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Shore of Lake Superior

Lake Superior holds a certain fascination for me. Maybe because it seemed so far away to this girl who grew up a few hours from Lake Erie and has lived near Lake Michigan. Superior’s size and legends give it a certain romance, a aura of adventure.

Unlike Erie and Michigan, who conjure up ideas of shipping and commerce, industry and big cities.

Last fall I finally made it to Superior, dragging along my long-suffering husband.

“Why are we going there?” he asked.

“Because I’ve never been there.” That seemed to me reason enough to go anywhere.

We so loved Lake Superior we seized the chance to go back, taking Middle Grandson along for the ride. For a 16 year old, he was remarkably flexible and an uncomplaining traveler. (Note to self: he’s someone I’d definitely want to invite on more adventures.)

Following my minimalist approach to travel planning, I did little but line up some hotels for our two nights on the road.

Not because I’m so hot an advance planning.

It’s because after a long day of travel, the last thing I want to do is hunt up a place to sleep.

And it’s a whole lot cheaper to look for deals in advance.

I was justified in this when we were checking into our first hotel. A man came in just after us and asked about rates. He was quoted $40 more than what we paid.

I made sure Much-Loved Husband Who Hates to Plan Ahead knew about that one.

But I’d getting ahead of myself.

Our first adventure took us to Amicon Falls State Park.

Waterfall, Amicon Park

It’s a tiny park, hardly a speck on the map. But oh so worth a visit. The Amicon River hurls itself toward Superior, ripping at the rocks it spills over.

All the while making a series of falls and pools of rusty red water, stained by the tannins from the pines that guard the river’s banks.

People were swimming in the pools, playing in the pull of the water, diving under the falls, testing the water’s power.

After a hike through the fragrant pines and around the falls, we headed east and north, headed for Washburn. It sits on the eastern shore of the Bayfield peninsula, facing the sun as it rises over Superior. Like many resort towns, it has the obligatory tourist gift shops and ice cream parlors.

What it also has is a fabulous breakfast spot (Coco’s) and live theater.

From Washburn we headed north, to catch a cruise through the Apostle Islands.

So named because the original European explorers thought there were 12 of them. They missed 10 in their count. Oops.

We sailed around and through the islands, hearing the local lore. Hermit Island, it seems, was named after a man who lost a fight. His penalty was to leave the island he’d lived on. He picked an uninhabited one, and chased off any visitors with a shotgun.

Devil’s Island guards the rest from the winds and storms that pummel the southern shore of the lake. The scars of that conflict are evident:

Caves on Devil's Island

Kayaks explored the caves or leaned back, basking in the sun. Some even jumped overboard for a swims, saying the 65 degree water was “warm.”

Supposedly when the wind blows fierce, the caves shriek, giving rise to the name.

The winds weren’t strong that day. But the breeze was fresh, bringing that cool northern air that refreshes and energizes and stirs stories to life in my mind.

 

 

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The Jetsons Arrive in Dubai

Futuristic Flying CarLucky Judy Jetson. I grew up envying her life, how she could jump into a flying car and whisk away wherever she was going. I dreamed of the day when I could fly to school in an air taxi instead of plodding along on my own two feet.

Or worse, having to take the rolling yellow torture chamber known as a school bus.

Sigh.

Never did I imagine that flying taxis would become a reality in my lifetime.

But now they’re here.

Or at least coming to Dubai soon.

The question is, would I have the nerve to ride such a thing? To allow some command center to remotely guide the craft from point A to point B?

My overactive imagination swirls with possible doomsday scenarios. What if one of the taxis got out of control? Or it’s controller had a heart attack? Or a terrorist took over the command center?

All possible.

But if given the chance, I think I’d go for it. Take a chance and soar over the city.

And imagine I was Judy Jetson, just for a moment.

Now if they could just bring Rosie the maid to life, I’d be all over that. No question about it.

What sci-fi technology would you most like see come to life?

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Can You Make a Cake Over a Barbecue?

I’m always up for an adventure, especially if it involves food.

While idly surfing YouTube (I know, I should be writing. Or editing. Or something), this video grabbed my attention. How can you possible make a cake over a barbecue?

Now I know.

As a special bonus, there is chocolate involved! I’ve had a long-standing policy that if a dessert doesn’t have chocolate, it’s not worth the calories.

On days when my will power is actually active, I can easily pass up a non-chocolate dessert.

But that’s off topic. Back to the cake made over a barbecue.

It doesn’t look too hard to make. At least, the guys in the video made it seem that way.

What a great alternative to s’mores as an outdoor dessert! I think I’m going to try this.

Now I just have to find someone crazy enough to try it with me.

Stay tuned to see if I’m successful.

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How to Write and Publish a Book Review

Books for sale

“If you like the book, would you consider writing a review?

That’s a standard question I ask when I do book signings. While most people are at least open to the idea, a surprising number make a face like I asked them to fly to the moon.

“I don’t know how to do that,” they say.

I get it. Everything looks like too much trouble if you don’t know how to do it. But writing and publishing a book review is easier than you think.

Writing a Helpful Book Review

The reason authors like it when readers write reviews is that they are helpful. First, whether the review is good, bad or somewhere in between, it’s valuable feedback.

And the reviews can help other people to decide if they want to buy the book.

Sound hard? It’s not really. Just follow these five easy steps.

1. Read the book

You might think this is obvious, but unfortunately, many people post reviews for books they haven’t read.

2. Think About What Stands Out

After you finish reading the book, what’s the main thought in your head about it? What are you still thinking about?

Did you love the main character (or love her in spite of being annoyed by her)? Did the main theme resonate with you in some way? How is this book similar to or different from other books in its genre?

3. Write your review

It’s easiest to write your review in a Word or other document first, before you go to the review site. This takes the feeling of being under pressure off, and you can take your time.

The simplest way to get started is to say, “I enjoyed this book because….” Then use your thoughts about the book to give a few specific reasons.

If you are writing your review to post on Amazon or GoodReads or another review site, you don’t need to summarize the plot or story. Others will have done that, and the book description is easily accessible.

And you don’t need to write hundreds of words. Amazon’s minimum is twenty words. That’s just about three sentences.

It’s more helpful to give your opinion of the book, and perhaps suggestions. Examples could be:

If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games, you’ll enjoy this.

If you love westerns, this is a book you’ll want to read.

Only include comments about the book. If you bought your copy as an ebook and had trouble downloading it, do not give the book itself a bad review. The bookseller is at fault and not the author. Take your complaint to customer service.

If you hated the actual book, that’s another story. I personally don’t bother reviewing books I didn’t like. But if you feel the need to give a bad review, direct your criticism to the book, the writing and the ideas in the book. Don’t make personal attacks on the author.

Feeling stuck? Just remember, your goal is to share your opinion and help someone decide if they want to buy. That’s all.

4. Write a Catchy Headline

Come up with something that summarizes what you gained from reading the book.

Some examples are:

Thought Provoking and Entertaining

Was So Sad When I Got to the Last Page

Hooked Me From the First Page

Highly Enjoyable Read

If you keep in mind your idea is to help others decide if they want to buy this book, it will be easier to come up with a headline.

5. Edit Your Review

Take a minute to read your review out  loud to make sure it’s clear and says what you want it to say.

Publish Your Review

Now that you’ve done the hard part, now you can publish it.

I’ll walk you through how to publish reviews on Amazon. While every review site is a little different, none of them make it difficult.

Here’s the process, in 8 easy steps

Step 1: Log into your Amazon account

Step 2: Search for the book you want to review.

Step 3: Under the title, you’ll see the stars and the number of customer reviews. Click on the “customer reviews.”

Step 4: Click on the button “Write a customer review.”

"Write a customer review"

Step 5: Next, you’ll get a list of books you’ve recently purchased, with the one you were looking at on top.

Start book review

Step 6: Click on the stars to give the book a rating. Many people get confused here. Five stars is best, one is worst.

Write a book review

Step 7: Paste in the review you already wrote and add your headline.

Example Book Review

Step 8: Click submit.

That’s all you have to do.

So go ahead. If you’ve read a book, share your opinion. Your fellow readers (and not to mention the author) will thank you.

 

 

 

 

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The Worst Mistake a Novelist Can Make

Broken shoes

I’ve read all kinds of books and blog posts that tell me how to be a better writer.

Show, don’t tell.

Cut out adverbs.

Don’t give too much backstory. But give enough so the reader isn’t confused.

The list goes on and on.

But none of those are what I would call fatal mistakes. None of them are enough (by themselves) to ruin a novel.

And all of them can be fixed.

There is one mistake that just can’t be repaired. Like a broken pair of shoes, there’s not much that can be done.

And that’s to tell a bad story. One that’s dull, trite or otherwise not worth listening to.

I’ll give a few examples.

Famous Short Story

O Henry was one of the greatest short story writers. Some of his stories have become classics.

One of these is “The Last Leaf.”

This story is two young starving artists in New York City who share a small apartment. One of the girls, Joanna, comes down with pneumonia. In the days before penicillin, this disease was often fatal.

Sue, the other artist, watched Joanna lose interest in life and slowly lose strength. The doctor gave her little chance to live, unless she decides she has something to live for.

Joanna spends her days lying in bed, counting the leaves on the vine that grew on the wall of the building next to theirs. She’s decided that when that last leaf falls from the vine, she’ll die.

Sue is frantic and unable to convince Joanna this is crazy. She shares this with another artist in their building. He also ridicules the notion.

A storm blows up that night. In the morning, Joanna demands that Sue opens the curtains so she can see that the last leaf has fallen.

To their surprise, one leaf still clings to the vine. It stubbornly hangs on through that day and the next. Joanna realizes she’s been foolish and begins to want to live again.

Then they hear the news that their downstairs neighbor has taken ill with pneumonia and died. It seems he was out in the storm a few days earlier and painted a leaf on the wall, so that Joanna wouldn’t give up on life.

“The Last Leaf” is a touching story of love and sacrifice. But there’s a problem.

If it was raining so hard that the artist who painted the last leaf was soaked through to the skin, how did he manage to get any paint on the wall at all, without it being washed away?

Kind of a major flaw in the plot.

But the story endures, because it is a great story. By the time a reader gets to the end and learns the truth of the leaf on the wall, he is so caught up in the characters and what will happen, he’s not thinking about wet paint in a rainstorm.

Young Adult Paranormal Romance Series

Paranormal romance

A few years ago, I stumbled on the first book in a young adult paranormal series. I was so taken with the story, I ended up buying all seven.

And since then, I’ve read all seven—three times.

In spite of the fact that I find many of the main characters tiresome and annoying. Somehow, I can get beyond their personalities and actually care what happens to them.

And I’m a little sorry to get to the end of the series and I have to leave their world.

The writer in me also picked up on the clichés (eyes bright with unshed tears). I also started to get the idea that the author of this series didn’t know what “unshed” means. She referred “unshed sounds” in the ears, and used the word in another rather bizarre way.

But none of this mattered to the romantic teenager who still lives in my mind. Because the series told a great story.

So what’s my point?

Many people don’t publish their novels because they don’t think they’ve mastered every aspect of the craft of writing. While I would never encourage someone to rush to publish or to skip editing and proofreading, there comes a time to finish the work.

The flaws in character and plot won’t sink a great story. Concentrate on constructing a great story. Do your best with the rest. Any other mistakes you make will most likely be overlooked for the sake of your enthralling, captivating story.

Go ahead. Take a deep breath, and publish.

 

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How to Define Your Ideal Reader When You’re Just Getting Started

crowd

Nearly every article I read about marketing books starts with the same idea: identify your ideal reader.

Which makes sense. If we have a picture in our minds of who our ideal reader is, we can tailor our books, our blurbs, and all our marketing to that person. We can’t expect our books to appeal to everyone.

The problem is defining the ideal reader.

Many of these articles offer advice like “think about the readers who’ve written to you.” Or you should think about the people who’ve come to your book signings. Or have subscribed to your blog or newsletter.

That’s great for established authors.

But what about someone just getting started?

There’s advice for that, too. I’ve filled out several questionnaires, asking me what is the age, sex, marital status, and income level of my ideal reader.

Then I’m supposed to delve into this person’s fictitious mind and describe their interests, fears and dreams.

I’m even supposed to give this person a name. And then write my ideal reader profile.

But it all feels like shooting in the dark, like I’m just making stuff up. How am I supposed to know who’s going to like my book?

I’ve come to the conclusion that doing it this way is a bit backward.

There has to be a better way.

A Better Way to Write an Ideal Reader Profile

And at long last, I’ve found it.

No more surveys. No more guessing. No more making stuff up.

I’ve found a way to tap into a huge data source and make some reasonable assumptions.

Want to know what it is?

Facebook Audience Insights Tool

Facebook, as we all know, is a huge advertising platform. And with all their advertising, they are collecting an astounding database of their users and their buying behavior. As long as you are writing for people over 18, this will be a huge help to you.

So how does that help us identify our ideal reader?

Here it is, in 7 easy steps.

Seven Steps to Defining Your Ideal Reader

  1. Log into Facebook. To make this process work, you’ll need two things set up. Your fan page for your book or writing, and ad account.

If you don’t have a fan page set up, here’s how to do that.

And if you don’t have an ad account, here’s how to set up one up.

Don’t worry if you have no plans to do any advertising. The whole idea is to tap into the data Facebook makes available to its advertisers.

  1. Go to your ad account. At the top left of the screen, you’ll see:

Facebook Insights Menu

Click on the three horizontal lines. A box will pop up. Click on All Tools at the bottom.

Then you’ll see this:

Facebook Tools Menu

Click on Audience Insights under Plan. Now for the fun part. Are you ready?

  1. When prompted to choose an audience to start with, click on “Everyone on Facebook.”

The data that displays is for everyone on Facebook.  The part we are interested is on the left:

Defining Interest menu

If you know the age you are trying to reach, or if you really are just writing for women or men, you can put that information in. I personally wouldn’t at first, just to see what the data shows. You might be surprised.

Click on the “+ interests” and type in the name of a popular book that you think appeals to the same kind of people that yours does.

For this example, I typed in “Harry Potter.”

Then I got the basic demographics of adult Harry Potter readers:

Demographic data

 

Based on this, I would put my ideal reader as women 18-34.

Scroll down, and you’ll see some lifestyle information.

Lifestyle data

What is this telling you?

Facebook has created a number of lifestyle categories. “Summit Estates,” the top one that displayed, is defined as “families that enjoy the good life, luxury, travel and entertainment.”

To see the description, move your cursor to the right side of the box that has the category name in it and click. You should see a little “I” and a box should pop up.

In our example, 7% of the audience that is interested in Harry Potter falls into the Summit Estates category. If you look over the right side, you’ll see the “Compare” column. This is telling me that Summit Estates makes of 24% more of the total audience for Harry Potter than they do for Facebook in general.

So you can pick out the categories (and characteristics) that make up the majority of the Harry Potter audience.

This to me is the diamond mine that can tell me what kind of people will like my book. They’re already interested in something similar, so these are people I should write for.

Scrolling further, you can see relationship status, education and job titles. This could also be good to include in your ideal reader profile.

  1. Explore the rest of the Insights

Below you can see that Demographics is underlined. Click on Page Likes.

Other data in Insights

Now you’ll see other pages your audience likes. The only thing of interest here (in this example) is that they like to shop at Amazon.

Move on to Location. This tells you the cities or countries most interested in Harry Potter. No surprise, 91% live in the US. (Not all of this information is helpful for creating the ideal reader, but I’m walking through the tool just so you know what’s there.)

Now look at Activity. This tells you how active this audience is in liking, sharing, commenting, or clicking on ads. It also tells you what device the person uses to access Facebook.

Household tells you income, home ownership, household size, home market value, and spending methods.

Purchases tells you estimated retail spending, online purchases and purchase behavior.

Pick out of this what you think is relevant to creating your ideal reader.

  1. Summarize what you’ve learned.

We now know that Harry Potter readers (excluding the under 18 audience) are mostly younger single women, college educated, either well-established or getting established in careers.

At this point, I’d also include some of the details from the lifestyle categories section.

  1. Repeat

We don’t want to stop with just one comparison. So come up with a few other popular books, similar to yours, and gather the same data. See what similarities and differences you can spot.

  1. Write Your Ideal Reader Profile

Now that you know the kind of people who like similar books to yours, you can more confidently make some assumptions about who will like yours.

Woman reading

If you want to pull out one of those questionnaires for creating an ideal reader, by all means. Now you’ve got some data to give you a running start.

What do you think? What other ways do you know to create an ideal reader profile? Tell me about them in the comments.

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Seven Best Blogging Tools for Writers

(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and buy a product, I get a small commission. There is no change to the price you are charged.)

Tired Person

Let’s face it, blogging regularly can be work.

Creating great content takes some time and creativity.

Then if you’re serious about getting your posts read, there’s all the SEO and social media stuff to take care of.

Kind of takes you away from the joys of creating and writing, doesn’t it?

Most writers don’t consider themselves marketers. And most of us don’t enjoy the steep learning curve involved.

Then I found out about some tools that really help make life a bit easier.

Answer the Public

This is one cool site! Just enter a keyword, and you’ll get a graphic with questions about that keyword. If you’re ever stuck on what to write about, give this free tool a try.

KW Finder

This handy keyword research tool not only delivers alternative keyword suggestions, but it presents them in an easy to understand, color coded chart. The difficulty scores marked in green are the easiest to rank for.

KWFinder test

If you highlight any of the suggested keywords, SERP data appears on the right side of the screen. (SERP stands for Search Engine Results Pages.)

KWfinder SERP data

 

This data gives you the URLs of actual pages that ranked the highest for your keyword. This way you can go and look at them to figure out the intent of the people using that keyword.

For example, if you are trying to attract people who like science fiction and fantasy books to your website, you want to make sure the keywords you use aren’t ones used by people who are into a whole different kind of fantasy. You know, the adult kind.

The keyword data also help you write your title and headers to rank for keywords with good search volumes.

KWFinder does come with a free trial, but after using it, I was more than willing to pay for it.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

After you’ve figured out your keywords, then it’s time for a headline. Research has shown that 80% of your traffic will only read the headline, so it needs to be good.

The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer will start by analyzing the overall structure of your headline.

Then it will assess the length, keywords, and sentiment.

Pretty cool for a completely free tool.

DrumUp logo

DrumUp

DrumUp claims to cut Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn management time by 90%. I believe them.

This little app lets you create and publish social media posts and even schedule them. This way you can promote your blog posts without being chained to your computer.

DrumUp also lets you add hashtags, emojis and other features. The tracking and analytics tool allows you to measure how effective your social media campaign is.

What’s most amazing to me, is that it’s free.

 

Viral Content Bee logo

Viral Content Bee

Viral Content Bee acts like crowdsourcing for traffic. You share others’ content, they’ll share yours. If you want to get even more exposure than you are getting via the free method, you can buy credits.

Majestic Alerts

It would be great to know which of your posts are the most often linked, right?

You can know this with Majestic Alerts. They’ll email you every time someone links to your posts.

There are free and paid plans.

Whatagraph

Whatagraph is the answer to not being able to decipher Google Analytics data.

Just authenticate your Analytics account and you’ll be set.

Then you’ll get emails that present graphical reports that show you the recent stats from your site. You’ll learn which pages are getting more traffic, which are getting less. You’ll even learn which ones have the highest bounce rate and exit count.

What are some of your favorite blogging tools?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Anne With an E: Right Story, Wrong Theme

Picture of Anne with an E

 

Netflix recently premiered a remake of one of my long-time favorites with its version of Anne of Green Gables, titled Anne with an E.

At first I was mesmerized. Some of the casting was brilliant, especially Marilla, Matthew and Diana (dimples and all).

The visual scenery is stunning and lush, the attention to detail in the costuming and sets drew me in to the world the writers had created.

Then I realized it was not the world LM Montgomery had created.

As with any adaptation of a book to film, changes are made to show visually what the written word alludes to or suggests. Or to speed up the pace to keep the attention of the audience. As long as the changes fit the original theme, they enhance the telling of the original story.

So I was fine with a few added scenes.

Then I began to wonder if some of them were necessary.

Did we really have to see the abuse Anne suffered, over and over? As if her life hadn’t been hard enough, did she have to undergo bullying at the orphanage?

It seems she did, if you are creating a remake to add as many contemporary themes as possible.

So, poor Anne is bullied, not just before she comes to Avonlea, but relentlessly after.

Then she faces prejudice from the residents of Avonlea, young and old, because she’s an orphan. Prejudices that in the books are voiced by only a handful of people, some of whom are described by others as “mean.”

It was beginning to feel like the writers of this series felt Anne needed to suffer. That her world needed to be painted in dark and gloomy colors.

Adding to the dark tone, at times Anne is portrayed as almost crazy, lapsing into her imaginary world. What in the books feels light hearted and one of the few sources of joy in Anne’s early life turns into a morbid, almost obsessive confusion of fantasy and reality.

It only gets worse. The writers felt the need to pile on the themes that dominate contemporary thought.

Marilla attends a feminist book club, and likes it. The book Marilla would have done no such thing. She’d more likely talk about the waste of time, preferring to bake her bread or bring home the cows.

Montgomery’s books are populated with strong women who work to achieve their own ends. True, there are clear roles for each gender. But the women (including Anne) found a way to express themselves within those roles. Often in the books someone comments that women are better at getting things done than men. Hardly the sentiment of women who are oppressed into silence.

Anyone who read the books knew of Anne’s role model, her teacher Miss Stacy. Or her friendship with the women she attended college with. Women’s higher education in Montgomery’s world was not out of the ordinary.

Which made the emphasis on the need for a club to foster women’s education in the series so jarring.

Then there are the sexual and other adult themes.

For example, there are discussions of marital rape. Why these need to be inserted into a program that nine-year-old girls would want to watch is beyond me.

In a complete deviation from the original story and book character, Matthew tries to commit suicide to get the insurance money. Another morally complex theme not suitable for the age group who would be likely to read the Anne books.

It seems that the creators attempted to make a dark world for Anne to inhabit. Several reviewers have commented it almost felt like a mash up with Jane Eyre and Anne. I agree. The brooding sense of impending danger felt much more like the moors of the Brontes than the fresh seaside of Avonlea.

Most laughable is the dialogue. At times the characters are speaking from someone’s poorly informed idea of how people in the 1890s actually talked. At other times, they spout such phrases as “I don’t get you” or “no worries.”

There’s no joy in Avonlea. And no joy in this remake. The creators may think they have done something artistic and edgy.

What they’ve done is taken a beloved story and retold it in a way that is not true to the original themes or the time in which the story took place. Which ruined the original story.

The addition of modern themes, interpretations of late 19th century life, and contemporary slang created a nearly unwatchable mess.

If the creators of this series wanted to tell a brooding and gritty story, they should have started with one that was brooding and edgy.

Or come up with their own story and leave a classic alone.

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Summer Reading for Fun and More

Girl on deck reading

No matter how busy I am, I manage to fit in time to read. Whether it’s two minutes while I wait for my tea to heat up, or an entire afternoon on the deck with a thrilling novel, I make the most of the time.

By reading.

Today I’ll share with you the ones that made me stretch two minutes to five, then fifty. Four novels and one book on writing. Here goes!

And, by the way, some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you buy the book. You pay the same exact price. Doesn’t make me a lot of money, but it helps to cover the costs of this blog.

The Devil’s Dance

I’ve been following Kristen Lamb’s blog for years, and was thrilled when she finally released her novel, The Devil’s Dance .

She had me hooked from the start with the plight of Romi, whose fiancé skipped with half a billion dollars (including Romi’s life savings). The company they had worked for folded, Romi was out of a job, and the prime suspect.

Unable to find employment anywhere, Romi was forced to return to her family home, a decrepit trailer park. Her certifiably crazy family doesn’t make life any easier.

She divides her time between trying to convince the FBI agent on her tail that she’s innocent, and figuring out why people keep turning up dead.

Entertaining, irreverent, sheer brilliant story telling, all done up in Kristen Lamb’s inimitable style. What else can I say?

It was well worth the wait.

The Emperor’s Edge

I’ve been a fan Lindsay Buroker’s novels for a while, but it took me awhile to getting around to The Emperor’s Edge.

I can’t improve on the description:

“Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.”

This novel is a great example of a killer concept, complex plot, and engrossing story telling. I’ve got the rest of the series on my to-read list.

The Book of Deacon

I’d never read any of Joseph Lallo’s work before, but this is one author I’m going to keep my eye on. The Book of Deacon starts the story of Myranda, who has no interest in being a hero. All she wants to do is survive.

She was orphaned by a war that has waged for decades, and has been shunned because she refuses to support it. Then by chance she finds the fallen body of a soldier, and the priceless treasure he had carried. She had no idea that her discovery would change her life drastically and profoundly.

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen

Taking a break from fantasy, I tried Alison Weir’s historical novel about Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine. Unlike many other novels about Henry’s wives, Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen: A Novel (Six Tudor Queens) is more nuanced.

The beautiful and accurate details give a sense of time and place, so much that I felt I was there. I could feel the drafty damp castle of Katherine’s later years, I sensed her agony over the destruction of her marriage and separation from her daughter.

Everybody Writes

Ann Handley has written a fabulous resource for business writers, but really for anyone with her outstanding Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

Not only does she cover the basics of writing and grammar, but she delves into what makes for good content. She also provides best practices for creating such diverse forms of content as blog posts, annual reports, and tweets.

Anyone who is writing for any business purpose will benefit from having read this book.

 

 

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In the Valley

Short Fiction In the Valley

Just a short piece of fiction for your reading pleasure…

Eric rolled down his window to spit his gum out and nearly ran over a rattlesnake. He swerved to miss the slithering reptile, clenching the wheel to avoid running off the road.

If you could call it that. His map labelled it “County Road RW.” Eric didn’t think two narrow lanes of gravel decorated with potholes were worthy of that status.

He glanced in the rear-view mirror to see the snake stretching out across the road, allowing its full length to absorb the little heat left as the afternoon sun waned.

Then he laughed at himself. What would it have mattered if he’d killed the snake? One less rattler in this wilderness would be a good thing.

He checked the road ahead carefully. No snakes or other wild life in sight. He spat his gum out and rolled up his window.  Coughing a little from the dust, he concentrated on driving as fast as he could without damaging his car.

He only had two days to get from east Texas to halfway into Arizona. His Aunt Betty wanted portraits done of Lily and Florence. How his aunt loved those two. Eric just couldn’t understand.

He wanted to refuse the job, but work had been slow. More people were taking their own pictures these days, thanks to their smart phones. Snap a picture, share it with the world. Who cares if it’s a crummy photo? He let out a sigh.

The road curved to the left, and he blinked, avoiding the blinding light of the setting sun. To his right, in the valley below, the shadows of the hills made a mottled pattern, some areas dark, others starkly lit.

All or nothing. That’s what Eric’s life seemed to be. All or nothing.

Some clients were cooperative, reasonable. They understood when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Others were like his aunt, doting on her darlings, wanting the perfect photo.

He could just hear her. “Make sure Lily’s bow is a tidge to the right, will you, dear?”

She’d follow up with, “Should we try the pink sweater instead of the green? I think pink looks better on her. It brings out the brown of her eyes. They’re just the same color as yours, you know.”

After numerous wardrobe changes for both Lily and Florence (Florence, being four was a little more cooperative than two-year-old Lily), Aunt Betty would top it all off with, “I wish you could get Florence to smile a little more. She always looks a little sad.”

If Aunt Betty didn’t pay so well, including a generous allowance for travel, he’d never bother.

She made his life miserable with all her fussing and fuming.

All for a pair of toy poodles.

 

 

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