Controversy: Good or bad?

HOLLOWMy first book, Hollow, is featured in the Halloween reads on the indieBRAG website this week.  I was thrilled a few years ago when my first foray into indie publishing was awarded this prestigious award.

Since then, I wrote three more books in this series featuring former pastor’s wife, Bunny Elder, and have begun a new series, as well.

When I first published Hollow, I didn’t list it as Christian Fiction because I considered it to be more a book about a woman who happened to be a Christian than inspirational reading.  Some readers complained about the Scripture verses and overt religious content, even going so far as to accuse me of trying slip one over on them by not labeling the book Christian. So, I added the Christian label.  You guessed it; this brought complaints and bad reviews from readers expecting a very different kind of novel.

While most reviewers seemed to get it, a few did not. However, the ratings remained in the 4.5 star range.

Once the series was complete, I set this book as perma-free. That’s when the attacks began in earnest. Even though I tweaked the description to alert readers to the nature of the book, the ratings have fallen to 3.7 stars, as of this morning, although the others in the series remain above 4 stars.

My question for you is, “Can the controversy surrounding this first book be turned into some sort of advantage, or should it be ignored?”

October means Halloween. Halloween means “Hollow” promotions

Hollow is free in digital format all month long in October. I have scheduled promotions on a variety of ebook sites/newsletters being sent to readers during the month.
J.B. Hawker on StoryFindsIs featuring Hollow from October 2 – 8, and you may see it featured on other sites throughout the month.

If you have read and enjoyed Hollow, but haven’t had time to post a review (Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, or B&N), I would love it, if you would post one today.

Many of the promotion sites require a certain number of reviews or a certain star ranking to include a book, so every single good review helps.

Thank you, again, for all your support and encouragement.

Reader Reviews: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Since setting the digital edition of Hollow, the first book in my first series, as free, it has had a gratifying number of daily downloads. I’ve noticed during previous free promos of my books that readers tend to be harsher critics of books they’ve downloaded for free. This phenomenon was brought to mind this week when the first freebie reviews of Hollow were posted on Amazon.

I think my fellow writers will agree that receiving a negative review of their work is as painful to us as it is for a mother to be told she has an ugly baby. So, why do we continue to offer our precious creations up to the two-edged sword of public opinion?

I remember the elation I felt upon reading my first good review from a stranger. What validation! What joy! …and what a let-down when the first critical comments were posted.

Some writers avoid this emotional roller coaster by refusing to read their reviews. They only want to know how many reviews and how many stars. Others, like me, cannot resist the temptation to read every new word, in the hope of once again experiencing the affirmation of a rave review.

With Hollow I was lucky to receive only good reviews in the early days after publication. I was well into my second book before the first negative review arrived. That reader complained because I had not listed the book as a Christian Mystery. She felt I’d tricked her into reading it by calling it a Mystery/Thriller. Shortly after that, a reader took the book to task for “too much religious content,” although the book description clearly states the lead character is a pastor’s wife. Taking these comments to heart, and following marketing advice to narrow my metadata to improve my sales rank, I changed the category for my books to Christian Suspense.

In the years since Hollow was published, I’ve received numbers of good reviews from Christians, pastors’ wives and others, appreciating the book’s portrayal of a flesh and blood, flawed, though sincere, Christian woman.

The first negative comment in the latest batch of reviews complained about aspects of the plot which weren’t actually in the plot…that’s the sort of critique I consider a “bad” review. There’s nothing helpful when the comments seem to be about a different book. I was surprised later in the week by this terse one-star review: “Trash. NOT a Christian book.”

That grim denouncement was followed this morning with five stars from an obviously discerning and thoroughly admirable reader, “Loved this book— kept me in suspense the whole time, I could not put it down!!! I bought the rest of the series, can’t wait to read them!”

Go figure.

Great Halloween Books at indieBRAG!

HOLLOW is a featured Halloween read on Layered pages. How hauntingly delightful!

Layered Pages

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honorees


When John Simpson hears of a bizarre animal attack in his old home town of High Moor, it stirs memories of a long forgotten horror. John knows the truth. A werewolf stalks the town once more, and on the night of the next full moon, the killing will begin again. He should know. He survived a werewolf attack in 1986, during the worst year of his life.

It’s 1986 and the town is gripped in terror after the mutilated corpse of a young boy is found in the woods. When Sergeant Steven Wilkinson begins an investigation, with the help of a specialist hunter, he soon realises that this is no ordinary animal attack. Werewolves are real, and the trail of bodies is just beginning, with young John and his friends smack in the middle of it.

Twenty years later, John returns to High Moor. The latest attack…

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A Taste of Hollow

Snippets from the award-winning first book of the Bunny Elder series, Hollow:


A faded black ‘56 Dodge pickup rattles over the empty lanes, carrying its two passengers slowly through the sleeping village.

Hunched over the out-sized steering wheel, the driver peers carefully from side to side, occasionally shaking his head ruefully and muttering, as though searching vainly for something.

Across the cracked brown upholstery his companion seems unmoved by these signs of distress.

Leaning awkwardly against the rusty passenger door, eyes staring fixedly ahead, he gives no response to his chauffeur’s increasing frustration.

Proposed, but not included, draft illustration from Chapter Eleven.


Martha stepped into the house, turned on the porch light, and returned to get a better look at the carved pumpkin. With a small gasp she jerked back, her foot slipped in something slick on the porch floor, she tumbled into the railing and came to rest beside the over-sized pumpkin with its double grimace.
Martha stepped into the house, turned on the porch light, and returned to get a better look at the carved pumpkin.
With a small gasp she jerked back, her foot slipped in something slick on the porch floor, she tumbled into the railing and came to rest beside the over-sized pumpkin with its double grimace.




Hollow, Book One in the Bunny Elder Adventure Series

Hollow, my debut novel, began as a random comment to my youngest son one October day while we were taking a walk.

Observing the grisly Halloween decorations in the neighborhood, I remarked that if I were a serial killer getting rid of the bodies in October would be easy. I’d just tuck them into the holiday displays like the ones we saw.

“You should write a book about that, Mom,” he said.

I began toying with the idea and only six years later, Hollow was available in print and on Kindle at

Having been a pastor’s wife for twenty-five years, the decision to make my protagonist a pastor’s wife was easy.

Although many of the characters in my books have personalities borrowed from people I’ve known, the stories and characters are pure fiction.

Hollow is a cozy mystery with a bit of bite. Some readers find a scene or two “too gruesome” while other reviews comment on the “delightfully gruesome” scenes.

One thing I’ve learned as a writer, the book I write is not necessarily the one you read. Just as an author puts something of herself into every book, the reader adds their own personality to the story. The more the book catches their imagination, the more the reader contributes.

Hollow takes place in rural Northern California, in an imaginary community not far from  the foothill towns where I grew up.

When I was encouraged to write more adventures of Bunny and Max, I took them to other locations where I’ve traveled or lived.