Saturday, March 17, 2018

This blog is not about professional reviewers. It is intended to give some guidance to those of us who read books and want to write a review but do not know how.

A book review is of critical importance to the author(s). It is supposed to be a measuring stick of how well the book was edited and written, the quality of the plot or storyline, the appropriateness of the title and genre, and the overall enjoyment of the read.

Many readers do not understand or appreciate how a review affects the success or failure of an author's book. Authors often have a sentence or paragraph at the back of the book or at the end of the story inviting the reader to write a review. Unfortunately few readers do it. Some might feel intimidated to have their opinion written for others to read; or they might not know how to write a review; or they just might not think that their review is important.

Here are some helpful guidelines:
      1. Be sure the title, author, and genre are included. On Amazon, the title and author are there.
      2. Do a brief summary of the plot.
      3. Your personal reaction to the story line.
      4. Back up any criticisms (were there editing issues, did the story have a smooth flow, did the
          story make sense?)
      5. Share why the book received high marks. Why you would you recommend it to readers.

I must admit I never wrote a review until I became an independent author myself. I quickly learned the importance of a review whether it is negative or positive. It can be a learning tool when the majority of the reviews are of 3 stars or less. That presents the opportunity for me to go back and rewrite my story paying attention to the criticisims. Even well-known and established authors may receive negative reviews. They are only human and may not always present the best quality of work.

It is helpful to read the reviews by others. Did they bring out points that I overlooked? Did they see the same merits or faults as I did?

I do not claim to be a professional reviewer. My opinion is mine alone and I stand by them. I recently read three books from independent authors, who are also members of Rave Reviews Book Club.  Here are my reviews:

                                    The Clock Strikes Midnight by Joan C. Curtis. 
A page turning book that is well edited and has an amazing storyline. I liked how the author weaved each character in and out, and moved to different time periods without losing me. Marlena and her sister, Janie grew up with an alcoholic mother who had so many opportunities to be a stable and happy woman. An untimely pregnancy and her inability to accept her fate led her to drinking. After her husband dies, she marries a less than stellar man who is abusive to everyone in the family.
I will definitely recommend this book to anyone and I look forward to reading more books by Ms. Curtis.

                                    The Watchmage of Old New York  by C.A. Sanders
                                                            (Science Fiction)
Fantasy is not typically my favorite genre. I did enjoy this book, but did have difficulty at times keeping up with the various characters and the plot. Sometimes I had to go back and re-read certain sections. The book was well edited and the storyline was set at a good pace. There was murder, kidnapping, love, death, and many fantasy creatures. I like the ending which had me guessing for quite a while.
All in all an enjoyable read.

                                    The Family Caregiver's Guide by Harriet Hodgson
A very informative and well-written book about the role of the caregiver. Resources, groups, and contacts are listed as well as some step by step ways to deal with the family member and understanding the caregiver's role. Ms. Hodgson has been in the role of caregiver for her mother and grandchildren and now for her husband. Her compassion, love, and gentleness are quite evident.
This is a must read for everyone.

Reviews do not have to be long, but the author needs to know why the reader did or did not like the book. 
It is important that the author respond to each review. Yes, that can be time consuming, but it demonstrates to the readers that their role and opinions are important. 

For more information on how to write a review go to How to Write a Book Review -!

Monday, March 12, 2018

How do we define a senior season individual? We usually immediately think of gray hair, wrinkled skin, stooped bodies, slow minds, forgetfulness, dentures, and canes.

Typical statements by the seniors:
            My life is almost over
            I am too old to cook, clean, drive, exercise, etc.
            All my friends have died
            I feel so alone

Or we do know those in their senior season who are thriving, surviving, and striving toward their goals and dreams.

Here are some interesting facts about famous authors who achieved their goals in their senior years. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder (
Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing in her mid-forties when she was working as a columnist and a freelance writer. She took all her years of growing up and published Little House in the Big Woods at the age of 64.

Penelope Fitzgerald graduated from Oxford and launched her literary career in 1975, at the age of 58. By the age of 61, she published her first book and two later won the Booker Prize for her book, Offshore.

At the age of 70, John Howell started writing full time. He won honorable mention in a short story competition for Writer’s Digest in 2012. Since then he has four published books.

Frank McCourt (
When he was 66 years old, Frank McCourt published his first book, Angela’s Ashes.

Diana Athill is the oldest category winning author in the history of the Costa Book Awards. At the age of 91, she won the Biography Award for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End.

At the age of 70, Mary Wesley’s first published novel was Jumping the Queue, published in 1983.

The conclusion I came to in researching and writing this article is that our age is only a chronological number and it is what we do with the days in our lives that truly matters. I encourage everyone to follow your dream, do not let age or any other factors slow you down.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


I am pleased to have Leslie Tate as my guest author, poet, and blogger. In his book, Heaven's Rage he shares in depth his journey as a transvestite. Please give Leslie a warm welcome and ask questions or make comments.
There is a longer version to this blog at


As a transvestite I used to believe in ‘the woman within’. I felt, when I cross-dressed, closer to my ‘feminine side’ – though what I experienced was more a release of pressure, a kind of pleasurable lift as if I was walking out after being indoors for a month. ‘Relief dressing’ was good for me; it increased my sensitivity, making me softer, calmer and more alive. And to dress in front of others required a special kind of ‘tuning out’, a deliberately-willed blindness where I didn’t ask questions. I was on display but chose not to know it. Though, of course, I was vulnerable. It was as if I’d been turned inside out, with all my feelings on show. And it was that exposure that both set me apart and made me strong.

   My position was simple. I believed I was being more honest than the other men, the straight guys, who had the same feelings but were afraid to show them. In my private imaginings they were the stern men of action who kept at a distance and always wore a mask. But my attempts to pull rank didn’t get far. The men I had in mind simply shrugged their shoulders and carried on with their business, remarking casually that it didn’t bother them. Perhaps I wanted a reaction, a kind of reverse validation where they showed their dislike, or told me I was being stupid.

Nowadays I’m out in public. I go to the supermarket on my own wearing women’s clothes and everyone can see I’m a man because I don’t wear a wig or make-up. It’s the result of writing a memoir about my cross-dressing and having to live up to it. And I’m lucky because I live in a liberal-ish town where people don’t want to fight me. So it feels particularly good to be myself and behave naturally without being on show, even though no one else looks much like me.

So what about the book?

   Heaven’s Rage is not a confessional, and although it contains my trans story, it aims to cover a full range of experience. To quote ajh, a reviewer on Amazon:

‘Heaven’s Rage is autobiographical yet touches the universal. It has ambitious scope. There are sections on music and gardens, but the author really strikes his form on vulnerability, cross-dressing, illness, alcoholism, relationships. This could be depressing, yet it is uplifting.
   We enter the author’s life and live it through with him, feeling the hurts and the awkward compensations of vulnerability, the separateness of difference. We almost touch the quality of the cross-dressing feeling. As we do this, quietly, quietly, an alchemy is turning the iron of our heart to gold. In a microcosm of his own life experience, we end up as he does with a quiet, complex understanding of many of the issues. Walking through them our attitude softens, becomes more nuanced. I want to use the word love, yet this is never spelt out.
   I sense that the author could only have written this book now, after a long assimilation and integration of the many subtle aspects. I look forward very much to reading a novel from someone who has done this level of inner work.’

   In fact writing a memoir involves turning complex experience into a single point of view, which meant I had to simplify my memories into discrete incidents, creating a clear, consistent self-image. Of course, fitting the real person to an image isn’t always easy, and words narrow life, but it gave me a framed space where people can look in and ask questions – and they do, in their heads. It’s a safe place I go back to where I’m in the picture as both subject and object. The world’s out there, people are walking back and forth, sometimes they’re staring or waving, but I’m quite comfortable. They’re guests at my party, seeing me as I am, and if they don’t like it, the loss is theirs.

   And the men?

   I understand now their jokes and resistance, their willingness to do. For most men, what I wear doesn’t matter, they’re direct and fair-minded and life’s more important. And I’ve been cross-dressed in toilets and on trains with football supporters and had lots of support from caring men who act independently without fear or favour. Admittedly, there are still a few blokey blokes whose looks scare me. But I tell myself to keep walking and look the other way because I can feel my hot-and-shaky male anger bubbling up – and that’s not how I want to be. But of course, if I’m honest, there’s always a macho somewhere inside. I can swear and shout like the next man, the only difference is that for me it’s more important to recognise the man and the woman inside, to talk about them and know them, and not be in denial.

If you would like to read a longer and more detailed version of this blog, please go to


Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life.

Buying Heaven’s Rage:
Signed copies can be bought in the UK at

Leslie Tate studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and has been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. He’s the author of the trilogy of novels ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’, as well as his trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’, which has been turned into a film. Leslie runs a mixed arts show in Berkhamsted, UK, where he lives with his wife, multi-talented author Sue Hampton. On his website he posts up weekly creative interviews and guest blogs showing how people use their imagination in life, in many different ways.

Other books by Leslie Tate: