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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Importance of Book Reviews

Every Sunday our local newspaper has a Books page with reviews and articles about new books and their authors. That page always brings me pleasure and good suggestions for new stories to read.

Goodreads.com is a great place to find out what other readers like about the books they've read. Authors always hope for the magic 5 star review, every time, but that's not realistic. Not everyone will like a book. The subject matter will not resonate with everyone, the language, the plot, the setting - not everyone likes the same stories. That's why I love the Goodreads rating system.

If I recall, 3 stars is for "I liked it." Four stars "really liked it." Five stars are "It was amazing." That's the scale I use to explain my review, regardless of where I leave it. As an author, I don't mind receiving a three star rating. Now, if I get the dreaded one star (I didn't like it) or a two star review (it was okay) - well, I would like to know why. I respect reader insights and keep them in mind for the next story. But the fact is, not everyone likes the same books.

So, I read the comments. If a reader likes the characterization but not the setting, I'll probably read it anyway because I like a character driven story. If they feel the characters are one dimensional then I probably won't enjoy it. But, it's not just the character that makes a story appealing to me. If the setting is vividly described and makes me smell the salt in the air, I love it. Readers want to be a fly on the wall, they want to "be there." That also makes a good book for me. A compelling story that will hold my attention - well, I'll be missing sleep over that one.


Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com are also great places to get review information. It's a great way to share your experience with other readers. Some local bookstores post reviews, as well. With the economy being so tight, the market for books being flooded, how does the reader know what book to spend their hard earned money on? Reviews.

We writers are readers and we want to know what works in our stories. We want people to enjoy our work. Take a few moments to share your experience. Even if you're not a writer, just a short sentence that says whether you liked (i.e. I liked the characters, they seemed real to me)  I didn't like a story (i.e. the characters seemed flat, unrealistic, but I liked the descriptions). There's usually something you like, even if you don't like it overall. Let the author know what they did right and let the reader know your experience. It's hard to write a book and even harder to read the reviews, because you can't please everyone.

Write for yourself. Read for yourself. Share your experience. You'll be glad you did. Enjoy the journey!

Bonnie Tharp’s novel, Feisty Family Values was published by Five Star Publishing in hardback and released in February 2010. Patchwork Family was released in paperback by Bell Books Publishing in March of 2014. You can find out more about Bonnie & her books at http://bdtharp.com.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Interview with Author Joan Reeves by Jacqueline Seewald

Joan Reeves, Bestselling e-book author of contemporary romance, began her career with traditional publishers like Five Star/Gale/Cengage. When ebook reading devices like the Amazon Kindle made ebook publishing easy, she embraced a new career path as an independent author/publisher. Most of her popular romantic comedies appeared and stayed on the Kindle Top 100 Paid List for several weeks, as well as being on various genre bestseller lists.

Joan's traditionally published novels have been published in a half dozen languages, and several of her indie published ebooks are available in France through Bragelonne, her French publisher. She also writes nonfiction for writers to motivate and inspire as well as help authors navigate the stormy sea of being a career writer.

Joan makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband. They have four kids who think they are adults and a ghost dog—all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter. She lives the philosophy that is the premise of all of her romance novels: "It's never too late to live happily ever after."

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: My most recent work is a romantic comedy novella, April Fool Bride. I think my genre selected me. I just like humor with romance. Let's face it. Romance can be pretty darn funny.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: I've always thought April Fool's Day was a peculiar kind of holiday. Several years ago, I almost bought a house on the ocean because it was located at April Fool Point. *g* Seriously though, I had an idea for a marriage of convenience story and a heroine who was not what she seemed at first glance. Since a deadline loomed prominently in the heroine's life, I thought I'd make that deadline be April Fool's Day.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer: I'm intrigued by celebrities in that the general public always has opinions about celebrities and trust fund babies who feature prominently in the tabloids. My heroine Madeline Quinn has been trying to live down her rep as Mad Maddie for the last few years. She learned some hard lessons and also learned how to accept her mistakes. Now she wants her full trust fund, but there's this pesky little clause that says she has to be married by her 25th birthday. Poor Maddie doesn't trust men as far as she could throw them. She's learned that they only see dollar signs when they look at her. But... There's one guy she thinks she can trust to marry her and not take her to the cleaners--Jake Becker, the housekeeper's son who was like a big brother to her when they were growing up together in her family's mansion.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  I've published about a dozen ebooks to date. The novels are all romantic comedy. Some of the titles are Just One Look and Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones (more than 100,000 copies sold of each sold since 2011.) My most recent full-length novel is Scents and Sensuality. I've been waylaid by life in the last couple of years with my younger daughter's wedding and a few surgeries, then moving, buying a house and remodeling it, and a few other big time life stressors.

In other words, I'm behind on my writing! I have 3 series: San Antone Two Step, Texas One Night Stands, and The Good, The Bad, and The Girly.

I will be finishing the San Antone Two Step series in September with the publication of Cinderella Blue.

If my keyboard holds out--and my fingers--I'll be publishing Book 3 in the Texas series: Forever Starts Tonight, and, hopefully Book 2: Good Girl Conspiracy in The Good, The Bad, and The Girly.

I also have published 2  motivational nonfiction books for writers and will be publishing a book on blogging, Blog Ops: Search & Destroy Bad Blogging & Rescue Hostage Blogs in September.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  Cinderella Blue, Blog Ops, and outlining a Christmas short story.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I don't know if I can remember that far back. *g* Actually, I've always told stories. When I learned how to read and write--I was about five years old I--that's all I did. And continue to do I guess. It's just a joy.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Accept your gift. I don't think God gives us the desire to do something without giving us the ability to do it. Many people say they want to write, but their journey is fraught with insecurity and lack of confidence. Embrace your desire. You can judge whether you have the narrative skills necessary to write. If you feel lacking, then study some books on writing. There are many excellent ones available. Read any of the really good blogs from authors. I've published SlingWords.blogspot.com since 2005. I also offer Writing Hacks, a free subscription newsletter for writers. Many authors do. Educate yourself, and write, write, write. Practice does make perfect whether you're learning the piano or narrative skills.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: All my ebooks are available at most ebook sellers. Audiobook editions are at Audible.com and iTunes. Print editions will be available, I hope, by the end of this year.


Note: Joan is available to respond to comments and questions from readers and fellow authors so ask away!

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Next Mellingham by Susan Oleksiw

I've written a number of times on where stories come from. But today I'm describing a process that has led to a story I wasn't even looking for. I sketched out an idea for the seventh Joe Silva/Mellingham book, and filed it in my notebook. When I pulled it out, ready to start working on it, I knew it was the wrong story.

Lake Miedwie near Szczecin
A couple of years ago I came across a book about a race that circled the globe. This isn't the kind of thing I usually find in the library, but the title intrigued me. Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy is an amazing book. I don't know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn't a report on the 1996-1997 Vendee Globe, a race around the Antarctic. I was taken with the author's description of his own sail to Bermuda, and brought the book home. But then our dog, who had just entered the household a few weeks before, took a bite out of the book. He mangled the cover and the first few pages, but left the rest intact. I took the book back to the library and offered to pay for a replacement copy. As an afterthought I asked if I could keep the mangled copy.

I read this book in one weekend and would have taken longer if the book had been longer. I didn't want it to end. I'm not one for adventure tales, but courage on the ocean, to me, is the pinnacle of character. The author, Derek Lundy, describes encounters, challenges, moments that if contained in a novel would be considered too outlandish, too absurd, too extreme to be believed.

Mooring post in harbor
I loved this book, and I told everyone who would listen to me about it. I was a sidewalk, coffee shop (not so) ancient mariner with a story to tell. I pulled out an old boating manual my parents had purchased along with their first boat, back in the late 1940s, and I took note of the dog-eared pages and the light pencil marks. I found old photos of us aboard one of the three boats we sailed while I was growing up.

And then I found myself writing a story about sailing adventures I'd had as a teenager. These outings were not even as exciting as casting off a mooring in the Bay of Biscay but the story had legs, as some say, and after a while I tried turning it into a novel. The first effort failed, but the story will not die, and it is now re-coalescing around a man teaching his stepson to sail.

Chief of Police Joe Silva discovered in his stepson Philip a longing he didn't know he had, and Philip is eager to learn everything he can from the man he worships. So, while Joe is teaching safety and wind and wave patterns, someone else in the small town of Mellingham is looking to the ocean to satisfy an ambition of a different sort.

If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be writing this book, I would not have believed
210s with full spinnakers
them. I would have thought my experiences with Saturday afternoon racing through Salem Sound were too far in the past. Plus, I never loved racing. I liked messing about along the shore, dropping anchor in a cove and going for a swim or hike on the island. But when I began to write (or type), I remember how it felt to approach the start line and have the wind die, as it does among a dozen boats jockeying for position. I remembered scanning the waves for signs of hidden hazards, and I remember the chill that came over us when we saw fog sneaking up on us.


I was surprised at how much I remembered, but I shouldn't have been. Sailing is like a language, or a dance step. With a little nudging, the words come back, the hands know what to do, and the skipper looks up to check the wind and waves. Chief Joe Silva learned to sail as a very young man, and now Philip will too. But not everyone else will be taking to the water for pleasure, and skill with a tiller or a line will prove crucial.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Five Fridays!


 

This blog should have been posted on the fourth Friday of the month, but I make no apologies for missing the date. There were five Fridays in August and suffice it to say I was busy on all of them, but not just on Fridays. Birthdays, funerals and doctor visits left little time for writing, but write I did, and editing too.

 A YA story which has been on and off my shelf for a decade is finally headed for publication. I have tweaked, polished and read aloud THE RED COCKADE with certainty that it is a story that needs to be told.  It should inspire young and old at a time when our nation needs to catch the fire of loyalty and the preservation of freedoms. It is as sorely needed now as it was in 1777.  Watch for more about The Red Cockade before September ends.

I believe there is no scientific way to measure the quality of a story. Some award-winning books I have read simply did not measure up to a 5* rating or even a 4, but two books I’ve read this summer definitely did qualify. They were top drawer. In fact one of them, THE ORPHAN TRAIN, by Christina Baker Kline is now chosen as one of two finalists qualifying for my Sarasota Library System’s “One Book – One Community” read of the year. You can read my own  review of it on www. Mary F. Schoenecker Writes . Other books about The Orphan Train have been written, but Kline has a hit with this one. I highly recommend it. I also rate highly HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN. It is masterfully written.

 I wish I had more time to read. If I had a dandelion I would say “I wish I May, I wish I might, Have the time to Read tonight.” Books are in my blood. Those I write and those I read. If you haven’t read my contemporary boxed set trilogy, Maine Shore Chronicles, look for it on Amazon and, soon to be, on Barnes and Noble too. A cozy mix of romance and mystery, Finding Fiona, Moonglade and Promise Keeper have each had three editions.
 


 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Motivation & Courage

"Way down deep, we're all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them."
~Jim Davis

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway. ~John Wayne

It takes a lot of courage to stay motivated as an author. With the popularity and availability of self-publishing and e-publishing many more authors have the opportunity to get their stories out there.

Now there is more competition than ever before. There are fewer traditional publishers (they've been gobbled up). Millions of books are being published each year but only a dozen authors are millionaires and a small percentage of the rest make a living with their writing.

Why do we do it? Because we're story tellers. We're compelled to write, not one book, but another and another, and so on. It is our craft, our passion and defines who we are.

For centuries artists, scholars, scribes - by whatever name you use to describe us - have gone to the page to create. That page may be paper or computer screen, but it is still a blank canvas for us to show you what happens.

It is said that everyone has a story inside them. I can see that. But many never write the story down or it's never complete. It takes courage to follow the story to the end. It takes motivation to fill the empty vessel.

We sometimes feel afraid to proceed. The "What if" question is not only a story tool, but it's an impediment to the writer. 

"What if no one will publish it?"
"What if readers don't like what I have to say?"
"What if I can't find the words to finish the story?"

There are so much more to writing than just having an idea. The expression of that idea, the investment in the characters, plot and flow that we have to make is like child birth. Something wonderful is happening inside and someday it will be mature enough to breathe on its own. It takes months and months (sometimes years) to be ready for the world. Before it is born we'll nurture it and build it up so that it can stand alone in the world. Then we'll tell everyone we know (and even those we don't know) how beautiful our baby is - and hope that the world will agree.

We can't be afraid. We must write. We must tell the story.
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Bonnie Tharp’s novel, Feisty Family Values was published by Five Star Publishing in hardback and released in February 2010. Patchwork Family was released in paperback by Bell Books Publishing in March of 2014. You can find out more about Bonnie & her books at http://bdtharp.com.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When a Computer Stares at You by June Shaw

Today Author Expressions is pleased to welcome as our guest blogger veteran author June Shaw. Her writing is well-known to fans of both mystery and romance novels. And now here's June!

What do you do if you get to your computer, ready to become “The Next Greatest Author in the World”—and all it will do is stare back at you?
Your fingers want to touch the keyboard and start striking keys that will make the story you’re creating work well in all areas. You must start in the exact place that will draw readers in. Your very first word and first line must be perfect. Make readers care. Doesn’t something have to happen right there, something that’s going to ensure that they won’t put your book down until the last sentence, and they’ll be shouting, “I want more!”
Certainly you need to create characters who fly off the page, who your readers will care about and not want to leave. They have to be perfect. No, actually they shouldn’t. Your main characters must be likeable but with flaws (so you can’t think of any? Look around, or inside yourself.) Your female lead has to be beautiful (if you’re writing romance), and a striking alpha male would go with her. Mysteries will give you much more leeway for creating people. You’re going to want interesting secondary characters, but only in longer works. Short stories won’t allow space for developing them, even if they start to become so interesting that they’re creeping into the most important spot and taking over your work. If that happens, what will you do with those people? Toss them out like candy wrappers? Consider using them as main characters in another story? So then which story will you begin working on now?
Besides these people, your novel will need a well-balanced plot. This story line will have to race and peak at certain parts and in other places let readers catch their breaths, but just for a second, before you race toward the showdown and slam on the brakes at the end.
After you complete this one-of-a-kind yet not too different masterpiece, you’ll have to let it sit. How long? Half an hour? Two days? A week while you take a well-earned cruise, until you remember you can’t afford one?
Whenever you can’t stand the wait any longer, you get back to your work of art. Only this time, something’s happened to that first sentence. Surely someone hacked into your computer and replaced your enticing draw with dull words. You yourself wouldn’t read beyond this, so what can you do? Start all over of course. Decide that your whole work must have poured out of your fingers well before your first cup of java reached your system, and all of the words you jotted must be thrown away and new ones put in? Or possibly you can force yourself to read the entire work again, this time making your soul bleed while you struggle to improve each word before you type it, all the while knowing that after you finish many drafts of this work, you will need other eyes (that don’t belong to your family) to decide whether these readers agree that it’s good.
Or should you plot before you start? When your fingers are striving to hit the first word in your tome, should you draw them back and make them wait? Possibly if you use a pen and legal pad, you could see where to begin your story and where peak and valleys might go. But a pencil and notebook might work better so that you can erase and feel more like you did when you were accomplishing so much back in school.
Maybe you should just wait awhile till an idea strikes. Surely a better idea than the one touching your mind will come up next week. A month from now will give you time to consider what type story or novelette or novel you really should write.
You have one major decision to make. Do you want to be a writer?
If so, then when that blank screen that wants the first page of your book or the first sentence of your next chapter stares at you, instead of just staring back at it, you will do something, something that will further the writing career you chose. Write a word. Make a list. Come up with names if you must. Jot down all the awful things that could possibly happen to make your character’s life miserable, even all those that don’t make sense. See which ideas excite you, and go with them.
Or set your fingers on your computer keys and begin typing. Write a title or a sentence to start or go on from where you stopped. They can be changed later.
Keep typing.
The thing to remember is you wanted to write. You’re stronger than a blank page, no matter how threatening it may look. What comes later might seem overwhelming, but won’t be if you start. Keep going. Strike those keys. Beat that screen. You will thank yourself for being a winner.

Thank you, June! Anyone with questions or comments for our guest author, please feel free.
You can also find out more about June and her novels at: http://www.juneshaw.com/





Friday, August 8, 2014

August Heat: Summer Reading Recommendations by Jacqueline Seewald

Last month, I blogged on the topic of summer reading. This month I want to take that a step further. With people going on vacation, sitting at beaches, pools and on cruise ships, many individuals enjoy relaxing with a good book. And there certainly are a lot of them being published. So I’ll suggest several novels I’ve read so far this summer and particularly liked. I’m asking that you join me in suggesting books that you recently enjoyed reading—or your own novels if you’re a fellow author.

My husband and I both appreciated John Grisham’s SYCAMORE ROW. I left a review for the novel on Goodreads and Amazon. This novel is supposed to be a sequel to the critically well-reviewed A TIME TO KILL. In my opinion, it’s even stronger. Grisham’s greatest talent is in writing beginnings with a powerful narrative hook. But this novel never wavers throughout. Characterization and plotting are excellent. You simply don’t want to put the book down. It’s a serious, thoughtfully written novel.


Another novel that we both enjoyed and just finished reading is THE CHASE by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. This is a fast-paced humorous caper which follows THE HEIST, another O’Hare/Nicolas Fox novel. Yes, the plot is outrageous and improbable but it’s still fun. We enjoyed both books in this new series, but I think THE CHASE is the better of the two. The series is gathering steam and I hope it continues.

I’ll also recommend my own most recent books:

The fourth Kim Reynolds mystery THE BAD WIFE (and yes, she is very, very bad!) was published by Perfect Crime Books. It is available both in print and e-book editions. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J6PCKVW


My Regency romance TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS received an excellent blurb endorsement from Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick which appears on the cover of that novel, published both as a hardcover from Five Star/Gale and in large print from Thorndike Press. Mary Balogh also read this novel and offered helpful editorial suggestions prior to publication. SteameReads has published this novel in a newly edited e-book formats. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JFHMXWW

I won SteameReads “Some Like It Hot” romance novel writing contest with my sensual Georgian romance THE CHEVALIER. That novel was published and is also available in all e-book formats. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GY95RTU/

My “clean read” YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER was recently published as an e-book in all formats by Astraea Press. This YA novel is a good reading experience for mothers and daughters to share. It’s not just for teens. Although a romance, it's also a coming-of-age novel, the main theme being family values.



Finally, I will mention my book of short stories, BEYOND THE BO TREE, published as an e-book by Authentic Press. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DTV0750
I collected together some of my best diverse stories for reader enjoyment. The first story in the group is a free read.

Okay, now here’s your opportunity to share the books you think will make for good summer reading. Don’t be shy! Comments/suggestions are welcome here.