The month of August has been pretty busy for me: there were two takeovers (which were fun), a radio show (which went swimmingly), a thunderclap (which still needs your support), efforts to step up the frequency of my tweeting and facebooking, discovering the deep dark truth of why Kingsley Book #4 still isn't finished, and sadly shaking my head at my overactive muse, telling her that I can't write the stories she's throwing in my direction, because I still want to write the twelve other novels she's already given me.

This, of course, pisses her off, and then she just stops talking to me altogether, which leads to just a little bit of what I jokingly call "downtime", simply because it's mostly non-writing time.

But I can't just do nothing ... I can't. I have to feel like I'm doing something, prepping something, planning something, even when I'm not actively writing something. So I prepped, and I planned, and I did some soul searching. But then I needed to write, because the part of me that's always been a writer started to cry out, and I couldn't stand it. I needed to write.

So as part of a blog event for a certain little sweetheart I know (Kristen, the girl behind Pretty Little Pages Blog), I committed myself to writing a guest post. See, she had a birthday on the horizon and wanted to celebrate it in a big way, so she got a bunch of authors together and organized a birthday bash on her blog. I felt totally privileged to be one of the authors participating, and so I spent a few of my downtime nights scowling at my bitch muse thinking hard about what would make a good guest post. I asked Kristen what her readers might want to see, and she told me to write whatever my readers might want to see. Hmm, dilemma.

But that was right around the time that my facebook was staying totally crazy with posts about "review bullying" and things like that. And those posts really got me thinking. What really constitutes bullying, especially in the context of a review? I mean, we all know that people are mean, just flat out mean, and hateful - and sitting anonymously behind a computer screen just makes it worse. But what's "mean" mean, really?

Is it really bullying to give a book a one-star rating or review because you didn't like the characters? What about because the book was full of errors, misspellings, or gross errors in continuity that actually diminished the quality of the purchase made by the reader? I'm sure we can all agree that those are viable complaints, but I'm also increasingly sure that we don't all agree on the reality of that one star.

I've seen things on facebook (and other sites) on the subject that cite the old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

But you know what?

That adage doesn't apply in marketing and purchases. Five million five star reviews are worthless if you only have them because you were too soft-hearted to handle the one stars. Or if you were so cowardly and small that you sent your fan base to bash and attack a fellow author because you didn't like a review they gave you, or because you don't like ... whatever.

I don't think a low review is bullying. Sure, we could be kind about it - I mean, we're readers and authors and bloggers! Many of us make our living by the power of words, by our abilities to spin a picture so convincing that it melts your heart, or brings you to tears, or yes, even makes you angry. And furthermore, wouldn't you leave a negative review if you went for a haircut and got your classic style butchered? What about if you went to a restaurant that was dirty and made you sick? Would you feel that it would be "bullying" to negatively review a clothing purchase that had a pin in it that stabbed you because the company was careless?

Well, a book is a product too, and if you didn't like it, you do have the right to say so.

So I thought about that, and it didn't take long for that thought process to gel with the idea that I owed Kristin a guest post.

And that's why I sent her a post called

You should check it out - in the post, I outline a few of my favorite things to always do, and never do, when writing a book review. And because I've got the courage it takes to take those reviews with a grain of salt (and maybe an alcoholic beverage), I never once recommended that you hold off on a negative review.

Why? Because you shouldn't. You shouldn't hold back - you should write that review, IF you read the book, and IF you have something real to say, and especially IF you have the class to speak constructively about the product you're reviewing without personally attacking the author of that product or using the review to further someone else's petty vendetta.

I know - it's a lot to take in. That's why I'm going to come back tomorrow to talk some more on this, with a post about how not to be a pansy author who can't take a bad review without playing the martyr. So come on back here tomorrow to find out if you're a pansy author - and if you are a pansy author, find out how to toughen up so that you can stand up and take reviews as what they are - simply someone else's opinion.