Monday, September 30, 2013

Coulson Book Two

(continued from yesterday’s post)

The second book in the series (and the forth to be released) is currently at the beta readers and hopefully they will help me give it a proper and fitting title.

Very different from the other books in the series, it tells the complex story of Garret Coulson’s parents. Throughout the story we meet much younger versions of people I first introduced in Lessons. It also sets the scene for the final book in the series, which has yet to be written. That book will be the fifth book in The Coulson Series, and the fifth book released in the series.

I learned a lot about my characters when writing this book – helping me understand why they became the people I first introduced Lessons. If it sounds as if I am talking about real people, that is probably because they feel very real to me.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Coulson’s Wife

(continued from yesterday’s post)

The books in this series take place in a fictional town in the southwest – Coulson. It was named for its founder, Randall Coulson.  Don’t waste your time trying to figure out in what state you’ll find Coulson, I never say. I will tell you, my hometown of Lake Havasu City, Arizona was my inspiration for the town and how it was founded.

I initially planned to go back to the 1960s and 70s, to tell the story of Lesson’s characters when they were much younger. When I sat down to write the book, I was drawn back in time – to Randall Coulson, the town’s founder. It is a bitter sweet love story, very different from the books already released in this series.

This book – the first in the series, but the third book to be released in the series – is Coulson’s Wife. It is currently in the re-write stage, and will then be sent off to the editor. To find out about the other new release planned for The Coulson Series, read tomorrow’s blog.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Senator’s Secret

(continued from yesterday’s post)

One thing I loved about this story, none of my beta readers could figure out who-done-it, until I made my reveal. I relished the fact it was not a predictable obvious mystery.

It brings together characters from Lessons – a new generation. But the story relies heavily on characters my readers met in the first book.

When I finished the second book in the series, I realized I wanted to go back in time and tell the story of how the three families from the first two books – the Coulsons, Kellers and Chamberlains - initially came together.

For more about the next two books in the series, read tomorrow’s blog.

Friday, September 27, 2013

It began with Lessons

I first wrote Lessons around 1995. I believe it was my forth novel. (The first three: a YA, a romance and a mystery – they will not be published.)

For me, the story and the characters came alive and when I started writing it was as if someone else was telling the story, and I was just the typist. When I finished the book, I was busy in my real life, so I didn’t do anything with the manuscript. But some fifteen years later I decided to release it as an eBook.

Before release, I did some major rewriting, editing, sent it through a beta reader and then to a professional editor.

I wasn’t ready to leave the characters, so I decided to write a second book, this time a mystery. When I initially wrote Lessons, I wrote about the timeframe I was living in. When I started The Senator’s Secret, I wanted to do the same thing. So from the time Lessons ends and The Senator’s Secret begins, there is a 16-year span.

When reading the different books in this series, the reader should not expect the same read. While she’ll find many of the same characters, it won’t be a formula plot, similar to other books in the series.  For example, there is far more explicit sex in Lessons than in The Senator’s Secret. I didn’t do that to be salacious, but because the story called for it.

Lessons is a story about a happily married woman, who finds herself a widow and confronts a discretion from her past. One reviewer wrote: "Lessons" is a deep, rich story of love, family and friendship.

For more about The Senator’s Secret, read tomorrow’s blog.

Sensual Romance VS Coulson

Sensual Romance Series
Currently there are three books in this series: After Sundown, While Snowbound and SugarRush. These are light romances, each is a standalone story told in about 50,000 words. I don’t close the bedroom door when the lovers get together– but I don’t write about throbbing body parts.

The Coulson Series
Currently there are two books in the series – but I just finished two more. One is in the re-write editing stage and the other is off with the first round of beta readers.

While the books in this series are each standalone stories – the series is actually a family saga, beginning in 1900 to current times. I definitely would not call them predictable. It is not always clear who will end up with whom.

The first two books released in this series were each around 90,000 words.

Lessons, the first one released is an adult love story. I personally believe it appeals more to readers over the age of 30.

The Senator’s Secret, the second book released in the series is a murder mystery, with a love story.

The third and fourth books to be released will actually become Book One and Book Two in the Coulson Series. Confused? Check back later and I’ll try to explain.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's in a name?

I first read The Great Gatsby in college. My literature teacher dissected everything about the book, including why F. Scott Fitzgerald selected the names for his characters. I remember wondering at the time if my teacher was simply guessing or had the train of thought he attributed to Fitzgerald been on track or off the rails.

When selecting names for my characters I give it considerable thought. One factor that always influences me is the people I knew by whatever name I am considering. If I was to name a character Hilda, she would probably be a sweet, kind hearted person like my grandma Hilda, whereas another writer might think of Broom-Hilda, the green cartoon witch who smoked cigars, chased men and drank beer.

I’m currently working on two new Coulson books, Coulson’s Wife, and another that has no title yet.

In Coulson’s Wife two of the main male characters were initially named Randall and Robert. I gave Randall’s character his name when I wrote Lessons in the mid-90s, so there was no changing that name. I felt Robert fit his character, and so did my beta readers.

However, one beta reader had serious reservations. Was Robert and Randall too similar, would it confuse readers? Afraid she might have a point, I decided to change his name. After much back and forth, we decided William would fit the character.

The other day I told my mother I decided to go with William. Mom is like me in that she relates names to people she once knew. 

Mom, who is 85 years-young then related a memory of a William she once knew when she was in elementary school. Apparently this William was always getting into some sort of mischief. One day, during show-and-tell, he brought to class a very explicit book (with illustrations) on making babies and childbirth.

Apparently the teacher was not paying attention, allowing her mind to wander to more interesting thoughts while young William stood before the classroom sharing his fascinating book. I imagine the teacher finally noticed something was funny, when the class was so quiet, and the kids were sitting on the edge of their seats.

It did not end well for poor William. Once the teacher figured out what was going on, the principal was called, and William was taken outside and given a severe paddling. Mom said as she and her classmates sat in the classroom, they could hear young William wailing in pain. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buying Five Star Book Reviews – is it a smart marketing strategy?

As I discussed in yesterday’s blog post, some companies have discovered that when it comes to online reviews, buying fake positives is not such a terrific idea. For trade publishers, paying for reviews is nothing new. Of course, they will probably insist they only buy honest reviews. 

The only time I have come close to buying a review was in a Goodreads group, where I gave away eBooks in exchange for an honest review. It was all very public - a Goodreads group designed for this specific purpose. My goal was not to rack up hundreds of reviews – just ten so I could advertise on a few sites that require a minimum number of book reviews before they will consider taking my ad.

I personally don’t believe buying hundreds of positive reviews will help book sales. I know of several authors who do very well, yet have relatively few reviews.  It doesn’t take an Internet wizard to look at an author’s ranking on Amazon to get an idea of what he or she does. 

Personally, the reviews I most covet are unsolicited ones from strangers – people I have never met before. I especially liked a recent three star review I received on Goodreads for While Snowbound. The reviewer said some very positive things about the book, and the only negative she wrote was “However, some things in the story tend to be a bit predictable.”

I was totally okay with that comment, for one thing, she was right. While Snowbound is from my Sensual Romance Series and I tell my readers books from that series are love stories with sexual tension and happy ending.  So, in that respect they are predictable.

I also received a one star review over at Amazon, on After Sundown, which didn’t bother me. The reviewer wrote: “The writing style could not make up for such an unlikeable character.” I rather took it as a backhanded compliment. She slammed my character, not my writing.

She was also right, the male protagonist was a bit heavy handed and jerky in the beginning of the story, and had she stuck around (she didn’t finish the book) she would have witnessed his transformation. But I totally get not finishing a book if you find one of the main characters unlikable; I have done that myself.

The only reviews I dislike are fake ones – good or bad. I received an odd five star, where I wondered if the reviewer was just making up stuff to build up his number of reviews. In that case, I am just relieved he didn’t choose mine as a one star.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Crack down on rave reviews…what about fake one stars?

CNN recently ran an article about the crackdown of fake business reviews. While I’m all for protecting the consumer, what about protecting the business from fake slam reviews written by competitors or someone with a grudge?

One of my friends recently told me about one of his friends who had to go after a customer for bounced checks. The customer retaliated by bombing the business with fake negative reviews.

Amazon has its own crackdown on suspicious five star reviews, which they remove. But what about the suspicious one stars? Some bloggers, obsessed with ridding the world of potentially false five star reviews, believe reviews by anyone the author knows is suspect.  In some ways Amazon believes that too, because they have been known to remove five star reviews if they suspect the author and reviewer have a connection.

Of course, that is not necessarily true for negative reviews left by a person who has a connection to the author. Case in point – one of my author friends belongs to a writing group and one of her “friends” from the group left a review – but not a very nice one. I suspect that reviewer a personal issue with the author, because what type of reviewer leave his friend a bad review? 

If I read a friend’s book and I don’t like it, I simply don’t review it. While I might tell the author in private what I thought the problem was with the book, I would not do it on a public forum. In my opinion, a friend does not do that. Yet, don’t misunderstand me – I would not leave a friend a fake good review.  That helps no one, and if someone happens to follow my reviews, how would he be able to trust me if handed out careless five stars.

But what do I think about authors buying reviews? Ask me that question tomorrow.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Indies at War

Over the weekend one of my writer friends posted a link to a blog where the blogger listed 30 plus authors who had supposedly purchased fake reviews. My friend’s name was on the list – and since he had never paid for a review, he was pissed. There were some big names on that list. Of course, the blogger did not disclose his/her name nor did he offer up any evidence to support his damning claim.

This all came about around the same time as Goodreads announcing its cleanup, by removing nasty rhetoric aimed at authors or reviewers. Goodreads reminds us: Play nice kids, and stick to reviewing the book.

I won’t post a link to the blogger’s page, because frankly, I have no desire to spread lies about my fellow authors. Those on the list have publically denied purchasing reviews, and some are joining forces to wage a legal war against the blogger.

Yet, even if the authors had paid for a review, who really gives a crap? I mean really, you don’t think the big publishing houses haven’t paid for reviews? Grow up kids.

As a reader, I make my purchases by reading the blurb, preview and can be influenced by the cover. Even recommendations by my friends don’t significantly impact my choices, because I understand we all have different tastes.  Reviews, in my opinion are simply additional entertainment - especially those wacky one star reviews where the reviewer spends so much time searching for cutesy animated gifs to dress up their petty rants.

I wondered, why does someone like this blogger do this - even if they honestly believe an author has purchased a review? But, then I remembered when I went to see Woody Allan’s Annie Hall. The only reason we went to see it was because it walked away with four Oscars, which included best picture. We figured it had to be a great movie.  

My husband and I thought Annie Hall sucked. How could it have possibly won all those awards? After taking a closer look at the selection process, we discovered it was just a big ol’ popularity contest between their peers. We felt robbed! Not only our time, but the price of our tickets, and all the unnecessary calories we consumed in theatre popcorn and candy!

For a brief moment we considered going online and bringing attention to this atrocity.  We didn’t care how ridiculous we might look to the world; we were determined to bring down those Hollywood swindlers. But then we remembered….the modern Internet highway hadn’t yet been built.

In other words nasty bloggers….get a fricking life; would ya.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

White Slavery a Taboo Term?

In yesterday’s blog I wrote: “Personally, the only thing that will get me to stop buying an author’s book, or paying for a movie featuring a misbehaving actor, would be if that person was doing something truly horrendous, like torturing puppies or profiting from white slavery.”

After reading my blog post, one of my author friends wrote “So white slavery is bad, but if they aren't white, well, profit away?  I'm sure that's not what she meant, but that's what she wrote.”

No, that isn’t what I wrote. If you look up the definition for white slavery you’ll find it means: “enforced prostitution” -  no mention of race. 

Another writer friend disagreed with me, and pointed out that the term is on the no-no list --- not politically correct. She suggested I use “human trafficking.”

I disagree. If I am talking about human trafficking specifically for the sex trade, the term white slavery is more specific. Human trafficking can apply not just to trafficking for the sex trade, but for forced labor.

This writer friend insisted the term  is offensive because it seems to discount the suffering of black slaves. Again I disagree.

If you do an online search for the origin of the term, you’ll find varying opinions. I’ve read that the term originally referred to the exploitation of English women in factories.

I have also read that the “white” in white slavery does not refer to race, but to purity and virginity – which was stolen from women when forced into prostitution.  White slavery is a crime committed against a woman of any color. According to Merriam-Webster’s current definition of white slavery, it is about enforced prostitution.

Sometime the desire to be politically correct gives me a headache. I'm told not to use white slavery because someone will get offended because they will assume that because I say white slavery is bad, I must therefore think slavery against a person of color is okay or not as severe. I really don’t get that logic, especially when white slavery is a crime against women of all colors.

 (So what’s with the flapper? The first time I heard the term was when I was a young girl and read the book Thoroughly Modern Millie.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saving the world from rude authors!

Ridding the world of misbehaving authors - one list and shelf at a time!

Over on Goodreads they’ve just announced their new policy: “We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior.”

They remind us “Reviews should be about the book.”

Bravo Goodreads!

Of course, if you read the comments over there, you’ll discover a number of reviewers are not happy with the change. After all, it is their job to rid the world of rude authors – their mission is to keep authors behaving according to their standards.

I’m not sure how this notion came about, that book reviewers critique not just the book but the author.

Ironically, being a nice author is not necessarily one who avoids ending up in time out – banished to some dishonorable list or shelf of shame to be publicly humiliated, such as author’s misbehaving or butthurt author. No, if an author wants to avoid such lists he must shut up and take it.

Take for example one of my reviews where the reviewer critiques my book on a plot element that was not in the book. I can’t nicely comment, “Excuse me, that didn’t happen.” Nope, I need to shut up and take it.

But the funny thing about creative people – like authors, actors and musicians – good ones are often passionate and outspoken, it’s in their DNA. If we rid the world of all but nice and properly behaved authors, we are going to end up with some pretty boring entertainment.

Personally, the only thing that will get me to stop buying an author’s book, or paying for a movie featuring a misbehaving actor, would be if that person was doing something truly horrendous, like torturing puppies or profiting from white slavery.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Is that Sam and Ella? Not quite.

I have a habit of copying images from my digital camera, instead of moving them completely off the device. This evening, while removing pictures from my camera I came across this one of my sister and Lady, and had to share - since Lady was the inspiration for Sam in While Snowbound.

My sister and Mom tagged along on a family reunion this summer in South Dakota. The reunion was for my mother-in-law’s side of the family. Since my daughter and her family were coming down from Alaska to attend, we invited Mom and my sister, Lynn along.

Lynn shared a room with my husband and me. The room had two queen sized beds. When it came time to go to sleep, Lady didn’t think it was right my sister have that big ol’ bed all to herself. Lady never barks (much like Sam in While Snowbound) – but she sat next to the bed, looked at my sister, and gave a little WOOF.

You can see who got her way.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stepping Back in Time

Coming soon - Coulson's Wife

I'm stepping back in time and telling the story of Randall Coulson - and his wife Mary Ellen, the grandmother of Lesson's Garret Coulson.

The story tells of Mary Ellen's unusual relationship with her husband, taking the readers from 1900 to 1949 -  from Virginia to Philadelphia to Chicago and finally to the founding of Coulson.

A reminder to those who might assume my premise is far fetched - the idea a man could purchase a parcel of land in the 20th century and grow a city, remember Coulson was inspired by my hometown of Lake Havasu City, which was founded by an Industrialist in the mid-1900s.