Saturday, March 21, 2015

How does an author hook readers in today’s fickle world? by Sandy Semerad

 The great writer John Steinbeck has been quoted as saying, “If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes but by no means always find the way to do it.”
            Steinbeck’s eloquent quote explains why I write. I have an aching urge to communicate.
But is my aching urge a formula for success in today’s fickle world with its fierce competition?
Book marketers say no. They say there are too many books vying for attention. Authors can’t afford to wax poetic for pages and pages, painting the scene, stroke by stroke, as Steinbeck did, and expect to hold a reader’s attention.
Readers are not only fickle but impatient, they say. Today’s writer must hook the reader from the first sentence. Writing a great book, doesn’t equal a best seller anymore. 
Whenever I’m in a book store, I try to observe and learn. I want to know what makes a reader buy.
I’ve learned most consumers examine the front cover, read the blurb to see if the story sounds interesting and then turn to the first chapter to read the first sentence or two.
I’m no marketing expert, but they claim author popularity is the number one reason why a book sells. Also the first sentence must hook the reader.
So I thought it might be fun to see if you’d buy the following books after reading their first sentences.
“To the red country and part of the grey country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.” (From John Steinbeck’s masterpiece, Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939).
“The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw.” (From White Oleander, by Janet Finch, published in 1999).
“On a chilly morning in February with a misty rain shuttering the windows, Devin and Rosie Cauldwell made slow, sleepy love.” (From The Search by Nora Roberts).
“Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner.” (From The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling).
“The tumor in my father’s pancreas was removed last week in an operation that lasted five hours and was more difficult than his surgeons had expected.” (From Calico Joe by John Grisham).
“Deputy Keith Clayton hadn’t heard them approach, and up close, he didn’t like the looks of them any more than he had the first time he’d seen them.” (The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks).
“Fiona Carson left her office with the perfect amount of time to get to the boardroom for an important meeting.” (Power Play by Danielle Steele).
“The first hail of bullets was fired from the house shortly after daybreak at six fifty-seven.” (Deadline by Sandra Brown).
“In those days cheap apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn.” (Sophie’s Choice by William Styron.)
“There are four acknowledged ways of meeting your maker.” (Simple Genius by David Baldacci).
“When he was nearly thirteen, my bother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee).
“I’ve always wondered what people felt in the final few hours of their lives.” (The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner).
To play fair, I have included the following first sentences from my books:
 “On a snowy morning in Atlanta, Carrie Sue rummaged through an old cedar chest, searching for a journal.” (A Message in the Roses).
“My heart hammered a warning when I opened the door to leave the beach house.” (Hurricane House).
“If you had seen me on that day you would have said I was a hyper child, not the mother of a teenager.” (Sex, Love & Murder, previously Mardi Gravestone).
I must confess, I don’t worry too much about perfecting a first sentence until I’ve finished the first draft. 
     Writing a story is more fun when I can write freely, get the story out, before I have to go back, edit and rewrite.
     As to hooking a magnitude of readers in today’s fickle world, that’s my dream. 
     Although I kind of like what Steinbeck advised: “Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn't exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
I’m trying to follow his advice.
To learn more about me and my writing, please visit my website:
click here to purchase from Amazon

Friday, March 20, 2015

Trees and History by Ginger Simpson

Cherry Tree
Now days most of us are only interested in trees if they fit into the scheme of  landscaping.  Some people don't like deciduous tree, others don't like pine needles, some branches don't bear wind well, others are too slow growing. Some want to grow their own fruit, while others want to grow wood to burn in their fireplaces in the wintertime. The list goes on and on when we consider planting.

I discovered more than I ever knew while researching my latest WIP, Yellow Moon, and thought it would make for an interesting blog.

The Cottonwood was the sacred tree used by the Lakota for their Sun Dance because of several reasons.  Known to withstand lightening and be strong, the tree has the same conical leaves after which tepees are shaped, and if you cut a larger limb crosswise, inside you'll find a perfect five-pointed star which represents the Great Spirit  Bet you didn't know that, did you?

Trees didn't only have a spiritual meaning for the Northern American tribes, most had a healing property of some sort.  Indians of the past didn't have doctors to run to, they counted on medicine women or men to gather healing herbs, berries and barks to ease various maladies. Here are a few I've read about.

Ash trees symbolize peace of mind and sacrifice.  Digestive system ailments are aided by the bark.

Aspen trees symbolize clarity of purpose, determining and aid in overcoming fears and doubts.  Those suffering from stress, allergies, eczema and neuralgia benefit from this tree.

Beech trees symbolize tolerance, past knowledge and softening criticism.  Here again is another tree that aids with the digestive system, and helps wounds, ulcers and sores to heal.

The Cedar symbolizes cleansing protection, prosperity and healing.  Those with respiratory problems find relief from the Cedar.

The Cherry tree symbolizes strong expression, rebirth, new awakenings and compassion.  Remedies made from the Cherry aids those who suffer from colds, flu, coughs, fever, headaches and indigestion.

The Elm is a symbol of wisdom, strength of will and intuition.  It provides healing salves for wounds.

The Oak symbolizes strength of character and courage, and helps blood problems, improves circulation and reduces fevers.

The Sycamore symbolizes ambition and acts as an astringent.

The Walnut tree symbolizes clarity and focus, the gathering of energy for starting new projects.  Skin problems, colds and flu are treated with medicines garnered from this tree.

This is but a few of the many named, and aside from the symbolization and healing properties, many trees were chosen to provide the wood for prayer sticks, talking sticks, and other items used in ritualistic practices.  Each creation was prepared with respect after asking permission from the tree spirit.  The Lakota, as well as other tribes, had a rich and abiding respect for all things earthly.  Until I started writing historical westerns, I never appreciated how easy I have it, nor did I realize how thankless I've been for all the riches the "Great Spirit" provides for us.

 I hope you've found this as interesting as I did.

Ginger Simpson's latest Native American historical, Yellow Moon is now available.  Click the cover to purchase from Amazon. Only $2.99, a terrific read for a very small price.  (Books We Love Ltd., Publisher)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Mother Went to Buy a Cow by Roseanne Dowell

One of my most memorable times growing up in a strict Catholic home during the fifties, with three older brothers, an older sister, and a younger sister, was the Catholic School we attended. It was across the street from our house and  my mother was very involved in both the church and school. She knew the nuns very well.  Our next door neighbor and Mom’s best friend, Rose, often drove them to the store, bank, or ran errands for them. Naturally, Rose knew a lot of what went on at school.
Two of my brothers were notorious for getting into trouble, always playing silly immature pranks. It wasn't unusual for them to receive a swat with a ruler.  Back then, corporal punishment was the normal manner of discipline. Mom wouldn't put up with disrespect or monkeyshines at home let alone in school. We were there to learn and we'd darn well better pay attention. 
So when she found out someone had gotten into trouble, and she always did, they paid for it at home, also.  We used to think she had eyes in the back of her head. Later we learned most of her information came directly from the nuns  themselves and sometimes from Rose.
We all knew it wouldn't take long for Mom to find out if we got into trouble.  It wasn't in my nature to misbehave – at least not much and seldom at school.  My brothers did plenty enough for all of us and I didn't care to be punished. Not that I was a perfect child, far from it, I got my share of spankings, but in school I tried to behave and do what was expected. Maybe because of a lesson I learned early on.
My dilemma began when I was in the first grade.  My teacher, Sister Roseanne, was a young and pretty nun. I loved her. Besides, she bore the same name as me, which made her extra special. I loved school and every morning I willingly followed my brothers and sister. Except for one day.
That day my sister, Mary, didn’t have to go to school. She had to stay home and baby-sit our younger sister. Not that this was normal, but whoever was supposed to watch my younger sister couldn't do it. At any rate, I wanted to stay home too. Naturally, Mom said no. I was angry and upset
So upset, in fact, I didn't even kiss Mom good-bye that morning, and off I went pouting, mumbling and grumbling about how unfair it was. My brothers laughed at me on the way to school, which made me feel worse.
 I’d never left without kissing my mother before, so, by time I got to school, I felt so bad that I sat at my desk and cried. Every time Sister asked me what was wrong I cried harder and refused to answer. Feeling worse by the minute my tears soon turned into sobs.  I couldn't even do my work and just refused to answer Sister. 
Finally, at wits end, she spanked me for my insolence. This, of course, made me cry harder, and my little heart was crushed. My beautiful sister, who bore my name, spanked me.
Since I still wouldn't stop crying, Sister Roseanne sent me for Mary, hoping I guess, to find out what had me so upset. By this time, I’d forgotten the reason for my anger and tears and completely forgot Mary stayed home. I stood outside Mary’s classroom, tears streaming down my face and knocked on the door. Sister Mary Francis answered my knock.
“Sister Roseanne wants to see Mary,” I said through my tears.
“Mary isn't in school today.” Sister Mary Francis gave me a quizzical look.  “Is she sick?”
“Oh, that’s right,” I wiped my tears, “I forgot she had to stay home to watch Gloria.”
“Oh and why is that?”
“Because my mama went to buy a cow.” I answered and hurried back to
my classroom, for some reason the tears forgotten. I made it through the rest of the day dry eyed, but I couldn't wait to get home to give Mom a kiss and hug.
Later that day I sat outside the window as Rose and Mom talked. I was worried, sure that Rose knew about the spanking. I hadn't told my mother, I didn't want her to know.
 “Wait until you hear what Sister Mary Francis said today.” Rose told my mother. “She said Rosi came to her classroom looking for Mary and told her the most fantastic tale. She could hardly stop laughing. Rosi told her that Mary was babysitting because you went to buy a cow.”
I held my breath, listening and waiting for her to get the part about the spanking as she told the story to my mother.
“But, Sister,I told her.” Rose continued, “ She didn't make that up. Her mother did go to buy a cow. Julia, you should have seen the look on her face when I explained about the freezer, it was priceless.”

I let out a sigh when my mother laughed. She never did ask me why Sister spanked me. Maybe she  thought I'd been punished enough. I never got in trouble or spanked in school again.

You can find Roseanne's books at Amazon  
Click to Purchase

Taking over the police chief’s job in her hometown should have been easy for Callie Johnson. At least that's what she thought. After working in a big city, small town crime would be a breeze. What a surprise when she arrives to find her grandmother, the judge, accused of murder. As if that wasn't enough she’s attacked while walking to her car. Between criminal investigations, her nutty family’s antics and her Aunt Beatrice Lulu's matchmaking, Callie definitely has her work cut out for her. Will her grandmother be exonerated? Can Callie ward off her aunt’s unsuitable suitors? What other surprises were in store for her? More importantly, can she find the person who attacked her?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rain Forest Writers Retreat on Lake Quinault, WA by Nancy M Bell

 Nancy Bell, Author of the Cornwall Adventures, has the first two books in the series released with Books We Love and the third is eagerly awaited and coming soon!
Click Cover to Purchase from Amazon


I have just returned from a writers retreat in the rain forest of Washington state. Rain Forest Resort Village on Lake Quinault. It was an amazing event. The venue is incredible with views of the sunrise and sunset reflected in the waters of the lake. The resort itself is taken over by the participants for the duration. The lounge/bar is open to writers all day and night, with inspirational views of the lake and towering trees. Or, if you're more of a hermit, you can write in your room with your nose to your computer and the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. There is an RV park for those who wish to camp. The resort is also home to the World's largest Spruce tree. It is a truly humbling experience to stand by the monster roots and realize the tree was a sapling 1,000 years ago.

There were two speakers each day to provide inspiration. A margarita party on Saturday night with all kinds of weird and wonderful spirits besides. Not to mention the homemade soup and grill cheese lunch on Friday. I managed to write 13,000 words on my WIP along with some sight seeing and a bit of trail walking. The huge trees were bedecked with long streamers of gray green moss lending a festive air to everything.

Art Boulton form the University Book Store had an offering of books from all participants, mine included which was so cool. Of course I had to take the 'tourist' picture of my books nestled on the shelf.

Registration for 2016 isn't open yet, but I'm waiting impatiently to sign up again. Patrick, who facilitates the event, does a great job. This year for the first time they ran three sessions instead of two. The response is overwhelming and spaces are hard to come by.

If you'd like to find out more about me you can go to my website, or my author page. My latest release is No Absolution a Jack the Ripper story with a twist.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Casting Characters with Janet Lane Walters -- Pisces.

The Pisces Character

The Sun is the character's inner nature. The hero or heroine with a Pisces Sun will have a kind and loving nature. This person is generally amiable and sympathetic to people or animals in distress. He or she will be neat with a love of order. The hero or heroine may be timid and lacking in self confidence. He or she may be imaginative, idealistic and psychic.

The Rising Sign is the face shown to the world. With Pisces as the rising sign, the hero or heroine is truthful, confiding, kind and sympathetic. He or she is generally courteous and hospitable. There is an idealistic and impressionable side to the nature. The hero or heroine is quick to observe deficiencies in others. He or she often has a lack of self-esteem and can be hesitant about putting him or herself forward. He or she is very intuitive and discrete.

The Moon is the emotional nature of a character. With a Pisces Moon the hero or heroine can be retiring,and sympathetic. There is a love of luxury, comfort, beauty and harmony. This hero or heroine may meet obstacles that cause a down-hearted nature. He or she has a taste for reading. They are fluent and earnest in speaking. He or she suffers if placed in uncongenial surroundings.

The closest character I have to a Pisces heroine is Zelda from Pursuing Dr. West. She is a dreamer but she also takes action. Her Moon and her Ascendant are not those of a Pisces. Her Moon is Cancer since she holds onto old things like her love for Michael.

Get it Free From Amazon 3/18 - 3/20

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Smells of Easter by Roseanne Dowell

Dedicated to my parents, especially my mother who made Easter so special for us. First published in Nostalgia Magazine March 2005

Easter was a busy time in our house during the 50’s.  It began Holy Wednesday, with the baking of our special Easter bread, Paska*, or Babka, as it’s sometimes called.  My sisters and I helped gather the ingredients and set them on the table. Mom stood on a chair and took out the special round pans she used only for Easter bread. I’m not sure why, but this bread had to be round.
 First, we measured the milk and set it on the stove to scald. Next Mom measured the yeast. I loved the smell of it. One year, enticed by the aroma, I stuck my finger in it and tasted it. I couldn't’ get rid of the bitterness out of my mouth and my brothers, sisters and mom laughed at me for being foolish enough to try it.  I wondered how something that smelled so good could taste so bad.               
           Once the ingredients were mixed together Mom began kneading the dough.  I thought it looked like fun, until I got older and she let me try it. Kneading bread dough is hard work and we had to knead it until it blistered. After she kneaded it it was set to rise.  We often sneaked in the kitchen and pinched off a piece and ate it. Something about the taste of raw dough kept us coming back, no matter how much my mom yelled at us.
After an hour or so, Mom turned the dough out onto a special board my uncle made for her from an old table. She reserved a small piece of dough and cut the remainder into even portions for the loaves.  She put the loaves in the pan and took the reserved dough, rolled it between her hands like a snake and cut off pieces to form a cross on each loaf and put the loaves in the oven. The savory smell of fresh baked
bread filled the house for hours.  The bread was then stored in plastic bags for Easter Sunday.
Holy Thursday was beet-making day.   My mother used fresh beets and horseradish for this delicious relish*.  After she cooked the beets, she grated them on the small side of a grater and suffered many a skinned knuckle. In later years, she purchased six cans of whole beets and a jar of horseradish from the grocery store. I’m not sure what gave her the idea, maybe she got tired of skinned knuckles, but one year she brought out her old meat grinder and attached it to the table, added the beets, grinding them into a finely shredded consistency. I loved watching the beets come through the grinder.  After the beets were ground, mom boiled vinegar, added sugar to it and mixed it with the beets. When it cooled she added horseradish, tasting it until it was just right.  The vinegar blended with the pungent horseradish and filled the house with its stinging smell. If we got too close it made our eyes water.
On Good Friday Mom baked a ham and boiled kielbasa.  The kielbasa had been in the refrigerator for several days.  Every time we opened the refrigerator door, the rich garlicky aroma tantalized our taste buds. Sometimes we opened it just to get a whiff.  As the aroma of the ham and kielbasa wafted through the house our mouths watered, but since it was Good Friday, samples of the delicious smelling meats were forbidden.  We could hardly wait until Easter.
 Friday night, Mom made sirok*, Easter cheese.  We called it yellow thing.   My older sister and I cracked several dozen eggs into a large pot and beat them with the electric mixer. Mom filled another larger pot with water and set it on the stove to boil. After we added milk, sugar, and nutmeg to the eggs, we beat the mixture a little more. Mom then took the mixture to the stove and set that pot inside the large one, creating a double boiler.   We took turns mixing it since it needed constant stirring.  As the mixture began to curdle, it formed a solid almost scrambled egg texture. The liquid separated and turned a bluish green. Once it curdled, Mom poured it into a colander lined with cheesecloth.   While it drained, she tightened the cheesecloth into a ball and tied it.  She hung it over the sink from a hook and let it drain overnight.   In the morning, she removed it from the cheesecloth. The sweet spicy smell of the nutmeg lingered for hours.
Saturday afternoon, Mom sent one of us to the attic to get the blessing basket.  She lined the basket with a towel, set a loaf of bread, a large piece of ham, kielbasa, sirok, several hard cooked eggs, and a small container of beets into the basket and covered it with a fancy white doily that she Ohio, many churches carried out this tradition. I believe some still do.
crocheted especially for it. The blessing of baskets was a custom from the old country and even though we lived in
  My father, sisters, and I took the basket to church. This was a special service and before the blessing, we removed the doily.  The Priest went up and down the aisle sprinkling Holy Water over the congregation and baskets of food. 
Easter Sunday after church, Mom took out the blessed food and everyone had a small piece of it for breakfast. After smelling all these delicious aromas for the past four days, we savored the taste. Easter was a not only a time to rejoice in the new beginning through Christ, but a time to share the love of family and good food.

*Paska or Babka is sweet bread usually with yellow raisins.
*Sirok – a yellow round ball made from equal amounts of milk and eggs (1 dozen eggs to 1 quart of milk) add sugar and nutmeg to taste.

Beet Relish
6 cans whole beets grated
½ cup white vinegar, boiled
2/3 cup sugar 
Horseradish to taste

In a large bowl, grate the beets.  Boil the vinegar. Add the sugar to it and let it cool slightly, then pour it over the beets.  Add horseradish to taste. I start with
2 tablespoons, but depending on hot you want it more can be added.

Trouble Comes in Twos

Roseanne's books can be found at   Amazon  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Books We Love March, 2015 Featured Author

Jamie Hill was born and raised in a beautiful, mid-sized town in Midwest, USA. At various times she wanted to be a veterinarian, teacher, cheerleader, TV star or a famous singer. The one thing she always wanted to be was a writer. Starting at about age ten, she penned romance as she envisioned it in one spiral notebook after another.

When she's not working at the day job she loves, Jamie enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and watching movies (the scarier the better!) In her ‘spare time’ she can often be found writing, editing, or doing something more mundane like housework. After that, she's probably taking a nap. She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to drop her a line.

Find more about Jamie at these places online:  Website  ~ Blog ~ Facebook

Romance and mystery are synonymous with Jamie Hill - if you haven't read any of her books you are in for a Big Treat.   Here are just a few:

Family Secrets
Family Ties

Family Honor
Blame it on the Rain

Books We Love Jamie Hill Page

Pieces of the Past

Time to Kill 

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...