About Me

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I love being a mom and a wife. I've married to a man I would do anything for, and we have three beautiful children. I see so much of myself in both of them that it sometimes brings me to tears (happy ones).

I also love writing. Romance to be specific. I love the happily ever after that I believe everyone deserves. My stories aren't 'stop and smell the roses' type romances. While I believe everyone deserves happiness and true love, I know that sometimes you have to walk a hard road to find it. Those are the types of stories I like to write. The happily ever after that wasn't found, but earned. I work to earn mine on a daily basis and so do my characters. 

I am also working on a children's picture book series. Inspired (of course) by my kiddos. :)

On the non-writing front, I play acoustic guitar, sing, read like I get paid for it, ride horses, hike, paint rocks, and support a rather obsessive addiction to Pinterest.

I love to cook, which combined with my pinning addiction, leads to many experiments foisted on my unsuspecting husband and kids, mostly with good results. But sometimes, the dogs gets what the family refuses to eat. And they never complain. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Passing on Books to Your Children - Thursdays with the Author

What we teach our children lives on long after we are gone. There are many things we teach them, from tying their shoes, brushing their teeth, saying please and thank you, riding a bike to driving a car, how to be self-sufficient, etc. As parents, we can easily lose track of how many things we actually teach our children.

But in today's world of eReader, tablets, 24 hour information, and ever-evolving technology, are we missing out on some of the most important lessons? 

Like teaching your children to love the written word. Today, we don't even have to read to our children. eBook stores are full of audio books. Bookstores are full of children's stories complete with an audio CD. Cartoons are on at least three TV channels 24 hours a day. Children haven't changed. They still soak up the world around them the same way they have been for hundreds of years. But the world around them has changed. The way we parent has changed.

We don't even have to teach our children to read anymore. They learn it all in school now. We don't have to read to them either. We just turn on our tablet or phones and click the reading app that tells the story for them. Not like most of us would have time anyway. Most parents work all day, come home and scramble to make dinner, get the kids working on their homework, bath and bedtime rituals, and luckily an hour or so of alone time to try and catch up on housework. That doesn't even include extracurricular activities and sports.

But we HAVE to make time for instilling a love of the written word in the next generation of children. It doesn't even have to be YOUR children (if you don't have any). Grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, neighbors, school kids. Today's children are LOSING the art of story telling and it's up to US to save it. I'm not just talking about just reading them books. Writing their own stories, making ones up, you making them up. A love for a world that's not their own. Feeding their creativity and imaginations. Don't say you don't have the time. MAKE the time. Don't say you don't read well out loud. KIDS DON'T CARE. Don't say your kids don't have any books they like. FIND SOME!

Here's some tips to help your kids fall in love with the written word. These can work from babies and some all the way to pre-teens and teenagers. It's NEVER too late to start.

1) Reading at bedtime. 
This will be a time-crunch for most of us. Deal with it. From the earliest age, this is one of the best habits you can make with your children at bedtime. Here's some things to try:
A) Dress up as a character from the book for story time
B) Use different voices for different characters
C) Get the whole family involved in acting out the story
D) As your kids get older, have THEM start reading to YOU

2) Make up/Tell stories
A) I have a few standard fairy-tales that I like to tell my kids like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs and Three Billy Goats Gruff. I embellish them, change them and do crazy voices every time I tell them. Sometimes my kids give me a topic to start with and I make up a story on the fly from there. I'll post one such story below.

3) Let your KIDS make up the stories. 
This can be tougher, depending on the age of the kids. Sometimes you have to give them a starting theme or help them along. Another thing we do is popcorn stories. Each person says a line in the story and it 'popcorns' to the next person for the next line. Stories can get crazy and hilarious this way. My 9 year old son likes to inject Minecraft subjects and fart jokes on his turn and my 6 year old daughter always uses princesses and ponies. When it popcorns back to mom or dad, it's a good chance to reign in the crazy and try to get the story back on track. Regardless of what they come up with, they are using their minds and being creative so let them! 

4) Get the books your kids like!
If your 5 year old is infatuated with tigers, get tiger books! If your 7 year old son loves dinosaurs, get dinosaur books. If your pre-teen is dealing with sibling issues, get the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. If your daughter loves the color pink, try the Pinkalicious books. If they have books they will love, they will literally devour them. Let your bank account take a hit on this one, it'll pay off!

5) Take your kids to story-hour or the reading program at your local library.
Reading programs are usually summer events but story-hours typically go year round. Not only will your kids be encouraged to read, they will be hanging out with other kids, the same age, that are just as excited about reading.

6) Go to author signings for children's authors.
You might have to make a drive to a bigger city for this but it's an awesome experience for your kids. Not only will they score a new, autographed book, they will be able to meet the author, ask questions, and live the general excitement that a book signing always is. James Dean and Eric Litwin, creators of the amazing Pete the Cat series, are my most highly recommended book signing you should try to attend. So far they stick mostly to Atlanta, GA area, so this might be impossible for you. All the Pete the Cat books have a song with them and it is preformed during a reading at their book signings. They also have videos of these songs on Youtube.

7) Have your kids WRITE their stories.
You will waste a million pieces of paper. You will inwardly cringe at the grammar and spelling mistakes. You'll have to hold in your sigh at the complete lack of plot and utter nonsense they write. But you WILL smile and laugh. You WILL tell them they wrote an amazing story. You WILL be immensely proud of them. Because you actually will! If your little one is too young to write, write it for them as they tell you the story. Let them draw all the pictures. Keep their adorable, chaotic stories in your keepsake box because you will pull them out when your children are all grown up and cry tears of joy as you reread them.

8) Go to the bookstore with your children, find the children's section and let them explore the wonder that is children's literature. 
Most stores have story sessions on the weekends. Plan your trip during these times for an even better experience. Don't ever go and NOT let them buy at least one book so plan with your checkbook accordingly.

9) Make your kids read the book before they ever see the movie. 
This one mostly goes for teens/preteens (Twilight, Divergent, etc) but is also good for younger kids (The Lorax, Wizard of Oz). There are SO many movies out that started from books. Your kids will never know what they're missing if they don't read the literature that inspired the Hollywood creation before they see it.

10) Let your children see YOU reading or writing. And loving it.
Nothing is going to teach them to love books and writing more than watching you be the perfect example!

So there you go! Try a few, try them all, just try! Reading and writing, and LOVING it, is one of the most important things the next generations will learn. Out of them will be our next great author, they will write the next books we can't put down, they will be the brightest and most creative imaginations in our world. Be a part of making that a reality we all live in. :)
Here's a story I made up for my kids a few months back after a torturous few weeks of my 6 year old daughter trying to pull a tooth. As soon as it came out, they were begging for a story about it.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful warrior princess known as Aubree the Fair. Not long after her sixth birthday, the young princess faced a challenge that would prove her strength and virtue.

The princess had a loose tooth and no matter how much wiggling she did, no matter how much help the King and Queen offered, the tooth refused to budge.

Princess Aubree knew she had to be brave and do everything she could to remove the vile baby tooth so her new, grown-up tooth could take its rightful place in her mouth. So enlisting the help of her trusty lion stuffed animal, Princess Aubree sat down with a magical paper towel, determined to win the ultimate battle of willpower against tooth.

Using all of her mighty strength, Princess Aubree wrestled with the stubbornly set tooth. Her muscles quivered, her hands shook from effort. Tears sprang to her blue eyes and a slight sob caught in her throat. She closed her eyes, forcing her mind to focus, and yanked with all her might.

When she opened her eyes, the tooth , the origin of the epic battle, the source of all her frustration, lay in her hands. With a shout of triumph, she held the tooth up for the kingdom to see.

The King and Queen praised her fortitude. The young Prince admired her bravery. Nobles from the far reaches of the realm paid homage to her valor. "Princess Aubree, Vanquisher of Baby Teeth!" they shouted. 

That night, the Good Fairy honored the young princess for conquering the evil tooth.  "For standing defiant and true in the face of great adversity, I reward thee, Aubree the Fair and Brave, with a coin of good fortune," the Good Fairy declared.

Aubree The Fair stayed ever vigilant, knowing that she had won the battle but the war against her baby teeth was far from over. 

The End

And for a personal touch, here's a few pictures of my hubby reading to my youngest. He HATES getting his picture taken and will probably equally hate that I put it on the world-wide-web for all to see, but I wanted to show you all how much fun it can be reading to your children. (Sorry for the blurry shot, I had to make it quick to get away with it!) 
Our daughter is learning to read so she typically starts the story by herself and we finish when she's ready to stop. Green Eggs and Ham gets rather long-winded about half-way through, so that's usually when Mommy or Daddy take over. (And side-note, my hubby really dislikes reading out loud and isn't generally a big reader at all, so it's a step out of his comfort zone to do this for his kids.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What I know To Be True... A Writer's Perspective - Thursdays with the Author

What I know To Be True - A Writer's Perspective

I've been a published author for 7 months now and a writer since I first learned to scrawl letters on a page (my handwriting hasn't actually improved much since then). I've learned a lot of 'truths' in my 28 years (yes, I know that's not a big number). Some were learned fairly easily, others, painfully hard. So today's blog post will be sharing those truths. Maybe it will spare someone from having to learn the hard way themselves. Maybe you'll find a common learning experience and be able to share a smile or laugh while reading it. 

1) If writing is in your blood, you'll never lose the passion for it. 

I knew I wanted to become a published author in high school, particularly my senior year. I loved to write. After taking a creative writing class that year, my inspiration took off like a rocket, and by the time I graduated, I had a binder full of ideas, stories, poetry, song lyrics, and the first rough (very rough) drafts of a few novels. Fast forward another year or so and I was married and we had a new baby. Life got crazy. I still found time to write: I cranked out the second draft of Dark Mountains while on bed rest and recuperating from the birth of my son. But between those first milestones, and the birth of our second child 4 years later, writing, or at least the strong desire to publish, was put on the back burner. Though my time for writing was drastically reduced, I still managed to write with the same passion I'd always felt: long and winding emails, Christmas newsletters, detailed Facebook posts, stories for my children, etc. Once my kids started school and I had more time, I found that I hadn't lost my 'writing edge'. I had merely added experiences I could flavor my writing with. 

2) Nothing should come before your family. Even your writing.

I firmly believe this can be said for any career. Family: your spouse and children, should never be put on the back burner. They are the most important things in your life and should always remain so. They will also provide you with a plethora of ideas to inject into your writing. 

3) You will never have enough time to write. 

Even if you have a set amount of hours every day with minimal distractions, you will still find you've run out of time. You'll be in the middle of writing an amazing chapter and life suddenly rings a bell signaling you've got to stop. It could be your kids needing dinner, your spouse ready to go out, a realization that it's after midnight and you have to get up before six the next day. The list goes on.  Try to write down your most important ideas so you don't lose them but don't try to keep going. Remember #2? There are more important things than cranking out another 1000 words. 

3) Life is hard - Use it!
I'm sure we all realize this. No matter what our ages, no matter where we come from, life is hard. It likes to kick us when we are down. Hard. Someone gets cancer. You husband loses his job. You miscarry a baby. A beloved family member passes. And the list goes on... And on... And on... Well, you get the point. Tragedy, pain, grief, hardship. Use those feelings. Write through the pain. Your characters shouldn't be one dimensional. They have the same problems we do, so write about them!

4) Life also rocks - Use it too!

There's just as much good as there is bad in life. Sometimes they seem unevenly matched. For grief there is also new life. For pain there is also joy. For hardship there is also relief. All these things, the pull and push of life, can make us better writers... If we don't shy away from using what life hands us. 

5) Your children will amaze you AND annoy you. 

Sometimes one right after the other. Sometimes at the same time. Sometimes a lot of one and only a bit of the other. But regardless of how many times they weigh on either, you will thank whatever God you believe in, for giving them to you. You can also use this in your writing. Even characters that are children have to be more than one dimensional. And if you write children's or YA, you will have large amount of inspiration to pull from. 

6) Letting something get under your skin is a bad idea. 

A bad review. No reviews. An editor that sends back your manuscript with so much red ink it looks like it's covered in blood. The fiftieth rejection letter from an agent. A cover that keeps getting rejected by the self-publishing program. Not being able to get copyright for use of a picture or name. A negative comment in your blog. Etc. These things will piss you off. They might even make you cry. Or yell. Sometimes they will make you do something very stupid like ranting on a public forum where everyone can see. Letting these negative things keep bugging you makes the original problem bigger than it ever was. Have your cry, yell it out, and move on. You'll only raise your blood pressure or have a heart attack if you dwell on it. 

7) Don't write to get rich. 

For a few reasons. The most obvious being that there's a very slim chance you will actually make money writing, let alone a lot of money. 
The less obvious, but more important reason, is your motivation. If making money is your motivation, you had better try being a stockbroker instead if a writer. Too many authors (that usually start out amazing), begin churning out story after story (that sound more and more like the same thing only with different characters), or stretching out stories that should have ended a few books before, just to make more money. 
If you aren't writing because you love writing, you shouldn't BE writing. Money can't go with you when you die but great written words will live on long after you are gone. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Writing Reviews... The Good, The Bad, and The 'Meh' - Thursdays with the Author

Writing Reviews - The Good, The Bad, and The 'Meh'


I recently won an ARC (advanced reader copy) for a new book and wanted to give the author a good review since I had won the book in a contest. But as I started reading, I could immediately see it was going to be a problem. You see, I really didn't like the book. I had already emailed the author after reading the prologue and the first chapter, to tell her I really liked what I had read so far. Because I did. Until I started chapter 2.

I'm one of those readers that will ALWAYS finish what I start. Even if I don't like it. I definitely don't want to be someone that quits on a book if I don't like the first line. You never know when a book will get going. This book was one of those. There were multiple times in the first half of the novel that I simply wanted to put it down and not finish, but I trudged on. Thankfully it picked up a bit for me halfway through, but I finished the book with a 'meh' type feeling. Not the best feeling for leaving a great review.

(Tip for Authors here: Your first line should be good, don't misunderstand. So should the first parts of your novel. Most readers will give up on a book if they don't like the beginning. I choose to read a book in its entirety, but readers like me are few and far between. So make sure your book 'pops' from beginning to end.)

This particular book was a fantasy romance, written (I believe) for YA/NA. I couldn't find a reference to the actual genre on any of the author's websites, so I went by impression. I read fantasy occasionally, some of my favorites being Christopher Paolini, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, etc., so it's not exactly out of my normal romance genre reading. The world building was well done, description of characters and environment were great as well. But the just-past-puberty dialog by the 20-something characters was a major turn off. And all the info that was really unnecessary for the overall plot in the book. The beginning was riddled with unneeded information that really bored me as a reader and did not affect the story-line in any way. This book was nearly 600 pages so it would've probably been better if such things were removed before printing. No one really enjoys reading a five pound book. Then there was the fact that I found over 10 typos (and this book is traditionally published), which really bothered me. Are you starting to see why I didn't like the book?

So I emailed the author my thoughts and the typos I found, instead of posting anything publicly. I made sure I mentioned that I hoped she didn't take my thoughts too hard because I knew as an author myself, you can't please everybody. As I've mentioned in my Handling Negative Feedback post, every reader has their own personality and likes/dislikes, so every reader that tries your book might not like it. 

But as a reader, we have to be completely honest when reviewing a book. As an author who's had to hear negative reviews for my own work, giving a bad review felt just as bad as receiving one. Normally, anything I publicly review has only been for books I really liked. My personal policy is if I really, really liked a book, I need to leave a review, on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc. If I didn't like a book, especially if it was for reasons the author could fix, I try to contact the author personally. Does this mean you should too? That decision is completely up to you. I can tell you, as an author, I'd much rather get a private message about someone's dislikes so I at least have the opportunity to fix it. 

Remember: A review effects the sales of a book. That is a fact. So you should think very carefully about posting your review (good or bad) for all the world to see. What you say has the potential to make or break an author's book. 

On the same hand, no reviews are just as damaging to an author. If a book has no reviews, the chance that someone looks at it, see that no one has bothered to review it, and still buy it, are slim. Not leaving a review at all can literally kill an author's sales. It may seem like extra work (as a reader) but you could honestly be changing someone's life by leaving a review.

Here's some tips for leaving reviews (good or bad):

1) Start your review with a general summary
A. Book Name
B. Author Name
C. Genre
D. Rating (stars - see #4)
E. Cover (see #9)
F. Story

1C - Side-bar here: Please make sure you PAY ATTENTION to what genre the book is in. If it's just categorized as romance, don't give the author a negative review because there isn't ENOUGH sex. Likewise, don't complain that there's TOO MUCH sex. A romance has sex in it, but it's not erotica. Understand this before you complain. If it's an inspiration and has graphic sexual scenes, or an erotica with only kissing, by all means, complain, but don't judge a book's contents for being something that it clearly was NOT trying to be.

2) Start with what you liked first. 
Unless you didn't like anything. Then there would be no point. But if you did, tell the author and potential readers. Certain characters, personalities, plot lines, etc. If you liked it, say it, then explain why. Be Specific. Remember, good reviews have the power to make an author's book. As a reader (even a not so picky reader, since I know what it feels like from both sides), I tend to check out reviews before purchasing a book. If all I see are bad reviews, I tend not to buy it. If there's an even mix and the book sounds like something I'd like, I'll give it a try. If the majority of reviews are positive, I won't think twice before I spend my money.

3) What you didn't like.
This part could be very small or very large. Be specific. Maybe the author didn't realize there was something wrong with what bothered you. Maybe they'll read your review and go back and fix it. Maybe they won't. By having a 'didn't like' section in your review, you're helping other readers as well as the author. You're helping the author fix potential bombshells with your honesty. You're helping other readers avoid wasting their hard-earned money on a sub-par product. Remember: You can always delete your own review or update it if the author fixes the problems and you change your opinion.  

An author isn't going to like getting a negative review. He/she has their blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention, a large chunk of time, invested into their novel. Hearing something negative about it will not feel good. But we authors have to learn how to accept it, learn from it, and move on. If everyone critiqued our work like our mothers would (Great job, honey! I loved it!), we'd have a lot more horrible books on the market. Telling an author you liked something when you really didn't will only cause problems for the author in the long run. 

Here's an example of a 'bad' review from my first book on the UK amazon site:

"I read the sample to this book and it sounded like a good read. Unfortunately it was the best bit! Not worth buying in my opinion - sorry"

She gave me 3/5 starts, which by my count (see # 4), is an average review. Did this review make me angry? No. A little disappointed? Yeah. I want my readers to like my books and it's a pretty sucky feeling when they don't. But here's why I was disappointed. 

The reader didn't tell me why she didn't like it. She liked the sample, which was the first few chapters in this book, and the blurb, enough to purchase the book. But she didn't like anything else? What was so different about the rest of the novel from the beginning that made her change her mind? Why wasn't it worth buying? Was it too expensive for the length? Or was it so horrible after the first few chapters that it wasn't worth the money? At least she said sorry and left me 3 stars, instead of worse, but she didn't need to apologize. I want my readers to be honest about how they feel. But I would like to know why they feel that way. Maybe it was a problem I could have fixed. Maybe I could have adjusted the price. Maybe the Americanized dialogue was too confusing for her to understand and I could have put in a disclaimer about the Southern American dialect, or a glossary. But I'll never know because she didn't tell me.

4) Be honest with your rating.
Most sites have a 5 star rating system and only allows full stars. If the rating system doesn't let you pick a half in your review, write it IN your review. For example: Click the 3 star but write that it's a solid 3.5 in the body of the review. Or round up if you're feeling very nice with a 4 star and mention it's a 3.5 in the body. 

Most people consider 0-2 stars a bad rating. 2.5-3.5 would be an average review. 3.5-5 would be a positive rating. 3.5 stars is positive? Yes. At least, most authors should think so. If a reader gives you anything over 3 stars with their review, you should be insanely happy. The going guess I've been hearing in the writing communities is that you should consider yourself blessed if you get even 1 review for every 500 books sold. That's a very painful statistic to hear as an author when reviews are what controls the sale of your book.

5) Be thoughtful. 
This is more than just being specific. Being thoughtful goes even deeper than that. One of the ways an author improves their writing is by listening to feedback and critiques. If there's something wrong with their book, they want to know! But getting a review that says: "Loved the book. Can't wait for what he/she comes up with next." is not a good review to receive. Don't get me wrong, the author will love that you left a review at all, but by only saying a few short words, you aren't teaching to author anything, and you aren't telling the potential readers WHY the book was so great. Was it the ease of dialogue that made it seem like you could actually hear the conversation? Was it the detailed explanations that made you feel like you could reach out and touch the scenery? Was it the amazingly creative sex scenes that made you want to take your husband to bed and try what you read about? Was it the harrowing love story that made your heart clench and tears spring to your eyes? Was it the sadistic bad guy that made you wish he was real just so you could be the one to make him face justice? Did the nonstop pace have you reading until the wee hours of the morning just because you couldn't stand putting the book down? THOSE are the details the author and the reader need to know. Those thoughts that made you love the book are the ones that will get someone else to give it a try. Those thoughts will encourage the author to write another story with the same skill that made you fall in love with their writing.

Here's an example from a great review left for my first book on Amazon's US site:

""Are you always going to take care of me, Cole?"


Dark Mountains was a free read I was able to pick up from Amazon. Despite my TBR list being obscenely long, something about the blurb drew me in and I read this book in one sitting. Dark Mountains is the story of two children, Cole and Libby, who meet as very young children instantly becoming best friends. That friendship continues through their childhood and beyond eventually growing into more. Cole becomes Libby's lifeline as she lives with a tragic and violent home life. As Libby and Cole become adults, the danger to Libby doesn't end.

Cole makes a wonderful hero with his steadfast friendship to Libby and his desire to protect and comfort her. Although I usually read romances with a lot more steam, I enjoyed Dark Mountains for everything it was...Sweet, moving, well-written. Dark Mountains probably won't be the next breakout book you hear about but it was a lovely read and all the more likable for the simplistic and straightforward style it was written in. A sweet, solid 3.5 read. Just a side note, the generic cover does not do justice to this book and I'd recommend a new one."

A couple things this reviewer did that were awesome: 

A) She actually clicked 4 stars (since amazon doesn't let you have half stars) but mentioned it was a solid 3.5 in her review. She was being honest but also helping the book's average review by rounding up her star rating. 

B) She mentions that she reads a different sort of romance (steamy) but still liked the story. 

C) She gives you a summary of the characters/story-line. 

D) She hits on what she really liked about the book 

E) She mentions what she didn't like: the generic cover. And it was a generic cover. Once I realized my readers thought it was, I redesigned, and republished with a new, better looking cover.

Here's another review (5 star) from Amazon US:

"My parents were born and raised and are now buried in Kentucky and I have a brother who still lives there so I have spent my entire life visiting various relatives in Kentucky and my roots are there but this author fooled me. She was born in Bay City, Texas and was raised in a small town in Central Illinois but as I read this book I would have sworn that she was born and raised in Kentucky. She was spot on in her portrayal of people who made their living in Kentucky coal mines and in her portrayal of the way of life of people who live in the South.

Also as I read this book I was hoping that someone would put the bad guy out of his misery. I just wasn't sure who I wanted to have the honors. He actually hurt everyone with whom he came in contact so the line of people who wanted him dead was pretty long but I just wanted to make sure that whoever finally kills him does not end up in prison for doing the world a favor. I make no apology for wanting this man dead. I was raised in the country and when we saw a venomous snake or a rabid dog we had one way of handling it...we killed it before it could kill us. This man was worse than a venomous snake or a rabid dog because if you can stay out of the way of the snake or the dog they do not come looking for you in order to kill you. The same cannot be said of this poor specimen of humanity. No one could stay out of his way because he definitely WOULD come looking for you.

There were parts of this book that were very sad. (Keep the tissues handy.) There were parts of it that made me wonder why something was not done to rid the world of the bad guy years ago. There were parts of the book that made me cry and parts that made me cheer. Significantly, when I finished this book I had no desire to rush right into another book because the characters and storyline in Dark Mountains will keep me thinking about them for a long time... This is an excellent book and one I highly recommend."

Here's what she did right: 

A) She mentions the accurate portrayal of an area that the author is clearly NOT from. As authors, we need to DO OUR RESEARCH and get it right when describing places, people, language, ways-of-life, etc. from the places we are writing about. Another example of why it's important to do research: I'm from the USA, Illinois to be exact. I've never been out of the country. I have a series of books based in Ireland. How do I write about a place I've never been? By doing my research! I had originally written the first book before finding a great site for the Gaelic language where it was a community type Q&A. I posted some snippets to see how realistic they sounded and got multiple responses immediately. Turns out, my Irish dialect that I had written the dialogue in was considered 'stage Irish'. You know, the sound like a leprechaun, top of the mornin' to ya, type Irish. Which is not actually used in Ireland. Thanks to the people on that site, I changed the dialogue and got correct usage and pronunciation help for the Gaelic I used from people that actually used it! :)

B) She is thoughtful with what she liked. The bad guy was so bad, and so realistic, that it was one of the key things she remembered after reading. She also mentions that this book make her cry and cheer. You want your books to effect the reader's emotions. She also mentions that she kept thinking about the book long after she had finished it.

6) Decide HOW you want to write your review
A review can be as long or short as you want. You can write a detailed paragraph of your likes and dislikes. You can write a chapter by chapter summary. No matter what the length of your review just remember to be specific and thoughtful.

7) Decide if you want to put your contact info in your review
This one is completely up to you. Most sites give you the option of hiding your personal information. But I can tell you, as an author, there have been MANY times I've wanted to write a reviewer to say thank you, send a free copy of my next book, or let them know I fixed what they didn't like. On the other side of the coin, this puts you at risk for getting a nasty email from an author that hasn't learned how to handle a negative review. So putting your contact information in your review can be a pain. But a majority of authors have learned that a negative review is just as important as a positive one so the odds of getting a nasty message aren't super high. I would have wanted to message the woman who left the negative review on the UK site (See # 3) to try and get more specific answers as to why she didn't like it.

8) Feel free to add quotes from the book
As an author, I literally squeal and do a little happy dance when a reviewer liked a specific dialogue or section enough to actually quote it in their review. If they remember it well enough to quote it, the author has done their job. :)

9) Have a section for the technical aspects of the book
A good book isn't just made with the story. There's all sorts of other factors. Spelling/grammar, cover, formatting, price, etc. There's 2 ways of going about this:

Is the thumbnail cover easy to see and read? Is the cover eye catching? Are there page breaks where there should/shouldn't be? Do all the chapter headings link back to the Table of Contents, and all the links there take you to the subsequent chapters? Do all the hyperlinks work? Is the price too high/low for the quality or size of the book?

Is the cover eye catching, easy to read, etc? Is the font and text size easy to read? Are there extra pages where there shouldn't be? Is the Table of Contents needed/not needed? Is there a glossary needed, and is it in the right place? Is the book size too big/small? Are the pages hard to turn (paper type)? Are there page numbers and page headings? Are they where they're supposed to be? Is the price too high/low for the quality of the book?

Knowing these things are just as important as how you liked the actual story. I've had reviewers that said they loved the book but hated the cover which spurred me to design a better one. I've also reviewed print books that had the character in the book was reading something and the font used to show the text the character was reading was very hard to read. Authors need to know these things.

10) Make the reader (of the review) aware of any spoilers
If you're going to talk about something that happened in the book that would ruin the surprise for another reader, make sure you notify them if there will be any 'spoilers' at the beginning of your review. If you don't want to 'spoil' it, just be general with what you discuss, avoiding any specific plot details that would give it away. Some sites will even ask if there are potential spoilers and if you click yes, it will hide your review from general users unless they fully understand the risk of reading it. The same sites usually offer a spoiler and spoiler free review so you can write both.

11) Don't Be a Troll (jerk)
Don't bother leaving a review if you're going to be nasty or judgmental. Most readers and authors can see when someone is being a troll. Someone is homophobic and didn't realize your book had a homosexual relationship in it and spews all kinds of hatred on your review. Someone is a liberal democrat and your book was obviously written from a conservative republican standpoint and they fill their review with crazy political rhetoric. A character in your book decides to terminate a pregnancy and you get hateful reviews about your 'murderous' attitude. Your book has sex in it and someone read it not realizing it and they fill the review with 'so disappointed' and 'disgusted' type sentences. 

Those are trolls. Readers should be smart enough to read a blurb, genre description, and even other reviews, and know what they're getting into when they purchase a book. A romance will probably have sex in it, but it won't be erotica. A contemporary fiction will probably have foul language or sensitive topics so don't expect PG-13 language. A fantasy will probably have references to magic, etc. so don't go all Harry-Potter-Is-The-Devil's-Work on it.

But as an author, we have to expect that some people will not be smart enough to realize that, and will leave a scalding review after their should-have-been-obvious discovery. As a reader, we have to see those reviews for what they are: trolls being ridiculous.

Here's an example of a 2 star, troll review from my first book on Amazon US:

"This book started out fine and then the profanity began. I do not read books that use the Lord's name in vain. No need for profanity for a book to be good. Sexual content should be implied, not explained. In my opinion, from what I did read, the book may have been a good story but I just stick to more family friendly reads. Did not finish this book."

I think it's pretty obvious why I would classify this review as a troll review but I'll give you the reasons anyway. 

A) The reader had a problem with profanity. Even though this book is classified clearly as an adult contemporary romance/romantic suspense. As I mentioned above, as a reader, we have to be aware of what we are purchasing. If you don't like bad language, you should probably stick with inspirational novels and children's books. 

B) She brings out the religion card. As a reviewer AND a reader, don't even put this card in your deck. There are THOUSANDS of religions around the world and just because you believe one, doesn't mean everyone else has to as well. If you can't remain objective about another person's beliefs, or lack thereof, then you probably shouldn't be reading fiction. The only exception to this rule is if you're reading a religious/inspirational novel.

C) She is offended by the explained sex scenes. In a romance novel. This is another should-have-been-obvious moment. Romance novels will have sex in them. There are even sub-genres in romance for different levels of 'heat'. There's sweet, (AKA only kissing is explained, sex, if there is any, is implied, not explained), to steamy (AKA sex is abundant, as is the descriptions, but the romantic story line is still the main focus), all the way to erotica (AKA porn in book form, with an extra romantic story line added to it). If sex in any fashion is not what you're interested in reading, stick with inspirational and children's books then. 

D) 'Did Not Finish This Book'. I'd say if you can't finish a book, you shouldn't be writing a review. It could have picked up or improved later on and you never would have known. Also, you have no idea what you have missed if you don't read it all. 

At the very least, you should be contacting the author personally so he/she has a chance to fix it. Especially if it's because of multiple typos or really bad writing (you usually only see those with self-published works, unfortunately). If you are writing your review based on your personal beliefs and sense of morality, make sure you aren't sounding like a troll before you post your review, because you probably are sounding like a troll. 

12) Write the Review
This one's pretty self-explanatory! Get out there and write! :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

If My Books Were Movies - Thursdays with the Author

If My Books Were Movies, Who Would I Cast?

Unless you've  been living on an alien planet the past few years, you have seen the explosion of Hollywood movies that started from a book. Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Pride and Prejudice, Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight, etc. Even comic books have had their share of action with the Marvel superhero movies like Iron Man, Captain America, and the Avengers. Hollywood seems to have realized that the written word not only creates millions of fans, but fans that will come back to the same story over and over again. They see the dollar signs. The fans see another way to enjoy their favorite characters and story lines.

Recently we've seen newer book to movie editions including Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Divergent, 50 Shades of Grey, and more. Fans of the books wait with baited breath to see which celebrity actor will play the characters they have come to love.

It had me thinking about the characters in my own books. What if Hollywood decided to make a movie based on the worlds I created? It's a far chance, okay, an extremely far chance but stranger things have happened. 50 Shades was written by a self-published author. Okay, I'm really stretching here but a girl can dream right?

Regardless of my far-fetched dreams, I began to think about who would play the characters of my books in a movie version. I mean, I know what they look like right? After all, I wrote them! That got me thinking even harder. What if I didn't explain my characters well enough to grasp what they'd look like in person? We've all seen movies where we were disappointed that the main character was nothing like what we imagined (in looks and personality) based on what we read. So I went through my books (published and works in progress) to make sure I had a firm grasp on what my characters looked like in my head so you, the reader, would be able to see them as well. Then came the fun part. Finding celebrities that resembled my characters, or at least as closely as possible, when finding pictures on the web. :)

It's a good idea as a writer, especially before you really start writing your book, to have a good idea of who your characters are. What they look like. What kind of personality they have. Different quirks and mannerisms they have. If you can find a picture of someone (it doesn't have to be a celebrity) that looks like them, print a picture, or have one available that you can look at from time to time. It helps to have a visual cue when creating a person from scratch to make sure you don't forget any of the subtle details you can use to describe them while writing.

So here goes... my list of celebrities that could play my characters.

Dark Mountains - Available at Amazon

Corporal Colton (Cole) Andrews: A small-town boy turned soldier, Cole Andrews spends most of his life trying to protect Libby from an abusive and dangerous father. After 9/11 he joins the Marines and fights another evil half-way across the world. After he nearly dies in Iraq, Cole returns to Kentucky to heal and start a life with Libby. This humble hero would be played by Chris Evans (before the bulk from Captain America).

Elizabeth (Libby) Michaels: A young woman struggling to free herself abusive past while starting a life with the boy she loves would be played by Natalie Portman (sans the shaved head look).

The Irish Treasures Saga
This 4-book series has a plethora of characters that have a presence in every book. Each book has its own central characters though, and this is who I'd imagine playing them:

Irish Strength - Available at Amazon

Morgan MacQuill - This new mom has a lot on her plate: from fleeing an abusive husband, meeting a family she never knew existed, moving to another country, and finding out she's a witch. To top it off, she meets her neighbor, Quinn, who happens to a glorified hottie, and together they have to fight a monster that is bent on world destruction! I imagine Hillary Duff playing this capable heroine and looking good while kicking evil's butt.

Quinton (Quinn) MacGreen - This guy has it all: amazing powers, good looks, an Irish castle he's restoring, and a job he loves (which just so happens to be a veterinarian). His life is seemingly perfect, until his new neighbor arrives from America. Although Quinn knows they are destined for each other, he fights falling in love with his scared, but gorgeous neighbor. But when an ancient Celtic monster returns to destroy everything he holds dear, they must work together to save the world. I imagine Chris Hemsworth could play the part well (minus the Thor hair), wearing a lab coat and holding an adorable puppy in his arms.

Irish Heart - Available at Amazon

Brigid MacQuill - The heartbroken (literally and figuratively), Irish healer may seem petite and fragile, but her resilience nearly matches her loyalty to her family. She's willing to fight and sacrifice everything she has to protect those she loves, and when it's her turn to face the ancient evil threatening Ireland, she rises to the occasion. I imagine Ginnifer Goodwin playing her, only with a coppery red hair and deep green eyes. 

Dermot Callaghan - This heart-breaker left Ireland and the girl he loved, for six years, before he figured out that he was running away from where he belonged. He returns, battle-scarred and weary, and has to fight alongside Brigid as she faces her greatest challenge yet. I imagine Hugh Jackman would play him nicely (though he needs to be a bit younger) and would have to wear some very drastic makeup to mimic the scars Dermot receives from an explosion in Iraq.

Irish Sight - Available at Amazon

Margaret (Maggie) MacGreen - For the woman who can normally see everything before it happens, Maggie is thrown for a loop when she finds a man, half-dead, on the beach near her cottage. Turns out the man is a witch and a key character in the ongoing war against an ancient Celtic monster. This Irish beauty has to work through her own insecurities to stand by the handsome sailor she's falling in love with. I imagine this character being played by the stunning Isla Fisher (with the attitude that she really doesn't know how gorgeous she is).

Breandán MacKeet - Finding out that his parents aren't his parents at all, was just the first of many surprises for this sea-faring hottie, but learning of his real mother's rape by a monster, and his resulting birth, nearly broke him. When his boat sinks in the Atlantic ocean, Breandán wakes up to a beautiful redhead and no memory of who he is. Maggie helps him piece together his past and fights alongside him as the monster that created him attempts to destroy the world. I imagine this brooding and guilt-ridden character to be played by the super sexy Gerard Butler (the only additions I'd make to this otherwise perfect man would be stormy grey eyes and a scar from his lip to his nose)

Irish Truth - coming in June 2015

Erin Tatyana Whitney - This gypsy beauty comes to Ireland at the invitation of her university room-mate, Maggie MacGreen. Unknown to her friends in Ireland, she is the final piece of the puzzle that will change the tide of battle against the ancient evil that's been trying to destroy the world the past three years. She brings with her a book, passed to her at the death of her grandmother, that holds great secrets that will change everything. She meets the surly and sexy Ian MacQuill, and sparks fly between them. I imagine this character played by the vivacious and regal Julianna Margulies.

Ian MacQuill - This cool and brooding barrister is used to denying things: he denied the power he was born with, he denied the truth to his family, he can certainly deny his attraction to the dark and mysterious Erin Whitney. But when a deadly foe from his past, the very reason he turned from his powers, returns and teams up with the ultimate mythical monster, Ian must let go of his past, and his guilt, to embrace who he really is and admit his feelings for the Russian beauty. I imagine this forlorn hero played by Karl Urban (with bright green eyes like his twin, Brigid) sans the perpetual scowl from Judge Dredd. 

Fomóirí - Throughout the saga, the ultimate, evil, bad-guy is a Celtic monster returning to Ireland after being exiled by Celtic gods over 3000 years ago. A sea-dweller, this monster's true form is a cross between a lizard and a man; slimy, grotesque and deformed. As the ultimate shapeshifter, the Fomóirí often changes forms to an extremely handsome, olive-skinned man. He may look like a total hottie, but this guy is not someone you would want to mess with. This truly evil baddie would be played by Omar Borkan Al Gala only with bright red eyes and blackened fangs (he's a super-bad-guy, so he needs to keep the creep-tacular level high!)