Book Reviews for Sliced Vegetarian

Do you know the feeling when someone says something nice about you? When that kind and generous comment gets back to you?  Don’t you get excited and look in the mirror with your chin up? Imagine if those compliments meant money.  In the publishing world, they do.

Sliced Vegetarian Front Cover

Thank you, Sandra Dallas!

Authors live (and sometimes die) by the reputations they build (author platform) and the reviews they get for their books.  That’s part of why we go to book conferences and conventions, we give talks to any group interested, and we “shamelessly self-promote” wherever we can. We also try to make friends with authors a little farther along in their careers, because, a) it’s fun to have a friend who shares your interest and does it so well, and b) sometimes you can ask that friend for a review/blurb for your book. It’s all important, and all marketing.

So you can imagine how thrilled I am this week.  I have reviews to share with you on Sliced Vegetarian!  My publisher and I sent Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) to review publications and famous people to see what they think of the book.  Here are some results:


Do you know Sandra Dallas?  She is a New York Times best-selling author and book reviewer for the Denver Post.  Ms. Dallas started her career as the first woman bureau chief for Business Week, still a thought leader in business under the Bloomberg Press Conglomerate.  In other words, this author is a big deal, a really big deal.

I contacted her about a year ago to do a blog post for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.  We spent a pleasant 30 or 40 minutes together at the end of which she was kind enough to ask about my writing.  When I told her about Daisy Arthur she encouraged me to contact her when my ARCs came out.  Shamelessly, I did.  I didn’t really expect her to remember me or her offer, yet she accepted my ARC and wrote a very nice blurb:

“Sliced Vegetarian is one meaty little mystery. Readers will adore Daisy Arthur and her cast of dogs and detectives as she fights for justice for her special needs friends. There’s both charm and suspense in this satisfying cozy.”

My publisher jumped all over this and you can see the result.  A portion of this quote is on the cover of Sliced Veggie.  How cool is that?  An almost total stranger helping a little person in publishing out.

If you like reading good books, please visit Sandra’s website.  She has thirteen novels set in the West, award-winning non-fiction, and even two children’s books.


Have you read the Birdwatcher’s Series of mystery?  If not, you’re in for a treat.  Chris is a rising star in the publishing industry, and it’s my true honor to call her my friend.  We collaborate on projects for our local chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and I always enjoy our time together–including going to her birthday party this past week–at a HORSE RACETRACK! Fantastic.

Anyway, one of the things I admire about Chris is that she truly reads the books she reviews.  Even though she was swamped with edit deadlines on one of her novels, she took the time to read my book.  Here’s how her review starts:

“Cozy mystery readers will love Daisy Arthur, a heroine with heart and spunk.”

Chris and I, along with two other writing friends are going to have a book “baby shower” at the end of August. I’ll try to remember to write a post about a party where the hosts act like mothers-to-be of our new babies:

  • Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts
  • Tea and Treachery by Patricia Coleman
  • Dark Waters by Christine Goff
  • Sliced Vegetarian by yours truly

I think it will be a party to DIE for–heh, heh, heh.


Ellen is the president of our chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a super cool leader, friend, and most importantly, mystery writer.  You can imagine how grateful I was to receive this comment from her:

“No matter how you slice it or dice it, Sliced Vegetarian is a tasty treat for cozy mystery readers.”


While its thrilling to get “big press,” I believe the home-town paper has even bigger clout.  When “local author does good” kind of stories appear, people in the area are bound to look out for a read where they have a real interest in the setting as well as the story.

I’ve never met Ms. Ellingboe, but I can tell from the several column inches she generously gave to my review that she truly read the book, and wrote the review in such a way that my good guy even said it made him want to read the story (he is NOT a cozy mystery fan).  Thank you, thank you, Ms. Ellingboe!


While I didn’t get a review in this on-line publication, I have been added to their author list. This is hugely important because Stan and Lucinda have a fantastic following of readers, with a twice-monthly newsletter on new mystery books, book give-aways, and everything mystery.  If you like to read mysteries, this is the place for you.


Yippee! Yahoo!  To get a mention in the big guy’s reviews is a terrific feather in any author’s cap.  For Sliced Vegetarian, I received mentions in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist Review. My publisher was able to pull positive quotes from each and I am dancing on Cloud Nine.


My publisher let me know that Thorndyke Press, a sister company of Five Star Publishing, is acquiring rights to publish Sliced Veggie in large print.

Do you know anywhere else I should send an ARC?  I always appreciate making a new connection in the mystery writing world.

Have a great and creative week.  I’ll be on vacation next week but will return on July 8, with more writing experiences.


Giving Critique to Others

Today I will be interviewing author and book critic, Sandra Dallas, for a post on Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog. The interview will be published on Friday. Ms. Dallas has several books in print and impressive awards won. She used to be a bureau chief for Business Week. Her book reviews often appear in the Denver Post. The focus for our interview will be about writing book reviews. This also made me think about how I review work, and so I thought I’d share my process with you.

Critique notes on my latest chapter

Group polishing efforts by my critique friends


You may wonder why I don’t tend to write reviews for Goodreads or Amazon etc. To me, these public forums are where you can build a reputation for critiquing. Unfortunately, because I’d like to be honest when I review work, I wouldn’t give a lot of my friends the five stars they want and need.  I would reserve such high praise for books like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Jaws, or Gone With the Wind. I gave a friend three stars once, and I think I really hurt her feelings.  As my mom used to tell me, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” So, I don’t tend to review books publicly.

Privately, I can be more open with my writing friends. Here’s how it works:


When I started writing, seriously writing, I was in my twenties, and majoring in journalism or Mass Comm in college.  I wrote for each of the university newspapers where I attended and typed out assignments with a wonderful electric typewriter one of my family members gave me for a high school graduation present.  Those were the days!  But while everything I wrote was published (the papers were desperate to fill their columns), little editing was done, and no rewrites were required. Kind of like blog posting today.  This isn’t the way to improve writing.

When I joined Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, more than ten years ago, I was certain that everyone would be impressed with my writing and encourage me to go straight to the publisher with the next Great American Novel . . . WRONG!

I think I cried (well, at least sniffled) on my first reviews, and several times since. But with the tears came greater and greater knowledge of how writing works. Lesson: don’t write in a vacuum. Feedback is so important if you want to get publishable work done.  My friends (and yes, I consider my critique group full of friends) taught me grammar, punctuation, story structure, character building and so much more, all through the gentle prodding and questions about my work. I would not be publishable without them.  Here are some other lessons about reviewing others’ work they taught me:


Oh yes, there are terrible submissions out there, but there are no reasons or excuses for being rude to a writer.  So, when I review another’s work, I start by looking for something good to say. Even if you can only say that the page was well laid out, find the good.  It’s easier than you think (unless the dog just barfed on your carpet, you’ve had a fight with one of your loved ones, and dinner got burnt.  On those kind of days you may want to keep your karma home).


This one is trickier. The way to avoid hurting the author more than you have to, is to avoid the words “you should.” Instead of saying “You need to work on your attributions,” I try to phrase the criticism more like, “Josie seems like a good character. What if when she talks, you were to put a period at the end of her words, and then write a sentence about what Josie is doing while she talks?” It may take a little longer, but the feelings saved are well worthwhile.


This is the word I write on the reviews I do. “Challenges” to me indicates that the author may have some opportunity to polish work without actually saying “there’s a problem.” A challenge is an invitation, a problem is a condemnation. At least this is so for me.

And I try to avoid writing out more than three or four challenges.  In football, when a better team crushes their opponent, it’s called “piling on” and the team that does that is not necessarily thought well of.  Same is true in writing.  You can find fault just about everywhere you want to find it, but are you doing anyone any good, by pointing out every flaw?


Writers tend to have fragile souls. We pour out our emotions with bravery onto the page. Very therapeutic at times.  But when others see your work and comment on it, it’s like standing naked in front of a crowd. No need to embarrass a writer by only pointing out the flaws in their stories and emotions.  End on a note about them as a writer.  Things like, “I see a lot of talent in you,” or “your work shows great promise,” are seldom anything close to a lie, and helps your author walk away saving a little self-dignity.

What about you?  What’s your favorite tip on reviewing others’ works?


I’ll be taking a little break next week for a short summer vacation, and will return Wednesday, July 9th.  Thank you for hanging in with me all these Wednesdays, and I’ll talk with you again soon.