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November 22, 2009

Me -- a left-wing nutcase?

LC loves Lorna Barrett and her New York Times Bestselling Booktown Mystery Series. We like her as L. L. Bartlett, too, when she writes the Jeff Resnick Mystery series. But at least one reader doesn’t like her at all.

By Lorna Barrett

Last week I got a rather spiteful review on Amazon for my latest book. Okay, those of us in print should be used to lousy reviews--especially on Amazon. Onestar  

What is it about that particular online retailer that brings out the nastiness in readers? I suspect a good number of those venom-filled reviewers are frustrated writers who’ve been unable to see their work in print from a traditional publisher and want to take us down a peg. Although, to quote Dennis Miller, "That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong."

Still, what was wrong with my book that inspired this woman to leave a one-star review, commenting that my book has an incredibly weak plot full of talking points from liberal causes?

If she thinks my plot stinks – I can accept that. Goodness knows, I don’t have a PhD in plotting. But just what are these liberal causes of mine? Feed the hungry

First off, food pantries. Heavens, what a radical concept! God forbid anyone should want to feed hungry children, the unemployed, the elderly, and the homeless. (And if you don’t believe the need exists, perhaps this recent report from The Washington Post will change your mind.) http://tinyurl.com/yahsvwl

And how about going green? Another extremist concept. Apparently, only liberal do-gooders see the point in refraining from polluting our planet, or to stop edible food (and its recyclable packaging) from ending up in the waste stream. Banishing plastic grocery bags for the reusable kind? Sheer heresy!

Gosh, ya think the FBI has a file on me? Gulp!Go green

But let’s get back to that one star review. It’s apparently the only review she’s ever published on Amazon. (At least under that name.) If nothing else, my book brought out the passion in her. Sadly, that passion appears to be hatred, but if nothing else, I INSPIRED HER! After all, has she logged on to sing the praises of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue? (Not as of today, at least.)

Okay: I write cozy mysteries. I also write psychological suspense under a different name, but that’s for another post. Apparently some readers (this woman among them?) think that "cozy" equals "full of fluff." And why is "murder" a perfectly acceptable subject, but helping hungry people and recycling are not? Perhaps some cozies are "light"--but they don’t have to be. And the better ones are like all good books: they make you think. Although sometimes I believe engaging brain and actually thinking is a lost art for some of our citizens, but that’s another rant.

Bookplate_Special.sm2 So, what’s the name of this book of mine full of liberal thinking?

"Bookplate Special."

And by the way, it’ll debut today at #20 on the New York Times Bestsellers mass market paperback list. That pleases me, for if a lot of people read it, they might be inspired to recycle and/or donate to food pantries (they can really use it, especially at this time of year). Imagine the havoc that would cause!

I couldn’t be happier.



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Hear, hear!! Let's have more of the "feed the hungry" havoc -- guess the Girl Scouts are in on it, too. They just picked up bags of food from hundreds of homes in the area today. I'll be looking for your "radical" book!

Great post.

Congrats on Bookplate Special's ranking on the New York Times Bestseller's List.

NYT List?


Thanks Mary and Dru.

Gosh, Josh, me a communist? Although my sixth grade teacher told our class that anyone who opposed the Vietnam war was a communist. I worried all day and then went home in tears, thinking my Dad was going to be tossed in jail at any momoment!

Josh beat me to it, you Commie! But I know how you feel about those Amazon reviews. I once looked up the person who gave me low marks and discovered she hated every book she ever reviewed. Why does she keep reading?? It's a mystery.

Congrats on the list, honey! And thanks very much for being our guest today.

The best "cozies" explore important social topics in sensitive ways. You're at the top of your game. Keep it up and ignore rabid dogs!

Sorry about the low review--but at least there was a space for him to state his reasons for disliking the book. This allows others who don't share that reasoning to dismiss the bad review. I don't think human beings invented the hyperbolic put-down. Actual newspaper reviews of every kind of art have been leaning toward evisceration for the past 15 or 20 years, if not longer. The nasty review is its own kind of art form. Useless, but it allows the reviewer to preen and pose for unmerited attention.

And cheers for the NYT list.

Congrats on the New York Times list! Fabulous news and well-deserved. I think the best way to handle nasty reviews is to think of them as annoying gnats buzzing around a feast. Just slap them away...and splat, they're gone!

When I was writing YA, I once had a reviewer tell me I was responsible for the shocking illiteracy rates in the Western world. (She probably would have said the entire world, but she didn't know if my books were available in translation.) Wow, I had no idea I was so powerful!(Just like you had no idea you were a communist ) Don't worry yourself with these people, my dear, you are a spectacular success!

Um... books being responsible for illiteracy rates. Can't say I ever heard that one before.

Great post, Lorna/LL! Congrats on the NYT list. Your books were already on my list, and now I can not only look forward to reading them, but to becoming brainwashed with your references to liberal causes. If only more people could become so brainwashed.

First puppy mills, and now the environment and food pantries. To what dens of iniquity will you people lead us next - Habitat for Humanity?

Congratulations on the New York Times list, just goes to show there are more people like us out there than there are her. I don't think I'd want to read anything she gave four stars to anyway. Readers enjoy "cozy" mysteries for a reason .. they speak to us. Keep up the good work.

I think that's one of those reviews that makes a potential reader say, "Whaa?" and pick up your book! Silly reviews are like that. Congratulations on your success with this series! We cozy writers are proud of you!


I consider myself a conservative. I donate to food pantries and I think going green can be a good thing. There are always crazies out there. In my opinion, it's not a liberal or conservative issue.

Shame on you for wanting to make the world a better place? See where all that left-wing thinking gets you: a big heart and a spot on the NYT List. Way to go, cozy writer. You show them that there are more levels to this genre than one might think.

Welcome, LC. Since it's Sunday, I seem to remember something in a book called The Bible about feeding the hungry and caring for the sick and loving your neighbor as yourself. Another radical book.
Shannon, thanks for showing us those issues belong to neither group.

Mary, a reader once accused me of contributing to THE DEATHS OF MILLIONS OF READERS because I included a recipe for cake with white chocolate ganache. I had hoped they'd bought the book before they died, but my editor informed me that the sales were in the thousands, not million range. (Darn.)

Thanks, everyone, for the congrats on the Times list. Let's see more cozies hit the list!

I started reading Bookplate Special last night. I love the Booktown Mystery series. Just keep writing this great cozy series and don't worry about one ignorant sour puss review.

Count me amongst those who believe that compassion and stewardship are the purview -- and responsibility! -- of all political perspectives. And count me amongst those looking forward to reading your book.

Thanks, Debbie. I'll never understand how doing any kind of charity work could be considered a "liberal agenda." Wasn't it Bush Sr. who spoke of the "thousands points of light" and community service? Can't get much more republican than the Bush dynasty.

Well, I read your book, Lorna, and thought the parts of the food pantry and working poor were very good additions to your book. And, it has an interesting plot as well. That reviewer never even mentioned that it's a mystery with an actual plot. But, I guess "liberal" mystery writers aren't allowed to tell a good story, because they include issues.

Loved Elaine's comment about that other radical book, the Bible.

Congrats on the NYT list! Well-deserved. Good story, good characters, good setting. And, oh, yes. Interesting connection to the problems of today's world.

Lesa Holstine - http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com

Brava, Lorna, you made someone think hard enough to get mad! That's a good thing. You just have to remember there are a lot of misguided, and might I say, dimwitted people in the world. She/he is apparently a prime example of same.

If you saw Slumdog Millionaire then you also saw the shocking shot of the river in Mumbai, in which many millions of plastic bags float like a flotilla of junk. If that shot didn't give you pause then you simply don't have enough imagination to worry about crossing the street. I don't understand the utter contempt for the Earth that nourishes us so well. We should be taking care of her, not abusing the daylights out of her.

You make a good point, about that supposed "liberal agenda". Especially since liberals, according the most strident fake media people (Rush, Coulter, et al), are also considered evil, Satan-worshipping horrors who have declared "war" on Christmas, and want to keep Christians from practicing their religion. Sigh. Never mind that many, many Democrats (not true "liberals", which represent a small, small segment of the US population) are members of the Catholic or other Christian religions.

Sorry, they can't have it both ways. It truly makes me wonder if we've completely lost the power to think in this country.

Great points, Karen. And I'm happy to say that the majority of my readers are smart women (and men)!

Standing Ovation from Pittsburgh!

I am in the middle of raising money for our local food bank, and I'm all for anything that raises awareness. I'll pick up Bookplate Special when I'm at Mystery Lovers next week!

The thing about food banks is this - it's not just the 'welfare mothers' or whatever pejorative term you choose. This year, more than ever before, there are people like you and me, people who used to have disposable income to buy books, who can't afford food.

Call to arms, TLC - find your local food bank. If you have food or money to donate, please do it. If you have time, please volunteer. In a country where people spend $50,000 on a toilet, there is no excuse for hunger.

Lorna - perfect blog for this Sunday before Thanksgiving - THANK YOU.

The rest of the reviews gave high marks--good for you, Lorna!

Thanks, Kathy. And you're right, hunger knows no season. It boggles the mind that in this great country of ours we have people going hungry every night.

I hope Bookplate Special wreaks havoc all over the place! IMO, slipping important issues into cozies, without preaching, is part of their charm. And obviously you do that quite well, Ms. # 20 on the NYT list. Try to ignore the ignoramuses.

Congratulations, Lorna, and welcome, and everyone here is right -- it's not liberal or conservative. It's humane, wanting to feed the hungry and take care of Planet Earth.

I love that book cover and now I'm adding your books to my TBR list.

I'm wondering, is there ever a GOOD reason to read one's Amazon reviews?

There are people who identify themselves as "conservatives' because they feel like conservatism gives them cover for being smug, selfish assholes. These are the type of fake conservatives who'll tell you that they do certain things (drive an SUV, eat steak, etc) "just because it pisses liberals off." I would really like to see a concerted movement to take conservatism back from these idiots, but I'm not seeing a lot of it so far.

Oh, and some of the biggest environmentalists I've met? Hunters. Not exactly your stereotypical liberals.

Yeah ... what they said ... I don't think I could put it any better than your previous posts. And ... congrats on your place on the New York Times Bestseller list ... very exciting !!

First of all, congrats on the NY TIMES list. You are rockin' with your Booktown series. Onward and upward!

Great post today and I agree with Elizabeth/Riley's comment. That review will probably get you more readers than any other. I have also noticed the bad-review preening on Amazon, people patting themselves on the back for the most clever put-downs. I invented a little Queens hip-hop rhyme for these folks and it goes like this...

"If you're only CLAIM to FAME is DISDAIN, then you must be a lousy artist!

Congrats again, girl!
~ Cleo Coyle

Damn you for caring! Damn you!


You know, I've found myself going straight to one star reviews lately. They're...peculiarly revealing. Half the time they convince me that it sounds like a pretty cool book indeed. ;>

Good for you and congrats on the #20 spot!! Whoot!

I think you hit the nail on the head - some people spew hatred as their passion and unfortunately feel the need to share it on an Amazon review.

Wishing you the best and may you put this bad review behind you and soar higher up the chart!

The Commie talk reminded me of this wonderful song . . .
which led to http://www.bloomington.in.us/~mitch/iww.html
and my very-most-favorite http://www.utahphillips.org/

(those should be enough to get us on some "watch" list ;-)

It takes all kinds. But this small-minded and possibly deranged 'reviewer' just gave me one more reason to promote your books to my food pantry loving friends (all quite subversive, natch). You are passionate about what you believe in (helping people) and it shows.Thanks for that!

Yikes! I don't know whether to cry (stupid reviewer) or cheer (NYTimes!) Yeah, let's CHEER! I ordered your book yesterday. Coop in Maine is reading it and really loves it. As we say on Thanksgiving: more, more, more! Jeanne from Writers Plot

Part of the snarkiness, I'm sure, comes from the anonymous character of posts and reviews on the Internet. When we can feel as though no one will be able to make us personally accountable for what we say it's a helluva lot easier to spew nonsense.

About those Bush "points of light," I remember a friend bragging about her church feeding the poor --
"Good for you, that's a lot of work."
"Oh, we have a catering company actually make the food."
"Well, good for you for contributing."
"Oh, we have a federal grant for that. We just administer the program." (as in do nothing? but take credit?)

Lorna/Lorraine...I hope you can carry the NYT ranking in your heart and shut out the bad review. I don't know why they're so painful, but we can still have twelve positives and one negative and only see that.

I smile at the notion of your critic up to her ears in bags of donated food, slowly crushed by the generosity of others.

Now...there's plot.

I want to know how the white chocolate killed millions . . . !

I have read this book and can say it is a little more serious than the previous two but worth the read. It still has its cozy feel and the themes in this book refelect what is going on today. I say Bravo! I happily support my local food bank because I have been there. I know what it is like to need that extra boost near the end of the month. Especially in the winter when the electric bill is so high. A one star review. pish tosh!

Wow--you guys were very busy sending in comments while I was out putting up my Mum's and then my own Christmas lights. A thousand points of Christmas lights to us all! Thanks so much for your goodwill--and donations to your local food pantries! (Hint, hint!)

Lorraine, I LOVED your newest Booktown Mystery, just as I've loved every book you've written - regardless of the pen name it's been written under. And personally, I rather enjoy a little social commentary with my mysteries (i.e. HIV/AIDS awareness in Dead in Red). Just keep doing what you're doing and remember that no matter what, 10% of people won't approve. Their loss. I guess i'll have to get myself over to Amazon to do some posting of my own! Hugs! Carol

Storyteller Mary, here's the post I did about killing millions of my readers with my recipes. http://tinyurl.com/y8d3qm3

Congrats on the NYT! That outweighs one crab!

White chocolate ganache??? And you're not sharing the recipe with us???

Nancy, the recipe is at the link! Sounds good, too.

Does anyone take Amazon reviews seriously any more? We know there are plenty of cranks on a (mini) power trip there, and the world is full of contrarians who like to be spiteful.

I think cozies are an ideal avenue for gently pushing social issues. They have heroines most of us can identify with and sympathize with. I've never understood the conservative cranks, who seem to believe that they got theirs, so you deficient have-nots can just go whistle for it.

And don't get me started on corporate food production...which is why we're all fat and diabetic and will overstress the health care system for generations to come.

oh yum! That ganache will be the filling for my birthday cake (maybe with Amaretto or Frangelico!) thanks!

That cake sounds wonderful!! Keep writing, Lorna!! Rita, save me a piece of your birthday cake!!

i think I'll make that cake -- and then ask Kathy to change my "Team Rachel" shirt order to XL ;-)

Sheila, you are exactly RIGHT--the food we are presented with today is so full of sodium and corn syrup that we're all destined to be fat and unhealthy--and a burden to the health care system. Do we really need corn syrup in our hot dog buns? Trying to find healthy food on the shelves of grocery stores today is akin to being an amateur sleuth or detective. We really do need to carefully read those food labels to make sure we're not being poisoned by the corporations who sell us the food we need to survive.

Gee, maybe I should have read that review before I ordered Bookplate Special today on amazon!!! Not! I wonder if amazon--and other book reviewers--stop to think about how the author will feel when reading their mean-spirited critiques. Who ARE these people? I once looked up the reviews from a woman whose review of a book I'd liked was particularly vile. Every book she'd reviewed she gave one star. So I wrote a review of the book, myself, in which I wondered "aloud" why someone like her would continue to read such a long string of "bad" books. Frankly, I can't wait to get my copy of your latest, Lorraine. I've enjoyed your 2 others in the series immensely!

It does seem a bit odd that murder is within the "comfort zone" of a cozy, but hunger is not.......

Day late here, but let me offer my congrats on the NYT list and my admiration too. I love your post. These one-star Amazon post-ers make me wonder if there is a legion of unhappy people out there who somehow believe it's their duty to suck the fun out of other's lives whenever they have a chance to do so. Congrats on squeezing this lemon into lemonade!

You are such a radical. LOL. Thanks for the humor and the ability to look at the foolish review for what it was. I love what you write and the way that you write. Please keep subverting us.

Big thumbs up here about the "food bank awareness" in "Bookplate Special". I loved it (and the first two in the series); what could be better than combining bookstores and mystery?

I eagerly anticipating the next in the series.

I loved how you introduced these issues in your book. Rather than taking a heavy-handed, preachy approach, you wove them into the story and made them more accessible to the reader. Congratulations on reaching #20 on the NYT bestseller list - may Bookplate Special continue to climb!

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