24th Annual Writer’s Digest Awards Review


bookcoverFrom Judge #53, Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, Category: Life Stories.

“Whenever a woman writes about her experience in being in an abusive relationship, she helps other women. This is exactly what Dynel has done with Leaving Dorian, which seems to be the author’s story written in third person, as if it were a novel. I appreciated the choice the author made in this perspective, for it conveys the necessity of a woman distancing herself from an abusive past. Dynel has done a brilliant job. The reader is immediately hooked by Kassy’s circumstances. Dynel does not depict Kassy as spineless victim, but she definitely is a girl who has had to deal with less than easy circumstances while still quite young. There seems to be limitless ways a woman can end up with an abusive man, and Dorian is both unique and classic in the ways he chooses to dominate. His manipulation of religion, his threats, and his belief he is always right are recognizable. I liked the way the author went back and forth from her escape with the little girls to the backdrop story of how she was snared to begin with. Dynel achieved this balance beautifully, succeeding where many other writers have failed. This book cannot fail to find a following, once a female audience is informed of its existence! The only mistake I found was in the spelling of a variation of the verb “to lie” (i.e. to recline) on page 139. “Laid down” should be “lay down.” I think better cover art could be made for a book as good as this. What I see is a bit plain.”

*27/30 points

So, a few of my own thoughts on the above review: On the whole, it’s fantastic. The judge has nothing but positive things to say about the structure, organization, pacing, plot and story appeal, character appeal and development as well as “voice” and writing style, and in fact gave me “5” in all of those categories, “1” being “Needs Improvement” and “5” being “Outstanding”. One grammatical error was found, which brought my spelling, punctuation and grammar score down to a “4”.

I used to stress about missing details like this, but over the last three years my husband has taken to pointing out misspellings and grammatical errors accidentally left in books by professional copy editors, so – I simply don’t take it to heart anymore when I miss what should be an obvious error, no matter how large or small. (Even in this case – throughout the review the Judge erroneously refers to my main character “Kassy”.) In the nearly three years since Leaving Dorian was published, no one has ever mentioned that error, so I’m thrilled that it was brought to my attention. The beauty of being a self-published author is that an error like this can easily be corrected. What irritates me, though, is what always irritates me when I enter my work into any generic sort of contest – the lack of understanding or consideration about why certain details of my book are done the way that they are.

The judge gave me a “3” on cover design, stating that it seemed “a bit plain”.

OK…. *deep sigh*…

When I sat down to write Leaving Dorian, I didn’t just bang out a manuscript, blithely choose cover art and throw it out onto the market for purchase. I researched. I looked up everything from the proper way to write a memoir to standard font styles and sizes and paper choices. I also looked at the cover designs of other memoirs about sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. Do you know what I found? Every other memoir’s cover design was dark and brooding. Blacks, dark purples, reds and grays were the colors of choice for these stories. The artwork often times depicted violence or had dreary, foreboding images. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the cover design for a story which is subtitled, “A Memoir of Hope” was going to need to be very different than anything else that was on the market.

There’s also a lot written in writer-y digests about “knowing your target audience”. This directive gave me pause on more than one occasion, primarily because to say that I had a “target audience” was a bit of an understatement. Leaving Dorian was not just written with victims and survivors of domestic violence in mind; I wrote it for them. Leaving Dorian is my gift to them. Leaving Dorian says, “I see you.” It says, “I believe you.” It cries out, “I found my way to freedom and you can, too! Reach out. Seek help. Believe.”

The cover of Leaving Dorian is done in soft neutrals and pastels because if “hope” had a color, it wouldn’t be that of a bruise. The artwork is neat and clean, almost minimalist, because chaos isn’t. The type face is 12 point font (like that of a young adult novel) and not 8 or 9, as is standard in books written for adults, because I remembered very well trying to fill out forms and read documents when I first left my ex-husband. The tiny fonts were frustrating to manage when my brain was awash in the thousand thoughts that I had to think every minute just to manage myself in the “outside” world after being penned in an abusive relationship for nearly a decade.  The pages are off white and soft to the touch because when trying to focus, pages that look and feel like they’re out of a textbook can be intimidating. Leaving Dorian was structured to be inviting because it can’t do its job if it’s not read.

Thank you to Judge #53 for what is, on the whole, a very thoughtful, thorough, fantastic  review! And I’ll take the “3” on cover design, because I’m keeping it 🙂






Reader Reviews


Screenshot_2016-02-21-13-22-39Since there’s no built-in mechanism for readers who’ve purchased my books in-store or who’ve read borrowed copies, I’m starting this “Reader Reviews” page. My only request is that all submissions include a Five Star Rating (One being “This book is complete trash” to Five being “I loved it and would recommend it to others”) along with the written review. I will print all submissions in their entirety; no profanity, please. Submit your reviews to – ellabardpressinc@gmail.com. As an aside – I’m interested in all reviews, not just those that would rate my books at Five Stars. Thank you!

Sunrise and the Seven One Six

Three Stars – Yuki – July 3, 2015 – Received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. “Very lovely and joyful story. (I liked) the writing style (and the) unexpected ending. I (also) liked the details about the military (The research was very well – done, by the way) and the ‘Tim on the bus’ chapter. Poor Tim but that was hilarious.”

***** It also received two Five Star Reviews on Goodreads with no additional written comments.

Given 29/30 points by Judge #67, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, Mainstream/Literary Fiction – November 13, 2015:

“Linda Dynel in Sunrise and the Seven One Six introduces the reader to an extended family that includes family of choice as well as family by birth. The crowd is gathering to celebrate the coming marriage of a member of the younger generation. Through the few days of parties and preparations, relationships from the past are revisited and examined.

Dynel has adopted a suspenseful approach to this story. She hints at what has happened in the past long before she lets the reader in on the nitty gritty portions of those back-stories. Long imagined romantic love gives way to the unfailing devotion of a co-worker. Interracial marriage becomes a centerpiece in an ethnic neighborhood fallen on hard times. Both the release and resurrection of old relationships keep the reader guessing.

The book carries lessons in building community and family. The characters are for the most part appealing and I found myself pulling for Tim, even though he was one of the less engaging residents of the story. As he faced forced retirement from the military, he was also facing grown sons whom he hardly knew and certainly did not understand. Connecting again with Wren led him to self-examination and hope.

This little book packs a wallop. The cover is something of a give-away with its illustration of the slightly skewed wedding cake. It promises and delivers humor along with the greater stories of building family and extending that to building community. Sunrise and the Seven One Six is a good read and one that I would share with reading buddies. There is something for everyone in this little volume.”


Leaving Dorian

Five Stars – Ted L. – December 25, 2015

“Very interesting. Easy to read memoir of her experiences. Really made me think about DV.”

Five Stars – Elizabeth Soemann – July 15, 2014

“This is the kind of book that once you start reading it you will not want to put it down. The author writes in words we can all understand and some will really relate to her story. It is a must read!!!!”

Five Stars – Jill K. – March 21, 2015

“While this book exposes the ugly truth of domestic violence, it is wonderfully written! The author does a great job of putting the reader in Krissy’s shoes and making you truly understand her thoughts and fears. This is a must read for all women!”

Five Stars – Joseph P. RosatiJuly 10, 2014

“This was a very good book. I found myself getting angry and wanting to know the true name of Dorian. I couldn’t put the book down and really liked the fact that it was easy reading. Krissy is a strong woman and a great advocate for survivors of domestic violence.”

Five Stars/One Star – Rabid Reader – November 27, 2015

“5 Stars for the subject matter, the way the book was written (like a friend speaking to you over coffee), how it was structured–a chapter of Hell, a chapter of Freedom–and the sheer courage of having written it. You GO, girl. 1 Star for editing, This is a great book, but the author has been done a disservice by the absolute and utter lack of editing–even simple bits like punctuation. And a disservice in that a larger publishing house should handle it. This book deserves WIDE readership in the abuse community. If you’re from Western NY? You’ll recognize the area-references, and wow, did that really bring the story home to my heart. Kudos for including places for us to call if we ever need help… Yep…You GO, girl”

Author’s Note: First Edition copies of Leaving Dorian WERE poorly edited. With that said, if you’re thinking about buying a used paperback copy, please make sure that you’re purchasing a Second Edition.

Five Stars – Gordon DeLeys – March 16, 2014

“Just finished reading Leaving Dorian. A gripping, suspenseful book about the realities of domestic violence and the thoughts and emotions of the abused. The main character, Krissy, is alienated by her family and winds up marrying Dorian, her abusive husband who is also obsessive and is an overly religious zealot. I won’t spoil and give you all the details but this is definitely a must-read. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down until I finished it!”

Five Stars – Jill McCann – August 25, 2014

This book is definitely a must read! It is a captivating true story of a woman’s journey through an extremely abusive marriage. It is so well written, and as I was reading, I could feel the emotions of the main character, Krissy. In some parts, my heart was pounding, and other times, it brought me to tears. I have never been in this type of relationship, but this book gave great insight into what a victim of domestic violence goes through on a daily basis. As a woman and a mother, I was so inspired by the strength and courage it took for Krissy to escape to a better life for her and her daughters. I feel like I know the characters personally, and catch myself thinking about them, and wondering how they are doing now. I hope there will be a sequel to Leaving Dorian, so we can learn about the rest of Krissy’s journey!”

Five Stars – Amy Bradt – March 20, 2014

“This book is so well written, I was mesmerized right from the opening paragraph. Though the subject matter may be disturbing I truly enjoyed reading this book. I could not put it down, I couldn’t wait to know more and more as Kris’s journey went on. Getting to know how she came to be in her situation and how she got out was captivating to me. I grew up in a house where my mom was a victim of domestic violence and though I have never been a victim myself it truly amazes me to hear these stories and how one women can gather so much strength to protect themselves and the ones they love.”

Five Stars – Sean – May 13, 2014

“This was a great book on many levels. It was easy to read (I hate reading), and kept me very interested until the end. This book opened my eyes to what some people go through in less than ideal relationships. I recommend this book to anyone, especially those that may be going through a similar situation. It may just give you the courage to do something to better your life.”

Five Stars – Marie Pecora- April 28, 2014

“This book is a must read!! It’s a point of view you don’t often hear, and glad she was able to share her story and hopefully will empower others to be as strong. I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading. I’m excited that the paperback version just came out. Hope to see more from this author!”