Reviews: Do they really matter?

Book Reviews

Normally Fridays bring you book reviews on Writing to be Read, but as often happens, life got in the way last week and I don’t have a review ready today. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the importance of reviews for today’s authors. You see a lot of hubbub on social media these days asking for reviews, and it’s one of the top goals for authors, in part because acquiring reviews has become one of the biggest difficulties today’s author faces. First, let’s look at how reviews can help authors, and then we’ll look at why they are so darn hard to get.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Why do author’s even need reviews? What good are they?

In the world of digital publishing, it’s not sales numbers that puts your book at the top of the best seller lists, but the buzz which surrounds it. Reviews drive books to the top, or not. But, even poor reviews are helpful to authors. I know that doesn’t sound right, but it’s true. Author and freelance writer DeAnna Knippling explains it well:

“Amazon’s algorithms are not human, do not have feelings, and don’t actually understand that you’ve just been torn in two by a critical review. What those algorithms see, as far as anyone can tell… is that someone read your book.

“In my opinion, indie writers should treat all stars as good stars. Total stars = success #1.

“Second, indie writers should worry about their average star rating. Higher average = success #2.

“Third, indie writers should worry about their average rating being too universally positive, an indication that reviews were either begged, borrowed or stolen. Variety of star ratings, (obviously heavier on the 4\5 ratings) = success #3.

“Forth, although maybe this should be higher, indie writers should be worried about reviewers going on to buy similar books to yours. If your book is bought and possibly liked by people who normally buy that kind of book, it will be shown more often to people who buy that kind of book. Also bought = success #4. ”

So, reviews not only boost your book up on the best seller lists, but they also direct the audience who views it, which theoretically, can boost your sales. That’s why I post my reviews, or at least a portion of them, on both Amazon and Goodreads. Amazon doesn’t always allow my reviews to stand because I’m not a verified sale. (I do my reviews in exchange for ARC copies.) However, Goodreads even allows me to include a link back to the original review here on Writing to be Read. If an author requests it, I will also post their review on Smashwords, B&N, or any other site that carries their book, if I’m able. After all, the reason I do what I do is to help out my fellow authors. The rules placed by the different sites on  who can post a review and what can be posted can be daunting, but they can be worked around.

Something else I have run into is getting people to download my book, even when it’s free. I offer a free ebook of my paranormal mystery, Hidden Secrets, when you sign up for my monthly newsletter. I’m getting people to sign up, but for reasons I don’t understand, not many are claiming their freebie. I’m not sure why this is, but I know other authors who have experienced the same thing. If you can’t get people to read your book for free, how do you expect to get them to pay for it? And then, if you do get them to read the book, how do you get them to take the time to go back and leave a review?

Hugs for Authors

To find out what problems other authors have in acquiring reviews for their books and learning what works, I did an informal poll of authors that I know, and here is what I found out:

Jordan Elizabeth: Getting reviews is hard. I don’t think I’ve only had 1 or 2 people ever leave a review after purchasing. I’ve tried blog tours, but haven’t had good luck. The best way for me is to seek out blogs and send a personal email.

Tom Johnson: It’s hard to get reviews. I sell a lot of books, but few receive reviews. Readers just don’t want to write them. The easiest way is to sign up for a Blog Tour (there are many tours available, but they charge). However, you will get reviews on the Tour. I review books, and would be interested in reading the first Oracle novel.

Amy Cecil: I have my own personal ARC TEAM, that starts the reviews when a book releases, then I have bloggers and the rest trickle in.

Margareth Stewart: 

1) ask friends and people you have been in contact with lately and kindly ask them if they would read and review your novel.
2) engage with possible audience in social media and ask them for reviews in exchange for free giveaways.
3) contact students and people who are new in the area and ask if they would be willing to do it.
4) I have been advised and therefore passing it on “never buy reviews” – readers do know it’s fake news lol.
5) last but not least, patiently wait for surprises and if they do not come, keep no worries Shakespeare had no reviews as all the other masters (lol).

There doesn’t seem to be any clear cut answers. I can remember when the only people who wrote reviews were columnist, who wrote for the newspapers and magazines, and that’s the only place that you found them. But the industry is changing and now days customers want to hear from customers who bought before them before they buy, so that’s who writes, or doesn’t write reviews, and they appear on every book distribution site where they are available.

Although it sounds as if Amy Cecil might have something going with her ARC TEAM, many authors struggle as much to get reviews as they do to make sales. I don’t see anything wrong with simply requesting folks to read your book and write a review, but it appears this methods lends only minimal results. There are reviewers such as myself out there, but finding them isn’t always easy,

Something I’ve seen in recent ebooks I’ve read is an appeal to the reader at the end of the book, asking them to write a quick review before putting the book down for another. It seems to me that this reminder is strategically placed to catch the reader’s eye just as they finish the story, requesting the review while the tale is still fresh in their minds. It might just work.

As authors, we should be reading as a part of our pre-writing preparations, saturating our brains with whatever genre we plan to write in, as well as factual research for nonfiction or historical works. As authors, we also know that reviews truly are important, so take the time to write a review for every book you read. It may take me a while to get my reviews posted on sites in addition to my blog, but I do eventually get them there. Reviews don’t have to take long to write. A couple of sentences and a star rating will do. But write the review.

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

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How well do you know your characters?

introduction

When I was in the M.F.A. program at Western State, they emphasized the importance of really knowing your characters. They had us answering questionaires about our characters which included questions about things that were never going to come up in the story, so it didn’t seem like they really mattered. I mean, who cares what Delilah likes to eat for breakfast? Or what her favorite color is? Unless it has direct bearing on the story, I couldn’t see any reason for knowing the answers to pointless questions about my characters. But I learned that I was wrong.

In order to be true to your characters, you must know who your characters really are. Readers may not know that red is your character’s favorite color because her daddy gave her a red dress on her eighth birthday and she thought it was the prettiest thing she’d ever seen, but you should. It may affect the color of car she drives after she gets her liscense, which leads to her getting pulled over while unknowingly carrying drugs in the car that her boyfriend stashed in it, which in turn can set off a whole series of events which otherwise wouldn’t have occurred. You might put her in a yellow Volkswagon Bug, instead of the cherry red Corvette she needs to be driving for the story to unfold, and our heroine to win the big race.

 

 

If you were writing an inspirational book, or a self-help book, you wouldn’t advise your readers to do something that was totally out of character for them because it’s very likely they would never, ever do it. Likewise, your characters shouldn’t do things that are out of character for them. Unless you know why your character is doing certain things, you can’t write in the proper subtext which will clue readers in to the motives, as well. The more you know about your characters the more their actions in the story will ring true.

By knowing your characters histories, you are bringing them to life, solidifying them into someone that will feel genuine to your readers. And these days, it’s all the fashion to interview your characters, or have someone else do it. These interviewers ask questions very similar to those used by my graduate program instructors on the questionaires they had us fill out. Your characters have to have past lives and histories in order to respond to interview questions, because they may have to do with things outside of the story line.

Blank slateSo, pull out those questionaires, such as the Proust Questionaire, or the Character Chart for Fiction Writers, and get to really know your characters. If you don’t know the answer to one of the seemingly meaningless questions, take the time to discover what it is, even if you don’t think it will ever matter. Challenge your character to an interview if you think it might help, or if you think it might be fun. Once you’ve developed the characters, write their stories true to who they are, to who you, the author have created them to be.

 

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Mindsight: A Futuristic Crime Novel

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Mindsight, by Dean Kenyon, is a crime story along the line of the golden age of detective fiction. Frank Mallory is a P.I. who might run in the same circles as hardboiled detectives such as Mike Hammer and Sam Spade, except Mallory operates in the future world of 2025.

The Giver is a serial killer who provides his victims the one thing they desire more than life itself in exchange for their submission to his torture and their eventual death. Frank Mallory must penetrate the underworld of the mindsighters, (a sub-culture of users of the empathy drug, mindsight, who dwell in caverns below the city), to uncover the truth. But, there is more to The Giver than is immediately apparent. Can Mallory crack the case to reveal a diabolical plot no one would have guessed before he is drawn in too far to turn back?

A pulp detective novel set in a future where designer drugs rule, or do they? I give Mindsight five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with author B. Lynn Goodwin

B. Lynn Goodwin

My guest today is an author with a unique story. She’s published three books, two of which are nonfiction, inspired by her own experiences. The third is a work of fiction, so she traverses both realms. In addition she does editing and acts as a writing coach for her fellow authors on her site, Writer Advice. Her book, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62, which she’s going to tell us about, has recently become a 2018 National Indie Excellence Award finalist. I am pleased to welcome B. Lynn Goodwin to Writing to be Read.

Kaye: Would you share briefly the story of your own publishing journey?

Lynn: I began writing seriously while I was also caring for my mother in the last years of her life. It was a great outlet. I also began Writer Advicewww.writeradvice.com, which started as an e-mail newsletter with a mailing list of 35. Sorry this isn’t linear—but life events often overlap.

Since my mother was a private person, I decided not to tell her story. A better option was writing a book to help caregivers journal relieve stress, and You Want Me to Do WHAT?: Journaling for Caregivers was born.

Afterwards, I returned to a book I’d started years earlier, a YA that I renamed Talent. It was incomplete until I gave the protagonist, Sandee Mason, a brother. The pitch became “Sandee Mason wants to find her talent, get her license, and stop living in the shadow of her big brother, who disappeared while serving in Afghanistan.” The publisher, Eternal Press, has changed three times since I signed the contract. While I was doing both of these books I also started running writing contests on Writer Advice and had the pleasure of reading some amazing books from Random House for review.

Richard and LynnKaye: Your most recent book is Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. This book is your story in memoir. Would you tell us a little about how this book came into being?

Lynn: I knew Richard was special by our second date. Maybe earlier. To find out how I knew, read the book. 😉

I began taking notes early on, because he told me he was looking for a wife before we met, and I thought that if this worked out, or even if it didn’t, the story of a 62-year-old woman who had never been married and a two-time widower she met on Craigslist had to be unique. To find out why, read the book.

Kaye: You recently became a 2018 National Indie Excellence Award finalist for Never Too Late. Did you do anything special to get to that point?

Lynn: Only if you consider entering special. I’ve been looking for indie contests where I thought I might stand a chance. This one looked a bit too big, but I entered it anyway.

Kaye: Writing memoir requires an author to open up and reveal parts of themselves. For many that’s hard to do. What motivates you to share your story with others?

Lynn: I figured if a woman who looked like me and had my level of inexperience could get married at 62 there was hope for everyone. Women needed to know that. Richard read the book before I sent it out, and I put the rest of the world on a back burner.

Kaye: What is it you hope your readers will come away with from Never Too Late?

Lynn: It is never too late to find happiness, especially when you accept what is and is not within your control.

R & Me

Kaye: Your previous works include You Want Me To Do What?: Journaling for Caregivers, and Talent, the story of a young girl who lost her older brother in Afghanistan and is struggling to get out from under the stigma of his death to become her own value. How is Never Too Late different from the other books you’ve written?

Lynn: Every book is different. Never Too Late is a memoir that reads like a novel. The only other novel I’d written was for young adults. The only other book for adults I’d written was about empowering oneself by journaling. Self-help meets how-to, as one reviewer put it.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Lynn: Tough question. I’ve played around with telling a story from the pov of a mentally ill woman, and that was both unsettling and intriguing. I’m not mentally ill, but I’ve read about mental illness, and I’m fascinated by all the different ways we see the world.

Kaye: On your site, Writer’s Advice, you give out a lot of advice to fellow writers. What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Lynn: Although I’m not sure what was best, here are the statements I remember well:
1. When free writing, go wherever the writing takes you.
2. Edit later.
3. Go deeper (whatever that means to you).
4. Put your writing in a different font and color and read it out loud or have someone read it to you. It will help you catch the errors you never see.
5. You don’t lose until you quit trying.

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Lynn: Seriously? I don’t think there’s much I’d change, though if I were famous, I’d make more time for interviews, and if I were rich, I hope I’d give to causes that make the world better.

Kaye: For you, what is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Lynn: I couldn’t say whether it’s being more open to suggestions or rising above the doubts that plague all of us (except the top 3% and even they may have doubts).

Kaye: What kind of Chinese food do you order all the time?

Lynn: Zucchini chicken or beef broccoli with steamed rice, but we don’t eat Chinese food all the time.

I want to thank Lynn for joining us and sharing with us today. It’s been a pleasure chatting with her. And thank all my readers for joining us, too. If you want to learn more about B. Lynn Goodwin, check her out on Writer Advice or visit her Amazon Author page.

 

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“The Gods of the Gift”: A Psychedelic Space Fantasy

The Gods of the Gift

The Gods of the Gift is a space adventure reminiscent of Gilamesh, the legend of Atlantis, and Bilbo’s journey combined into a universal oddyses of epic porportions.  From the planet/person of Calakadon who inadvertantly barks like a seal, to the Viztar the futufu drug lord, to the flatulent language of the inhabitants of the planet Shoms, to Kringmar the fallen Dzujhdu who hangs out in his skull, it’s a wild ride which you’ll be tempted to binge and gorge yourself on, but it may be better digested in small, but frequent doses with time to process and savor, providing you can wait to see what happens next. No matter how you read it, you’ll be wearing a smile that will grow larger as you spend more time with Rosch’s crazy characters and their wacky antics.

Arthur Rosch is a masterful storyteller crafting his tale, which rivals the epic legends of old, along the lines of great storytelling traditions. The omniscient POV can be difficult to pull off, but Rosch does it with skill and eloquence, with only the occasional head hop. Garavel, the story’s protagonist, takes us on a hero’s journey to the farthest reaches of the universe and our imaginations in search of the planet Wayuzo. Rosch’s world building lies in the tradition of Tolkien, creating unique languages, rituals and customs for the inhabitants. He uses his uses his own descriptive powers with language to paint visual images which are clear and defined. His memorable and unique characters are bold and unusual, with odd habits and mannerisms, and deftly described appearances emblazened upon readers’ minds.

The Gods of the Gift keeps readers entertained for days on end. A masterfuly crafted story, which brings us into strange and unexplored worlds where anything can happen. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 

 


Interview with Independent Author Chele Pedersen Smith

Chele

Our guest today on Writing to be Read is a newly blossoming independent author of two very different books; the first a spy romance and the second a collection of inspirational stories, Chele Pedersen Smith. I recently met Chele through a Facebook book event in which I was lucky enough to win a free copy of her spy romance, Behind Frenemy Lines. After chatting with her, I see many ways in which she and I are kindred spirits, including that she also put off pursuing her passion until our later years, and also in her enthusiasm for the craft and the many creative ideas she has for getting her works into readers’ hands. I’ve enjoyed interviewing her and I hope my readers will enjoy it to as I share it with you.

Kaye: In On Writing, Stephen King talks about how he started his writing career with his brother, printing news on an old printing press, using grape jelly for ink. You have a similar start. Would you share the story of your author’s journey?

Chele: Sure! I’ve been writing since the bicentennial, which sounds really ancient and colonial. Ha-ha. In sixth grade when my best friend Debby and I won the school’s first annual hobby contest with our collaborated mystery booklets. We were totally shocked because a classmate entered her motorcycle and we thought for sure Annette would win. It just goes to show that sometimes the best things are simple and come in small packages!

In junior high, I wrote a teen mystery series my friends loved to read, sometimes before the ink dried on a chapter. I’d fold bunch of unlined white paper and staple it. The plots revolved around protagonist Sherri Whitman and her friend Anna Daine. Anna was more like me, the ordinary girl with ironic luck and Sherri was my alter ego— pretty, more daring and often accomplished what she set out to do. There are 17 books in this series, mostly short booklets until high school when I switched to writing on notebook paper fastened in folders. A bridging symbol between the booklets and the note books is book nine written in a blank journal. Now, that felt like a real book and I think it was the beginning of a serious dream.

With more room to write in the folders and a little maturity, the stories morphed into multiple, more complicated plots. In high school, I took all the writing electives and was on the school paper senior year as well as my first semester of college where I started to major in communications.

One day watching Romancing the Stone, Kathleen Turner’s character was a writer and I noticed she typed her books on a typewriter off the top of her head. I thought, “That is what real writers do!” so I started writing that way too. It was hard to think that way at first, and typewriters did not have the ease computers have today when it came to errors. Now it is second nature to write this way. I still use journals to jot down ideas and I have a separate document on each book called, “Notes for Behind Frenemy Lines,” etc. That way I can cut and paste dialogue if I want to save it for another place, or remind myself what I want to include in the story.

At 21, I tried my first stab at getting published. It was a Sherri manuscript about an amazing mystery that happened to me during my first semester of college. I sent it to a publishing house for young adults and got my first rejection! I was bummed but proceeded to send it to several young adult publishers who said it was too short. So I added other mysteries and back stories from previous Sherri books, but it still got rejected. Only Scholastic gave me detailed criticism and sent me two paperbacks to use as examples. By then I was a newlywed and put it aside to figure out later. I was focused on writing short stories and sending them to Redbook because they use to have contests. I never won but I still have those and other short stories from the 80s, as well as most of the Sherri series.

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After years of hiatus, I got back into fiction writing the summer of 2013. An idea for a story kept circling my head like a vulture. It would not go away. Characters formed, names were tried on for size. The perfect first hook crafted itself. Finally one morning, I made coffee, opened a Word doc and then typed out that sentence. And just like that I was writing again! The story is called Confessions of a Goody-Goody and is a bit of a struggle at times because it is based on real life juicy events. I thought Goody-Goody would be my first book, but I got stuck halfway through. It got too personal and I didn’t know how to proceed.

In the meantime, I enrolled in college so I set aside. I took creative writing courses and the writing prompts helped me take Goody-Goody to a higher level. Plus I am adding in a lot of fiction, so I do plan to finish it! In fact, a chapter excerpt appears in our latest literary magazine to set my goal in ink!

Kaye: You gave up a promising career in the health care field to become an author. How do you justify that? Any regrets?

Chele: I had quitter’s remorse at first. I rarely give up on something, but after bailing after just one week in the dental hygiene program, I cried hysterically. What had I done? I felt lost. Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life wasting all that hard work, all those sciences, maintaining A’s to get in?( It wasn’t really a waste because exercised brain power and I made a great group of friends my age and we rocked!)

After waffling on other majors, I ended up in communication because it was the closest thing to a writing degree available. (It’s funny, coming full circle from my youth.) The electives included two creative writing classes, which I loved, and two journalism levels.  I lucked out because the spring J2 involved a trip to NYC media writing conference and that was a blast. The good news is, just this the fall, the school branched communications into concentrations and voila–professional writing materialized! It was like the movie Field of Dreams: take writing classes and the degree will come!  So now, I’m there with just four classes left.

At this point, I’m mainly getting the degree to complement my novel writing. I’ve recently received fantastic validation through the English department via several professors and have just won two awards for my writing! So I definitely feel I made the right choice. But as for making moolah, if a job in the field isn’t feasible, I will probably fall back on my pharmacy technician training and write novels in my free time.  I’ve kept up with my pharmacy certification just in case.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer for you?

Chele: The writing is the fun part, compared to formatting paperbacks and self-promoting. But I’d have to say it is a toss-up between finding time to write and my husband giving me a hard time about it. Since he went to the awards night with me, he seems more impressed and realizes it is more than just a hobby.

I mostly write during semester breaks which isn’t very long, unless it is summer. (Although most summers I’ve taken classes, too.) I have all these book ideas and half-finished projects. I’m afraid I’ll lose steam or the muse will leave me before I get them done. And I’m a revision queen so even after I do finish a book, it takes time to patch plot holes, paint in more details, and weed out never-ending typos.

Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Chele: I’m corny and get excited over little things. I never lost my childhood wonder. I love word play so much, maybe I should’ve gone into advertising. The corniness may not come as a surprise to anyonewho reads Behind Frenemy Lines. Lee has some punny lines.

Maybe a more of a shock is that in the 80s, I wanted to be a radio DJ. 1984 was so “outrageous” as Lionel Richie exclaimed at the music awards that year and I remember thinking music would never be as good it was then!  We had Michael Jackson at his peak, Kool and the Gang and Madonna, and the British bands! (Little did I know a guy named Adam Levine would arrive on the scene and swoon me in the 21st century.)

In my late teens, I’d play DJ in my room with my little brother, practice queuing up and spinning records and timing announcements with my stereo. Well, it paid off, because the first year at the college, they had an opening for DJ at the school radio station and I had a stint for about a month. It was fun to live out a brief dream, even though I’m not sure anyone actually listened.

Kaye: You have plans for a sequel to Behind Frenemy Lines, and several other writing projects for 2018. Would you like to tell us a little about what’s in store?

 Chele: I’m working on a romantic comedy novella. I don’t want to give the premise away or the title just yet because it is a unique way to meet a date. When I needed character names, I turned to classic Hollywood starlets so that was fun. I hope to finish it this summer. I already have the cover made to inspire me! By the way, my covers are made by graphic designer Steven Novak. He has the knack of turning my visions into fabulous covers! I also have two other romance novellas started. Maybe I’ll offer them as a tri-pack.

As for the BFL sequel, Galaxy’s heritage has Russian connections and it falls nicely into current events. But I have some comedic moments and surprises up my sleeve too. And of course it will follow the trysts and trusts issue like the first book.

I write off the cuff, so I don’t know what will happen exactly in each work. In that novella, will Viv’s stalking of her crush win him over? Or will it make him mad? I have no idea yet. Maybe the characters will take over and surprise me.  I also plan to revamp and publish the Sherri Whitman series, maybe as a whole unless I lengthen each mystery, and the one that got rejections—Will the Real Green Phantom Please Stand Up— is on my list too! Currently I am compiling the 80s short-stories into a speculative fiction book. So the muse needs to stick around.

Kaye: How did your blog start and what’s it about?

Chele: I have a blog on Goodreads.  I’m still experimenting with to get it just right. I try to keep it about topics related to my books and writing, mainly romance, but have also ventured off into pop culture ponderings. It may just become the life of a writer.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?  

Chele: I like the solitude of morning home alone with a cup of coffee and my favorite songs blasting. No one interrupting me except Penny, the golden. I love the night too; it is mysterious and brings out the muse, but it is not usually practical to write then. Except for an odd summer night last year I was not sleepy at all, so I got up to write in the living room. I sat in the dark by the glow of the laptop with a happy golden retriever curled by my side until 4 am! That was when I wrote the last scene of Behind Frenemy Lines—the prologue!

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Chele: I’d jump for joy and thank God. He gave me this talent and being able to make a living on it would be a pinch- me moment! Then I’d hire a housekeeper because I hate cleaning and clutter. It would be amazing to go a book tour and be a guest on Ellen. Being in the spotlight would feel awkward though. Being a writer, it would be nice to have my name known. But I don’t want to be famous exactly; I’d love for my characters to be. When I got my first review from a Goodreads giveaway and the reader fell in love with Lee, I was ecstatic! It was what I hoped would happen. When reviewers mention Galaxy, I’m thrilled. I made these guys up and now people are getting to know them.

Kaye: In a story we are often asked to create images for the reader that we may not have experienced ourselves. When have you had to do that?

Chele: I write what I know, but I also Google a lot! There is a scene in Behind Frenemy Lines where Lee and Galaxy go to the White House to interview Anita, the communications director, about the threats made. I’ve seen the outside of the White House from a park gate, but have never been inside. So, I scoured virtual tours online and described it from there. After the meeting, the spies go rogue exploring the place, so I had to look up different rooms and recreate the experience the best I could.

I’ve also researched Russian Heirloom furniture, so I could describe some antique pieces in Galaxy’s apartment. Soon after, I received a brochure in the mail about Russian art and heirlooms.  I couldn’t believe it!

Kaye: You’re a mom as well as being an author. What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Chele: My kids are grown now—my son is 27 and daughter is 19 — but they were still young when I was writing the spiritual stories. I only wrote sporadically then, mostly holiday newsletters, and I would craft those when they were in bed. When I got back into writing four years ago, my daughter was about to graduate from 8th grade. So it was easier then. I write while she sleeps in. As for writing around a husband, I like my free time during the week when he’s at work.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to have taught your children?

Chele: I hope they see I’m accomplishing my life’s dream, and dreams don’t happen by themselves. You have to put the effort in and seek out the opportunities and avenues to get you there. My daughter is an amazing artist and she is going to school for an art degree. I don’t tell her she has to be a doctor or lawyer. Art is good therapy for her. My son is great at math and has a business degree with a math minor. He’s still trying to find his degree job, but in the meantime is advancing in a job he’s had for 10 years. He likes to do creative writing as a tension reliever after work and my daughter just got public praise from her English professor for a creative angle in her final essay. As a writer and mother, that makes me both proud and relieved. I love that they have writing skills but mostly they are doing what they love.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Chele: At a Disney resort three years ago, the maintenance crew knocked on the door and were swapping out tree plants. I hadn’t noticed ours and it looked fine when they carted it away, leaving a fresher one in its place. I thought, “how strange.” It seemed suspicious to me, but we were busy and I didn’t think much more about it until we got home. I knew I wanted to work it into a story someday. It happened to fit a scene in BFL, so in it went. What happens in the book  is much more exciting than in real life. Also that summer, we received an automated call from our electric company about a 3 am power outage planned to replace transformers. I thought, wouldn’t that be a perfect cover-up to commit a crime? So it found its way there, too.

Every day events make me suspicious now.

Kaye: Your two published works are very different genres. How do you get from inspirational nonfiction to a romantic thriller? What other genres might be in store for your readers?

Chele: Behind Frenemy Lines, is a tasteful spy romance, and was my first published book in January 2017. Almost a year after I started writing fiction again, my husband was going to Germany for business and I thought it would be fun to test my writing out on him I decided to write a spy scene, since that was what he liked to read— Jack Reacher, Jack Ryan, and all that. I hid it in his suitcase, so well in fact, after two days I had to inquire about it and give hints. He really liked it. I added back stories and a serious case to solve. The challenge was adding politics. I joke that I have political amnesia because I don’t understand it very well and I find it boring. I also wanted something unique since that is the genre he reads, he probably has heard every plot out there. So I came up with a unique premise, but it does veer off in other directions too.

Since he traveled often that year in 2014, I kept writing other suitcase chapters, just for kicks with no intention of publishing. About two-thirds done I knew I wanted it to be my first book. And the more I developed secret agent Lee Clancy, the more I fell in love with him. He’s a gallant gentleman, has confidence but is not arrogant, knows how to romance, but he isn’t perfect. He’s a real guy, flaws and all. He woos his spy partner, Galaxy O’Jordan, but isn’t sure if he wants to kiss her or wring her neck. The feeling is mutual.

Gal is complicated, beautiful, has body image issues and is klutzy like me, which adds light comedy. She is ruthless but vulnerable and has questionable connections with a shady past. I originally made her up in 11th grade journalism class in 1981 for the conclusion to a T.V script, but I added her multi-faceted personality in 2014. I’m not sure where her name came from. I wanted something exotic for her honey-trapping role, but maybe I was influenced by Star Wars or the space shuttle hoopla back then. I still love her name today!

When White House threats dredge up an old presidential cover up, the case careens a crazy corner into la-la land and it’s up to NSA’s Link agency to figure it out.  Enter Galaxy O’Jordan, feminist crusader with a shady past. An agent harboring secrets, she’s sworn off love while mending a broken heart. It’s just her luck when she’s paired with chivalrous hunk Lee Clancy, surveillance specialist!  It’s not long before they’re smitten, despite their best efforts to play it cool.

BFLPGBookpile

The Pearly Gates Phone Company was published in October 2017 and is an uplifting collection of mini-miracles that happened in my life as well as my family and friends. Remember those spiritual shorts I kept submitting to a Christian magazine? I realized I had quite a few stacking up. From there I wrote a bunch more. There are 33 anecdotal snippets to inspire hope, comfort and give a few chuckles. The title is from the main story in the book, about my dad calling a month after he died. This was 2002 but if it happened today, I think we would have a better explanation about technology. Still, it was a goosebumps moment that was so remarkable, I had to write about it soon after it happened. The original was too long and complicated, but it’s had a few revisions since then, 2014 being the most recent. That is when just the right title popped into my head. I knew it would make the perfect title for the book too.

Have you ever been wowed by the wonders of God? Or enchanted by an extraordinary event? This is a book of coincidental moments, those instances that stop you in your tracks, and you know deep inside it could only be explained by heavenly evidence.

Kaye: You have two very unique titles for your books. How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the writing process for you?

Chele: Thank you! I love whimsy titles. Sometimes the perfect one just comes to me, even before I start the story, like the novella and Confessions of a Goody-Goody. But for the two books out now, the names did not immediately click until halfway through. Behind Frenemy Lines had the working title Spy Story as I chiseled away on each traveling chapter. Especially since I threw it together a day or two before my husband’s trip. It was just a place holder, really. Then my daughter was having trouble with a friend and we were not sure if this girl was a friend or enemy so I referred to her as a frenemy. With that word in my head, I suddenly had a title—a play on the movie, “Behind Enemy Lines.” And it was perfect since we don’t know which side Galaxy is on.

As for The Pearly Gates Phone Company, during the original writing, I had the title, “A Call from Heaven” and then with a rewrite, other titles like, “Hello from Hippie Heaven” or “A Heavenly Hello” materialized, but did not feel right. I knew I wanted something more fun. Finally, during the last revision, it popped in!

Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?

Chele: Facebook seems to be the easiest and I like Instagram. Twitter seems mysterious to me. I’ve tweeted and try to use hashtags, but not sure how effective it is. The self-promoting concept is one of the most challenging parts of being an author.

Kaye: How would you describe yourself in three words?

Chele: Goofy, Creative, Lifetime learner

Kaye: What makes you laugh or cry?

Chele: I’d rather laugh than cry, so I enjoy comedies. There is no shame in crying, but for me personally, it is easier to laugh. Maybe because I “ugly-cry.” There isn’t anything lady-like about it. Everyday moments crack me up. I always say, “Life’s a sitcom.”  And that usually refers to mishaps happening to me.

At orientation a few years ago, they played a little cartoon emphasizing students asking for help to do all they can to pass, rather than use excuses and blame the professor. The cartoon was drawn simply and used computerized, monotone voices, which sounded so funny. I was trying so hard not to burst into a fit and almost left the auditorium, but luckily I was able to keep it under wraps. Good thing, because no one else was laughing. I am easily amused and find if we don’t take life too seriously, we can have a good time.

Sometimes my laughter rolls into crying, especially if I am tired or needed a good cry and brushed it off. An episode of The Goldbergs had me laughing so hard, I was in tears. My daughter came home and I couldn’t even talk to explain what was going on. I could only point to the TV. In the ep, Barry was trying to make sculptures of his girlfriend, copying a cue from Lionel Richie in his video “Hello.”  His attempts were hideous, and each one was funnier than the last. I just lost it.

As for crying, I am soft-hearted when it comes to children and animals, so I avoid movies with disturbing themes, but sometimes they sneak in a “feel good movie of the year.” I hate that!

I had big crying jags moving here and experiencing my first partially empty nest when my son stayed behind to move in with his dad to finish college. It felt so unnatural.  Another big tears moment was a month later. Losing our old golden retriever, Buster was one of the saddest days I can remember, aside from losing my parents.

I’ve also cried out of sheer happiness, like when my daughter said she wrote about my mom as her favorite relative. I knew she would love to know that!  Or when I was trying to track down a friend and finally got a letter from his mother. That was in the 80s, before internet and Facebook, so it felt like a true miracle.

Thank you for asking me all these wonderful questions.

Thank you Chele, for joining us and sharing today on Writing to be Read. It obvious that you really opened yourself up and spoke from the heart. It has been great to interview you. I hope all my readers will thank you as well, and remember to watch for my review in the near future of Behind Frenemy Lines.  You can find ouot more about Chele and her books here:

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/chele.pedersensmith.5?lst=1570686027%3A100021726966363%3A1528131001

Facebook group: Chele’s Galaxy

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cpsmithbooks

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/chelepedersensmith

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16337551.Chele_Pedersen_Smith

 

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“Courage in the Face of Evil”: the true life story of a concentration camp survivor

Courage in the Face of Evil Cover Final Nov 10 2017

 

Courage in the Face of Evil, by Mark Shaw is the compelling story of a concentration camp survivor, drawn from her own journals from the time. Shaw skillfully captures Vera’s voice and brings readers into the camp, placing us there to stand witness to the horrors that its captives faced from day to day.

When German Christian Vera Konig is caught aiding the Jews in Nazi Germany, she never dreamed she would spend the next eight years in the concentration camp. What followed was a daily struggle for life and death, for herself and for those all around her. Others drew on her strength and courage, as well as her kindness. A true story of heroism in the face of the worst imaginable circumstances. Vera Konig demonstrates true Courage in the Face of Evil.

Courage in the Face of Evil will touch you in the depths of your soul. So skillfully crafted is this book, that your heart will break each time another friend is lost and cringe at every pain and injustice Vera is forced to suffer. You will cheer for each small battle Vera wins. You will rejoice when the allied troops arrive and Vera and her friends are saved. I give Courage in the Face of Evil five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.