited.
Unfortunately, I have seen blog posts written in a manner that evokes talking down to readers/reviewers who are trying to learn, or understand a new to them concept, or another’s way of living. Sometimes people just simply ignorant on a subject. It happens. This is often a conundrum for me. If I am unfamiliar with the authors work, I often make a determination based on the tone of the blog post to determine whether or not I would buy their books for personal enjoyment.
Fortunately, I don’t run into the above often enough that it hampers my reading habits. Most times, I just don’t follow those authors on any social media. It allows me to enjoy their books without reading their thoughts on other things. (I am aware this is shitty. But hey, if an author wants to submit a book for review, and they spend time ragging on reviewers, it’s best I don’t see that. By not being involved in that aspect, it keeps me from applying a haughtily written blog post to the book they submitted.)
I never think it’s helpful to engage. We all have different points of view and different takes. I guess for me I would have agree, if the review as well written and if I could find a gain of ‘insight’ then I put it from my mind an move on, but it can be difficult. But I won’t ever attack a reviewer or a reader. There is no point.
The only time I see that it is justified, is when the review takes a personal attack on the author.
From negative reviews to glowing reviews. Tell us as a reviewer what are some tips you can give authors, or any writers really, about what it is you look for in a 5-star book?
In my personal reading, the ratings are based on the following: Was I entertained? Was the book technically sound (minimal typos, syntax errors, and decent editing)? Am I talking about the book to others? Was there anything that caused a physical reaction? Do I want to write the author and tell them personally, that I was moved and why? And finally, even if I disliked the story, was the book well written? Since I ask for recommendations, I may not like the story, but I can always appreciate a well written book.
The funny thing, I will give a 5-star to a book that is B-movie bad. I mean plot holes, questionable plot development, and even random character disappearance if the overall story is fun (think Showgirls). I will ding a book if all the afore mentioned things are sound, and the authors spends 300 pages telling me things. That pisses me off to no end. Especially with character descriptions. Show me the character is lovely. I should not have to rely on seven side characters to figure that shit out.
That makes sense to me and it’s good to know. I think I have some editing to work on. (Laughs) Let’s be more specific here, what does it take to get a 5-start from Thorns & Ink?
To get an absolutely glowing review? You have got to move me poetically. Not to stroke your ego love, but I will use you as an example.
You sent me your synopsis, and I was in the middle of another book. I literally wanted to set that aside and start yours. That was clue one. The next thing was that you inspired me. It wasn’t in the plot really, it was the side things that were in the story. It was the little details that really spoke to my soul.
That is so kind of you. Thank you. I feel all warm and fuzzy now.
There are a few other authors that have moved me. It’s not a long list mind you.
The other part of getting an absolutely glowing review is tackling big topics with grace, civility, respect, and research. There are so few authors that really take the risk. Especially, ones with smaller publishing houses. I respect their tenacity and skill. These are the authors that sing to me. They are automatic instant purchases.
I will give one more example of this. Last year I proofed holiday stories for a small publisher. While all the stories were fabulous, two in particular touched me deeply. I was so moved that I really only pushed those two stories. I was relentless about it actually. I loved both stories so much, I cleaned up the Word copies and had my mum read them. I very rarely do that as well.
That is very cool. Can you share the names of the works?
Absolutely!!!! Safety Protocols for Human Holidays by Angel Martinez (for more info click here). The other, while I didn’t write a review for it last year, it is on my list to do this year is Watermelon Kisses by Freddy McKay (for more info click here). As a veteran with PTSD, and a veteran foodie, this book touches so close to home.
Since I am giving a few shout outs, I want to say that if you want to read an author who tackles big topics, MA Church is wonderful. Specifically, The Harvest Series, Enemy Hands, and the Fur, Fangs, and Claws series.
I’ve checked your list of favorite authors and that is an impressive list. You really do read a lot. However, I don’t want to ask about that. I’m curious about what kind of crafting you like to do when you’re not reading? Care so share?
I loom knit, cross-stitch, color, and attempt to crochet mostly. As far as the loom knitting goes, I am making scarves for Dominants to have their submissive wear in public and no one is none the wiser. I also make a lot of hats.
Sounds like a bit of work there. How about just for fun, you mentioned you love comics, sadly I never got into them, however, what is your favorite comic book right now?
EEK, I don’t know. Right now I am in absolute love with Ten Count, Loveless, The Ancient Magus’ Bride…. Batman will always be my first love.
So, is Batman one you would recommend?
The Killing Joke and Knightfall. They are stunning. While I don’t reread The Killing Joke often (it’s heavy), Knightfall gets a reread every year or so.
What is one you would recommend to everyone?
EEK!!!!!!!! It depends on the person asking. For you, I would recommend checking out titles by Sakira. (Some people, including my mum, know how much I love Sakira’s work.) I think you’d appreciate them. Actually, so would a few of the people we both know. (I don’t know if it is okay to mention names, but Jeff, and Baz for sure.)
Oh my gosh! We love J.P Jackson (click here) and S.A. Baz Collins (click here) you can mention them all day long here.
For others, I would start a newbie off with some a little gentler. *Looks around bedroom. *Gets up and looks at bookshelves.
I don’t know what would be gentler out of my reading. I think I would pick LoveStage, Ouran High School Host Club, and The Ancient Magus’ Bride. For those who are a little gun shy about manga, I would suggest The Study in Emerald, Sandman, Batman: Knightfall. (No, not all of them are sunshine and light, but these are the ones I find myself recommending frequently.)
Any final thoughts for the folks reading this?
I’d like people to know that I am my business. I have a day job that allows me charge minimally, or not charge at all for my services. This is why I don’t post rates or even ranges. I have a wide variety of clients, and everyone’s finances are different.
I don’t have additional readers to do reviews. It’s literally just me.
I would also like to remind readers that the only thing an author owes is a properly finished book. They are only beholding to their (publisher’s) schedule and are often at the mercy of outside forces (editors, for one). Please don’t harass about the next book. It is stressful for all parties involved in getting you a great product. I know pricing is a sticking point for many, but please obtain your books legally. If money is really tight, and libraries are not cooperative, ask the publisher, author, or even a reviewer may be able to help you obtain the book legally.
That is so nicely said and it’s really amazing of you to bring this up. Thank you. And yes there is always a way a to get books legally even at little or no cost.
I’d like to remind authors that reviewers in most cases are not against you personally. They are talking about your words. Not you as a person. I have often talked about my unique perspective as I have become established in my own right. Sometimes we are late, we have something personal that happens, and we can’t make your schedule. We are sorry. We really are. I am especially sorry.
On a more personal note: I do take the time to get to know some of the authors I work with on a more personal basis. We have bonded over things that are not related to their books. This doesn’t factor in when you submit a book for review, beta reading, proofing, or any other professional service.
Thank you Ryane, for your thoughtfulness. Thank you for taking the time to sit down and chat with me today. You are welcome on my Scribbles Page anytime you like.
Well Scribbles, that it for this week. I know this interview was a bit longer than normal, but as you can see Ryane is so wonderful there was no way I was going to cut her off. If you want to learn more about Ryane Chatman check out her Contact and Social Media links below. If you enjoyed this interview, remember to like and share it below with people who you think would enjoy it. Until next week please be kind to each other and go read a book or know and let your favorite author know how much you enjoy their work. Have a great week gang.