Why reviews matter.

For years, one of the subjects I taught at the high school and university level was Fundamentals of Public Speaking. I loved teaching Speech. My first comment to each terrified class was “Be prepared to have an opinion about everything.”

That comment was driven by the images of my students when they were called upon to express thoughts or give opinions.

  • Slumped shoulders. Translated this means I’m not confident enough to answer–or even open my mouth. I want to disappear.
  • Shrugged shoulders. Translated this means I don’t know. I am pretending I don’t know. I’m terrified. Don’t look at me.
  • Sagging shoulders. Translated this means I had a traumatic public speaking experience or a classroom event that damaged my confidence. I’m going to vomit.

Over the course of a semester, I would teach–not just the skill of public speaking–but how to retrain minds to be actively thinking every moment of life–especially in the classroom. Be prepared to have an opinion about everything. Your opinions matter.

As an author, opinions matter to me. There are two kinds of reviews (opinions) I treasure. The first and most highly respected is the reader’s review. It is an honor to know there are those who have committed time to read my books and have taken the additional steps to post their opinions about their interactions with the characters and plots. While I may never meet these readers, there are connections formed that will outlast the time it took to do the actual reading. Each day, as my characters and I are breathing life into the pages of the stories, I think of my readers and the importance they play in the story itself.

The second kind of review is what is commonly know in the literary world as the editorial review.Perhaps one of the most respected editorial reviews is an American book review magazine founded in 1933, Kirkus Reviews. Headquartered in New York City, the reviews are used for agents, libraries, booksellers and indie authors who need a professional and reputable company to give a review without prejudice. Yes, indie authors pay a fee for a review, but Kirkus has no buy-in or reason to write good reviews. They are straightforward and can be know to write without mercy. If they trash your book, you have an option of not publishing the review, hiding it in a box, and burying it under an apple tree. No one will ever know Kirkus panned your book. However, if you get a strong review, you can publish it, and you have a great new tool to add to your toolbox arsenal.

I chose to publiish.

Enjoy some Kirkus Reviews from each of the Roll Call Trilogy books.

Roll Call, Book #1 in the Roll Call Trilogy “Mansfield begins her new trilogy by dropping readers into a future that’s as propulsive as it is miserable. In marvelous, staccato prose, she describes Avery’s world as ‘Gray. The sky. The factory. The conveyor belt. The little pills that feed us, heal us, alter us–stabilize us.’ The GEBs are reminiscent of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers but are used so cleverly here that they feel totally fresh…sophisticated jolts of turmoil charge the narrative, as when Avery has ‘lost the time to let beauty perform its work on [her] spirit. Overall, this masterful series opener is in better company with William Gibson’s Neuromancer than safer fare such as The Hunger Games. An exhilarating ride, full of sheer drops and whiplash curves.”–Kirkus Reviews

Inside The Third, Book #2 in the Roll Call Trilogy “Mansfield (Roll Call, 2015) shifts her focus from the space-operatic threat of GEBs and other genre tropes to the complex emotions of loving someone you can’t fully understand. Though Chapman is only 5 years old his odd behavior makes Avery wonder. ‘Am I raising a son or a weapon pointing at me?’ This question isn’t posed lightly in a nation that leads the world in gun-related deaths. Later, the author’s optimism bleeds through when the test of a fishborn rattles her heroes. McGinty’s affection prompts Avery to say, ‘How can you kiss me right now?’ He replies: ‘In a world like this, every moment must be the best moment.’ Concepts like Pepper, an unfinished GEB who’s pregnant and unable to give birth, and a nightmarish cliffhanger prove Mansfield has boldness to spare. Radiant concepts, dialogue, and prose elevate this dystopian tale.” —Kirkus Reviews

Reluctant Warriors, Book #3 in the Roll Call Trilogy “Mansfield’s finale deftly addresses how relationships evolve over time and under extreme duress. When Annalynn and Raghill, who grew up together, begin working closely on curtailing the asteroid, new emotions overtake them. Only Avery’s chapters are first person yet the prose never fails to instill the ‘ticking of the world’s clock’ in readers. Combining this warning with mentions of natural beauty (‘We venture…into the midst of multiple groves of hemlock trees’), the book echoes the present-day call for urgent action on climate change. Some of the conceptual play from the prior volumes persist in the ‘repwas,’ creatures that are a blend of reptiles and wasps. While many of the emotional turns are grim, the powerful narrative offers quiet hope with Avery’s line, ‘We may always disagree about our methods, but I trust you to…[s] eek a world of words and not weapons.’ A strong series finale that celebrates the growth of both individuals and societies.”–Kirkus Reviews

Join me next time when I ask: What is is about that spinning salad bowl?

About Gwen Mansfield

Gwen Mansfield loves words, and the thought of a good story sends ideas capering through her mind until they sift into characters, settings, and plots. Roll Call, Book #2 in the Roll Call Trilogy debuted as Gwen’s first post-apocalyptic, sci-fi survival thriller, and the surprises she found on the pages made it impossible to say goodbye to Avery DeTornada and her comrades. So—Welcome Book #2, Inside The Third and Book #3, Reluctant Warriors. Characters drive the creative process of Gwen’ writing. She says, “I can’t escape the quirky characters who romp through the pages of my stories—I guess ‘cause I’ve had so many of them in my own life. Almost every week I discover someone whose idiosyncrasies are a trigger to a character in a still-to-be-written story. And then, there are those people who wander through my life on a regular basis. Through the eyes of others, they may seem quite ordinary, but the influence they’ve had on my life is extraordinary. They too are the catalysts my books are made of. My kids always say, ‘If you stick around long enough, you’ll end up as a character in one of my mom’s books.’” Author of the Roll Call Trilogy, the novel Experiment Station Road, the stage play Grace Diner, and the musical Resistance! (based on the book Tales of the Resistance by David and Karen Mains)—Gwen Mansfield continues to bring the creation of new worlds to her latest release, Reluctant Warriors, Book #3. Gwen is an early recipient of the New Harmony Project, finalist in Reverie Productions’ Next Generation of Playwriting Contest, and a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Historical Fiction. She holds a BA in Theatre from Seattle Pacific University, an MA in Theatre Production from Central Washington University, and an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction from University of New Orleans. She lives in the forests of Washington with her family. “Maybe it’s only in my dreams that I’ve descended into post-apocalyptic danger, run from dystopian challengers, chased threatening asteroids, and climbed into a romantic relationship with my soulmate—but for my readers—I launch it on the page!”—Gwen Mansfield View all posts by Gwen Mansfield

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