The Last Book I Wasn’t Crazy For But Read Anyway

Welcome to the fourth week of March, everyone. Finally, spring is upon us! I have been ‘snow done’ for a while now; I was definitely done with polar cold before it started, but temps in my area are supposed to hover just above or below freezing all week 😦  ). Give me the dog days of summer anytime over the chilly weather.

Nabby 03-2015 My pretty li’l Mauer McNabb always keeps me company when I’m working in the kitchen.  

Last time, I was inspired to write by suspense/thriller author Carrie Rubin, who was inspired by the ever-awesome Kristen Lamb. The discussion: Should an author publish book reviews?

In my previous post, I referred to a story I had just finished. Because I prefer to keep my ‘thoughts’ on books positive—I don’t refer to them as ‘reviews’ anymore. My ideas and/or issues are pretty subjective, thus making them MHO. One is welcome to take what s/he likes and leave the rest. 😉

Back to MHO on my most recent read. The author’s declared mainstay occupation is NOT writing, but another creative outlet, in which she is reportedly well-established. The story is inspired and built around her ‘day job.’ It pubbed traditionally by a Big-Five publisher in 2010. As an ‘author,’ my snarky side keeps asking, “Why?”

Not sure if the external plot (a.k.a., the ‘story’) or the characters kept me holding on, but something did.

The writing? Eh. Obviously, GCP thought more of it than I did.

I thought about emailing the author my issues. I’ve done so before re: other books—always as gently and kindly as I know how. I’ve never received a response from any author whenever I went there—most recently from someone who offered a book in exchange for a review. I really tried, but I couldn’t finish the book. I wrote the author’s rep and stated my reasons why—exactly what the rep asked me to do if I ran into ‘problems’ that would impact my review. Not even a ‘thank you.’

I realized most authors are not interested in my take on what their book(s) should be.

Guess what? That. Is. Okay. Saves me a lot of time writing emails loaded with editing notes and constructive criticism no one asked for in the first place. 😉

Back to Book-on-the-‘Hot Spot’:

What I liked:

(1) High-energy and fast-paced. With the exception of a back-story/flashback dump (or two), the plot held my interest and moved forward at a decent pace.

(2) Likable, interesting, well-flawed, relatable and highly human characters.

What turned me off to the point I WON’T write a ‘review’:

(1)  The author used a plethora of foreign-language words and didn’t italicize any of them. A minor issue, true, but ‘dems da rules,” right? IDK, it just turned me off, especially for a trad-pubbed, Big-Five novel.

(2) The author’s loose use of point of view (POV). Head-hopping, POVs assigned to whomever was reacting to the goings-on in a given scene, rather than sticking to the three lead characters. At times the author waxed omniscient. (That’s pretty much the exact opposite of deep POV, which I happen to love. The awesome Virginia Kantra has some great articles on POV at her website. Check them out—just scroll down the page.)

(2) The author infused a contemporary story with her love of movies. She referenced them in EACH character’s point of view (POV). Why is that an issue? I’m a product of the era of those movies, and I’m thinking the author is too. Her characters were far too young to think of themselves relative to the comparisons she used. Also would every one of them think in terms of movies? Far as I’ve learned, POV is supposed to distinguish one character’s voice from another.

(3) The author used the movie references repeatedly, typically as one “like” simile after another. Either I got more sensitive to it or she added more and more of them as the story progressed. Not only did it get old and gimmicky and sounded like “telling”, it got to the point where the similes felt random and not connected to the story. (NCIS’s “Tony DiNozzo,”—played by Michael Weatherly who looks the part of a classic movie star—is a movie buff. Tony is rarely sans a ready movie reference, but it always connects to his character AND the episode’s plot.)

(4) Lastly, I think I started paying less attention towards the end of the book, but I believe the author started introducing quotes, characters and themes at the “finale.” Forgive my snobbish attitude, but I’ve learned (via Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering) that adding new information after the second plot point and/or climax is a bit of a no-no.

Do I sound resentful b/c this writer got a big opportunity from a big-name publisher? I suppose I do, but considering I haven’t submitted anything in several years makes me think that’s not the case. (I like the indie idea better anyway.) IDK, but all the things that turned me off make me wonder why a Big-Five pubbed novel wasn’t held to a much higher standard. Just sayin’.

Have I become a reading snob? Maybe, but I’m older. My attention span and tolerance ain’t what they were eleven years ago, when I started on my writer’s journey. I’ve read a lot—I still read quite a bit. I am also more educated and experienced in writing and editing, which kills my tolerance for this kind of stuff that much more.  Sad that a really good—but not necessarily established—indie writer might not get the chance the author/celebrity of nameless book got.

So what’s my point in these long-winded pages? Maybe sharing what makes me crazy in a book can help someone else refine their skills on their authors’ journeys. Maybe I just felt like complaining about the book without bashing the author and making her or myself look bad. IDK—what say you?

Enjoy the week!

Joanna

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Conundrum: Should Authors Wear the ‘Reviewer’ Hat? (Part 1)

And should they do so at their author blogs?

Welcome, friends! Warmer temperatures are hinting at spring–Yay!–and we’ve sprung our clocks forward. (I’ll get over the loss of an hour’s sleep. More sun and light, please!)

So the other day fellow author and online friend Carrie Rubin referenced a blog post by social media guru Kristen Lamb. The question: should authors write reviews for books they’ve read and/or publish them on their blogs?

Of course, both articles got me thinking, enough to get into one of my long-winded comments. (The kind that has blog-post-of-my-own potential—all as I happened to be trudging through a book whose characters caught my interest, but had me tangling big-time with issues relative to the prose.)

As per Carrie Rubin’s post: “One of the things (Kristen Lamb) recommends is never writing a bad book review. In fact, Kristen suggests writers should not publish book reviews on their blogs at all: ‘“Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’ My opinion is we can’t do both.”’

Carrie tends to agree and ponders the notion that an author writing reviews could be a conflict of interest. She also supplied valid arguments for both sides of doing so—more so for NOT writing a bad review—with support noted for the benefit and/or need for reviews by indie authors.

I don’t disagree with Kristen Lamb on “Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not ‘book reviewer.’” At the risk of sounding full of myself (which I pray I am not), and as a reader—a.k.a., consumer-of-books—AND writer/author, I hope I bring an expanded (?) set of skills to the ‘review’ table.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll get into those a little later this week. What are your thoughts so far?

Have a great day,

Joanna

Post Memorial Day Check In

Keeping it simple, today, and hoping y’all had a fun unofficial opening of Summer 2014. This past weekend was pretty packed: a party, a BBQ, some gardening and tennis. I only speak for myself, but a good day on the court makes me happier than any on the beach. (Good= getting serves in, running down balls and hitting well. I always lose.)

Made the switch too, from cell to smartphone. Took over Older Son’s lowly old iPhone 4 (he’s too cool for such outdated technology and gave it up at least two phones ago). I don’t consider myself a techy, but I’m not exactly tech-illiterate either. Been using Older Son’s device for at least a year as a camera and an iPod—go figure, I’m still having trouble with basic talk and text, lol. Couldn’t figure out why people kept asking who the text sender was: I had no clue I was showing up as his screen-name/email at the other end. I’m getting there–I think.

Quick preview: looking to launch a 2-3-part series inspired by the awesome Kristen Lamb’s recent posts on school and zombies starting next week. (If you want a head start, feel free to peruse those here and here. 🙂 )

Be well and have a wonderful rest of the week!

Thank you very much our for your time,

Joanna

The Potential Power of Twitter–Part 4–What to Tweet

Good day, blogger friends! Hope all is well with all of you today! I had such a nice time at online friend and fellow author’s blog Steph Burkhart. Love when someone puts a fun spin on blogging. (We did the Sunday football theme. If you missed it, feel free to check it out here!)

Last week I followed up my Potential Power of Twitter posts (Part 1 and Part 2) by exploring concerns that came up in the comments. Since I got longer-winded than I’d anticipated (moi???) about the subject of getting followers, I decided to talk about the other issue separately. (Interestingly enough, the same topic came up at Authors Promoting Authors, where I blogged about things I’d do differently with the knowledge I’ve gained as a published author. I made mention of Twitter, and getting into it long before I did.)

For purposes of this discussion, I’ll assume you’re already following at least a few people. (At this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re being followed by them or anyone else—unless you want to send a direct message, which you can only do when you’re following each other.)

So here is Concern Two: “Now I just have to think of something fun to share and tweet my heart out!” and “For me it’s not joining the site, that was easy; it’s much harder to actually tweet or post some thing interesting.”

This may be the biggest issue holding folks back when it comes to any form of social media. (That includes Facebook, blogging and most likely, Linked In, Google+, etc.) What do I say and how do I say it in 140 characters or less—including hashtags when applicable? (Yes, people—those little #s can serve quite the big function.)

This article is one example of what I have to share via my blog. (You all inspired it with your comments, thank you very much!) Believe me, it helps solidify what I know simply by putting into words what I’ve learned. As per writing, posting or tweeting ‘something interesting’ try to remember this is about you and allowing fellow tweeps (or FB friends) an opportunity to know you. The more you’re out there, the more you’ll get to know others and the comments will start to feel as though they have a flow.

Think in terms of hanging out at a party w/a crowd of people. Some you know well. Some are acquaintances. Others you’ve yet to meet. Chances are—especially if you’re a social butterfly to begin with—you’re listening to the conversations around you and maybe saying something on topic.  (That would be me.)

Translation: Scroll through the different columns you’ve created. Read comments and respond to those that automatically generate an answer or a comment, pretty much the same way you’d listen to those around you and say something on topic. Or start one of your own! Keep in mind too: when you respond to a tweet that shows up on any one of your hashtag columns (i.e., #myWANA, #booklovers, etc), you’ve sort of introduced yourself!

Retweeting (RT) someone else’s tweet is also a way of sparking interaction. Twitter-folk love RTs and often respond with a tweet of thanks. Of course, a ‘You’re welcome’ tweet can include a comment about what you liked or some other start to a conversation. See how it’s not so hard to know what to say? (Don’t miss any responses by keeping your ‘Mentions’ column open at all times.)

Okay, two more things and we’re done. (Somehow it always comes back to Kristen Lamb, lol.)

Kristen teaches three important concepts in her talks on Twitter, but again, these apply to pretty globally to any social media venue.)

(1) Use your tweets to edify and promote others.

(2) Reciprocate kindnesses (i.e., RT or promote a friend’s blog or a great article you’ve read, as in click on one or more of those lovely little share buttons at the bottom of many blogs!).

(3) Tweet about anything that impacts your world that you believe is relatable to someone else (i.e., a great recipe you’ve come across, an amazing book you read; something someone did that’s awesome or touched you in a special way). When my favorite cat died recently, I tweeted about how devastated I was. The support from my online friends—and even folks I’d never had contact with before—was amazing. I shared this one on Facebook, but I’ll never forget the early Sunday morning I went down to the basement to exercise and saw our smaller fish’s tail sticking out of the bigger goldfish’s mouth. (Bleh!) My family was asleep so I vented to my FB friends, lol.  (I do suggest limiting or even skipping the small talk-tweets—i.e., Going to have a cup of coffee now.  Just MHO, but I’m not sure what to really say to those. Now, if you’ve just accomplished a goal and are feeling proud—i.e., Just finished first draft of chapter 3; ice cream break…yea!—tweet away! Chances are, someone will give you a virtual pat on the back!)

So, have I equipped you with what you need to go forth and tweet? Please let me know. Keep the questions and comments coming; you inspire me and help me think of things to say myself! (Now you understand why Kristen Lamb included the phrase We Are Not Alone in the title of her and her awesome book on writers and social media! Go get a copy!)

Until next time,

Joanna

The Potential Power of Twitter–Part 3–Gaining Followers

Happy Wednesday, friends. Hope all is well this midweek! Only two days until Friday (woot!) the weekend and a nice listing of blogposts I found very interesting over the past two weeks.

Wow. My recent Twitter-related posts (Part 1 and Part 2) started out as a one-shot deal. My chattiness made it two and now comments from you folks inspired at least two follow-up articles. (Thanks for saving me the trouble of thinking up something else, lol. ;))

At this point, two issues stood out. Today I’ll explore the first:

How do I get others to follow me?

Queen of awesome and social media Kristen Lamb suggests beginning as a follower and approaching this topic with a heart of service, thinking more about how to give to others and paying forward vs. the standpoint of ‘what’s in it for me?’ One way she does this is so simple: she retweets (RT) others’ blog posts as part of her time on Twitter. (She has a huge following so every message she tweets or RTs has the potential to be seen by thousands.) She also encourages, congratulates and supports others. She firmly believes social media is a way to build relationships and, in doing so, your brand evolves almost as a secondary result of your interactions online. (Check out her posts every Tuesday. They’re excellent.)

So how do you do this? Your best bet is to simply start following others whose tweets interest you (many will reciprocate; others often follow later, after you’ve begun responding to others’ tweets). Twitter will suggest people for you to follow. By using Tweetdeck and creating columns for ‘Tweetdeck suggests’ and ‘new followers you can keep that info sorted. And back to Kristen Lamb: she does Twitter-related articles every Tuesday and dedicates a big part of WANA to Twitter. (It’s her favorite social media platform. She made sense of it to me.) I’ve also come across helpful YouTube tutorials on how to use Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.

Oh yes: every Friday, you’ll find #FF (Follow Friday) in full swing. In this column, people make suggestions on who to follow. It’s a great way to promote your newest or best tweeps and gets your name out there, too! (There is a LOT of activity every Friday. That screen usually moves so fast, I can’t read it, lol.)

I realize this is confusing and/or overwhelming to some, but please understand, folks: it took me a long time to get this. Think what made Twitter initially so hard to grasp–especially using Tweetdeck–was that I expected it to be so much more complicated! (What’s really crazy is how ridiculously simple this all is—but you have to download Tweetdeck and use it to make sense of all this information.)

Concern Two: “Now I just have to think of something fun to share and tweet my heart out!” and “For me it’s not joining the site, that was easy; it’s much harder to actually tweet or post some thing interesting.”

We’ll dive into this one next Wednesday!

Don’t forget: Look for the a round-up of the some great blog posts by others this upcoming Friday. And on Sunday, please take a minute to stop by Steph Burkhart’s blog and show your team spirit. We’re having fun with football themes!

Thanks for your time and have a great day,

Joanna

Social Media Made Easy (?)

Well, that depends on how you look at it, I suppose.

Hi! Hope all is well! I’ve been a bit MIA but working at getting my act back together–just in time for school to re-open, right?

So I just finished reading Kristen Lamb’s, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (WANA, from here on)

(Go ahead: Click the image! Finally learned how to make a picture into a link, lol.)

As much as I try to keep up with the variety of posts at Kristen’s awesome blog (yes, I’m a subscriber), something kept holding me back when it came to picking up an e-copy of this fabulous resource, maybe the fact that I’m not big on non-fiction books. (I love stories! If you handed me a romance in which the hero and heroine tweeted themselves through their emotional journeys, chances are, I’d be all over it.) Good thing I finally managed to crack my own nut! 🙂

WANA  is probably the first non-fiction book I couldn’t put down. Kristen’s quirky sense of humor made her walk-through the Big Three (okay, four, but MySpace has sort of gone by the wayside since WANA hit the virtual shelves) fun. Her prose is conversational, easy to follow and steps are laid out so that all you have to do is bookmark your page and/or lay your social media foundation as you go. I promise you, no matter what your level, you will learn something from WANA.

Are you a newbie social media wanna be, fearful of how you’ll fare with Facebook, terrified of taking on the Twitterverse and warring with the thought of baring yourself at WordPress blog of your very own? Take heart! Kristen lays out in simple, straightforward terms everything you need to know about getting started in all the above, photos, bios and other necessities included!

Are you a multi-published, big-name author who’s been around the writer’s block in traditional and/or indie market(s); you have a clue but no time to keep up? Especially because you’ve got to crank out that next best-seller? Kristin shows you how to manage all those sites via realistic chunks of time. Still too much to handle? She discusses the value of outsourcing, too.

Are you semi-savvy in any or all the above? Confirm what you know, get excited about how ahead of the game you are and take your learning to the next level. I’ve got Twitter backgrounds to set, Tweetdeck to check and a Facebook fan page to create. I promise, WANA will be up on my Nook’s screen the whole time–now if I could just figure out how to highlight the pertinent pages by choice and not by fluke! Oh, I also re-created my WordPress profile, added a bio and photo to connect folks to brand Joanna Aislinn.  And I will be linking/syncing The Big Three together very soon. After that? Start Kristen’s most recent release: Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

(Stay tuned for thoughts on that.)

And while we’re talking about linking and syncing, anyone who knows the value of keeping up with all the trends in publishing today will NEED to subscribe to best-selling author Bob Mayer’s blog. The future of publishing really is learned here.

Wow. I thought I was going to write a few sentences! Off to a little R & R: Fran Fine calls and my alarm will be telling me it’s time to exercise (again) terribly soon!

Until next time,

Joanna