Critique Groups by Dana Hammer – Spotlight and Giveaway

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Critique Groups

As a writer, it’s important to let others read your work, and get feedback on it. When we create, we have blind spots, things that make sense to us, but maybe not to a general audience. We make typos. We repeat ourselves, or use certain words over and over and over again. We head hop and skip around in time and forget who we killed off in previous stories. And so, we need to get other sets of eyes on our writing, which is why critique groups are so important.

I have been a member of a few different critique groups, and I have found them to be valuable, not just in terms of having my work critiqued, but also in terms of networking and building my audience. I highly recommend joining a critique group, no matter what type of writer you are.

That said, you have to be careful when taking critique, because — and I cannot stress this enough — NOT ALL CRITIQUES ARE GOOD. And that’s because, like in any group, there are people who know what they’re talking about and people who don’t. Here are a few of the types of people you will find in most critique groups, and my thoughts on whether you should listen to them or not.

1) The Friend Who Doesn’t Write Much
This person is in the group for social reasons. She might write the occasional short story, but she has no real intention of pursuing writing as a career. She is super nice, and has wonderful compliments for everything that is submitted. She usually brings snacks. You should treasure this member as the lovely person she is, but she will not tell you if something you wrote sucks.

2) The Dude Who Fancies Himself a Bit of a Professor
This person is kind of a pretentious prick. He has lots of thoughts on your writing, and he will deliver them with the wry, sardonic tone of a wealthy dilettante addressing the help. He will quote genius writers, a lot. He refuses to read anything written by anyone who is still living. Take his advice if you want, but it will only encourage him.

3) The Soulful Genius Who Hates Himself
This dude can seriously write, but everything he submits is dark, and depressing, and you feel horrible after reading it. He will not submit his work to agents or markets of any kind, because it does not meet his high standards. You should absolutely take his advice, because he knows what he is talking about. But he may not fully appreciate comedic works, or romances.

4) The Socially Awkward Cat Lady
This lady is in every critique group, and usually there is more than one. She writes cozy mysteries or fantasy novels. She reads more than she writes, and she writes a lot. She has lots of other interests, like crocheting and gardening and witchcraft. She is fun to talk to, and you should try to make her your friend. She will absolutely read your book when it’s published, and write a nice review, especially if you praise her cats. If you write in her genre, you should absolutely take her advice, because she is an expert. If you write in another genre, her advice will be to make it more like a cozy mystery or fantasy.

5) The Student
This woman has a masters degree in creative writing, and it will come up, a lot. Her critiques are all things that she heard her professors say, like “Show, don’t tell” and “Your protagonist has to protag” and “don’t use adverbs”. She has no tolerance for experimentation, improper formatting, or works that do not follow the same structure that Star Wars does. She has strong opinions about fonts. She means well, but her creative spirit has been crushed by academia. Disregard.

I love my critique groups. I’ve made some wonderful friends and colleagues there, and have received some truly valuable feedback, which has improved my writing tremendously. I have also met some insufferable blowhards who need to shut up. When you join a critique group, which I hope you do, you will meet all kinds of writers, and each of them will be useful to you on your writing journey — either because they gave good feedback — or because they are the inspiration for a villain in your next book.

Dion Isaacs (the reincarnation of Dionysius), Athena’s brother, is wreaking havoc. After to an unfortunate bee-venom poisoning at his wine business, he is down on his luck and crashing at Athena’s place. But the former god of wine, feasting, and excess is a bad influence on Fanny’s best friends, with his partying, wacky business schemes, and general debauchery. Sure, Dion is a fun guy. But there is such a thing as too much fun, and Fanny seems to be the only one who sees it.

Meanwhile, Fanny’s mother is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, which basically means she pukes all the time, because she’s pregnant. With her mom unable to work, her dad is taking extra shifts to make more money, and things are getting tense at home. Fanny is excited to be a big sister, but all this sickness and stress over money are starting to take their toll on her.

Can Fanny save her friends from Dion’s negative influence, while also solving her family’s money problems? Of course she can. She’s Fanny Fitzpatrick.

Enjoy an Excerpt

I wake up in the morning to the sound of my mom puking. She’s not a quiet puker. It sounds like she’s trying to vomit up all the organs in her body while also running a chainsaw or something. And, worse, she’s been doing it for days now. Last night, we were eating dinner and she couldn’t keep any of it down. She said it was the onions, but she normally likes onions, so I think she’s just very sick.

At first, I thought it was just a stomach bug or maybe food poisoning. I remember one time I got food poisoning from some bad tacos, and it was the worst thing ever. I was so miserable I wanted to die.

But like I said, it’s been days now. She should be feeling better. And for the first time I’m really worried about Mom. I wonder if it’s something serious. I remember a couple years ago when Toya’s mom was vomiting all the time because she was having chemotherapy for breast cancer. Her mom is fine now, but she was really sick for a long time.

About the AuthorDana Hammer is a novelist, screenwriter and playwright. She has won over forty awards and honors for her writing, few of which generated income, all of which were deeply appreciated. She is not a cannibal, but she is the author of A Cannibals Guide to Fasting. Dana is also the author of middle grade fantasy My Best Friend Athena which was inspired by a desire to write something her 9 year old daughter could read.


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Winter Blogfest: Dana Hammer

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The Nightmare of Caroling by Dana Hammer

Its Christmas season, so naturally, a lot of blog posts are going to be about Christmas, the holidays, winter, etc. This is good news for me, because my new book, Fanny Fitzpatrick and the Brother Problem, takes place in December, and there are a lot of holiday themes going on in it. Yay for serendipitous promotion opportunities!

One of these holiday themes is Christmas caroling; specifically, a new character in the book HATES caroling. His name is Dion Isaacs, and he is the reincarnation of the Greek god, Dionysius. While doing research on Greek mythology, and Dionysius in particular, I learned that Christmas caroling (like lots of Christmas stuff) was first a pagan practice, where worshippers sang songs to and about Dionysius. So now, Dionysius hates Christmas caroling, because it reminds him of everything hes lost, and how nobody worships him anymore. Christmas songs make him fly into a rage, and he hates carolers as if they are all personally insulting him.

Now, I dont relate to Dion much. Hes an extrovert who loves parties and makes a lot of rash decisions. But on this one thing we can agree. BecauseI also hate Christmas caroling.

Before all the Grinch and Scrooge comparisons start flowing, let me just say that this isnt some war on Christmasthing. I love baking cookies and the Nutcracker and driving around looking at lights and I even like sending Christmas cards. But carolingjust no.

First of all, I dont like unexpected guests, at all, and that includes family members and close friends. If you dont give me a heads up before you come to my house, you will not be met with a warm welcome. I will not put my bra on for you. I will not feed you. I will not stop reading my book, or doing my chores, or watching my movie, just because you happened to show up on my doorstep. You need entertaining? Thats a you problem. You dont like my incense or my dog licking you or the temperature I keep my home? Well, you should have called to prepare me so I could make adjustments for you. But you didnt. So.

This is my attitude with people I know and love, and carolers are typically neither.

There are also weird social demands associated with receiving carolers. You have to stop what youre doing and GO OUTSIDE IN THE COLD. AT NIGHT. Not only do I need to put on a bra, I need to put on boots and a coat. And then I have to juststand there, listening to songs, that, frankly, arent that great. I know theyre traditional, and some of them are nice to listen to, but even the most beautiful song in the world sounds awful when youre freezing and annoyed and have other things you need or want to be doing.

Ive heard that some people love carolers and will even make them hot chocolate or cider and bring it out to them. I cannot discourage this practice strongly enough. If you like carolers, by all means, go listen to them, and clap, and say thank you (when you can get a word in edgewise.) But do not feed them. Do not give in to their demands for figgy pudding and shit. It only strengthens them and keeps them going in hopes of finding new and better treats.

In addition, its just a bad idea to hang out outdoors in cold weather, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for condoning the practice. Thats how you freeze to death. Its just irresponsible when you think about it. There is a time and place for Christmas songs, and its indoors.

And so, when Dion yells at my protagonist for her insensitive singing, know that I did not write this to make you hate him on the contrary! I wrote this because hes a fallen god, and when songs were sung to him, it was on a sunny Greek island, where there was no chance of frostbite. Hes just a lonely dude who misses the good old days, when people had sensible ideas about what should be done in the dark and the snow.

I hope if you check out my book, youll forgive him for his crankiness in this regard. You will be much less willing to forgive him for his other misdeeds.


There’s a new god in town, and his name is Dion. The reincarnation of the Greek god Dionysius, he has fallen on hard times after the failure of his wine business. Now he’s living at Athena’s house, partying, making messes, and generally disrupting everyone’s lives. Can Fanny get Dion under control, before he does something dangerous? Of course she can. She’s Fanny Fitzpatrick.


Dana Hammer is a playwright, screenwriter, short story writer, and novelist. Her screenplay, Red Wings, has been optioned by EMA Films, and her adult horror-comedy novel, The Cannibal’s Guide to Fasting, was released in September, 2022 by Cinnabar Moth Publishing. Her middle grade novel, My Best Friend Athena, was published by Cinnabar Moth in 2023, with a sequel coming February 6th, 2024. She was a Writer in Residence Hypatia in the Woods, in summer of 2022. She has received over seventy awards and honors for her writing, few of which generated income, all of which were deeply appreciated. Her works have been and will be published in many anthologies, journals, and magazines. Two of her one-act plays will be produced in 2024 by The Wayward Artist, and a few more of her one act plays have been produced by Force of Nature Productions. Many of her plays have received staged readings.


Things That Will Make Me Hate a Character by Dana Hammer – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Things That Will Make Me Hate a Character

Sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I wind up hating a character I’m supposed to love. This doesn’t mean I hate the book, or that I’ll stop reading it, but it does mean that I will now actively root for this character to suffer and fail. Here are the things —

1) Refusing to use swear words
Unless it’s a children’s book, or this is a person who has been raised in a religious cult, I don’t want my likeable characters to clutch their pearls whenever a “bad word” is uttered. I’m fine with it if it’s a villain (think Annie Wilkes) but if I’m supposed to like the person, I don’t want any irrational prudes.

2) Refusing to read the letter
We’ve all encountered this. The heroine receives a letter from her ex-boyfriend, or her estranged mother, or a mysterious man in a parking lot and SHE DOESN’T OPEN IT. The reasons are always stupid. “It would be too painful.” “I don’t want to hear what she has to say. NOTHING can excuse her behavior.” “It’s probably a scam.” Then she stashes the letter away until a convenient time, when the plot starts to lag, and suddenly she gets the urge to open it. I get that it’s a plot device, and an easy one to use. But I hate any character who’s so dull-minded that they aren’t even a little bit curious about a letter from a former lover.

3) Nursing a terrible, secret guilt that only proves to us how noble and awesome she is.
We read the book, knowing that our heroine is deeply troubled because of something that happened in her past. Something that makes her believe she is unworthy of love, because of how horrible it is. Then, after many chapters of cryptic allusions and hand-wringing we finally discover the truth. She was working in a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless. She gave a piece of candy to a little boy with big sad eyes — and he choked to death! IF ONLY SHE HADN’T GIVEN THE POOR CHILD A PIECE OF CANDY! HOW CAN SHE LIVE WITH HERSELF?

4) Couples who want to be together, but can’t, because…oh, wait, there’s no reason they can’t be together.
This one annoys me. There are lots of reasons why people can’t be in a romantic relationship —they live too far apart, they’re already married, he’s a firefighter and she’s an arsonist. It’s not hard to come up with a reason for people who want each other to be kept apart. But sometimes, the couple just…can’t get their shit together. And that’s not a valid reason, and I will hate them both for their invalid dithering.

5) Kids who only talk about homework and school.
If I’m reading a book, and a child in it talks in tired childhood cliches, I’m done with that child. In any given book, a child may use ONE of these phrases ONCE: homework, soccer practice, late for school, school dance, sleepover, study. (Exception: it’s a kid’s book, and soccer or the school dance is integral to the story.)

6) Writers who are confused by bare feet indoors.
“She walked down the stairs, bare feet padding on the carpet.” “She was cooking in the kitchen, barefoot.” “Her bare feet were propped up on the couch.”

If you’re indoors, you’re supposed to be barefoot. Or at least, it shouldn’t be so abnormal that the writer feels the need to point it out. If the character is barefoot outside, in a snowstorm, OK, that’s weird, and you should address that. But the fact that anyone feels the need to point out that a character isn’t wearing shoes in her own damn house is bizarre and grating.

I guess this isn’t something that will make me hate a character. More just a thing that will annoy me when I read it.

6) Modern characters who unironically call each other “Dear” and “Darling” or “Dearest”.

No one has called anyone “Darling” since 1942.

7) Characters in historical fiction who are waaaay too modern.

This one is super weird. You’ll be reading this book that’s set in 1662, in a rural village in England, and the main character is all “Wait, I can’t be an atheist-feminist-anti-racist-college professor? I’m so confused by this society.” She somehow holds all the currently correct views on things. She is perfectly accepting of gay people, and people from other countries, and people of all religions or lack thereof, and she doesn’t understand why other people aren’t like her. Even though it’s 1662.

I understand that you want the character to be relatable to a modern audience. She doesn’t need to be a total ignorant racist who only likes getting beaten by her husband, but she should have some grounding in her time and place. Unless it’s a time travel novel. Even then, she shouldn’t be totally perplexed by the realities of the past. We all know that the past sucked, and if we were to be sent back into it, we’d have to alter our expectations somewhat.

Anyway, these are a few things that make me frustrated with characters. I’ll still read the book, if it’s good, but I will actively root for these characters to have a terrible end.

Fanny Fitzpatrick has the coolest best friend ever. Athena is smart, and pretty, and brave, and kind. Fanny loves her friend, but sometimes, she feels a little jealous of how perfect Athena is.

But even “perfect” girls make mistakes, and Athena makes a big one when she accidentally turns the school bully into a cockroach. He was picking on their friend Gemma and Athena lost her temper and her magic powers just slipped out right in front of Fanny.

Now Fanny knows that Athena isn’t an ordinary girl – she’s the reincarnation of a Greek goddess, powers and all – and now she needs Fanny and Gemma’s help to hunt down the bully-turned-cockroach and turn him back into a human boy.

Fanny doesn’t want to spend all her time looking for a cockroach. She’s got the Junior Miss Super Pretty Pageant to prepare for, if she can get over her stage fright. Besides, Athena’s Dad, Zeus, has forbidden the girls from meddling with any more cockroaches or magic, and Zeus is a god you don’t want to mess with.

Fanny has to make a choice. Should she pursue her pageant dreams, or risk Zeus’ wrath to find the cockroach-boy? What’s the right thing to do? And how do you hunt down a cockroach anyway?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Normally, when I arrive at school, I’m tired and cold and grumpy, but not today! Because today I’ve got the World’s Coolest Necklace, and everyone’s gonna notice it and give me compliments. It’s a “statement” necklace, and I got it at an old lady’s estate sale yesterday. I was shopping with my best friend, Athena, when I saw it. It was sitting on a dresser, with a bunch of other jewellery, but this necklace was the only one that caught my eye. It’s a large octopus, with jewel-covered tentacles, and two pearls for eyes. I tried it on, and it looked like the tentacles were reaching around my neck, trying to choke me. I’d never seen anything so cool in my life. It was $20, which was more than I had, but luckily Athena was there, and she bought it for me. Athena always has lots of money, because she’s a rich kid, but that’s NOT why I’m friends with her.

Anyway, she saw how sad I was that I couldn’t afford the necklace and she just bought it for me, probably because she has excellent taste and could see what a great investment it would be. She said it was “quirky” and “an interesting piece,” which I happen to know is code for “high fashion”.

My mom said it was “tacky garbage” but she doesn’t know about fashion. She mostly wears gym clothes, even when she’s not at the gym, and she never wears jewelry, except her wedding ring.

About the Author:Dana Hammer is a novelist, screenwriter and playwright. She has won over forty awards and honors for her writing, few of which generated income, all of which were deeply appreciated. She is not a cannibal, but she is the author of A Cannibals Guide to Fasting. Dana is also the author of middle grade fantasy My Best Friend Athena which was inspired by a desire to write something her 9 year old daughter could read.

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