Sweet Banana Ink Celebrating Writers And The Written Word Mon, 01 Apr 2013 11:01:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5 Lions and Tigers and Acquisitions OH NO… /2013/04/01/lions-and-tigers-and-acquisitions-oh-no/ /2013/04/01/lions-and-tigers-and-acquisitions-oh-no/#comments Mon, 01 Apr 2013 11:00:44 +0000 Bliss /?p=2783 I’m nothing if not one to get on a bandwagon…I mean come on, a wagon, a band, sounds like a party.  So this is me jumping on the Goodreads/Amazon commentary bandwagon. I’m just going to assume that you know that Amazon has purchased Goodreads apparently for a TON of money.  I wandered the interwebs a bit this weekend to see what readers, publishing people and journalists in general were saying about the acquisition. The business people are all aflutter because it is, obviously, a brilliant business move by both Amazon and Goodreads.  There is massive potential for Amazon in data mining and providing even easier access to their website for purchases directly from Goodreads.  Goodreads gets a MASSIVE amount of money they can roll around in naked and then hire a bunch more people to run Goodreads (because the original folks will be too busy rolling naked in the money).  So yeah it’s a good business move. A number of independent and Amazon published writers think this is a wonderful acquisition.  They see this as two of the greatest book related websites integrating to give the customer the very best experience both in book community and book purchasing.  Hugh Howey author of [...]

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I’m nothing if not one to get on a bandwagon…I mean come on, a wagon, a band, sounds like a party.  So this is me Sign dollar and the books on scales. 3D image.jumping on the Goodreads/Amazon commentary bandwagon.

I’m just going to assume that you know that Amazon has purchased Goodreads apparently for a TON of money.  I wandered the interwebs a bit this weekend to see what readers, publishing people and journalists in general were saying about the acquisition.

The business people are all aflutter because it is, obviously, a brilliant business move by both Amazon and Goodreads.  There is massive potential for Amazon in data mining and providing even easier access to their website for purchases directly from Goodreads.  Goodreads gets a MASSIVE amount of money they can roll around in naked and then hire a bunch more people to run Goodreads (because the original folks will be too busy rolling naked in the money).  So yeah it’s a good business move.

A number of independent and Amazon published writers think this is a wonderful acquisition.  They see this as two of the greatest book related websites integrating to give the customer the very best experience both in book community and book purchasing.  Hugh Howey author of Wool and one of Amazon’s massive independent publishing successes wrote a very positive blog post about the whole thing…check it out here.  He’s absolutely right that publishing is changing and that Amazon is putting the squeeze on the middle level players in the industry.

I’ve read a few live forum discussions where people were split in their take on what this will mean for the public.  Some are excited about the idea that they might be able to post a review on one site and it would show up on both sites.  A few people like the idea that they could update reading progress automatically and post favorite quotes right from their Kindle.  Others are concerned that Goodreads will stop being community oriented and become sales oriented which often gets in the way of community.  There is also A LOT of concern about data mining.  People have said they have deleted their Goodreads account simply in the hope that their reading data will not end up in Amazons hands.

The traditional publishing folks including a good majority of writers who have traditional publishing deals think it’s a dreadful turn of events.  I can see their point of view.  Amazon is quite predatory when it comes to the publishing industry and that affects their writers.  Goodreads has become quite a powerhouse in the world of “word of mouth” publicity for all writers.  While I personally think it’s a bit too much like the shark tank at feeding time when fans get up in arms about something…anything really…that doesn’t change the fact that it’s become a great way to connect with like-minded readers to discover new writers and books.  This is a good thing for all writers and all publishers.  But now Amazon, who is technically both a seller of books and a publisher of books will also control (and don’t think for a second they will NOT control this commodity they paid a HUGE sum of money for) how those like-minded readers find each other and how you find reviews and who you can easily interact with on their website.

Maybe that’s cynical but as everyone always says it IS a business and making money is the point.  Now when I take a quick look into the history of business what I see is that we’ve had to implement a whole host of laws to protect the public from monopolies.  Because when you corner the market and you manage to kill off all your competition the public suffers.  I do not think Amazon is altruistic regarding books or anything else.  They are a business and their goal is to make money.  I do not begrudge them this goal I simply know that if they are allowed to destroy all the competition everyone will suffer except Amazon.

Right now I keep thinking of Thomas Edison and the early days of the film industry.  His trust managed to create a monopoly that held the rights to use the film, the cameras and the projectors hostage so that only members of the trust could access those necessary items to make a film.  Amazon doesn’t have that kind of hold right now but I get itchy when too many of the eggs are all in one basket.

If all Amazon did was sell books (among other things) I might not be quite so bothered by all of this but they aren’t just edging out the middlemen so we have a publishing model with no middleman, they are taking the place of that middleman, all the middlemen as a matter of fact, the publishing ones and the selling ones.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Amazon just fine.  They do a GREAT job of selling shit and getting it to me in a manner that I love.  I love the Kindle and the instant gratification of getting an ebook in seconds.  But I’m going to go on record here as saying I don’t think Amazon having more control of the book industry is a good thing for anyone.  I think in the end the writers, publishers, book sellers and book buyers that want an alternative to Amazon will have to do something similar to what the film industry had to do back in the early 1900’s.  They are going to have to move outside of Amazon’s reach.  Ultimately I think that will involve some pretty big leaps of imagination and faith.  I hope someone gets on that fast.

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Interview! Today with Julia Michelle Dawson… /2013/03/11/interview-today-with-julia-michelle-dawson/ /2013/03/11/interview-today-with-julia-michelle-dawson/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2013 11:00:01 +0000 Bliss /?p=2773 Julia Michelle Dawson is the author of Geneva, A Novel of International Intrigue.  Julia and I go way back…as in all the way back to high school wherein everyone who knew us couldn’t quite figure out how we managed to be such good friends.  It certainly appeared that we would be a poor match.  She was a very well behaved teenager who dressed nicely, usually followed the rules, got stellar grades in everything, practiced her music and thus played flute beautifully.  I behaved outrageously at every chance, smoked and drank and swore like a sailor on shore leave, surreptitiously broke as many rules as I thought I could get away with and rarely practiced my music and thus I played poorly.  Yet when you stripped all that away we were both smart and funny and mischievous and daring and even though most people couldn’t figure it out we knew we had found in each other a partner for our adventures.  We fell out of touch in college and it’s only been recently that we’ve rediscovered each other (thanks Facebook!) and what do you know…it turns out we are both writers!  No one would have seen that coming except maybe the [...]

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Julia Michelle Dawson is the author of Geneva, A Novel of International Intrigue498_Geneva_Cover

Julia and I go way back…as in all the way back to high school wherein everyone who knew us couldn’t quite figure out how we managed to be such good friends.  It certainly appeared that we would be a poor match.  She was a very well behaved teenager who dressed nicely, usually followed the rules, got stellar grades in everything, practiced her music and thus played flute beautifully.  I behaved outrageously at every chance, smoked and drank and swore like a sailor on shore leave, surreptitiously broke as many rules as I thought I could get away with and rarely practiced my music and thus I played poorly.  Yet when you stripped all that away we were both smart and funny and mischievous and daring and even though most people couldn’t figure it out we knew we had found in each other a partner for our adventures.  We fell out of touch in college and it’s only been recently that we’ve rediscovered each other (thanks Facebook!) and what do you know…it turns out we are both writers!  No one would have seen that coming except maybe the two of us.

I asked Julia to answer a few questions about her writing process and she generously agreed.

 

How did you get from the world of finance/business to writing fiction?

Purely by accident.  I was driving down the street with by friend Marjorie when she said she was afraid to stay at home at night if her husband wasn’t there so he gave her a gun…and it was an elephant gun!  I laughed and said, “Marjorie, if I ever write a book that’s what I’m going to call it:  Marjorie and the Elephant Gun!”  The very next night I started writing the story.  Soon I knew it was longer than a poem, then longer than a short story, and before I knew it I was drowning in a novel and I didn’t know how to write.  That’s when I started attending the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.  I learned how to write by writing a novel…there must be a better way!

I know you talked about participating in various Santa Barbara writing workshops and classes.  Can you talk a bit about your experiences with workshops/writers’ groups?

The Santa Barbara Writers Conference was great.  That’s were a met Leonard Tourney who was a professor at UCSB.  I thought how can I get into his class without having to enroll in college again?  It turned out that he did a weekly writers workshop practically in my backyard in Santa Ynez.  When I moved over the hill to Santa Barbara I joined Leonard Tourney and Shelly Lowenkopf in a work shop at the Montecito Library.  We called it the “Lion’s Den” for good reason.  Later, I started a workshop at my home which I called that San Ysidro Writers Workshop. We would read one chapter a week out loud and then comment on each other’s work.  Occasionally I would hire a visiting instructor and we would all pitch in to cover the costs.  It’s a very valuable experience to get feedback from other writers and to have to produce a chapter on deadline.

Geneva is a pretty complex mystery/thriller.  Can you talk a bit about your plotting process, any tips or tricks you use to keep track of it all?

Although I do keep a chapter and scene outline, I usually don’t have a problem keeping track of the plot.  In my mind, it plays like a movie and I am just writing down what is there.  What I have learned (by mistake of course) is that I need to write down and keep handy the character development details, so I don’t in chapter one write that he has green eyes and then in chapter ten write about his brown eyes!

I know you have a full time job and a very active teenage son.  Balance is a challenge for just about everyone I know.  Would you tell us about your regular writing schedule and how you manage to stay true to it while living a pretty demanding life aside from writing novels?

I don’t wait for my muse to show up!  I schedule a time to plant my tail in the chair and write!  If I sit in the chair and don’t know what to write (which rarely happens because I am always, while driving etc, thinking about what I am going to write) I will do stream of consciousness writing to loosen up my brain.  I simply write whatever work pops in my mind; blue wall green glass door free grass light sky etc) for a few minutes.   I also follow the advice of Hemingway – to stop while I still have something to write (which is easy because I always run out of time first!)

You have done extensive research into the financial and technological aspects of publishing and selling books in today’s market.  This has led you to start your own publishing/media company.  Can you tell us a little bit about what led you to do that and what you hope to do with your publishing/media company?

I decided to do this when I read the traditional publishing contracts and learned how little the writer actually keeps when they sign away all the rights to their work.  Today’s options for printing are remarkable – you don’t need to order thousands of books.  Digital publishing allows the writer to keep the lion’s share of the sales dollars.  As in any business, you have to spend money to make money.  No book will succeed (with a major publisher or self-published) unless there is a marketing budget behind it.  When I realized that I have, through my work experience in public speaking, print, and television, all the skills needed to promote a book – I took the jump.  I spend all the money I make from writing my column on marketing the fiction.

I know you have another book either in editing or almost ready for publication, would you tell us a bit about that novel?

Nairobi – A Novel of International Intrigue is the second book to be published.  The protagonist, Avery Sumner, is a minor character in GENEVA.  It takes place after GENEVA when Karen returns to her native Africa for some R & R – which of course she doesn’t get much of!

Most writers are passionate readers.  What do you enjoy reading and who are some of your favorite writers and why?

I love reading auto-biographies about really dynamic, powerful, and adventurous women.  Needless to say there aren’t many of these around – yet!  West with the Wind by Beryl Markham is my favorite book.  Beryl was a safari pilot and the first person to fly East to West across the Atlantic.  I also loved Daughter of Destiny by Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Mister of Pakistan and Personal History by Katharine Graham (publisher of the Washington Post.)

Now just for fun…I tend to listen to music while I write, and this will often lead to chair dancing while writing, also if I get stuck I tend to get up and pace, sometimes I juggle while pacing.  I KNOW…how geeky can I get, but it works.  So what’s the goofiest thing you do while writing or to break things loose if you get stuck?

If I get stuck, I print out what I have written that day, move to the other side of the room and read out loud.  (Usually only to my cat – who yawns) then can more easily see what it needs.

 

There you have it folks!  Thanks so much Julia for taking the time to share your process with us here at SBI!   I’m looking forward to Nairobi.

Julia also writes regularly about polo for a Santa Barbara paper and other publications as well.

JULIA MICHELLE DAWSON BIO:  Adventurous world traveler, Julia Michelle Dawson is a veteran of Wall Street. Pilot, mountain climber, scuba diver, and polo player, she uses her interesting life experiences and her knowledge of the financial world to bring the reader excitement, adventure, danger, and romance from the board room to the jungles of Africa. A world citizen, Julia calls Santa Barbara, California home.

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Keldane The Cursed /2013/03/07/keldane-the-cursed/ /2013/03/07/keldane-the-cursed/#comments Thu, 07 Mar 2013 07:15:46 +0000 Bullish /?p=2742 Today, it’s my pleasure to introduce a wonderful children’s book, Keldane the Cursed, written by Jeffrey Hollar. Keldane’s struggles to survive school and live up to the expectations of others are something everyone – young and old – can relate to. My grandson and I read this book together, and between Keldane’s mishaps and Barnabas’ misfortunes, we did a lot of laughing. We found ourselves empathizing with Keldane and his hapless victims, and we’re certain you’ll enjoy this entertaining adventure as well!   Story Excerpt: A plume of dust billowed from the ancient book causing him to sneeze violently and repeatedly. “It’s no use guys. I can’t find what I need in this stupid book! I’ve been through it over and over and it’s just not here!” He spoke to the two animals sitting on the table in front of him. The large greenish frog, Desmond, looked at him with a mournful gaze and croaked softly. The ginger cat, Lydia, looked at Keldane with a malevolent gaze, her tail swishing angrily from side to side. “You guys KNOW transmogrification isn’t my best subject. I’d change you back in a second if I could only remember the bloody spell.” The frog [...]

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0 Keldane Cover

Today, it’s my pleasure to introduce a wonderful children’s book, Keldane the Cursed, written by Jeffrey Hollar.

Keldane’s struggles to survive school and live up to the expectations of others are something everyone – young and old – can relate to.

My grandson and I read this book together, and between Keldane’s mishaps and Barnabas’ misfortunes, we did a lot of laughing.

We found ourselves empathizing with Keldane and his hapless victims, and we’re certain you’ll enjoy this entertaining adventure as well!

 

Story Excerpt:

A plume of dust billowed from the ancient book causing him to sneeze violently and repeatedly.

“It’s no use guys. I can’t find what I need in this stupid book! I’ve been through it over and over and it’s just not here!”

He spoke to the two animals sitting on the table in front of him. The large greenish frog, Desmond, looked at him with a mournful gaze and croaked softly. The ginger cat, Lydia, looked at Keldane with a malevolent gaze, her tail swishing angrily from side to side.

“You guys KNOW transmogrification isn’t my best subject. I’d change you back in a second if I could only remember the bloody spell.”

The frog croaked more loudly and the cat hissed menacingly as if to say nothing was Keldane’s “best subject”. Although he was the son of THE most powerful wizard in history, Keldane was, unfortunately, so inept even his wizarding instructors openly referred to him as Keldane the Cursed.

 

Audio Snippet

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Keldane the Cursed is available via AmazonBNKobo and Smashwords.

You can connect with Jeffrey Hollar via Blog and Twitter.

 

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Reading Teaches Me Writing! /2013/03/04/reading-teaches-me-writing/ /2013/03/04/reading-teaches-me-writing/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 11:00:39 +0000 Bliss /?p=2735 So I’ve been reading some very disparate books lately and as a result I have noticed some very interesting writing stuff. So book the first is an Elmore Leonard book, “Out of Sight”.  I am a huge fan of the show “Justified” which is based on an Elmore Leonard short story and he is listed as the Executive Producer I think.  I love the show for its dialogue.  I love it for its keen capture of rural southern America.  I love it for the complex grey area that all the characters live in.  But the truth is I have read very little Leonard.  So “Out of Sight” was recommended to me by Bullish and I do not ignore her recommendations.  I really enjoyed it.  As I neared the end of the book I realized that it felt as though the entire book was nothing but dialogue.  That isn’t entirely true but the end result of reading the book is that I have the voices of the character firmly embedded in my head but almost no visual picture of them.  That doesn’t mean they weren’t described at some point but there wasn’t a lot of time spent on the visuals of [...]

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So I’ve been reading some very disparate books lately and as a result I have noticed some very interesting writing stuff.

(Photo by Alberto G. (c) 2006)

(Photo by Alberto G. (c) 2006)

So book the first is an Elmore Leonard book, “Out of Sight”.  I am a huge fan of the show “Justified” which is based on an Elmore Leonard short story and he is listed as the Executive Producer I think.  I love the show for its dialogue.  I love it for its keen capture of rural southern America.  I love it for the complex grey area that all the characters live in.  But the truth is I have read very little Leonard.  So “Out of Sight” was recommended to me by Bullish and I do not ignore her recommendations.  I really enjoyed it.  As I neared the end of the book I realized that it felt as though the entire book was nothing but dialogue.  That isn’t entirely true but the end result of reading the book is that I have the voices of the character firmly embedded in my head but almost no visual picture of them.  That doesn’t mean they weren’t described at some point but there wasn’t a lot of time spent on the visuals of the people or the locations…with maybe a couple of clear exceptions involving disguises.  It’s sort of an odd thing to read a book and to have a firm grasp on the two main characters and all the other characters as well for that matter and yet when I try to see them in my head I have almost nothing.  Doesn’t make me like the book any less it’s just an odd experience as a reader.

Book the second is a romance, “A Rogue By Any Other Name” by Sarah MacLean.  Full on historical with the unmarried girl of advancing years (yeah she’s 28…) and the childhood friend who screws up as a young man and shows back up as a rogue.  There’s more to the plot but it’s all pretty typical to the genre.  I don’t normally read romance novels because I find that I get really tired of no one DOING anything.  I mean I like a good relationship drama with some good smexy here and there but eventually I want something to happen and for the character to, you know, do something.  Mostly they don’t in romance novels, they just have relationship drama over and over.  I have to confess there isn’t a whole lot going on in this one other than relationship drama BUT the writing was really lovely.  I find that is also often lacking in romance novels.  YES I AM MAKING GROSS GENERALIZATIONS…I’m sorry for that, but I can only talk from my own reading experience.  But my hat is really off to Ms MacLean for this one and I might read another by her simply because the writing was so smooth and downright elegant in places.  Her characters were solidly themselves and often delightfully surprising in certain situations, but never out of character or out of their time period.  I felt like it was a really nice study in how small choices for a character, her reactions or responses to a situation, can increase the tension or even just my interest in the character.  It seems obvious but if it were it would happen more often.

Book the third I’ll not name as I’m a bit less enamored with it and I’m not interested in slamming anyone.  I’m also not done reading it so I’ll reserve my full judgment until I finish it but right out of the gate I am having a problem with some language choices that just don’t groove with the presentation of the characters.  I’m no delicate flower when it comes to language.  I tend to swear more than is really socially acceptable and I’m fond of strong language to convey strong feelings.  But language is part of how we identify characters.  If the language you choose for your characters feels thoughtlessly crass you have to deal with the fact that this tells me something about your characters…it would be unfortunate if it told me something inaccurate.  In this case it is absolutely dissonant with what I’m being told about the characters.  Again this is turning into an interesting study for me in how careful we have to be as writers in our choices.  We deal in language and our choices have to be deliberate or our story will pay the price.  I may come back to this once I finish the book because there are elements to the story that I am intrigued by and that is why I’ll try to push on with it even though I’m also having some issues with the writing.

Anyone else out there had any interesting writing discoveries as they are reading?

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Guest Post By Daniel Swensen /2013/03/01/reviewing-books-like-a-boss-a-guide/ /2013/03/01/reviewing-books-like-a-boss-a-guide/#comments Fri, 01 Mar 2013 07:15:38 +0000 Bullish /?p=2721 Reviewing Books Like a Boss: A Guide So you’ve decided to write a book review. First of all, let me offer my condolences. I’m kidding, book reviews can be fun and valuable, if you approach them with the right attitude. They can inform and entertain. They can also be a terrifying chore. The difference lies in your approach. Let’s start with the basics: why do you want to write a review in the first place? You liked the book want to promote the author? You liked the book want to promote the book? You hated the book but feel obliged to promote the author? You want to make people laugh and get internet Brownie points for delivering clever snark? You hated the book and want everyone else to share your suffering? These are questions worth asking. Some motivations are more suspect than others, but I will not expound on their relative worth here. The main thing is, have your intent in mind when you sit down to write your review, because your content should reflect said intent. If you want to promote a fellow indie author, slagging it at length and then giving it five stars is not a rock-solid [...]

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sbi book review

Reviewing Books Like a Boss: A Guide

So you’ve decided to write a book review. First of all, let me offer my condolences. I’m kidding, book reviews can be fun and valuable, if you approach them with the right attitude. They can inform and entertain. They can also be a terrifying chore. The difference lies in your approach.

Let’s start with the basics: why do you want to write a review in the first place?

  • You liked the book want to promote the author?
  • You liked the book want to promote the book?
  • You hated the book but feel obliged to promote the author?
  • You want to make people laugh and get internet Brownie points for delivering clever snark?
  • You hated the book and want everyone else to share your suffering?

These are questions worth asking. Some motivations are more suspect than others, but I will not expound on their relative worth here. The main thing is, have your intent in mind when you sit down to write your review, because your content should reflect said intent.

If you want to promote a fellow indie author, slagging it at length and then giving it five stars is not a rock-solid approach. Neither is giving a glowing, breathless review and then giving it one star because you couldn’t be bothered to realize Amazon has a star rating system. (Seriously, I’ve seen both these things happen. “LOVED IT! BIG FAN! ONE STAR.”)

So now that you’ve established why you’re writing your review, let’s take a brief look at why other people read reviews.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally, I read reviews for clues on whether or not I’d like the book. I know, pretty revolutionary. But finding a good review can mean sifting through a lot of crap. Generally, no matter what the book, a bunch of people will 5-star it and proclaim it the best thing since breathing. Others will 1-star it and proclaim it the work of Hitler, Satan and Rob Schneider combined. Thing is, praise or condemnation by itself doesn’t interest me. What I want to know is why that praise or condemnation is there.

And that, to me, is the key to a good review: tell me why.

By this, I don’t mean make your praise more colorful or enthusiastic. Things like “I couldn’t put it down” or “I didn’t want it to end” don’t actually tell me about the book. They tell me about your experience reading the book. And I’m happy for you, but since I’m not telepathic, I don’t know what you value in your prose. Did the plot keep your attention? Did the book contain a mystery you were dying to see solved? Did you love the characters and their interactions? Every bit of information you include in this area will give me, as a reader of your review, something to look at and decide whether we have that in common. Writing the review in all caps with your balled fists, on the other hand, does not.

The same goes for the negatives. Now, I enjoy a good sarcastic slagging as much as the next person, but most one-star reviews are some of the least informative reviews imaginable. I hated it. It was torture. So boring I read half the dust jacket, threw it at my cat, and sat down to write this five-paragraph polemic on why it sucks. This book made me punch my baby sister. I would rather have the webbing between by toes devoured by PCP-addicted marmosets than read it again.

All very colorful, but your BDSM fetishes are your business. A chronicle of your suffering doesn’t inform me of anything but your penchant for hyperbole. If you truly loathed a book, tell me why: irredeemable politics. Hateful characters. Ludicrous plot holes. Turgid prose. Crushing boredom. (That last one is highly suspicious, since I enjoy a lot of things other people find boring, but I’ll still take it over comparisons of the prose to root canal or being branded with a cattle iron.)

If you want to be funny or creative in your review, by all means do so. But personally, I don’t go to book reviews for open mic night at the Improv. If you want to be witty, do it by being informative in witty ways, not by seeing how closely you can compare your reading experience to the Bataan Death March or whatever. And I swear to Vonnegut’s ghost, if you write “I wish I could give it zero stars” I will punch you right in the karma.

In closing, I’d like to bring this back around to the question of motivation. Reviewing books becomes a tricky endeavor when indie authors are involved. If you yourself are an indie writer, and make a habit of reading the work of others, you will inevitably meet a book you hate by a person you like. It’s just how it goes. So you may well find yourself in the position of having to review a book you didn’t care for and risk hurting the feelings of the person involved. So what do you do?

In my opinion, you be honest. And note that “honest” is not a synonym for “cruel.” Honesty does not give you a free pass to be as hurtful as you can to another indie author. If you’re going to take time out of your life to express your displeasure with a novel, make it constructive. List the problems and why you felt they detracted from the story. Detail your expectations and how they were not met. In short, give the author something they can take away from the review.

Every writer is always looking to improve — give them your take on how their next book could be better. Don’t set out to crush their spirit. If you truly hated the book and need to work off your frustration, then consider just not spending any more time with it. Go play a game or work out instead. Everyone will be happier.

Sturgeon’s Law is well in effect when it comes to book reviews — a lot of dross and a few gems. Do readers (and writers) a favor and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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How Do Your Characters Cope? /2013/02/27/how-do-your-characters-cope/ /2013/02/27/how-do-your-characters-cope/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 13:00:13 +0000 Guest Post /?p=2718   When presented with challenges, obstacles and threats, how do your characters respond? The ‘fight or flight’ coping mechanism is a fairly standard response to these kinds of situations. To demonstrate, let’s say a mob of squirrels stampedes sweet Suzie Sunshine. Her survival instincts will prompt her to choose one of two options: (1) FIGHT: load her slingshot with pebbles and aim between those beady little eyes (2) Take FLIGHT: lace up her pretty pink high-tops and run the rubber off the soles But are these little Suzie’s only options? Nope! Our wee Suzie-kins could crouch down and face the onslaught of ravenous rodents with a package of sunflower seeds, or treat them to chili dogs at the snack shack, or invite them to come live with her. In other words, she could make FRIENDS with the new situation. THOSE THREE LITTLE WORDS Fight, flight and friend. Yeah, I know – the word ‘befriend’ would more aptly satisfy the Grammar Police, but I’m going to stick to the letter “F” for simplicity – and mnemonic reasons. (Three options that each begin with the letter ‘f’). However, if it will make you happy (!) you can substitute the following words: Confront               instead of [...]

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When presented with challenges, obstacles and threats, how do your characters respond?

The ‘fight or flight’ coping mechanism is a fairly standard response to these kinds of situations.

To demonstrate, let’s say a mob of squirrels stampedes sweet Suzie Sunshine. Her survival instincts will prompt her to choose one of two options:

(1) FIGHT: load her slingshot with pebbles and aim between those beady little eyes

(2) Take FLIGHT: lace up her pretty pink high-tops and run the rubber off the soles

But are these little Suzie’s only options?

Nope!

Our wee Suzie-kins could crouch down and face the onslaught of ravenous rodents with a package of sunflower seeds, or treat them to chili dogs at the snack shack, or invite them to come live with her.

In other words, she could make FRIENDS with the new situation.

THOSE THREE LITTLE WORDS

Fight, flight and friend.

Yeah, I know – the word ‘befriend’ would more aptly satisfy the Grammar Police, but I’m going to stick to the letter “F” for simplicity – and mnemonic reasons. (Three options that each begin with the letter ‘f’).

However, if it will make you happy (!) you can substitute the following words:

Confront               instead of FIGHT

Withdraw             instead of FLIGHT

Embrace               instead of FRIEND

Doesn’t much matter what word you use, so long as you are aware that your characters have THREE choices when standing on the cusp of change.

I understand that sometimes a character needs to squirm out of a tight spot, or fight a battle they can’t win. But the characters that keep my interest and spark my imagination are the ones who do the unexpected.

I came across this concept, the idea of embracing or befriending challenges, obstacles and threats, quite by accident, as I was trying to wrap up a novel scene. I needed two characters to meet, briefly, so that I could reunite them to save the day at the end of the story.

I’d run through and rejected a dozen ideas when a crazy idea struck me – why not have them do something completely unexpected: befriend each other. The resulting scene is one of my favorites and sets up a relationship that is riveting and complex.

I’m not going to harp on the FIGHT/FLIGHT/FRIEND point because it’s strong enough to stand on its own! Instead, I’ll wrap up with an enthusiastic encouragement to consider allowing your characters – and your writer’s psyche – to EMBRACE and BEFRIEND some chaos along the story path.

 

BARE BONES EXAMPLES

>THE FORMALDEHYDE CHRONICLES (my story mentioned above)

When confronted with his date’s ex-boyfriend, Walker has three choices:

Fight – fist fight – just plain stupid because the other man out-sizes him 

Flight – head upstairs to his own apartment and shut the door – just plain juvenile

Friend – invite him in for coffee – which totally surprises the protagonist, the reader, and me every time I read it

>THE WALKING DEAD (AMC television series)

While wandering a world overrun with zombies, Michonne has three choices:

Fight – use her katana to fight every zombie she comes across (exhausting and ultimately unproductive)

Flight – run from every zombie (if only it weren’t so many of them, it just might work)

Friend – modify walkers and use them as camouflage

 

So, my writerly friends, how do your characters cope?

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Turning A Problem Into A Good Exercise! /2013/02/25/turning-a-problem-into-a-good-exercise/ /2013/02/25/turning-a-problem-into-a-good-exercise/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 16:32:52 +0000 Bliss /?p=2713 So one of my WIPs is a collection of vignettes that involve various mythological characters.  One of them involves a couple of characters from a children’s story that I thought was already in the public domain.  This has turned out to be incorrect and I am now faced with having to replace that particular story.  I’ve had some good suggestions from friends but I’m having a hard time making any of the replacement characters work so far. I know that one of the issues is truly letting go of the original story.  While I do really like it and think it works well, nothing is perfect.  Though of course just like when you lose a story to a hard drive crash, now that I can’t use this story it’s suddenly become the “best story EVER and NOTHING will be as good” (quote to be read in full on teenager whine of despair).  Sigh. Luckily I am getting impatient with me and my inner-teenagers foot stamping and pouting.  I’ve decided to make a list of possible replacement characters which I think will help me to focus in on why the original characters work so well.  In thinking about, and discarding , [...]

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So one of my WIPs is a collection of vignettes that involve various mythological characters.  One of them sbi typeinvolves a couple of characters from a children’s story that I thought was already in the public domain.  This has turned out to be incorrect and I am now faced with having to replace that particular story.  I’ve had some good suggestions from friends but I’m having a hard time making any of the replacement characters work so far.

I know that one of the issues is truly letting go of the original story.  While I do really like it and think it works well, nothing is perfect.  Though of course just like when you lose a story to a hard drive crash, now that I can’t use this story it’s suddenly become the “best story EVER and NOTHING will be as good” (quote to be read in full on teenager whine of despair).  Sigh.

Luckily I am getting impatient with me and my inner-teenagers foot stamping and pouting.  I’ve decided to make a list of possible replacement characters which I think will help me to focus in on why the original characters work so well.  In thinking about, and discarding , various different choices I’ve gotten clearer about why I need a certain type of transformational event at this point in the overall story.  I’ve come to realize that only certain characters can really bring that type of event to fruition in any way that is both believable and a little bit funny.  This is showing me once again that problems can either be obstacles that stop me or they can be motivating forces towards greater creativity and an exercising of my skills.

So anyone else out there had something throw a monkey wrench into one of your stories which in the end actually led to an improvement or even just good exercise in strengthening your creative muscles?

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Guest Post By J. Whitworth Hazzard /2013/02/22/guest-post-by-j-whitworth-hazzard/ /2013/02/22/guest-post-by-j-whitworth-hazzard/#comments Fri, 22 Feb 2013 07:15:24 +0000 Guest Post /?p=2703 A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging Book Reviews (or Reviewing your way to Fame, Riches, and Love) by. J. Whitworth Hazzard   Book report. Book report! Book report!!! Okay, now that I’ve scared off all the folks with recurring nightmares of the 6th grade, I can let you in on a little secret. Book reviews are NOTHING like those awful five-paragraph book reports you remember from middle school. Book reviews can be a fun and valuable tool for building, A) blog traffic, B) rapport with other writers and fans, and if you’re good enough and persistent enough, C) a business. Here are my tips for writing a book review… First things first, pick a book to get started. Choose one you know well and have something to say about. Second, decide what it is you want to say about the book and build those opinions into a simple format you can copy for other reviews. This will help dispel some of the fear of the blank page and give readers an expectation of what they’ll find in your reviews. You can even make it a template with some boilerplate if you like. My template is simple: an introduction to the book [...]

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0 book-reviewA Beginner’s Guide to Blogging Book Reviews

(or Reviewing your way to Fame, Riches, and Love)

by. J. Whitworth Hazzard

 

Book report.

Book report!

Book report!!!

Okay, now that I’ve scared off all the folks with recurring nightmares of the 6th grade, I can let you in on a little secret. Book reviews are NOTHING like those awful five-paragraph book reports you remember from middle school. Book reviews can be a fun and valuable tool for building, A) blog traffic, B) rapport with other writers and fans, and if you’re good enough and persistent enough, C) a business. Here are my tips for writing a book review…

First things first, pick a book to get started. Choose one you know well and have something to say about. Second, decide what it is you want to say about the book and build those opinions into a simple format you can copy for other reviews. This will help dispel some of the fear of the blank page and give readers an expectation of what they’ll find in your reviews. You can even make it a template with some boilerplate if you like.

My template is simple:

an introduction to the book including the reason I chose to read the book

a brief synopsis of characters, plot, setting, genre, etc. (be careful not to give away spoilers)

then a section on what I liked about the book

a section on what I didn’t like about the boo

and lastly who I would recommend the book to (or not) and why

But don’t copy mine, go out and read a few reviews and pick and choose the best of the buffet for your own template.

Now you’ve got a book you’re ready to review, and some guidelines about how to lay out your thoughts. So here are some things you should keep in mind when writing:

Be Interesting:  Your review should be fun and easy to read, even if the book wasn’t. Some of the best reviews I’ve read are witty, yet scathing, reviews of awful books, but…

Be Honest: There’s no reason to sandbag an author just to write a fun review. Don’t be an jerk. On the flipside—and much more common, there’s also no reason to gush over a mediocre Twilight-esque retread because you’re reviewing a friend of a friend. If you sway someone into reading a terrible book, you’re going to lose a reader. Say what you mean and mean what you say, but try to be generous and kind when you can, especially to new authors.

Be Brief: This one is a personal preference, but I think it’s good advice. I hate reviews that do a detailed play-by-play of the book. As a reader, I want to know if the book is worth reading, I don’t want you to spoil all the twists and turns and reveals for me. And I certainly am not interested in a ten-page literary analysis of themes. If you’re that gal (or guy), do me a favor and stop calling it a review.

Proofread:  Your review reflects on you as a writer. Make sure you proofread and ask a friend with superior grammatical skills to spot check before you…

Promote Yourself:  When your review is ready for primetime, hit social media hard. Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, G+, and your platform of choice will all help bring readers to your review. And as always, give readers an easy way to follow you to build an audience.

Promote the Author: This is where you build rapport with the community. If you build in links to the book (and other books they’ve written) and the author’s social media outlets, you’ll gain an author’s respect, even if your review wasn’t stellar.

That’s it! That’s what I think makes for a good book review. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself churning out reviews infused with your own wit and charm, lickety-split. With a little promotion and luck, you’ll soon be on the receiving end of free books, devoted followers, and authors begging for a spot on your blog. Good luck, folks!

*To see how it all comes together, check out my latest book review HERE.

- – - – - – - – - -

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LOVE BITES Blog Hop WINNERS /2013/02/19/love-bites-blog-hop-winners/ /2013/02/19/love-bites-blog-hop-winners/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 18:32:38 +0000 Bullish /?p=2701 Last week, we invited you to rain on Cupid’s Parade and to our delight you flooded us with two dozen playful, frisky, mischievous stories! Thank you to everyone who participated. You turned a potentially paltry holiday into lots of memorable fun! And thank you to everyone who read, commented and voted on the entries. Now, without further ado, here are the winners! JUDGE’S CHOICE = “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” by Cara Michaels / @caramichaels Prize: One Hour Coaching with Rebecca T. Dickson Cara gave us a story wrought with heat and tension that left us twisting in our seats, wondering what it would be like to live without love and fervently hoping that Eros would find the love he was looking for! EMOTIONAL IMPACT CHOICE = “A Wish” by Angela Kennard / @Ang_Writes Prize: Personalized Painting by Lee Clements Angela gave us a story that was by turns sweet, shocking and downright chilling. As surprises go, this piece delivered in spades and left us stunned – and not-so-secretly applauding the vengeful Emma! FAN FAVORITE = “Cupid’s Arrow” by Karen Hoffman Prize: Bragging Rights and Bookmark by the Divine Hammer Karen gave us the ultimate Valentine revenge in [...]

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Last week, we invited you to rain on Cupid’s Parade and to our delight you flooded us with two dozen playful, frisky, mischievous stories!

Thank you to everyone who participated. You turned a potentially paltry holiday into lots of memorable fun!

And thank you to everyone who read, commented and voted on the entries.

Now, without further ado, here are the winners!

JUDGE’S CHOICE = “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” by Cara Michaels / @caramichaels

Prize: One Hour Coaching with Rebecca T. Dickson

Cara gave us a story wrought with heat and tension that left us twisting in our seats, wondering what it would be like to live without love and fervently hoping that Eros would find the love he was looking for!

EMOTIONAL IMPACT CHOICE = “A Wish” by Angela Kennard / @Ang_Writes

Prize: Personalized Painting by Lee Clements

Angela gave us a story that was by turns sweet, shocking and downright chilling. As surprises go, this piece delivered in spades and left us stunned – and not-so-secretly applauding the vengeful Emma!

FAN FAVORITE = “Cupid’s Arrow” by Karen Hoffman

Prize: Bragging Rights and Bookmark by the Divine Hammer

Karen gave us the ultimate Valentine revenge in a story skillfully and poignantly told – and proved to be a fierce Fan Fave competitor! Great job!

JUDGE’S FAVORITES

Prize: Bookmarks by the Divine Hammer

Elisabeth Koch – “Rome” by Elin Gregory / @ElinGregory – The terrific banter, unspoken depth and character of their relationship, great descriptions and humor all added up to a beautiful and clever story!

Lisa Shambrook – “Buck Wild” by Jeff Tsuruoka / @JTsuruoka – The physical description of Cupid, imagery such as the look a dog gives helicopters, and the over-friendly buck had me laughing! Great writing and brilliant twist!

Laura Howard – “Violet” by Christina Krieger / @cvkrieger – The classic story of a couple on a miserable Valentine’s date is quickly turned on its ear in this story about embracing who you are.

Ruth Long – :”The End” by Laura Jamez / @LEJamez – The comparison between old school and modern match-making caught my imagination and the surprise twist, and the way it was delivered, was a knock-out.

Winners please DM your email addresses to Laura at @LauraHoward78
to get the prize delivery ball rolling! :)

Congratulations to you all and thank you for helping to make this blog hop a success!!

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…And Then A Whole New Character Showed Up! /2013/02/18/and-then-a-whole-new-character-showed-up/ /2013/02/18/and-then-a-whole-new-character-showed-up/#comments Mon, 18 Feb 2013 11:00:01 +0000 Bliss /?p=2694 If any of you checked out Ruth’s blog during NaNoWriMo this year you might have seen the amazing video she made that showed her novel notebook.  She has developed this very thorough notebook to help her organize her writing process and it’s really amazing.  Here’s a link to the video.  Go watch it.  No really…go now, I’ll wait. OH hey you’re back…awesome.  So yeah.  Pretty brilliant right?  I haven’t quite managed to make my own but I have borrowed some of the parts of it to help with my current WIP.  As a result I’ve had some interesting experiences that are kinda new and cool. I’ve been working with her character sheets to nail down some of the character details.  This is having the expected result of the characters coming into sharper focus but it’s also bringing other characters into focus and in some cases into existence.  I had an entire character appear as a result of working on the sheet for an existing character.  That was surprising and, well, fun. The other thing that was a little unexpected was how this process started to affect the plot.  I guess I should have known that would happen but I didn’t and it [...]

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sbi pens&padIf any of you checked out Ruth’s blog during NaNoWriMo this year you might have seen the amazing video she made that showed her novel notebook.  She has developed this very thorough notebook to help her organize her writing process and it’s really amazing.  Here’s a link to the video.  Go watch it.  No really…go now, I’ll wait.

OH hey you’re back…awesome.  So yeah.  Pretty brilliant right?  I haven’t quite managed to make my own but I have borrowed some of the parts of it to help with my current WIP.  As a result I’ve had some interesting experiences that are kinda new and cool.

I’ve been working with her character sheets to nail down some of the character details.  This is having the expected result of the characters coming into sharper focus but it’s also bringing other characters into focus and in some cases into existence.  I had an entire character appear as a result of working on the sheet for an existing character.  That was surprising and, well, fun.

The other thing that was a little unexpected was how this process started to affect the plot.  I guess I should have known that would happen but I didn’t and it has been a bit of a pleasant surprise.  Some of the areas of the plot where all I knew was “and…um…yeah they live somewhere and he’s important and powerful” all of a sudden got specific and that changed how certain other things can happen.  LOVE THAT!

I’ve never really worked on something long form before so I’m really just sort of bumbling around and asking people how they do it and trying to read some books that have been recommended.  That’s all been really helpful.  But the amazing thing is when I sit down and just let myself sink into the characters their world starts to solidify and as that happens the action gets clearer and the story itself starts to roll forward.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still struggling with structure and I’m still studying on that, as my Dad would say, but there is really something to the magic that happens when we sit down and start answering the questions about who these characters are and what makes up their world.  Once I know who they are, the details of their story is so much easier to get to.

So if you didn’t really go and watch that video about the Novel Notebook I suggest you go now.  It’s really damn cool and super useful.

 

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