Your Opinion, Please

As an author I fully understand the value of reviews and greatly appreciate readers who take the time to write a thoughtful review of one of my books. Whether the review praises the work or finds fault with it, whether it points out strengths and weaknesses or merely deals in generalities, whether the reviewer enjoyed the book or hated it, I can learn from the review and derive encouragement even from a bad review, knowing that the reviewer cared enough to read the book and write and post comments about it. Only a review that has nothing constructive to say is hurtful. If a reviewer says something like, “Don’t waste your time on this,” or, “I found this book totally disappointing,” and gives no reason for that opinion, it does not tell me how to improve my work. I only know that I failed to meet that reader’s expectations. I don’t know why. That kind of a review not only doesn’t help the author; neither does it give a potential reader any real guidance. We all have different tastes, and what one reader hates another might love. Giving specific reasons for the stated opinion tells a would-be reader whether he or she might react in the same way, whether favorably or unfavorably.

 I have posted glowing reviews of books and I have posted reviews of books that were generally good but left me in some way unsatisfied. I have tried to be honest and specific. There have been some occasions when I have had to tell an author who requested that review that I could not write a favorable review and would prefer to express my opinion privately to the author. Those (and they have been few) are cases in which I knew the author, the author had asked for a review, and I felt obligated to explain why I preferred not to give one. In other cases in which I found serious problems with a book, I have simply not reviewed it unless I could offer constructive suggestions as to how it could be improved. I have never reviewed a book I did not finish reading, regardless of my opinion of it. Haven’t you had the experience of beginning a book, finding it hard to get into, and perhaps setting it aside for a while with the intention of returning to it later? And perhaps you never do get back to the book and complete reading it. In that case, you should not review it. I’ve had the experience of returning to a book after putting it aside, continuing to read, and thinking, “Oh, so that’s what the author was doing. Now I understand.” And after completing the book, I find I can give it a positive review.

 I know that readers, like writers, are busy people. Some readers probably never think about reviewing a book even when they’ve enjoyed it. It’s easier not to bother, and to leave it to other readers to write reviews. Readers, please consider that by taking time to write a review saying that you enjoyed the book and the reason you did, you may encourage that writer. You may make their day. And if you write a review in which you state that the book wasn’t what you expected and disappointed you, and then you go on to explain why, the writer may see your point and because of your input may take care to do a better job on the next book.

 I have books that need reviews, and so I appeal to my readers—please, if you read the book, write a review for Amazon or Goodreads or both. I value your opinions. And I do learn from them. Haven’t read any? Pick one and give it a try.

Were House (an urban fantasy)  Deathright (a mythic fantasy) To the Far Side of the Forest (a fantasy for teens, aimed especially at the middle school age)

 

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An Invitation

I admit it—I love time travel stories. I’ve even written one. My latest book, Deathright, isn’t just a time travel story, but time travel is definitely a big part of it.front cover

It was that love of time travel stories that led me to buy Nathan Van Coops’ first book, In Times Like These. I also liked that the book is set in the city I’ve lived in for many years—St. Petersburg, Florida. None of that would have mattered, however, if the book hadn’t been any good. But it was better than good. I found it excellent. A great read!

So of course I had to have Nathan’s second book, The Chronothon. By this time I knew that Nathan was writing a trilogy. And I knew I’d want the third book when it became available. Especially after I read The Chronothon. Imagine a marathon run through time. That’s what The Chronothon is about. The race through time is supposed to be a challenging but fun event, but it quickly turns deadly, a race not for a prize but for survival. After reading it, I hated the thought of having to wait months for the third book.Day After Never, The - Nathan Van Coops

When Nathan put out a call for beta readers for the third book, The Day After Never (and isn’t that a great title?), I eagerly volunteered, knowing that if chosen, I’d get to read the novel before its release to the general public. I did serve as a beta reader and felt honored to do so. And I want to tell my readers and anyone else who’ll listen that Nathan did it again! He came out with a book that has nonstop adventure, philosophical speculation about life and death, a look at what can happen if we continue to abuse our planet as well as how to keep it from happening, romance, and a collection of marvelously developed characters that you’ll remember long after putting the book down.

I’m thrilled to have been able to read the book ahead of publication. But the book is now about to be released, and on July 12th Nathan Van Coops is throwing a launch party—right here online. And everyone is invited. So stop by and see what all the excitement is about. I’ll be there along with other authors; there will be prizes, and best of all, you can find out more about and purchase Nathan’s books.

Here’s the link to click on to see what it’s all about. YOU ARE INVITED! I hope to see you at the party. https://www.facebook.com/events/1719072161698790/

 

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I am a perfectionist. I know anyone who has seen my messy house would take issue with that statement. I’d better qualify it. I am only a perfectionist when it comes to writing. In all other areas I have too much of a laissez-faire attitude. But when it comes to writing, I want my work to be as perfect as possible in appearance and with regard to grammar and punctuation.

 Yes, yes. I know there is far more to writing than the formal elements of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. But I also know that carelessness about those things can turn off a potential reader. Of course I do the best I can with regard to content. But success in that regard is subjective. A story that one person loves and can’t get enough of will leave another reader unimpressed or even disgusted. Readers have vastly different tastes. I know that no matter how hard I try, I can’t please everyone with my stories. I don’t expect them to be read and enjoyed by people who dislike fantasy and science fiction. Even avid fantasy fans will have diverse reactions to my fantasy novels. Some will enjoy them; others will find them not at all to their taste. It doesn’t disturb me when someone tells me they just “couldn’t get into the story.” Of course I regret it, but at least they gave it a try before finding it not to their taste. What I don’t want is someone picking up the book, glancing through it, seeing it poorly formatted or spotting errors in spelling and grammar, and putting it back down as being “amateurish” and unprofessional.

I’m self-publishing my books now after being published by a major publisher and by small presses. I don’t feel that self-published works have the stigma attached to them that they once had. Nevertheless, because it has become relatively easy to self-publish, many books are being put into print that are not ready for publication. They have not been edited and are full of grammatical, spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors. Those are the books that give self-publishing a bad reputation.

 I do not want my books to fall into that category. I want them to look as professional as possible. I edit them myself, and then have my critiquing partner and other beta readers read through them to catch errors I’ve overlooked, both in form and in content. I take those critiques very seriously. If I disagree with some (and there are always some I disagree with), I still look carefully at the critique and ask myself whether I’m right to disagree. I try to see the scene or sentence or word from the other person’s viewpoint. I may then not change it the way the critiquer suggested but change it in a different way that I hope will resolve the problem.

 When I upload a book file to CreateSpace, I go through the online reviewer carefully and inevitably find things that need to be fixed. It may be a single word or group of words from the previous page orphaned alone on the top of the next page. It may be a missing quotation mark, or a paragraph that didn’t get indented. I fix those errors and resubmit the file. Then I go through it again. When I’m satisfied, I approve the file, and when it is ready, I order a printed proof. I have found that no matter how many times I’ve gone over a file on line, I see things in the printed work I never noticed on the computer screen. So I make corrections to my file and resubmit. I may then order a second printed proof, or I may download a pdf file or use the online reviewer. The chances are that no matter which I do, I will find something I want to change. I have resubmitted a file five or six times, maybe more, before I’m satisfied with it.

I went through that laborious process with my newest novel, Deathright. I kept finding things I wanted to change, not because they were incorrect but because I saw a way to make them read better. Eventually, I felt that it was ready to be published. I approved the file and ordered books I needed for an upcoming event. I then went on to prepare the file for electronic publication through Kindle Direct Publishing. I uploaded that file, which should be identical to the interior file for the print edition. The differences are technical, such as removing headers and footers, adding a table of contents, and putting links from the chapter titles in the table of contents to the chapter in the text. When that file was uploaded, I again went through it using the online reviewer. And of course I found a paragraph that needed revision, not because it had any grammatical or spelling errors but simply because it was awkward. So I revised it, and the Kindle version was published with that correction. However, now that single paragraph differed from the one in the print version. So I have now made the revision to the print file and re-uploaded it. That takes the book out of circulation for a brief time while the change is being approved and applied.

 Is it worth it? Most readers would probably not notice the difference, but I would. That unrevised paragraph would nag at me. Is that being a perfectionist? Maybe it’s just being professional.

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A NEW YEAR’S CHALLENGE

I’ve written often about getting ideas from dreams. That used to happen far more frequently than it does now. In fact, I have recorded many dreams that offer good material for a novel or a short story but that I’ve never used. Maybe that’s why I don’t get those dreams as much anymore. I have too great a backlog of ideas from the ones I’ve had to take advantage of a new idea.

This morning, shortly before waking, I had what I call a “story dream.” I recorded it in my dream file as I always do such dreams. But I decided to do something new with it. I’m going to share it with my readers. It is a good idea, too good simply to sit in a file and never get used. But I know I won’t have time to turn it into a novel. I’m still working on the novel that has developed from the last story dream I had. And I have many other novels already in the pipeline, either in progress or still in idea form. So I’m going to share my dream with you.

Ideas can’t be copyrighted. Anyone can take this “story dream” of mine as a basis for a novel or a short story and run with it. I would be very interested to see what you come up with if you decide to do something with it. Even if several people have a go at it, no two writers would handle it in the same way. Each one would come up with something unique to him or her. So go ahead, be my guest. Here’s the dream, just as I recorded it in my dream file:

The sole owner of a large business firm, a very wealthy man, has just died. The business executives expect to inherit his entire estate, as he had no other known heirs and left a will leaving everything to the business. However, three people appear, two men and a woman, claiming to be the deceased man’s grown children and his sole heirs. The older son is the spokesman for the three. They have a manila file folder containing documents proving their claim: their birth certificates, their parents’ marriage license, and, most importantly, a will, more recent than the one the business executives have, that names them as his heirs, inheriting everything, including the business. The business executives are sure the documents must be forged, but the son says, “Look at us. Can you doubt that we are his sons and daughter?” And, indeed, their resemblance to the deceased businessman is so strong that the business execs are shaken. Why did no one, not even his closest associates, know of these children? Why has their existence been a secret to everyone?

Okay, that’s the dream. The questions I ended with were asked in the dream but not answered. I awoke pondering them. I’m intrigued enough to want to do something with the idea, but I just do not have the time. So I’m putting it out here for anyone who wants it. Have fun!

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PERSISTENCE PAYS

Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t blogged in a good long while despite my avowals of keeping to a more regular schedule. I do have good excuses reasons for my negligence.

I wrote in an earlier blog that I had started a freelance editing and formatting business, titled Arucadi Enterprises, to edit and format manuscripts for people who want to self-publish and need help with the process. That business has kept me busier than I’d anticipated.

I’ve also mentioned that I wanted to learn to use a digital art program so that I could produce my own book covers. A friend introduced me to DAZ3D, a program that allows me to do just that. “You can learn it,” she assured me. “It’s not that hard.” She probably regretted those words, as I’ve had to call on her for help more times than I care to admit. But she’s been patient and helped me over many a stumbling block, and I have now produced book covers for two of my books, one just out and one under review. But the learning curve has been steep. A younger person could probably learn it much more quickly, but I am at an age where, while it is important to keep learning new things, it is no longer easy to do so. However, I have always been stubborn, and I refused to give up.

And of course, I’m still writing new novels while trying to get completed ones into print. I have three currently under way and three others completed in first draft but needing major editing. Following that editing I will have them read by my critiquing partner, whose help I find invaluable, plus other beta readers. These readers will catch errors I’ve overlooked as well as point out ways to improve the overall writing. Then I go back and re-edit the manuscript, incorporating the readers’ suggestions and corrections. So it is not a speedy process. I’ve just gone through that with my upcoming young adult fantasy, To the Far Side of the Forest.

So I really have been busy. Now I have to concentrate on promotion—getting the word out about Were House, the novel that has just come out and the one that will be coming out, I hope, by the end of October.

And, you know what? I love all this busyness. Yes, I do get frustrated at times, but I keep plowing through the difficult rows, and eventually things calm down and I’m pleased with the results. I get a great deal of satisfaction from overcoming the problems I’ve refused to give up on.

Here’s what I’ve learned from all this activity:

  1. Failing at something isn’t the end of the world. Rather, it’s a learning experience. If I apply what I learned from that failure and then try again—and again and again, if necessary—I’ll eventually figure out the right way of doing whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish.
  2. There’s no disgrace in not getting something right the first time and having to do it over. An eventual success that comes after many failed attempts is all the sweeter for having come after a difficult struggle.
  3. If I give up on something I thought I wanted to accomplish, I didn’t want it badly enough in the first place.
  4. Persistence is more productive than talent. Or perhaps it’s more correct to say, Persistence produces and hones talent.
  5. I may not be able to move a metaphoric mountain, but I can find a way around it. It may take longer to get to the other side that way, but I will get there.

Now I want to proudly announce the publication of my adult urban fantasy novel Were House, now available from Amazon in trade paperback and e-book editions. Here’s the cover flat. Pictures on front and back were my first efforts using DAZ3D and putting on finishing touches in Paint Shop Pro. You may wonder why I used so much of the cover for the title and author and left the cover picture rather small. The answer is that I had no choice. The picture is necessarily wide, and to get the full width, I had to sacrifice height. That wasn’t necessary on my second cover.

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Were House is available from Amazon as a trade paperback and in electronic editions. Take a look.

And now a bonus: the first look at the cover flat for my upcoming teen novel, To the Far Side of the Forest, my second effort at producing my own cover art.

Forest-cover flat

This may require a bit of lightening, but it is basically the way it will appear when the book comes out in late October.

 

 

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It’s a BOOK!

It’s out! The print version of Grandy’s Grand Inventions is available from Amazon now. The ebook will be available shortly.
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After I announced that I had written this children’s book, someone asked why, after writing novels for teens and adults, I had written a book for the early grades. The short answer to the question is that I had a story idea that fit that age group (six to ten years).

The longer answer is that I have learned at least mostly how to judge the proper length and audience a particular idea requires. This is not always an easy thing to figure out. As I’ve explained many times, many if not most of my ideas come from dreams. In this case, the dream was of a girl (age indeterminate) who for some reason was riding on a large wooden foot that was going up and down as if it were walking, though it wasn’t attached to anything. I liked the image but didn’t really know what to do with it. I had to ask myself a series of questions:
Who was the girl on the foot?
Why was she on it? How did she get there?
What force was propelling the foot?
What happened to her?
In considering these questions, I realized that the story had to be for younger children than I had previously written for. Why? Because a young child would fit better on a wooden foot and because the situation required a suspension of disbelief that would be more likely achieved by a younger child. It had a magical quality about it more appropriate to a children’s story than to a story for teens or adults.

And so gradually I developed the idea of a young girl whose grandfather was an inventor who came up with some crazy inventions, one of which was a levitator. It was the levitator that provided the force that lifted the foot. The foot went up and down as though walking because the grandfather had to follow it with the machine to keep it up in the air, but he couldn’t walk fast enough to keep up with it. Therefore, whenever he fell behind, the foot would descend and slow down. Then the grandfather would catch up and the foot would rise again and move faster.

As the story developed, it turned out to be about family relationships and friendship, not just about a runaway wooden foot.

That’s as much of the story as I’m going to tell here. I want to expound a bit on finding what length and what audience an idea fits. But that is a subject best left for my next blog. I want to conclude this one simply by saying that I wrote the children’s book because I had an idea that I wanted to develop, and a children’s book was the best form in which to develop it. I’ll leave it to young readers to decide how successful I was.

Please take a look at the book, and if you know a young reader who you think would like it, recommend it, or better yet, buy it for her. Click here to see the book on Amazon.

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BUSY, BUSY, BUSY–TOO BUSY!

First an apology. I know I haven’t blogged in a couple of months—at least. Time just slid by me. I’ve been doing too many other things. One is that I’ve been working on the fourth book in the tetralogy that started with Mistress of the Wind, followed by Bringers of Magic, and my most recent release, A Mix of Magics. The fourth book will be titled Deniably Dead unless for some reason I change the title before the book is ready for publication. front cover final

 Before I started work on Deniably Dead I was about halfway into another fantasy novel, a stand-alone titled Linked, not part of or related to the Arucadi series. I still work on it off and on but am concentrating more on Deniably Dead.

I’ve also been getting two books ready for publication—doing final edits and formatting. One is a children’s chapter book titled Grandy’s Grand Inventions and intended for children in first through fourth grades. It will be out some time this month. I’ve set it up in CreateSpace and received the proof, which I’ve gone through, made some changes, and adjusted the cover a bit. I’ll be submitting those changes and then possibly order another proof or maybe proof it online and approve it. As all my other books have been written for teens or adults, this is a departure for me and will need to attract brand new readers.Front cover titled

Grandy’s Grand Inventions is the story of Judy Cameron, a third grader who adores her grandfather (Grandy) and wants nothing more for her birthday than a visit from him. But Grandy is an inventor whose inventions tend to go awry, with disastrous results. Judy’s parents agree that Grandy can come for a visit and to help celebrate Judy’s birthday provided that he not bring any of his inventions. But Grandy can’t resist an invention he’s designed to be a delightful surprise at Judy’s birthday party, to which she has invited her entire third grade class and their teacher. After all, what could possibly go wrong with a machine that creates a blizzard of chocolate flakes to entertain and please Judy’s guests?Ch6-C_GD

 In addition to the aforementioned projects I’ve done editing work for clients of my newly established business, Arucadi Enterprises, LLC. The business is designed to publish my own books and those of others who want to publish via CreateSpace and/or Kindle Direct Publishing but need help with editing and formatting. I enjoy editing my own work and that of other writers, but I don’t want to be so busy editing other people’s manuscripts that I neglect my own writing, so I will limit the number of clients I accept.

Arucadi Enterprises, LLC

Arucadi Enterprises, LLC

I’ve also taken on another project. For the next book I plan to publish I want to design and produce my own cover art. However, I’m no artist. I’m trying to learn the computer program DAZ3D, a program providing components that can be assembled and arranged to produce digital art. It’s not an easy program to learn, and it has eaten up a lot of my time, but I’m determined and stubborn enough to keep working at it until I get it right. When I do, I’ll reveal the results here. The cover art is all that remains to be done before publication of my urban fantasy novel Were House. I’ll discuss that further in a later blog.

What I want to stress in this one is that writing is my career, not my hobby. I am retired from teaching but not from writing. I take my writing very seriously and work at it daily in one form or another, even though I don’t blog as often as I should. I do need to spend more time on promoting my work, and I realize that getting books out in print and as e‑books isn’t enough—you also have to sell them. I will try to do better about blogging, tweeting, and otherwise promoting my work, but no promises. I fit in what I can when I can. I find it difficult to balance writing and promotion, probably because I love writing and don’t particularly enjoy promotion. I doubt that this is unusual. I suspect many if not most writers feel that way. We do what we must because, after all, it does no good to write and publish books if no one reads them. And readers need to know about books in order to buy and read them.

 So I conclude with an appeal. Watch for the publication announcement for Grandy’s Grand Inventions. And if you have or know a child in the right age range, consider buying it for them or encouraging parents and teachers to purchase it. Give it a try. I think kids will like it, but children in the age group it’s written for aren’t book buyers. Adults buy books for them. So I still need to depend on my adult readers to purchase the book and present it to the child or children of their choice.

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