My Take on Critique Groups by Ally Shields – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ally Shields will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

My Take on Critique Groups
by Ally Shields

The pros and cons of critique groups are eventually discussed—sometimes hotly debated—whenever writers/authors get together. Opinions vary from “wonderful,” “can’t do without mine” to “Ugh, no, waste of time.” My own experiences have been on both sides of the coin.

Some twenty years ago, my first critique group of twelve aspiring writers was a fabulous experience. We met weekly, exchanged manuscripts, and reported back the next week with written critiques and more pages to exchange. It took a long time to get through a few chapters, but each member was thoughtful, giving of their time, and honest but careful how they expressed their opinions. As a beginning writer, I was so fortunate to have found them.

After three years, the group disbanded. I sought a new group, both locally and on line, but my second, third, and fourth critique groups (three or four people in each) were useless or outright disasters. Comments like “I don’t like vampires” and “I don’t read anything in third person” were not helpful, and there were way too many critiques peppered with “I hate this” or “I love this” without any clarification or explanation. Whether good or bad, such general comments don’t improve your writing, and they generated hurt feelings and/or jealousy among the writers. These three groups also took too long, exchanging maybe once a month, and members were frequently late in returning critiques. Maybe worst of all, I felt as if they viewed the process as a competition that only one person could win. I eventually moved on.

What worked for me was finding the right critique partner, someone who knew and understood my genre and was professional in her approach. We both write fantasy but mostly for different audiences. We don’t view our interaction as a competition but rather a chance to make each other’s books the best they can be. We take agent or pub rejections—of the other person’s work—personally. We respect differences in style, and we honor deadlines by returning manuscripts promptly. I’ve never met my online critique partner in person, but she’s my toughest critic and my biggest fan.

If you haven’t found your critiquing niche yet, keep looking. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, but when you make the right connection, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.

Too many ghosts is never a good thing…

Detectives Maggie York and Josh Brandt’s latest murder case comes at the wrong moment. She just moved out on him and wants to “cool it.” But complications throw them together more than usual. Even for New Orleans, the case is unique—with way too many suspects and creepy things—ghosts, snakes, curses, not to mention the witches.

Maggie and Josh try to make sense of it all and resist finding consolation in each other’s arms. Then Josh’s ex-fiancee, a curvy blonde, arrives from Boston, making a touchy situation impossible.

But this killer won’t wait for them to sort out their personal lives, and the situation spins out of control…

Enjoy an Excerpt:

The old woman had been particularly insistent on attendance tonight, piquing Maggie’s curiosity. And a little apprehension. Had Selena had another of her visions, possibly foretelling trouble in the near future? When asked, her cousin had given a typically cryptic answer. “Good and evil are always in motion.”

Which told her nothing new. Maggie sighed, darting a glance at the focused women around her. No matter. The future wouldn’t be changed by worrying. Besides, she had no real objection to being here and supporting the coven’s hopes of healing one member’s gravely ill four-year-old niece, for a laid-off worker to find a new job, and a universal plea for greater wisdom. They could all use a dose of that.

While calling upon the Goddess to bless and protect them, Selena made a three-sixty turn, her gown billowing as she included every participant. Maggie suddenly stiffened and peered behind her cousin. Had something dark and wispy swooped past? No, of course not. The lifting dawn mist had fired her overactive imagination.

Yet her heart beat a bit faster, and she joined in the final lines of the closing chant with more gravity than usual.

“In calm or stormy days to come, light our pathways safely home.
Gracious Goddess, grant our plea. So mote it be.”

Maggie was tempted to add an “Amen” for good measure.

As they blew out their candles, her cell phone buzzed. She checked the screen. Police dispatch. Her real world snapped back into place. While they’d been surrounded by the hope inherent in these pre-dawn gatherings, someone else had committed the most grievous assault upon society…the murder of one of its citizens.

About the Author: Ally Shields grew up in the Midwest along the Mississippi River, still considers herself “a river rat,” and currently resides near Des Moines. After a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time fiction writing in 2009. Her first urban fantasy, Awakening the Fire (Guardian Witch #1) was published in 2012, and she currently has twelve published novels. She loves to travel in the US and abroad and incorporates many of those settings into her books. Ms. Shields welcomes reader contact through her website and can frequently be found on Twitter.

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  1. Kris Meldgaard says:

    Oh this looks like an exciting trill ride of a book!!😍😍 Def on my TBR Like Now!!
    For the Author My question is…
    What was thr 1st book you read that really captured your imagination?

    Thank you so much for the chance!!
    📖Kris Meldgaard💋

    • Hi, Kris-
      Thanks for stopping by! The first book I remember falling in love with was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I was about seven and read, re-read the entire series several times! In fact, I wrote my first book, Golden King, because I ran out of Farley’s stories. That childish manuscript disappeared long ago, but it was the first clue that someday I’d be doing this!

  2. Thanks for hosting!

  3. Lisa Brown says:

    Congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  4. How did you end up finding your perfect critique partner? I get the impression that it wasn’t through one of the earlier groups that you didn’t find particularly helpful. 🙂

  5. Who are some of your favorite authors; what strikes you about their work?

    • Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K Hamilton is still my favorite urban fantasy. I love Anita’s take-no-prisoners attitude and the tension between her and Jean Claude. Wow, great writing. But I’m a very eclectic reader – anything from regency romances to spy thrillers, fantasy (Tolkien is fantastic) to cozy mysteries. Anybody you’d recommend?

  6. Linda Romer says:

    Ghost Witching sounds great, I would enjoy reading this book. Thank you

  7. Thx to Long and Short reviews for hosting my book! Nice format.

  8. kim hansen says:

    enjoyed the excerpt.

  9. Marcy Meyer says:

    Enjoyed the post and excerpt. Sounds really interesting.

  10. Rita Wray says:

    I liked the excerpt, thank you. Sounds like a great read.

  11. Thanks, Rita. Appreciate you spending time with us.

  12. Sounds like a great book – thanks for sharing the excerpt 🙂

  13. Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!

  14. Great excerpt! This book sounds like a very interesting and intriguing read!

  15. Thanks for the chance to win!

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