Looking for Book Reviews?

As a new author (WHISPERS IN THE CANYON was officially published on 9/18), I’ve been scrambling to find sites that will review my novel. Reviews not only help in Amazon rankings, but also let your potential readers know how other readers reacted to your book. When a buyer is trying to decide which of the many available stories they’d like to read, reviews are a must-have.

background book stack books close up

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Then I found Reedsy’s list of Best Book Review Blogs, a curated list of almost 200 reviewers that’s searchable by genre. In the Historical Fiction category, I found almost 60 bloggers who’ll review an indie novel. WOW!!! I wonder how many I’ll find when I look at the romance category!

I’d already sussed out six blogs to contact (two of them are on Reedsy’s list), but it took me almost an hour per listing to find them. So the amount of time I’ll save now is incalculable.

Not all the reviews are free, and some have limitations on subject matter. You may also need to join some organizations to qualify for the review. But those decisions are easily made based on your own preferences. What I love is that someone else has done the work of culling out the best of the best!

Take a look at Reedsy’s list for your own genre — I bet you’ll be glad you did!

WHISPERS IN THE CANYON Now Available!

I am thrilled to share the news that WHISPERS IN THE CANYON, the first book of the Donovan Family Saga, is now available on Amazon.com!

WhispersintheCanyonMed.jpg

In the 1880s Arizona Territory, Jesse Travers’ father dies and leaves her with a bankrupt ranch and a deep well of distrust.

Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother’s deeds, Jesse is not sorry to hear he’s been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough, it’s the man who shot him who brings her the news. Even more strange is this latecomer’s willingness to help her put her ranch back on solid footing. Lacking any other options and loving her canyon home, Jesse overcomes her trepidation and accepts his help.

Irish immigrant Adam Donovan inherited the gift of empathy from his Celtic forebears, and it’s not long before he ferrets out Jesse’s secret: she’s been deeply traumatized by abuse.

As they work together to improve her ranch, Jesse begins to trust Adam and feels the first stirrings of love―an experience she’s never known before. Then, as if to tell her she is unworthy of happiness, her past rises up with a vengeance and she is left with a terrible choice: retreat to a life of solitude and shame, or reveal her tragic secret in the minuscule hope of saving her relationship with Adam Donovan.

The novel is available as an e-book on Amazon right now, and it’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited!

 

Book Review: SOUL OF THE ELEPHANT by Pam Laughlin

In the first book of The Kind Mahout Series, entitled Soul of the Elephant, author Pam Laughlin introduces Hemit, a boy who lives during the British occupation of India. Hemit is rapidly approaching the age when he will choose his own elephant, and is at odds with his father over their training—Hemit believes that kindness will get better results than cruelty. While his father clings to the old ways, Hemit finds a kindred soul in the form of a mysterious hermit called The Husher who, with a mystical process, can reach the soul of the elephant.

Whether Hemit can keep his forbidden relationship with The Husher secret and be able to convince his father to change his ways are the central conflicts of the story.

Pam's Book 1

There are many fascinating aspects to this book, including the customs and food of a people with whom I was not acquainted before. Ms. Laughlin provides lush descriptions of the scenery and tantalizing depictions of their meals, as well as in-depth portrayals of the social caste system and the hunting process (the duck hunt especially intrigued me).

But in spite of, or perhaps because of, the simplicity of Hemit’s life, there’s a sense of imminent danger throughout. Nature sends lightning, rainstorms and floods; the British bureaucrats are both overbearing and condescending; and the elephants themselves can pose significant risks. Not to mention the tiger (or is it a were-tiger?) that preys on the villagers.

If there’s a negative to this book, it’s that some appealing minor characters appear here and there, but don’t have a significant role to play in the narrative. I’m hoping these characters have more to tell us as the series continues.

I recommend this book for its smooth writing and excellent imagery, as well as the sheer depth of knowledge it displays. I enjoyed every page of it.

Notes: From time to time I am asked, or volunteer, to write a review of a novel by another author. Please be assured that, although I may have an acquaintance with the author involved, the views expressed are entirely my own and are based on the book itself and nothing else. For it is only by being honest that I can expect my readers to trust me.

I was provided with a copy of this book by the author, with the provision that I write an honest review.

If you have a book you’d like reviewed and are willing to accept my unadulterated opinion, contact me through the website. I’ll be accepting adult full-length novels in all genres except Horror and Erotica, and posting no more than one review per month, on a book chosen at random from among those submitted. However, if your book is not chosen this month, it will remain on the list and have more opportunities to be “the one”. You may, of course, withdraw your request at any time.

Please note: due to poor eyesight and therefore limited screen time, I am unable to review any book for which a hard copy is not provided. My apologies to ebook-only formats: I wish I could accommodate you as well.

Does Your Story Need a Bad Guy?

A writer asks if his work might suffer because he doesn’t write “antagonists”, by which he means there is no specific person for his hero to fight. He writes books about climate change and how it affects his characters.

My answer: “Of course you have an antagonistit’s NATURE”.

Traditionally, there have been five types of antagonists in literature:

Man against Man

Man against Nature

Man against Society

Man against Himself

Man against the Supernatural

Recently, another antagonist has been added to the list:

Man against Technology

AI by geralt from Pixaby

Picture by geralt from Pixaby

Given those choices, how do we figure out which of those antagonists fits our needs?

Man vs Man: You can look at any of the Hero sagas for this theme, whether it’s Beowulf or Batman. It’s also a common theme in mysteries, westerns, and romances, where the villain (whether murderer, rustler or ex-girlfriend) must be vanquished in order for the protagonist to succeed.

Man vs Nature: This theme is found in Moby Dick and The Old Man and The Sea, but also in stories like Cast Away and The Towering Inferno, where the protagonist must either use the natural world to save himself, or fight a natural force to save someone else.

Man vs Society: Here, the most commonly cited author is Jane Austen, whose characters are always bumping up against the artifices of 18th century England. To Kill a Mockingbird is another fine example, as is Riders of the Purple Sage, where a woman is pitted against the strictures of Mormon society when an unscrupulous bishop wants her for her wealth.

Man vs Himself: While Hamlet is the most obvious example of this theme, Riders of the Purple Sage also shows us this conflict, as the woman’s non-Mormon champion, Lassiter, must give up his guns to gain her trust and, eventually, her love. Lassiter’s internal struggle to reconcile himself to a non-violent solution to their dilemma is just as strong as Hamlet’s, though his ultimate act is much different (no spoilers here!)

Man vs the Supernatural: Whether it’s called Fate, God, or a wizard’s spell, conflicts can be found from the myths of Prometheus and Loki, to the witches in MacBeth, through to Harry Potter. It also includes vampires, flying monkeys, as well as the zombie apocalypse.

Man vs Technology: Both Brave New World and 1984 demonstrate the challenges of technology changing our life in ways we could not anticipate. Other good examples of this conflict are 2001:A Space Odyssey and Frankenstein.

frankenstein-by skeeze from Pixabay

Picture by Skeeze from Pixabay

 

Now that we’ve explored the kinds of antagonists, the question is: can a book have more than one antagonist?

We’ve already seen two examples of antagonists in Riders of the Purple Sage. We could also see it in The Towering Inferno, where the protagonist is not only striving to save people from the fire, but trying to discover what went wrong, while the builder is hiding the cost-cutting measures he employed in construction.

In my forthcoming book, Whispers in the Canyon, the human antagonist is dead before the story begins, but that doesn’t mean his evil deeds died with him. My characters, Adam Donovan and Jesse Travers, must deal with the aftereffects of the abuse Jesse suffered at her dead brother’s hands.

These two also have problems with nature to be faced, and the Man vs Himself theme rears its ugly head when Adam begins to blame himself for not recognizing Jesse’s plight earlier.

So, if your manuscript doesn’t have a “good guy” and a “bad guy”, and there’s something other than that (or several other somethings) causing problems for your hero, never fear. The antagonist of your story doesn’t have to be human at all.

 

Elegy on the Irregular Verb

 

The poetry of language once

Began my love of words,

But poetry is giving way

To easiness in verbs.

 

I dedicate these simple lines

To those whose memories, like mine,

Allow for lit in lieu of lighted,

And shone instead of shined.

 

For we who strove instead of strived,

At least we’ve not been blessed with “drived”.

16057280b

an irregular verb

 

My Debut Novel To Take Flight!

1880s Arizona. Damaged almost beyond hope, Jesse inherits a bankrupt ranch. Survival comes at an inconceivable price: she must learn to trust the man who killed her brother.

That’s the logline from my debut historical novel, WHISPERS IN THE CANYON*. I am absolutely delighted to report that it will be released in late August by Soul Mate Publishing.

book to gull

 

After almost three years of querying agents, I participated in an event called SonOfAPitch, an event hosted by Katie Hamstead. I submitted a query letter and the first page of my manuscript, and wound up in the company of many other authors whose submissions knocked my socks off. Amazingly, I not only made it to the third round (where only 20 contestants were chosen), but subsequently got a request for the full manuscript directly from a publisher.

During that same time period, I also joined a pitch session at Savvy Authors, and received two more requests for the full MS from publishers.

Three fulls! After three years of traditional querying and Twitter contests, with never more than a partial request. It seemed impossible. Could this be my lucky time? I could only wait and see.

After reviewing my work, one publisher requested what would amount to a complete re-write of the manuscript, which I declined to do. But both of the others offered contracts; the first one for an e-book only. Now, I’m an old-fashioned girl and I like having a book I can hold in my hands, so I said no, wondering at the same time if I was eliminating my best chance at publication. But my luck held out and the third publisher came through. I took some time to educate myself on contract basics, and after a few rounds of questions which were swiftly answered, I accepted the contract offered by Soul Mate.

I could finally breathe. I had success! My words would be published for readers to peruse and (hopefully) enjoy. And I’ll have a book I can hold in my hands!

book girl grass hat

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This experience made something perfectly clear to me: it really is about taste. When one editor is looking for a complete re-write and another says “I love it!”, you’ve got to believe it’s about taste.

And the final “moral of the story”? There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Traditional queries to agents, direct queries to publishers, on-line contests, pitch sessions, self-publishing―they’re all great ways to get your words out there.

I feel now that I tried the agent route for much too long, but I know others who have had great success with it. I was just beginning to consider querying directly to publishers when the contest & pitch opportunities came along. Frankly, I initially thought of them as a chance to get my feet wet, hoping for but not expecting such great results.

So don’t let anyone tell you there’s a right way and a wrong way to get your work out there. Pick the option that appeals to you and give it a go. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next option. There’s a vast variety of tastes out there and somewhere, someone’s specifically waiting for the book that you’re writing.

I’d love to hear your experiences in publishing: what path are you on? what have you tried? what’s your next move? or have you already found success?

*Note: WHISPERS IN THE CANYON is the first book in the Donovan Family Saga. It was formerly known as LET THE CANYONS WEEP, and I’m absolutely in love with the new title!

Ask Giff: Dialogue Tags, A Punctuation Primer

Last week I got an e-mail from a reader about punctuating dialogue. I was glad to get the question, because it’s also a pet peeve of mine. Here’s her question:

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I also do beta-reading for some of my writer friends. My problem: it seems like everyone has a different way of punctuating dialogue, and I’m at a loss to figure out what’s right. I’ve read up on the subject but I’m still kind of confused. Is there a simple explanation you can give me?

Answer: There is a simple explanation, but it’s not a short one.

design desk display eyewear

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

One of the modern style choices we have is substituting character actions for dialogue tags. This can be quite effective in making a sentence or scene more active. However, the punctuation needed in each case is different, and bad punctuation is one way to appear as a novice writer (as well as annoying any grammar nerds among your readers).

So, what makes a dialogue tag? There are two criteria: it must identify the speaker and describe the dialogue, though it doesn’t always have to be in that particular order. He asked, she said, John murmured or whispered, Stacey shouted or screamedthese are all dialogue tags.

Examples:

I’ll walk you back to your ship,” she (identity) said (description).

I need to take a nap,” he (identity) mumbled (description).

Do you want to go out tonight?” John (identity) asked (description).

I don’t know who did it!” shouted (description) Stacey (identity).

The proper punctuation of the first two sentences shows the comma inside the closing quotes, followed by the dialogue tag. In the third & fourth sentences, the question mark or exclamation mark takes the place of the comma, again inside the quotes. If the first word after the dialogue is not a proper noun (such as John or Stacey), that word is not capitalized.

So the first thing to remember is that whatever punctuation you use for the spoken words, whether it’s a comma or ellipses, question mark or em-dash, it’s ALWAYS going to come inside the close quotes.

And what happens when you want to include a character action after the dialogue tag?

“I’ll walk you back to your ship,” she said, falling into step beside him.

You identify the speaker, describe the dialogue, then follow the dialogue tag with the additional information. The rules for punctuation stay the same.

But what about that substitution we talked about earlier, where you want to replace the dialogue tag with a character action? That’s where it all goes sideways. The wrong way is to follow the dialogue tag rules, like this:

“I’ll walk you back to your ship,” she fell into step beside him.

Because while “she fell into step” gives you the identity of the speaker (“she”), it does not describe the dialogue, so it doesn’t meet the criteria for a dialogue tag. Therefore, that phrase needs to become its own sentence.

“I’ll walk you back to your ship.” She fell into step beside him.

The dialogue ends with a period within the closed quotes, and the pronoun “she” becomes the first word in a new sentence, so it must be capitalized.

More examples:

I need to take a nap,” he mumbled wearily.
“I need to take a nap.” He could feel his whole body drooping.

Do you want to go out tonight?” John asked with a grin.
“Do you want to go out tonight?” John gave her a suggestive grin.

I don’t know who did it!” shouted Stacey, then stalked away.
“I don’t know who did it!” With a final angry look, Stacey stalked away.

So, simply put: if your phrase identifies and describes the dialogue, it’s a dialogue tag (even if you add additional elements to it). If it describes a character’s action rather than the character’s words, it’s not a dialogue tag and needs to become a new sentence.

Now, who’s got another grammar/punctuation peeve?

“Ask Giff” gives you real answers to real sentence construction problems. Whether you have a general question or a specific sentence that needs help, feel free to submit it on the contact form with the subject line “Ask Giff”.