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Reviews actually do matter

September 2nd, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Books - (0 Comments)

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve had soooooo many pos­i­tive reviews. Thank you to those won­der­ful peo­ple who have posted them! And yet there have been a few zingers. But that’s okay. As John Locke said, “If you don’t have any low rat­ings, you haven’t sold enough books.”

What I hate to see is a new author, div­ing into this busi­ness, excited, shin­ing with hope, only to be shot down by someone’s pet peeve that really doesn’t apply to any­one but them.

Humor me for a sec­ond as I go off on a tan­gent. When I was in col­lege study­ing clas­si­cal piano, my piano pro­fes­sor said some­thing that will stick with me for­ever. He said that the type of music a stu­dent enjoys, reveals more about the stu­dent than it does about the music. His exam­ple was Bach. For those who are unfa­mil­iar with clas­si­cal music, in gen­eral, Bach is the cal­cu­lous of music. His fugues, in par­tic­u­lar, are quite dif­fi­cult. Each piano major was required to learn at least one fugue per semes­ter. One semes­ter a stu­dent balked. She com­plained to every­one that she had to learn Bach fugues. The next semes­ter she was dropped from the pro­gram. Cer­tain expec­ta­tions were required at the uni­ver­sity. No one cared to teach her what she was miss­ing, because there were SO many tal­ented stu­dents wait­ing to take her place.

In the world of books things are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Ernest Hem­ing­way may not speak to “Twi­light” fans, BUT WHO CARES. Reader opin­ions ALL have merit. Pop cul­ture is in its hay day! And com­ing from the world of clas­si­cal music, I find that refresh­ing. Who cares if some­one is “trained” when they read a book. If they like it, THEY LIKE IT! That’s the beauty. There are plenty of genres/markets avail­able for every­one. Pop cul­ture, his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, dystopia, fan­tasy. What­ever strikes your fancy. Just remem­ber, that reviews will be read by other peo­ple, and may affect future sales. Remem­ber, one person’s junk is another person’s trea­sure. Be hon­est in your reviews. If you hated a book, go ahead and say so. But don’t be cruel. It says more about the reviewer than the book.

Pos­i­tive reviews are a way to say thank you to your favorite authors. Writ­ers don’t earn big money, and there is almost no recog­ni­tion involved. As Ernest Hem­ing­way said, “We sit at the type­writer and bleed.” (Quote para­phrased.) Writ­ers are in the book busi­ness for the love of writ­ing. That’s basi­cally it. We write. We share. We write some more.

Once again, thank you to any­one who has taken the time to review my books. Reviews are much appre­ci­ated. Espe­cially the pos­i­tive ones!

Happy read­ing.

~ Annette

Coming Soon!

August 18th, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Books | Perspectives - (0 Comments)

Sneak peek–

Com­ing this winter

The For­got­ten Queen

A tale of love, friend­ship, loy­alty, and betrayal.

Thanks to graphic designer John Mor­rell for the amaz­ing cover artwork!

The For­got­ten Queen is the lost account of Avalon and Arthur. Full of twists and turns, com­plete with a sur­prise end­ing. Retelling Camelot has never been so much fun.

So you’ve finally done it. You’ve got a web­site! Now your scratch­ing your head won­der­ing, how does every­one make this work? Believe it or not, you are not alone. Here’s a quick 10 step guide that will aid you along your journey.

1. Use meta keywords

Meta key­words and meta descrip­tions are the way google picks up your site. These must be added sep­a­rate from the body of your post via what­ever for­mat your site has. If you don’t add them, no one will know you are there. If you need tech­ni­cal help, get it!

2. Use permalinks

Use perma­links and slugs for the same rea­son. This is how google works.

3. Use plu­g­ins and widgets

Plu­g­ins and wid­gets can trans­form your site from some­thing lame into some­thing that really works. Once again, if you need tech­ni­cal help, get it!

4. Offer some­thing for free

For exam­ple:

Alle Wells offeres indie book reviews on her site. A quick visit helps read­ers see what is good in the indie industry.

Melissa Fos­ter offers author sup­port and ser­vices. Of course she sells a lot of books. Every­one loves her. She helps them.

Lia Lon­don brings read­ers into the writ­ing world. Read­ers become the writ­ers. Many peo­ple have always wanted to do this,but were too intim­i­dated to try on their own.

I admit that I’m an odd­ball in the mix. I offer free music edu­ca­tion work­sheets. That’s the point. Offer what you have. It’s also help­ful is you offer some­thing unique.

5.  Don’t be sneaking

Sneaky and solic­i­ta­tion don’t mix. Peo­ple are smart and sneaky almost always rubs the wrong way.

6. It’s just polite

If your site con­tains explicite mate­r­ial, don’t plas­ter it on the front page. Let peo­ple know in advance before they click. Some peo­ple don’t want to see it. Period.

7. This is your platform

Your web­site is a store front. Keep it pos­i­tive. Keep it going.

8. Social media

Twit­ter is set up for mak­ing con­tacts and tweet­ing ideas. It’s also a great way con­nect with read­ers. But even on twit­ter be polite. Show a few man­ners. Don’t assume someone’s an idiot and will click on your web­site because you scammed them into it. Instead of scam­ming, offer some­thing. Give peo­ple a rea­son to hit your site.

Face­book works for a lot of peo­ple. This is an area that I have cho­sen to keep per­sonal. My face­book friends are peo­ple that I actu­ally “know.” But a lot of authors have made face­book work for them. Give it a try.

There are a num­ber of other social media. Make your pres­ence on the web known. Pineter­est, squido, linkedin, etc. There’s a mil­lion of them. Redi­rect every­one to your webpage.

9. Dare to Dream.

This is why you have a web­site. This is why you’re read­ing this arti­cle! Keep your dreams. Make them hap­pen. They don’t hap­pen with­out effort. That’s a given.

10. Never Give Up!

Be resource­ful. Be cre­ative. But most of all, NEVER GIVE UP!

 

How to organize your novel

August 1st, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Books | Perspectives - (0 Comments)

Orga­niz­ing a novel may seem like a daunt­ing task, but there are a few things that can min­i­mize the problems. Always orga­nize from the start.

Files on your computer:

1. Cre­ate a sin­gle folder named by book TITLE. Even­tu­ally this folder will con­tain other fold­ers and files that have to do with the title. Keep every­thing together. This may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be sur­prised how quickly things can get lost. Do not assume that you will remem­ber where you saved any­thing. Orga­nize it from the start.

2. Add sub­se­quent fold­ers and files inside the TITLE folder. For exam­ple, inside each TITLE folder make a TEXT folder. As the project pro­gresses you will need to add addi­tional fold­ers, such as: COVER, FORMAT, MARKETING, BLOG, INTERVIEWS, etc. In other words, each folder may con­tain fifty files, and you’re going to need to keep tract of them all.

3. Save your work con­stantly. Some writ­ers pre­fer to save chap­ters indi­vid­u­ally. Other writ­ers pre­fer to save every­thing as a sin­gle doc­u­ment. Either way works. Just make sure to label every­thing, and file it inside the appro­pri­ate folder.

Writ­ing your document:

4. Inside the TEXT document(s) use some kind of track­ing sys­tem so that you know what needs to be done. I pre­fer to use colors.

BLACK type means that I’m fairly sat­is­fied with a sec­tion. It means that I don’t intend to dump or alter the sto­ry­line, and will con­tinue to proof, edit, and mold until it’s finished.

BLUE means that I’m not quite sat­is­fied with the sto­ry­line, dia­log, or writ­ing, but that things are on the right track. I am com­mit­ted to these sec­tions and intend to make them work. (In real­ity any­thing can be cut.)

RED means trou­ble. Any­thing typed in red means that I’m still think­ing, which is why that sec­tion has not been deleted. Before this sec­tion goes from red to blue it may be altered beyond recognition.

There is a prob­lem with this color sys­tem. The red color bugs my eyes. So I copy and paste these sec­tions into a new doc­u­ment, work on them until sat­is­fied, then return them to the main body of text.

By using a track­ing sys­tem I can see at a glance the sec­tions that I want to work on. This is impor­tant because the cre­ative process doesn’t usu­ally coöper­ate chrono­log­i­cally. Some­times the mind gen­er­ates ideas for the mid­dle or end­ing, long before the begin­ning. By hav­ing a sys­tem I can eye­ball the text quickly and find exactly where I want to start typing.

5. Don’t com­pletely dump any­thing. Instead, save old ver­sions by date within the proper folder. Each time a mas­sive change is made, rename the doc­u­ment with the cur­rent date. This makes for easy retrieval when you wake up in the mid­dle of the night, blood puls­ing with ter­ror, and real­ize that you’ve dumped some­thing cru­cial. By sav­ing the new file with a dif­fer­ent date, both the old and new files still exist, mak­ing for an easy revival of a pre­vi­ously aban­doned idea. Keep in mind that with this sys­tem you will have mul­ti­ple doc­u­ments. Make sure to label and save them all CLEARLY.

Dou­ble check your writing:

6. Even if you are not accus­tom to using an out­line, make sure that one can be found in your writ­ing. If the chap­ters jump with­out orga­ni­za­tion the reader will have a hard time under­stand­ing your book. This is also a good tool for dou­ble check­ing the inte­rior of each chapter.

Clean up and Publication:

7. Once the book is fin­ished, clean up the files on your com­puter. If there were dumped sec­tions that might make for a new book, rename the doc­u­ments and move them into a new folder.

Next comes prepa­ra­tion for pub­li­ca­tion.  For help with man­u­script prepa­ra­tion and pub­li­ca­tion please see the arti­cle HERE.

Learning from George

May 18th, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Books | Perspectives - (0 Comments)

 

 

George Wash­ing­ton: Feb­ru­ary 22, 1732 - Decem­ber 14, 1799

I became a fan of George Wash­ing­ton when I was in sec­ond grade. Actu­ally, I saw the above paint­ing on a book cover in my ele­men­tary school library. Appar­ently it’s out of print now. As a lit­tle squirt I was so enam­ered by the beau­ti­ful horse that I picked it up and began to read. It didn’t take me long before I real­ized that George was some­one I wanted to know more about. And while I don’t claim to be an expert on his life, I do have a few thoughts worth sharing.

George Wash­ing­ton treated peo­ple with respect. It was one of his most dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. He even cre­ated a book of eti­quette  that he was known to recite to him­self. Donna Young took these fab­u­lous say­ings and put them down for chil­dren. She turned them into pen­man­ship and spelling prac­tice. You can find the link here: George Washington’s Rule of Civil­ity. In mod­ern soci­ety these points are some­times for­got­ten, but it is my opin­ion that Wash­ing­ton was faced with no less dif­fi­culty than we. He lived in fron­tier Amer­ica. He led a starv­ing, ragged army. That fact alone is evi­dence that he faced more imbe­ciles than I ever will, and still he seemed to under­stand that it was impor­tant to treat peo­ple with courtesy.

Another point that awes me was Washington’s abil­ity to under­stand com­plex social issues with­out becom­ing sub­ject to social pres­sure. This is an abil­ity he seems to have honed over time. For exam­ple, his per­spec­tive on slav­ery changed quite dra­mat­i­cally. As a young man he accepted the prac­tice when he inher­ited an estate with a fam­ily tra­di­tion of slav­ery, but by the end of his life he had come to abhor it com­pletely. I find the lan­guage of his Last Will And Tes­ta­ment to be quite telling. For those slaves that would have been forced into finan­cial dif­fi­culty, he gave the option to remain on his estate as free men, appar­ently with­out charge.

I also find it inter­est­ing that while he was wildly pop­u­lar in the pub­lic eye, Wash­ing­ton had no polit­i­cal ambi­tions. His only goal was to pro­pel the gen­uine inter­est of the coun­try. Unlike most politi­cians today he would have pre­ferred to stay out of the pub­lic eye. Liv­ing at home was his life’s dream. But his coun­try needed him and so he did what was nec­es­sary. In the process every­one came to love him. He was known for his strong char­ac­ter, for always putting the country’s needs first, and for being the kind of man peo­ple could trust. While his con­stituents would have turned him into a king, he refused the post, set­ting the prece­dence for all future presidents.

There are so many points that put me in awe of this amaz­ing man, par­tic­u­larly his will­ing­ness to lead a poverty stricken army. Now that is a topic for a seven mil­lion word doc­u­ment. But I guess this is start­ing to sound more like a fan let­ter than an infor­ma­tive blog post. So rather than con­tinue to blather my points, I’ll just post a few more inter­est­ing links.

Inter­ac­tive portrait

Edu­ca­tional facts that are fun too

George Wash­ing­ton books for kids

 

They say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. I sure hope so, because I’ve been there a lot. Unlike Michael Jor­dan, no one has actu­ally kept track of my stats. But I can tell you this, I am very famil­iar with fail­ure. Prac­ti­cally in the same breath I can also add that I have had a num­ber of suc­cesses. You would think that sooner or later fail­ures would end. But they don’t. No mat­ter how suc­cess­ful, no mat­ter how accom­plished, fail­ure just hap­pens some­times. It’s a fact of life. So rather than giv­ing up before you try: Dare to dream. Dare to face fail­ure. Dare to try your hard­est in the face of uncer­tainty, and ulti­mately some mea­sure of suc­cess will be achieved.

I read The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time when I was in the vicin­ity of the fourth grade. It struck me so deeply that I started a diary of my own, and fol­low­ing in Anne’s foot­steps I gave my diary a name, Jenny. I’m sure you noticed the cor­re­la­tion. As an adult I am still in awe of this lit­tle girl, and highly rec­om­mend this book to read­ers of all ages.

For more great quotes from Anne, visit her wiki quote page.

The Glass Cas­tle, by Jean­nette Walls is a com­pelling read. Nor­mally when I become so engrossed in a book I give it an instant five stars. Not so with The Glass Cas­tle. I’m giv­ing it four stars. The writ­ing itself is fan­tas­tic. Jean­nette Walls is a top-notch writer who uses the first per­son flaw­lessly. Usu­ally I get sick of all the, “I did this,” and, “I did that.” “I, I, I …” It’s enough to make me crazy! But I didn’t feel that way while read­ing The Glass Cas­tle. The sen­tence struc­ture is full of vari­a­tion, and greatly refresh­ing. Jean­nette Walls writes bril­liantly. Period. She helps the reader under­stand the feel­ings of all her char­ac­ters, not just the one. I’m an instant fan.

The main rea­son I didn’t give this book five stars is because it is true. That said, had it been a work of fic­tion I would have tossed it by chap­ter two, telling my self, this junk just isn’t plau­si­ble. And yet, it hap­pened. The more I read, the more that fact both­ered me. Jean­nette and her sib­lings han­dled the sit­u­a­tion amaz­ingly well, but the par­ents … I couldn’t get past them. It seems so wrong to reward that kind of thing with praise, even if it is a mem­oir. Had it not been for their kooky approach to life, there would not have been a rea­son to write the book. It’s a cir­cle I couldn’t escape: I hate that it’s true, yet it’s so well writ­ten that I couldn’t put it down. This tight knit fam­ily strug­gled des­per­ately, but it didn’t have to be that way. While it was obvi­ous the par­ents loved their chil­dren, they were so absorbed in self­ish­ness that their love was never real­ized. It never amounted to any­thing. The chil­dren were starv­ing while the mother ate secret choco­late bars. The chil­dren had no clothes, no toi­let, no warmth, no decent shel­ter, or food, while their father drank away every cent they had. When the kids earned money, the father stole it. When the kids found a dia­mond ring in the woods, and were going to sell it to buy food, the mother took it. After all, she deserved to wear nice things. The father even put his daugh­ter in phys­i­cal dan­ger so that he could win a bet. These kids were eat­ing out of the school garbage can. Jeannette’s brother had to sleep with a raft over him because of the mas­sive leak in the roof. When the chil­dren were in dan­ger, the par­ents shrugged their shoul­ders. When the chil­dren were being sex­u­ally abused, the par­ents ratio­nal­ized it away. After all, the abuser was only lonely, and chil­dren need to learn to han­dle those kinds of sit­u­a­tions any­way. It made for shock­ing, riv­et­ing read­ing, but it also left me feel­ing warped.

So five stars to Jean­nette for her amaz­ing abil­ity to write such a fluid nar­ra­tive. Zero stars to the par­ents who made the story pos­si­ble. Four stars to the book, with the ratio­nal­iza­tion that it prob­a­bly should be five, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.


Volde­mort.  That is all it takes.  Chances are, by read­ing that sin­gle name, the entire Harry Pot­ter series comes to mind.  Now think of Eliz­a­beth and Mr. Darcy.  Assum­ing you’ve read Pride and Prej­u­dice, a whole new feel­ing reg­is­ters.  Char­ac­ters and sto­ries are so closely related that they are almost one and the same.  This is why great char­ac­ters are not only impor­tant; they are absolutely essen­tial.  Most writ­ers under­stand this con­cept.  The dif­fi­culty comes in imple­ment­ing it.  Let’s start by look­ing at a few cap­ti­vat­ing characters.

 

Harry Pot­ter: When we first meet Harry, we find that he is pretty aver­age.  There has never been any­thing spe­cial about him.  Then, out of the blue,voila, we dis­cover he is unique.  He’s the reg­u­lar Joe turned super­hero, and audi­ences love him.

 

Meet Skeeter from The Help, by Kathryn Stock­ett.  Sup­pos­edly she is not pretty, though the movie char­ac­ter was gor­geous.  She cares more about get­ting an edu­ca­tion than find­ing a hus­band.  To her mother’s dis­may, she does not care about her hair and would rather speak her mind than fol­low social cues.  Though she is strong, she has had to move back home until she is able to land a seri­ous job.

 

Scrooge, from Charles Dick­ens’ The Christ­mas Carol, is the man we love to hate, until we start to feel sorry for him.  He’s stingy, mean, and some­times down­right cruel.  As the tale pro­gresses, we learn that he wasn’t always like this, and by the end of the story every­one wants Scrooge to make good.  We want him to take that leap of faith.  Do a good turn.  Buy the turkey in the window!

 

Cap­tain Ahab, from Moby Dick, by Her­man Melville: talk about trou­ble.  Ahab has become engulfed in revenge.  While he may seem ordi­nary at times, occa­sion­ally even kid, the vengeance in his heart is para­mount.  Every­thing else becomes sec­ondary, even life.  He is one of the most flawed char­ac­ters ever hatched, and yet he has lasted one hun­dred and sixty years and counting.

 

So what do these char­ac­ters have in com­mon?  Why do we love them?

 

  1. They are relat­able.  Read­ers under­stand them because, to some degree or another, we have felt what they feel.
  2. Great char­ac­ters are always flawed.  This is one of the most cru­cial areas of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment.  With­out flaws, char­ac­ters do not seem real.  They become hol­low imi­ta­tions of life, not tan­gi­ble beings.  Even Super­man has weak­nesses, and I’m not talk­ing about Kryp­tonite.  Sup­pos­edly he does not lie, yet his entire Clark Kent per­sona is a lie. He believes in being kind and cour­te­ous, while time after time leav­ing Lois Lane hang­ing.  Talk about rude.
  3. Great char­ac­ters are dif­fer­ent.  They have qual­i­ties that make them unique within the sto­ries they inhabit.  Harry finds out he is a wiz­ard.  Eliz­a­beth (Pride and Prej­u­dice) is high-spirited, edu­cated, smart, and yet blind as a bat.  Cin­derella loses her iden­tity when her father dies, and regains it by tak­ing on a secret iden­tity.  Edward (The Count of Monte Cristo) is loved by every­one except his best friend who throws him into prison for crimes he did not com­mit.  THese are unusual sce­nar­ios with unique, strong char­ac­ters who react in a time­less manner.
  4. Most great char­ac­ters have quirks: unique attrib­utes or tics that either tickle or dis­gust us.  Edward (The Count of Monte Cristo) twirls his hair.  Skeeter (The Help) takes secret phone mes­sages in the pantry so as to hide them from her mother.  Bella (Twi­light) is con­stantly trip­ping, falling, crash­ing, etc.
  5. Great char­ac­ters are strong.  Throw out the flimsy peo­ple.  Weak char­ac­ters will not do except in sup­port­ing roles.  Jimmy couldnever be Super­man.  It just wouldn’t work.  The main char­ac­ter must be able to carry the story, drive the plot, and grip the reader.
  6. Great char­ac­ters are lik­able.  When char­ac­ter­iz­ing a vil­lain, remem­ber that we want to love hat­ing him/her.  We want to enjoy how hor­ri­ble the char­ac­ter is.  We want to read the dirt and rel­ish it!  When char­ac­ter­iz­ing a hero, read­ers want to see him/her rise above the con­flict so that in the end, we can cheer our­selves silly.
  7. Great char­ac­ters grow.  They must change, morph, and become more than they were.  This is espe­cially true when writ­ing a series.  Char­ac­ters that stay the same do not seem real, and they are boring.
  8. In a series, the back­bone of a great char­ac­ter remains intact. Even though char­ac­ter devel­op­ment is cru­cial, the character’s traits should remain solid.  For exam­ple, Edward (Twi­light) is a vam­pire.  No amount of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment can or should change that.  It is who he is.  And beau­ti­fully enough, it is a flaw.  The same prin­ci­ple should apply to char­ac­ter traits.
  9. Great char­ac­ters are writ­ten by authors who know them well; they know what he/she will do given any cir­cum­stance or condition.
  10. Great char­ac­ters are cre­ated from the heart.  There is noth­ing more intrigu­ing than an orig­i­nal char­ac­ter fresh from the ink, molded to life on the wings of imagination.

 

Come on over …

December 15th, 2011 | Posted by Annette in Books - (0 Comments)

I’m guest post­ing this week on author Lia London’s blog. Lia is a won­der­ful writ­ing coach and her blog is filled with fab­u­lous ideas. Her book, The Cir­cle of Law, is a fan­tasy adven­ture novel with action you will want to see, char­ac­ters you will want to know, and ideals you will want to live. — Happy Reading!