Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Memory Full of Characters

This month's topic is about characters I have found memorable. Usually I remember stories I like by title, series, or author best. I can remember many series I enjoyed, but could probably not name their characters.

I think I've read books since third grade--a helluva long time ago. In those early years I loved reading about animals, so it is not surprising that animal characters remain lodged in my mind. 

Because I was drawing horses at the time, horse characters in particular have synapses links within me. Anne Sewell's tile character in Black Beauty has a comfortable residence. While a children's book, Sewell, writing in 1857, wanted "to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses," which I think I picked up on, especially near the end when I learned what the horse Ginger endured. I think these characters induced a respect for all animals in me, not just horses. I read all of Walter Farley's Black Stallion books, too, and Will James' Smokey, the Cow Horse. Indelible mental imprints occurred. 

In my teen year's Johnny and Rab in Esther Forbe's Johnny Tremain made me appreciate history and I continued reading more of it, but more in actual European history. This lead me to read the Lymond Chronicles about Lymond Crawford in the 16th century.

Literally thousands of characters have come and gone since then, but I remember Mary from Georgette Heyer's The Devil's Cub. Mary was a strong and resourceful woman in very trying circumstances, which I believe was an enlightening viewpoint on gender in novels. I'm sure Heyer would be very surprised at all the sex involved in the Regency Romance genre of books she engendered.

What? Only three animals and two humans out of all the reading I've done? I'm surprised. After I'm done here, I'm sure other characters will arise from their mental tombs, but these are the ones I remember best.

Of course, having spent so much time with my own characters, it is hard if not impossible to forget them. Often they throw me flashes on another story line they deserve. Maybe someday, I tell them. Right now I've got to work on the ones I have started.

For differing viewpoints, check out the following author's blogs on this topic.

Anne Stenhouse
Heidi M. Thomas
Victoria Chatham
Diane Bator
A.J. Maguire 
Judith Copek
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Skye Taylor
Rachael Kosinski

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Who Was Edna Ruth?

What started me writing this essay was memories combined with photographs of my grandmother and trying to reconcile my knowledge of my grandmother and who she was as the person I knew. Here's my ramblings in my  personal narrative essay.


“Go Fish.”

Grandma always has the slightest smile and a spark of challenge in her brown eyes as she says those words. I frown and look at the cards I hold, but end up drawing from the deck placed between us. Grandma taught me how to play when I began coming to her house to spend the night, now we always play several games at the dining room table. I’ve had plenty of practice. Now her brows crinkle together like my Mom’s do when thinking. She makes her play. Grandma gives no quarter so wins more often than I do. She wins this hand, too, but she doesn’t crow about her win. She says, “Better luck next time, Bobbie.”  Losing is hard.

Mom told me Grandma calls me Bobbie because Robin is a boy’s name. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Often when I come to spend the night, my cousin Kenny stays at Grandma’s too. Sometimes my cousin Peggy stays. If Peggy is there, we sleep together in the big double bed in the guestroom. If my brother Jimmy stays, then he and Kenny sleep in the guest room, and I sleep in the single bed in the spare bedroom, which is really a short cut from the living room to the bathroom and bedrooms. It has a door that opens into the living room. The opposite side corner has an opening into the small alcove off the kitchen but it has no door. So the house is a bit like a merry-go-round divided by one main wall between front rooms and back ones: dining room to living room in the front of the house, to spare bedroom, to hall alcove to kitchen, and through the kitchen back to the dining room. Great place for games of chase, if you don't get caught. Two doors in the alcove lead to Grandma’s bedroom and the guest bedroom with the door to the bathroom separating them. The alcove is very small and compact.

One of the best things about staying with Grandma is walking in the late afternoon to Dolan’s store, which is just down on the corner of Armstrong Street where it comes off Silver Lake Road. Since Grandma cannot walk outside, she never comes outside, whoever stays at her house gets to walk to the store by themselves and buy their own bottle of soda, or sometimes an ice cream cone. She usually gives Kenny or Jimmy some change as they are oldest, and we will return with an ten-ounce bottle of our choice of pop: Coca-Cola, 7Up, Vernor’s Ginger Ale, or Faygo Orange, Grape, or Red Pop, and whatever Grandma wants. Once back at the house, Grandma has dinner prepared, often goulash, which she has had me help make before the walk to Dolan’s, but sometimes she makes the best ever hamburgers, only she calls them hamburgs.

After supervising us grandkids in cleaning up the kitchen, Grandma will push herself erect from the kitchen table and move as slow and cautiously as a turtle, taking one careful step at a time, holding onto furniture and putting a hand against walls to get to her chair in the dining room. Once there, she spends the evening playing endless games of Solitaire.

From her chair in the dining room, she can see the TV in the far corner of the living room. Kenny and I, or Peggy, or Jimmy, sit in the living room and watch TV. Grandma lets us stay up for as late as we want, sometimes as late as 11 pm, but Grandma insists on watching her favorite programs like I Love Lucy, Ed Sullivan, Perry Mason, and The Red Skelton Show.


To me she was always Grandma, or Grandma Smith since I had a Grandma Jacobs, too. I’m not certain when I learned her name was Edna Ruth. Even later I learned she had been Edna Ruth Williams, the youngest of the eleven Williams children. Edna was a popular name at the time seldom heard today. It was a Hebrew name meaning rejuvenation, pleasure and delight.

Not until much later did I learn she had multiple sclerosis (MS). Mom may have told me doctors diagnosed Grandma in her forties, which is common with this disease. In MS, the immune system attacks the sheath covering the nerves in the brain or spinal cord and eventually destroys the sheath. It causes a pain described as an electric shock and results in numbness in affected limbs. Researchers believe an undiscovered environmental factor begins the disease in those susceptible to it, but that is not the only mysterious factor. MS is a strange disease. It affects more women than men with an unknown cause that can cripple people yet sometimes goes into years of remission, as happened to Grandma.

She rarely left her house. If Grandma left her house at all, Grandpa and Dad carried her. They clasped hands behind her back and under her thighs to form a chair. With one on each side of her, they carried her down the porch steps and to the car’s back door. There they helped her stand and move into the car and onto the seat. I saw it done once. Her fright and discomfort were obvious to even me at my youthful age. Grandma was very fearful at leaving her house and at having to have others help her. Mom told me this was because she refused to be seen in a wheelchair. That only happened years later.

In the summer, she sat outdoors on her screened-in porch and listened to the blackbirds squawking in the tree between the porch and the street, or watching, according to her, her nosy neighbors. In the winter she was always sitting in her chair at the dining room table, where she either embroidered pillowcases Mom bought at the 5 and Dime in town, or played solitaire.

Mom visited nearly every day, often bringing her four children to visit with her. I’m sure Uncle Tom and Aunt Helen who lived next door to Grandma also visited frequently. Now I believe someone had to help clean the house and do laundry, and I’m guessing Aunt Helen did so. After Grandpa died, Grandma called the small grocery store in downtown Fenton owned by Harry Lemen for her groceries. He would go on to be Fenton’s mayor. Henry delivered her grocery order to her house. To me he looked as old as Grandma did. Mom and Aunt Helen accomplished all the rest of her shopping. The only other company she ever had visited Thursday on pinochle night. 

On pinochle night, the window shades came down in the dining room (as if the neighbors didn’t notice the same cars in her driveway once a week), a green felt cover was placed on the dining room table, and three or four old friends sat down at the table to play cards. Once Grandma told me they played pinochle, but from the shouts of glee at winning and those of displeasure at losing, I think they played poker, too. They always were very loud.

Usually grandchildren did not visit on Thursday nights, so I’m assuming Aunt Helen and Mom knew what happened on pinochle night, like I now suspect they planned grandchildren’s’ regular visits. I stayed on pinochle night several times once I reached age ten. I was at least old enough to make my own sandwich for dinner. I used Grandma’s over-sharpened knife. Over sharpened in that it had been sharpened so many times it literally redefined the shape of the blade into a thin, bendable scythe. Once I used the knife to cut a slice of ham. The pre-packaged small rounded ham wobbled, and the knife continued in a downward arc to cut my left hand’s first finger. The voices coming from the dining room prevented me from saying anything, even shouting in pain. Grandchildren did not interrupt the game. I washed the cut in the sink and found a Band-Aid to cover the wound. I went through many bandages before the bleeding stopped. That, I think, was my last night at Grandma’s on pinochle night, and I still carry the scar on my finger. I never told my Mom about it.

One time an ambulance took Grandma to McClaren Hospital in Flint. A few days later Mom took me to the hospital. At the reception desk the attendant asked my age. My Mom lied. She said I was twelve just so I could see my Grandma. Our visit was short. When Mom and I came into Grandma’s hospital room, Grandma, lay in the hospital bed nearest the windows looking very pale surrounded in white sheets. She looked at my Mom and said, “I’d rather see your ass than your face.” I don’t remember Mom’s response but shortly we were back in the car going home. I never even had a chance to say, ‘Hi.’ Grandma was like that with Mom. I never understood why.

After leaving the hospital she came to my house and slept in Juli’s twin bed in our shared girl’s pink bedroom. Juli, younger by five years, went to sleep in the boy’s room with Jim and Doug. It’s strange that I don’t remember Grandma ever leaving that room, not for dinner or socializing in our tiny living room. Did she? She must have!

After Grandma went back to her house, I don’t remember going to spend the night as often as before, but her five younger grandchildren were probably taking up their older siblings’ visitation duties. I was fourteen and in junior high school and other things crowded my mind.

One of those times I did stay, as I was lying in the guest room bed, I heard Grandma call my name from her bedroom. She needed help. I opened her bedroom door. It opened into a space only large enough to allow the door to open against the wall with the double bed directly ahead. Grandma was naked, sitting on the edge of her bed, trying to hold on, but she was sliding off. She wore a panicked look. The room was small, the double bed taking up most of the room. Grandma, hanging with her hips off the bed, and her vanity table positioned just to the right of the door, filled that tight space. Since I couldn’t walk past the vanity table, I took a step up onto the bed. My movement left Grandma gasping in fear and grasping the mattress’s edge even tighter. I grabbed her under her arms and pulled her onto the bed.

She collapsed back against the bed in relief saying, “Thank you.” I know she was relieved and embarrassed. So was I at seeing my Grandma naked. I slipped off the bed on the other side of the bed and walked the small space around the bed, pushed the chair under the vanity table and left the room; another event I never mentioned to my Mom.


She died two months after I graduated high school. I don’t remember her funeral, but have a vague memory of her with her slight ‘go fish’ smile lying very peacefully in her coffin. That could be just a dream vision, too. 

The doctors asked the family for permission to autopsy Grandma to see if they could discover why she went into remission for so many years. The family refused, Uncle Tom saying, “She’s been through enough.”

Grandma in curlers with 1st husband??
A short time later Aunt Helen and Mom cleaned out Grandma’s house. Only then did Mom and Aunt Helen discover Grandma had been married before she met Grandpa. She still had a photo of her previous husband in her dresser. He was handsome. She was pretty, smiling either coyly or shyly, I’m not sure which, with strands of her hair wrapped around an ancient type of rollers I had never seen before. They found her wedding ring but I don’t know if they found annulment papers. Maybe he died, but I never learned his name. If he lived, it had to have been an annulment because Grandma was Catholic. Inside her small dressing table drawer they also found a rock-- just a plain rock, smooth, grey, oval, and of no special mineral content. No one knew why she kept it. She could not have gone outside to pick it up anytime within the past thirty years or so, and she kept it among her valuables. What did it mean to her? These things hinted at a person unknown to me. I never heard her talk of her past, not even with Grandpa.

The family put the rock in the backyard, restoring it to nature.


Ten years later I started researching the family genealogy. Mom showed me many photos of her family. One held a black and white image of Grandma as a very young woman. She stood with two other young woman at Belle Ilse, which is just off Detroit in the Detroit River. She looked vibrant and beautiful, her eyes sparkling with happiness. She laughed at the camera and wore a 1920s wide-brimmed hat and a tight-waisted dress that looked white in a black and white photo. I felt she looked like she might start dancing at any moment and looked nothing like my Grandma. She looked so different from my mental image of her. It shocked me. Who was this woman?

Grandma on far right with sister Lizzy in Detroit. Other remain
anonymous. Brothers and sisters maybe or friends?
Who were the men and women with her in other photographs? My mother had penned names to some of the images, but most faces in the photos were unlabeled, like so many family history photos.

I have another family photo book six inches deep of very expensive photos taken in New York by a famous photograph in the late 19th century. “My dad,” or “My cousin,” or some other vague name epithet lies written under a few, but no name of whose photo book it was. Not one real name in the book. Most photos like this remain the forever-more-unknown.

I knew nothing about Edna Ruth’s life before she became a recluse. Neither do my other family members. Not even her daughter seemed to know much, or at least Mom never talked about her own childhood experiences.

In almost all of the photos where I guessed Edna Ruth in her late teens or twenties, she was laughing or wearing a beautiful smile. Yet my Mom told me that after her mother’s mother died, her father didn’t feel he could raise his last child, so he provided a monthly stipend to whichever of her older siblings would take care of her. Mom told me they passed her around depending on who needed the financial aid the most. She was born in Tannersville, Pennsylvania, where her family lived. I have a photo of Great Grandpa and his wife. He is wearing a sheriff’s badge. How did she come to meet and marry my Grandpa in Detroit?

I know she also faced heartache. Her youngest son Kenny died in battle during the Korean War in 1952. Grandpa fell ill in 1956 on a pinochle night, vomiting blood on the green felt table cover. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, but he died of cirrhosis of the liver caused by diabetes.

Grandpa and Grandma -- when?
I can grasp that Edna Ruth was a proud woman who didn’t want anyone to see her as a cripple in a wheelchair, although her younger grandchildren remember her sitting in one. I can remember her walking slowly and carefully by herself, later using a walker, and then the wheelchair with a red leather seat. How this disease had disrupted her life! And yet, I have her long, jet beaded, 1920s flapper’s-style necklace. Its long length of black iridescent woven beads intrigue me. Had she loved partying and dancing?

I’m guessing MS changed Grandma dramatically. Her previous life remains a mystery. My mother was a good mother, so I suspect her mom must have been a good mother, too. Yet I remember the hospital room and the way Grandma treated Mom. If Mom had talked to me like that, I would have cried. My Mom didn’t, at least not in front of me. What happened? Was this an illness related reaction? Did Grandma suffer from some form of depression, another effect of MS? Was this disease or personality related?

I think Grandma liked a challenge, I know she loved card games, and I know she endured hardships, probably with little complaint. I only know a small portion of who Edna Ruth really was--my version of Grandma. Do each of her nine grandchild have their own version of Grandma? Probably.

Had she suffered melancholy as she waited for her occasional visitors, played her card games, had grandchildren spend the night, and watched TV programs? I don’t ever remember seeing her reading a book, or even remember seeing a book anywhere in her house. Why did she choose to live such a lonely life? A life filled with a constant struggle just to clean herself, dress, and walk. I have many unanswerable questions. Yet I know she laughed.

Who Was She?

Edna Ruth, with love, from your granddaughter.
This made me question what I know about anyone, even myself. What do we hide from each other? What do we chose to expose and why? Must everyone who knows one particular person come together to deduce who that person truly was? The only time I know this might happen is at a funeral and even then, missing people possess important pieces of the deceased family member or friend’s information.

I recently read I was a different person to everyone who knew me, met me, or even just exchanged a short verbal or nonverbal communication with me. Supposedly everyone’s genes and experiences make them unique, even if they share similarity to another person. So if everyone who encounters anyone makes a judgment based on their own perceptions of that other person, then a unique persona is created for everyone I meet, rather like the bubble universes theorizes. This perception can change with time and the number of encounters with a certain person, but may never match an individual’s personal conception of him or herself. I’m beginning to accept the truth of that statement. I suppose this puts my wondering about who my Grandma really was in a different perspective, but I would like to have known more about her and known many more people who knew her through various times in her life. 

Looking back I only know a small personal portion of my Grandma, which I hold as a treasure. Edna Ruth has preserved her privacy as she chose. However, right now I have get into the kitchen. I have the strongest urge to make some goulash. Grandma’s recipe, of course.


After reading this my brother Jim said, "I have many memories of her. She wrote me weekly while in the service. The memory that has fused to my mind is when home on leave and told her I was going to Viet Nam. She threw her arms around my neck and cried, "no, no please, God." I understood because of her loss of Son, Kenny in Korea." 

I didn't know that, which just goes to show what I said in the next to last paragraph seems to be true.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

When I Can't Write

This month's round robin topic is 'When you are stumped on moving a plot line forward, what do you do to reinvigorate your imagination?'

My biggest problem with not writing a on a particular work in progress is not writer's block but not having enough time to write fiction. I never worry about times when I cannot move a fiction story forward. I've plenty of ideas, most of them written down with notions of what I'd like the story to be about. Sometimes I just go to another idea or another story and work on that. Eventually the answer for a put-aside work comes to me and reinvigorates my imagination and efforts.

The questions is why can't I move a story forward? Mostly because I'm not sure where to take it, or I consider it garbage and wonder how to change it. Any number of reasons can arise to cause me to reconsider how a story is progressing. 

I have one usual way of handling situations when my thoughts have stalled, my progress lies in limbo, and I want keep going with this particular story because it is haunting my mind—I take a walk. Another useful thing I discovered in my classes (mentioned in previous blog post) was one of my peer students talked about how any right-left body movement relieves stress. Which explains a lot of how my taking walks helps me think, one step at a time on opposite sides of my body makes my mind work. Usually I return with an idea for change or a way to go forward.

Check these other authors' viewpoints on this topic by following the links listed below:
Diane Bator 
A.J. Maguire  
Anne de Grunchy
Skye Taylor 
Victoria Chatham 
Marie Laval  
Judith Copek 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Helena Fairfax 
Fiona McGier 
Heather Haven 
Beverley Bateman 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Creative Nonfiction

I have been on a fiction writing hiatus (although I have two finished manuscripts I finished this spring) because I've been working on creative non-fiction personal essays instead. Two classes from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri in their Masters of Fine Arts in Writing program are teaching me about this topic (no, I'm not finishing the masters program), and I've been very surprised and pleased with what I've learned. 

Creative nonfiction is very like fiction writing only working with factual information and aimed at informing, helping, or entertaining the reader about life events, how we all have similar ones, how the author handled them, and introspection about being human. Surprisingly, I discovered I had already written some such as 'The Night Diamond Reo Burned.'  Yet for me, it was more about recording a memory than engaging the reader.

The craft uses the formulas of fiction's plot, setting, and character to tell a story or goes much further. The can be contemplative, or spiritual (though not necessarily religious), or memoirs that capture memories that lead to greater understanding, and like all writing can cover any number of topics from family, to job or nature to travel, in a variety of ways. The most unusual I've found is the lyrical essay that is supposed to have elements similar to poetry.

I'll be posting some of my efforts here and perhaps continue doing them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What do you read?

I usually write science fiction or fantasy, but have delved into historical and contemporary romance, and while I read those genre, I more often read other genre. Mysteries, adventure and suspense in their many varieties, Regency romances plus other historical and contemporary romances. And that's just in fiction. My non-fiction books are those I save, so I have a very large library of art, art history, crafts, general reference, history, writing, environment and nature, and both food and pleasure gardening books. Heck. that last type gives me sadness. I just discovered a day ago that for the first time since starting my pleasure gardens, deer have eaten all the Hosta in my garden. Their beautiful leaves of a few days ago are sad stalks. That aside, I think reading develops writers.

I don't think I can write the mysteries I love to read, and maybe that's a good thing. As a writer I can be very critical of another scifi author's craft technique in my own genre, especially when it interrupts my reading. Sometimes I can ignore it and just enjoy the story; sometimes I can't and it ends my reading. Which might be why I enjoy mystery and suspense so much. I used to love Regency romances because I loved the authors Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and the dance of manners their stories presented. Recently stories set in this era and the Victorian era have changed drastically to become more sex oriented. I still read it. Of course, mysteries have always crossed over into many genre, including historical romance, which I enjoy. 

Like every other reader, I read for certain reasons, and certainly entertainment is the first that comes to mind, which brings relaxation. Yet, giving the mind a new experience also plays into my reading and this plays into both fiction and nonfiction reading. In nonfiction, of course, I seeking information and to learn something about a topic that interests me.  In fiction, no matter what the genre, I'm always fascinated how reading words can meld into an imagination based reality.

Please visit these authors to explore this topic:
Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire 
Anne de Gruchy
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Helena Fairfax 

Fiona McGier
Kay Sisk   
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Passing on this email. Yes I took the survey, and if you read romance of any genera, I hope you will too.

On Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 10:19 AM, Zena Wynn [EPICBIZ] wrote:

Can you share with your readers? I'd like a good cross reference. I'll post the results once they're in. Thanks.

Romance Reader Interest Survey

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Character Reality

The topic this month is about how a story's main characters get developed. I have to say how I do it varies from story to story, but only once did a character haunt my mind. It was my first book and she morphed between instigating my desire to write and how she appeared in the book. So how does a story's main characters get developed? For me, it varies.

Most often I begin writing the opening or a confrontational scene, and then I go back and determine why the characters reacted the way they did. Their personality and their experiences have shaped them, so I need to think up their histories. Sometimes I draw an image of the character. The personality part, though, often leads to psychological profiles which often requires research. Psychology drives motivation, behavior, and emotional response, which is how the reader will hopefully connect with that character. Why so much effort? To make interesting and believable characters or to help the reader understand why they behave the way they do.

Surprisingly, Psychology Today likes to give writers this information. Carolyn Kaufman, who has a PhD in Psychology, has written several articles such as What Really Drives your Character, which is about "Terrible secrets, fears, and flaws: discover what's driving your characters!" The article also provides a profile to consider for characters' development. Such information abounds on the Internet and in printed books. 

Yet no matter how much time I spend defining a character, I know it only lets me understand them, and most everything I learn about them won't even appear in the story. It only tells me how they might act in each scene.
Hero or villain, worried, evil, angry, or tormented?

Stories are not real life. I say this knowing I also have doubts about the 'reality' of many biographies I’ve read. Fiction stories are for entertainment and readers' desires to delve into lives other than their own. Each character must have a purpose in the story. Reader's learn or interpret hints about the most important characters, starting with basics like description and continuing to each character's history and goals. The characters needed to create a setting are often more like furniture, unnamed except for function, like a waiter, doorman, nurse, who shows up once or twice.

Since the earliest traditions of oral story-telling, the mythic dimensions of stories give readers insight into themselves, even if they don’t realize it. This has carried over into today’s fiction. I wonder if those on-line games, which many might be readers are turning to, have the same fundamental purpose. Without factual experience or knowledge, I’d guess that they do.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

First Hooks

I've read many books on writing, and almost inevitably emphasis is placed on the first sentence and the first chapter. Supposedly these 'hooks' grab the reader and keep them reading.

The first chapter is also the material agents and publishing house editors request to determine their interest in a particular manuscript, so those first pages are very important.

While I believe the first chapter must engage readers, I believe the whole story must be a continuing series of hooks, and that the first chapter isn't the only measures of a story. The entire story must work together to keep a reader engaged, and it can fall apart at any moment. The writer essentially borrows the reader's imagination for a while and the goal is to make their time spent satisfying, and hopefully memorable. I've slogged through a few first chapters where I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep reading only to discover my fascination increasing with a building intrigue of ‘what happens next and how will it be resolved’ in the story in later chapters.

At the same time I know it is important to try to engage the reader from the very start, to get them involved in an emotional or unique situation that engages their curiosity. There must be millions of ways to do this because every author handles it different in every book they write.

Yet that first chapter has much to accomplish besides setting the beginning of an intriguing plot. It has to introduce the main character(s) and begin to establish the setting, which are also aspects of trying to satisfy the reader. While every author is different, this is also true of readers. Each reader expectations differ in what they want from reading. They also all act differently to beginnings. Readers invest hours of time in reading a novel and often make their minds up on whether to continue reading or not very quickly.

If there were a guaranteed method for gaining readers’ interests, it would mean a very predictable start to all stories. This method would most likely defeat the very objective it was made to achieve.

I believe the author has to determine what reader reaction they want to achieve in their beginning chapter: An intriguing moment? A pivotal moment? A deeply emotional situation bound to change a character’s life? In Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale, this chapter is the main character’s ordinary world, and the moment where they are called to adventure (any challenge leading to a life-changing event presented in the story). This is the tack I always try to consider when I start a new story, and yes, I write primarily science fiction and fantasy, but I consider these genre the new folklore and mythology of this age.

To read other viewpoints on this topic, please visit these author's blogs:

A.J. Maguire
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
Marci Baun
Victoria Chatham
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines
Beverley Bateman

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reviews--love'em or ignore them

It's been a long time since book reviews were posted in newspapers only. I'm not sure they even publish them now--haven't checked since I no longer subscribe to a newspaper--okay, so I just did and a quick check shows they've gone on line, too.

Shortly after e-books publishers began around the turn of the century (love saying that--it sounds to me like so-o-o long-long ago even though its only been seventeen years), on-line review sites popped up. E-books in general were dismissed by well-known, established publishers, and e-book authors were not seen as real authors, but it was fairly easy to receive an online review. Even the stories found in e-books were different, often a mishmash of genres--not to say that this wasn't happening somewhat in print, too, but it was a hallmark of e-books novels.

Then technology kept making it easier to read e-books, until now you can read them on your phone. 

Within a few years the e-book industry started to outpace big name NY Publisher's print books in growth. They took notice and decided to embrace the e-book and it became very difficult for small publisher authors and self-published authors to get reviews with on-line review sites. Yet the methods for receiving reviews also grew. It is probably true that the more reviews a book receives, the better it will sell. A new problem evolves, book trolls and extolling reviews where I doubt the reviewer actually read the book, but I've noticed a growing trend of review police. We live in a strange society, but I think it has always been so, I just wasn't as observant or maybe as involved. I'm sure it's a bit of both. However, I seldom read all the reviews, if any, of a book I'm interested in. Usually it is the blurb given by the author or publisher about the story line that decides me on yes or no.

I'm lucky to have received positive reviews on my stories but find it has become very difficult to get reviews from review sites. So I do like that most booksellers now allow readers to comment on books, but they've cut into my profits taking a whopping chunk out of the profits for having a book posted on their site. (This developed from print publishing where publishers paid distributors half the book's profits for getting the books into stores around the country.) I can understand they deserve some compensation, but unless you write for the love of writing, don't think you will get rich. A book has to sell thousands of copies to be profitable for the author. I'm not there yet 😊!

So while I like good reviews, I don't go too far out of my way to get them, in other words, I send them to different sites and hope for the best with no expectation. What truly makes my writing worth while is receiving an email from a reader of one of my books saying how much the story was enjoyed. I spend most of my efforts on my book covers and on those by lines and marketing blurbs.

I do review books for one on-line site, but generally speaking those books are assigned to me. That is changing, but even if I select the review from books offered, the review is critiqued before being published on the review site. The books I choose to review because I'm interested, I usually purchase, which I think gives me a better investment as an ethical reviewer. I also post some reviews on another site, but I'm very slow posting due to all the other things I have to accomplish, so I review ancient, old, new, and about to be published books. Since I know how difficult it is to write a story, I try to always look for the best aspects of a particular story, trying to mention mildly any potential problems the reader might encounter, and if I cannot give a good review, I don't give a review at all. Preferences in books, genre, and topics are too diverse, and the book I don't like is one another reader loves.

Check out these other blogs for more opinions on this topic.
Marci Baun 

Dr. Bob Rich
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Rachael Kosinski
A.J. Maguire 
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines