Shay Festa A.K.A. The Bookie Monster reviews horror and paranormal books, with an emphasis (but not limited to) zombie fiction. With a background in Psych Nursing, Shay brings her unique perspective to the online reading community. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.
Steve Kozeniewski: Can you tell us about how you got your mascot? Also, does he have a name? (And, if not, may I suggest "L'il Braineater?")
Bookie Monster: Sadly, there’s no exciting tale for my little monster. Having zero artistic talent, I knew I had to look elsewhere and found a ‘gig’ on fiverr.com. Unfortunately, I chose someone with a very limited grasp on the English language, so my request for a scary, horror or zombie related logo, was interpreted in such a way that I was delivered a cute green blob that looked more like a booger than a monster. But the little guy gave me such a gut-busting laugh that I just had to use him.
Then I went back to fiverr.com, found an amazing graphic designer, and had her decorate the booger for a bunch of holidays. In fact, my St. Patty’s day logo went live this morning. What do you think?
|Top o' the monstering to ya!|
BM: I actually have an automated submission process that begins with a questionnaire accessed from the review policy page. I request a plethora of things, most of the time more than I use, but it makes it easier on myself or one of the other reviewers. And means we spend the bulk of our time writing a quality review instead of spinning our wheels to search for the info.
I subscribe to the work smarter not harder motto. The site itself is a beast to maintain, add in managing a large team and trying to read a book a day (not to mention a full time job) and things can easily overwhelm me. So I integrated my submission list with a review request queue that populates for me. Not only is it efficient, but it allows us to see a real time list of submissions by date and select the oldest submissions as our next read. My next wish list item is to find a way to do it all through Wordpress and populate the info into posts. So if anyone knows how to make that magic happen, I am a willing student!
I don’t need the hard sell, and try to accept submissions whenever they align with my target audience and my own and team genre preferences. With so many books already in queue, I’ve actually closed submissions to all but zombie fiction in hopes we can get caught up. I’ve still got a few November submissions to plow through!
SK: I understand you're a nurse by day. First of all, can you take a look at this lump on my rear end? Second, as a medical professional, how do you feel about the depiction of gore in horror? Does it bother you when authors get anatomy wrong or can you just "switch off" your professional mind and strap in for the ride? Or are some mistakes okay but others are egregious?
BM: Um…lucky for me, nurses don’t diagnose, so I suggest seeing a physician for that lumpy bum.
I’ll admit there have been a few occasions I’ve gotten frustrated by some glaring inconsistencies. I look at it this way. Any time you write outside your scope of knowledge, you run the risk of getting it wrong. Research, research, research. Most nurses would say it’s not easy to “switch it off”. Nursing becomes a part of who you are and changes your perspective on a lot of things. They’ll also probably tell you that everything revolves around bowel movements…but that’s beside the point.
It absolutely pulls me right out of the story when I see these type of sloppy errors. Even before I was a nurse I read a piece of zombie fiction (it will remain unnamed to avoid shaming the author) where a character suffers a broken arm…when described in detail, the author tells readers it was the tibia. It was all I could think of for the remainder of the book. For my current project I researched even the smallest of things to make sure I didn’t give misinformation. Guns, helicopters, even houseboats! As a nurse, you’re taught to question everything, and if you still have questions, ask for the evidence based practice. My poor husband has to be out of his mind by now. Every few days he’ll say something like “they said can cause cancer,” or something else random. I don’t let him get passed that sentence before retorting “who is ‘they’ and where’s the study to prove it?”
The second awkward moment also came in the form of an author email. This author sent an email strongly disagreeing with the review and even insulted the reviewer, who happens to be a successful author. They felt the small things pointed out were personal tastes of the reviewer alone and the author felt a loss of 1.5 stars was too aggressive and it deserved a higher rating. I must have read that review a dozen times to make sure I wasn’t missing something. But the review was exactly what the author had been promised. An honest opinion. I was actually confused, because the review called out many positive things, and a few small but important negative items that would impact my opinion of the book had I been reading it. I thanked the author for their feedback and apologized for not being able to give them a five star rating. Then again, two months go by and I receive an email from the same author thanking us for the valuable feedback our review provided. They had made changes based on the things my reviewer called out and were rereleasing their book. Additionally, they submitted the second book in the series and said the feedback they had received from us on the first book was “fantastic and invaluable”.
The first moment for me was when I went to the Permuted Press website to look for a new book to read and I saw a banner on their front page advertising Iain McKinnon’s new release, DEMISE OF THE LIVING, quoting my review. I remember jumping around the house and doing the happy dance that something I wrote was being used to promote a book.
Then the authors upped the ante and I started finding my name and quotes in the acknowledgement section of books. I had no idea it was there, and I opened the books and, BAM, there I was! Happy dance times a thousand!