Waiting waiting waiting

The launch party was a great success on Saturday! It was so fun to talk books and writing with so many readers.

And now Stone Alliance is out in the world, and I’m waiting for this baby to come out into the world too. Between being roughly the size of a rhinoceros and coming down with a ridiculous cold, it’s been increasingly hard to do anything remotely productive, so I’ve been catching up on some reading. Here’s what’s in my stack this week:

Beastly Bones by William Ritter
Charlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo
President of the Whole Sixth Grade by Sherri Winston
Nightmares! by Jason Segel
Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (although I’m struggling to get anywhere with this one, short as it is)

What are you reading this week?

Why I love three-star reviews

The first days after releasing a book, it’s hard not to compulsively check Amazon and Goodreads every ten minutes to see whether there’s a new review. As a writer, I LOVE four- and five-star reviews. Let’s be honest. I like being told that I’m a brilliant writer.

But as time has passed, I’ve found that, while five-star reviews are the most encouraging and exciting, the most useful reviews, both as a reader and a writer, are the three-star reviews.

I know some people who get upset at three-star reviews, as if it’s a negative rating. It’s not. On Goodreads, three stars is described as “I liked it.” And you know, I’m okay with people liking my books.

And the thing about three-star reviews is, the reviewer is often much more fair about presenting the strengths and weaknesses of a book. It’s not nearly as fun to hear about my writing weaknesses as it is to hear about everything I did well, but it’s so necessary. If I don’t know what problems readers have with my writing, I don’t know how to polish it up, make my words smoother and more powerful.

I also appreciate the frank honesty of three-star reviews. Higher ratings tend toward effusive praise and lower ratings tend toward vague, snippy generalizations; but three-star reviews are (generally speaking) more thoughtful and complete examinations of a book’s merits.

How do you feel about three stars? Do you tend to rate books high, middling, or low?

The danger of reviews

I recently reread a trilogy that, aside from an abundance of teenage romance, I thoroughly enjoyed. It had a complex and engaging plot, varied and developed characters, and a villain who gave me nightmares. Granted, it wasn’t a literary master piece or anything, but it was fun YA sci-fi.

When I posted my rating on Goodreads, I happened to glance at the other reviews on the page. I was surprised to see a number of fairly negative reviews, in spite of a decent overall rating on the book. Glancing through them, I found that I really didn’t agree with most of the reviews, and the bits that I did sort of agree with weren’t a big enough deal to me to lower my four-star rating.

This is the down side of my up-down relationship with Goodreads. I love seeing what my friends are reading and their reviews–but I hate seeing reviews from total strangers, because I can’t put it in context of their personality.

Book bloggers are a step up, because I feel like I do get some sense of their personality and their perspective after a bit. I can tell where our tastes meet and where they diverge. Usually. If it’s a good blogger.

But my top source of book recommendations is still my circle of bookish friends. We know each other well enough that we can say, “I liked this book but don’t think it would appeal to you” or, conversely, “I didn’t like this book, but it’s right up your alley.” Not only that, if I read a book on a friend’s recommendation, I already know that I have someone to talk to about it when I’m done. Because, seriously, what’s worse than loving a book and having NOBODY to talk to about it? I’m still trying to find someone to squeal about A Corner of White with, by the way, if any of you have read it. The last book in the trilogy is coming out next month and I’m dying here!

So how do you feel about online reviews? Do you check out Goodreads before you pick a book? Any favorite book bloggers?

All covered!

Today’s the day! With one month to the release of Stone Alliance, I’m pleased to present . . . THE COVER!

Ready?

Stone Alliance front cover

I’m biased, I know, but . . . I love it! Stars and clouds and ocean and craggy rocks . . . happy sigh. Here’s the lowdown on what you’re in for:

Haunted by his transformation, Rustav returns home to a war-torn land. More attacks from the island demons ravage the peninsula each day, and a centuries-old grudge threatens to tear down the last wall standing between Rustav’s people and swift destruction.

Determined to save his people and terrified that he might cause their destruction, Rustav must rebuild long-lost trust between three estranged cultures while concealing the secret that could crush the last hope of salvation for his people.

Coming March 2, 2016!

The adventure begins with Demon’s Heart, available now at Barnes and Noble and Amazon!

And in case you need more Emily in your life, find me on these other sites:

Twitter: @ehbates 

Instagram: @ehbates.author 

Facebook: facebook.com/ehbates.author

You’ll start happening too

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

(Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

* * *

Things have been happening all over the place around here. Last week, I heard there was a new bookstore in the area, and I had to go check it out.

The Neverending Bookshop is a delightful little used bookstore in downtown Bothell. Scout loves the children’s section, where, if you look carefully, you can find good evidence of the owner’s love of Star Wars. I love the shelves–I’ll have to see if I can get a picture next time I’m there. Altogether a charming atmosphere and–the best part–chock-full of books.

I got talking to the owner, Annie, while I was there, who, by the way, is as fabulous as her bookshop. After bonding over fantasy books and exchanging a couple of emails, we set up a launch party for Stone Alliance!

I’ll be at The Neverending Bookshop on March 5 at 2:00pm. More details will come as we get closer, but save the date–and if you’re in the area, go take a look at the bookstore beforehand! Happy reading!

Strong female leads aren’t enough

Along with the Demon’s Heart trilogy, I’m working on another series that’s been brewing in one form or another for a good decade now. I’ve worked at it on and off through the years, but it went through a long stretch on the shelf for one reason:

Both the main characters were boys.

I felt somehow that I was betraying my fellow women by writing a story in which the female characters play only supporting roles. I read articles about how we need more strong female leads, how girls need better literary role models, how vital female authors are in battling sexism.

And, you know, I agree with all that. I like reading MG and YA books about girls who are strong, compassionate, and resilient. In fact, after reading a post from a fellow blogger about how she made a special effort to seek out female authors this year, I went back to my Year in Books to see how much of my reading list was written by women.

The answer? Two-thirds. Easy. And I wasn’t even remotely making an effort to read more women authors.

(What I also found interesting was that there were two books I read this year with grossly shallow female characters, and only one of them was written by a man. But that’s for another post.)

Our girls today have an abundance of literary role models to learn from, and for that I am so grateful. I can’t wait until my girls are old enough to read The Penderwicks or Princess Academy or Jane Eyre or Tuesdays at the Castle.

But at the same time, I can’t help thinking–who are our boys looking up to?

See, most of my friends growing up were boys. While I spent most of my youth fielding jabs about all my boyfriends, the truth was, they were practically brothers to me. I loved them to pieces, and I worried about them a lot. I was painfully aware, especially in middle school and high school, that the fictional characters they idolized were often either trained killers or sex-obsessed. Often both.

And the thing is, that doesn’t just affect boys. Just as the portrayal of women in fiction affect what boys think women should be, the portrayal of men in fiction affects what girls think men should be. Do you know how many girls I’ve met who are in love with Captain Jack Harkness? Do you understand how this is a problem? The man is (according to popular opinion) gorgeous, charming, and willing to sleep with anything that moves. Is that the kind of man you want your daughter going on a date with?

What worries me even more is how often these stereotypically violent, shallow men are romanticized and “redeemed,” which often just means excused with the most fleeting explanation possible. I’m in the middle of the Lunar Chronicles, which are incredibly well written with a depth of world-building that makes me drool. BUT. Wolf? I’m sorry. “He can’t help it” doesn’t make me fall madly in love with a man who has spent his life tearing throats out. And as for Captain Thorne, you can’t spend two books setting him up as being dumb as a post and twice as shallow, then convince me that he’s turned his whole life around and suddenly has hidden depths.

AND THIS IS A SERIES WRITTEN BY A WOMAN WITH TRULY STELLAR FEMALE LEAD CHARACTERS.

Our boys AND GIRLS need upstanding male characters as much as they need upstanding female characters. If we want our boys and girls to grow up respecting each other and capable of working together, children’s literature is a good place to start modeling that.