Tag Archives: writing

Review Or Die! (Not you, the Reader — the Author)

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It’s a pain to write reviews. If I liked a book, I liked it. I don’t need to review it. Maybe I’ll tell some friends. Maybe I’ll lend the book to someone else. And it sounds stupid to say, “This book was great! I loved it!” What good does that do anyone? Other readers don’t care about reviews. They pick a book because they get pulled in by the cover, they’re a fan of the genre, or a friend or some bigshot blogger they follow recommended it. Who cares about my little dumb reviews?

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Honestly, I can sympathize with those reasons for not writing a review. But I’m still going to shoot them down and give you some help to understand why every time you read a book but don’t review it, you are sucking just a little bit of life out of that author. If people keep taking these attitudes and not writing reviews, eventually, those authors will die, in a publishing sense. Their books will receive little attention and that’s death for a book and for its author. He really can’t keep his story alive by himself. He needs your help.

  1. “It’s a pain to write a review.” No, it’s not. It’s easy. I even gave you a pattern in a previous blog post. Take a look, follow the steps, and voila! The review is done before you know it. Here’s that link.  https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/how-to-write-a-book-review-the-author-will-love/
  2. “Maybe I’ll tell some friends.” Please, please, do. But imagine how many friends you can tell if you write your opinion down. You can widen your influence and the author’s if you just take those few minutes and write that review.
  3. “It sounds stupid to say. ‘It was great! I loved it'” Maybe it does to you, but it sounds like music to the author. It’s like water on brown grass. It’s like food to an author’s empty stomach. Be that water. be that food. Say whatever you can say. Write whatever you can write. Just go there and do that review thing!
  4. “Other readers don’t care about reviews.” You might be surprised by how many do. Many people read reviews before deciding to buy a book. If there aren’t many, they might skip on to one that has some.
  5. “Who cares about my dumb little reviews?” But there’s another reason to give an author reviews. It helps give his book reality and credibility with sites where he might want to promote it. Real, genuine reviews are like seeds. They multiply opportunities for an author to get known, get read, and get more sales. You can help in this way that costs you so little. You can help a lot.

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I, as an author care about your reviews. They’re not dumb. They’re your thoughts and feelings. People who put their thoughts and feelings into writing a book welcome feedback. What’s the point in writing a book if no one cares enough to share their thoughts about it? I look at my beloved children, my books that I worked on to produce. I think, when some have ten or more reviews, and some have one or two, or even none, that nobody loves those children. Nobody cares about them, so it must be nobody cares about me either. And I wither a little. I get thirstier, and hungrier, and I die a little.

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I failed to mention one thing about reviews. They don’t have to be good ones. Sure, parents want everyone to love their kids, but if you’ve got constructive criticism on why a book isn’t what you hoped it would be, put that down, too. Don’t think all we want is a string of fives and maybe a few fours. Lay it out there — what you liked and what you didn’t. If we think our books are perfect, we need your humbling. We need your honesty. Help us be better authors. Even if we don’t do a rewrite of that book, it might help us do the next one better.

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So help us. That’s what reviews are really all about. We are flowers. Water us, feed us, encourage us, pinch off our dead blooms and help us grow new ones. Don’t let our books and our fire to write die in discouragement and dim corners. Shine a light on them. we need your help. We can’t do this alone. We are only the authors. You are the readers. — post by Mary C. Findley

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Author or Character Interviews, Anyone?

Microscope

Put yourself under the microscope!

If you write books for a G, PG, or PG-13 audience, you may submit a request for an author interview. Not all interviews will be featured, but I will try to spotlight authors often. Thank you!

Author Interview Questions

Answer whatever questions you wish, and you can modify the first one to fit what you write. Send them back to me at findleymcmj@gmail.com. I will let you know if/when your interview goes live.

1. Many people say that authors can’t or don’t do well with more than one genre. You have contemporary mystery, some romance, and now a western/scifi series. What do you think prepared you or qualifies you to write these different types of books?

2. What do you say to the charge that men can’t write romances that women will like, and how will you tempt guys to read your books?

3. Tell us a little about your “real” (Non-writing) life — family, job, church life. Does it give you inspiration for your writing? Does it get in the way of your writing, or are there times when you get help, from people or circumstances?

4. Tell us about things you enjoy — what you do for fun or personal satisfaction.

5. Tell us about working with any people who help you create your books — Do you use Beta readers? Hire an editor or proofreader? How do you get your covers?

6. Since you have several books out, tell us what you think works for promotion. What are your thoughts on ebooks versus print books and different ways to let people know about you and your books?

7. Have you done anything writing-related, but besides your books, that seemed to get a lot of positive response? Something that encouraged you?

8. Tell us about your newest book. Make us want to read it.

9. What is the “message” of your writing? (For example, is your purpose to encourage old-fashioned values, encourage romance, or do you have different purposes in different books?)

10. Tell us one place you visited or person you met, that made a big impression on you, and why.

11. Tell us one place you want to visit, or person you want to meet, and why.

12. Share something that makes you laugh, with just plain humor, or happiness, or because it’s so stupid.

13. Share something that’s amazing, touching, or that makes you angry.

14. What’s the worst trouble you ever had with getting a book written (plots, finding needed information, getting a cover done)?

15. What’s your next project? Tell us so we can’t wait for it to come out!

Please send images and links, including any good reviews or news you want to share about your books.

OR, perhaps you’d rather do a character interview. If so, follow the example below.

Character Interview Example

Hi, we’re interviewing Leah Masters from Mary C. Findley’s book Send a White Rose. Leah is here to tell us how a lovely young society lady from Boston ended up in territorial New Mexico, in the middle of an assassination plot against the man who sent for you to discuss marriage.

1. What do you do for a living, and how’s business?

I’ve been blessed to be provided for by my father, Senator Masters, but I do keep our household running smoothly, do his accounts, and play hostess at his dinner parties since the death of my mother some years ago.

2. You’ve been seen with some ––––––––––––––– (people, animals, illness, interesting tools, vehicles, weapons, or other things related to your story). What’s your secret to (attracting them, fighting them off, working with them, making them, whichever applies)

Yes, I’m afraid my health is not the best, and I do seem to catch everything that goes around. I can’t believe I was sick right when it was time to visit Judge Durant in New Mexico.

3. When you (took that trip, bought that object, met that person, accepted that job, fired that weapon, whatever applies), that certainly was a life-changing decision, wasn’t it?

It certainly was the most difficult thing I have ever done, but my brother Randall insisted we couldn’t put off the trip until I was over my illness. Of course, neither of us realized how hard the trip was, or how sick I really was. And how humiliating, to faint at Judge Durant’s feet and not even be able to say a word.

4. Did it shock you when you learned (something about another person or an important place or event in the story)?

I had two big shocks one right after the other. First, I learned that my brother had been arrested on suspicion of having tried to assassinate Judge Durant. The second was being told that that Judge Durant had left town, when I came all this way to meet him and discuss the possibility of marriage.

5. Some of us like to exercise the “ask a friend” option at odd times in our lives, but it seems especially odd that you brought ––––––– in to help you solve the problem of ______. What’s special about him/her?

It didn’t seem strange at all to me that Alethia and I would become friends. I didn’t learn until later that many people thought of her as the natural choice to be Judge Durant’s wife. She was the only one who could really tell me the truth about what had happened to Judge Durant.

6. What did you think when _________ (complicating event in the story) happened, and how did you handle it?

Governor Markham insisted he could persuade Judge Durant to see me and help work out this terribly confusing and embarrassing situation between us. I went with him to the hospital, but the judge got angry at all his friends and banished everyone. It was only by pretending to be lost looking for another patient that I found the courage to actually talk to him again. He didn’t even recognize me, for which I was grateful.

7. What was one thing another person did that surprised/angered/delighted/saddened/frightened you, and turned out to be extremely important to how things turned out?

I couldn’t believe, after all the changes for the better that my brother had gone through, that he would revert to his old ways and accuse Alethia of such a terrible thing. But there were so many things I still didn’t understand about my own brother, and what he was capable of.

8. Did you do anything you really regretted/enjoyed/ struggled to accomplish That made a big difference?

It certainly was foolish of me to just run off in the pouring rain trying to find the judge when I had so little information. I just knew that he was in danger, and I couldn’t find anyone else in time. I suppose I didn’t think about how dangerous for me, too.

9. Was there a time when you were certain things just were not going to turn out right?

More than once, certainly. There were so many complications. Even when everything else seemed to be working out, that only made it harder to try to believe that things would work out between the judge and myself.

10. Why would you refuse the marriage proposal you’d crossed the country and gone through so much hardship just to hear?

A combination of anger, humiliation, and honestly, happiness that he’d made a decision, even if it wasn’t for me. I didn’t even understand why he would ask me, when Alethia has loved him all her life.

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“Take Words with You … ” Mary C. Findley

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“Take words with you and return to the Lord.  Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.” Hosea 14:2

Coming soon — a book for Christian writers about Christian writing.

This book is about how to prepare to be a writer, how to write, and lots of my thoughts and opinions on what you should and shouldn’t write about. Although opinions are like noses – everybody has one, and some of them smell – My opinions are based on decades of reading, writing, and studying what makes Christian writing Christian.
The title of this book should make clear my purpose for writing it, and all the others I have written or will write. I used to think I could write cool stuff and not worry about the message, but the message of glorifying God, of honoring His Word, and of communicating truth, even in fiction, is overpowering. The Scripture verse on the cover is a recent discovery. The context is Israel’s need to repent, but my, oh my, isn’t this what we need to do before we write a word? Don’t we need to take our words to God, to ask Him to purify them, to accept what we offer Him, as if it was that sweet savor He loves in the Old Testament sacrifices? Wow. To think that our books can be our fruit. It’s humbling. It’s terrifying. But God asks us to bear fruit, so let’s see what we need to do to get on with it.

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Why I Write Steampunk … A Part Two of Sorts … Author post by Sophronia Belle Lyon

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We were reading in Jeremiah this morning, and I ran across these verses. It made me think of how we fail the Lord sometimes … Get distracted and fall away from wholehearted service, or become rebellious and stubborn. The Lord invites us to return, and His forgiveness will restore us to “stand before him”, like a servant stands ready to do his master’s bidding.

Then I thought about writing Steampunk, and how man takes good things and twists them, making them evil and vile, or real-life people who corrupt the innocent. Classic themes, characters, and settings become vehicles for sex-peddling, feminist diatribes, exalting the occult, and all the other things Steampunk sometimes does.  But the verses above say God urges us to “take forth the precious from the vile”. He says … *shivers running up and down my spine* … “thou shalt be as my mouth”. I get to speak for God. I get to speak for God!

Listen to what Johannes Keppler says about his studies in Science:

“Now, eighteen months after the first light, three months after the true day, but a very few days after the pure Sun of that most wonderful study began to shine, nothing restrains me; it is my pleasure to taunt mortal men with the candid acknowledgment that I am stealing the golden vessels of the Egyptians to build a tabernacle to my God from them, far, far away from the boundaries of Egypt. If you forgive me, I shall rejoice; if you are enraged with me, I shall bear it. See, I cast the die, and I write the book. Whether it is to be read by the people of the present or of the future makes no difference: let it await its readers for a hundred years, if God Himself has stood ready for six thousand years for one to study Him.”

—Johannes Kepler, Book V, The Harmony of the World

But there’s a strong caution in the Jeremiah passage. I can use Steampunk for His glory, but I have to be careful not to let my hunger to extend my reach — to use this offbeat but popular genre to attract people into the sphere of God’s influence — God says, “let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.” It’s the old analogy of the person standing on the chair trying to pull up the person on the floor. I can’t end up on the floor. I can’t get down on the world’s level. I have to bring them up into that “Sun” Keppler talked about. I also have to remember that I’m supposed to be rescuing souls, real, precious lives, not just writing a book about it.

I love that reference to a “fenced brasen wall”, because Steampunk things are often made out of bronze. My characters use bronze tools and weapons for defense and offense against the enemies they face. But in reality it is God who protects and preserves those who “stand before” Him. I need to be clear about that with my characters ,too, that as they face “the hand of the wicked” and “the hand of the terrible”, that they rely on and give glory to God for their deliverance.

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A “Striking” Scripture for Writers by Mary C. Findley

Ecclesiastes 12: 11-12
The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.

I hate writing blog posts, or mostly any kind of non-fiction. It’s hard work. But I love writing fiction books. Still, these verses from Ecclesiastes presented quite “striking” image to me, if you’ll pardon the pun. I want to be wise in what I write, fiction or nonfiction. I want my words to be striking. Like a goad to get the cattle moving, I want them to keep people from standing still, from stagnating. I want my words to move people forward for God.

The verse also says something about being a “master of these collections”. I think it’s talking about the wise words being the collection, and that people who hear them and take them to heart can be used by God for another kind of striking. Those people can be like the nails that hold together something that’s well-constructed, like a ministry of some kind. So my words, if they are wise, can help people help their ministries to be solid and strong.

I know only God can do the actual moving, but I want my words to be the instrument. This is where the “given by one Shepherd” part comes in. God gives wise words to writers, if they let him, and they pass those on to those nails who get driven in, hard and fast, and hold a ministry together. It probably hurts to be a nail, metaphorically speaking, a person whom God has to drive into a work. But won’t it be great when you’re helping hold that building together for God?

The rest of the passage is a warning I need to heed as a writer, too. We have 47 publications now, and I’m going through a correction and updating process that makes that “devotion to books” thing ring very true. It is wearying to the body to be doing maintenance on 47 publications. It does seem endless. So it’s good that God said, “Let the books go for a little while, and write about My Word. Goad some people, if you can, and encourage those well-driven nails. While you’re a it.” So I hope I did.

Image from Morguefile

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The Prayer Networks

“Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)

When we first joined Facebook, it was simply to keep in touch with our children in their far-flung adventures (and ours). Eventually we began to make friends there, usually people we knew in “real” life and in some cases hadn’t seen in many years. It was nice to reconnect. Gradually we made other friends, what I call “digital-only” friends. We haven’t actually met them or had any live communication. We are Facebook (or Goodreads, or blog post, or Twitter) friends only.

I had one Facebook friend who for awhile felt a little like a stalker. It was really just that she knew very little about something we were both interested in, writing and publishing, and I knew more, so she asked a lot of questions. In no way did I feel threatened by her, or worried that she would try to kill me if I didn’t get right back to her when she messaged me.

Yesterday I read an article about a couple murdered in their home. When they arrested two suspects, the Sheriff said that these people were killed because they had “unfriended” the daughter of one of the suspects. The other suspect had an “attraction” for the daughter of the man he assisted in committing murder.

The Sheriff said this was not the first time this woman “could not handle it” when she thought she was being ignored or slighted. She had been accused of stalking and harassing another woman who failed to pay attention to her on social networking. Her father said she “lived” on Facebook. It was all she did.

A previous complaint against the woman, who apparently got her father and a wannabe boyfriend to commit murder for the sake of her bruised ego, was made by a woman she stalked online and by phone. The complaint said that the woman being stalked didn’t even know the stalker personally.

Instead of lashing out in anger or stalking people in my social network when I don’t hear from them, or hear from them a little more often than is comfortable, I pray for them. I pray for those who need jobs, those enduring separation from family because of military service, those struggling to get a book published, those with ongoing medical problems, those struggling with disobedient children or unsaved spouses. We have friends who are missionaries, short term or long-term, around the world. We have others having marital problems. We have met people in countries where it’s difficult to get books, to figure out where to buy them from, even online. I even pray for people who don’t believe prayer does any good.

One of those friends recently seemed to be having a very bad time with family and health problems. She cried out on several sites we both belong to, and the answer was almost universally, from whatever site, whoever responded, “We are praying for you. God comfort and help you. Please know that we care.” Nobody was angry with her for pouring her heart out in near-despair. Everyone has problems, but everyone who knows Christ knows that even though we call it a Social Network, we can make it a Prayer Network, anytime, anywhere.

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Curiouser and Curiouser … An Author’s Adventures in Twitterland

I set up a Twitter account awhile back because that was on my promotional “to-do” list. However, I did not really understand what it was for, so I did not use it much. I tweeted our blog posts, and that was pretty much it. My experience with Twitter was somewhat like Alice staring down the rabbit hole. The White Rabbit is marketing, and I want to go where it goes, but I hesitated looking down that small, dark hole. I know that Twitter resembles email, except that you have to be extremely careful what you say. You only have 140 characters in which to say it. Interestingly enough, this ties in with another part of my writer’s journey, inspired decades ago by Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, my pledge to “Omit needless words!”

I never really understood writers who needed to write long books. Some people love long books with complex descriptions of places, clothing and every little detail. I like the characters and the stories. Excuse me while I skip the travelogue at the beginning of every chapter of Jules Verne’s Michael Strogoff. I am not quite at the point of writing phone-screen-sized chapters or text-messaging novels, but I keep hearing that echo, “omit needless words,” and so I edit, trim, and refine my work. As a matter of fact, I have only recently learned the art of text messaging, another thing that resembles Tweeting. Our daughter is hard of hearing and our communication is almost exclusively by texting. I refuse to use all the abbreviations, symbols and jargon. It makes it difficult, but I have my limits.

Back to Twitter. Recently I timidly took the step of retweeting posts by some authors I have befriended and admire. I don’t just randomly retweet, and I don’t even retweet everything I agree with. I do, however, tend to retweet my author friends. In the meantime, our blog posts go on Twitter automatically, and the other day I was startled to discover that our blog followers had more than tripled in the last month. I was also startled to discover that our books were beginning to sell a little. Our chosen niche market is niched indeed, more like Scout and Jem’s secret space in the hollow tree where they exchanged treasures with Boo Radley. I don’t expect to have bestsellers. In fact, more than one blogger has refused to read our books for review or carry posts we have written because they are “too…” Well, I’ll let you fill in the blank and ponder what an unfair world it is.

I noticed also that strange Tweeters were beginning to say they were following me. I’m not going to tell you how many followers I have because it’s still embarrassing, but people do notice when you retweet a lot. The next step in my Twitterland journey was when I joined a Facebook authors’ group that seemed to fit better with my niche than those I had previously joined. I participated, talked, asked for advice, as I always do when I join a group. Then I noticed they were posting Tweets for their books or interviews or blog posts. I grabbed them and retweeted them, and everybody said “Thank You!”

Then someone said, “Where are your tweets? We will repost them all sorts of ways.” Aaaggh! I had no tweets. So I have been forced to create Tweets. I am still struggling to grasp the hashtag thing, but I think it makes it stand out more, like tagging your book on Amazon. I still hate having to abbreviate, to leave out my beloved exact spelling and punctuation, but I press on. And, though in some respects I am still staring down the rabbithole, I am getting the hang of this Twitter thing. Because of something I am doing, our blog is getting a higher profile and our books are getting some sales. A recent article said that Twitter will cease to exist this year. Perhaps. But in the meantime, it seems to be working for me. Go through your Twitter feed every day, look for the ones you want to retweet, decide if you want to follow people who say they are following you, and don’t forget to Tweet yourself!

How to create a Twitter Post (from an admitted newbie.)

Look at what other similar posts contain in the way of hashtags. For example, I write #Historical and #Fiction and #Adventure, my husband writes #SciFi and #Nonfiction, and there are TONS of other hashtags. Just add the Hash or pound sign in front of a word and you have a hash tag. They are subjects that people search for that can get your post noticed, and retweeted, and possibly get you followed. Punctuation and correct spelling take up extra characters, so grit your teeth and leave them out. Use a URL shortening program like bitly to cut down your links. HootSuite is a free program that can be used to schedule recurring tweets, I am told,. That’s the next step in my journey, I guess.

Some examples of tweets using hashtags

#SciFi #Christian The future of persecution. Lunar colony, gas-collection in the outer planets, forbidden romance http://bit.ly/x5Doq7

#Nonfiction doesn’t have to be dull! 200 illustrations, Nimrod’s worship foundations to founding fathers’ fears http://amzn.to/tUo6Kb

#Mystery Adventure Series, All Things New Doctor tests, Boarding school, secret society, Christmas ball, twin trouble http://amzn.to/vG8jGW

#romance #suspense #historical Occult attacks, child sex slavery, a lost prince, regain a throne, king’s hole peril  http://bit.ly/wnxxpt

#Blog, #Issues, #History, #Education #Science It’s tough but you need it. From a fan, “Need me some elk jerky, I do” http://bit.ly/vfdw8v

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