Another guest blog today, on the Mystery Book Tour. Today, I'm visiting Coffee, Books and Art, where I've been asked to talk about what I'd like readers to take away from COMPASS NORTH. Drop on by!http://sarityahalomi.blogspot.com/2014/04/live-book-tour-multiple-author-mystery.htmlhttp://sarityahalomi.blogspot.com/2014/04/live-book-tour-multiple-author-mystery.html
I would bet good money that every published author has had this experience: An email arrives from a reader, who tells you that she just loved your book. You glow, of course, and then email back your thanks and a request: “Please consider writing a review on Amazon.” Your reader responds that yes, she’ll most certainly do that, but the review never materializes.
Don’t get me wrong. It is absolutely lovely to get a positive email from a reader. Writing is a solitary and sometimes lonely enterprise, and authors are periodically swamped by self-doubt. Messages that affirm that your stories are being read and appreciated are priceless.
But...about those reviews...
If you’ve sold thousands of books and your name is universally recognized, maybe reader reviews don’t matter. But if you’re a relatively new author and you’re working hard to promote your books, positive reader reviews are invaluable.
Think about how it works: A reader is ready for a new book, and doesn’t already have one in mind, so he starts looking around on the Amazon website. And good luck for you, as the reader searches, information about your book pops up on his screen. “Sounds interesting,” our reader thinks. But he’s never heard of you before, so he’s not about to buy your book without more information. Maybe he’ll read the excerpt, if there is one. But one thing he will almost always do: He will look at the number of reader reviews, and how the ratings stack up.
Some readers may not write reviews because it seems burdensome. Amazon makes it easy. You just write one or two lines about your impression of the book, and you rate the book by awarding it one to five stars. Simple. And a positive review is the best gift you can give to an author whose book you enjoyed.
So please, consider making an author happy today. Take a few minutes and post that review!
Today I have a guest post about the reasons that Meredith's story in COMPASS NORTH is set in Alaska. Visit me at http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com/2014/04/why-alaska.htmlhttp://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com/2014/04/why-alaska.html
Another stop on the Mystery Book Tour today, at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews. Stop by and find out the Ten Reasons I Can't Write Today:
I'm continuing on the mystery book tour today with a Guest Blog on Writing as a Solitary Journey. Find me at Queen of All She Reads
Ute Carbone, a fellow Champagne Book Group author, tagged me to continue this blog series of four questions about “My Writing Process.” Ute posted her thoughts on this subject last week on her blog. You can find Ute at
Here, I’m responding to the same four questions, and then I’m introducing three more authors who will post their answers to these questions next week. We should end up with quite the collection of writerly thoughts! Here goes--
What am I working on?
I’m currently writing the sequel to COMPASS NORTH, titled A LATE HARD FROST. We are back in Homer, Alaska, and most of the characters from my first book have returned. Cassandra finds herself in a most terrifying situation... Of course some new characters make an appearance too, including a very creepy stalker. Who is he? What does he want, and what will he do to get it? Stay tuned--
I’m also working on a long non-fiction piece tentatively called “My Training Wheels Book.” I talk about all I’ve experienced and learned writing my first book, having it published, and what came after that.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Perhaps COMPASS NORTH is different because it is hard to pigeon-hole. It spans genres. You could put it in any of the following categories: romantic suspense, mainstream fiction, women’s fiction, mystery/suspense, Alaska fiction. It probably fits in other categories too.
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always enjoyed stories about personal reinvention, about people who grab hold of their lives and struggle to escape hardship and unhappiness. It is so fulfilling to get to know a character who is bound and determined to push towards a better future. And I love to write about Alaska. I lived there for decades and it is a unique, challenging and beautiful place. Visit the Homer, Alaska page on my website to see some amazing pictures.
How does my writing process work?
It’s chaos. Ideas stream in and out of my head. I write scenes out of order. I make an outline and then take a right turn away from it. I can spend two hours on one paragraph, and it’s not always the better for it. Mostly, I try very hard to hear and write down the stories that are tumbling around my head. I don’t recommend this way of writing to anyone else, but I’m stuck with it.
And now, let’s meet the three authors who will post their answers on April 28. Please visit their blogs next week and find out what they have to say about “My Writing Process.”
First, please meet Olga Godim.
Olga Godim is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver,
Canada. Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers but her
passion is fantasy fiction. She reads it and she writes it. Her first
sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel "Almost Adept" was released in Jan
2014. Her second fantasy novel "Eagle En Garde", set in the same
world, is coming out in May. She also recently published a collection
of urban fantasy short stories "Squirrel of Magic". All the stories
take place in her home town - Vancouver, Canada. In her free time, she
collects toy monkeys and writes book reviews.
Her website http://olgagodim.wordpress.com/ offers some freebies,
including a translation from Russian of one of the most beloved books
in Russian literature - the novella "Scarlet Sails" by Alexander Grin.
Next, say hello to David McNutt:
David is a U.S.A. Combat veteran who has always dreamed of being an author. David tells us about himself: "Now that I have my series started it feels like I'm living the dream! My first book 'Society's Fall' is available in many formats in more than one place, check out my website for details. www.davidallenmcnutt.com I also have begun doing reviews for other authors and blogging on my website as well. If anyone is interested in a feature in one way or another please feel free to contact me at authordavidmcnutt.com. "
Finally, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Mary McCall.
Best-selling Historical Romance author Mary McCall has been telling stories all her life. Now she writes humorous and adventurous historical romances set mainly in the medieval Highlands and England; she was fortunate to have three novels on the Amazon bestseller list at one time. She is a member of Romance Writers of America; Founding President and Member of Hearts Through History Romance Writers; member of Celtic Hearts Romance Writers; member of The Golden Network; member of River City Romance Writer; member of Faith, Hope & Love, Inc.; and member of Savvy Authors. She loves history, has a particular fondness for the Greek through Medieval periods, and is glad research for her books has finally utilized her ability to speak Latin. She resides in Memphis, Tennessee with her Maltese, Regina Catarina, who runs the apartment. Visit her website www.marymccall.net .
I'm guest blogging (and giving away a copy of COMPASS NORTH) today at Miss Ivy's Book Nook:
Come by and comment!
Guest blogging and giveaway today at Manic Readers about how difficult it is to write effective sex scenes: "Sexy Talk: The Dilemma of the Slippery Cleft"
Drop by and leave a comment. http://wp.me/pBKyx-2PW
Alaska has much to offer to storytelling for children and young adults: fabulous locales for adventures, exotic animals, and the richness of different cultures. Today’s conversation is with Deb Vanasse, a long-time Alaskan resident, former teacher, and writer of numerous books for children and young adults.
Giveaway! Comment on today's conversation for a chance to win one of two free downloads of Deb's audiobook OUT OF THE WILDERNESS, winners to be selected at random from comments received by noon on April 8.
Visit Deb at www.debvanasse.com
Deb, as far as I can tell, you have ten or more published books currently available. Is Alaska a platform for all your children’s and young adult books?
Yes—Cold Spell, book number fourteen, comes out in August! Alaska is a platform for all of my children’s and young adult books except for No Returns, Book One of the Battleband Saga. That one is co-written with Gail Giles, and it’s set in Texas, where she lives.
How did you get started in the children’s book business? Was it a natural progression from your work as a teacher?
It was by chance, actually. I’d written a short story with a young protagonist, and a workshop teacher (who became a friend) suggested I turn it into a young adult novel. I knew little about the genre but got up to speed quickly after the book was accepted by Dutton, a division of Penguin at the time.
You’ve lived in Alaska since 1979, and you’ve resided in several different regions of the state. Is there an area in Alaska that you find particularly appealing as a setting for a younger audience?
Among the many wonders of Alaska is its diversity, in terms of people, cultures, and landscape. I’m emotionally attached to the villages of Western Alaska, where my first novel is set, but I also spent twenty years in Fairbanks, where the midnight sun inspired my first picture book. I’ve been fortunate to travel throughout the state, finding stories almost everywhere I go—Totem Tale in Southeast Alaska, Black Wolf of the Glacier in Juneau, Lucy’s Dance in Western Alaska. Most recently, my novel Cold Spell (for grown-ups) is set near a glacier, with landscape that resembles the area near the Matanuska Glacier. It’s something of a cliché, but for me, place takes on the importance of character in most of my books.
Your books range from picture books for very young readers and pre-readers to novels for young adults. Has your focus audience changed over time, or do you still write for a wide range of ages?
When it comes to developing a career, it’s smarter to specialize. But Alaskans tend to be generalists, and I’ve not been able to shake that in my writing. At present, I’m mostly focused on fiction for young adults and adults, but I still do a lot of work with younger readers along with some mentoring of children’s writers.
The young adult genre is particular vibrant these days. Wildly popular books like The Hunger Games and Divergent transcend their genres and also appeal to an adult audience. What do you think are the key elements of a successful young adult novel?
Above all, young adult novels must be strong in character, voice, and plot. Readers of these novels—they do come in all ages—want the story to grab them from page one. Writers may mistake this as a need for lots of action, but really, it has to do with strong emotional engagement.
Tell us about your next project.
For me, it’s always projects, plural. I need an extra lifetime (or two) to complete the stories that have lined up to be told. Right now, I’m finishing the first draft of the sequel to No Returns, co-written with Gail Giles. I’m also starting revisions of a project for grown-ups, a nonfiction narrative of the Klondike gold rush from the perspective of the First Nations wife of one of the discoverers. I also have a survivor story, young adult, that I hope to revise soon.
Excerpt from Cold Spell, a literary novel for adults
by Deb Vanasse
Displacement from the advance or retreat of a glacier
I am a poem, Sylvie once thought, swollen like a springtime river, light swirled in dark, music and memory. Then her father ran off and her mother became obsessed with a glacier and she realized this was what happened to girls who believed themselves poems, poems in fact being prone to bad turns and misunderstandings.
Before the glacier, Sylvie’s mother had been ordinary and dependable, a plain woman with kind eyes, unlike her father who was dashing and quick, with a flair for the dramatic. When he’d come home cursing his boss in the Ford parts department or when he’d blow up at the neighbor for turning his dog loose, Sylvie’s mother would massage the base of his neck and speak calm soothing words. After he left Minnesota for Florida in the company of Mirabelle, a redhead from the dealership, Sylvie cried in long, heaving sobs every night for a week, and because she cried her sister Anna did too, and there was nothing poetic in their sorrow, no words for it even.
With her soft, steady voice and her fingers stroking their hair, Sylvie’s mother assured the girls that their father loved them whether he was still in Pine Lake or not. For her mother’s sake Sylvie tried to pretend this was so, though in truth she doubted it deeply. She wished her mother would cry, wished she would wail and scream and flail, wished she would rage at something, at someone, at anyone, even at Sylvie.
Instead her mother’s smile, always ready, became automatic, as if by the push of a button her lips made their slight upward turn. She roused the girls every day at precisely 6:30, even on weekends. She sliced bananas over their oatmeal and sprinkled brown sugar, one tablespoon each. She sipped coffee brewed in a new pot that made only one cup and ate toast spread thin with peach preserves and deflected Sylvie’s complaints that no one else ate oatmeal for breakfast. She rinsed the dishes and loaded the dishwasher, glasses on top, bowls on the bottom, spoons up, butter knives down, and she folded tidy waxed paper over sandwiches cut on the diagonal, peanut butter and apple for Anna, cream cheese and turkey for Sylvie, both on wheat bread no matter how Anna begged for white, the old-fashioned wrapping an embarrassment to Sylvie, who turned her wishes to small things like thin, transparent plastic. The tiniest quiver in her mother’s smile hinted at their shared understanding, hers and Sylvie’s, of how a single uncontrolled moment could upend everything.
Not long after Sylvie’s father drove off, her mother took the girls for their annual physicals. Dr. Temple was the only pediatrician in Pine Lake, and for as long as Sylvie could remember she had been ushered to him for every sniffle and cough. She was humiliated at the idea of the old doctor with his hairy hands and long ears poking her cold naked chest where breasts had recently sprouted. She begged to be taken to Gainesville, to the sprawling clinic where no one would know her, but her mother refused, insisting of course on their usual routine. So Sylvie planted herself in a corner of Dr. Temple’s waiting room, apart from her mother and sister, and buried her head in a book as she tried not to choke on the heavy smell that hangs over medical places, part alcohol and part cleaning products, foolishly confident that after her father’s sudden departure things at least couldn’t get any worse.
From the doorway that separated the waiting from the business inside, Dr. Temple’s nurse called for Sylvie and Anna. When their mother rose to join them, the nurse suggested the girls were old enough to see the doctor alone. “But Anna is only five,” Sylvie’s mother said through her auto-smile. “She just started kindergarten.”
The nurse cupped a milky white hand over Anna’s shoulder. “Eleven and five. Plenty old to see the doctor alone.” As she steered the girls toward the door, Sylvie’s mother blinked hard, like a shutter that closed on an image to save it.
“You’re a big girl,” the nurse said to Sylvie as she trotted them down the corridor. “Slide right on into this little room and slip off your clothes and put on that gown while I help your sister.” The nurse brushed back a strand of Anna’s hair, silky and fine like their mother’s.
“We always . . .” But Sylvie had no words for their self-conscious cleaving since her father had left.
“It’s okay.” Anna’s pressed lips turned up like their mother’s. “I don’t mind.”
Since she was in no way a poem, Sylvie did as the nurse said, slipping out of her jeans and her shirt and folding inside them her underpants and her sad little bra. She eased onto the exam table, her slender but big-knuckled feet dangling as her haunches stuck to the vinyl and her nipples stiffened beneath the rough cotton. She had never before had to fully undress for the doctor, and her resentment at this fell squarely on her mother, helpless to insist on a routine when for once one was needed.
She sat hunched under the impossible blue gown, a limp balloon from which her limbs protruded, while Dr. Temple tapped at her knees with his little hammer and pretended not to look as he pressed his cold stethoscope to her chest. Then he started in with the questions. How were things at home, now that it was only the girls? Did Sylvie miss her dad something awful? Were there bad dreams she might want to share?
Sylvie mumbled fine, no, and no as she beat back the dream image of her father sinking in a vast, lapping ocean, and Sylvie paddling with all she had, trying to save him. Finally the doctor gave up with his stethoscope and patted her shoulder, his hand sweet with soap, and pronounced her a good strong girl who would be a great help to her mother during this difficult time.
That’s when Sylvie realized that not only a few of the parents but the whole town of Pine Lake was talking about how her dad had run off. If she’d been the good strong girl the doctor pronounced her to be, she might have thought how this gossip must impact her mother. But instead her resentment balled up even tighter, like a leech left to dry in the sun.
Dressed, she returned to the waiting room. On her mother’s lap was a magazine, splayed open to a white and blue-shadowed mass that shrugged out from a large range of mountains. Sylvie slid into a chair and waited for her mother to ask what had gone on with the doctor. But her mother only stared at the ice as if it were the most lovely and mysterious thing she had ever encountered. A tingling crept beneath Sylvie’s skin, up her arms to her chest, dread at how a mere image could insert itself between them, so that it was no longer just her and her mother, pretending for Anna’s sake that everything would be fine.
Sylvie’s mother glanced at the receptionist, then pressed the magazine flat and with great precision tore out the glacier, folded it twice, and tucked the photo into her purse. “You’re not supposed to do that,” Sylvie said. Known by everyone, including herself, to be a compliant child, she was struck by the power in so few words. “The magazines are for everyone.”
“What magazines?” From the hallway, Anna came forward.
Their mother pressed a finger to her lips. The way she draped her hand on her purse made Sylvie suspicious of what else might be stashed inside. Sylvie’s father was the one to come home with a fluffy hotel towel stuffed in his suitcase or a shot glass swiped from a bar in his pocket. Her mother she’d never known to take anything.
They piled into the car. “I can’t believe you ripped out that picture,” Sylvie said.
“I want to see,” Anna said.
Their mother tucked the purse next to her hip and folded her elbow across it. “Later.”
In light of Sylvie’s recent exposure, her mother’s smug smile was especially hateful. “They’re all talking about us,” she said
Her mother’s eyes shone in the rearview mirror. “Who’s talking about us?”
“Everyone.” Of all things, her mother was smiling; you could see it in the way the skin crinkled at the corners of her eyes. “Everyone in this whole entire town. And you think it’s funny.”
“No, honey.” The smile stayed. “It’s not funny. But there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Is it a picture of someone we know?” Anna poked the side of the purse. “I want to see.”
“In a minute.” Their mother hung a sharp right into the Carson Crafts parking lot, where she wheeled the sedan between a panel truck and a big Suburban.
“You’re parked crooked.” How had Sylvie not noticed sooner this duty to point out her mother’s flaws? “The door of that truck’s gonna smack us.”
“I’m just running in for a minute.” Her neck flushed at the base, her mother pressed her purse between her ribs and her arm.
“I’m coming in.” When Anna swung open her door, it clunked against the side of the panel truck.
“Told you,” said Sylvie, but already her mother was scurrying toward the entrance, Anna half-running to keep up. Sylvie scooted out of the sunlit square that beamed through the window into her lap. She was used to hanging back, not drawing attention, but she had failed to anticipate this unexpected consequence, that Anna would latch onto their mother in her place.
When they returned, her mother clutched a small bag next to her purse. Anna got in from the driver’s side. “It’s a glacier,” she informed Sylvie. “A big bunch of ice that never melts.”
“I know that,” said Sylvie, though it was clear no one cared.
Once home, Sylvie’s mother trimmed the magazine picture and used a knife to pry back the wires that held cardboard next to the glass. She balled up the glossy photo that came with the frame, a girl plucking petals from a daisy, and replaced it with the glacier. Then she bent the wires back into place and raised the picture between her hands. “This will sit right on my desk.”
“I’m never eating oatmeal again.” It was the single act of rebellion Sylvie could summon on short notice. “Never.”
“Goodness,” her mother said. “What’s gotten into you?” But her eyes never left the glacier.
Stephanie Joyce Cole