One thumb down
My coauthor, Joe Bonadonna, and I were shocked and saddened to read this one star review on our book for middle-grade children that a customer posted HERE next to all 5 star reviews.
"I was shocked to read offensive language in this children's book. I also thought that the book covered material not suited for the age group. I was confused at times at the simpleness of the language and then at times the advanced words that a parent or teacher would have to explain to a child reading this book. I think the authors need a heavy dose of editing."
My first question was to Joe, "Did we piss somebody off?"
(Yes, when I'm talking to friends, sometimes I do use mildly offensive language, but not in children's books)
Joe was just as shocked as I was and we went into a lengthy discussion about what could this reader find offensive, but the only word we could come up with was "poop" that is mentioned in the book once.
We couldn't figure it out which words she referred to as "advanced words" either because the story is written for middle-grade children, therefore, we didn't use "small words baby language" because kids in that age group have a pretty wide vocabulary and they're pretty capable of Googling words that they're not familiar with, which, in fact, prompts them to learn new words.
Then we were wondering about what she meant by, "need a heavy dose of editing" because the story is well edited and even our "grammar nazi" friends couldn't find editing errors in the book.
We are still puzzled but as good little authors do, we didn't and will not contact the reader to find out what made her write such a negative review about our book.
However, Joe contacted customer service and asked them very nicely to read the book and if they find the one star review unwarranted, please remove it.
Yeah, fat chance! He didn't even get a reply that at least would sound like a real person read his message and replied. Nope, he got the usual pre-generated reply that the customer service person just have to copy and paste.
Anyway, although it bugs the heck out of both of us, nothing we can do about it. We lowly authors can't fight the big giant publishing sites.
See? When I get angry, I tend to use bad words but it's okay to use it in my blog post for adults, right? Well, maybe I'll get a one star review for my blog post too...
In contrast to this negative review, the book was also rated with six 5 star reviews:
Six thumbs up
I had such fun reading this
"It’s a while since I’ve read a book written for children, and I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of sophistication there is, while still maintaining a tale suitable for the younger reader. The characters leapt off the page, acted naturally and, this is important for me as a reader, I felt for them, cared for them. There were distinct differences between the different stars in the book, both the real children and the mythical ones, well described and the writing flowed from page to page. I must also mention the illustrations, also delightful, although there were fewer towards the end of the book and I would have loved more of them. A great book to buy for your children or grandchildren."
A new myth for middle-graders
"It's no wonder "Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin" received a Golden Book Award and so many rave reviews this early in its career. It's modern fairy tale, built by two with a great ear for the way kids speak today. It's got all the "goo" and spooky characters you expect in modern kind's fantasy. And although it has all this, it is not as scary or traumatizing as "Bambi," a book and movie that traumatized me as a child. Golden Book Award Winner. Spooky, as I said, and funny, Pumpkin delivers heroic adventure for middle-graders. The characters Nikki and her impish cousin, Jack are iconic. They find a mysterious black pumpkin in the forest on Halloween. Soon enough, a talking skeleton, Wishbone, tells them how the ghosts of the Trinity of Wishmothers are trapped inside the pumpkin and can’t be freed without their wands. The children go on an adventure suitable for comics, tv, and even plushy animals. Kids on a quest who meet great paranormal characters and lessons to be learned."
5 Howling Halloween Stars!
"Three Ghost in a Black Pumpkin: A Creepy Hollow Adventure by Erika Szabo & Joe Bonadonna is a Halloween Howling Hit! I loved this action packed scary tale from beginning to end and it will certainly engage young readers at home or school. The protagonists are Nikki and Jack, two cousins visiting Grandma's house on the eve of Halloween. While the two children go walking in the woods, they find a keystone, black pumpkin, and Wishbone, a talking skeleton. When Wishbone tells Nikki and Jack about the three Wishmothers who are trapped inside the black pumpkin, they embark on an exciting journey to find three magic wands, battle the antagonists, Hobart and his Tasmanian Devil, who are conjuring all sorts of hocus pocus mayhem in Creepy Hollow. So Nikki, Jack, and Wishbone enter a special portal transporting them to a place called Wormbelow to save Creepy Hollow. Upon exiting the portal they find themselves in a cemetery filled with pretty flowers, tall trees, and glistening spider webs. Wishbone explains the graves are empty because the spirits are free to fly around. Suddenly, Wishbone's friends appear, Catman and the beautiful Ghoulina. Wishbone introduces his friends to the children and they quickly update him on Hobart's plan to destroy Creepy Hollow. Fascinated by everything he sees, young Jack tries to take pictures with his cell phone to capture the incredible surroundings and creatures. Meanwhile, Nikki carefully listens to how Hobart has locked up the mayor of the town and taken charge of Creepy Hollow. Unfortunately, Creepy Hollow does not offer internet and cameras won't work in this mythical place much to Jack's disappointment. Previously, while Wishbone was dualing Hobart, he cleverly hid the three magic wands. Now, the clock is ticking until midnight when the portal closes and the children can return home for the five friends to find the three magic wands, free the three Wishmothers, and restore harmony in Creepy Hollow. Luckily, the three Wishmothers have granted them three magic wishes which they must learn to use wisely for the plan to work. Together the five friends will venture the Red Crow Forest, the Cave of Spooks, and the Tower of Shadows, battling every mythical creature along the way to save the day. This is book one in a series and I am already wondering what ghoulish adventures await this heroic team. As a teacher, I look for books that teach a good lesson and this one will not disappoint. I recommend this book for home or school libraries for children from ages 6 to 12. I gave it 5 Howling Halloween stars!"
"A blue stone and a black pumpkin found in the woods bordering cousins Nikki Sweet and Jack Brady’s grandmother’s yard transport the two children, accompanied by a talking skeleton wind chime, into the world of Creepy Hollow. They and their finds become central in a desperate attempt to save the town from the power hungry goblin, Hobart T. Hobgoblin and his ruthless accomplices by freeing the three Wishmothers from their imprisonment in the black pumpkin.
Not only does this tale—perfect for ages six to young teens--entertain, it teaches important lessons on how to work with others to accomplish goals, how to face fear, the importance of safety, and how to make difficult decisions. A cast of endearing (and some not so sweet) characters, non-stop action and plenty of twists and turns engages and delights."
There is magic in this story!
"Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin is a book that will satisfy the hungry reader. It will not be disappointing. In our era, children are involved in the use of modern tools: cell phones, texting, taking pictures and posting them on face book. Many kids live an unfulfilled life. The children in this story, Nikki and Jack, are no different, but, there is an exception. They get caught up in a realm where they won't get bored. Not a dull moment! They meet mythical characters, witches, goblins, ghosts in spooky, creepy places. The children get involved in saving these creatures that are under spells. This story is intriguing and adventurous. It is engaging, well written and easy to read. You can sense the emotions, courage and fears. It teaches children and young teens a lesson in responsibility. As children reach a certain age, even though not mature, they can venture out into the world, make decisions with no adults supervision, learn to step out their comfort zone, and move through situations that requires their help. The rhymes in the vignettes and the illustrations give a special touch to the story. The authors, Erika Szabo and Joe Bonadonna, share a great talent and imagination when it comes to write children's stories. They take kids and young teens on a magical reading journey that will keep them glued to the pages. I recommend this book for young teens. It is the perfect story for Halloween time. It's like Cool Whip on a pie!"
Venture, if you dare, into Creepy Hollow
"Somewhere in space and time, across from Halloween, is the world of Creepy Hollow. It used to be protected from evil by the Trinity of Wishmothers. Now, though, they are dead and their ghosts have been trapped in a pitch-black pumpkin by Hobart T. Hobgoblin. The wicked Hobart (and his sidekick, Ebenezer Rex, the Tasmanian Devil) is now free to work evil on the land.
On Halloween, twelve-year old Nikki Sweet and her eleven-year old cousin Jack Brady find a black pumpkin. Their immediate reaction is to bring it home and turn it into a jack-o’-lantern. Just as they prepare to fetch a knife, their grandmother’s silver skeleton wind chime Mr. Bonejingles warns them not to do it.
The wind chime was once the mighty hero, Wishbone Jones, but he was reduced to his current state by Hobart’s dark magic. Only with the help of Nikki and Jack can he return home and free the Wishmothers from their prison. With a few magic words, Nikki, Jack, and Jones are magically transported to Creepy Hollow. Aided by Wishbone’s friend, Catman, and Goth Wishmother-in-training, Ghoulina, they begin a quest to find the Wishmother’s three wands that will take them to the Red Crow Forest, the Cave of Spooks, and the Tower of Shadows.
Nikki and Jack are terrific characters. Their humorous bickering and genuine affection for each other make them very relatable. Wishbone Jones and Catman are good-natured foils for the snarky, sometimes cranky Ghoulina. Together, the band of heroes’ quick wits and courage in the face of deadly crows, evil Shadows, and wicked Spooks, will thrill anyone who picks up
The megalomaniacal Hobart T. Hobgoblin is a great villain, who chews up the scenery every time he shows up. Though we never feel sorry for him, we learn enough about his past to understand him.
Szabo and Bonadonna’s story crackles with action and excitement. Their storytelling moves with the speed of lightning, but never lets the reader get lost. The atmosphere is just spooky enough to be fun but never enough to be too scary.
There are also some valuable lessons to be learned along the way. Nikki and Jack must figure out for themselves that while selfishness and greed can lead to a bad end, courage and self-sacrifice can help defeat evil. Szabo and Bonadonna weave this into the story with great skill.
There’s only one real problem with THREE GHOSTS: not enough of Szabo’s delightfully weird illustrations. Combining photographs with painted (?) backgrounds, they bring Creepy Hollow and the characters stunningly to life. My favorite is of the dashing Catman, dressed in brocaded velvet.
I’m unable to do justice to the wealth of detail and action Szabo and Bonadonna managed to pack into this short book. From the very first page, they catch the reader up and then don’t let go until the very last page. Any young reader with an interest in fantasy and adventure should probably like and I recommend it highly."
Click on the book and read sample chapters
Please let us know if you find offensive language, editing issues and inappropriate or too advanced words that are not suitable for middle-grade children.
Joe and I will be happy to hear your opinion.
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Nope, this post is not about my actual shorts, it's about my short stories.
Enjoy a short from my upcoming short story collection,
Rainbows and Dark Clouds
I love to tell stories. Some of my short stories are funny about everyday life, other stories are not so funny and talk about human vulnerability, suffering, weakness and courage.
My neighbor, Bob, moved to a nursing home shortly after he lost his beloved wife. At 92, paralyzed from the waist down, he was unable to live alone.
I always enjoyed Bob’s company, so I visited him often. On one occasion when I was walking to his room, I saw an old woman sitting in the chair by the wall across from Bob’s room.
She looked up at me and said with a serious look on her face, “Your pocket is blinking.”
Her stoic statement surprised me and then I thought, the poor dear probably has dementia. I smiled at her; she smiled back, and then she looked at the beautiful orange cat curled up on her lap, purring. The lady gently stroked the back of the cat and started humming.
I turned toward Bob’s room with heavy heart thinking, it’s not fair. Life plays a cruel joke on us by the time we get old. When we should be enjoying the golden years, if we’re lucky to live that long get there, most likely we’ll lose most of our abilities to enjoy it with.
I forced a cheerful smile on my face, knocked on Bob’s door.
“Come on in!” I heard Bob’s raspy voice.
I opened the door, walked in and took my sweater off. Bob invited me to sit in his pink, velvet covered armchair that was his wife’s favorite. I poured the cappuccino into delicate porcelain cups from my thermos and put the brownies I had baked for him, onto cookie plates.
We talked for a while about books he read recently and music we both enjoyed. At 92 he remembered the past more vividly than what he had for breakfast that day, so as usual, he entertained me with stories of his childhood and his memorable days as a college professor.
After an hour or so I noticed that Bob was getting tired, so I collected the empty cups and plates and washed them. As I was drying the cups and put them back in his china cabinet, Bob said, “Something is blinking in your pocket.”
I looked over to the chair where I had put my sweater on, and I saw the rhythmically pulsating green light of my cell phone. It shone through the thin material of my sweater.
I said feeling ashamed, “Bob, that lady across the hall told me but I didn’t pay attention. I’m so stupid. I assumed she had dementia just because I didn’t realize what she was talking about.”
“Margaret? Oh, no,” Bob laughed. “Her mind is as sharp as a well-made Katana.”
“I’m so sorry,” I apologized. “I should have known better.”
“Don’t sweat it, kiddo,” Bob replied. “See you next week? Oh, could you bake some of your famous cookies, the ones you make with apricot jam and meringue on top?”
“You bet! I’ll see you next Saturday.”
He flashed a tired smile at me and pressed the call button for the nurse’s aid to help him to bed for his nap.
On my way out I approached Margaret and said to her, ‘You were right! I just realized what you said, and my pocket really was blinking.”
“Took you long enough,” she laughed and winked at me playfully.
inked at me playfully.
I got an email today offering book promotion for Indie authors in their online magazine.
Let me tell you, my jaw dropped when I opened the email and looked at their prices.
$250 (yes, two hundred fifty) for a quarter page ad for ONE book. Do you know how small is a ¼ of a page in an online magazine? They can fit a thumbnail size book cover with one buying link. Seriously? For $250?
$500 (Yes, five hundred) for a full page ad for ONE book. Okay, at least they can fit a decent size cover with link and blurb. But for $500? Really? I never met any Indie author who could afford that.
$3,700 (Yes, three thousand seven hundred) for a year that includes ONE book ad in six magazine issues. Well, I’m speechless!
There is more…
They don’t promote the magazines on a website or on social sites. They send out the link to (supposedly) 150,000 email subscribers. However, I seriously doubt that.
So, for that much money, your thumbnail size book cover might be seen by a few subscribers. The truth is that the newsletter opening rate dropped to about 30% because the giants such as BookBub are leading this promo option.
Readers are not that eager to subscribe to less known magazines.
Want to know more?
Readers subscribe because they want free books. Do you think it’s worth spending money to advertise your regular priced eBook in the newsletter? I don’t think so. For free books it’s fine (if you can afford the $600 with BookBub) because it increases book ranking.
What is there for an author who can't afford high-priced marketing?
Keep writing and wait for word-of-mouth advertising.
Erika M Szabo
Author of urban fantasy, magical realism novels and children's books,
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