WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Scavengers by Steven F. Havill. When the Duke was Wicked by Lorraine Heath. Chez Stinky by Susan C. Daffron.
WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Scavengers by Steven F. Havill. When the Duke was Wicked by Lorraine Heath. Chez Stinky by Susan C. Daffron.
By Tam Francis
Gretchen has graciously invited me to hawk my new book on her blog. But, besides telling you what a fun and spooky read it is for Halloween and what it’s about, I wanted to share something special with you. I’d like to reveal the mystery of how one person can make a difference, or in this case two. If it wasn’t for Gretchen, and her sister Roxanne these stories never would have been written.
I had just moved from San Diego, California to the small town of Lockhart, Texas. I had no friends yet, and although Texans are friendly, fun and talkative, it sometimes takes a while to be invited in. I was desperate for something to distract me from my lonelies.
I had just finished writing my novel, The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress, when we moved, and I was looking for something else to sink my teeth into while I queried the novel.
That wish came true in the form of a flyer posted on our local library door. Our local library is not your run-of-the-mill indifferent kind of municipal library. It’s the oldest continuously operating library in all of Texas, built in 1899 with pressed tin ceiling, heavy dark wood trim, and a mezzanine with curling staircases.
The building is one of those spaces that oozes mystery, possibilities and a cosmic connection to the past. It exudes the same feeling you get when you discover a new author, or run your hand across the spine of a beautiful leather hand-bound book, or the delight of discovering someone else loves and had read your favorite novel twelve times. It’s a book-lovers library and I knew the flyer on the library must be a gift from the universe.
Scare the Dickens Out of Us
The flyer was for the Scare the Dickens Out of Us Ghost Story Contest sponsored by the Rix sisters as a fundraiser for the library. I went home and started writing. I entered with my first story, The Tour which has a specter-like character, but more of a Twilight Zone twist.
The next year I entered Haint Blue which was inspired by a friend asking me if we were going to paint our 1908 porch ceiling blue, a tradition in the south. That innocent comment led me on a research quest where I unearthed an interesting history of the tradition of blue paint relating to ghosts or haints, as there were once called. My turn-of-the-century home provided the backdrop and Texas supplied the colloquialisms.
The year after that, I entered again. This time with my, Mrs. Franklin’s Night Out, a ghost story rich in vintage style description about a woman going to a Mozartian Masquerade dance, her lonely desperation at missing her husband, and the life and death choices she must face.
Lockhart Writers Group
Shortly thereafter a group of writers, Gretchen and I included, got together and formed a critique group. Out of this group, came the other nine stories that complete the Ghostoria collection. I could not have refined the stories and I guarantee they would not be as good if not for my writing cohorts. They each have their favorites and the diversity in which their tastes run is fascinating. We all have our darlings. One of mine is: Dressing the Part, a unique story of ghostly possession with a bit of romance, vintage fashion, and a 1940s jitterbug vibe. Check it out now on loan in the Goodreads library for your sample. Don’t forget to enter and WIN A FREE COPY of Ghostoria on Goodreads!
GHOSTORIA: VINTAGE ROMANTIC TALES OF FRIGHT
Do you like scary stories with a little romance and a vintage twist? Welcome to Ghostoria.
Those are just a few haunts and haints that populate this world of unrequited love, woe and mystery. Ghostoria will gnaw the corners of your mind and challenge your ideas about life, love and death long after you leave.
Where to Buy
The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress
WWII~ Vintage ~ Lindy~ Swing ~ Dance ~ Sewing ~ Lifestyle ~ Novel & Blog
THANK YOU TAM FRANCIS. Now, back to me.
WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Parables & Ponderings: When God Speaks to us Through Everyday Items and Incidents by Lia London. Republic by Lindsay Buroker. King City by Lee Goldberg.
I WILL NOT THROW UP!
I’ve ridden Amtrak only once before, from Longview to Dallas and back. Got dizzy. It had better not happen this trip.
Amtrak has this neat new grant where they give a talented writer a free trip on the train if they’ll use their time writing, and then tweet, FB, etc. about the experience. I love the idea, but I’ll never beat out all the other writers for that grant, nor will most of the Austin Romance Writers of America to whose group I belong. So, we’re paying our own way and taking a train ride from Austin to Dallas and back (with an overnight stay at the Hilton since the train doesn’t return until the next day).
We’ll be writing. All twenty of us. Probably writing romance novels, too.
Gotta take a train ride. Gonna have a good time. Plan to write a novel. I Will Not Throw Up!
I’m going to do extensive writing on my laptop this trip. For the first time. And I’m going to use this time to start a new romance novel, one in keeping with one I’m just finishing that will be available in November, The Safari Bride.
Alas, I’m not kidding about the headache, dizziness, and nausea. Any suggestions short of staying home?
Photographs by Roxanne Rix
My books available at http://amazon.com/author/gretchenrix.
WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Dracula by Bram Stoker. The Seventh Man by Max Brand. McGrave by Lee Goldberg. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.
This also applies to good reviews, great reviews and mediocre reviews.
1. DON’T READ ANY OF YOUR REVIEWS.
I know. This sounds counterproductive, but it’s the number two piece of advice I’ve seen from successful writers (right behind turn off the internet and just write).
Most bad reviews aren’t worth reading. They’re not specific enough about what the reader hated. Telling the writer her novel is boring, is full of bad language, is nothing but smut, has one-dimensional characters, etc, is too broad. And it may be a one hundred percent accurate assessment from that reader, but it’s also just as likely they wouldn’t have liked your novel no matter which of those defects you addressed because it’s the wrong book for them.
On the other hand, maybe they’re right and its a lousy book. You don’t know how to write. In that case, practice makes perfect. You don’t want to let a one-star review derail you, so don’t read them.
And then from the opposite side of the scale, good reviews and great reviews are usually just ego fluff. You know you’re not as good as what they say. Personally I wish Amazon would re-do its rating system. Not very much really deserves that 5-star rating. But the 3-star rating (where almost everything except absolute crap truthfully belongs) tells everyone that the book is just okay. I’m agitating for a bad, good, better, and best rating system.
2. READ YOUR REVIEWS AND LEARN FROM THEM.
If you follow this path you’re going to get your ego inflated and feel on the top of the world with the good reviews. And then you’re going to feel like dog poop and want to lash out at everyone when you get one of those I hated it rankings. The roller coaster of good reviews vs bad reviews can be harmful to your work, as well as harmful to your self-esteem.
However, if you can teach yourself to pick out the constructive information in the reviews you can try to learn from them.
Say that some reviewer tells you your characters lack depth. So, take a writing course on depth. Does everyone call your book a fast-paced read, but you meant it to be a slow and comfortable cozy. Drop out for a bit and practice pacing. Reviewers announce they couldn’t finish the book. If they say why and where they stopped, take a look at that section. Did you do something different here. But if what they’ve said is too many typos, doesn’t know how to write, horrible grammar...well, maybe so and maybe not. Some people write with fragments these days. Some people never use whom.
(Except for the typo part. Go back in and fix that ASAP).
3. ENGAGE YOUR REVIEWERS.
I’ve read lots and lots of advice against ever engaging with the reviewers and I have to say I agree. No matter how much I want to say thanks to the reviewers who liked my books, no matter how I might want to say sorry to the reviewers who hated my books, I do neither. I think it’s very important that reviewers be left alone to write what they want.
But, there are some authors who do engage. If you decide to take that path, be sure you’ve read and understood the review etiquette that Amazon enforces. Then keep it to a simple thank you note. Address the bad reviews the same way with a thank you for your input and a sorry. And be prepared for some back and forth comments.
Right now I’m squarely in the learn from your reviews camp, hoping to move into the never read your reviews contingent one day.
And obviously there are more than three ways to deal with bad reviews. I can think of several that start with printing down the copy and finding where you kept the matches. Might be cathartic.
But here’s a less violent way to get in a better frame of mind after a one-star I hate your book and the horse you rode in on review.
Go to any author listing you admire and pick out your absolute favorite of his/her books. Find the one-star reviews he/she got. Read them. Gasp in horror. You loved that book! How could someone hate the same book you loved so much? Makes your own bad reviews look tepid in hindsight, doesn’t it.
You can see my bad reviews at http://amazon.com/author/gretchenrix
PHOTOS BY ROXANNE RIX
Lockhart, Texas is the BBQ capital of Texas. It’s where I live right now. And it’s the setting for my first mystery novel TALKING TO THE DEAD GUYS.
Which I am re-reading.
Why read your own book in the first place? I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask that question.
Okay, then. Why are you re-reading your own book? I have the rough draft of the sequel TEA WITH A DEAD GAL ready for revisions. I need to re-familiarize myself with details of the setting, character quirks, tone of novel, lots of things. It’s been two years. We don’t want to have Flannery acting like Olive or anything like that, do we?
Sounds like you were too lazy to create a Bible of your story. That’s not a question, but I’ll address it anyhow. It’s more fun re-reading than looking at a spreadsheet.
I still think it reeks of laziness, but whatever. How are you enjoying TALKING TO THE DEAD GUYS, then? I’m only a third of the way through it. So far, so good.
Sounds like that joke from The Magnificent Seven. And you just used the phrase “sounds like” twice within about two inches of space.
Oops! So, when will we see TEA WITH A DEAD GAL (and who comes up with these titles, anyhow?) By the end of November. And you’ll also see THE SAFARI BRIDE, and there’s even the possibility you’ll see BABY SINGS THE BOOS. It’s usually me who comes up with the titles, but sometimes my sister Roxanne contributes. She came up with BABY SINGS THE BOOS.
Don’t you think writing so many books in one year impacts your writing quality? No, I don’t.
How do you feel about reviews, then? Reviews help sell books, so I like reviews. As a reader myself I try to review the books I enjoyed. Unless they already have a gazillion reviews. Those guys don’t need my help.
What was the best and most memorable review you’ve done. Way, way back in my youth I got to sit in on an interview and then review Tom Tryon’s book Crowned Heads. That was probably the best review I ever wrote. (He was pretty damned good-looking, too).
Okay. What do you think… Enough for now. Catch you up next time.
WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Hard Landing by Lynne Heitman.
My sweet romance, romantic comedy, Texas-centric take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale THE COWBOY’S BABY is FREE FREE FREE FREE.
Get it here if you have a Kindle or Kindle app http://amzn.com/B003UYUVZC.
Get it here if you work through Smashwords http://smashwords.com/books/view/79235.
THE COWBOY’S BABY GOES TO HEAVEN is the sequel to THE COWBOY’S BABY. There’s another book planned, plus late 2014 Baby and the gang will be featured with Boo Radley and the gang from TALKING TO THE DEAD GUYS in an original never-before-published short story collection called BABY SINGS THE BOOS. Look for it near Christmas.
You can find my other work at http://amazon.com/author/gretchenrix
WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Seven of Spectres by Jim Moon.
I learned a lot more than 3 things at the RWA Nationals in San Antonio last week. I’m going to start by utilizing what they told me in the Blog Bites session with speaker Lisa Wells, which is to use numbers in the title (See that 3 up there?) and to keep it short.
1. I learned I could walk from the Marriott Rivercenter all the way through the Rivercenter shopping mall and out to the historic Menger Hotel and the fabulous Kings X toy soldier store and not get lost easier than I could remember from session to session where the bathrooms in the hotel were located. (Kudoes to the hotel, though, for turning all the bathrooms on the 3rd floor into women’s bathrooms for our primarily female crowd).
2. I had trouble finding the elevators from hour to hour, too. They didn’t just get up and move on me, but I felt like they had. Luckily RWA had decorated all the elevator doors with book cover posters so they didn’t look like elevator shafts. All I had to do was look for those posters.
3. Romance Writers of America are an extremely friendly and helpful bunch. Even members of my own chapter who probably didn’t remember me were smart enough to read my name tag and give me a hug. That’s Texas for you.
4. You can get stung by a bee or wasp while waiting outside the Alamo on a Sunday morning even if you’re not standing under a tree. The itching has finally stopped. Only took 5 days. (See, I’ve used some more numbers).
Photos by Roxanne Rix.
You can find my books at
Romance Writers of America made history Saturday night when for the first time they awarded one of their top literary prizes to a self-published novel.
I clapped extra hard out there in the audience when they announced OFF THE EDGE by Carolyn Crane the Rita winner in the romantic suspense category. And so did everybody else, though it may have been that they knew of the author and had read the book more than its self-published status that got them excited.
Thank you, RWA. And thank you Rita judges. Again Romance Writers of America is the leading writing organization in embracing the twenty-first century and the changes the internet has brought to us.
I don’t fool myself that I’ll ever win a Rita. I doubt I’ll ever get a Newbery, or a Hugo, or a Nebula, or an Edgar. And I gave up on the Pulitzer a long time ago. Sometimes I dream about the Nobel Prize, but that’s usually after a pepperoni pizza dinner and doesn’t count.
For the rest of you self-published romance writers of merit, the opportunity awaits. Be sure to enter the contest if you think your book is good enough and you qualify. I’d like to see another of us win next year, too.
WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Miles to Little Ridge by Heath Lowrance.
My non-prizewinning books can be found at
Photos by Roxanne Rix