A Month of Birthdays — Jill James

Usually November is a month of thanksgiving and Thanksgiving. But, in our house, it is our busiest month of birthdays, with three. My nephew will be 11 on the 16th. My grandson will be 10 on the 26th. My daughter will be 31 on the 30th. Whew! Lots of parties. Lots of good food. Lots of cake and ice cream.

Back in 1981 I delivered my daughter after 6 months of pregnancy. She weighed exactly 3 pounds, 0 ounces. She spent 49 days in the NICU. We had to travel thirty miles one way to see her every other day because we couldn’t afford the gas to see her every day. We have photographs of her first Christmas in neonatal intensive care. The whole family took turns seeing her that day because only 2 people could go in at a time and one of them had to be mommy or daddy. She got stuffed animals from the hospital volunteers that she has to this day. A little pink elephant and a purple pig.

In 2001 we went to see the first Harry Potter movie. We got a call 2/3 of the way into the movie that my sister-in-law was in labor. It was her first child so we figured we had plenty of time to watch 40 more minutes of the movie and then leave. Um, no. By the time we left the movie, got the car and onto the freeway, the baby was here. Oops!! My nephew was born after not even 2 hours of labor. He was almost born in the car on the way to the hospital.

In 2002 we went to see Harry Potter 2. (You would think we learned our lesson by then.) My daughter called half-way through the movie and we left and got to the hospital to find out it was a false alarm. A week later our grandson finally came. (We went and saw the movie again the day after the false alarm.)

So, November is an exciting month in our family. We have lots to be thankful for this and every Thanksgiving Day.

Jill James, author of contemporary and paranormal romance

I Vote For Love

No matter how anyone is feeling the day after the election, there is one thing we can agree on–there’s one things that unites us.

Love.

Whether someone identifies as a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green Party…we all love a good romance. In good times and bad, there’s nothing like the comfort of curling up with a book where happy endings are all but guaranteed.

In all the conflict and drama in building a relationship (or in politics!), we still have hope that love conquers all, that the hero and heroine will find something special in each other that transcends their differences.

Studies have proven that even in challenging economic times, romance still sells.

So whether you’re excited or depressed today, there’s always a new story of hugs and kisses (and maybe more!) to discover. Peruse the authors here at Authors of Main Street and fall in love all over again!

Reviews: The Good, the Bad, the Really Ugly, and Prevention.

Reviews are very powerful things that readers have at their disposal, but most don’t know how to review a book. So I thought I might try to provide some insight on the subject, and with luck make it more reader and author friendly. Webster’s Dictionary defines review as to write a critical examination of.

 To start, a review is not a book report. There is no need to tell the whole story or to give away the ending. If everyone knows the ending, why would they want to read the book? We call them spoilers. Don’t spoil the story for everyone. There’s also no reason to write a complete synopsis of the book.

Four and Five Star Reviews:

If you love the book, don’t be afraid to say it. Was that hero so sexy that you wanted to curl up in his arms and stay there forever? If the answer is yes, then write that in your review. If you couldn’t stop reading until you reached the end and then cried because the book had ended, put that in the review. If you laughed out loud, and everyone on the subway stared at you. Stick it in the review. People want to know those things!

Two and Three Star Reviews:

But what if you read something, and it so-so? Remember your mom telling you that if you couldn’t say something nice, don’t say it? I think the vast majority of readers fall into that category, and they don’t bother reviewing the book. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to say something if you are so inclined. Seriously, if you bought the book and you just didn’t like the hero because you don’t like macho cops and he was a real alpha, pain-in-the-bum, swaggering, know-it-all detective, yes, you may say it. It’s called freedom of speech, and you are entitled to an opinion. Just remember that there are plenty of readers who love those guys. But before you tear into that book with all your claws because you didn’t like the hero, was the book well written? Did the writing flow smoothly carrying you to the next page or chapter? Be nice about it if you are going to condemn the book and don’t give away the plot!

I’ve actually seen three star reviews that were quite nice. The whole world will not like every book that has ever been written. As authors we accept that fact.

One and Two Star Reviews:

As fiction writers we dread them. Want to know why? They are usually useless and say things sometimes totally unrelated to the story or they could have been written about any story. “This was so bad I couldn’t finish it. It sucked from page one to the very end.” Sorry, but that didn’t tell anyone anything about the book. It’s not constructive criticism and for all we know the reviewer could have been talking about a completely different book.

If the hero forced the school bus off the road and over the cliff during a high-speed chase, and it was never mentioned again, it’s call a plot hole. Yes, they are bad. Stick a few of those in a novel and I’d probably be thinking one star review. But would I write one? Never say never, but I can’t imagine that I ever would.

I read a time-travel book many years ago, and the heroine was backed into a corner with a swordsman ready to remove her head, but suddenly a gate opened up and she fell back into today. (I’m rolling my eyes and groaning.) The whole book was filled with these just-in-the nick-of-time gates. It’s why I don’t read paranormal, etc. Did it make that a bad book? No. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. So why did I read it? Well, I bought it to support the author who I knew.

Did I review it? Yes. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I was honest. I said it was well written and not a genre that I usually read. As a reader I had to buy into the whole fantasy of dropping in and out of time which didn’t feel right to me, but the historic details were very accurate, had been carefully researched, and then woven into the story. If someone liked time travel with lots of action and adventure…Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it was a bad book. Just because I didn’t like it, didn’t make it a terrible book!

The other thing that often crops up in a review is reference to comma and spelling errors. Yes, I have a spelling error in one of my books. My heroine wound up with books instead of boots on her feet. It is the only spelling error in that book. In the original copy that sent to be formatted, it is correct. Did something happen during conversion? I’ll never know, but I did recently read a book where the hero stroked her cheek with his thump. Huh? Thumb? Could the b have become a p during the conversion? It’s very possible.

And as for comma errors, they are in every book! Plus there is more than one style for grammar. MLA says one thing, NYT says another, and Chicago Manual has a different take. Add to it, most readers don’t know if they are reading an author from New Zealand or Australia, and they don’t use the same punctuation as we do in America. It seems as if they strip punctuation out of their books. The general and accepted rule of thumb is quite simple. Does the sentence make sense? If the grammar is so poor, no one wants to read it, because it is difficult to read. But most books are carefully edited. Yet, mistakes slip through anyway.

Prevention:

The best thing any reader can do is read the blurb. Then read that sample! The blurb usually will give you the gist of the story. If you don’t like those swaggering macho cops, then why did you buy the book? If the book is filled with a million spelling and comma errors, and it drives you nuts, you’ll see it in those sample pages. So don’t buy the book!

I’ve read some wonderful fiction and non-fiction that were excellent, but the spelling errors and grammar mistakes were abundant. Yes, it was annoying, but the books were great.  In fact, one book was removed from the market, re-edited, and re-released. The story hasn’t changed one iota, it just reads smoother without the mistakes. It was a great story even before it was re-edited.

Reviews are always welcomed especially the nice ones. If you feel compelled to write a three to one star review, think hard before you write it. Are you matching the review to the correct book? Is your only complaint the fact that you didn’t like it? And if it was a poorly written book, filled with errors that made it difficult to read, and plot holes big enough for the school bus to fall through, be specific so that others who read the review can decide if your poison is their meat. Choose your words carefully.

I’ve never read a bad four or five star review. I’ve read plenty of three star reviews, which usually tells me the reader just didn’t grasp the story. But most, not all, two and one star reviews are so poorly written that it shows the ignorance of the reviewer. Don’t make that mistake.

Yes, there are plenty of books that don’t deserve to be books. They are poorly written, not properly vetted (lacking in content and edits), and yet they are there. But there are some terrific reads with minor flaws, and they don’t deserve to be trashed because a reader found what he or she feels is a comma error or sixteen of them within an 80K word book.

I can point to a known author with a big NY publisher and her book went out with an error. That book had been through at least eight different editors, and no one spotted the error until a fan pointed it out six months after it had been published. The rider had been throne from his horse. No author wants those mistakes, but they happen. I’m also willing to bet that the vast majority of you are going back to reread that sentence to see what was wrong. Fortunately, our brain inserts the right word as we read. Unfortunately, the editors’ brains inserted the correct word, and the mistake was never seen. There is no such thing as a perfectly written book.

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  I released my newest sweet western romance, A Love Song in Wyoming, this weekend. It’s live on Amazon and Smashwords, but it won’t show up elsewhere until later this month. It’s the third novella set in Creeds Crossing, Wyoming. A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming and A Cowboy’s Kiss in Wyoming are on the Amazon’s best western romance list. So I’ll make a deal with you. If you love it, please tell the world and write a review, and if you hate it tell me!

Angie has a problem. Country music star, Johnny Rockthorne bought the property next to her family’s ranch. She loves his attention and it makes her heart sing, but she doesn’t want to be a rich boy’s toy. Then her first love shows up and claims he’s returned for her. Both men promise her a better life. One can give her everything she’s ever wanted, and the other can give her anything she wants.

Gratitude

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton

Gratitude is a valuable tool, I say tool because I honestly think that being grateful for what you have creates happiness. I also think good thoughts, lead to good things or at least the ability to see good in most things. Life can be daunting. There are always going to be moments when we want to throw in the towel and cry MERCY! The ups and downs can test a person and their faith.

Their faith in themselves, in the people around them and their source of spirit (whether that be God or some other deity). And yet if you choose to focus on gratitude, on what is the light in the dark, I have found things are often far less painful, less scary and sad than my initial reaction.

This being November and the month of Thankfulness, it seemed an appropriate topic but really I am writing this as a reminder to myself that there is always something to be happy about, something to be grateful for and the reality is that it takes just as much energy to be happy as it does to be unhappy. So, why not choose the one that feels better and doesn’t make my mascara run?!

And these are for the simple little everyday moments, like when you’re late to work and of course hit every red light along the way. Or when you finally do get to work and your boss makes you wish you had gotten into a fender bender, just so you could have missed her morning attitude all together (true story). In these moments, I try to remember how great my kid is, how much my family loves me, and that everything is temporary. Every annoyance, every painful moment only lasts until the next good one stops by. Gratitude for being alive, for love, and for all the rest that comes along! Ok, so this part of the blog is totally selfish, because this week I seriously need a 🙂 Happy Moment to focus on, BUT the next is totally unselfish and just as heartfelt.

This week with the horrendous happenings on the East Coast I also thought gratitude was important. I am safely rooted in the West Coast where my son reminds me, often, that at least we only have earthquakes in California. But for the people who have been affected by the storm in small and traumatic ways, I thought it would be nice to mention that the Red Cross. So, instead of a link to my current release I offer you a link to the Red Cross Organization. And for those of us who are lucky enough to be away from the storms, if you can offer a donation or want to see what else you can do to help out, please check out their website at http://www.redcross.org/.    

"VOLUNTEER FOR VICTORY" - NARA - 515986

“VOLUNTEER FOR VICTORY” – NARA – 515986 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we sit in gratitude each day for the life we have, on the perfect days and those days when we are given the chance to learn about hope, patience and perseverance, remember that HOPE is one of the best four letter words around. May the people who need a little on the East Coast find it and many other reasons to be grateful during this trying time.

Thank you as always for stopping in to the Authors of Main Street today, Happy MONTH of Thanks! Be well and blessed!

Kelly Rae