THE NEW REVIEWS

Just like there is a new world of publishing books, there is a whole new world of reviewing them. While the old way wasn’t always kind, you could be fairly certain the reviews were objective. But with the advent of the Internet, getting a good book review has become a crapshoot.

In the past, publishers and/or authors would send Advanced Reading Copies to the reviewers. These might be anywhere from magazines, newspapers, to television. They would also be sent to book clubs for pre-sales. Some reviewers had their own columns or shows while other reviews were done by readers who were supervised by “book editors” for the publication, not to be confused with the book editors who actually purchased the manuscripts.

Nowadays, ANYONE can be a reviewer and, trust me, a lot of people think they are. Wrong! Oh, so wrong!

Part of the problem is the anonymity of the Internet. It ain’t hard to be cruel when no one knows who you are. And some people must think the job of the reviewer is to be as nasty as they can. My advice? Get back on your meds. Others see it as their job to use the review as a soapbox; they give low ranks because the price of the book is too high (hurting the author instead of the publisher who sets the price) or to rave against the book because the sensual romance that is clearly labeled as having sex in it. Well, duh! What did you think “sensual” meant?

Some of my other favorite “misses” when it comes to bad reviews.
1. “I didn’t read this book,but…” If you didn’t read it, you can’t review it.
2. “My (sister, son, best friend, critique partner) wrote this book and it’s wonderful! Right! Totally objective.
3. “I got cheated! This short story is short!” Again, duh!
4. Giving away too much of the plot, especially the twists.
5. Few words reviews. You know, the “I loved/hated this book!” Okay, why?

Here are some of the things I look for in a helpful review is:
1. A concise synopsis without spoilers.
2. Fairness. If good/bad, why. If there are technical issues, are they enough to hurt the story or can they be ignored because the story is so good?
3. Is your writing good enough to make me think you know what you’re talking about?
4. How many people agree with your review? I’m more likely to accept ten 3 star reviews than two 5 star reviews.
5. Write with your heart. If you’re doing it for real, you’re far more believable.

Until next time!

Under the Covers

Cover artists, that is. 🙂

Today, I’m talking to Debbie Taylor, owner of DCA Graphics and creator of the fabulous cover that will grace my upcoming book, Make Me Howl!

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Debbie is a sweet, easy to like woman with a big, big talent. Naturally, my alter ego, Terminally Curious, had to ask some questions. 🙂

Can you tell us how you got started creating book covers?  

I started doing covers because I didn’t like the covers being done for my books.  I had no say, so one day I took my graphic background and designed the cover for my book.  That way I got exactly what I saw for my own work.

How long have you been creating them?

I started in 2006 for a year then when the publisher disbanded I quit covers for awhile.  I restarted doing covers for The Wild Rose Press Inc. a year and a half ago and opened my own design company.  I love seeing the book come alive on a cover.  I now do covers for clients as well as for Rae Monet Inc. and Desert Breeze Publishing Inc.   My work has won awards and each new cover is a discovery.  I am always learning.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I am a published author of 8 novels.  As an author yourself you can understand that inspiration comes from everything.  I personally love to take photos and look through stock photos.  Most of the time a picture will hit me and I see the whole story behind the photo.  I am driven to build the story so others can see what I see.  I love my work!!!

Do you use real people or make them up?

I am always looking for models that I can take photos of but for the most part I use stock photos of people that are beautiful or yummy handsome.  They have to fit in the cover I am doing or they don’t get my attention.

How long have you been doing this work?

I think in all total I have been doing covers for over three years.  My background in doing design for TV commercials and menus have helped. I am always learning.

Do you have favorite book genres you like to design covers for?

No favorite.  I love doing every genre.  I love the challenge.  I have done covers for ever genre so far.  I like the dark covers to the romantic ones.

How did you get started working with WRP?

I was friends with an editor who worked for The Wild Rose Press Inc. and she told me I should talk to the owner.  I did and showed off some of my work.  It is a wonderful place to work and I plan on staying.  I have been very lucky to work for some awesome people.  They stuck with me so I will stick with them.:)

Do you work at designing book covers full time or do you have a DDJ?

I design book covers full time.  My business www.DCAGraphics.com has taken off so I no longer need a second job.  I am very blessed to be doing what I want and enjoying it as well.

Do you draw the pictures by hand or do you use a computer program?

I draw pictures by hand using my wicom tablet and pen. It is hooked to my computer so it makes a electronic drawing.  The programs I use are Photoshop and Illustrator.

Is there anything fun or interesting you can share with us about creating book covers?  

I had an author recently want a man with a big fat nose on her cover.  She wanted it so big that a bird could sit on it.  LOL  So I took this very handsome man can made his nose huge.  I personally will never show that cover but the author was soooo very happy.  All in all that is what counts.  I try to make each cover amazing but its most important that the author gets just what she or he wants to the best of my ability.

Thank you Susan for taking the time ask me questions and letting me express myself as an artist.   The cover to any book is very important.  Its what make the reader pick it up and look at it so the authors work can be read and shared.   If the author works so hard on the inside then its very important to pick the right artist to do the cover.

www.DCAGraphics.com

www.facebook.com/dca.graphics

Debbie’s book, The Dragon Laird,  by Deborah Y Lynne, is available from The Wild Rose Press.

Terminally Curious and I thank you very much, Debbie, for answering all our questions. 🙂 You’re a doll!

The Girl in the Locket

This is one of my favorite ghosts stories from my book SCARY MONDAYS. With snow and ice falling here in Oklahoma it seemed appropriate.

Cold slithered under the crack between the back door and floor, snaking its way up the stairs. It wiggled like a side-winder across the landing, through the threshold of Grandma’s bedroom door. There it coiled around Emma’s feet, hissing up her calves. Standing at the window, watching the snow blow in a straight line over the orchard in the distance, Emma drew her arms tight to warm herself. She blew warm breath against the glass, and drew a heart on the fogged pane. In the distance, the peach trees, coated with ice, seemed angry at being left out in the winter storm.

With a bored sigh, she turned, crossed the braided rug to Grandma’s bureau. In the mirror, she watched Grandma’s reflection as she rocked and darned socks. Her dresser was scattered with items Emma had come to associate with old women: a silver plated brush and comb, a carved jewelry box, a paper fan with a balsa wood handle that read “McConnell’s Funeral Home, 1930.” Emma closed her eyes, waved the fan, trying to remember how in the summer the air was so thick, so hot people dreamed of a day like today when the snow fell a half a foot deep. Her Momma said people were never satisfied. When it was hot, they wanted cool. When it was cold, they wanted warm.

Emma sat the fan back in its place, picked up a locket. She opened it and studied the miniature portrait inside. She always wondered about the woman in the picture. She had pretty blue eyes, a peaches and cream complexion, lovely dark hair.

“Who’s this?” Emma finally asked. She’d wanted to know for just about forever.

Grandma glanced up. “That’s my oldest sister, Marylou.”

Frowning, Emma studied her grandmother for a moment, tried to imagine her as young as the woman in the locket. “I didn’t know you had an older sister.”

“Oh, yes, child. I was the youngest of six, all boys except me and Marylou. My Momma used to say a girl in front and a girl in back to keep all the boys in line.”

“What happened to her? You never talk about her?”

Putting her sewing aside, Grandma motioned for Emma to sit in her lap. “She died. And we don’t speak of the dead, child.”

“She was very pretty.” Emma said of the girl in the locket. “What happened to her? Please tell me.”

With a long sigh, Grandma patted Emma’s thigh. “Marylou was in love with a young man, Reginald J.T. Waterbottom.”

“That’s a funny name.” Emma giggled and Grandma pressed her lips together trying not to laugh.

“Yes, it is. But he was very handsome. They elected Mr. Lincoln and the Yankees all came down here. Reggie put on a uniform and went off to be a soldier.” Grandma got a funny, faraway look on her face. “He died, of course. We all knew he would. Not because so many of our brave boys died, but because Marylou said he would. She dreamed of his death, night after night. And when Marylou dreamed about something, we all knew it would come true. One time my daddy lost his pocket watch. Don’t know how a man could lose something as large as a biscuit, but he did. Marylou dreamed he’d find in the chicken coop. ‘Course he scoffed at that. But you know what? He found that watch, right where Marylou said it would be, under Miz Clucky, all warm as she’d been waitin’ for it to hatch.”

“Did Marylou find someone else to love?” It suddenly seemed vital to Emma that Marylou found someone to spend her life with.

“No,” Grandma said with another thick sigh. “She went half mad with grief. She wandered around the house and in the orchard holding hands with thin air. She said Reggie had come back to her and that all she had to do was wait and she’d be with him forever.” Grandma huffed. “She made us set a place for him at the dinner table every night.”

“How did she die?” Emma asked softly.

“The flu. Winter of 1876. I remember because that was the year of the Centennial. But if it hadn’t been the flu, it would’ve been something else. Momma and Daddy always said Marylou wasn’t long for this world. Not after she lost Reggie. ‘Course Emma always said she hadn’t lost him. He was right there with her. Girl was daft.”

Grandma shifted, set Emma on her feet, then went back to darning socks. Emma wandered back over to the window, stared out at the orchard. She thought Marylou’s story was terribly romantic and she couldn’t wait to tell her best friend, Jenny.

Between sheets of blowing snow, Emma caught a movement in the orchard. She leaned forward, hands pressed against the glass. There under green-leafed branches dotted with peach blossoms, a handsome young man uniformed in grey and a woman dressed in pale pink, walked arm in arm. Marylou turned toward the window with eyes that danced, and a smile that promised spring.

Weird Writers?

Who says writers are weird?

I’ve heard this before, and I guess it’s true to an extent. After all, who else have complete ‘other’ worlds living in their heads? We have imaginary friends who we talk to, laugh and cry with and are closer to than our own families. Our stories complete us.

But we aren’t all that weird. Not really.

Yesterday, my dentist’s assistant told me that after reading my book, she would’ve never thought I could come up with something like that. She looked at me as if trying to see inside me and where that ‘dark place’ is and who the real Linda Trout is. (evil laugh)

She compared me and another of their patients who writes paranormal (and is highly published) to some of their ‘normal’ patients. One lady who they thought was nice and calm, suddenly and during the procedure, came unglued. I had a feeling they had a hard time getting her to settle down so they could finish their work.

Whereas, on the outside, their two patients who write appear very calm and quiet. (Does she mean nice?) I suppose that’s why she’s so surprised at the stories we produce and wonders where the ideas come from. Especially the paranormal writer who creates these other wordly worlds.

I think this just goes to show how little we know about those around us. A very reserved businessperson, a gentle pre-school teacher, clergy; you name the profession and I’ll show you a writer who can knock your socks off with their stories.

I suppose the unsuspecting public should beware. There’s a writer lurking on every street corner, just waiting for the inspiration for their next book. It could be you, you know.

The next time someone calls you weird, simply smile and let them wonder. We all know WE’RE the sane ones. Right? 😉

 

Make Me Howl

In case you’re one of the three people in the free world I haven’t shown this to, here’s my new book cover!

MakeMeHowl_w7696_750-(4)Isn’t it gorgeous? The cover artist, Debbie Taylor of DCA Graphics, is so talented! Makes me wonder how in the world she does it. Does she start with a photograph? Is this a painting?

Terminally Curious wants to know! 🙂 Maybe I can get an interview with her for next week.

Since I’ve been asked several times, here’s what I have to do with the cover–nearly nothing. LOL.

MMH

I fill out a questionnaire called an Art Facts Sheet that tells about my story and I look at covers on my publisher’s website and tell them which ones are close to what I’m hoping for.

BTW: My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has been chosen Best Book Publisher for the 5th year in a row! (WOOHOO!)

That’s it. I don’t see the cover beforehand. When it’s ready, they check with me to make sure my name and the title of my book are spelled right.

Debbie Taylor gets 100% of the kudos for this cover.

 

MMH

Oh, wait. Jazzy wants to say hi. Here she is–

Good grief. I thought Susan would never shut up. That woman can talk, can’t she? It’s nice to meet you. My name is Jazzy Cannis. I’m a successful wardrobe designer and personal shopper.

Lucky me, I was born with a killer sense of style, biting sense of humor and an active Lycan gene. And I had life figured out, too. All I had to do was stay in control all the time. I couldn’t get too angry, too wild or too excited or I’d wolf out. No prob.

Enter Chase Holliday, a vet at the drive through zoo, and a serious hunk. The trouble is, Mr. Always-In-Total-Control is an animal geneticist, and he’s out to eradicate every werewolf on the planet. He believes safety lies in making werewolves only the stuff of fairytales. To reach that goal, he works every spare moment isolating the Lycan gene.

Then he met me. The man in the iron will, who’d spent his life exercising it, thought he could handle this wild woman.

Snort.

Well, that’s Jazzy, the quintessential wild woman. I’ll let you know when she’s ready to pounce on the world. 🙂

Mardi Gras 2013 and Birthdays

It’s Mardi Gras and time to PAR-TY!!

Do you have your beads ready to throw? Or catch as the case may be. I have a slew of them that I’ve collected over the years plus a couple of nice masks. (Psst. I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours. LOL)

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For years I worked in the oil & gas industry. Every year we knew we wouldn’t be getting any info out of the people from Louisiana because everyone was out celebrating. Don’t blame them. If I lived down there, I’m be doing the same thing. 😉

So tell me, do you have any big plans for Mardi Gras? Parties to attend at either work or afterward? Or are you a big fuddy-duddy-sitting this one out?

Also, today would’ve been the 126th birthday of my favorite great-uncle, Clarence Harris. He was a hum-dinger.In his later years, he’d go down to the senior citizens center every day for lunch with ‘those old people.’ Even though he was the oldest one there, he’d liven the place up the minute he walked in the room with his laughter and smiling face. That’s one of the things I liked the most about him…his laughter.

He lived to celebrate his 100th birthday before he decided it was time to go home and be with his beloved wife, Bea. They were sure a couple of characters. Every Sunday afternoon for as long as I could remember, they’d make the rounds of their favorite nieces and nephews homes. If I didn’t have sweets fixed, Aunt Bea would tell me what she wanted. Let me tell you, I’d hustle myself into the kitchen and get it made asap! I didn’t mind. My mamma taught me to respect my elders and I did.

Besides, they had such wonderful stories to tell of coming to Indian Territory in a covered wagon from Arkansas and their lasting marriage. Funny thing is, her family said it would never last, yet they had 72 years together before she passed away. Now that’s true love!

Do you have favorite relatives who you’ll always cherish? I certainly hope so. Aren’t they a blessing?

So enjoy your Mardi Gras celebrations and Happy Birthday Uncle Clarence!

Expectations

Debra Dixon.

Just say  her name and what comes to a romance/women’s fiction writer’s mind? “GMC,” of course! (And we ain’t talkin’ cars here.)

Goal.

Motivation.

Conflict.

Of all the craft of writing books I’ve had in my clutches over the years, GMC is one of the few I’ve read cover-to-cover. (So shoot me.) And I’ve read it more than once. 🙂

I decided to take yet another look the other day, and guess what. Something new jumped out at me.

GMCPlease note: I added the Susan sticker. The books don’t come from the publisher with your name sparkling on the front.

Before I go on, maybe I should confess something. When I read a book on the craft of writing, I tend scan until I come to what I’m reading to learn. Yes, I’m reading the entire book to learn, but usually there’s something specific I’m trying to glean.

Goal: Read Deb Dixon’s book. Motivation: To learn to use GMC and write a great book. Conflict: I have tunnel-vision.

gmc2

Just to make sure someone doesn’t mistake my GM&C book for their own.

 So this time, I started reading it just for general knowledge. Not to learn how to fill out the GMC charts. (page 21) Not to figure out how to use GMC to write a synopsis and/or query letter. (page 135-136) Not to learn how to write a tag line.  (page 92)

The most amazing thing happened! The answer to writing the hardest section of the actual book jumped right out at me.

She tells, right there on page 9, what you have to have in a first chapter. Everything! Written down in black and white. All the things Marilyn has reminded me of every time I start a new book. (Okay, she doesn’t actually have to say them each time, I’m not that slow a learner, but I hear the echo of her sweet voice as I work on that hardest of chapters.)

From “Goal, Motivation & Conflict  The Building Blocks of Good Fiction” by Debra Dixon.

The first chapter of a book performs the same function as those first minutes in a movie. The first chapter must establish what’s at stake and make an introduction. You are introducing the reader to their guides for the evening–the hero, villain, and maybe even one or two other characters.

That’s gold! And I missed it all these years. If I were teaching a class on this book, the handouts would read:

First chapters must:

  1. Establish what at stake in the book.
  2. Introduce
  • hero
  • heroine
  • villain

She makes it look so easy, doesn’t she? She also spills more gold on the page when she tells us the reader is supposed to “identify and empathize” with the hero. You’d be amazed at how many newbies miss that! (Yes, I’ve stepped in it a time or two myself.)

gmc3

Bragging: “My book is autographed by Deb herself!” 🙂

She goes so far as to tell us what the readers want–to experience the struggle for this person’s goal and the conflict that keeps him/her from getting it.

She goes on:

If the hero has a wonderful life and everything he wants, then your book is going to be boring. An editor won’t buy the book. Readers won’t pick it up. And if they do, they won’t finish it. Because you will not have met their expectations of being taken on a journey of uncertainty.

(Emphasis mine.)

Don’t you love that description of writing? “A journey of uncertainty.”

Instead of purple and white, this book’s cover should be gold. And sparkly!

If you don’t own Deb’s book on GMC and you’re an aspiring writer of any kind of fiction, find it and buy it. Now. Don’t wait.

You can order it here for $19.95. (I checked other sites and saw it starting at $88.00.)

Deb’s gold is waiting for you.

If you do own it, get it out and read it again. You’ll be surprised at the new gold you’ll find in there. 😛