Archives for the month of: February, 2015

IMG_0041 copy copy 2FREE BOOKS

Send me an email at rod_raglin@yahoo.com and I’ll send you Smashwords coupon codes for free downloads of my novels; FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend, and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic.

Offer ends February 28, 2015

Do you set writing goals?

Do you structure your day to make time for writing?

Do you feel guilty about not writing?

Why?

Two things. First. Life is about choices. If you’re not writing then you’ve made a choice to do something else; have kids, a successful career, maybe a loving relationship. Sure, sometimes we make a mistake and it might take some time away from what we really want to do to dig out from under it, but there’s no reason for not getting back on track. It’s about priorities.

Second. Don’t set writing goals or establish times to write because you’ll only feel miserable when you can’t attain them.

For years I lived a structured life. I executed my days like a general commanding troops going into battle beginning the night before with setting out the clothes I was going to wear and triple checking my over booked daytimer to find efficiencies that would allow me more time to fulfill my mission.

I was ambitious, I was aggressive, I got results, but than it wasn’t what you’d call a creative endeavor.

When I was able to commit more time to doing what I love, that’s writing, I decided I couldn’t approach it the same way – like an enemy that had to be defeated. I’d have to come to it willingly and with an open heart and mind.

I wanted to enjoy what I did and enjoy all the time, forever. I didn’t want to feel guilty. I didn’t want to feel pressured. I wanted writing to be my one true thing, unsullied by deadlines, production schedules, other people’s expectations.

Early in the new year I was at a dinner party and someone asked what goals I had for 2015. I no longer set goals, I said. My companions seemed taken aback. Well, how then, they asked, do you stay motivated? How do you measure your achievements?

I have no goals, I told them, and my achievements seem only to matter to others. Writing is not a problem with a solution, a journey with a destination.  I breathe, I think, I write

The rest seems to look after itself.

 Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs

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My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic (now in paperback) are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

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SunsetChurch123114_0031As per the previous blogs regarding my commitment to review new, self-published authors. I wrote a review of indie author HJ Lawson’s novel, War Kids. She responded. I responded to her response. Hence – a review, a response, and reality – at least from my perspective.

Weak writing hinders well conceived story

War Kids starts with a BANG! in the middle of the action. Jada, a fourteen year-old girl wakes up to witness a horrific scene – the hospital she is recovering in has been bombed. You never know how she got there or what her injuries are, but she’s fit enough to escape the ruins.

Zak is at school when the soldiers arrive and begin indiscriminately killing everyone. He manages to escape as well.

So starts the individual journey’s of Jada and Zak through war torn modern day Syria to try to reunite with their families.

Author, HK Lawson has picked a contemporary theme and packaged it with an excellent cover, but unfortunately her writing is not up to the task.

Very early on the author’s inexperience becomes apparent. She uses capital letters like BANG to indicate gunshots, THUD, THUD, THUD, is the sound of heavy boots. Rather than find appropriate descriptive words and images she resorts to capitalization and punctuation (there are 463 exclamation marks in the book) including the combination ?! (used 21 times) which is supposed to indicate what I’m not sure, questioning shock perhaps?

Gratuitous profanity is also used for emphasis, though oddly it’s mostly in the character’s thoughts and not in their dialogue where it might have been put to good use.

Clichés abound, diction is limited with the use of “horror, horrific, horrible”, and “hell” repeated countless times as is “God” (used 55 times).

The narrative is littered with horrific events and human tragedies but because the characterization is so shallow and one-dimensional I never got to know anyone as a real person and so the impact on this reader was minimal. Except for their gender the children could be interchangeable, they are all good, virtuous and brave; the soldiers are all bad, evil and cowards.

The author gets caught up describing the details of the action, much of which would be better left to the reader’s imagination, but comes up short on giving the character’s reaction to events which would help develop their personalities and create reader empathy.

Another example of the lack of craft is displayed when the author launches into a couple of pages of back story about how Jada’s father taught her to use a gun just as she’s about to blow the brains out of a bad, evil, cowardice man intent on raping her.

Half way through the novel it reverts to a YA romance, but here again the lack of depth in the characters and their reaction to these new feelings left this reader unsatisfied.

The plot is a bit convoluted and at one point flashes back 19 years and introduces and entirely new line that really stretched this reader’s suspension of disbelief. The story would have perhaps been better served if it would have stayed focused on the two original protagonists and delivered from just two points of view instead of six.

Nitpicking issues include a BBC journalist allowing an interviewee to editorialize to an international audience – would never happen, I know, I’m a journalist.

As far as I can discern, the UN has had a limited presence in Syria in the role of observers. Whenever the heavy hitting begins they pull out, so it’s not likely they would be rescuing any civilians from a bombed hospital as the reader is lead to believe near the beginning of this story.

And what about religion? Only ten percent of Syria’s population is Christian, yet all the children in this novel pray to God not Allah.

The lack of political context could be justified by the fact the characters are children, however, the kids I know, at the very minimum, reflect the parent’s prejudices. I think the lack of understanding of the situation may have more to do with the absence of research into the issue. Consider this paragraph by the character Faith, an international doctor in the war zone, delivered to a BBC television reporter.

“Suffering has gone beyond all boundaries. There is no safe place left. Syria has become a battlefield. Every aspect of human rights, freedom, and citizenship are lost from view, and no one cares. Entire villages have been cleared off the map. Innocent children are being massacred, and a whole generation is being erased. For what? I pray every single moment that the government and all political parties around the world will engage with the rebels. The rebels are capable of engaging in dialogue, because if they do not, the blood of the innocent is on their hands. All of their hands.”

For what?

Well, there’s obviously some motivation though you may not agree with it. Deep background and an understanding of the characters’ situation, inserted subtly, can give the story more authenticity.

Engage with the rebels? What exactly does Faith mean when she says this? Does she mean negotiate with the rebels for a truce? Is this an example of using the wrong word?

The rebels are capable of engaging in dialogue because if they…?

Who are they and what do they want to engage about? Again, should this read “negotiate”?

Blood of the innocent is on their hands …?

Whose hands – the rebels, the government (and which government is that), political parties around the world, everyone’s?

This story has potential and is well conceived. All it needs is for the author to log her 10,000 hours before writing it.

I received this book free from the author in a giveaway sponsored by BookLikes.

Hi Rod,

Thank you for time reading and reviewing the book (War Kids). As an fellow indie author you understand how difficult it is to get your book in front of people. 

It’s just a shame you didn’t like it, I am very new to the writing world. In fact I’ve hidden away from writing for many years due to my dyslexia. Writing War Kids gave me the confidence to share my work, it may not be the best but I love it. I continue to learn and understand this very alien trade to me. 

Hayley Lawson

Author of WAR KIDS

Dear Hayley,

Being an indie author is frustrating, but writing for me is so much more than getting published – even than getting read.

Ironically, most of what I’ve learned about the craft of writing has come from critiques and bad reviews – not books, not conventions, not online seminars. It can be painful, but when I get past that sometimes there’s something I can use. I always keep in mind it is still only one person’s opinion and, hey, they may not know what they’re talking about, right?

Like you, I simply love to write. I love finding le mot juste, just the right word or phrase, creating a new metaphor other people actually get, and (especially) that magical experience when the story takes off in a direction I had not intended it to and my characters do and say things I never imagined they would. They’re in control, I’m just a conduit.

I also write because it gives me an opportunity to research and learn, as I imagine you did with your book War Kids. I purposely put my characters in emotional and physical situations I know little about. In my novel Not Wonder More my heroine is schizophrenic and also a natural healer. That was a learning curve.

Apparently, we also share the third reason I write – to influence my readers with my view on issues, or as George Orwell put it, “There is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

The last reason I write means I’ve got to put it out there, and the reality is some people (sometimes most) don’t like it. So it’s a good thing I don’t write for money or fame, because I’ll likely have neither.

Nietzsche said, “Art is the proper task in life.” I agree as I hope you do. He also said, “The doer alone learneth.”

Writing is a craft. The more you do it, the better you get. I continue to write and learn and hope you will. Conceiving and creating a book is a great thing. You should be proud of what you achieved.

Rod

PS Thanks for the offer of the book, but it’s not necessary

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My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic (now in paperback) are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

 

RenfrewRavine011015_0017Okay, remember when I made that commitment to review unknown, self-published authors. Well, I’m adding a corollary to it.

If, after three chapters, the book is causing me severe cerebral stress manifesting in physical symptoms such as clenched teeth, muttering under my breath and the onset of clinical depression at having to resume reading it, I will abandon it and write a review accordingly.

I do the same with best sellers so why should a newbie get preferential treatment? Besides, we all know that what is indicative in the first three chapters will be repeated throughout the rest of the book.

If you’re not all right with this, well, too bad.

Okay, one more thing. If I slam Michael Ondaatje why shouldn’t I slam John Doe? Does it help anyone if I send an unfavorable review to the author, they look at it, then redirect it to trash? They could think “what does he know?”, which is a valid point, and not consider any of my suggestions to improve their writing. It is, after all, just one person’s opinion.

What about the prospective reader ready to slap down $2.99 (or more) on this e-book on the strength of twenty glowing reviews? Do I have an obligation to forewarn them? Reviews are for readers.

So my review gets buried and nobody benefits – including me.

I don’t think so.

New policy. I review your book, you get my honest opinion – posted, everywhere.

30

 

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic (now in paperback) are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

foggyLance_0025 copy copyI was about to review The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje when I discovered this work already has 352 reviews on Amazon. Does Michael need another review? Will my comments make a difference to this internationally known, winner of every major literary award, Canadian literary icon?

I know an author that would like to see his novel(s) reviewed – me. Or someone like me. Someone at the beginning of his or her writing career when a review and a starred rating are actually worth something, perhaps in sales and certainly in self-esteem.

So why not read works written by author’s like myself and write a review of their book instead of a book by the Michael Ondaatje’s of this world? There’s certainly lots to choose from and many of these books are free on sites like BookLikes, StoryCartel, even Smashwords and Amazon.

Just a second, that could mean reading a lot of bad writing. Am I up to that kind of sacrifice to help promote new literary voices?

No.

I believe an author should read the same type of books he wants to writes. Why read westerns when you write commercial/literary fiction? Why read amateurs when you want to be a pro?

Nietzsche said, “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” If I want to create great art, perhaps I should be a little more gracious. Probably good for my karma as well.

Okay, how about half of what I read will be from new, undiscovered writers and the other half from someone I aspire to write like?

I can’t see any point in writing a dishonest review. There’s likely at least a few on most new writers book pages as it is – family and friends guilted into posting something flattering and hitting five stars. I’m not sure how that helps them and I won’t be doing that.

I’ll write constructive reviews. I think I know enough about this craft to point out what the author is doing right and perhaps suggest how they might improve other areas, though this by no means suggests I don’t make the same mistakes myself – again and again.

I actually get more from well-considered negative reviews of my work (and I’ve had enough) than glowing ones that lack specifics. However, if the review I write is less than three stars I’ll email it to the author to see if they want me to post it. If they don’t, I won’t. They can use it for their edification or send it to their trash file unread.

I hope to make some surprising discoveries and maybe offer some assistance along the way.

P.S. Anyway, I went ahead and reviewed The Cat’s Table. I gave it one star just so you know what you’re in for.

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My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic (now in paperback) are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

Bridget - GreenEyes

Send me an email at rod_raglin@yahoo.com and I’ll send you Smashwords coupon codes for free downloads of my novels; FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend, and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic.

Offer ends February 28, 2015

When I completed The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic, I spent about a year sending out query letters to several dozen agents and even a few publishers. It produced nothing but frustration.

Finally, last July I decided to self-publish an e-book and began investigating Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

It was a learning curve, and still is, but I persevered. After a few false starts I have a Kindle e-book. I took it a step further and use Amazon’s CreateSpace and published the novel in paperback.

Have these ventures produced any results in regard to sales? No, but at least people have the opportunity to purchase it. I mean I couldn’t just abandon it, could I? Well, could I?

I also have control – to change the price, revise the manuscript, or enhance the cover.

What difference does it make to control the price of your book when no one’s buying it, you ask? Good point. Let me think on it.

Okay, if nothing else you’ll at least agree I’m moving forward. I’m learning skills and acquiring knowledge that might come in handy, maybe, sometime, perhaps.

You’re not going to give me a break, are you?

Well, if you think that was delusional, I’ve now gone ahead and e-published both FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic with Smashwords.

Why? Because Smashwords makes my work available in more formats. Has that helped sales? Not yet, but – okay, no.

But there’s another reason. I watched An Introduction to E-Book Publishing by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khM4czIJUVM and besides some real good advice, I liked the guy. I mean, he actually tells you it is very unlikely your book will sell, and furthermore don’t borrow money, and don’t go in debt to publish your book.

This is so counterintuitive to what everyone else on the internet promises you I was immediately endeared to the guy. Mark’s not selling some magic formula that if properly brewed will result in success. Mark says you likely won’t have success but hey, you don’t have to spend any money to find that out.

What Mark does say is everyone should have the right and the ability to publish an e-book and he gives you that opportunity. Well, so does Amazon, but I’ve never heard them put it quite that way.

So now you can obtain The BIG PICTURE and FOREST from both Amazon and Smashwords. And if you send me an e-mail before February 28, 2015 I’ll send you the Smashwords coupon codes so you can enter them and download these novels free.

Lets forget about sales, okay, and try for readers.

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My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic (now in paperback) are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

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