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Romance Author Liz Flaherty: Writing and the Art of the Quilt

Monday, October 27, 2014

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Back to McGuffey's
Author Liz Flaherty:
I grew up loving quilts. I have ones that were made by my great grandmother, my grandmother, and my Aunt Nellie. They’re old and beautiful, with tiny stitches and scraps of memories scattered over them like the leaves that are rustling through my yard these days. While I treasure the quilts and the memories, making quilts wasn’t something I ever truly thought I’d do. For one simple reason.
         
They are art.

I am a writer. I’ve had nine books published and am still at it. There is little that I love more than writing, but it’s a craft to me, not an art. Some writers are artists, and I writhe with envy when I read their books, but I am not. This is okay with me. I just write.

But then I had grandchildren—they are seven of the things I love more than writing. When I got ready to retire, I was afraid—for one wild, crazy instant—that I would be bored, so I thought why not go ahead and make a quilt for each grandchild? Not fancy like the old ones I have that would require anything artistic of me, but simpler patterns. After all, I liked to sew. How hard could it be?
          
Ahem.
          
It could be hard. And it was. Especially since I haven’t had a single minute of boredom since I retired—there hasn’t been time. Five of those nine books have been published in the three and a half years since retirement, six of the seven quilts are made, and I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life.
         
Quilts tend to consume the person who’s making them. I started out with a 6-inch by 24-inch ruler, a rotary cutter, a cutting mat, and enough fabric for the quilt I was making. I now have many rulers, many cutters, a mat that completely covers my cutting table, and enough fabric to cover a small country.
          
Years ago, I wrote a book called The Debutante’s Second Chance, a Silhouette Special Edition. In it, the heroine made a quilt. It was incidental. When I wrote A Soft Place to Fall, the heroine opened a quilt shop, and it wasn’t incidental at all. In my newest book, Back to McGuffey’s, Kate is a lover of quilts. In my work-in-progress, Arlie has a quilt room many of us would cheerfully die for. Quilting and writing have over time become inextricably intertwined.
         
I’m working on Number Seven on my grandkids’ quilts. It’s still a craft to me; I can’t do anything without a pattern and need help choosing fabric every single time. Likewise, I’m working on my Number Ten book and I’m still a craftsman, not an artist. And it’s still okay with me.

What I love, and what maybe is a little artistic, is what is alike in books and quilts. They both have stories to tell, they’ll both be around for children and grandchildren, they both contain beloved memories within their construction. Not big memories, perhaps, like wedding days or births or even bittersweet goodbyes, but ones that lie gentle in the pockets behind their owners’ hearts. When the quilts are used or the books read, the memories slip out and create magic.

And there it is. Whether writers and/or sewists artists or craftsmen, we have the opportunity to create magic. Aren’t we the lucky ones?

Thanks for having me here today. I’ve enjoyed it. I hope you find the magic.

******
Back to McGuffey's

The one that got away...
Could Kate Rafael’s day get any worse? First she lost her job, then her house burned down and now her ex is back in town. Apparently, Ben McGuffey's taking a break from being a big-city doctor to help at his family’s tavern and reassess the choices he's made for his career.

Ben ends up giving Kate a hand...then giving her kisses...and finally, a second chance. But when a local teenager shows them both a glimpse of what it means to be a family, Ben wonders if having kids in small-town Vermont would clash with his ambitions. Or can he truly come home again…to Kate?



Liz retired from the post office and promised to spend at least fifteen minutes a day on housework. Not wanting to overdo things, she’s since pared that down to ten. She spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else she wants to. She and Duane, her husband of…oh, quite a while, are the parents of three and grandparents of the Magnificent Seven. They live in the old farmhouse in Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really…37 years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening! She’d love to hear from you at lizkflaherty@gmail.com
Buy links:

L. A. Kelley writes fantasies with adventure, romance, humor and touch of sass. You can find her at  http://lakelleythenaughtylist.blogspot.com

Blog Talk: Should your blog use a site map or Sitemap?

Friday, October 17, 2014

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Say what?

I'll just start by saying that I'm not the most internet techy person. But I pick up a lot of information as I talk to other bloggers, scan other pages, and rework this site. Let's start off with what a site map and Sitemap is (yes there's a difference between the two which will be discussed later). According to sitemaps.org, "Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling."

Sitemap (XML) is used by the biggest search engines; Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft. (Other, but not all, search engines are capable of reading Sitemaps and using them to index pages.) It uses site information and tags to categorize data, and that data is what search engines look for. There are various types of sitemaps; each serving a unique purpose. Some are meant for site visitors to use (site map), others are meant for only search engine use (Sitemap). I don't know  all of the differences, so I will just leave it at that. If you're really interested in learning about the fine details visit sitemaps.org for coding, descriptions, and more.


Sitemap vs. site map

A Sitemap is for fancy search-bot reading by the big companies while a site map is something that can be perused by both average search-bots and humans. Using this simple definition, a site map is most handy for all websites because of the ability for site visitors to easily find information.


The pros and cons of each

The conversation of Sitemap/site map use is something that randomly comes up and it seems to be one of those topics where the consensus is not sure about its usefulness; especially if you're like me and find yourself lost in the jargon. I use a site map more as an automatic indexer so that all of my titles and tags are categorized for visitors to peruse versus me having to make a separate page and link up every blog post myself. I've had it from the start, so I can not say whether it has helped my page in terms of internet discovery. However, I think it is very useful for any website.

This is the pro/con of site map: It provides a great road map for your site that anyone/anything can navigate. However, it may not be directly indexed by major search engines.

Example: Sitemap for The Book Cove categorizes posts
by their tags and identifies new posts.

I decided to do some research to try to see exactly what the point of a Sitemap is and why it may or may not be useful.

What Google has to say (this is from Google Webmaster, Sitemap information)

Sitemaps are particularly helpful if:
  • Your site has dynamic content
  • Your site has pages that aren't easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process—for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or images.
  • Your site is new and has few links to it. (Googlebot crawls the web by following links from one page to another, so if your site isn't well linked, it may be hard for us to discover it.)
  • Your site has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.

"Google doesn't guarantee that we'll crawl or index all of your URLs. However, we use the data in your Sitemap to learn about your site's structure, which will allow us to improve our crawler schedule and do a better job crawling your site in the future. In most cases, webmasters will benefit from Sitemap submission, and in no case will you be penalized for it."

What the bold text means is that you can submit your Sitemap to various engines, such as Google, and they can then index your site pages. However, they do not guarantee that they will index those pages. What determines indexing vs. not, I do not know.

This is a pro/con of Sitemap: if it's used by the search engines, then great! But if it's not then it does no good. 

I say it's better to try than not try. Every little bit of search engine optimization (SEO) helps, so why not submit a Sitemap and hope for the best.

What does this boil down to?

You want both.

Having a site map is highly advised for all websites, especially for new sites that may not have a good potential to be indexed by the big search engines. Site maps are quick and easy to implement with some simple coding you can find many places. Send The Book Cove an email if you'd like the coding that we use.

A Sitemap is a little more complex, in terms of customization, but can really boost SEO. 

Both can be implemented on a site.

Where/How can you get a Sitemap or site map generated?

Simply search for Sitemap generator and a ton of links will appear. Basically what these programs do is track down all of your website's links and puts them in a line-by-line HTML file. You then put the code into your site.

Google Sitemap protocol and codes - coding to make your own according to Google preferences (based on sitemap.org)
Sitemap protocol and codes for major search engines - coding to make your own (sitemap.org)

Site map codes can also be easily searched. If interested in the one pictured above, contact The Book Cove.



If readers have any suggestions about Sitemaps/site maps/other indexing and traffic options, please discuss in the comments below!


Author Larry Farmer: Gasp! A Man Writing Love Stories?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

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The Kerr Construction Company
Fiction is not always just making stuff up. Sometimes an author draws heavily on personal experience.

Larry Farmer’s bio-fiction novelette, The Kerr Construction Company, is about a disenchanted ex-Marine after the Vietnam War. Searching for a new direction in life. Dalhart McIlhenny heads to Gallup, New Mexico, and finds employment in a construction company working with the Navaho, illegal aliens, and ex-bullfighter from Durango.  Far away from fast cars and parties, Dalhart searches for meaning. Finding peace in a callous world seems impossible. Then he meets Carmen.

How much of this story is based on your life?
Most of it. After a stint in the Marines during the Viet Nam era, and time spent traveling the world, I came back home to Houston. It was the fastest growing city in America at the time and perhaps the most prosperous. All around was wealth with no substance. People elevated material things over culture. I had seen poverty both in America and during my travels. Rural Mexico was just a few miles from where I had grown up. People traveled in donkey carts and wore shoes made from worn out tires. Wealth sure beat that, but I quickly became disenchanted by the new America. We seemed absorbed with money and much of our social fabric had been discredited, although some of it justifiably.

I needed to get away and reexamine my life, so I bought an old beat up panel truck and started driving. That truck became my home. With hardly a penny in my pocket, I eventually ended up in Gallup, New Mexico, the capital of the Navajo world. The poverty wasn’t pretty, but I wanted to know more. Houston has been my life, but here was a different perspective.

Wanting to get back to my roots, I found a menial job working with both Navajo and illegal aliens. I met the ex-bullfighter who eventually became a character in my story. He was charismatic and smart and became a close friend. It put a very personal face on the immigration issue. This whole immigration thing has been so politicized its easy forget the struggle illegals have in order to carve out a life. Living among them made me face difficult questions about their survival and mine every single day.

So…the girl in the story.  If you are Dalhart, did a romance with Carmen really happen? Spill the beans, Larry.
There was a Mexican waitress. I was sitting at this restaurant at the end of a long hard physically demanding day. While waiting for my order, I looked up from my book and there was this dark skinned goddess who took my breath away. There was this electricity between this girl and me even before we said a word. We tried not looking at each other but couldn’t stop ourselves. She poured a glass of water and her hand was shaking, spilling water on the table even. She was a recent divorcee, living with her mother, also trying to survive and find herself again. When dating back then you always had to be cognizant of racial and social divides, but this girl just knocked my socks down. I didn’t want it to consider racial or social issues. All I wanted to do was be with her.

What was the most difficult part to write?
None of it. All of it. It just flowed. It had already written itself into my life and I was simply the messenger.
  
No spoilers, but was the ending in the story the same as real life? Did you make any changes and why?
I made up the ending. Circumstances occurred in my life too complicated to write about and took away from the story. So, I tried to find a place about my relationship with Carmen and make it entertaining and believable. The truth is much my inner search than just the events in Gallup, New Mexico. That’s another story.

Since you’re a nice Jewish guy from Texas did you have more trouble writing a woman’s point of view or a Native American’s? What challenges did you face?
I was the only boy growing up in my family of two sisters and three step-sisters. I opened up to a lot of changes brought on by the woman’s movement. It made including a female perspective easier for me. I’m part Cherokee too. I love the Cherokee, one of the Five Civilized Tribes. They endured perhaps the cruelest history when Europeans came. So, meeting Native Americans such as the Navajo wasn’t a new experience. I wanted to present some of their lives, but not dwell on it. The story is not about that, but Gallup and the Navaho were part of the setting.

How difficult was it for a man to write in what is generally thought of as a woman’s field of romantic fiction?
I loved the process. I want to say I love women, but that sounds tacky, uncouth, and a little too macho. I like the ying and the yang thing; Mother Nature plotting to keep the species alive and thriving by bringing the two sexes together.  

I’m part of a writer’s club in College Station near Texas A & M. Two of the female members are romance novelists, published by The Wild Rose Press. That’s how I found out about this publisher. I had been writing, developing the craft and decided to give it a shot. My editor suggested I nurture the love story. I thought that was a great idea. I didn’t want to be a strict romance novelist, but I do love a love story. It enhances a good tale.

Since many of your characters are based on real people, have any of them read it? If so, What did they think?
I’ve lost contact with everyone back then. It would be great if this story catches on, they recognize themselves, and remember this college educated Texas cowboy that entered their lives. They didn’t have a clue what the hell I was doing there. I didn’t make a lick of sense to them. I didn’t belong, but we ended up fitting in to each other’s lives. Ideally this is how life is supposed to be. I’d like to think they’d read it and say “That son-of-a-gun gave us form.”

Your second novel, I Will Be The One, has an expected release in late 2014. It's also semi-autobiographical incorporating your Peace Corps experience in the Philippines during the Ferdinand Marcos administration. Was a full-length book more difficult? What new challenges did you face?
Once again, it wrote me. I couldn’t get it out of the word processor fast enough. The Peace Corps is so underrated. It was a marvelous experience, but there were some real problems going on where we lived. Violent upheavals in a dangerous place made more so by politics. My best friend in the Peace Corps at first was a girl from Cleveland, but then we got sent to different parts of the county. Next this Southern white conservative became close friends with a smart as a whip, politically liberal, African-American man from Los Angeles. It was a great dichotomy, but we hit it off.

For the story, I wrote about the day in the life stuff, the dangers, the unbelievably horrific poverty, and the insurrection against a dictatorship. I was there for the overthrow. I met Cory Aquino and Cardinal Sin. I saw political assassinations. So, again, I don’t want to make it sound too easy, but the story wrote itself. It told me what to say and I couldn’t get it out fast enough.

Even though this wasn’t a strict romance novel, a deep love story is the foundation. Life as seen from the eyes of two people living in tumultuous times. So out goes my black liberal friend and in goes the girl. I mixed the characters up, shared her life and times, but added some details from his life, too. Funny thing, after all these years he looked me up on Facebook and we reconnected. I found the girl on LinkedIn and she shared even more stories and experiences to enhance the story.


*******
Excerpt from The Kerr Construction Company

“Quitting time, McIlhenny,” I heard Ira shout.
“Another five minutes,” I shouted back.
“I’ll load up,” he answered. “Oh yeah, another thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked when he didn’t follow through.
“Didn’t you say you used to play football?” he asked.
“Yeah.”
“You’re a fast runner, right?”
What does that mean? “Yeah,” I answered again.
“You better be. This is a stick of dynamite here in my hand.”
He lit it and threw it my direction. I didn’t look back until I heard the explosion. There was a hole ten yards from where I used to be.
“Come on,” he shouted again, not bothering to laugh. “Let’s go home. Go get your shovel if it’s still there.”
Later I thought of Ira’s shenanigans, sitting in the restaurant, savoring the rich garlic aroma. He would have made a good Marine, I decided. I never made it to Vietnam, but I get to tell my grandkids about when I worked for the Kerr Construction Company.
I heard Carmen’s voice come from beside me. “You got a look about you, hombre,” she said as she walked over to me and planted a small kiss on my lips. “Is that a smirk? What wickedness are you contriving? Better not leave me out of it.”
“Nearly got blown up by dynamite today,” I said as my smirk turned into laughter.
“Good Lord, man. How did that happen?”
“Aw, not really,” I said. “It’s a long story anyway.”
“Don’t eat here tonight, Sweets,” she said with a wink. “Mother has supper ready for us. She’s going to bring up Monument Valley. She knows what the hell we did there. And I ain’t talking the scenery or our intimate little conversations. I’m talking she put two and two together and she knows we’re not virgins.”
“She would’ve suspected what was going to happen even before we left.”
********  
Larry Farmer is an ex-Marine who grew up on a cotton farm on the southern tip of Texas. He has two degrees from Texas A&M University where he works in IT. Married with three sons, he writes fiction incorporating experiences from his extensive travels. Find Larry at:
 www.larryfarmerwrites.com         
Twitter @LFarmerWrites
Pinterest larryfarmerwrites


L. A. Kelley is a co-blogger at The Book Cove.  She writes stories with adventures, romance, humor, and a touch of sass. You can find her at http://lakelleythenaughtylist.blogspot.com


Writing for a Series: Don’t Tell Me What To Do. I’m a God in My Own Mind.

Monday, September 29, 2014

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One Enchanted Evening
I’ll let you in on a little secret. All writers have a dark side. Deep down we’re convinced if people would only do everything we say, damn it, the world would be a better place. Eventually each one of us comes to the sorry conclusion we won’t be elected Ruler of the World. The only way to make up for the crushing disappointment is to write. On paper I wield omnipotent power over my fictional realm. I manipulate lives, kill off all my enemies (in print), and create people way more interesting than myself. Not to mention, being adored by millions of fans (in my mind.) The dark forces rise. Mwah-ha-ha.

Then I got the chance to write One Enchanted Evening for a series.   

Writing for a pre-existing series has a special set of challenges. Writers do not necessarily play well with others. We are pasty-faced individuals, bereft of social skills. Banished to unheated garrets with quills in hand, we battle wasting upper respiratory ailments. Writing for a series requires unprecedented cooperation and no small amount of patience. Coughing delicately into our lacy handkerchiefs, we must scurry from the garret to interact with real people. It’s hard.

Build from the fictional ground up.
The first step in the development of the Lobster Cove series for Wild Rose Press was to appoint a coordinating editor. Rumor has it she didn’t duck fast enough and got slapped with the job. Lord knows, it’s not for the faint of heart. Her responsibility entailed devising the original platform; in this case a small town on the coast of Maine. Stories would cover all time periods; past, present, and future. Full length novels, novelettes, and even short stories were welcome along with an array of fiction genres such as contemporary, historical, suspense, paranormal and, yes, even naughty bits of erotica. Like a real town, Lobster Cove would have diversity in spades.

To rough out descriptive details, the editor solicited suggestions early from those who had an interest in writing for the series. Decisions had to be made concerning the size of the town in both area and population. What were the most logical major and minor industries in a Maine coastal resort area? What were typical occupations? The editor created a master spreadsheet with categories and descriptions of places and occupations, male and female characters, town events, and other reference items writers might need. With the basics laid out, next came an actual town map highlighting streets and locations of buildings and service organizations such as the police department, hospital, and public schools. Local landmarks were chosen and situated. Lobster Cove now had a lighthouse, a centrally located park with gazebo, manmade lake, beaches, and an offshore island.

Submissions opened up. Publishing contracts were signed. New businesses and characters were added to the spreadsheet. The map filled in even more. Slowly, Lobster Cove began to resemble a real town. Places, however, need more than people and buildings. Dozens of other details had to be worked out such as festivals, town events, flora and fauna, and the high school mascot. World-building is a pain. No wonder gods are so cranky.

What do you mean there’s no room for Ye Olde Donut Shoppe? Not even a lousy kiosk?
When creating a world from scratch, the author controls the population. Not so in a series. As far as story ideas, it’s first come, first served and all subject to the coordinating editor’s approval. The first person to use a character defines a character. If a contracted story states the mayor is a cross-dressing, Irish-Argentinian cat fancier with irritable bowel syndrome than that’s what goes into the spreadsheet. Anyone else wanting to use the mayor has to take Pedro O’Toole and his kittens, gastroenteritis, and feathered boa as is. Either that or its back to the storyboard.

Lack of control can be a royal pain especially when it comes to the major setting for your story. Food venues seem to be the first to go. It makes sense. Coffee shops, restaurants, or bakeries are all perfect places for social interaction—great venues for story arcs. You may have written a moving, charming, brilliant, and gripping tale about the owner of a donut shop, but if another writer beats you to the punch, and the editor decrees Lobster Cove has enough donut shops, you’re out of luck. Back to the rewrites.

There are additional considerations when coordinating details with other writers. Want your characters to have a romantic walk along the pier on the third Saturday in June? Oops, too bad. Another author has a storm scheduled that day. Have a big denouement in the police chief’s office the last week of September? Pity, another author is having it fumigated.  One sticky problem I had was the name of a particular character. He was a minor, but necessary addition to my story. I couldn’t write around him, but he was not my character. His role had already been defined by another. That meant his name had been selected and it happened to be a name I detest. This is not the name for someone who is an asset to a community. This is the name of a kid who sat next to me in kindergarten, grabbing his crotch and making airplane noises. Seriously, I wouldn’t give a gerbil in one of my stories this name, but I was stuck with it. I gnashed my teeth each time I typed it in.

Another problem is time limits. Writing for a series is not for someone who needs two years to crank out a story. Submission dates are firm. If you can’t finish by the deadline, than you need to shop your work around somewhere else.

Give it up for the team.
I had reservations about working on a series. Writing for me has always been a solitary art and I wasn’t sure I could be a team player. I was wrong. Despite minor irritations, working on One Enchanted Evening was a blast. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone. It stretches those literary wings.

The foremost pleasure comes from the collaboration with other writers dedicated to infusing life into a fictional town. Lobster Covians (yeah, we had a discussion about what to call inhabitants, too) are an eager talented group ready to share ideas and research. An innocent query into the writer’s loop about a character or place brings a plethora of links, pictures, and helpful hints. Need someone to read a passage from a work in progress to see if it rings true? Just post a query. Someone will answer and give you the benefit of their experience. It’s a warm, supportive community with an enthusiastic cheering squad. I’m proud to be an honorary citizen of the Cove.

Click on the Rafflecopter Giveaway link below and enter to win a $25 gift certificate to Red Lobster and a $50 gift certificate to Wild Rose Press. Hurry! Giveaway ends Tuesday, September 30.



L. A. Kelley writes fantasies with adventure, romance, humor and touch of sass. Her newest release, One Enchanted Evening, comes out on September 29. You can find her at http://lakelleythenaughtylist.blogspot.com



Book Review: Breathe (Sea Breeze #1) by Abbi Glines

Friday, September 26, 2014

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It should be of no shock to most of you that I'm back with a review on an Abbi Glines novel, Breathe (Sea Breeze series). I love Abbi because I can always count on her to write an enthralling and drool worthy books. While many of the story lines are quite similar, I've always said that a good writer can make you forget those similarities and feel like you're reading something completely novel. So for those of you looking for something totally different in the NA world, this probably isn't for you. For the rest - read on!

(Blurb)Sadie White's summer job isn't going to be on the beach life-guarding or working at rental booths like most kids her age. With her single mother's increasing pregnancy and refusal to work, Sadie has to take over her mother's job as a domestic servant for one of the wealthy summer families on a nearby island.

When the family arrives at their summer getaway, Sadie is surprised to learn that the owner of the house is Jax Stone, one of the hottest teen rockers in the world. If Sadie hadn't spent her life raising her mother and taking care of the house she might have been normal enough to be excited about working for a rock star.

Even though Sadie isn't impressed by Jax's fame, he is drawn to her. Everything about Sadie fascinates Jax but he fights his attraction. Relationships never work in his world and as badly as he wants Sadie, he believes she deserves more. By the end of the summer, Jax discovers he can't breathe without Sadie.


What I liked

Yes, this story can be shelved under the "opposite side of the tracks" category. But it's dealing with a  gorgeous  rockstar and a hardworking girl just trying to support her family - and who can say no to that?! (Others have more willpower than I do)

Breath has a bit of a Maid In Manhattan (Yes that JLo movie circa 2002) feel to it. Sadie ends up going to work for her mother-with-issues and Sadie just happens to luck out and get to clean the house of the hottest musician around, Jax. There's even a tiny slip up scene in which they meet that is reminiscent of the movie. But honestly, I loved it. Sadie could hold her own and her quips kept Jax on his feet. And we all know where the ending of this book is going...

What I didn't like

It's hard to say whether or not this book met all expectations or not. I've read a majority of Glines' books, but all have been out of order. This is the first book in the series I've just now read after reading all of the others. The writing style didn't seem any different from later books. But the story didn't grip me like the others did. I liked the characters, story, dialog, but didn't love them. I couldn't fully immerse myself. Normally I would attribute my lackluster feelings to having read too many of these type of books in a short period of time. But this was the first book that I picked up after about 2 months of not casually reading! (*gasp*) Which leads me to believe it just wasn't the best of her work.

Rating: 3.5  


Book Review: Book Review: Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis

Friday, September 12, 2014

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Given solid encouragement and a template I can make a pretty darn good smiley face. Needless to say, I don’t call myself an artist and have never produced either a comic or graphic novel. However, I have a lot of respect for those who do. Fortunately, Words for Pictures is not a how-to-color book. Unusual in its approach, it explores the business end of both comics and graphic novels. They are odd art forms. Sometimes the writer/illustrator is the same person, sometimes not. The writer’s work is more reminiscent of a script. The artist’s work is similar to that of an action movie director. While a fiction writer writes for a faceless unseen audience, the comic book writer works for a single person—the artist. If the writer doesn’t tell a good story, illustrations won’t save it. If the artist can’t generate the right level of excitement, the story falls flat. Each contributes equally. It is a unique collaborative effort not seen in other types of fiction.

There’s a lot of ground to cover and Words for Pictures does a good job of briefly outlining the pitfalls facing a budding comic book writer or illustrator. Wiggling free from a straitjacket while bound with chains and trapped under an ice floe is a snap compared to breaking into any form of publishing. The odds are stacked against you from the get-go. Bendis is one of the big dogs in the comic world and much of the advice is applicable not just for his field, but others such as fiction or screenplays.

Problems
Even though this book purports to approach comics from the business instead of the design end, there is only one chapter devoted solely to nuts and bolts practical advice. That chapter is written by his wife and business manager and reads too light. Other chapters are interviews with different comic book writers and artists. Unfortunately, just because someone can write or illustrate a good piece of fiction, doesn’t mean they can translate that skill into words or provide cogent observations. While Bendis’ work is readable and insightful, some of the interviewees come across as ‘Yo, dude, chillax. Let the creative juices flow and, like, good stuff will happen. Dig?’ Not really, bro, but your artwork is cool.

Who’d like it
Despite the problems, the book has a lot to offer. The pages are filled with dynamite illustrations and Bendis gives an insightful, although brief, overview of the business. He is an enthusiastic and engaging writer with a cheerleader’s ‘you can do it’ attitude. Sometimes that’s all a budding writer or artist needs to get started. While the average comic book fan might have no interest in this book, I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys comics or graphic novels as art forms, or anyone with the desire to create either one.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

L. A. Kelley writes fantasies with adventure, romance, humor and touch of sass. You can find her at  http://lakelleythenaughtylist.blogspot.com







Author Interview: Laura Strickland and Total Immersion in Writing Historical Fantasy

Monday, September 1, 2014

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Laura Strickland’s latest release is the historical fantasy, Lord of Sherwood: The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, Book Three.

As a writer of Historical Romance, I sometimes feel like the conductor on a bus tour into the past.  Pick up one of my books and I’ll punch your ticket. The bus will fire up with a throaty growl and we’ll disappear into the mists of time for a ride you won’t soon forget.  I've been conducting these tours for a while now, and quite a few people book return trips.

But what makes for successful time travel? Well, if you love writing Historical Fiction and want to set up your own tours, here are a few things you might want to consider.

It’s your tour, and those you take along will only see/hear/smell and taste what you share with them.  So you’d better make sure you don’t leave anything out.  If you make a stop in, say, eighteenth century England and drop by a pub to await the appearance of the Highwayman who features prominently in your story, you’d better give your passengers the full experience. How does it smell when you walk in? Like spilled ale and patrons who haven’t washed in six months?  How’s the ale? Dark and foamy? Pungent with a nutty aftertaste? How are the folks around you dressed? How do their voices sound? Make the world you create a tactile one and your passengers won’t want to get back on the bus too soon.

How much do you personally love this world you’re visiting?
I’ve learned that sharing fiction is a bit like osmosis. The writer brings to it a set of emotions and if s/he can convey them properly, they’ll seep into the reader’s consciousness the way water seeps into a sponge.  If you enjoy the way your Highwayman struts into the pub when he arrives, if you notice the way his black hair curls on his neck and the wicked gleam in his eyes, so will your readers. You don’t want to force anything onto your tour members: if you have to persuade them to participate, that wrecks the fun of the tour. You want them drawn into things, so caught up they forget the bus exists.

How immersed are you in your chosen period?
For it to be convincing, you have to live and breathe this stuff. You must be aware what your character ate for supper last night, even if it was roasted swan. You have to think about how heavy a knight’s armor is and how much work it takes for your heroine to draw a bath. You should lose yourself in your story, forget what it’s like to live with electricity/television/cell phones for a while, be aware that not everybody in Medieval England is a lord or queen, and that peasants fall in love too. Breathe the fetid air, smell the water in the moat and listen to the music of the times when you write. In short, for truly convincing prose I recommend total immersion, so don’t hesitate to drive that tour bus right into the nearest lake.

In short, your readers will only believe the veracity of your writing if you believe it. So do whatever it takes to engage yourself in your period, and your writing.  Happy time travel!

The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy - Book Three
Curlew Champion, master archer, has always known his destiny.  With his cousin, Heron Scarlet, he will become a guardian of Sherwood Forest and further his people's fight against Norman tyranny.  But the third member of the triad is still to be revealed, the woman who will complete the magical circle and, perhaps, answer the longing in Curlew's heart.

Anwyn Montfort has fled disgrace in Shrewsbury and come to Nottingham at her father's bidding.  He wishes her to make a good marriage and settle down.  But the wildness that possesses her refuses to quiet.  She knows she's been searching for something all her life, but not until she glimpses Curlew does her spirit begin to hope it has found its home.

Only the magic of Sherwood can bring them together, and only their union can complete the spell woven so long ago...

For more information on Laura Strickland go to www.laurastricklandbooks.com
Amazon Link

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Monday, August 18, 2014

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Mark Watney is having a really bad day. Due to a chain of accidents the astronaut has been marooned on Mars. Believing he’s dead, his crew left for Earth. He has no way to communicate with either the spaceship or NASA. Not that it matters, because in less than sixty days, he’ll be out of food, water, and air. Yup, a really bad day. Unless he finds a way to survive on a barren planet for four years until the next Mars landing, he will be completely and totally screwed.  

What is Right With This Book?
When you think back on your list of top ten books, more than likely most, if not all, will have been read before you turned thirty. The books you loved in your formative years stick to you like hot fudge to hips and stay a happy memory for the rest of your life. You revisit them now and then like old friends and leave with a warm and happy feeling. (After thirty, you are no longer formative. Mostly you are sludge that can only think with a regular infusion of caffeine and/or sugar—at least for me.) I accepted I would like a lot of books, even love some, but none would ever again make my list of favorites.

I was wrong.

The Martian is not just an example of an excellent science fiction book, but one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. There…I’ve gone on record and said it. Why is it great? Several reasons. Not only did Weir create a totally engaging hero, the book has a gripping, story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will Mark find a food source? Water? A way to communicate with NASA? Can a rescue be mounted or is he doomed to a lonely death millions of miles from home?

The Martian is also surprisingly funny. Science fiction that is heavy on technical data rarely brings a chuckle. Often it is pretentious and stuffy, but Mark Watney faces impossible odds with a hysterical, self-deprecating sense of humor that made me laugh-out-loud.

Finally, science fiction books often suffer from poor characterization, particularly of females. Let’s face it, most are written by men. Women come across as little more than cardboard cutouts stuffed in a space suit. Not so, The Martian. Although Watney is alone on Mars the book’s point of view bounces from him to the mixed-gender crews of the spaceship and NASA. Female characters are fully formed and completely believable.

What’s Wrong With It?
Nothing. Seriously, not one single word. I can’t remember the last time I’ve loved a book so much from start to finish. The Martian outshines anything I ever read by Niven, Herbert, Clarke or any of the other supposed grand masters. Okay, if you put a gun to my head, I’ll admit I hate the cover. It’s ugly.

Why YOU Might Not Like It 
Some books, even well-written ones, should come with a warning. The Martian is one of them. You will hate this book, not even make it through the first chapter, if you don’t like hard science fiction. What is hard science fiction? It is a story that is heavy on the science and technical details.  I’m a dweeb, I admit it. I love the sciency stuff. If you can’t stand techno-talk, please don’t start this book. You’ll hate every single page, think I’m crazy for writing a glowing review, and make me cry very salty tears. Don’t bother picking it up.

I received a copy of The Martian for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

L. A. Kelley is a co-blogger at The Book Cove.  She writes stories with adventures, romance, humor, and a touch of sass. You can find her at http://lakelleythenaughtylist.blogspot.com

Book Review: Smoldering by Tiffany Aleman

Sunday, August 10, 2014

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Book Information
Genre: contemporary romance
Age: New Adult
Pages: 337
Version: eBook
Series: standalone



(Blurb): Money ~ power ~ fame 

Kelsey
Growing up in the arms of one of the wealthiest families in America, I lived a champagne lifestyle and never wanted for anything.

That life came with stipulations…
1. Marry the man I don’t love.
2. Make my parents proud.

Wrong.

I left my Manolos and fancy apartment behind and fled that life to find out who I really was.
Someone unexpected bulldozed my life.

Riley Jackson
He was the man everyone, including me, wanted, but his future was one I wasn’t sure I wanted to thrust myself back into. And when he chose a career over the family business, his family supported him instead of pushing him away. 

My past collided with my future.
I didn’t see it coming. If I had, I would’ve ran far, far away. Now I’m stuck in the same position I started in two years ago, except this time, it’s not my decision to make.

Loyalty to your family? Loyalty to your own happiness?

Which would you choose?


Review

If you're into runaway brides and hot military men coming to pick up the pieces (raises hand!)- then Smoldering is the book for you!

The book blurb very accurately portrays the book. There's really not much more that I can say about the plot that won't give too much away. What I really liked about this book is that both characters are coming from similar backgrounds (be it physical or emotional). There's a lot of damaged soul meets soul healer and rags-to-riches stories out there (especially those dealing with military characters) but author Tiffany Aleman manages to keep the H/h on fairly even playing ground and it makes the story all the more realistic and enjoyable.

I think the part I liked the most is that both MCs were very well aware of their flaws, but not overly self conscious about them. They kept a level head when trying to deal with issues that came their way and reacted in ways that were realistic. For example, if one was caught in a compromising position the other would actually ask about the situation rather than through a b*tch-fit (which is very gender neutral, by the way) and then complain for the rest of the book... (We've all read waaaayyy too many of those)

The writing is pretty good and the scenes are turned up to a 10 every time.

The part of the writing that I didn't like so much is some of the repetitiveness. It was by no means repetitive to the point of distraction, but I'm a reader who can figure out what is going through a character's mind pretty well based on their actions and mannerisms (as long as the writing is good) and so I find repeat conversations and explanations a waste. (Repeat conversations as in the character will talk to person 1 about how they feel and get half of the advice and then use the same thoughts to person 2 or 3 for the other "parts" of advice)

Overall, I'd recommend Smoldering to just about anyone who likes this genre. There's not too much drama, the reader won't have to go through an emotional recovery post-read, and it's what I'd call a pretty "realistic fantasy" life.


News at The Book Cove: August-September updates

Friday, August 8, 2014

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Happy Friday!!

I'll make everyone's Friday just a little bit better by starting off with this cute picture of my puppy, Emma:



Too much cuteness to handle at once!

Now on to the news...

Reviews

I've finally gotten back into the swing of reviewing and I've slowly been accepting books to review (versus only reading books I've purchased due to time constraints). So more people on the review request list have been hearing from me, however, there are 100's on that list and I cannot (and do not) want to read them all. As  usual, I will try to get as many reviewed by guest reviewers as possible but that too is a little slow going these days.

Blog Takeover

Our last blog take over winner was Nick Tory. If you did not catch his entries, you should do so now! They're hilarious, spot on, and a little bit crazy!

In September we will have our 2nd blog takeover winner, author Emily Walker. And if her posts are anything like her winning entry answer to "In 50 words or less explain why you should get to take over The Book Cove for a week," then I'm sure that will be a riot!

"Jobs"

For those of you that do not know, or forget easily (like me), or just haven't considered it - The Book Cove has availabilities to guest post, guest review, and co-blog (all non-paying, unfortunately). If interested, send an email to bookcovereviews@gmail.com and we'll get something set up!

Upcoming TBR

Lastly, I thought I'd share what I'm reading and see if anyone has similar TBRs or any thoughts on them. 

Compromising Kessen by Rachel Van Dyken -  My interpretation: An arranged "royal" marriage  between an American and a Brit based on 18th century values in today's society. I love RVD's work so I'm pretty psyched to read this!

Above All by Rebecca Brooks - My interpretation - the backwoods gets steamy when a sour breakup brings a hot Chef and ready-to-bare-all woman together. I'm a pretty big fan of gratuitous hookups in the wild with sexy men that can cook (I'm talking about reading, guys...just reading about it ;)) So this should be great!

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