Daily Archives: January 9, 2013

So What Is A Good Review?

A couple of blogs ago I moaned and groaned creatively about the perils of receiving a bad review.



However – I should also let you know that occasionally a writer can expect to receive a GOOD review.

Such a gift is a pearl beyond price.

Let me tell you about this next review. It was written by Mary Jane Maffini – the editor of STORYTELLERS MAGAZINE – a magazine that has since long gone out of print.

The review was of my very first collection of ghost stories – HAUNTED HARBOURS.

The review was published on the magazine website. When the magazine folded so too did the website.

Fortunately, I was both wise and lucky enough to have saved a copy.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.


Haunted Harbours small


Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories from Old Nova Scotia

by Steve Vernon

Nimbus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-55109-592-0 $14.95


Ghost stories – the “true” kind – are best told around a campfire or on a dark and stormy winter night when the howling wind and starless sky can add to the atmosphere. The operative word here is told.


Maybe it’s the storyteller’s ability to modulate his voice or use his body to add dimension to the tale, but somehow for this reviewer the written-down kind of story almost always disappoints. They lose something in the writing. Either the prose is flat or the approach too academic or the writer has an agenda that’s not kept well hidden. Happily, this is not the case with Steve Vernon’s Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories from Old Nova Scotia.


Vernon is both a fiction writer and a storyteller in the oral sense and tradition of the term. He demonstrates both these skills admirably in this collection. These tales sound as if they’re told aloud – eminently suitable for reading to a group or to oneself, preferably with a hot rum toddy at one’s elbow.


The stories are not of haunted people but of the ghosts themselves – how they came to be ghosts. Many are tales of the sea or the coast and most date back quite a ways. There are pirates and Indians and witches and maidens; hangings and murders and dismemberments and lost loves – in short, all of the elements you’d want in a good ghost story. Vernon doesn’t just report them – he tells them – which means he has no misgivings about narrating what a long-dead person was thinking at the time, or putting into dialogue what was said when no one was around to hear. Vernon is not an historian or a folklorist but a storyteller who entertains – and that’s the purpose of Haunted Harboursto entertain and it does this quite well.


Although the volume is slim – only 120 pages – a lot gets packed in there: twenty-one tales that are rich in detail. The one thing this reviewer would have liked to have seen is pictures or maps of the locations, which Vernon describes well enough to tempt anyone to spend their next vacation touring Nova Scotia; but nevertheless the occasional photograph would have added to the pleasure of reading this marvelous collection.


– Mary Jane Maffini

All right – this post was primarily a chest-thumping  self-serving advertisement for my book – which is available in bookstores across the Maritime provinces and can easily be ordered – or is available in Kobo format.


It is also a warning to ALWAYS make some sort of a copy of any COOL review that you get online.

Websites close and domains fall.

HOWEVER, it is equally important to be aware of a website’s rights. Some review sights – such as Amazon – are VERY fussy about people reusing their reviews.

So – DO make yourself a copy of any really cool review for future use – BUT if you are thinking about using that on your website or in your blog ASK FOR PERMISSION FIRST – unless, as in my case, the website and/or magazine has gone out of print.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon