Blaine D Arden stops by to talk about Reviews ~ Guest blog, Excerpt, & Giveaway

I want to thank author Blaine D Arden for visiting us on PBA today.  She is going to talk about a very Hot-Button topic… Reviews and why she still reads them.  She also has a couple of treats for you, a giveaway of 2 of her titles AND an excerpt from her latest, “The Forester II: Lost and Found”

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Why I Still Read Reviews by Blaine D. Arden

First of all, thank you to Brandilyn and her review crew for hosting me at Prism Book Alliance for their reopening month. A new year, new name, and a new look. And because this is a review site, my first idea was to write an ode to reviewers, but that made me segway into some pretty bad poetry, so I decided to change the point of view and talk about why I, as an author, still read reviews. (which is, essentially, still an ode to reviewers)

Every author at one point in their career receives the advice to not read reviews of their own stories. The reasoning is sound, too, especially for those whose creativity and motivation suffers after reading negative reviews. And yet, even after two years, I can’t seem to resist checking Goodreads regularly for new reviews. Granted, I don’t check every day anymore—like I did for a month after “The Forester” was published—but I can’t seem to stay away from reviews. It’s like an addiction.

But why can’t I stay away? Why do I keep putting myself in the position of finding negative reviews or readers who didn’t like my stories?

Well, the answer is an easy one, really. Because I like to know how readers view my stories. Because in this day and age—even if there are many readers out there who don’t give a crap about internet communities or writing reviews—I’m in the position to get an impression of that. And that includes not so favourable opinions.

And it’s not just about finding 3/4/5 star ratings—yes, I’m the kind of author who fully believes 3 stars are a good thing, though mileage may vary. It’s about the enthusiasm the reviews show, about the fact they took the time to let others know what they liked about my story. And as much as I love seeing the words “well written” and “great worldbuilding” among them, it’s all about the tiny details those readers and reviewers pick out to gush over.

Sometimes I’m absolutely gobsmacked by what readers and reviewers get out of my books. I have to admit that I suck at analysing books and can’t remember details for more than a day after having read one, but these readers pick up on things I sometimes feel I wasn’t even conscious of putting into the story. The way they notice the characters’ flaws and achievements, the way they get what I was trying to do with a certain scene or chapter. The ways they read between the lines is amazing. And what they find, what they feel, doesn’t just make me smile, it makes me soar. For hours, days even.

And to think that I would have missed all that if I’d headed the advice about reading reviews.

Of course, when the comments aren’t as positive, they can make me cringe, cry, rant, or huff irritably—something that thrills my men (aka husband and sons) to no end *cough*. I think every writer has moments where they feel the reader misunderstood what they were trying to do, and I’m no different. In hindsight, my ranting to my screen about some little detail a reader missed is actually quite funny. Less so the moments where I realised I missed something. Those are pretty painful. In those moments I try to focus on the good things, and the joy writing still gives me, and just plough on with the story at hand. It’s not always easy, but, it hasn’t stopped me reading reviews yet.

So, I’ll take the criticism—no matter how much it makes me want to hide and scream—and I’ll keep reading reviews because I value the reviewers, value the feedback, and enjoy the happiness the compliments bring me.


Blaine has kindly offered 1 lucky commenter an eCopy of both “The Forester” and “The Forester II: Lost and Found”.

Contest ends 5 Feb 2014 @ 11:59pm.  Must be 18 or older, etc

About the Author

blaine2013-200x300Blaine D. Arden is a purple haired, forty-something writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes, and the colours black, purple and red, who sings her way through life.

You can find Blaine at, twitter,facebook, and goodreads.

Blurb from The Forester II: Lost and Found

“The Guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.”

One turn has passed, another Solstice is just around the corner, and having an illicit affair with not one but two lovers-smith Ianys and shunned Forester Taruif-is taking its toll on Truth Seeker Kelnaht. If it isn’t sneaking around to find some quality time with his lovers, it’s heavy rainfall hiding traces of a missing stripling, or waiting for the elders to decide whether or not to set Taruif free. And if that’s not enough, Kelnaht fears that in gaining one lover, he might be losing another, as Ianys seems to be pulling away from them, and it looks like someone is, once again, trying to frame Taruif.

Where to Buy

Storm Moon Press

Excerpt from The Forester II: Lost and Found



I was glad I wore my trousers tucked into my high boots, as the mud sucked at them with every step. It had been raining off and on for the past two weeks. The leaves of the few evergreen oaks and parulm trees scattered throughout the forest dripped water, and twilight threw the woodland into a cold and eerie darkness. Cloak wrapped tightly around me and wings folded, I tried to ignore the drizzling chill brushing my fingers as I held my hands out in front of me, energy flowing freely as I scanned for Ustion’s footsteps.


Step by step, I circled the area at the foot of Moors Mountain surrounding the mouth of the hunters’ cave, while my apprentice, Brem, did the same on the other side of the cave’s entrance. Even with the floating lanterns hovering above us, I could find little trace of Ustion. There had been plenty in the cave. Just outside, same thing, but the farther I moved away from the cave, the less I found. At this point, I’d be thrilled to find even the tiniest trace that would tell me where Ustion had walked off to. I muttered a prayer to Ma’terra, hoping something would turn up soon. Deeper into the forest, the search party bellowed out for Ustion every couple of paces.


Ustion, son of Ashyu and soon-to-be carpenter’s apprentice, had been staying with Ashyu’s hunting group when he disappeared. It was tradition to take their older children with them once a turn for a break in routine. According to the hunters, Ustion had been doing fine-couldn’t shoot a rabbit even if it stood still, but made the best arrows-until three nights ago, when Ustion and Ashyu had argued, and Ustion had walked off to blow off some steam. When he hadn’t returned that evening, Ashyu had assumed he’d gone home to sulk. At sixteen turns, Ustion was old enough to find his way back, but when the hunting group returned to the village earlier today, Ustion hadn’t been home. He hadn’t been anywhere in the village.


Three nights was a long time for a stripling like him to be missing.

“Do you think we’ll find him soon, Master Kelnaht?”

Ashyu, a tall tree elf built like an oak, looked old in the flickering light of the lanterns. Lines were etched into his face, lines of worry, lines of regret. He’d been mumbling prayers since we started our search, staying close to Brem and me as we searched for traces. Every time we paused or bent down, he held his breath. His sighs when we found nothing sounded heartbreaking.

“I hope so,” was all I could answer to that. Truth was, I had no idea. The lack of traces was alarming, the nearing darkness even more so. I hadn’t expected the absence of traces, hadn’t expected the search to take this long. We weren’t prepared to spend the night in the forest, and once the night creatures stirred, the fire would be needed for protection more than light. The sooner we found Ustion, the sooner we could all go home. I hoped Taruif wasn’t waiting up for me.


Grabbing some herbs from my pouch, I sprinkled them over my cold hands and rubbed them together to cleanse them and protect them from the worst of the cold. When my hands started tingling, I took a deep breath, muttered a prayer to Ma’terra to guide us in our search, and renewed my focus. Hands extended, I felt my way through the rubble and the mud, moving farther and farther away from the cave. Every now and then, Brem and I met up in the middle, but we had nothing new to tell each other. Neither of us could find anything, and we were both reaching the limit of our powers.


In the end, I had no choice but to call it a night. We could barely see our hands in front of us, the wind had become fierce and close to freezing, and Brem and I needed to stop before we ran out of energy. Standing amidst his hunting group, Ashyu begged and screamed for us to give it another hour, stamping his feet into the mud and swinging his fists to punctuate his words.

I shook my head. “Look at your friends, Ashyu,” I told him. “You’ve all just returned from a week long hunting trip. They need a good night’s rest.” I gestured at Brem and I. “We need a good night’s rest to replenish our energy. We’ll restart our search in the morning and gather as many elves as we can to combine our energies. We will find your son.”

Ashyu sagged against a tree, disappointment and pain clear in his expression. Two of his group had to help him back on his feet before they could lead him back to the village. We walked in silence. I couldn’t stop myself from scanning the ground every couple of paces with what little energy I had left. Next to me, Brem did the same. A desperate act, or idle hope, maybe, but we’d never lost anyone in the forest before, and we weren’t planning on doing so now.

When I entered the village, Ianys stood waiting in the shadow of my dwelling, keeping out of sight until the last door in the village had closed. As soon as I reached him, his strong arms enveloped me, and I sagged against him. His warm mouth claiming mine brought a relief I couldn’t express in words. Ianys knew me well. He wrapped his cloak around me, took my cold and wet hands in his, and led me to Taruif’s dwelling.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

This post may contain affiliate links.
Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews.  The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.

32 thoughts on “Blaine D Arden stops by to talk about Reviews ~ Guest blog, Excerpt, & Giveaway

  1. Loved the excerpt here–you got me caught up in the story right away and now I want to know what happens to the missing Ustion, darn it!

    I go back and forth on reviews myself. I’ve learned to not read the earliest reviews, but wait until I have several to read at once. I’ve also learned that some people like wielding scepters of power when it comes to reviews–I steer clear of those. But what I’ve really learned is that it’s *hard* to write a good critical review. I don’t think it’s my forte. I think in the future, I’m going to leave it up to the people who do it better than I. 🙂

    • I so agree with you on how hard it is to write a good critical review. And I also know I’m never going to write one (which is one of the reasons I rarely even review on goodreads, because I’m more squeeing than reviewing). I’ll gladly leave reviewing up to others and keep writing.

      And thank you for the compliment 🙂

  2. It’s difficult for anyone to go through a review on anything, e.g. a job performance, written report, food dish, etc. Please count me in the contest. The Forester was an intriguing read with a lot to be explored in the sequel.

    • That’s a very good point!
      I think job performance tops that list (though… in a sense book reviews are very close to job performance reports, since writing is our job. Interesting!)

      Thank you! And counted 🙂

  3. as a reader and sometimes reviewer, I have to say my motivation for writing a review is based most on whether I enjoyed the book. If I didn’t enjoy it I’m not going to particularly feel like putting the energy in to actually writing a review for it. I will write a review if I’ve specifically been given a book for that purpose (but I do try to pick books/authors that I’m most likely going to enjoy), but I’ll only write reviews on other books if I was passionate about them.

  4. I write reviews for both myself (so I can remember about the book later, as I read almost 1/day) and for other readers who might want to know what other people are thinking about a certain book or author, even. I will admit that I don’t rate many books 5 stars. But again, I read almost 1/day so it has to really blow me away to be a 5. I have a lot of 4s. And 3s. Very seldom will I rate a book lower, there has to be something really wrong for me to rate a 1 or 2. And if there’s something about the book that just wasn’t my cuppa, but everything else in it was good (writing, editing, characterization, etc) I will leave off the stars & just write the review stating that it wasn’t my thing. I try to make sure that I articulate what I didn’t like about a book if I’ve given it a lower rating, in hopes that if the author sees it, (s)he will take note & view it as constructive criticism. And if the author doesn’t see it, other readers can at least try to judge whether it’s something they want to take a chance on. Thanks for your interview, I love the covers – they’re so artistic! Please include me in your giveaway, thanks.

    • so I can remember about the book later, as I read almost 1/day

      Oh… I now do this as well, in an excell file. You see, I delete books I’ve read from my ereader immediately, so I won’t try to read them again… but then I started forgetting which books I’d read (when trying to update my goodreads lists), so I made an excell file. Still not fail safe, but it does help lol

  5. I generally only write reviews for books I have liked. I always feel bad about knocking an author down if I didn’t enjoy it and I understand that peoples opinions differ and I don’t want to influence someone else reading the book.
    I loved the excerpt and am really eager to see what happens.

    • As long as your not personally attacking the author when stating why you didn’t like a book, I wouldn’t consider it “knocking an author down”. Respectfully pointing out what didn’t work for you can be constructive criticism. Used properly by the author, it can help him/her improve future books. Also there are readers who like things others don’t. If they see that in a review, they might be more inclined to read that book. i.e. if I see someone mentioning too much sex in a review, I’m way more inclined to read it than if I see someone mentioning no sex. I like lots of smut!

      • Totally agree. I know some of my friends don’t like certain things like cheating in the romances they read. If a charcter cheat he loses many sympathy points and they can’t quite fall for the couple.Or some that don’t like menages and open relationships and when they surprisingly happen in a story, can’t really connect with it. If I read about a mmm coupling that really makes me want to read the book. Usually, when I read recs from GR friends, I know what to expect from them and can find books that are 80 % 5 star reads to me. Though I do love reading books I know nothing about and taking a gamble ♡ Books I discover that way are precious to me. Unknown treassures that I can share with my friends 🙂

      • Stephanie F. :
        I loved the excerpt and am really eager to see what happens.

        Thanks 🙂

        Lisa :
        As long as your not personally attacking the author when stating why you didn’t like a book, I wouldn’t consider it “knocking an author down”

        I agree.

        Though… I doubt you’ll find anyone complaining about too much sex in my work…

        Marc :
        Though I do love reading books I know nothing about and taking a gamble ♡ Books I discover that way are precious to me. Unknown treassures that I can share with my friends

        Sometimes you have to take a gamble 🙂

        And reviews (though I rarely read reviews for books I’m thinking of buying – I want to be surprised) are perfect to find out if things that alarm us in a blurb make it a no-go or us. I can’t read slavery, and with a lot of slavery still being mixed in with BDSM, it’s sometimes hard to see if I can or can’t read the book, and then I do read reviews.

  6. I am very thankful to reviewers because I rarely buy a book without checking out the reviews on Goodreads and other review sites. I’m not good at writing them myself but try to at least fill in the Goodreads stars 🙂 Thanks for the excerpt and giveaway. I agree with Lisa – your covers are beautiful.

    • and I completely forgot to reply to Lisa about the covers. Both Forester covers were made by Nathie, and she’s done a superb job in bringing my characters to life 🙂

      As I mentioned above, I’m the complete opposite, I hate reading reviews before I read the books. I don’t even like it when publishers put the blurb in the beginning of the book, because once I’ve bought a book I like the idea of knowing nothing about it, until I start reading it. (but I know I’m weird)

  7. I love fantasy m/m. It’s so much fun to be thrown into a new world and learning the workings. Thank so much for the giveaway and excerpt.

    • The same goes for me. I love stepping into an unknown world when I’m reading, and following the characters through their world, discovering it as the story develops. Escapism at its best 🙂

      Though, of course, since I know barely anything about American culture, a lot of contemporary books do the same for me lol

  8. I haven’t read many stories with a fantasy setting, but recently I’ve learned to appreciate the world building and I’ve had my eye on these two books for a while.

  9. Wow, I loved reading your post. It is so good to know that there are some authors still reading reviews. I’m usually very easily pleased. If a book makes me happy, I can forgive minor problem I had with it. But even when I don’t love it, I will always try to articulate what worked for me and highlight the aspects that caused me not to fall in love with a particular book. I know I’m not all-knowing, but I do hope that there are some interesting observations in my ramblings, after reading 300 books in the genre and that I can add an interesting perspective, being a gay man. Especially when I don’t love a book, I take a lot of time to find the right words and add my hopefully constructive criticism. It is very rare for me to actively dislike a book, but I always try to be respectful and it is very good to hear that reviewers are appreciated. As I love fantasy, it just makes me very eager to buy and crack open one of your books, get lost in the world you created and shared with me and tell you all about my personal journey through the story. Thank you for your wonderful and encouraging words. – Marc Fleischhauer

    • You’re welcome 🙂
      I’m always in awe of how detailed reviewers remember and see our stories. I’m cursed with a bad memory. I might remember roughly what it’s about, but I rarely remember books in detail (though sometimes what others say sparks my memory). And the same goes for films (which makes it fun to watch them again)

      Of course… my boys–who aren’t really readers, unless you count Youngest’s love affair with manga–remember details years after they’ve read a book. It’s so bloody unfair.

      I hope you enjoy your stay in my worlds 🙂

  10. When I write reviews, it’s either because I have to (I received a review copy or need to review for a challenge) or because I have something I really, really want to say about a book. I think my reviewing skills have improved a lot over the past couple years, and I genuinely try to be fair and helpful in my reviews. If I liked something, I’ll say so; if something bugged me, I’ll mention it. So it’s pretty gratifying to know when authors read and appreciate those reviews, even if they aren’t 100% positive.

    • Even those authors who don’t read reviews appreciate the work reviewers do. At least the authors I know 🙂

      And we do know we can’t please everyone (and sometimes we make mistakes, too)

  11. You’re not “weird” for not reading book blurbs or reviews before reading a book…I do that too! (Maybe we’re both “weird”.) If it is an author that is an auto-buy for me, I’m going to read the book no matter what. Therefore, I don’t want to know anything about it. However, if I’m trying to decide whether or not to read a book by a new author then I’ll read some of the reviews and the blurb. I always like to read reviews after I’ve read a book because I love to see if other readers felt the same way as I did about the story.
    Thanks for the interview. The Forester has been on my wishlist forever so I would love to win. Please count me in!

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