A Perfect Book for an Imperfect Father’s Day

Having last blogged for Mother’s Day (on my author blog), it seems only fair to blog here for Father’s Day. Not too much direct experience with the mother thing, granted, but I do have experience with being a father. In 2014, I launched my novel AIKO, about a man who discovers he is a father. However, before he can celebrate Father’s Day, he must overcome a lot of obstacles to claim his child. Perhaps it is a simple story. The details make it special. And yet, it is strangely similar to one of the grand opera stories of my youth: Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. (Here is the Metropolitan Opera’s synopsis.)

As a music student in college, I was not averse to attending an opera or two. Some were more interesting than others. My mother, who always promoted my musical interests, took me to my first opera when I was a boy: Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, about a ghost ship doomed to sail the seas forever. (Why is there no movie version today? It would make a great paranormal film.) But it was Madama Butterfly that became my favorite, and the only opera I can enjoy just listening to without having to see the stage production.

In the opera, an American naval officer visits Japan and because he is staying there a while on business, he arranges to have a “temporary” wife. The inevitable happens: his business is concluded and he leaves, promising to return, and later she discovers a child will be born. He does eventually return, but with his American wife in tow. He is surprised to find his Japanese lover has a child but he is determined to bring the child home to America. The Japanese woman is so distraught over that verdict that she commits suicide in one of opera’s most tragic scenes.

While I was living in Japan in the late 1980s and early 90s, teaching English to the students of a small city, I wrote the story of an American man who meets a Japanese woman. They have a relationship then must inevitably part. A child is born. Eventually the man learns of the child’s existence and wants to do the right thing. Despite his American wife’s objection, he goes to Japan to check things out. I’m skipping over a lot of details, of course, but you see how the plot is similar to the Madama Butterfly story. That was purely unintentional.

Seeing that similarity, I decided to exploit it and revised my story to use some elements of Madama Butterfly more overtly. First, I wanted to tell the story from the man’s point of view. The opera is all from her side. Before I knew much about Japanese history and customs, I had always wondered why Cho-Cho-san (literally “Madame Butterfly”) decided to kill herself to solve the problem. She should have killed him for trying to take away her child! Not to say killing is acceptable, of course. In my Western mindset, I could not understand her motivations. Now I do. So in telling the story from his side, I would need to show him as a rational, responsible, do-the-right thing kind of guy who has all the best intentions while dealing with the situation.
The next thing I wanted to change was the time period. The opera is set at the turn-of-the-century when American naval forces first begin to rule the Pacific. In changing the setting to the late 1980s and early 1990s (the same time period I wrote it), I could exploit the new “internationalization” focus of Japan. Because of a booming economy and criticism of Japan’s unfair trade practices, the government initiated (among other acts) the importing of foreign English teachers from the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia. I was part of that influx of teachers who went to Japan. I was there at the exact time of the story, and I described the clash of generations: the older World War II seniors and the pop culture youth who knew little about the war. It was an interesting yet awkward time. And it fit perfectly for my version of the story.

So there you have it: Art imitating a life which imitates art.

Being a guy, of course I wanted my male protagonist to not be a jerk, to do the right thing. But he is human and thus has flaws. He also faces the clash of customs, lost among people who think differently, where the acts that make no sense to him seem perfectly logical to the local folk. Japan in the 1990s is a modern place, but in inaka (the rural, “backwoods” regions), the old, traditional ways still hold sway. So our hero, Benjamin Pinkerton (yes, I borrowed the name from the character in the opera, just to make the connection more obvious), tries to do the right thing: save a child he never knew he had while risking everything in his life back home. It is another stranger in a strange land scenario I like to write.

I Know Nothing

Like John Snow and Sergeant Schultz before him, I know nothing about marketing a book. Anticipating the release of my first book, Gates of Fire and Ash, I developed a woefully inept marketing plan and forged ahead like Wile E. Coyote in pursuit of the elusive Road Runner. I’m here to share my experience.

Remember I know nothing, so I read what other writers had done and what the gurubloggers had to say. Pronounced Goo-Rub-Loggers, a gurublogger is an internet blogger that claims to know the answer. The answer to what you ask? Oh, I’m glad you asked. The answer to anything that gets you to generate revenue on their site. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to bloggers making money from their sites. I’m opposed to bloggers using teasers and snake-oil techniques to sell high dollar items or provide useless information in order to collect impressions and clicks for advertising fees. At any rate, I came up with the “plan.”

My plan was pretty basic:

  1. Have a good cover
  2. Prepare a catchy description
  3. Use social media effectively
  4. Obtain reviews
  5. Pick perfect Amazon categories & keywords
  6. Try Amazon Marketing Services
  7. Spend as little as possible

I can confidently state that Step 7 was accomplished. I’m less sure of the others.

Good Cover

I’m not a graphic designer, and Step 7 precluded hiring one. I cobbled together a cover with a good deal of help from my Myrddin Publishing friends. I spent $29.00 for a couple of photos and at least two dozen hours working with an old copy of Photoshop Elements that had come bundled with a long gone printer.

 

Did I get a good cover? I don’t know, but it was good enough.

Catchy Description

It is harder than you might think to write a book description. It’s supposed to encourage people to click Add-to-Cart using just a sentence or two. Lines that capture one person’s fancy may be a complete turn-off to another. The truth of this became clear when I asked for feedback from writers and non-writers. In the end, I went with the majority vote because I agreed with it.

Social Media

Social media will make your book the key that unlocks the door to success. I’m not so sure about that, but many gurubloggers seem to believe it and are willing to share their hard-won knowledge for a free pamphlet and a paid subscription. My social media effort was limited to making a few posts on Facebook letting folks know that the book was coming and announcing its launch on Amazon. What about Twitter and the other sites, you might ask. I don’t know a Twit from a Ter and even less about the others. I didn’t have the energy to find out. Oh, I unintentionally “boosted” one of my launch adverts on Facebook. It cost me $7.00. I probably could have gotten a refund but decided it was a cheap lesson look before I click.

Reviews

Reviews are the lifeblood of successful independent authors. Get as many reviews as possible and as quickly as possible is the mantra. If you succeed, the magicians at Amazon will brew a potion in their algorithmic cauldron that brings readers to the altar of your product page. So, I solicited people to read an advance review copy (ARC) of the book hoping to get reviews. I sent out emails to my friends (some are now former friends) offering a free copy in return for an honest review. I also made the offer on Facebook as part of my clever social media marketing plan. I received ten acceptances to be an ARC reader. Five of them posted a review on Amazon. They averaged 4.5 stars, though. Oh, well. I tried.

Amazon Categories & Keywords

Categories and keywords are supposed to make it easier for readers to find my book by browsing. Think of it like the sections of a physical bookstore says Amazon. Excuse me, a monitor and mouse have nothing in common with a physical bookstore. I don’t believe readers browse in the physical sense. They can’t, there are too many books, 1.8 million titles by one account. Still, I played the game.

Amazon’s help screen: Selecting Browse Categories, includes this quote, “During title setup, you’ll select a BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) code. The codes you choose, along with your selected keywords, are used to place your book into certain categories, or browse paths, on Amazon.” I  didn’t actually select a code number. Instead, I  picked from an outline of options. For example 1. Juvenile Fiction > Action & Adventure > General, or 2. Fiction > Science Fiction > Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic. I need to mention that none of my options seemed to fit my book.

Keywords are different. I created them thinking they’d be a good way to help readers find my book. I’m not so sure now. They may be more import as a way to narrow the books I’ll be compared against for sale rank purposes. My story intentionally excludes magic as a plot element, but it involves a quest to find a cure for a disease. I used quest as one of my seven keywords. Amazon included my book in a Sword & Sorcery subcategory as shown here, (2241 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery). It turns out that using the keyword quest triggered the classification. I’ll be changing that soon.

Amazon Marketing Services

Amazon receives a piece of the action from the sale of each book. I have no problem with it because I can publish a book on Amazon without spending one dollar. Zon even offers me free tools to help.

Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) is one of the few ways it can get extra moola from me. Remember I know nothing, but I wanted to try AMS to boost the visibility of my book. AMS offers two types of advertising: Product Display and Sponsored Products. In a nutshell, Display ads appear on a competitors Amazon sale page.

 << Display ad

Sponsored ads appear in search results.

 << Sponsored ad

I tried Product Display first. The $100 minimum budget scared the hell out of me, but I was feeling confident and went for it. Twelve days later, I terminated the ad. The AMS report showed that my ad had been displayed 17 times. Each display being an “Impression” on the Big A reports. Sadly, no one checked-out my book by clicking or tapping on my ad. Clicking or tapping is reported as a “Click”—clever.  The cost to me was $0.00 because I only had to pay for clicks, not for impressions.

Unimpressed with Product Displays, I tried Sponsored Products next.  Sponsored ads let me pick search words that AMS calls keywords. Why did Amazon choose to use keyword for two distinct purposes? Seriously, if you know, please tell me. But, I digress.

If a reader used one of my AMS keywords to search for a book, my ad might appear to them (an impression), and if they clicked on my ad I’d be billed for it; a daily budget limited my risk.

I played with the system because I know nothing. Initially (2/26/18), I let Amazon pick my search terms. It chose 35 terms and over 12 days generated 792 impressions and 24 clicks. Amazon’s report (see below)  implies that the ad generated $8.99 in sales at the cost of $3.89 for a healthy 43% cost of sale percentage.

In truth, the $8.99 was for the purchase of a paperback by a personal friend and had nothing to do with my ad.  I made three more attempts using search words generated by KDPRocket. KDPRocket analyzes Amazon data to find terms that buyers have used in the past. In theory, I could do it myself, but it would take many hours, if not days, to find as many terms as KDPRocket can in minutes. At $97.00 it’s not a cheap program, but it saved me many hours.

Each of my attempts used at least 250 search terms but was generated with different beginning criteria. As I hope you can tell from the table, I didn’t sell enough books to pay for KDPRocket. However, about 200,000 prospects saw my ad. Marketing is about building brand awareness more than generating current sales according to my Marketing Professor who is probably dead by now.

Spend as little as possible

Excluding KDPRoceket, I’ve spent less than $50.00 so far to create and market my book. Am I happy? No. But, I’m not unhappy either. I’m experimenting and haven’t finished yet. I see KDPRocket as an investment more than an expense and can use it for future projects that may be more profitable. Actually, profit isn’t my motive. I hope readers will enjoy my writing, but they must find it to do that, which is why I’m making an effort to advertise.

Do you have comments? Please share them.


Copyright by David P. Cantrell 2018

SUNRISE (Book II in the Stefan Szekely Trilogy)

For Stefan Székely it is a fate worse than death: To be dead yet stuck with his dead parents. After 13 years Stefan can endure it no longer. He wants a castle of his own.

First he must visit his family’s bank in Budapest. But with endless strife across Europe, Stefan hardly recognizes Budapest, capital of the new Hungarian Federation. Nevertheless, he embarks on his reign as a vampire playboy – until he gets a stern warning from the local vampire gang.

Will Stefan fight for his right to party like it’s 2027? Or will an encounter with a stranger change everything? As clashes between vampire gangs and State Security escalate, Stefan discovers he might be the key to changing the fate of Europe forever. If he can survive three bloody nights in Budapest.

The sequel to A DRY PATCH of SKIN (2014) continues the trials and tribulations of Stefan Székely, Vampire.

Sunrise, sequel to A Dry Patch of Skin, launches!

SUNRISE …the end of the workday for vampires…

For Stefan Székely it is a fate worse than death: To be a vampire yet stuck with his vampire parents. After 13 years Stefan can endure it no more. He wants a castle of his own. But first he must visit his family’s bank in Budapest.
With endless strife rumbling across Europe, Stefan hardly recognizes Budapest, now capital of the Hungarian Federation. The world has changed.  Nevertheless, he embarks on the reign of terror he always denied himself, living the vampire playboy lifestyle.  Until he gets a stern warning from the local vampire gang. He is not welcome – unless he plays by their rules.
Should Stefan fight for his right to party like it’s 2027? Or will an unexpected encounter with a stranger change everything? As clashes between vampire gangs and State Security escalate, Stefan realizes he just might be the key to changing the fate of Europe forever!  . . . If he can survive three bloody nights in Budapest.
Budapest at sunrise

In 2014 my medically accurate vampire novel A DRY PATCH OF SKIN came out to a couple rave reviews. My main purpose then was to counter the hysteria of the Twilight experience with some medical research crossed with an understanding of established legends. I wanted to tell a realistic vampire tale. I even set the story in my own city and the action in the story followed the actual days and months I was writing the story. The story and my writing of the story ended the same week. Of course, I revised and edited after that.

Then I thought . . . what might possibly happen next? So I chose a gap of, say, 13 years (the number seems significant in horror stories). Now, where did I leave my protagonist? How is he doing? What could have happened since the end of the first book? What has changed in the world during these 13 years? How would what’s different in the world affect his own corner of the world? How would he cope with these changes?

As I started on another vampire story I quickly realized that I had to also write essentially a science-fiction story. A futuristic story. If I were setting the story 13 years after the end of the previous novel, then this sequel would be set in 2027. And it would be somewhere in Europe, which is where our hero was at the end of the first book.

What do I know of 2027? Not much. Like many science fictioneers writing about the future, I took the present circumstances, the way things are now (good and bad), and extrapolated how they might progress. Remember that novel by George Orwell1984? It was published in 1948 just as fears of a Communist takeover gripped Europe. It was supposed to be a warning. Orwell imagined how the concerns of his present might play out in the future.

With the current strife in Europe, mass immigration, refugees coming to Europe from the Middle East and Africa, the increase in crime, warfare between left and right political groups, I could see all these happenings extending, continuing and growing through the following decade. The moral question that arises is whether an author should follow his/her own beliefs; that is, how the world should be, a Utopian view – or choose a path of development which would be the best setting for the story, however the society might become – or try to take an honest look at current events and let things fall where they might, for good or ill.

I chose both. If I have to make a choice, I will lean toward what makes a good story over what my own beliefs might be. For the sake of this story and for the way I think society will continue to progress/digress or develop or evolve over the next 10 years, I’m letting the European conflicts play out in the sequel: my now less-medically accurate vampire novel, titled SUNRISE.

In this sequel, the new Hungarian Federation is a strictly run Euro-centrist society. The State Security apparatus runs a tidy ship and getting in is very problematic. Staying in if you are a “diseased” resident such as a vampire is dangerous. However, our hero, Stefan Székely, is already within the boundaries of the Hungarian Federation at his family’s estate in the former Croatia; therefore, I, the author, must deal with the vagaries of that location. It was not an unpleasant effort. I love to travel vicariously.

Needless to say, our hero has difficulties – or there wouldn’t be a story. Yet as I charged through the final chapters and then undertook the revision stage, the look and feel, the horrors, and the dystopian ambiance seemed right. Will Stefan escape from the repressive Hungarian Federation? Or will powers greater than himself and the vampire gangs of Budapest have the final say? 
In SUNRISE the world gets darker before the light shines again. Book 3, to be titled SUNSET, picks up the story even further into the future. By then, we are in full-fledged Dystopia territory. But, hey! I’m sure everything will work out just fine…if you transform into a vampire in time.

Cantrell, David P. (Dave)

 David P. Cantrell (Dave) lives on the Central Coast of California. After a spinal cord injury forced him to retire from his CPA practice, he found writing as an outlet for his creative urges.  Science Fiction, particularly Hard SciFi, is his first love, but he also enjoys fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers. His first book, Gates of Fire and Ash, is a mix of post-apocalyptic sci-fi and epic fantasy genres.

 

Myrddin Has All your Valentine’s Day Romance Needs Covered!

find love with myrddin publishing

Here at Myrddin Publishing, we cover a lot of genres and romance is no exception. Whether you like contemporary, historical, or paranormal romance, there is something for everyone on your list. Below is just a sample of where you might find your next Valentine’s day treat! you can find the full list of Myrddin romance here.

find love with myrddin publishing

Contemporary

A Beatutiful Chill by Stephen SwartzA Beautiful Chill by Stephen Swartz

Life is impossible when every moment of the present is haunted by the past.

Íris is a refugee from an abusive youth in Iceland, further abused on the streets of Toronto – until she sees Art as an escape. With a scholarship, she drifts from depression to nightmare to Wiccan rituals to the next exhibit. There’s a lot she must forget to succeed in a life she refuses to take responsibility for.

Eric is settling in at Fairmont College, starting a new life after betrayal and heartbreak. Divorced and hitting forty, he has a lot to prove – to his father, his colleagues, and mostly to himself. The last thing he needs is a distraction – and there’s nothing more distracting than Iris.

A Beautiful Chill is a contemporary romance set in the duplicitous world of academic rules and artistic license.

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Ednor Scardens by Kathleen BarkerEdnor Scardens (The Charm City Chronicles Book #1) by Kathleen Barker

Growing up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Baltimore in the 1960’s was hard enough when everything went right. Kate Fitzgerald wasn’t that lucky.

Struggling to cope with unwanted attention from older boys and men, Kate’s childhood friendship with shy classmate Gabe Kelsey begins to blossom, but quickly becomes tangled when she falls hard for his darkly handsome older brother, Michael.

As the brothers vie for Kate’s affections, she doesn’t know how to choose between them without tearing their family apart. She looks to her girlfriends for advice, but the tragic death of a classmate brings them face-to-face with mortality, shattering their facade of invincibility.

Her dilemma deepens when a predatory priest with a hidden past arrives at Holy Sacrament School. And when she silently witnesses a frightening scene between Gabe and Fr. O’Conner, Kate unknowingly becomes O’Conner’s intended next victim.

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Historical

The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar by Rachel TsoumbakosViking: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar by Rachel Tsoumbakos

 

Lagertha was known to be one of the wives of the famous Viking, Ragnar Lodbrok. But did you know they first met each other at a brothel? And just how long did their marriage last? Was Lagertha really the revered shield maiden we see her as today? ‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ aims to unravel all these secrets.

‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ is so much more than a history book though.

In Part One their story is brought to life with a historically accurate retelling. Part Two then explores the historical facts surrounding this story.

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Paranormal

Heart Search by Carlie M A CullenHeart Search (Book #1) by Carlie M.A. Cullen

One bite starts it all . . .

When Joshua Grant vanishes days before his wedding his fiancée Remy is left with only bruises, scratch marks and a hastily written note. Heartbroken, she sets off alone to find him and begins a long journey where strange things begin to happen.

As Joshua descends into his new immortal life he indulges his thirst for blood and explores his superhuman strength and amazing new talents while becoming embroiled in coven politics which threaten to destroy him. But Remy discovers a strength of her own on her quest to bring Joshua home.

Fate toys with mortals and immortals alike, as two hearts torn apart by darkness face ordeals which test them to their limits.

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Behind The Convention Table

by Lee French

It’s 9:54 on a Saturday morning. I’m standing in front of a table laden with books. A third of the books have my name on the cover. Another third have the name of the guy sitting behind the table, Jeff. The rest are anthologies and books by our friends. In the midst of all these tomes of assorted size and thickness resting in stands, on a bookshelf, or lying flat, we keep a pet dragon. Dwago the clockwork dragon is our mascot and conversation piece.

Dwago, performing a quality control test by taste.

Jeff notices the time before I do because I’m straightening books. I like my table tidy. Everything else in my life is messy and I don’t care. The table, though, must be tidy or everyone will die in horrible, screeching agony.

He puts on his hat. I notice and mumble something about hat time. We wear embellished hats. It’s a thing we do to make us easier to remember and recognize in these venues.

A voice from above, or maybe the other side of the room, announces the doors are open. It’s 10am.

I keep straightening. I can stop any time, I swear. As I shift the books, I choose one title to deliberately leave askew. It’s a book that, for reasons beyond the ken of mere mortals, gets little to no attention at conventions. Maybe it’s the color scheme, or maybe it whispers darkness into the ear of anyone who dares to glance at its cover with the intent to read it.

People filter through the room. Some wear t-shirts announcing their fandom of choice. Others wander in costume. Still others seem slightly dazed and a bit confused about how they wound up inside a fantasy and science fiction convention. Like they tripped and accidentally paid admission, or were forced at lightsaber-point.

Passersby drift past without looking at our table. Or they take a quick look and jerk their head away. Don’t make eye contact with the wild authors. They might scent the money in your wallet and try to talk to you about books.

Jeff sits. He has knee problems bad enough that he needs a cane to walk. I stand, sit, even kneel on my chair, because staying still drives me bananas. There’s a banana in my bag. I brought it to have for lunch with a granola bar, a room-temperature stick of string cheese, and whatever random pre-packaged thing I snagged from the stash for my kids’ lunchboxes. Sometimes I get Pirate Booty. Other times, I get a second granola bar or a pouch of applesauce.

Someone approaches our table with a big smile. “Books! I love books!”

“We have lots of books!” One of us says. It’s usually Jeff. He’s more of a people-person than me and quicker on the verbal draw.

He unfurls our basic spiel and susses out their preferences while I watch for other unwary souls lured by our array of colors and clever titles.

The customer buys a book or two. I handle the money. Jeff continues to pay attention to the person who may dump our books onto a giant To Be Read pile unless we continue to make an impression. Jeff is better at that than me.

We talk to the people at the next table on both sides, and across from us, and any other authors we can find. The jokes flow freely. Everyone wants to know how everyone else is doing. Does attendance seem lower this year? Sales? How was your drive? Did you do this other show? How was it? Wasn’t that other show horrible? Can you believe that guy at WhateverCon did that thing? Did you hear about this anthology? What are you doing for dinner tonight?

Everyone wants to talk about politics, and no one wants to talk about politics.

Something bad happens, because something bad always happens. It doesn’t stop the convention or destroy any merchandise, but everyone grumbles about it for the rest of the show. Until we start saying we think they built this hotel on a Hellmouth. Or maybe it’s designed so if you walk the hallways in a particular order, you summon an elder god.

“Hey,” another person says, “didn’t I see you at WhateverCon?”

“Yes,” we say. This is what we do more weekends than not. If you think we were there, we were there.

We sign books as we sell them. On request, we personalize them with the person’s name. There are a lot of ways to spell a lot of different names. I manage to mess up someone’s name and laugh as I tell them there’s a reason I type my books. It’s called crappy handwriting.

Between customers, I get onto the floor and pull out back stock from the plastic bins hidden by our tablecloth. Jeff can’t do this because of his knees. He also has no sense of graphic design and no ability to lay out the table so it looks nice with 30+ books across it. That’s my job.

I replace sold books and straighten the rest. I can stop anytime.

We take turns getting up during the lulls to walk around, use the bathroom, refill water bottles, or eat. Sometimes we sit and chat about our various in-process projects, bounce ideas off each other, or crack jokes. Working a table by myself is one long, boring stretch punctuated with short flurries of excitement. Working a table with Jeff is a collection of in-jokes and writing ideas punctuated by short flurries of excitement.

“I love books, but I have too many!”

We smile and nod, pretending like no one has ever said that to us before.

Time flows in fits and starts. I check my phone–it’s noon, which explains why I’m hungry. The next time I check, it’s three in the afternoon. Then it’s 3:15. 3:31. 3:37. 3:42. 3:45. 3:50. This day will never end. Suddenly, it’s five. An hour to go.

“Which book is your favorite?”

We both cringe inside. There are over thirty books on the table, and they cover multiple subgenres. Just because I like book A the best doesn’t mean a random person reads superhero fiction. Instead of answering, I pretend the question is the same as asking which child is my favorite and ask what they like to read. We don’t have any werewolf cyberpunk romance, but that author across the room does, and they’re awesome, so go talk to them.

Behind their back, we snigger about the idea of werewolf cyberpunk romance. Five minutes later, we both have ideas for writing a werewolf cyberpunk romance, but won’t because we each have five thousand other ideas in our respective queues already.

Ten minutes to go. I yawn. This is hard work and I’m hungry.

“What do you like to read?” Jeff asks a customer who apparently has no idea the room closes at six.

“Everything.”

“We have some of that.” Jeff proceeds to deliver the quickie pitch for every series on the table. The room closes halfway through, but he keeps going. I keep smiling and pointing at the books he can’t reach. We all keep talking.

Five minutes after six, the person buys a book. They walk away. We take off our hats and feel ten pounds lighter. I say something surly or snarky because I can finally stop being a salesperson. Jeff laughs. The people at the nearby tables laugh.

We hide everything that’s easy to walk off with. Some folks cover their wares with tablecloths, but our setup makes that impractical.

I don’t straighten the books.

That’s a lie, because I nudge one. I can stop anytime.

Dragon in one hand and cashbox in the other, we go forage for dinner. Because we have to do this all over again tomorrow.

Lee French has written a bunch of fantasy and science fiction stories and routinely sells them at conventions, fairs, and festivals. Her next convention is Miyakocon in Salem, WA, and her latest book is Darkside Seattle: Mechanic, which released yesterday, January 30. Find all her work here.

Men Reading Women

With the passing of fantasy author  Ursula K. Le Guin, it seems a good time to reflect on the women authors of my life, especially in science-fiction and fantasy where the percentage has been more skewed.

When I was a young reader, science-fiction got my attention. Imagining other worlds, traveling in space, or dealing with futuristic possibilities was my thing. I started at a young age reading such sci-fi authors as Ben Bova and Robert Silverberg. Also an author named Andre Norton. Mostly these were short stories, often in an anthology edited by Silverberg. One day, though, I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite authors was a woman. I thought Andre was a boy’s name! It made me think.

Boys tend to want to read stories of other boys or men doing things, heroic things. At that age I honestly didn’t care what the girls did in stories. It was just that male authors tended to write about men doing manly things (I’m generalizing, of course), so I had no reason to try female authors. I also did not have much knowledge then of how difficult it was for female authors especially in the genre of science fiction and fantasy; I just wanted a good story. My mother pushed A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle on me, telling me it was a good story, but as a young boy I was not so interested in reading a story about a girl!

Gradually, I grew up. Focusing deliberately on a wider range of fiction, literary and decidedly non-SF works, many of them were written by women. I enjoyed them: I got to experience life as a female character, got to understand the issues they dealt with, and perhaps gained from perspective I did not previously know. It was educational. Whether or not the authors were women still did not matter to me as a reader more than what the story itself was. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books about Authorian legend interested me, not because of the author but because of the Arthur. Nancy Kress and her sci-fi and books on writing mentored me for a time, as well.

Classic women authors starting with Mary Shelley and continuing through the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen entered my experience in college by making me play along as the man in the pages of their books. I could empathize, to a point, with the women in the novels. That experience helped develop the Romantic qualities which have eventually ruined me. I can’t confidently say, just from reading, that I now “get it” or that I understand all the characters endured and could cheer as they rose up and took whatever position they deemed in the story to be a success. Yet my empathy continued to grow.

In grad school, read Francine Prose and Annie Proulx, partly to see a view of life which I could not see without the lens of a woman author writing about a woman protagonist. A couple years ago I read a teenage romance series by Stephanie Perkins, not for the thrills of young love and relationship conundrums but to understand how a young girl thinks and acts. I used what I learned from those books for my own novel which featured a young girl. More than research, I deliberately tried to learn to see what I could not with my own experiential eyes. And then a film on cable TV one night prompted me to check out Margaret Atwood’s novels, starting with The Handmaid’s Tale. Now, of course, it has returned in a new series.

Having a daughter further instilled in me the urge to seek women authors for her to read. The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer became a milestone in my daughter’s life. Inspired, she even wrote fan fiction herself. No matter what word or label you may apply to me and my experience with women authors, I want the best for my daughter, and for her to understand other women’s lives and times, struggles and triumphs.

More recently, as I worked on my own epic fantasy involving dragons, I returned to the novels of Anne McCaffrey. While her dragons and their world are remarkably different from the ones I was writing about, I very much appreciated the craft, the imagination, the pure exhilaration of the world she invented in Pern.  Then the sci-fi/dystopian trilogy by Marie Lu caught my attention as something my daughter might like to read…but I read it first. Before reading these authors, Marian Perera, a fellow newbie, came out with Before the Storm, which wonderfully taught me how women think and act in sci-fi romance. It was liberating as I was composing my own sci-fi trilogy.

Now Ursula has passed on, never to write another novel. Yet we remain blessed to always have the products of her mind, the outpouring of words that frame and construct and fulfill our own hopes and aspirations for years past and years to come…for the world of make-believe is our world, today’s world, in disguise.

 

‘Twas the Night B4 Xmas

‘Twas the night before Xmas, when all through the base
Only robots were stirring, but none with much haste.
The backpacks were taped to the air vents with care,
In hopes that old Santa would find his way there;

The kiddos were tucked in their coffin-shaped beds,
As a Twix induced sugar-rush played with their heads;
Mom in her flannel and I in tighty-whites
Had just settled in after saying good nights.

When suddenly our module shook to and fro,
I leapt from my bed and was soon ready to go.
Away to the view screen I flew like the Flash,
And focused the monitor in a hurried dash.

The blue Earth above gave an eerie luster
To the dwellings that formed our lunar cluster.
Then, a vision beyond belief did appear,
A tiny red shuttle, manned by tiny reindeer.

Anon, a weird looking pilot escorted them out.
“I am Captain Saint Nick,” he said with a shout.
His four-legged crew must surely be tame,
Because clearly I heard him call them by name;

“Now, Crasher. now, Lancer. Now, Rancher and Buttless.
On, Gromit. On, Wallace. On, Dander and Gutless.
Gather your pouches, gifts stuffed to the top,
We must hurry and scurry there’s no time to stop.

And then in a jiffy, I heard from the ceiling
The clatter and chatter of eight little beings.
I stood from my perch and then turned around,
To see the pilot materialize with nary a sound.

Unsure of his purpose, my phaser at ready,
I stunned the old guy, my aim was quite steady.
His bundle of toys were thrown to the floor
“Oh no, this must be Santa,” I had to implore.

His eyes – how they twinkled, from the stun no doubt.
His cheeks soon grew as red as if they had gout.
His mouth formed a circle like a black hole,
His chest expelled the growl of an evil troll.

The sound of his anguish filled me with grief;
I feared for my life when he gritted his teeth.
He had a narrow face and surprising round belly.
Plus a wicked smile; I thought of Machiavelli.

With the wink of his eye he turned his head;
The look on his face filled me with dread.
But soon I realized I feared without reason
When he chuckled and said, “I love this season.”

He looked to the floor and gathered the toys,
Several were for girls and others for boys,
He filled all of the packs hung by the vents
Then touched his comm-unit and off he went.

From my viewer I saw him gather his troops,
The eight little reindeer were a strange group.
He walked up the ramp, his team close behind.
When the shuttle rumbled, it began to climb.

The craft hovered high over our airless dorm;
Through some unknown magic a dome did form.
These words were written on the white hemisphere,
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


By David P. Cantrell (c) 2017 with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

Nut-free Banana Bread #recipe

I not only hate walnuts, I’m allergic to them. Finding a recipe for banana bread that doesn’t get funny when you take out the walnuts is challenging. This one works and has my kids’ stamp of approval. Makes one loaf of bread, which you can slice into as few pieces as you want.

This is too many, but they look nice.

Ingredients:

  • 1⅓ cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp rolled oats
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 5⅓ Tbsp unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • ⅔ cup sugar–brown or white
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Equipment:

  • Electric mixer
  • Wire whisk or similar tool
  • Three mixing bowls
  • Something to mash your bananas
  • Scraper spatula
  • One loaf pan, prepared for baking in your preferred manner

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Combine flour, oats, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in one mixing bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
  • In the second mixing bowl, use the electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. This will be the bowl you add everything else to. Set aside.
  • Use the third mixing bowl to mash the bananas with the extra tablespoon of brown sugar. Set aside.
  • Return to the butter mixture. Gradually add the flour and beat together so you don’t coat yourself with flour.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  • Using the scraper spatula, fold in the mashed bananas. Use only as many cutting strokes as it takes to combine the two.
  • Pour the batter into your loaf pan.
  • Bake uncovered for 60 minutes.
  • Turn off the oven, prop the door open, and leave the bread inside until the oven cools.
  • Remove from the pan and let cool as long as you can wait to eat it.

Notes:

  • The baking time may need to be adjusted by as much as 10 minutes in either direction for your oven. When the crusty edges on top darken to a deep brown, turn off the oven to avoid burning.
  • This recipe adapts well to gluten-free flours used with xanthan gum.
  • Adapting this recipe to vegan can be done, but I recommend instead using a recipe designed for vegans.
  • Replacing up to half the flour with whole wheat flour works fine.
  • Change this to apple by replacing the banana with 1 cup applesauce and adding 1 tsp total of apple pie spices.
  • Change this loaf to pumpkin by replacing the banana with 1 cup pumpkin puree and adding 1 tsp total of pumpkin pie spices.
  • This bread freezes well, sliced or unsliced.
  • If your bananas are frozen, make sure to thaw completely before using.

The Hero as Social Justice Warrior

Do you write what you preach? 

Are fiction authors supposed to promote their personal values? Or is the story supposed to be a self-contained entity with its own political views and separate from the author’s? Must (or should) the author reveal personal positions on every social and political issues undergoing discussion in the public arena? Or is the story just a story and everything political is thrown to the wind for the sake of the story?

The writer is supposedly imbued with a welter of imagination, able to leap tall plots in a single bound, about to stop dastardly antagonists with bare hands (obviously, on a keyboard). So it should go beyond the “write what you know” –shouldn’t it? It is the mark of a true author if he/she can make you believe he/she knows what he/she is writing about.

However, there are plenty of instances where readers get in the way. I mean that in a wholly innocent sense. If writing for a particular category of reader, the writer may shape the story in certain ways to appeal to those readers. Part of that may be, say, to use initials instead of a name or to use a pen name completely to hide the gender of the author. Because a Romance author cannot be a man…in theory. And a hardcore sci-fi author cannot be female…traditionally.

If an author is against guns…would the story be gun-free?

If the author believes in a nation having a strong military and the government protecting its citizens by militarizing city police forces, would that idea be reflected in the author’s latest book? If the author is opposed to abortion, would the character in the story who gets pregnant have an abortion or have the baby and offer it for adoption? It starts to get complicated. Or perhaps it’s very easy. Do your characters act as you would act?

And then there is the marketing question.

If an author writes books in which characters act as he/she would, hold views the author holds, act as the author would act with regard to a whole host of political and social issues, views, and positions, where does that leave the reader? Could that reader like a story enough to buy it and read it even though that reader and the book’s author may have different views on, say, immigration reform? Or do we authors censor ourselves so as to be as mild-mannered as possible and not offend anyone who just might be tempted to buy our book? Do we write so as to not alienate half the potential readership, or do we go forth boldly proclaiming where we stand on this or that issue, and hope or expect that we will be praised for our stance(s)? Tough questions–or non-issues?

Perhaps many writers, authors, dabblers in words, whatever the label, just don’t care about such matters because just writing an interesting story is hard enough and we don’t have time to be concerned about things outside the story. Or are we politely disingenuous, hiding our true nature and our true beliefs and values for the sake of that interesting story, afraid to speak out about something we feel strongly about because we worry about offending fellow authors and potential readers. Compare the statistics of recent voting and decide which half of the book-buying population you will market to.

I don’t believe fiction writers, as a clan, deal much with pushing agendas. Or do we? Or should we? Or…why shouldn’t we? When I’ve written sci-fi and fantasy, I’ve invented political systems which run the spectrum from left to right, not as a reflection of my own view of “how things should be” but only for the sake of plausibility in the story and influence on the plot.

Sure, the literary canon is full of authors who pushed agendas, who wrote dogmatic tales, who gave us strongly-worded suggestions of how we should behave, what we should think, what we should do or stop doing–woven more or less subtly through a fictional narrative that served to entertain us long enough to get the message across. And others wrote to warn us of possible future scenarios we may not wish to experience.

The world of literary imagination is both a safe space and a war zone. Reader beware.

Or are they simply stories which only in hindsight do we see a message or a warning? And if the warning may be too strong, too upsetting, too triggering, then such a book might be moved into the banned book pile. Fearing the ban, authors may self-censor, keep it clean, water it down, set it all in a land of make-believe where nothing is actually meant to be real or serious, certainly not as a commentary on the present political climate, oh no!

And yet, in this present day world of saying the right thing, being politically correct or decidedly not, what is the author’s responsibility…or compulsion? Must a novel follow a political agenda? May a work of fiction illustrate differing views on particular social issues?

Should our protagonists be social justice warriors? 

Deluxe Apple Pie Cake #recipe

This cake is full of appley deliciousness. It serves however many people you can talk yourself into sharing it with, up to about twelve. This recipe isn’t well suited to cupcakes, but it can be done.Peeling optional! Yay!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2-3 apples, sliced and cut into chunks, preferably Granny Smith or another tart variety (peeling optional)
  • 1 tsp apple pie spice or ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp cloves (or any other combination of apple pie spices to your taste up to one teaspoon)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1⅓ cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp apple pie spice or ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp cloves (or any other combination of apple pie spices to your taste up to one teaspoon)
  • ⅓ cup cream
  • ⅓ cup apple cider or apple juice
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg

Equipment:

  • Large frying pan with a tight-fitting lid
  • One mixing bowl
  • Electric mixer
  • 11-inch rectangular casserole pan, or any other baking container(s) able to hold about 8 cups of batter. No greasing is necessary, but you may wish to line the pan with parchment paper for ease of removal, especially if your baking pan isn’t attractive enough for to meet your standards for serving.

Directions:

  • Melt 1 Tbsp butter in the frying pan.
  • Add apple chunks. Stir until coated.
  • Cover the apple chunks and leave them for 5 minutes or until mildly squishy.
  • Add 1 tsp apple pie spice and ¼ cup sugar. Stir until coated.
  • Cook until the juices become thick and bubbly.
  • Pour the apples into your baking container(s), but reserve as much of the liquid as possible. Set the pan aside with the liquid still in it.
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and remaining apple pie spice in the mixing bowl.
  • Add cream or milk, apple cider, softened butter, and egg.
  • Beat with the mixer at your preferred speed until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour over apples in baking container.
  • Pour the reserved apple liquid over batter.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes. Adjust as needed for your baking container.
  • Let cool on a rack before devouring.

Notes:

  • Keep your apple chunks uniform, as if you were making an apple pie. ¼ inch thick squares of about 1 inch are ideal.
  • Any kind of apple cider or juice will work for this recipe. If you use a spiced cider, you may wish to eliminate the spice in the cake, depending upon the tastes of your audience.
  • If you use apple juice, consider eliminating all the spices and add instead 1 tsp of vanilla to the cake for an interesting change of apple pace.
  • Although cream and butter are listed, these can be replaced with any form of milk-like and butter-like substances. However, the lower the fat content, the less delicious the cake will be, and the shorter a shelf-life it will have. For the first step, genuine butter is strongly recommended to provide flavor.
  • When reserving the liquid, also reserving some of the apple chunks works fine and can make the cake more attractive.
  • Frosting is not recommended. Anything you’d normally eat with apple pie is a better choice as an accompaniment.

A Girl Called Wolf by Stephen Swartz

The inspiring true story of the poor Inuit orphan girl from Greenland who grows up and saves the world!

A GIRL CALLED WOLF
by Stephen Swartz
(December 2015)

A Girl Called Wolf (paper)
A Girl Called Wolf (Kindle)

Ice and snow are all 12 year old Anuka knows outside the hut in Greenland where she was born. When her mama dies, Anuka struggles to survive. The harsh winter forces her to finally journey across the frozen island to the village her mama always feared.

But the people of the village don’t know what to do with this girl. They try to educate and bring her into the modern world, but Anuka won’t make it easy for them. She sees dangers at every turn and every day hears her fate echoing in her mama’s voice.

Her mama gave her that name for a reason. She is A GIRL CALLED WOLF, forever searching for the place where she belongs, a destination always just out of reach, on a path she will always make her own.

Based on the amazing coming-of-age and adult adventures of librarian, boxer, and Canadian soldier Anna Good!

Minkie Monster and the Lost Treasure (A picture book with puzzles)

There is lost treasure in that there sea…

minkie-sea-1-under-the-seaMinkie is on the hunt for the lost treasure, but rough seas may stop him. With Bob left behind to look after the ship, Minkie will face rough currents and wander far, far away. Now, on top of searching for gold and jewels, Minkie has to search for a way home. Along the way, he’ll have to solve many puzzles. Will he ever find his way back? Can you help him solve the puzzles and find his way home? Under the Sea Puzzles: Minkie Monster and the Lost Treasure is both an engaging puzzle book and a riveting pre-school story. Inside you’ll find letters and numbers tracing puzzles, coloring pages, dot-to-dot, pattern matching games, a word search and of course Minkie’s friend Bob on every page!

Prepare for hours of fun and learning with your preschooler!

Available from Amazon and by special order from your local book store.

The Minkie Monster series of books are activity books for children up to the age of 6. They are designed to be a story book with puzzles which get harder as your child gets older. All the puzzle books have links and passwords to download the PDF so your child can redo the puzzles and coloring pages again and again.

Paperback

Get the paperback from Amazon:

http://minkiemonster.com/MinkieSeaAP

(This is a geographical link that will send you to your local Amazon store.)

Kindle eBook

Get the Kindle eBook from Amazon:

http://minkiemonster.com/UndertheSeaAKE

(This is a geographical link that will send you to your local Amazon store.)

 

Minkie Monster and the Birthday Surprise (A picture book with puzzles)

Minkie 1 reduced size front coverMinkie has a problem…

Minkie Monster has a problem. He’s been invited to a birthday party, but he can’t seem to remember whose. To top it all off, his best friend, Bob, is hiding – again. Now, Minkie has to go on the journey of his young lifetime to the planet Venus to find answers. Along the way, he’ll have to solve problems and follow the clues.

Filled with coloring pages, dot-to-dot activities, matching games, and word search puzzles, Space Puzzles: Minkie Monster and the Birthday Surprise will help your child develop counting, reading and cognitive skills while also giving them the opportunity to enjoy some age-appropriate fun.

Follow along and enjoy as Minkie and your preschooler follow the clues!

Available from Amazon and by special order from your local book store.

Minkie Monster keeps your little one interested…

The Minkie Monster series of books are activity books for children up to the age of 6. They are designed to be a story book with puzzles which get harder as your child gets older. All the puzzle books have links and passwords to download the PDF so your child can redo the puzzles and coloring pages again and again.

Paperback

Get the paperback of Minkie Monster and the Birthday Surprise from Amazon:

http://minkiemonster.com/SPMMBSP

(This is a geographical link that will send you to your local Amazon store.)

Kindle eBook

Get the Kindle eBook from Amazon:

http://minkiemonster.com/SPMMBSK

(This is a geographical link that will send you to your local Amazon store.

 

Minkie Monster Saves Christmas (A picture book with puzzles)

A picture book with puzzles for children up to the age of 6 years old.
A picture book with puzzles for children up to the age of 6 years old.

Oh No! Santa is missing…

Minkie Monster Saves Christmas
Minkie Monster Saves Christmas

Who will save Christmas?

Santa needed a break, but when he left, no one was put in charge. Now, Minkie has to take over or Christmas will be ruined. Join Minkie as he follows the clues. From connecting dots in magic wonderlands to following patterns and tracing numbers and letters, each step gets Minkie one step closer to saving Christmas.

Note to parents: Minkie Monster Saves Christmas is a puzzle book as well as an engaging story for your preschooler. The puzzles inside include: traceable letters and numbers, coloring pages, dot-to-dot, pattern matching, word search, and of course, finding Minkie’s best buddy Bob along the way.

Available from Amazon and by special order from your local book store.

The Minkie Monster series of books are activity books for children up to the age of 6. They are designed to be a story book with puzzles which get harder as your child gets older. All the puzzle books have links and passwords to download the PDF so your child can redo the puzzles and coloring pages again and again.

Where to get Minkie Monster Saves Christmas

Paperback

Get the Minkie Monster Saves Christmas paperback from Amazon:

http://minkiemonster.com/XmasMinkiePA

(This is a geographical link that will send you to your local Amazon store.)

Kindle eBook

Get the Kindle eBook of Minkie Monster Saves Christmas from Amazon:

http://minkiemonster.com/XmasMinkieAE

(This is a geographical link that will send you to your local Amazon store.

 

A Simpler Guide to Online Security for Everyone

A Simpler Guide to Online Security
A Simpler Guide to Online Security

A Simpler Guide to Online Security for Everyone is available as Kindle, ePub and Paperback versions. Now free as an ebook at Amazon, Apple and Kobo among other good ebook stores.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Paperback
Apple iBooks

Are you worried about online security but don’t know where to start? Do you have a Google account and want to make it more secure? Do you want to protect your emails from opportunist hackers? Then this guide is for you!

What you will find in A Simpler Guide to Online Security for Everyone:

  • Learn why online security is so important; protect yourself from identity thieves, fraudsters, hackers and scammers
  • Choose and change your passwords
  • What is and how to Setup 2-step verification
  • Add recovery information so you don’t lose access to your Google account
  • What to do if you find you have been hacked
  • How to protect your account while away from home and much more…

Your email is one of the most important tools available on the internet. It represents communication, community, business and just keeping in contact. It is also a big threat to your online safety. You don’t need to be a cyber expert to protect your identity online. Protecting your email is one of the best things you can do. This books shows you why it is important to protect it and more importantly how to secure your Google email. If skilled hackers want to get into an account they will always find a way but for the vast majority of users, following these tips will protect you.

What do you have to lose? Download it today for FREE at:

Amazon Kindle
Apple iBooks

…or buy the paperback at Amazon.

A Simpler Guide to Online Security for Everyone is part of the Simpler Guides Series. Other books in this series are:

  1. A Simpler Guide to Gmail
  2. A Simpler Guide to Calibre
  3. A Simpler Guide to Finding Free eBooks
  4. A Simpler Guide to Google+
  5. Email Management using Gmail

This security guide for everyone is available as paperback, Kindle and ePub books.

EPIC FANTASY *With Dragons

An Epic Fantasy* like no other!
(*with dragons)
Epic Fantasy *With Dragons
Master Dragonslayer Corlan Tang is the best in the business!
So it is little surprise that jealous Guild rivals conspired to have the sniveling Prince to banish him from the city.
Sent out into the Valley of Death – and stuck with a runaway boy from the palace kitchen – Corlan decides on a plan. He will head to the far end of the valley where he’s heard a vast marsh provides nesting grounds for the dragon horde. There he will smash their eggs and lance the younglings, destroying dragons once and for all! Then he can return as a conquering hero!
However, like any foolhardy quest, there are constant dangers and seductive detours along the way – as well as unsettling encounters with new allies, fiends, and traitors. A quest changes a man, Corlan realizes, and he finally must reconcile the dark secrets from his past.
Despite every distraction, Corlan must succeed, if only for his own stubborn sense of justice, but also so he might return home again. To achieve his goal, he must push himself onward, use his wits and guile, demonstrate his daring-do, and employ all the will and strength he can muster – for surely the gods have assigned him their harshest tests in this twisted new world, harshly cleaved from fire and quake. After all, the fate of the world rests in our hero’s hands.

[Read more about the creation of this epic work on the author’s blog.]

“Girls Can’t Be Knights” by Lee French – A Review

 

 

   This is a very different sort of YA story, dealing with a young girl (Claire) who has been orphaned and finds herself in the foster care system.  Trouble seems to find Claire at every turn, until she meets a young father-figure knight named Justin.  Even more trouble follows as the two alternate between the modern world and the fantasy world, battling corrupt spirits.  When I first read Lee French’s “Girls Can’t Be Knights” from the Spirit Knight Series, I began writing a review from an adult’s point of view.  But having written several Young Adult fiction books, I knew the difficulty that adults can have when trying to critique something written for a much younger audience.  So I asked my twelve-year-old to read it and tell me what she thought of it.  This is how much our views differed!

 

Character Development

Me:  This was my main complaint as I didn’t feel I knew enough about the main characters.  I wanted more fleshing-out.

12 y.o.:  Claire and Justin were awesome.  I liked how she seemed like some girls at my school.

Plot

Me:  I wanted more background so that I could understand why the characters acted as they did, rather than having to wait until the end for explanations.

12 y.o.:  I liked how it moved so fast without having to read a bunch of pages about every small detail.

Setting

Me:  The story was rather short and setting descriptions were on the minimal side.

12 y.o.:  There was enough description of places to move the story along.  I was so interested in the action that I thought there was just the right amount.

Conflict

Me:  There was an abundance of conflict, but I wasn’t always sure I understood what some of the terms really meant (such as ur and ne-phasm).

12 y.o.:  Lots of it!  There was always something going on that kept your interest.  It made me want to keep reading until the end!

Resolution

Me:  The resolution did satisfy me, but I would have preferred it not to come all in a rush at the very end.

12 y.o.:  Everything that I was hoping would happen, did come together at the end.  I loved how it ended.

Desire to continue reading the series

Me:  I did enjoy this book, but probably would not continue with the series.

12 y.o.:  There are more?  Can we get the next one now?

So you see, Lee French has targeted her audience well.  The young teen and preteen reader seem to love or not mind the very things that I did not care for.  I’m betting your young reader will too.

Kathleen Barker was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. A graduate of Blessed Sacrament, the Institute of Notre Dame and Towson University, she spent twenty years as the much-traveled wife of a Navy pilot and has three children. While working for a Fortune 500 insurance company in New Orleans, she wrote feature and human interest articles for their magazine and received the Field Reporter of the Year award. After Hurricane Katrina, she returned to her beloved state of Maryland where she started work on “The Charm City Chronicles”. All four volumes, “Ednor Scardens”, “The Body War”, “The Hurting Year”, and “On Gabriel’s Wings” are available in Amazon’s Kindle store.

When you get what you want …and it’s Winter!

Winter

 

Once there was a time

when the snow finally fell,

spreading like diamonds across the yard,

back when winter was a reason

to light the fires and embrace one another.

 

I counted the days

through the spring and summer,

watching the flowers bloom,

seeing people shed their clothes,

feeling the warmth cut through me.

 

I counted the weeks

through the falling leaves

watching them sweep my path,

seeing them blow casually away,

feeling how life fled from me.

 

And winter returned

as forever I prayed it would:

when all the birds take flight

yet there is one that remains,

willing to brave the cold

 

and shiver to death rather than escape,

wanting to believe rather than deny.

 

—Stephen Swartz (© 2007)

 

[Stephen likes to write about winter. His most wintry novels are A Beautiful Chill and A Girl Called Wolf.]