Amazon, book industry, books, historical romance, indie books, Reviews, stories, vikings

Authors and Reviews

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I remember during the edit of my first book, Windswept Hearts, the editor commented that one chapter should be two chapters and it needed more back story. I was upset because I hate writing joiners. Those sections you need that continue the flow of the story but to you seem boring. How do you spice them up? It also meant another 1200 words and there would be an uneven number of chapters.  All creative types have their idiosyncrasies. My quirk is wanting my books to end on an even number of chapters. Ugh.

I was mad at my editor but too passive to say anything. So, I decided my heroine would wake up grumpy, then the coffee maker goes out, and her love interest irritates her. I relished writing this scene and I put all my frustration into it. My editor is no dummy. She figured out my angst and added salt to the wound by telling me it was the best scene in the book. We have laughed many times over it.

My point? We all know, as writers where our weaknesses lie. Whether it’s writing a scene ten times and not getting it right or merely skipping something we don’t want to work out. We know when our writing doesn’t make the grade and we worry the reader is going to notice. Every author knows you get tired at the end of writing, editing and re-writing the story. There are scene changes that don’t go smoothly, those plot holes that take a dump trunk of words to fill in and all your skill to cover. Then you are finished, and you send your project out into the reader pool hoping it won’t get torn to shreds by public opinion or worse yet, left to die a slow, dusty death on a bookshelf.

I also worry about how a reader is going to react to the social setting of the time.  I find writing historical fiction gives me more leeway to be creative but keeps my feet to the fire because I still have boundaries I must work within. The period I chose, Viking history, is a little rough around the edges for our present time.  They weren’t called barbarians for no reason. They eked out an existence in the harshest of lands, fought like demons, loved wildly, had a sophisticated social setting and were independent to a fault.  They did not live by our current societal rules.  I knew I would have to be accurate about their lifestyle yet I knew this would be offensive to some.  I was concerned about my heroine’s age. Typically, in the period I was in, young girls were married off by the age of fifteen. I have felt the parents may have been smarter then. (I raised three teenage daughters) At that age a girls’ hormones are raging, she wants to do things her way. Could those parents have decided, “let’s just marry her off and let the husband handle it?”

However, in our day and age girls are considered underaged until 18. I knew where the hard spots were, and worried how they would be perceived. Take for instance the rape of hostages or woman of a conquered village. This was the norm.  Also, a woman didn’t have much choice or say in whom they may have to marry. They were used as bargaining chips for peace or alliances, or for improving the family wealth. They could even be sold into slavery. On top of that, they were held to high standards, such as being a virgin when they married.

Nowadays men are expected to treat women equally, fairly and respectfully. Women have rights and freedoms that didn’t exist back then. I knew Viking men in the 800’s were a rough crowd and conditions harsh. Though Viking women had more rights than most of that time, men still held most of the power. Historical fiction can be hard to read through the lens of our modern society.

The bottom line, when a reviewer comes along, it’s easy to become defensive, angry or filled with self-pity if they don’t like something. If you are honest with yourself though, you know when they are spot on and have ferreted out your weaknesses. So, what do you do?

Everyone handles it differently. All I can tell you is how I did it. On my recent book, Norse Hearts, I sent out and paid for three professional reviews.  The first two reviews, Kirkus and Foreward Reviews, came back with glowing comments. I was ecstatic. Then the Blue Ink review came in. I was surprised, but I stepped back and analyzed it.

The reviewer hit on every one of my fears. Did that make her wrong? Did that make my book a piece of crap? Did that mean I should never write again? Nope. It said that I was an average writer, and the reviewer was one of the one-third of people who would not like the book and not necessarily for the same reasons.

I have to say I liked her style. She gave respect where respect was due, recognizing my hard work and research. However, it socially did not fit with what she wanted to read. When Blue Ink contacted me about releasing the review, I said go ahead. They seemed surprised. I explained that I needed this review. I wanted those who might hesitate about reading such material, to be able to make an educated decision on whether this was the story for them.

I want my readers to enjoy the material I write. If it is not a subject they care for, I’m okay with that. I have read books I disagreed with, or I didn’t enjoy the writers’ style.  But, I respected their effort.  I respected this reviewer’s honesty, and it will help others who have her same view to avoid an unenjoyable read.

I also looked at the percentage. If I had gotten two negatives out of three, maybe the book needed another rewrite. Instead, I was overjoyed; my rate is two out of three on the positive. I have done my best, and that is all any of us can do.  I can say I am okay with what I have accomplished, and this negative review has given me insight and ideas for another book!

If you would like to read any of those reviews, please click on my site page, headed “Books by Robynn Gabel.”

If you would like to comment on any experiences you have had, please feel free to do so below! Have a Happy Writing Day!

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Amazon, book industry, books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, journaling, self publishing, stories, viking, vikings, Vikings, writing

Promoting Yourself

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So, imagine you are in a bustling city, and you are asked to walk down the street naked. Just cringed, didn’t you?

That’s what I feel like every time I finish a book and start advertising it. In this age of information saturation, to sell a book, I have been instructed to make a brand, not of my storytelling, but of myself.

I enjoy taking everyday happenings and like clay, forming it into a story. My imagination knows no bounds. There isn’t just one genre that calls to me, but many. In my head are about ten stories all the time, and writer’s block is only prevalent when I work to make that story into a readable manuscript.

But the curiosity a reader may have about me, well that makes me want to hide behind a pen name, and a made-up story about my life. I don’t understand why I like to create with the written word. It’s just images and moments are stored, then my brain gets full, and I move some of the stuff out onto paper. While doing this I have a little fun rearranging it into even better moments. I feel a little self-conscious when I share it. Like, who in their right mind thinks up things like this? But then, there is this strange happiness that fills me when someone actually enjoys my creations of imagination. It’s the same feeling I get when someone likes the slop I call cooking!

Some of the things people want to know confuse me. I’m boring. I don’t live anywhere glamorous. I scrape by like everyone else. My habits, good or bad, are average. My inspirations are relatively low key

When I find a story that captivates me (for I like to consume stories as much as I love to create them) I must admit I only want to know if the author has written other stories I can scarf down. Call me narrow-minded or self-centered, but I have never had a desire to know anything further. As a private person, their lives are their own. It is, after all, just a story.

I suppose there is a curiosity about how a story comes about. What made someone think of vampires, murder motives, science fiction, etc? But the answer is right there. Curiosity. A thing we all have in common as a species. Maybe we love stories because we can escape from our own humdrum existence of paying bills, going to work, and trying to survive. For a moment we can step into fantasy and leave behind the real world filled with its problems.

For the author, it could be the same thing. I create a world that I have control in, and I dictate the outcome. Having a whole lot of pride and control issues might help with the creation of imaginary people, worlds and events. Or maybe I just wish I could control the chaos around me, so I create my own little happy world. Who knows, I don’t always understand my own compunctions.

But does knowing where I live, what I wear, what I do or what I had for breakfast really matter? As some wise person once said, “it’s about the story, silly.”

I have been told it is healthy to voice frustrations in journals or diaries and from what I have read in memoirs and blogs, it has been going on for a long time. I guess blogging is another form of that. And for me personally, writing a story does help me to learn to work things out, and sometimes gives me insight into a problem I have at hand.

Every writer has reasons for the story they develop. It is a personal journey that some are more willing to share than others. I can only hope that if you are a writer and reading this, you realize that you are normal. If you are a reader who has no desire to write, but happily consumes stories, I hope I have given insight into why I’m a writer, but not a very good promoter.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my quirky little foray into self-pity for not having any privacy. But then again, why would I whine about that? I should be used to it. After raising five kids, enjoying seventeen grandkids, plastering myself all over the internet, and writing about bloodthirsty Vikings, you’d think I wouldn’t mind walking naked down any street!

And feel free to comment. Wouldn’t mind hearing about you, the reader. 🙂

 

 

 

Amazon, book industry, books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, self publishing, stories, writing

Pulse of the Book Industry

For several years I have followed Kristen Lamb’s blog. I have found her commentaries filled with witty, humorous self-help tips and noted she has definitely a finger on the pulse of the book industry. The link below will take you to her blog post that gives a bird’s eye view of the ever-changing landscape of Indie Publishing and gives hope for the future of the business. I encourage you to read it today!

https://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/01/book-business/

 

books, Hacking, indie books, indie writer, stories, writing

Having Fun with Hackers

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So, I opened my email and there was a notification from Facebook. It said that someone had opened my ten-year-old Facebook page. At the beginning of Facebook if you forgot your password, you couldn’t get back into your account. I had created another account. A few years later Facebook asked me if I wanted two accounts and gave me the ability to close one. I was smart, I had used two different emails to open them, so I knew which one it was.

I thought maybe this happened after I had tried getting on Facebook during a period when they were down. Either way, it said click here if I was not the one who had done this. Of course, I clicked, and it took me to a page that said it couldn’t pull up that account. Then it asked me to check in to Facebook with my regular account.

Thinking that doing this would bring me to the original notification, I did. Except it only took me to my current account. In fact, nowhere could I find this notification. Nor could I find anywhere that I could contact Facebook. I did spend an hour chasing my question and reading a lot of self-help for navigating Facebook. Finally, I found an obscure area where you can inform Facebook of a problem. Which I did. And got a polite canned ‘thank you’ for my input.

I’m very suspicious of anything like this because I have encountered many a ‘phishing’ scam. At this point I was worried it was a trap to get my real Facebook information. I waited two days to hear anything back. Then I decided if Facebook wasn’t going to do anything, I would. So, I began to think like a hacker.

I knew where they got my old email. It had been hacked some years back when my phone apps had been open when I crossed into Mexico. A few password changes fixed things, but someone had gotten some old information. Experian had informed me last year that some of my personal information was on the dark web.

While thinking like a hacker, I knew that if they truly had re-opened my account on Facebook, all I really needed to know was what email they used. I went to Facebook and simply told it I had forgotten my password. A few minutes later my new password was verified. Sure enough, there was a new page under my old name. I had re-married since then and it wasn’t my new married name.

So, I had some fun.  392530_463065353734398_408935834_n

I noticed first off there was no picture of me in the banner. They had filched an old picture of my granddaughter on a show horse, and it was in the timeline. It had been put up the day the Facebook had notified me. Also, interestingly enough, only five of my friends were listed there. The ones I had had ten years ago when supposedly Facebook deleted the account. To protect them, I went and unfriended them.  Then I noticed I had thirty-one new friends who had suspiciously sounding Russian names. No joke. So, I unfriended all of them!

Next, I checked for personal information. Again, nothing current. It was a bare-bones account. Like they were still building it and adding to it. I wiped it all clean. And I changed the name of the account to my deceased husband. He had never been a computer person and never had an account on Facebook. He would have found it extremely funny. Just for fun, I also changed the password!  To something like “Satan Be Gone”. If they were ever able to crack it, they would get the hint. But I highly suspect if they are serious about trying to use it again, they would just do what I had done and request a new password.

Then I went and deleted the account all over again. Not sure if that will help, since Facebook gives you thirty days before they supposedly permanently delete it. This is so you can get pictures and information off it. And remember, they said they had deleted it once before!

166070_578733068837720_1553312875_nIn all my research I couldn’t find anything the hacker had put out there yet on this account. But hopefully, I messed things up well enough they know I’m on to them.

This taught me several things. You can’t contact Facebook directly, period. It is all canned response and content. And all it takes is someone knowing what email you use to be able to get into your Facebook account. Since Facebook makes it so easy to get in when you forget a password, a hacker can easily make a dummy account. Also, nothing, and I mean nothing, is safe on the Internet. You may have security and firewalls, but note how easy it was for me to think like a hacker and find a way in. Last but not least, it proves that nothing is ever non-retrievable on the web. Even old, outdated or deleted material can be resurrected.

My biggest mistake in all of this was assuming that the notification was really from Facebook. Even though it was my email, it was not addressed directly to me. When Facebook sends me notifications about my changing my password, they always include my name. That wasn’t in the message I received and so I’m still not sure if Facebook sent it or what the hackers were after exactly. I did change my passwords for all my email and Internet accounts just for added protection.

I just hope sharing my experience can be of help to someone.  Be careful out there in cyber space.

 

books, indie books, indie writer, stories, writing

The Icing on the Story is Editing

IMG_20181119_191005_059You have done it. You have written your first novel and now you want to self-publish. Welcome to an exciting time. Here are some friendly suggestions from someone who has been there and done that.

You are going to hear this a lot, only because it is true and shows the difference between an amateur and someone who wants to be successful. Make sure your book has been edited by an editor. Not by you, by a true editor.

First, find a Development Editor. This person reads over the story and finds plot holes, places in the story that don’t need to be there, the general flow of the story, and character development. Have too much backstory in the first chapter? Have enough backstory throughout? Have you forgotten to tie up an end to a character? Does each chapter close in a way to draw the reader into the next? And are there any other story problems.

Next edit would be the Copy Line Edit.  This is where an editor goes over word choice, rhyming sentences, and repeated words. Have you used too many she’s and he’s in paragraphs? Have you started too many paragraphs the same way? Do you have a favorite word you overuse? This edit can be done through an online program called Grammarly. I have found it invaluable. I have a habit of starting all my sentences in the same way sometimes and using the same pet words over and over and over. I think you see my point. Notice the last three sentences all started with “I”.

Then there is the Proof Edit. At this point, it is about grammar and punctuation. You can try depending on a program like Grammarly to do this as well. The problem is sentence structure. You can have a correct sentence, but it may not make much sense. Every writer has a ‘voice’. Something that is unique to each of us in the way we string together words. How we talk, how we think is an individual thing. A program won’t pick up on that. Another human can.

Finally, create a group of Beta Readers. You find these saintly souls in writing groups. They are your peers. People who will read your story, usually in trade for you returning the favor. Don’t ask your family to do this. You need someone who can be dirt honest with you. Someone who reads a lot and knows what they like in a story. They will find all those typo errors that may have been missed in the first three edits. They will tell you of any problems the story may have, like where it bogs down, or where a character may need a little tweaking. This is the opinion stage and can be quite harsh. This is where you really must be an adult and have a discerning ear. To hear the critiques without becoming insulted. You must be in a learning mode. Hear the opinions and pick through the ones you feel are right.

As a writer, I know when I have a rough patch of dialog. Or when a plot is thin, or I have just been lazy and not written it as well as I should. There are those “little darlings” that we think makes us sound like a literary genius but creates yawns or confusion for our readers. I always know when my beta reader is spot on. They always find the places I knew where not as good as they should be. Sometimes, it may be an opinion on the subject and you will instinctively know whether you need to change it or not. But be humble. Go into it for the learning.

We have all been here. Writers of all ages, education, and walks of life, we know how it is. You have poured over it, certain that you have caught every mistake. Aunt Bertha loves it. Mom loves it. Everyone is excited. Well, until your editor is excited, it’s not ready. Why do you think the publishing houses hire editors? You don’t see your mistakes. Simple as that.

The greatest complaint out there is that self-published authors do not edit their books, creating a poor quality read. Don’t give the community a bad rep. It is a little more expensive, but it is well worth the investment.

books, indie books, indie writer, journaling, stories, writing

Changes and Face Lifts

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It was time. Almost ten years ago I ventured timidly onto WordPress to do the thing all authors were raving about, building and writing a blog. I am technically challenged. Took me forever to figure out WordPress. I am an introvert. Write about myself? I would rather go through labor again.

So I got on the chat line, which is a perk of having a business account, (which I love) and got a very nice tech who was polite and patient. With their help, I was able to change my site name from Common Sense Experiences to A Journey Thru Words.

When I first started I figured I would blog about a wide variety of things. But it soon became obvious I was writing more about my experiences as an author. So this site needed a more modern name, and a new facelift.

I was in luck. WordPress has updated and created new, easy to use templates that transfer immediately. I won’t talk about how you used to have to do it in the past. I love the new perks. Also, now that I have managed to author five books, I decided it was time to look more like an author. A dear friend and life coach, Cherie, (http://totalwellnesscenter.net/ ) found a beautiful background pic and create a new banner for me.

I welcome you to my new, improved blog and website. I am looking forward to guest blogs, impromptu writing, keeping you up to date on my next book in the historical Vikings series I am doing, and an occasional re-blog on industry news.

Meanwhile, I invite you to visit another blog that I follow and have learned a lot from. Chris recently had me on his site as a guest and did an awesome job with all the bits and pieces I sent to him.  The interview link is below. I hope you will continue to follow and enjoy my writings.

https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/author/thestoryreadingape/