How to make an author’s day

Received this review today and, yes, it made my day.  sun_eBOOK_NEW (1)

Reviewed by Sherri Fulmer Moorer for Readers’ Favorite

Brittany Wright’s life isn’t going as she hoped. She can’t afford to go to college, despite graduating as valedictorian of her class, and is stuck in a small town, working as a cleaner at Happy Hearts Nursing Home. The job goes wrong from day one when she stumbles upon Flo, the home’s most eccentric patient who terrifies Brittany, but also holds a strange allure. An unlikely friendship develops between Brittany and Flo, despite the shadow of Alzheimer’s – a friendship that is discouraged by the home’s head nurse, who forbids Brittany from seeing Flo and forces her to sneak into the home after hours. The nurse’s reaction strikes Brittany as curious, until she sneaks in one day to find that Flo is being treated unethically. Soon, Brittany finds herself and two of her remaining high school friends embroiled in a mystery surrounding Happy Hearts that’s putting Flo and the other patients in grave danger from the very people who are supposed to protect them. When the Sun Was Mine by Darlene Jones is an intriguing mystery with twists, turns, and revelations that will keep readers guessing.

I truly enjoyed this story, and think it could appeal to both young adult and adult audiences. When the Sun Was Mine is more than a mystery; it captures the essence of multi-generational friendship. This book reminded me of the senior citizens that I became friends with when I volunteered in a nursing home right out of college. It also touches on the issues that affect both the young and old, from the expense of a college education and life planning to elder care and end of life issues. The mystery bridges the gap between two divergent generations to show us that friendships can truly transcend anything. Darlene Jones does a wonderful job of not only weaving a compelling mystery, but showing readers the beauty of friendship as well.

 

 

Harry Leslie Smith – in his own words

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Survivor of the Great Depression, RAF veteran, Activist for the Welfare State, Author of Harry’s Last Stand Love Among the Ruins, 1923 & The Empress of Australia

I have lived a very long time. Tomorrow, it will be exactly 94 years ago that a midwife with a love of harsh gin and rolled cigarettes delivered me into my mother’s tired, working-class arms. Neither the midwife nor my mother would have expected me to live to almost 100 because my ancestors had lived in poverty for as long as there was recorded history in Yorkshire.

Nowadays, when wealth is considered wisdom, too often old age is derided, disrespected or feared, perhaps because it is the last stage in our human journey before death. But in this era of Trump and Brexit, ignoring the assets of knowledge that are acquired over a long life could be as lethal as disregarding a dead canary in a coal mine. Read more here

Harry’s Tweets:

  • The West’s indifference to loss of human life that does not live in privilege will be our downfall.
  • I stand for immigration, I stand for tolerance, I stand for progress, I stand for equality & prosperity, I stand with migrants.
  • I was 1st introduced to the #gigeconomyduring the Great Depression when I’d watch my dad beg at factory gates for a few hours work.
  • #DonaldTrumpis a danger to global stability, democracy, and just common decency.
  • I’ve heard these words before people, but then I was a teen in Yorkshire watching newsreels of Hitler.
  • It makes me quite angry that my generation fought to defeat fascism & Hitler in our youth but now in the winter of our years came #trump.
  • I don’t envy wealth but I despise those who destroy society for their own profit and greed. Society only works when we all pay fair taxes.
  • The only thing that stands in the way of #DonaldTrumpdestroying society is us. Silence is not the answer to tyranny.

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The Persistent Author

 

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I wrote a book, something I’d yearned to do since childhood. I naively thought I’d start at page one and proceed in a logical fashion to “The End.” Instead the story came together in fits and starts with a whole lot of organizing, reorganizing, writing and rewriting—much of it done at night when I suffered from insomnia. Scribbles on yellow sticky notes, written in the dark, barely decipherable in the morning, eventually came together as a novel.

In all of my childhood dreaming, I had never considered the roller coaster of emotions that would come with the author role.

Initially, I told no one about my writing, rather embarrassed to presume to have the ability to put myself somewhere among the ranks of my favorite authors. But I couldn’t just leave my baby, er, I mean my novel, sitting on my computer so I joined the provincial writing guild and became a member of a critiquing group.

We were strangers on a mission, all new to the business of being an author, but determined to succeed and intent on helping each other reach our goals. Meeting once a month, nervousness morphed into confidence—not only of our own work, but also of the members’ genuine desire to help, not insult or hurt.

From the critiquing group I progressed to working with a writing partner sending work back and forth, brainstorming ideas, and making corrections. With a completed manuscript it was time to search out agents. I trotted off to the post office and, hands trembling a little, handed my letters over to the clerk.

I waited, impatiently for the post man. Replies did come—eventually. My heart beat faster, my hopes rose. I tore open the envelopes.  Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. Hopes dashed, I glared at my computer, gave it a figurative kick and left it standing alone and lonely on my desk. This period of gloom lasted anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after the receipt of one of those letters.

Refusing to give up, I started to write a second novel while preparing more queries for the first. Eventually a fat envelop arrived. My heart lept. This had to be good, right? All the others were skinny with little “Dear Author” notes inside. A fat letter had to be a positive response. Not! Rejection and pages of agent advertising urging me to spend a bundle of dollars on various services they just happened to be able to offer. Angry and frustrated, I debated quitting. Any sane person would give up. Not me. I persisted. I kept writing.

It was at the Willamette Writers’ Conference (not the first conference or workshop I’d attended, by any means) that I first heard about self-publishing. My writing partner and I pitched to an agent. She was positive, asked to see our work. Elated, we drove home plotting our future. A couple of weeks later we received identically worded rejections from this agent for two very different genres and writing styles. Angry at first, frustrated beyond belief, then overcome with laughter, our determination solidified. That was it! No more agonizing. Future defined. We’d self-publish.

Persistence paid off. I now have six books published (a four novel science-fiction series, one collection of short bits, and a contemporary novel) available in all formats. Ideas are swirling in my head for book seven. Now to get them to settle down into a logical order so that I can write it.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

Joys of deciphering English

Dictionary

 

Uzo (my writing partner from Nigeria) writes:

When I am at a loss as to what a word means or how to write something, I consult my English dictionary. But then it’s English we are talking about; a vast somewhat complex language. It appears changes are being made every two or three years. And who am I to question another man’s language?

I imagine traditional speakers of English hold different views when it comes to the application of certain words. Take for e.g. “fell” in the sentence “His face fell.” In the Oxford dictionary there is an example like that along with its meaning. If as a writer, one is trying to convey to his readers that Jane is discouraged by her test results, how does he do so without being wordy? Do I simply say Jane looked discouraged? I am sure a good editor will point that out to me as “telling” how Jane feels. Yes, a writer doesn’t have to “show” everything, but when he does, he either is talking about a body part or anything around his book’s character(s). And from what I gather excessive use of “…ly” words make for lazy writing. So we are back to creativity in writing. How much description is bad and what sentences are now a cliché or not grammatical enough?

 

I write:

English is a horrendous language to learn. Culture plays a role too of course. I was getting my teeth cleaned yesterday and the hygienist, who is Vietnamese, said that her nieces and nephew are half-breeds. She used this expression because her sister and brother married white Canadians. I told her that “half-breed” has a terrible negative connotation coming from racism. When I was a kid, native Indians, (or to use the current politically correct term, aboriginals), who had an Indian parent and a white parent, were referred to, in a very derogatory way, as half-breeds. Of course she was completely unaware of this. Now, people use the term bi-racial. So I would say my granddaughter is bi-racial because she is half Mexican and half white Canadian.

 

At the same time, the complexity of English offers a multitude of nuances of meaning and that, of course, is where the difficulty lies. The article I sent you is just one writer’s opinion. She makes some very good points, but I disagree when she says the expression “his face fell” has the reader picturing his face on the floor. In fact “his face fell” is perfectly understood by native speakers to signify his shock or disappointment.

 

How much description is bad? It’s too much if the reader skips over parts. It’s too much if it doesn’t advance the story. Before television, books had huge passages of description that readers enjoyed, but with all the visual media we have now, readers don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. But then there is also danger in too little description if it leaves the reader puzzled as to what is happening. We, as the writer, have the scene clear in our heads. It has to be clear for the reader too.

 

One of the “joys” of being a writer is trying to find the balance in all of this.
 

Uzo writes:

Half-breed. Ah! We used to call white people half-caste. I thought that was cool until I got into senior secondary. Imagine how embarrassed I was when I was corrected. I felt terrible because one of my very good childhood friends was a white girl. She’s bi-racial – Nigerian and German.

The reality of a writer’s life

 

 

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Writers’ lives often seem exotic and mysterious. Growing up, we read about the eccentricities of Hemingway, the excessive drinking of James Joyce, the desperate days of Jack London…. Artists in any genre are often seen as exceptional characters. They starve, cut off their ears, have several lovers, engage in dramatic fights, drink, and drink some more.

The days of big thinkers were never ordinary. They partied all night and slept all day.

How much of those stories are pure myth? What do modern day authors really do?

It’s likely that authors aren’t unlike anyone else. They get up, have breakfast, go to work, make dinner, spend time with their families, read, watch TV, sleep. Perhaps there’s a glass of wine with dinner, a night out with family or friends, a trip or two, a bit of body boarding at the beach. Nothing to make them stand out.

For a look at the day of a few famous authors see here.

 

Self-Publishing—who’s making the money now

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In the early days (2010) John Locke loomed large on the horizon as the first self-published author to sell one million books. Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey were not far behind. We did the math 1,000,000 X $0.35—and jumped on the band wagon. We all thought we too could be as successful as these pioneers.

Phase 2 of self-publishing saw the emergence of a plethora of “how to”—how to write, edit, publish.

 

Many blog posts one could read for free, but how did we know the blogger had any real expertise? We turned to books instead, however a large number of these books are also penned by unknowns, so we had to pick wisely. It quickly became almost compulsory to attend writing conferences as we hoped to find expert advice from the pros.

Phase 3 carried formatters, editors, and cover artists along for the ride. And those of us who were smart hired them to have our books be as professional as possible. If the big publishers wouldn’t take the time to look at us, we’d do it ourselves, and we’d do it right.

Phase 4? Ah, yes, another plethora, this time of advice on how to use social media to promote your books and the great debate about pricing and the wisdom or stupidity of making your books free;  all of this along with numerous book marketing sites. Some listed your book for free, others charged a fee. The problem of course was determining which were most effective, which really had the following to get your book “out there.” BookBub rose to the top charging what are exorbitant rates for most struggling authors, yet it is the one we all aspire to be on.

And, Phase 5? Perhaps the cleverest of all—“How to Market” courses with lovely videos, webinars, and supplementary materials, seemingly (from what one sees on the screen) prepared in the comfort of one’s own home. For the mere sum of $500, $600, $700 or more, you’ll receive the magic answers. Many of the presenters are Indie authors themselves. These “experts” promote strategies they claim worked wonders for their own sales, which makes one question why they are doing all the work necessary to create and present these courses instead of writing more books.

As we wade our way through the phases, weaving back and forth in an effort to produce the best possible book and find the elusive magical hook that will reel in readers, it’s phase 5 that intrigues the most. Convince 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 authors eager for sales to buy your course and you’re laughing all the way to the bank.

 

 

 

 

Would you, if you could, live with aliens?

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Would you, if you could, live with aliens?

One of the joys of writing fiction is the freedom to imagine and create something beyond the realities that we know. I’ve always believed that there have to be other life forms in the vastness of our universe. Heck, there probably are ghosts too. I’m sure I saw the ghost of our dog after she died. Then again it could have been an hallucination.

But, back to my question. In my Em and Yves series, aliens toy with Em, use her to “fix” Earth, play with her emotions and her sanity. None of it fair, of course, but then every novel needs some spice. Of course, I had to give her a chance for a bit of revenge so I let her wild emotions impact the aliens, much to their horror.

As I wrote books 2, 3 and 4, I wondered if Em or any human could or would leave Earth,

leave everything they held dear, likely forever, to go live on another planet with other beings. What would it take to tempt a person to do such a thing? What reassurances would they need? A promise to be able to return home, the opportunity to bring their family with them…?

Would I? Could I? What circumstances would lead me to make that kind of decision, to go into the unknown?

I don’t have answers for myself and so I ask, would you, if you could, live with aliens?

 

 

HELP! I have a major dilemma

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Your response is vital information for authors. We strive mightily to market our books, but are restricted in our efforts by vendors who insist we place our novels in categories and genres.

For example, I struggle to pick a genre for my Em and Yves series. People ask me about EMBATTLED, book one in the series.

Is it?

Science fiction?  Sure. Aliens from other planets are involved, but it’s not hard-core technical sci-fi and it’s set mostly on Earth.

Paranormal Romance?  Would seem so. There is a love triangle between an alien, a human, and her human lover.

Contemporary?  Definitely.  Lots of world events as the alien tries to make Earth a better place.

Mainstream? For sure. Lots of world issues—enough to capture the interest of many readers.

Urban Fantasy? Fits the definition. Urban setting with supernatural or magical elements.

Adventure? You bet. Jujitsu training, hand to hand combat, war, soldiers, terrorists….

Now, how do I roll all of that into one genre? What would your advice be?

 

It’s Valentines and love is in the air – should it be in novels too?

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Valentine’s Day and love is in the air—and in my books. I couldn’t imagine writing a novel without a love story and at least a bit of hot sex. But love in my books also includes love of family and friends, of life and laughter, and of fellow man.

Love prompts our characters to do many things, to experience a range of emotions that sometimes (often?) takes them down the wrong path. But then that’s good in a book, right?—builds tension, creates suspense, keeps us reading.

In my Em and Yves series, to underscore the action, I created a love triangle, between the heroine, the alien controlling her, and her human lover. Sparks fly, jealousy reigns, emotions run high and play havoc with the story line. In fact it takes four books to sort it all out and yes, there is a happy ending for isn’t that what all love stories deserve?

When the Sun was Mine is a story of love between two strangers; an old lady, who may or may not have Alzheimer’s, and a young girl just graduated from high school. Circumstance brings them together, initial skepticism and fear grow to respect and liking and love, and they offer each other more than they would have thought possible. Yes, the story has its sex bits too.

Mali to Mexico and Points In Between, a collection of short snippets from my life, shows how important people are to each other, and how they, and travel, broaden our perspectives of the world adding deeper dimensions to our love of life.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

Happy reading and Happy Valentine’s Day!

But, wait — there’s more! Here are more great reads from my friend and writing partner, Anneli Purchase.

Unrequited love reigns in the love triangle in Julia’s Violinist. Being “Torn between two lovers” is as heartwrenching for the reader as it is for Julia. Add the setting of postwar Europe with events that will have you thinking about them long after you’ve finished the book, and you have the ingredients for a great read.

Another kind of love develops in The Wind Weeps. Here we have the misguided love between Andrea and the handsome Robert, whose attentions take an ominous twist. You’ll find yourself wondering how Andrea ever could have thought this was love. But is love that turns into manic obsession really love?

Then we have the love that happens by the slimmest of chances. Perhaps it came about because of the alignment of the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the beach that day, as seems to be the case in Orion’s Gift when Sylvia meets Kevin in a Baja campground. Can a love, that happens purely by chance, withstand the test of time? Can it survive when their former lovers are on a “search and destroy” mission?

http://www.anneli-purchase.com/

 

 

 

Inspiration – essential for a writer?

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Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Thomas A. Edison
Edison may very well have been right, but what good is the ninety-nine percent perspiration without the inspiration?

Where do our stories come from? Daydreams, life experiences, the people we meet, nightmares, what we hear, see, read, and imagine? Every author will have a response unique to their life experience and their interests. The answer, for me, is all of the above.

We listen to the news, read the paper, and build in current events. We laugh with friends and build in comradery for our characters. We yearn for love and romance and give it to our hero and heroine. The adventures we long for belong now to our players. The lives we’ve led, or wish we’d led are, in part, imbued in our characters and plot lines.

But there is another aspect to inspiration that is often unforeseen. As we write, our stories take on a life of their own. Characters develop and lead us in directions we hadn’t anticipated or planned. A minor character creeps in and takes over. We try to contain him, but he has a mind of his own and insists on playing his part.

The hero’s friend becomes our friend. The heroine’s fight becomes our fight. And as we edit and polish and rework our novel, we worry about our characters, love them, perhaps hate them, and can’t leave them behind. They become as much a part of our lives as are the people around us. They, too, are our inspiration.