Gone Blogging

Today I'm the guest of Patricia Woodside at her very popular literary-related blog, Readin' 'n' Writin' with Patricia. Stop by and see what I have to say about the state of publishing in general and Bunderful Books in particular, and feel free to leave a comment!

And now, an unsolicited opinion about what makes a good book review

I was having an email chat with a reader who mentioned she really doesn't know what to say when she writes her many book reviews, so she usually justs offers a rather detailed summary of the storyline.

Most on-line booksellers have a section where they repeat the back cover copy, so while detailing the plot doesn't hurt (like spoilers without warnings, argh!), it probably isn't all that helpful, either. A sentence or two to introduce your review or intertwined with your thoughts is probably more efficient. An ideal book review, in my humblest of opinions, would also contain at least some (certainly not all, unless you don't mind rather lengthy reviews!) of the following:

What the reader thought of the book in general. A couple of examples: Was the premise unusual? Done with a fresh slant, or maybe a little blah? Did it seem contrived or unrealistic, or natural and real? If it was a mystery, did it keep you guessing? Or did you know whodunit? If the plot contained a surprise, did you see it coming or did it catch you off guard? Were there too many characters? Was it a pleasant reading experience, or do you feel that was five hours of your life you'll never get back (ouch!)?

What the reader thought about the characters. Were they likeable? Well-defined? Motivations explained? Not?

What the reader thought of the author's style. A few examples: Was there a tendency toward too much repeating? (I've been guilty of that one, but I've gotten a lot better!) Was the dialogue natural-sounding or stilted, the narrative passive or alive? Did the story start right away, too slowly for your taste? Were the details of the scenery just right, too detailed, or did the reader feel like they were being told and not shown?

What the reader would have liked to see explored in more depth, or could have done without knowing? I've read a couple of books where the characters were into knitting, and by the time I was through I felt like an expert on yarn. Even books I've overall loved have had some parts I didn't care for.

How did the reader feel about the ending?

And most importantly, would the reader recommend it to other readers?

All authors want the reading public who have invested time and sometimes money in our stories to feel it was time well spent, but we know that won't always be the case. When readers write reviews that say simply, "Wonderful!" with no supporting information, I have to wonder if they're friends of the author (and if they say, "Terrible!" I wonder if they're enemies of the author). A good review can be helpful for both readers and authors.

As always, I wish you good reading!

Fact vs. Fiction

I remember being surprised when The History Channel began running promos of what appeared to be yet another miniseries about the Kennedy family with the rather salacious tagline that it would go behind closed doors to reveal the inner goings-on.

The History Channel is associated largely with factual data, documentary-style programming with newsreels and, pre-movie, still photographs or drawings. What were they doing producing a miniseries? There's always more than one cringe-worthy scene when miniseries are based on real people, usually the scenes involving pillow talk that are obviously clearly the product of the screenwriters' imaginations, not based on fact. Much of the everyday scenes are simply invented, or dramatic license taken with the actual unfolding of events, and they don't always sit well with the families of those being portrayed. You might recall a number of years back, how the mother of the late Melvin Franklin sued the the producers of The Temptations miniseries for depicting her son passing away in her Detroit kitchen in a wheelchair when he actually died in the hospital (I believe in L.A.).

The Kennedys as a whole have been written about to distraction, remarkable when you consider that not one of them ever wrote their memoirs. Did Jackie every have a phone conversation with Marilyn Monroe? Who knows...but its been depicted onscreen. Did Jackie threaten to leave JFK because of his philandering? Who knows...but a showdown makes for good entertainment, right?

I remember thinking that something didn't quite ring true when one of the productions had Jackie making the suggestion that JFK, only weeks before the 1960 election, call Coretta Scott King and offer assistance after Martin Luther King was sentenced to four months of hard labor in a Georgia prison camp for a traffic infraction. In Kennedy brother-in-law Sargent Shriver's obituary earlier this week, it stated that this suggestion actually came from him. (This is probably mean of me to say, but Jacqueline Kennedy just didn't strike me as being the type to be concerned about such matters as civil rights of black people.)

Anyway, the thought of airing a miniseries loaded with creative license simply wasn't in keeping with The History Channel's reputation. So I, for one, wasn't surprised when they announced that they would not be showing the miniseries after all. With other networks passing on the opportunity to air the show, citing numerous historial inaccuracies, this was a costly blunder for The History Channel for sure. As for inaccuracies, I recall one Kennedy reenactment showing Bobby Kennedy sitting outside by his pool in shirtsleeves when he received word of his brother's having been shot in Dallas...and Bobby Kennedy's residence was in Virginia. Anyone who knows Virginia weather knows that in late November you just don't sit poolside, and I was very surprised no one caught that.

I've got a feeling the miniseries will pop up somewhere, even go to DVD. I'm rather looking forward to it. My husband is a history buff, and we'll get a kick out of determining which scenes Kennedy staffers and intimates objected to as being false.

Chewing the Fat with Guest Rosalyn McMillan

Today author Rosalyn McMillan stops by Chewing the Fat. Rosalyn's new novel is about to be published, after a hiatus of 10 years! Her last novel, This Side of Eternity, came out way back in 2001.

Rosalyn's new novel is called We Ain't The Brontes (love that title!), is available for preorder at online booksellers now and will be in stores everywhere on January 25th. So let's get started!

Bettye Griffin: Welcome, Rosalyn! I'm going to start by asking the obvious. Ten years is a looooong time between books. What've you been up to all that time?

Rosalyn McMillan: Working, selling cars, furniture, bridal dresses, and Jenny Craig. Throughout all that time I still wrote novels. I have nine books completed.

Bettye Griffin: It just goes to show, no one can stop a writer from writing. Tell me, was it difficult to get back into publishing after being gone so long?

Rosalyn McMillan: Yes. I was told that I was blacklisted. They said I was a diva, an alcoholic. I couldn't get a book contract to save my life. Urban Books took a chance on me.

Bettye Griffin: Wow, that's cold. I'm glad you eventually got a contract, and keeping with the success-is-the-best-revenge mode of thinking, I hope you have Urban Books' biggest seller to date!

About We Ain't The Brontes...It sounds to me like you took a basic idea of two sisters in the same profession (which likely came from real life, since your real-life sister is megasuccessful author Terry McMillan) and ran with it with the writer's 'What if?' scenario into purely fictional territory with baby-daddy drama and other plot twists. Because of your storyline's basic premise of two novelist sisters with varying levels of success and because of Terry's portrayals of sisters to her main characters, including one who tries to do everything her sister does (not necessarily based on you, of course), I have to ask...how's your relationship with your sister?

Rosalyn McMillan: My relationship with Terry is good. She just bought me a new laptop last month. She's always surprising me with gifts and money. She knows what I've been through a tough period, and she wants to help.

Bettye Griffin: It just goes to show that the real thing is usually pales in comparison to the fictional. Now, tell us a little about the new book and your motivation for writing it (as a writer I know that's a silly question, for we all write what we think would make a good story, but readers are still going to want to know).

Rosalyn McMillan: I wanted to write about two African-American literary sisters who deal with sibling rivalry. I believe that sibling rivalry is a very raw subject in families these days. I feel strongly about this subject matter because I know of several sisters who have spoken to each other in years; famous and infamous.

Bettye Griffin: I've always been fascinated by plotlines about the complex relationships between sisters, and I for one am greatly looking forward to reading the book!

***** ****************************************************************************

Okay, everybody, Rosalyn will be dropping by throughout the day, so if you'd like to ask her anything, please do. And remember...We Ain't The Brontes is available now for online preorder, or check your favorite bookseller on or before January 25th to pick up your copy!

Here we go again

I'm watching the Hallmark Movie Channel. How many times have I seen those movies, usually Westerns but sometimes in Amish country, where a cynical man comes to town, gets injured, and is taken in by a young widow with one child, only to have her melt his heart and fall in love with her? The answer is lot...but strangely, I don't get tired of them.

Do you like this plotline? If so, which is your favorite of the movies you've seen with this story?

Thrifty Thursday tip, 01/13/2011

As the level of your bottle of dishwashing liquid goes down, add some water to it. Dilution will not affect the amount of suds you get (as anyone who has added water to the last drops left in the bottle will know), and it'll last much longer!

Thrifty Thursday Tip, 01/06/2011

The Flexible Spending Account. Enrollment is probably going on at your place of work right now. Don't be left out. Make a reasonable estimate of your anticipated medical expenses: Copayments for doctor visits, anticipated surgeries, and anticipated dental work; prescription medications, eyeglasses and contact lenses, and submit that figure to your payroll department. The funds will be deducted from your check on a pretax basis, and you will then be reimbursed for after making your claim (some employers offer automatic reimbursement of prescriptions).

I was just told by a friend on Facebook that non-prescription purchases no longer qualify, effective this year. That's really unfortunate. Those purchases really add up, and some stores, like Walgreen's, used to mark the receipts with FSA-eligible items, like over-the-counter medicines, bandages, saline solution, and more, to make it easy to determine if it could be submitted for reimbursement. Bummer.

Anyway, if you run out of funds (you'll want to use everything you put in, or you lose it), move up that colonoscopy/mammogram or other screening (these usually involve lab expenses as well), or having that troublesome cyst taken off. And if you go over, see if you can postpone the procedure to 2012. An eye exam can easily be put off a few months. A toothache, of course, can't.
Happy savings!

Welcome to 2011

Happy New Year to all of you! I wish you health, happiness, prosperity, love, and most of all, good reading.

I'll bet you guys thought I died or something. I'm alive and kicking and grateful to see another year. I have been somewhat neglecting my blog, though, and that is something I plan not to do in 2011.

Part of the reason I haven't been around much is because I've been so busy getting my latest Bunderful Books release available for sale. The Heat of Heat went on sale a few weeks ago and is available online only (not in stores) in print form at Amazon.com and in eBook form at Amazon.com, BN.com, and Smashwords.com (in just about any format your eReader takes). In addition, you can get autographed copies of the print version at a discounted price, plus free shipping to US addresses, from my Bunderful Books website, BunderfulBooks.com. It's January now...time to get some heat!

Later this month author Rosalyn McMillan will be dropping by at Chewing the Fat to talk about her new novel, We Ain't The Brontes, after a long publishing hiatus, so stick around!

All the best to you and yours in this new year!