Friday, December 26, 2014

Turning Point



Most novels have at least one scene that is a turning point in the story. Something changes.  It could be an outer turning point where something happens to change the way the story evolves or an inner turning point where the person’s inner resolve or attitude changes. Maybe this change affects a character so that after this point, nothing will ever be the same for him or her. Some turning points are dramatic; some are more subtle. – Anneli Purchase

EMBROILED by Darlene Jones

Emily doesn’t believe in heaven, but she has an insane desire to go “up there.” A yearning that’s so strong that she can no longer function in daily life. Even the wonderful Dr. David can’t help her find the answers she needs.
Then a stranger arrives claiming to be her soulmate, claiming to have loved her in other lives. She is inexorably drawn to him even as she runs from him.
To prove what he says is true, Yves takes her to his world. There she meets gods and Powers and people rescued from doomed planets—living the perfect heavenly life. She knows she belongs “up there” with Yves, but all is not as idyllic as it appears. Emily is the only one who sees the danger. Can she leave her family and friends to stay with Yves? Will she be able to save him and his world?

Turning Point
Excerpt from Embroiled
Yves ordered a second round of liqueurs. They sipped and sat in tense silence. At least, for Emily, it was tense. She clasped her hands in her lap. It’s now or never, girl. “Yves, did you … did you make the kids … that is … did you influence the kids to go back to school?”
“Yes.”
Emily felt her mouth drop open. “How on Earth did you do that?”
Yves hesitated. Emily’s heart dropped and her stomach fluttered. What story was he formulating in the pause? What lies would he tell?
“That’s not an easy question to answer, Em.”
“Emily.”
“It has to do with your world and mine.”
Emily frowned. “Your world? What world is that?” She laughed nervously. “Are you saying you’re an alien?” Asking the question, she felt like an idiot.
“Sort of.”
Emily went cold. Her heart seemed to drop right out of her. “Sort of!?” She was so flustered she choked on her words. Aware of odd looks from the people at neighboring tables, she struggled for control. She took a deep breath and hissed, “What the hell does that mean?”
Yves winced at her sharp tone. “It’s a long story.”
“They always are.” Emily gathered her handbag and keys and slid from her chair, more disappointed than she ever thought she could be. The keys fell from her trembling hand. She reached down to scoop them up.
Yves was faster. He caught her hand and wrapped her fingers around her keys without letting go. “Please don’t leave.” He slapped some money on the table and stood. “I promised you an explanation, but I think it would be best if I showed you.”
“Showed me what?”
“My world.”
Emily stalked off to her car, as majestically as one could stalk off in flat sandals. “From another world. Yeah! Right!”
“Em, wait up,” Yves called. “You said, you believed.”
Without slowing down or looking back, Emily clicked the fob to unlock her car, opened the driver’s door, and tossed her purse inside. If Yves wanted to show her where he lived, she’d go along. Truth be told, she’d go anywhere with him. God, girl, you are so stupid. What if this guy is on the lam from some loony bin? “Where to?” she asked.
Yves’s face lit up. A sort of halo wavered around his head. Too much alcohol tonight, she thought. She closed her eyes for a moment and gave herself a mental shake, but, when she looked again, the halo was still there.
“You’ll come?” Yves asked. She nodded and saw his face glow. “We won’t need your car.” Emily clicked the lock button and pocketed the keys. “Take my hands and close your eyes.”
With a shiver of apprehension, Emily did as he asked. Her feet seemed to lift from the ground. The air felt cool on her face. Then grass tickled her toes and Yves was telling her to open her eyes. Emily glanced down. Yes, it was grass. But they’d been in the paved parking lot just a second ago. Turning full circle to examine her surroundings, she knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Maybe if she clicked her heels together…. “Where are we?”

“This is my home,” Yves said softly.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas far from home

                                                  Balafon

My first Christmas away from home was in Mali. My friend and I were volunteers with CUSO*. We made pie crust from buerre de karite (yes, the same karite that’s used in skin care products). We found the karite oil in a big barrel at the market, bought some and took it home not knowing what it was. We put it in the fridge and a few hours later decided, by the texture and taste, that we had a perfect shortening. We bought canned apples from China and made a pie. It was a huge success with all the Canadian CUSO volunteers. And no, we did not have a turkey.

Two years later I celebrated Christmas in Hawaii. Santa wore red shorts, red flip-flops and a perfect Santa hat to go with the long white beard that covered most of his bare chest. Pineapple and poi for dinner? No. Instead, we enjoyed a traditional turkey feast at the hotel.

A number of years later it was back to Mali and off to the village of Faladye to spend Christmas Day with our friend’s family. We took French bread and bottled water with us. Raymond’s mother butchered a chicken Christmas Eve and we gnawed on the tough old bird which was served with millet liberally mixed with sand and grit.

While most Malians are Muslim or animist, Raymond’s family is Catholic and the village boasts a large brick church. I’m not religious, but as we walked to church along with the villagers that night for midnight mass, it seemed perfectly natural to anticipate meeting Mary and Joseph around the next corner. Turning our gaze from the mud-brick walls to the star filled sky, a sense of peace washed over us, heightened no doubt by the silence of the savanna. 

The service and songs were in Bambara, the carols played on a balafon. When we joined in the “fa la la la“ chorus, the children in front of us spun around to stare, wide eyed, mouths agape. We winked and continued singing. After the service everyone lined up outside the church to shake our hands.

For the past number of years, we’ve been in Mexico for Christmas. We have had tamales and flan, both of which are delicious, but we missed the traditional dinner especially the leftovers for breakfast the next morning which is the best part of a turkey dinner so now we cook a turkey on the barbecue.  We also have a piñata on Christmas Eve for the kids and we spend part of Christmas afternoon body boarding.

All so different from the white Christmas of home in Canada, with snow, and frost and sleigh rides, and Santa’s reindeer, but all equally enjoyable.


Joyeux Noël! Felix Navidad! Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wanted: Book Assassin



Yes, you read right. Please come and bash my books. Tell everyone they are anti-religion, profane, and wicked. The louder you yell, the more strident you are, the better. Tell the world they’re more than sci-fi with otherworldly beings. Say that the action and love story are a ruse to disguise subversive social commentary.

Someone needs to write to the New York Times and complain about my books, slam them for all depravities contained therein. I don’t really care what you say as long as it garners attention.

Oh, wait. It would be best to brand them anti-Christian. I’d sell millions. Just ask Dan Brown. Religious controversy worked for him.

I didn’t think I’d written anything controversial until readers gave me feedback. Some say my books are very anti-religion. Others ask if Yves is God. I admit that my goal was to get people thinking about world conditions. But, such strong responses from what started out to be an adventure romance with a little sci-fi thrown in for the magical element it could bring to the story?  

These reactions startled me and beg the questions for authors.

Is there anything controversial in your book?

Should there be anything controversial in your book?

Can your novel be successful without controversy?

I’ve heard it said that if you want to stay friends with someone, you must avoid three topics—sex, politics, and religion. Is the same true for novels?

Doesn’t seem so when it comes to sex. Many novels, certainly not just in the romance genre, are replete with sex and they sell.

Novels featuring political themes are popular too. Who doesn’t love the intrigue of political machinations? Add some sex and you’ve got a best seller on your hands and, in real life, juicy headlines that threaten to topple even those highest on the ladder.

And religious controversy in books … well, remember Salman Rushdie?  

Controversy grabs attention. Controversy sets people talking and arguing. Controversy sells.


Should an author deliberately write something to cause controversy? And, if so, what? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Humor in Novels



Humor can be anything from a belly laugh and the giggles to a chuckle or a smile. As long as it makes us happy to some degree, humor is doing its job. Here’s an excerpt from my novel EMPOWERED—an example of humor in a book that is not meant to be a comedy.


Victor grabbed Jasmine’s arm and dragged her to his office. “Don’t you guys all have something to do?” he said over his shoulder, but none of the men moved. He saw Jasmine look back at them and wink.
“You tell her, Vic,” one of the guys hollered just as he slammed the door.
“Woman, what were you thinking when you came here? It’s not safe and you stand out like a sore thumb.” Victor glared at her. “Please, tell me you’re not that dumb.”
“Belize, I think.”
“What?”
“Belize for our honeymoon.”
“Honeymoon!” He heard the guys hooting on the other side of the door and imagined a whole lot of high-fives taking place out there.
“Yes, good snorkeling. We’ll have to have a society wedding of course. But we can keep it small and limit the photographers.”
“You’re totally nuts.” Victor shook his head in disbelief.
“We’ll make beautiful babies,” she cooed smiling up at him.
“Babies?  Babies!” Victor screeched. “Get this straight. We. Are. Not. Getting. Married. We. Are. Not. Making. Babies.” What did it take to make her understand?
“We are,” she said in a matter of fact way that enraged him even more. “We have to.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Victor, I love you. I can feel you in every atom of my body. My bones feel like jelly when I’m with you. Can’t you—?”
“You don’t even know me,” he yelled as he yanked the door open. The guys scrambled out of the way. With one hand on Jasmine’s arm and the other on the small of her back, he propelled her out the door to the waiting men. Jasmine stopped abruptly and Victor’s forward momentum caused him to press against her. He jerked back as if scalded. Jasmine turned to the audience in the doorway and mouthed, “I’ll be back.” Five thumbs turned up.
“No, you won’t!” Vic deposited her with her bodyguards and stomped back to his office. “Jesus H. Christ! Miss Jasmine Wade Berdin you are one hundred percent certifiably insane,” he said to no one in particular as he sagged heavily into his chair. His bones felt like jelly.


Friday, November 28, 2014

The Benefits of Moving



We’re moving. As I contemplate the demands and logistics of organizing, packing, and notifying friends, family, agencies of our new address, I wonder if there is an up-side to moving. The answer is, yes.

I haven’t moved often as an adult, but throughout my teaching career, I did change schools and that isn’t a lot different than a house move. Packing up the classroom – files, books, teaching materials necessitates much the same organizing and sorting.

Classroom contents such as textbooks belong to the school, but every teacher has a truck load of their own materials. My own books, posters, manipulatives, pictures, etc. go into boxes. Then, with each move, I face the filing cabinet, go through each file carefully—something I often haven’t had the time to do in years. Many things can be discarded as obsolete. Files I’ve used often and know I’ll use again get packed along with the rest. And often I stumble across gems that elicit an “Oh my, goodness, I’d forgotten all about this.” Ideas for teaching that I’d used with success in the past and somehow let fall by the wayside. They’ll be put to good use again in the new school.

Our last move was from a house to a condo and the process not much different from that described above. Decisions were made regarding which pieces of furniture to take and which to sell. The accumulation of “stuff” in the basement sorted, some of the items to be sold, others to be donated or junked. Cupboards and closets opened and emptied.

“I didn’t know we had this,” I said (more than once) as I sifted through boxes from the bottom of the closet.

“If we didn’t know we had it, do you think we can live without it?” my husband asked.

Settled in our new home, everything unpacked, pictures hung, I’m determined to keep our belongings minimal, to avoid the “acquiring” mode of my younger self.

Now as I prepare for this move, I see that I’ve partially succeeded. We still have too much stuff and much of it will have to go as we sort and pack. Some of the decisions will be harder than others. Do we really need those glass plates that were wedding presents, but never used? Do we really need two sets of dinnerware? We haven’t used the fancy ones more than once a year. What to do with those afghans Nana knit for us? Ah, we’ll give them to the grandchildren.

Where, in all this work, is the up-side of moving? Is it in the flood of memories that come with the finding and handling of items we’ve had for so many years? Is it in the freedom of parting with items we’ve had for so many years?

For me, the process of moving has invariably been positive—a cleansing of sorts. It’s rejuvenating to leave the old behind and move to the new. It’s liberating to divest oneself of material acquisitions. Of course I’ll keep the things I hold dear—family antiques, books, special souvenirs of Mali—but the rest will be downsized once again and I won’t miss any of the things I leave behind. Perhaps this is a piece of the freedom we all aspire to.







Friday, November 21, 2014

Picture taking - virtue or vice



Writers create worlds with their words.  And if the writer is a master at his or her craft the words allow the reader to “see” a vivid picture of the scene, understand the characters, and thrill with the action. For many readers, creating their own images and impressions from word pictures is what makes reading superior to visual media.  

Yet, as I type this, the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” reverberates in my head.

How do I feel about picture taking?

Very guilty:
Many years ago, I sat on the upper deck of the General Soumare plying its way up the Niger River to Tombouctou. We docked at Goundam and watched, fascinated by the desert life on shore. Without moving from my chair, I reached down into my purse for my little camera. I had it partially out of my purse when someone in the circle of Touraug women spotted it. They began to rise and depart. I dropped my camera back into my purse and they settled into their circle again.

Guilty and angry:
I time travelled to the Dogon area of Mali. I use the words “time travel” deliberately as we were among people surviving in Stone Age conditions. What they lived on was hard to fathom. Of course I wanted pictures. I raised my camera to capture a mother and her child. The moment she saw my camera, she picked up her child and posed, then held her hand out for money. I put my camera away. It wasn’t surprising that she would want money—any little bit would help the villagers to survive, but I was angry too, furious that careless camera toting tourists had created this situation. There are many better ways to support the poor.

Angry and insulted:
At one time we lived in a unique river-side community in our city. Cyclists on the trails careened to a stop to talk about our houses. Cars drove by slowly, passengers gawking out their windows. Invariably, cameras appeared—the tourists ready to take pictures of the quaint locals infuriated me. Is that how others felt when I wielded my camera?

Guilty again:
I take pictures for my blog—many of them in Mexico. They’re not very good photos, because I feel that I’m intrusive of people’s lives and homes so I snap quickly and hide the camera. I don’t believe I have a right to invade their lives in this way.

Regretful:
Of course I come home with regrets for the photos not taken.  I would dearly love that picture of the man on the horse waiting at the red light alongside my car or the man walking his cow across the main street of town.


Pictures are important, providing glimpses into the past, evidence of crimes, sights to marvel at, an opportunity to travel from your armchair, but at what cost to the subjects of those pictures?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Construction of a Novel

To the layperson observing a construction site, it's often difficult or impossible to visualize the finished project. In small town Mexico, where most construction is by done by manual labor, the dichotomy is even more pronounced as evidenced in these pictures.





As an author, I can say that the before and after of constructing a novel isn’t all that different as evidenced in these examples.

Before:           Em is forced to fight.

After:

The man uttered a crazed laugh as he loomed over her clearly expecting her to cower and plead for mercy. Instead she flowed into his attack, blocked his swing with her left hand on his wrist, blended her body to his and used his forward momentum to throw him over her hip to the ground. He was a big man and her throw, though clumsy, slammed his head against the door jamb knocking him unconscious.

The guys I trained with should see this. Hell, they should be here with me. Jake too.

The man’s body blocked the one behind him. In her peripheral vision she caught sight of another man attacking from her right, with an arching back swing. She blocked his motion, grabbed his wrist with her right hand, his upper arm with her left and slammed his elbow against her raised knee. The blow was not strong enough to smash the joint but it did send the knife flying from his hand. He bent forward reflexively tucking the injured elbow into his side and she hammered his head with a closed fist sending him sprawling across the church doorway.

She spun to face a third man swinging wildly at her, ducked, slammed her shoulder into his hip, grabbed his legs behind his knees, lifted and sent him back down the steps. His falling body flattened two of the men still pushing forward and momentarily slowed the advance. A man grabbed her from behind. She reacted with a head butt and knew she had broken his nose when she felt warm blood and snot splattering the back of her neck.       From EMBATTLED


Before:           Jasmine tries to explain her visions to Victor.

After:

“I have never told anyone about this, Victor. Not even Steph. They started when I was in first grade and continued almost daily for exactly two years.”
“What started?” Vic asked when she fell silent.
Jasmine sighed and a look of utter contentment came over her. “I would call them dreams, but I can’t because they happened when I was awake. They were more like experiences, like I was living someone else’s experiences along with them. I say that because I never felt I was alone. I was always with her. Maybe in her would be a better way to describe it.” From EMPOWERED


Before:           Love scene for Abby.

After:

“You’re so beautiful.” He kissed her hand, her hair, her eyelids. “I love you,” he whispered. He didn’t need to say it. She knew.
“You must.” She giggled. “If you say I’m beautiful. I like the lie.”
“Abby, please, don’t joke. It’s not a lie.”
“Sam, give it up.” They were silent for a time.
“Abby, know this, I love you. I have for a long, long time and I will forever.”
“Sam,” Abby raised herself on one elbow to look down at him. His eyes were closed. “Sam? Look at me.”
“I don’t need to open my eyes to see you, Abby dearest. You are in my heart where you belong, where you will live forever.” He smiled. “It’s all right Abby. Everything is fine.”
“Sam, open your eyes.”
“I love you.”
That was the last thing Abby remembered.  From EMBRACED

Before:           Emily is forced to face the fact she might not be able to or want to go home again.

After:

Tory took Emily’s hands in her own. “Can you stay away? Tell me honestly. You’re in love with Yves. You’ve got the kids and Essan sleuthing for you. You’re training with CC and me. You’re friends with Elspeth and Teeg and Exelrud and Zo. You’re embroiled in our lives whether you like it or not. Not to mention that you think something is dreadfully wrong up here, something none of the rest of us sees.”
Something is wrong.
“If you are right, you’re needed here. Desperately. And if you’re not, you’re still needed here. Yves needs you. He won’t be able to function without you.”
Emily sniffed. “He did before.”
“No, he didn’t. He was never without you.”
“You’re talking about those other women?”
“You, it’s always been you. No matter your name, no matter the time, it’s always been you.”
From EMBROILED


Friday, November 7, 2014

When you're finished reading my books, try these.


I flog my books via blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. so I thought it only fair to recommend books I’ve discovered and liked, some, but not all, written by fellow indie authors. Here are my reviews of six books I’ve enjoyed recently. All can be found on Amazon.

The Palaver Tree - My books are partially inspired by my experiences in Africa so this book was a natural for me. Subtle, direct, gentle, and jarring, The Palaver Tree takes the reader on an incredible journey from the safety of small town England to the dangers of Africa. But, for Ellie, Diane, and Tiffany, England isn't safe either as the wily and unscrupulous Gabriel cons them all.
And the Africa Ellie comes to know and love—the friends she makes and the children she teaches—cannot protect her from the dangers of either Gabriel or the rioting as rebels attempt a coup to overturn the government. I've lived and traveled in West Africa and found this book taking me down memory lane. Thankfully, I never had to face the dangers Ellie faced. If you're looking for a good read, that takes "ordinary" people into extraordinary circumstances, this is it. And, the ending is perfect


Night Must Wait - Masterful. Authentic. Gritty. Gripping. Complex characters. Night Must Wait has all the elements to make this novel so much greater than just another war story. Winter's subtleties in depicting the characters, the setting, the basic elements of Africa add depth and dimension much appreciated by this reader.

I lived in Mali at the time and could not visit Nigeria because of the war, but did travel through Niger, Benin (then called Dahomey) and Togo. I saw enough and knew enough about the area to relate to much in Winter's book. I have great admiration for what she has accomplished with Night Must Wait.

The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor - Good books intrigue and keep you turning the pages. Great books draw you in and wrap their soul around you until you feel that you are part of the landscape, and one with the characters of the story. The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor is just such a book. The fact that Charlotte is a historical rather than fictional character makes each aspect of her story that much more poignant. You read the book and immediately wish to reread it for fear you've missed some small detail. When you come to the last page and are forced to admit there is no more, you are left with a bittersweet heartache and know that Charlotte will be with you for a long time to come.


The Winter Pony - Wow! There aren't enough adjectives to describe how wonderful this book is. If I was cranky the next morning, it's Mr. Lawrence's fault because I couldn't stop reading. Who would have thought that a book written from a horse’s point of view could be so engaging? This tale of the trek to the South Pole provides a whole new perspective, one that this reader greatly appreciated.

Domingo’s Angel - A survey of fiction readers showed that the one most important aspect of a novel to readers was what they learned. Domingo's Angel fills the bill perfectly. The reader learns about conditions in Spain during Franco's rule through the lives of villagers in the mountains. The story is beautiful, heartbreaking, and haunting. The characters, depicted so vividly, stay with the reader long after the book is done. This is one I will read and reread. Do pick up a copy. You won't be disappointed.


Grows That Way - I don't like YA. I don't read YA. Caveat - I read (more than once) and loved Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen. So why am I writing a review for a YA book? Not just one, but the whole trilogy? Because Ketchen's books are amazingly well written and keep getting better and better. I won't call this a coming of age story as I can't stand that expression. What are they then? A story of a girl dealing with her family and friends at the same time as she is dealing with Turner Syndrome. Ketchen's characterizations are subtle and she informs as well as entertains. Each book can be read as a stand alone, but I urge you to read, in order, all three. You won't be disappointed. And then pass them on to any teen you know who loves horses.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mom Knows Best



My mother had a saying for everything. They were always prefaced with the words, “As my mother used to say….” She claimed they sounded much better in Flemish as they rhymed, but as a kid, I didn’t see how any of them could sound good at any time. Now, a little older and wiser, I realize how apt they are in many situations.

For years I had a burning desire to write a novel, but didn’t know if I had what it takes to be an author. If Mom were still here she’d have said, “You won’t know until you try.”

“Sure, fine, no problem, Mom. But remember, I work full time, have a couple of kids at home, work out several times a week.”

“Ah well,” she’d have said, “No rest for the wicked.” Seems to me if I’d been that wicked, I remember much more fun times.

So, prompted by those sayings, I start writing and when I’m tired and can’t face the computer, I hear her words as clearly as if she were in the room. “Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today.” And I write, even if it’s just a little bit.

Eventually I have a completed manuscript and I hear, "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Edit, edit, edit is the answer to that one.  And, if you’re lucky and have a writing partner who is a professional copyeditor, you send your manuscript off to her.

Time to find a literary agent and off go the query letters. Then you wait knowing Mom would say, “No news is good news.” To your moans when the reject letters arrive, more of your mother’s words pop into your head.  "All good things come to those who wait." Good things do come in the form of advice at the Willamette writing conference. Self-publish everyone says. You go home and proceed.
Novel formatted for self-publishing, cover designed, website up and running, blogs posted weekly, Facebook and Twitter accounts active, and you’re ready to launch your first novel. Doubts creep in.

“Maybe I’m too old to be doing this?”

“Better late than never,” your mother’s voice answers. Of course she’s right. 
After all you’re not as old as Whistler’s mother.

“What if no one likes it or reads it?”

“Time will tell,” her voice reasons. Again she’s right. People are reading my books and writing reviews and I’m confident that my readership will grow, perhaps not always as fast as I would like, but it will grow and I have the satisfaction of accomplishing my goal. Mom would be proud.



Friday, October 24, 2014



Best-selling author – what does that mean in today’s market?
“In this #1 New York Times bestselling e-book …”
“The sensational New York Times bestseller …”
“A USA Today bestselling author …”
“From a USA Today bestselling author …”
“From an award-winning author comes …”
 “From a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author …”
 “From the bestselling author of …”
“A New York Times bestselling romance from an award-winning author …” 
 “gorgeous novel from a New York Times bestselling author who writes with “tender heart” 

Here’s the thing.
My books haven’t hit the New York Times or USA Today lists—yet.
My books haven’t won any awards, but then I haven’t entered them in any contests.

So, not being able to use the glowing headlines listed above, how do I entice readers to give my novels a try?

And here’s the more important question. Do I even want to use phrases like those above?

As soon as I see the word “bestseller,” I stop reading the book description. There was a time when “New York times bestseller” meant what it said. Millions of people had bought the book and read it. The author had a right to be proud and pour money into his or her bank account.

Now, the status can be bought. Gather your friends and acquaintances and convince them all to buy your book on a specific day and, voila!

How then to entice readers without resorting to contrived means? That’s the question every author asks themselves. We’re finding that there are no magic answers. We tweet, create Facebook pages, blog, set up websites, visit book bloggers’ sites, and search the web for inspiration. We join author groups, list our books on various websites and in on-line book stores. We’re told that building our brand, establishing a solid platform is what it’s all about.

Does this frenzy of activity lead to mega-sales? Not in my experience. So why bother?

Well, I’ve always been determined and this novel writing/selling business is no different. Fortunately, books don’t go rotten like apples. It may take a while, but I’m convinced there are readers out there who will find, buy, and enjoy my books.  

Meanwhile, I’m reaping the side benefits. I’m widening my circle of friends and acquaintances, meeting fellow authors and learning from them. I know my writing is improving as a result. And I’m enjoying many wonderful stories written by fellow indie authors.

So no, I’m not quitting. The first draft of my next novel is done. I’m into the rewrites and I’m having the time of my life creating and publishing my novels. 











Friday, October 17, 2014

Turning Point in Novels



Most novels have at least one scene that is a turning point in the story. Something changes.  It could be an outer turning point where something happens to change the way the story evolves or an inner turning point where the person’s inner resolve or attitude changes. Maybe this change affects a character so that after this point, nothing will ever be the same for him or her. Some turning points are dramatic; some are more subtle. – Anneli Purchase

EMBROILED by Darlene Jones

Emily doesn’t believe in heaven, but she has an insane desire to go “up there.” A yearning that’s so strong that she can no longer function in daily life. Even the wonderful Dr. David can’t help her find the answers she needs.
Then a stranger arrives claiming to be her soulmate, claiming to have loved her in other lives. She is inexorably drawn to him even as she runs from him.
To prove what he says is true, Yves takes her to his world. There she meets gods and Powers and people rescued from doomed planets—living the perfect heavenly life. She knows she belongs “up there” with Yves, but all is not as idyllic as it appears. Emily is the only one who sees the danger. Can she leave her family and friends to stay with Yves? Will she be able to save him and his world?

Turning Point
Excerpt from Embroiled

Yves ordered a second round of liqueurs. They sipped and sat in tense silence. At least, for Emily, it was tense. She clasped her hands in her lap. It’s now or never, girl. “Yves, did you … did you make the kids … that is … did you influence the kids to go back to school?”
“Yes.”
Emily felt her mouth drop open. “How on Earth did you do that?”
Yves hesitated. Emily’s heart dropped and her stomach fluttered. What story was he formulating in the pause? What lies would he tell?
“That’s not an easy question to answer, Em.”
“Emily.”
“It has to do with your world and mine.”
Emily frowned. “Your world? What world is that?” She laughed nervously. “Are you saying you’re an alien?” Asking the question, she felt like an idiot.
“Sort of.”
Emily went cold. Her heart seemed to drop right out of her. “Sort of!?” She was so flustered she choked on her words. Aware of odd looks from the people at neighboring tables, she struggled for control. She took a deep breath and hissed, “What the hell does that mean?”
Yves winced at her sharp tone. “It’s a long story.”
“They always are.” Emily gathered her handbag and keys and slid from her chair, more disappointed than she ever thought she could be. The keys fell from her trembling hand. She reached down to scoop them up.
Yves was faster. He caught her hand and wrapped her fingers around her keys without letting go. “Please don’t leave.” He slapped some money on the table and stood. “I promised you an explanation, but I think it would be best if I showed you.”
“Showed me what?”
“My world.”
Emily stalked off to her car, as majestically as one could stalk off in flat sandals. “From another world. Yeah! Right!”
“Em, wait up,” Yves called. “You said, you believed.”
Without slowing down or looking back, Emily clicked the fob to unlock her car, opened the driver’s door, and tossed her purse inside. If Yves wanted to show her where he lived, she’d go along. Truth be told, she’d go anywhere with him. God, girl, you are so stupid. What if this guy is on the lam from some loony bin? “Where to?” she asked.
Yves’s face lit up. A sort of halo wavered around his head. Too much alcohol tonight, she thought. She closed her eyes for a moment and gave herself a mental shake, but, when she looked again, the halo was still there.
“You’ll come?” Yves asked. She nodded and saw his face glow. “We won’t need your car.” Emily clicked the lock button and pocketed the keys. “Take my hands and close your eyes.”
With a shiver of apprehension, Emily did as he asked. Her feet seemed to lift from the ground. The air felt cool on her face. Then grass tickled her toes and Yves was telling her to open her eyes. Emily glanced down. Yes, it was grass. But they’d been in the paved parking lot just a second ago. Turning full circle to examine her surroundings, she knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Maybe if she clicked her heels together…. “Where are we?”

“This is my home,” Yves said softly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Youth Sells



Every morning I lie in bed listening to the birds, my eyes on the palm tree, waiting for the morning when the dangling frond will have succumbed to gravity and released its fragile grip on the tree. The frond proves to be tenacious and day after day, it clings to life while the younger fronds, tall and erect, reach eagerly for the sky. Below them fronds begin to bend, then droop and finally sag with age.

Every morning my granddaughter bounds into my room. “Hi grandma. Let’s play.” She’s like the new fronds at the top, eagerly reaching for the joys of the new day. And me? I’m somewhere in between—a middle aged frond, not yet drooping, but certainly not possessing the energy I once had.
We live in a society that worships youth. Perfect wrinkle free bodies populate ads and television and movies. A Hollywood agent told me that no self-respecting star would agree to play a mother—not before she was in her fifties at least. The same rule doesn’t seem to apply to men, but that’s a whole other topic.

Those of us who are older bemoan the emphasis on youth, the obsession with youth, the lack of respect and regard for age and wisdom, but watching the palm, I wonder if we have it wrong. Are the young, with their energy and enthusiasm more important? Certainly they are essential to the future of our society. It is they who will take care of us as we age and, like the dangling palm frond, eventually succumb to our fate.

With the great desire to have some decent sales of my books before I die, I ask: “From the authors’ perspective, how does our age affect our promotion and sales?”

Brian Feinblum says it best. In his blog, “Are authors sexy enough for the books they write?” http://ow.ly/uDXrm He says, “‘They say not to “judge a book by its cover,’ but do consumers judge a book by the age (and looks) of its author?”

Good questions. Being a young attractive author should be an advantage for marketing books. We market through social media which lets readers into our lives, lets them see and hear us, and that may influence buying decisions. So, if we are older authors, do we hide away, or pretend to be younger, or do we flaunt our age?

Or do we ignore the question and get on with the job? Perhaps Mr. Feinblum has it right when he says, “what really counts is the seductive beauty of words.”



Friday, October 3, 2014

No Room for Error




Recently I called my doctor’s office to inquire about test results and was told that everything was fine, but that the lab had neglected to complete the one test that was crucial for my doctor to make a decision on medication, should it prove necessary.  

When I went to the doctor’s office to pick up a new requisition, I commented that I was upset about the error. The receptionist told me not to be too hard on the lab staff as they were only human and they received so many requisitions.

Of course people make mistakes, but there are professions that don’t allow for error. This particular situation was not life or death for me, but what if it had been? Recently I met a woman dying of cancer. Her doctor had told her repeatedly that she was too young to have cancer and now that the cancer has finally been diagnosed, it’s too late to effect a cure.

Pilots, transit drivers, ferry captains … are all responsible for a great number of lives as they go about their daily jobs. How much room for error are they or should they be allowed? Pilots have an advantage in that they are not alone in the cockpit. The captain has the luxury of being able to check and cross check all procedures of the flight with the co-pilots on board.

Recently a doctor interviewed on television suggested that his profession should adopt the pilot mode of co-operation and cross checking, particularly in the operating room as opposed to the “one man knows all” attitude that currently prevails in his profession. He claimed that surgical treatments would improve dramatically with a team approach.

And authors? Where do we fit in this picture? In one novel, a well-known and well-respected author (with a huge publishing company and its staff behind her) had one of the major characters in two places at the same time.

Does an error like that matter? Probably not. We can figure it out for ourselves, but it does spoil some of the pleasure in reading the book.

Errors of that nature could be much more serious in a non-fiction work. But in fiction too, accuracy is important.

A survey of fiction readers found that the one element most important in terms of enjoyment of the book was what the reader felt they had learned something. In Domingo’s Angel, I learned about conditions in Spain during Franco’s regime. In I Do Not Come to You by Chance and 419, I learned about the conditions in Nigeria that drove young men to participate in the flood of email scams we received. I like to think that the authors had done their research and that what they presented was as close to the truth as possible. (From what my friends in Nigeria tell me, both authors were spot on.)

Since I became a self-published author, I’ve been reading books by fellow indie authors. I don’t claim to have completely error-free books, but my writing partner and I are like those pilots in the cockpit. We send files back and forth for proofing and work very hard to find and correct all the little glitches. Knowing how difficult the job is, I sympathize with fellow authors and ignore minor mistakes, but I lose patience with books that have so many errors it seems obvious the author didn’t take the time to proof and edit properly.

With pilots and doctors there is no margin for error. How much of a margin should we concede to authors?

We indie authors want to be seen as professionals. We want to be respected for our work and devotion to writing. To achieve these goals we too, have very little margin for error.




Friday, September 26, 2014

Satan's Revenge on Authors




You’ve written a novel, agonized over character names—after all you’re going to have to live with these people for many years. You’ve progressed from the draft to rewrite rewrite  rewrite, and then to edit, polish, and proof read. Along the way you’ve made the difficult decisions regarding your title, and cover design. Finally, you have it all in place. You’re done!

NOT! Reading agent and publisher submission guidelines you learn that you must include a 1 to 2 page synopsis—a summary of your novel—an objective outline of the story which includes all the key points of the entire main plot through to the end. Well now, that can’t be too hard.

“Writing a synopsis is like slowly pulling a tooth with pliers.”

“I hate it.”

“The deconstruction of a novel to reduce it to its simplest form is insane.”

“You never feel you’ve done your book justice.”

“Too much information to compress into too little space.”

“It’s the hardest writing we have to do.”

Oh, come on, don’t exaggerate. You authors are so emotional. Numerous sites offer advice on how to write a synopsis. Check them out. It’s easy, you’ll see.

Written in present tense, third person, (in the same style of writing as your book) it’s a summary of your novel—with feeling. You do not have to include every character or every scene or plot point, but you should give a clear idea as to what your book is about, what is at stake for your heroes, and how it all turns out. Yes, you must put the conclusion to your novel in your synopsis. No cliffhangers or teasers.

Armed with all this guidance, you sit down to write the synopsis. One hundred drafts later and you’re crying in your beer, tearing your hair out, reduced to a blubbering piece of mush.

And no, even if you self-publish, you’re not off the hook. Now you need to produce the shorter, and even more difficult to write, synopsis meant for the public—the blurb or book description used to promote the book.

A blurb is not something that sums up your book in a nutshell. It’s meant to create enough excitement and interest to get people to want to READ your story. Think ad. Think movie trailer. Keep it short and simply written, easy to skim. Build in conflict and end with a good hook—a question that will get the reader to click that “ORDER” button.

Here’s the current version of my blurb. I think I’m getting a little closer to a good description, but undoubtedly, there will be more rewrites.

Emily doesn’t believe in heaven, but she has an insane desire to go “up there.” A yearning that’s so strong that she can no longer function in daily life. Even the wonderful Dr. David can’t help her find the answers she needs.

Then a stranger arrives claiming to be her soulmate, claiming to have loved her in other lives. She is inexorably drawn to him even as she runs from him.

To prove what he says is true, Yves takes her to his world. There she meets gods and Powers and people rescued from doomed planets—living the perfect heavenly life. She knows she belongs “up there” with Yves, but all is not as idyllic as it appears. Emily is the only one who sees the danger. Can she leave her family and friends to stay with Yves? Will she be able to save him and his world?

As for the tagline, that catchphrase or slogan to advertise your book, how hard can that be?
Keep it simple, tell a story, be clear, be scenario driven, be creative, be memorable—all good advice from the Internet, but not so easy to put into practice. Movie taglines—In space no one can hear you scream. Alien (1979), Houston, we have a problem. Apollo 13 (1995)—are inspiring, but aren’t always the ticket for a novel.

This is what I’ve come up with so far for my books.

EMBATTLED
Aliens take over Em's life. Trouble is the guy in charge is a rookie. Of course he messes up.

EMPOWERED
Jasmine is convinced she's invincible. The visions she experienced as a child told her so.

EMBRACED
Abby believes the clickings she hears in the fillings of her teeth are messages from aliens. She's right.

EMBROILED
Emily is obsessed with the notion of going “up there.” She arrives to a world in crisis. Saving it and the man she loves is up to her. 

Mali to Mexico and points in between 
I have to tell you a story. Snippets of a life well lived.















Friday, September 19, 2014

Teaching in Bamako



Oh my Lord! What had I gotten myself into? I stood at the front of the room facing fifty-four grade nine girls. Three bodies crammed into each desk meant for two. They stared at me solemnly.

I took a deep breath. “Good morning.”

“Good morning, Miss.” The chorus of lilting voices encouraged me, but I was soon to discover that learning English was not high on their list of priorities. Most, sent to the school by some of the wealthier Malian families, were putting in time until husbands were found for them.

Some of the girls lived in Bamako and rode their bikes or walked to school. Out-of-towners boarded in the dorms on the second level of the building.

I rode my mobylette to school and parked it amidst the girls’ bikes under the huge mango trees. At the end of the first morning when I went to retrieve my motorized bike, I found the girls poking at their bicycle seats with sticks.

“Qu’est-ce que vous faites?” I asked.

“Serpents, madame. Il faut toujours faire sortir les serpents.”

I found a sturdy branch on the ground and poked under my bike seat. I wasn’t about to share a ride home with a snake.

The next morning, armed with a few English as a Second Language textbooks that I’d been able to scrounge from the store room, we began language learning in earnest.

Chapter One: Sounds of the City.

“So girls, what are some of the sounds you hear in Bamako?”

“Roosters.”

“Goats.”

“Bicycle bells.”

“Dogs barking.”

I glanced down at the textbook. The lesson referred to machinery, buses, sirens…. However could these young ladies relate to a North American city? I explained as best I could about my city and we did manage to complete the lesson over the next few days, but baffled looks told me I’d lost them.

I turned the page. Chapter Two: The Sahara. I sighed with relief.
The morning of day three of working through that chapter was cold. I had brought a light cotton jacket from Canada and actually had to wear it. The girls, wrapped in what looked like every pagne they owned, shivered and huddled together.

“Mademoiselle, does it get this cold in Canada?”

I checked the thermometer outside the office door. 82F. “Oh, much, much colder.” I drew a rough map on the board to show them where I lived and tried to explain the cold of Alberta winters and the Arctic. As I discussed the Great Canadian North and its inhabitants, I heard snickers and stifled laughter each time I said the word “kayak.”

Finally one of the girls put up her hand. “Miss, that word sounds just like a word in Bambara. A very, very bad word that a lady would never ever use.”

“So girls, let’s see what chapter three is about, shall we?”

Pagne = a rectangle of cloth worn as a skirt with a matching blouse or as a shawl.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Zen Garden



My sister gave me a Zen garden for my desk when I was first appointed principal. It came with a few stones and a rake.

Over the years I added pebbles from the Indian Ocean that I collected when I visited Bali, sand dollars my sister and I found on the beaches in Australia, lovely white rocks from Greece, and a “petrified” peanut—this last a contribution from my granddaughter.

At school, I kept the Zen garden on the corner of my desk next to a box of Kleenex. Both played large roles in my life as a principal—sometimes larger than I would have liked.

The Kleenex mopped up many tears, mostly from students, but sometimes from staff too, including myself. Students came in with runny noses and asked if they could “borrow” a Kleenex. I always said, “No, I don’t want it back when you’re done.” This was followed by a slight pause and then, “Ew, gross!”  

The Zen garden proved therapeutic as my sister had predicted. Students and teachers played with the rake and sand as they unburdened, explained, sought moral support, feedback for their ideas, or whatever else needed to be discussed.

Playing with the garden had a calming effect on children and adults alike, but I noticed a significant difference in how they used the garden.

Teachers picked up the rake and carefully raked around the stones, smoothing the sand and setting the rake back in its original position. Students removed the rake, the rocks, and the sand dollars placing them on the desk. They raked the sand, used both their fingers and the rake to smooth the sand, make patterns of squiggles or ripples, and then replaced everything they had taken out in new arrangements.

The differences in behavior raised serious questions in my mind. What do we lose over the years as we grow from child to adult? What comportment do we adhere to as adults and what dictates the behaviors we follow, behaviors that seem so restricting, if the Zen garden “play” is a valid indicator?

Think about what a child hears over the years. “Don’t do that.” “What will people think?” “Don’t be silly.” “Be good.” “Behave!” “Be good.” “Behave.”

When my son was very young, I asked him how he would add up the numbers one plus two plus three all the way to one hundred. He thought for a moment and then said, “Well one plus ninety-nine equals one hundred and 2 plus ninety-eight equals one hundred….” I don’t remember if he got the total or not, but he certainly had the concept.

Years later when he was in grade ten he came home and said. “Mom, remember when I was little and you asked me how to add one to one hundred? What did I answer?” I told him and asked him why he wanted to know. He said that the math teacher had posed the question and no one in the class could answer. “That’s what school does to us. It takes away our creative thinking.”

Was my son right? Do our education system and societal strictures change us irrevocably as we grow and mature? Assuming the answer is yes, what do we lose, both as individuals and as a society when creativity is crushed?

I watch my four-year-old granddaughter, wearing a blanket secured with a clip—superhero to the rescue. I listen to her retell, in her own inimitable way, the stories I’ve read to her.  I assist her building with Lego, and play customer to her shopkeeper. I dance with her, sing with her, splash water with her…. I admire her clever original thinking and ingenious activity. She’s uninhibited by society’s norms and I envy her.





Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Hero Confronts the Author



“Okay, Mrs. Jones, here’s the thing,” Yves said. “You put me in your books for the magic solutions I could bring to Earth, right?”

“Exactly,” I replied. “We need you down here to stop wars, get rid of the guns, and …, well, I don’t really need to explain. You can see for yourself that Earth needs a whole lot of fixing.”

“No question. But with so much to do, why did you pick me? Why not one of the more experienced Powers? I’m a rookie on my first assignment. I’m bound to mess up.”

I had to chuckle. Of course he’d mess up. In fact he’d mess up for four whole novels before he got it right. I didn’t tell him that of course. Wouldn’t do for him to know about his future. “Trust me. You’re the one for this job.”

Yves stomped a foot. The most emotion I’d seen from him so far. So he could get mad. Good. He’d need emotions, a whole lot of them, to do the job well. In fact all of those supreme beings up there needed to loosen up or what would the universe come to?

“How can you say that?” His voice rose to a sort of adolescent squeak. “Look at the mess I’ve made of things already. I’ve sent Em out on dangerous missions and haven’t even been able to communicate with her. I can’t let her know she won’t be hurt no matter what happens. How am I supposed to live with her questions and her fears knowing I’m the cause? Look at her!” His voice rose again. “She’s fighting. Hand to hand combat. Blood all over the place.” He blinked and Em’s gi pants and t-shirt glowed spotlessly white in the mud and blood and mire of the battle.

I rubbed my hands together. Oh, this was good. Really good. Tension on every page just like the experts said. “Don’t worry,” I said. “It will all work out okay.”

Yves breathed a sigh of relief.

“Or not,” I said.

Yes, writing is fun. A lot of work too, but when you have multidimensional characters, a complex plot line, the realities of the world mixed with a bit of magic…. Well, what more could an author ask for?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kenya and Canada - Polar Opposites



“Here’s the shopping center,” our driver says as we approach the ramshackle cluster of buildings with no sign on the horizon of a town or a village. We’re on safari in the Masai Mara. I’d thought to find Kenya a bit more prosperous than Mali, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
We see stick-thin children, distended bellies, missing limbs, runny noses, and smiles. How can they possibly have anything to smile about?
We see men wobbling along on bicycles with impossibly huge loads, others pushing their bikes as the load they carry is too heavy and unwieldy to allow riding. We see a long line of men and women digging a narrow ditch with pick-axes and shovels. It’s for fiber optic cable.
Wood smolders beneath a huge pile of dirt. Several trees will produce a few bags of inefficient soft charcoal. Where are the solar ovens?
“It’s illegal to throw out food in Kenya,” we are told. What food?
We have so much. They have so little.
The extremes seem insurmountable. What can one individual do?
I know what I can do. I can truly appreciate what I have in Canada and the good fortune I had to be born here. I can put my money where my mouth is and donate. For me, that means KIVA.
I can help others directly; the young man in Nigeria who sends me chapters to edit, the young family in Mexico who don’t always know where their next meal is coming from, and, closer to home, the Salvation Army, the food bank….
And I can write—my blog and my novels—trying to show the other side of the coin. Perhaps through the power of words, I can influence people in our lands of plenty to care and to help.
KIVA: Loans that change lives:  http://www.kiva.org/start


Friday, August 1, 2014

Are YA books for Adults?

I don’t read YA. I didn’t read YA when I was a YA. But, I’m here to tell you about two Young Adult books you must not miss.



I was guilted into reading Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen by Glen Husar a few years ago. Of course I wasn’t going to miss Glen’s book signing event. He’s a friend and I suspected attending would be a sort of “home coming week” event as many colleagues of ours would be there.

I was right. The bookstore is packed—standing room only as they say. After the reading as everyone else saunters around with several copies of the book clutched in their arms, I feel obligated to buy a copy and join those waiting for Glen’s autograph. The long line behind me precludes a lengthy chat, but we do manage to exchange a few words.

Skinnybones sits on my shelf for several weeks until guilt again forces me to take it down and read. After all, it is Glen’s book. The least I can do is give it a try.

“Aren’t you coming to bed?” my husband asks. “It’s after midnight.”

“Yeah, in a minute.” I finish the book that night. I reread it the next day.

I tell everyone I know to buy it. Since then, I’ve read it several more times. My delight in the story and my admiration of Glen’s writing skills grow with each reading. Someday my granddaughter will inherit it. She’ll love it too.

Tamara, a not-quite-15-year-old foster kid, describes with cynicism her deposit with yet another family. She's anorexic, she's a liar and truant, and she defines herself as a future model. Jean Barclay is a crotchety 89-year-old rest-home resident with a bum hip and a bourbon dependency. Brought together for a school project, each one realizes that the other has something she needs: Tamara can drive Jean to Seattle to see a series of beloved operas, and Jean can pay for a modeling course for Tamara in Vancouver. 


The Winter Pony by Iain Lawrence came to me via a suggestion from a friend on Goodreads. Having read one YA, I was a little more predisposed to try another. But a book about the trek to the South Pole written from the point of view of the horse? I mean, come on, let’s get real.

Still the first chapter was captivating, and before I knew it, I was immersed in the world of Captain Scott and his fatal journey to the South Pole. Interspersed with the Pony’s narration, Lawrence adds factual data of the preparation, planning, and execution of the voyage. These bits are as beautifully written as the rest.

In the forests of Siberia, in the first years of the 20th century, a white pony runs free with his herd. But his life changes forever when he's captured by men. Years of hard work and cruelty wear him out. When he's chosen to be one of 20 ponies to accompany the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott on his quest to become the first to reach the South Pole, he doesn't know what to expect. But the men of Scott's expedition show him kindness, something he's never known before. They also give him a name—James Pigg. As Scott's team hunkers down in Antarctica, James Pigg finds himself caught up in one of the greatest races of all time. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen has suddenly announced that he too means to be first to the Pole. But only one team can triumph, and not everyone can survive—not even the animals.


And you? Which YA books have you read and why do you like them? 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Reading Reviews - a huge mistake?



I’m reading 419 by Will Ferguson—a powerful story, well told, with turns of phrase that delight.

 “Storms without rain. Winds without water. She woke, and when she sat up, the dust fountained off her and the voice that accompanied her once again stirred, once again whispered, “Get up. Keep walking. Don’t stop.

Vivid imagery abounds.

Zuma rock denoted not only the traditional geographical centre of Nigeria-the “navel of the nation” as it was known-but also the border between the sha’ria states of the north and the Christian states of the sough. Zuma rose up, rounded and sudden, on striated cliffs etched by a thousand years of rainfall and erosion. The ridges carved down its sides were the sort of lines that might be left by acid or tears.”

A woman from Canada, a girl from the north, a young man from the Delta, and a 419er. How will the lives of these disparate characters be woven together? I’m fascinated, enthralled, eager to read each evening, yet dreading the end, dreading the time when the story will be only a memory. The narrative makes me cringe and cry. I know this is a book I will read more than once.

I email my young Nigerian friend to tell him about the novel. He responds:
“ 419 - an internet scam organized by Nigerian scammers (aliases: Yahoo Boys, G-Boys). 419 is an alias that dates back to the past (I believe 1994-1997) in Nigeria, when innocent people, mainly teenagers, were repeatedly abducted and killed. Their bodies or body parts were then used for big money rituals.

I've come across painful remarks on Twitter, Facebook, and some other interactive sites about Nigerians being fraudsters. That they target white people and rob them of their money using various means; including telling them pitiful stories just to incite their help.”

I’m about three quarters of the way through the book at this point and the urge to learn more about Ferguson’s research can no longer be ignored. Goggling proves to be a huge mistake. The first items that come up are reviews from highly respected sources, and while they don’t lambaste the book, they do contain enough negative comments to diminish my pleasure in the reading and cause a rather sour feeling.

I turn away from the computer in disgust, push the reviews out of my mind, and return to my Kindle. I refuse to let someone else’s opinion color my own judgment, my own enjoyment of the novel.
Sitting now, writing this, I wonder if I should stop writing reviews. Am I guilty of spoiling another’s enjoyment, of perhaps causing someone, because of my arrogance, to dismiss a novel without even giving it a chance? Conversely, does a review I write of a book I love convince a reader to pick up that book only to find that it doesn’t work for them? What makes me think I can or should pass judgment for another reader?

But the author in me craves reviews. They’re our “word of mouth” and vital to marketing. If we’re to have sales at all, we need people talking about our books, reviewing them, recommending them to fellow readers.

Amazon sends me emails. “So, Darlene Jones, how did this item meet your expectations?” Do I answer? What do I say? My own sister, daughter, and aunt don’t always like the books I deem worthy of their time.

Yes, I did write a review for 419. Book buyers may or may not read it. They may or may not take it to heart in their decision making, but I’ve decided writing reviews is my obligation to fellow authors. It’s my “word of mouth” gift to them. I hope readers of my books will do the same for me.