Speaking of Habits…

Here’s a bad habit we haven’t talked about yet:  not reviewing books we read.

I confess that I seldom do this, for these reasons:

  • If the book’s been around for a while and already has a gazillion reviews, I don’t figure it needs one more.
  • If I don’t particularly care for the book, I feel compelled by professional courtesy to keep quiet about it. This is true for authors I don’t know as well as those I do.
  • If I do like it, it probably already has enough reviews and doesn’t need one from a nobody like me.
  • Laziness. If I’m reading for pleasure, I don’t want to add the work of writing a review afterward. What, am I in school or something?

Occasionally someone will ask for a review. When that happens, I’ll usually comply, but not always. A couple of times I declined because, well… my mother always taught me if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. On one occasion, the book was so bad I couldn’t even read it.

All in all, I’m not usually eager to write reviews. But shame on me! As an author, I know how important reviews are. No, Stephen King doesn’t need my help, but small-potatoes authors like me need all the reviews we can get. Many promotional services won’t accept a title that doesn’t have a certain number of Amazon reviews. Larger numbers of reviews help improve a book’s Amazon ranking, making it more visible. And bookstores are more likely to stock a book with a higher ranking and many reviews. So you see, we authors don’t crave reviews just to stoke our egos; they’re absolutely necessary for a book’s success.

If reviewing books intimidates you, rest easy. It doesn’t have to be difficult! In most cases, there’s to required format, and reviews don’t have to be long and involved. Take Ane Mulligan’s Amazon review of Stillwaters, for example:

Where should you post your reviews? Amazon, certainly, and also Goodreads. Those are the biggies. But if you feel inclined, you can post reviews to Barnes & Noble, Booktopia, other places online where books are sold, or your own blog. But Amazon is primo.

Am I writing this post for the purpose of begging for reviews? Yes. Absolutely. I need reviews!

But I’m also resolving to start reviewing books more often myself. In fact, I recently posted a review of a nice little book I ran across not long ago, Faith Unexpected: Real stories of people who found what they never imagined.  It is exactly as the title describes, and I won’t elaborate other than to say I enjoyed the book. If you look for it on Amazon, you’ll see my review.

It’s the sort of book that would be good to give as a gift to someone who’s “on the fence” as far as following Christ is concerned. A person who’s antagonistic toward the gospel wouldn’t appreciate it, but someone who’s curious probably would.

I don’t read as much as I’d like to, but I hereby resolve to make more of an effort to review the ones I read. At least, new books. I don’t think I’ll bother reviewing old classics.

Do you post reviews on Amazon? If you haven’t yet, would you please review mine (if you’ve read any)?

Yes, I’m begging—with apologies for the lack of dignity.

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I’ve been quiet recently for a number of reasons:

#1 – I’m a lazy blogger. Lazy like a sloth, but not so hairy.

#2 – Craig and I recently made another out-of-state move. (Didn’t we just do that a little over three years ago? Yes. But it was so fun the last time, we did it again…)

#3 – I’ve been waiting until one of my new releases finally came out, so I could announce it.

SO… We’re settled into our new home now. Yes, actually settled, though we still have one more carload of stuff to bring from the old place — things like winter coats and other odds and ends we won’t need immediately, so we won’t go back to get them for another couple of weeks.

AND… I’m finally able to announce the publication of that tiny house novella I’ve been talking about!

Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection is now available in Kindle, and will be out in print in the next week or two.

I’ve read four of the seven stories, and they’re each very different but are all sweet reads. I have no doubt the other three are just as good, and I look forward to them.

As is always the case with new releases, we need reviews. So if you’ve got $4 to spend and a little time for reading, I invite you to download it and post a review!

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Friends and Book Covers

In The Story in the Stars, no one wears a space suit. So why is there one on the cover?

I’m not quite finished meandering through the topic of faith that I began two blog posts ago. However, I’ve decided to take a break for today and revisit the subject of writing. (Once upon a time, this was a writers’ blog, as you may recall.)

The idea for this post started with contemplations on book covers. Probably everyone reading this knows I was never happy with the first impression the covers of my first two books give, and so I made cover art a high priority for the next two.

While I was working with Ken Raney of Clash Creative on the covers of Ransom in the Rock (released in May) and The Last Toqeph (to be

Ransom in the Rock: A cover that represents the book's content!
Ransom in the Rock: A cover that represents the book’s content!

released next month), two of my writer friends revealed the covers of their novels. The artwork on both intrigued me, for different reasons. Both titles are debut novels. Both novels are through the same publisher. And both authors are special friends of mine.

I asked them about the possibility of appearing together on my blog, and they liked the idea. So that’s what we’re doing today, and I’m delighted to welcome them to Y’s Words. Instead of a typical guest spot or interview, we’re just going to sit down and have a chat with the three of us. Pull up a chair!

I met Ane Mulligan back in 2002 in an online writers critique group. Hard to believe that was more than 12 years ago! But we stuck together through thick and thin, and although she lives in Georgia and I was in Ohio, we’ve also met personally. (At a number of ACFW conferences.) Ane’s always been one of my most enthusiastic encouragers.

I met Susan Lawrence at a writing retreat in Kansas City. That would have been… I don’t remember the year. Do you, Susan?

SUSAN: Hmmm. It must have been 2009. That was the year I wrote my first novel.

Yes, that sounds about right. We’ve been friends ever since, and we’ve even had the opportunity to view one another in our natural habitats. In fact, I made Susan’s hubby get up early one morning to take me to the Des Moines airport. He probably didn’t mind much, though, because it meant he could finally get me out of his house.

Ane’s a multi-talented lady whose literary bent used to be toward drama. I understand you’ve published quite a few plays, haven’t you, Ane?

ANE: I have. I started writing scripts in 1996 for my church. Our pastor loved to illustrate his sermons with sketches. I’ve written over four dozen, everything from the 90-second sermon starter to one-act plays and full-length musicals. LifeWay was my first publisher and published several of mine. After they closed the line, and I got my rights back, I self-published them on a CD.

Yes, Ane always was a bit of a drama queen (ha ha). But I didn’t meet her until she decided to try her hand at writing fiction. Never one to be half-hearted, she jumped in with both feet, even quitting her job in order to leave more time for writing. And working with American Christian Fiction Writers—she’s been very active in that. What offices have you held with ACFW, Ane?

ANE: I was the Zone Officer on the Operating Board for four years. I love ACFW and I love setting up chapters around the country. I’m now on staff as the Zone Coordinator, doing the same thing, overseeing the chapters.

SUSAN: And I’m attending my very first ACFW conference in September, where I’m looking forward to meeting Ane in person.

I’m a little worried about that, Susan. Whatever she tell you about me, don’t believe it, because she has an overactive imagination. But I’m happy you’re going to the conference—and that you’ll get to meet Ane and some of my other friends. You’ll have a wonderful time.

Atonement for Emiy Adams But let’s talk about covers. Ladies, you’re both at the mercy of your publisher. How much input were you able to have on your cover art?

SUSAN: My publisher did let me make suggestions but ended up going a different direction altogether. Now I think it is the perfect cover art and I can’t imagine my story in any other cover.

ANE: I ended up with the sweetest deal of all. Lighthouse agreed

Chapel Springs Revival
Chapel Springs Revival

to allow my hubs, who is an artist, to paint my cover. Poor man. It wasn’t easy pulling an imaginary town from my brain. To me, Chapel Springs was more of a feeling. Even though I could picture the buildings, I hadn’t given them form. So, Hubs would paint, then call me to come down to his studio and look it over. I’d tell him, “It’s a little more like this,” and show him a photo I’d found online. And I’d say, “But not quite like that.” We went this way through a good dozen photos until he got it. I love the end result.

I can’t help but notice, Susan, there’s a quote from a distinguished author on your front cover, talking about how good the book is. (And it is good – for sure and certain!) Seems to me endorsements like that should be on the back, not splashed on the front. What do you think about that?

SUSAN: I love the quote from one of my favorite authors and my dear friend, Yvonne. I think it fits perfectly on the front cover.

Aw, shucks. Thanks. Ane, do you have an endorsement on the front?

ANE: I do, from Gina Holmes. “Like coming home to the place you wish you were from.”

Well, maybe that’s more common than I thought. I guess I just never noticed before. As readers, do you judge a book by its cover?

ANE: It’s the first thing that catches my eye. Then I read the back cover copy. But the feeling the cover evokes will be what I notice first.

SUSAN: I agree. I know a cover does not a book make, but I will grab the book with the cover that appeals to me.

I think we’re all on the same page (pun intended) on this subject. But do you think a book cover should show a scene from the book itself? Is factual accuracy important? Or is the key thing to create the proper feeling or mood?

ANE: I think the key is the feeling or mood it evokes is the most important.

Susan, did you have something in mind for your cover initially?

SUSAN: I did. I thought I wanted something to show the accident scene. The actual cover of Atonement for Emily Adams shows Emily in a cemetery. In the story, she isn’t ever in a cemetery. But it could have happened. And I agree with Ane that the feeling or mood evoked is what is critical for a cover.

Ane, tell us about Chapel Springs Revival.

ANE: It’s a romp through miscommunication in marriage. Claire and Patsy, my two characters, are a hoot. A little like Lucy and Ethel, they’re both artists. Claire moves without thinking and goes through life without any filters between her brain and her mouth. Patsy says, “With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.”

Susan, tell us a little about Atonement for Emily Adams.

SUSAN: It’s the story of a young woman who accidentally kills a child. She tries to atone for that unspeakable act by doing all the good she can do. It doesn’t work out so well for her. The message is that true atonement comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.

What does it feel like to hold your book in your hands or see it on a shelf?

ANE: After eleven years, it feels GREAT! It’s like giving birth. I don’t think anyone but another writer can appreciate the journey, but for one whose journey has been a long one, it was worth every frustration!

SUSAN: I love to see it and hold it, but an even greater joy is to get feedback from those who read it. To know that my writing has encouraged, inspired or uplifted someone is a blessing beyond compare.

For any reader who has been trying for years to get a novel published, like the three of us did for so long, what advice do you have?

ANE: Don’t ever give up! Your time may be just around the corner. Besides, if you’re truly a writer, a storyteller, you couldn’t quit writing anymore than you can quit breathing.

SUSAN: Work at it – attend conferences, join a critique group, read books about writing, and write, write, write.

Sounds like good advice. In fact, it’s pretty much what I’d say. Thank you, my dear friends, for stopping by to chat. I wish I could be with you at the conference next week (insert pouty face here), but I spent all my money on cover art…

Ane Mulligan – Southern Fried Fiction

More about Ane: While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

More about Susan:
Susan grew up on a small farm in the heart of Iowa. As a small child she learned to love

Susan Lawrence
Susan Lawrence

country life, writing stories, and her Savior, Jesus Christ. A graduate of Kansas State Teacher’s College, she taught special needs children for thirty-three years before retiring to devote more time to writing, speaking, and storytelling.
Susan lives with her husband, Gary, the love of her life and her best friend of forty-four years. She is the mother of three and grandmother of seven beautiful and brilliant grandchildren. She enjoys spending time with family, biking, and traveling. But most of all, she loves to tell the story, the good news of Jesus Christ, in writing, in speaking, or in living.
You can find more about or contact Susan at www.susanrlawrence.com, on Facebook or email her at srlauthor at mchsi.com.

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Down the Road From KW

Put on your glasses, dear. He's not real.
Put on your glasses, dear. He’s not real.

I believe it was in September of 2002 — or  somewhere thereabouts — when I typed The End as the last line of a massive, 200,000-word novel I called Mom’s Mirror. “Okay,” I said to myself, “Now what?” I needed help with the rough, unwieldy manuscript, and I knew it. But where could I get it?

I was new to computers and had almost no experience with the Internet. But I knew what Google was, and I’d heard about something called on-line critique groups, though I had no idea how they worked. So I did a search to see what I might come up with.

What I came up with was KingdomWriters, a Yahoo group for writers of anything Christian, whether novels, nonfiction, poetry, or what-have-you. I learned scads of valuable things from the folks there and met some wonderful people who are still my dear friends today.

One of my first and most fabulous friends from KW was Ane Mulligan. No, I didn’t leave an “n” out of her name; that’s the way she spells it. Why? Because she’s a nut. Which is why I used to fondly call her Aney Bananey. “Used to,” because after awhile the nickname seemed too long, so I quit using it. Nowadays I just call her Hey You.

Ane’s debut novel is scheduled for release in September, and you’d better believe I plan to make a bit of a whoop-de-do about it here. But in the meantime, she invited me to sit on her blog’s front porch where we sat and sipped sweet tea and were slobbered on by her two mastiffs. Oh, wait — there was no tea, nor was there slobbering. No dog hair, either. But there was a guest post.

So I invite you join our conversation by leaving a comment. You won’t get anything out of it (no free book to win or anything like that), but if you want to say something silly, she’ll get a kick out of it. You’ll find us here.Screen shot 2014-05-03 at 8.09.44 PM

Wait a sec — well, would you look at that! She still has me living in rural Ohio. I guess I’m so used to being an Ohioan I didn’t notice the error. So when you stop in, you might want to ask her to change that to Western Maryland just for the sake of accuracy. I don’t want to ask her myself, or she’ll think me a pest.

Well, I guess I am a pest. But that’s one of the great things about Ane; she loves me anyway. Good friends are like that.

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