Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Stout

9781400067695_p0_v5_s192x300Lucy Barton is lonely and ill, missing her daughters and her husband in a sterile medical world when her mother arrives. The two women haven’t spoken in years, yet she has come to comfort her daughter. This story is about the personal growth and understanding Lucy achieves through her solitude and her illness and about the path to reconciliation with her mother and, ultimately, herself.

Strout’s narrative is an amazing blend of Lucy’s current thoughts and memories of her childhood. Lucy’s mother tells her daughter the local gossip about people Lucy remembers, and Lucy’s thoughts return to the painful experiences of her childhood and why she had wanted to escape to a better world as an adult. However, Lucy finds both comfort and clarity during the long nights of conversation and sleepless contemplation.

From a writer’s point of view, I found the book a study in style. The sentence and paragraph structure was literary, which I normally equate to a hard read, but this story captured my attention right away and held it throughout. The characters of both Lucy and her mother were rich with convincing strength, believable expression and realistic, nuanced interactions. Strout wove into the main character’s experience several “ah-ha” moments that delivered a powerful impact.

I thought this story well worth studying in order to use Strout’s method in my own writing. I will be adding this book to my list of books that writers should read to develop their craft.

 

Writers Have To Learn Marketing

books-985954_1920Most people who want to be writers don’t envision ourselves becoming master marketers, but we dream of seeing our books on the shelves of a bookstore. We see ourselves writing the “great American Novel” or the next New York Times bestseller or even a Pulitzer Prize-winning book. We dream of the day our name becomes a household word. We see ourselves traveling and signing our books for fans who stand in line for hours just to see us. That is the ultimate! We’re popular. Our books are loved and our fans can’t wait until the next one comes out. Then reality settles in when the first book contract is signed. You and I are responsible for 99% of the marketing for our book!

Where to start and what to do ?!?

Networking on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and what about the groups and hangouts where we’re supposed to develop relationships with readers. Oh, don’t forget Goodreads and Shelfari because that’s where the readers are.

Follow marketing blogs and make comments. Read marketing books and take their advice. By all means, you must have a website that is simple, clean, and easily navigated but includes all the information your reader needs and gets them to convert from browser to buyer. Don’t get pushy, just court them into a purchase.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? We’re just getting started.

STOP! Take a deep breath and relax. The way to learn networking/marketing is one step at a time. While you’re writing your book, start reading the books on marketing during your breaks from writing. Read a few blogs when you check your email and follow the ones that are the most helpful to you. Sign up for newsletters. After a few months, keep taking the ones you find the most valuable to you. Unsubscribe from those that are not as practical and useful.

Learn one thing at a time. Focus on a few things and do them well. It’s easy to get spread too thin and join lots of groups and end up participating in none of them or rarely showing up. I’ve learned that you have to cut down to the ones you can actually participate in and let the others go. You’ll feel better about handling the networking part of marketing and the people you talk to won’t feel used. You’ll be able to start relationships with other writers and with your readers.

Remember and take heart. Every New York Times Bestselling author started the same place you are beginning your writing career.

The Hybrid Authors’ Manifesto

typewriter-2325552_1920We, the hybrid authors of the world, believe that all writers are created equal. All writers, whether

traditionally published or indie published, are endowed with a natural talent and creativity for wordsmithing. We have the natural right to develop and explore our potential and exercise our right of free speech and publication as we see fit.

We have the right to choose any or all paths to publication.

We have the right to call ourselves indie published authors and enjoy the satisfaction of self-publication.

We have the right to call ourselves legitimately published traditional authors and enjoy the same recognition as other traditionally published authors.

We have the right to control as much of the publishing process as we choose.  typewriter-210640_1920

We have the right to choose who our publishing partners are.

We have control over the copyright and ancillary rights of our works as much as we choose.

We value equal and fair relationships with publishing partners who share the same ethics, interests, and goals.

We focus on good quality writing and professionally published books for our readers, no matter what the format or publishing path.

We are professionals and encourage each other’s success.

60 Days ‘Til Christmas

Can you believe that this year is sliding by so quickly? I know I can’t. I love Christmas books and some of my favorites are written by Debbie Macomber. Her newest holiday release is Merry and Bright. I know I’ll be reading it and suggest it to you and my other friends. Just click on the covers.

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In your Christmas shopping and reading, I invite you to include The Christmas Coach as well. We’re having our first chilly days in the Panhandle of Texas. We’ll be hearing jingle bells before we know it.

The Christmas Coach front cover

First Lines

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Grabbing your readers attention in a world where they are bombarded 24/7 is one of the most important lessons a writer must learn. That first sentence can make the difference between success and mediocrity. The gatekeepers in the publishing industry have told us repeatedly, “the first page will make you or break you when you try to sell your book.”

The key to setting your writing apart from the competition is to do something new when you start with the action in your story. Obviously stay away from the old clichés. When I teach a writing class, we discuss great opening lines from literature. My favorite examples of what not to use include weather, the protagonist’s reflection in a mirror, and the character’s startled awakening from a deep sleep. How many stories have started with “it was a dark and stormy night?” If you’re like me and a Peanuts cartoon fan, then you get an image of Snoopy sitting on his doghouse with his typewriter when you read any facsimile of the line. However, that isn’t where the phrase actually originated. The infamous phrase comes from the beginning of Paul Clifford, an 1830’s novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

One of my favorite first lines is from James Clavell’s, Shogun, “The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead.” The reader has to find out what happens. Start with the action and pull your reader in. Make them empathize with your main character quickly. Hook your reader in the beginning and then keep them turning pages.

Writing A Book Review

When you purchase a book from Amazon or Barnes & Nobel online have you ever noticed that there is a place for you to write a short review? Goodreads.com also provides a place for reviews. Most readers don’t leave one because it intimidates them. People think that there are certain requirements you must have to be a book reviewer. Not true anymore. In most cases, even if you didn’t purchase the book online, you can still go on the website, log on, and enter a review.

Amazon has changed some of the rules and you need to be careful about saying things like “buy this book” or “if you liked James Patterson, then you’ll love this.” However, there are still many things that can be put in your comments that don’t cross the lines and you can really help your fellow or favorite authors by leaving a review.

Let me help you out with some suggestions:

  • The theme represents …
  • I enjoyed the story because …
  • The relationships between characters demonstrated …
  • It is well written …
  • My favorite character …
  • The story is well researched …
  • Read some of the reviews posted for examples and write one in your own words.
  • A review does not have to be only positive statements but can include points that you feel are negative. Just be sure that you stick to the subject and the writing, do not get personal about the author.
  • If the writing is not professional, then it is alright to say that.
  • If the research in a historical novel is obviously well done, then mention it.
  • It can be a great story that isn’t told very well.
  • Tell whether you like the book or not.
  • Would you recommend it to others?
  • Don’t just give the book five stars because you liked the story. Not every good story deserves five stars.
  • Be honest.
  • If you read a book and don’t feel like you can give the book three stars or more and are not comfortable doing a review, then tell the author that you’d rather not do a review. Be tactful, but don’t lie. You’re not doing us a favor when you give us a review we don’t deserve and the reader feels cheated and won’t read our next book. Personally, I’d rather you tell me it needs more work and isn’t as professional as it could be. Believe me, it wouldn’t be the first time I heard a rejection that said I needed to work on my book to prepare it better for public consumption. Hopefully, my book is still in a place where I can pull it and make corrections before the general public sees it.

I hope this helps take some of the anxiety out of writing a review.

 

What’s In The Future

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For the past few years, I’ve had a second website thehybridauthor.com with an extensive list of resources for writers. It was originally intended to grow into a much larger resource, gathering place for writers, and a teaching platform for myself and others. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, my original plans have not been able to come about. After much consideration, I’ve decided that over the next few weeks I will consolidate both sites into this website, diannegsagan.com, which was my original website when I first started out. I’ll close down the Hybrid Author site. Certain things in my personal life are changing and I am no longer writing full-time. While I plan to continue writing part-time, I could never totally give it up – it is too dear to my heart and too much a part of who I am, more of my focus needs to be on family and elsewhere.

A Long Dry Spell

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Life happens and sometimes blogs and writing are sidelined for awhile. Without getting into details, I’ve spent the past several months readjusting to a new season in life that interfered with my writing process. Things went on hold. Some writers push through and write anyway. Others of us, not so much. However, if you love books and love writing, the call of the unwritten stories never completely leaves.

I hope you’ve read wonderful and memorable books while I’ve been away. I’ve read a few myself including The Nightingale, A Gentleman in Moscow, and Max Perkins: Editor of Genius.

It’s good to be back with my fellow writers and readers again.

Free Kindle today and tomorrow

FREE on Kindle today and tomorrow! Rebekah Redeemed, by Dianne G. Sagan

PhototasticCollage-2016-01-30-10-44-28Rebekah Redeemed Rereleased by the author with a new cover, this is the story of a shepherd’s daughter who is orphaned and forced to endure a life of servitude. Find out how her life changes after she meets the extraordinary young rabbi from Galilee. http://amzn.to/1Sd8H21

Dianne G. Sagan has been on the Amazon Bestsellers list 45 times for Rebekah Redeemed and The Fisherman’s Wife from her Women of the Bible series.

Get your copy now http://amzn.to/1Sd8H21

“Beautiful and touching …” Kim Black, Pres. Panhandle Professional Writers

“The insight shown in this book amazed me …” Review by J.M. Perhach

“Engaging, authentic, I loved this book …” Review by Katrinka Mayus