SocNet Promo

19 Feb 2013:
New blog post up with notes on how to use social networking to promote your books (from my recent chat with Grace from JKSCommunications).

Wordpress Blog

Pre-Press Reviews

!Starred! Publishers Weekly: "[A] carefully crafted whodunit." Click here for more (subscription only)

Booklist: "[A] cleverly structured mix of science fiction and mystery." Click here for more (subscription only).

Kirkus: "Twisty plot." Click here for more.

RT Book Reviews - !Four Stars!: "Gripping." Click here for more (full review on line in January 2014).

Upon Reflection, Christian Writings Reviewed: "Compelling. Intriguing. Fascinating." Click here for more.

The Future Fire: "The time travel and murder mystery aspects were ... well-rendered." Click here for more.

Beauty in Ruins: "Ellen Larson has crafted a solid tale, one with enough deception and suspicion to keep even the most jaded reader guessing." Click here for more.

Gumshoe Review: "Larson provides an interesting tale of a possible future and a puzzle to solve. People and motives are different than they appear. Past conspiracies have shaped the present and bode ill for the future... Excitement abounds in the climax as Merit must choose the future for all Okuchans and Rasakans." Click here for more.



Night Owl Reviews


Yes, it's too early even for pre-press reviews, but IR has been around the block a few times, most notably twice entered for an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Here are a few reviews from those experiences.

ABNA 2009

In 2009 Ellen entered IR in the ABNA contest. The book got to the quarter finals, where it was awarded a critique by a Publisher's Weekly reviewer. Here's what she said:

"After a rocky start, this story — about Merit Rasmy, former time-traveler (or Retrospector) on a future Earth decimated by warfare — finds a sure footing. Merit fought in the failed resistance movement, but is saved from execution because she is the last Retrospector alive, and the new government needs her help. As Merit struggles with despair and how to hold true to what remains of her ideals and loyalties, she must discover who can be trusted from among her old allies and new enemies. The story shies from hackneyed good vs. evil themes, while the author expertly plays out the implications of society-wide upheavals on the scale of a single woman’s choices. Even the eventual time-travel Deus Ex Machina is made fresh by the reversals of context and emotion that precede it."

And here's what the ABNA Expert Reviewer said:

"In the aftermath of war, the victors and the vanquished are going through the complex process of learning to live together. A former resistance leader and her pre-war friend from the other side are brought together by a need to use time travel to solve a murder. 

The story includes interesting ideas, complex characters, and satisfying theoretical underpinnings. The details of the place and the people are well outlined, and the story hangs together well."

Not bad--and highly useful. Taking "After a rocky start" to heart, Ellen reworked the opening sections and (eventually) re-entered the contest in 2012.

ABNA 2012

This time, despite the rewrite, IR stalled in the second round. Check out the two ABNA Expert Reviews of the excerpt and synopsis:

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
This is a very fine piece, with excellent writing, a good lead character, and an understated and effective setting. What strikes me is the author's use of stylistic devices such as writing in the future tense and the serial use of sentence fragments. Using such devices can be very effective if done well, but that requires a deft hand and much skill. These things work amazingly well in this excerpt.

In addition, the plot is very strong and the alternation of time frames (also a risky device often used poorly by inexperienced writers) keeps the reader's interest at a very high level.

What aspect needs the most work?
I can only point to two issues, and they are relatively minor. When employing devices such as writing in the future tense, consistency is vital and the author did miss on one or two verbs. Also, one more proofreading would have helped. While there are not very many mistakes, an error such as writing "sheer" instead of "shear" could have been caught with another run-through.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
The excerpt is great. It combines skilled and compelling writing with a great story, told in an interesting and effective manner. Time travel themes are not new, but the author provides a story with fresh elements that are very satisfying. The lead character is developed quickly and engages our sympathy and interest at once. Alternation of time-frames is matched with effective changes in prose style. I definitely hope to read the entire novel when it's published.

And then came the death knell....

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
You have an interesting premise with a unique start, and, though I have only the excerpt to go by, what could be some interesting characters. It is obvious that you love dialogue, though it would be helpful if you could tone down your seeming obsession with it. 

Either you have an amazing mental dictionary of adjectives or you enjoy using a thesaurus. These can both tremendously aid a writer; but only if used in moderation. Unless it is vital to the story, the fact that the grass was “pine green”* does nothing for the reader except cause the reading to stop as s/he tries to figure out what that looks like and why it made any difference versus saying the grass was “green”.

I would gladly read more of the story after considerable editing and rewriting.

What aspect needs the most work?
Descriptive words are great – as long as they don't cause the reader to stop to figure out what you are talking about. I had to stop with your first sentence. I know what a “large” desk is. I know what a “barge” is. I don't know how someone would sit at a “barge-like” desk. Nitpicking? Maybe, but it did cause me to stop reading before I had finished your first sentence. If I do that very often, it won't take long before I'm unwilling to start back reading your story. (Of course, I did read every word of the excerpt – as you will be able to tell.)

Another example: “then fought on an insurgent after the armistice”. I figured out what you meant (probably). But, had your proofreaders told you to insert the “as”, I wouldn't have had to stop reading to add it myself. 

Page after page after page of dialogue fills pages, but doesn't move the story along at all. Narrative such as “Merit was surprised that Eric was so knowledgeable on such things as ….”* The reader got the point early on in the exchange that Egil was smarter than Merit. It didn't take a chapter to describe what all he knew. A few paragraphs teaches the reader what s/he needs to know about the science and away we go with the mystery/science fiction.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
I can't change the fact that I'm a male. However, I have read many, many science fiction novels with female main characters; written by both sexes. Your pitch did not indicate that your book was intended more for a female reader. And, I'm certain you would love to have guys read your book (after having given you money). 

Frankly, your constant use of flowery adjectives aren't “friendly” to male readers. Most importantly, they aren't necessary to your story. Their absence will not turn away female readers. For example: a sky can be just “blue”. Adding “lapis” adds absolutely nothing to the story. Then we immediately have “wavy yellow hair”. Is either adjective critical to the story? This is (supposedly) mystery/science fiction, not chick-lit. (Later this same boy has cornflower-blue eyes. I rolled mine.)

Don't deliberately “write out” a significant portion of the science fiction readers – for no reason. And, please don't think I'm expecting everything to be “rough and tough”. Neither extreme is needed and both audiences can be pleased – by not noticing - the presence or absence of anything.

This may be a book to spend several hours with; if it is edited and rewritten with the full potential audience (customers with money that you want spent on your book) in mind. Include more narrative. Dialogue is fine, but it can be annoying. It's the difference between: Question: “What did she have to say?”* Answer 1: “She said....”* “Then I said...”* “Then she said...”* “Then I said ...”* etc. Answer 2: “She said her feet hurt and she wouldn't be walking with us this afternoon.”* (Narrative – She had surgery on her right foot ….)  Reader friendly is always better.

* Not an actual line from the book.

No changes were made based on these reviews. C'est la vie! Note that the problem with the beginning seems to be fixed.