Category Archives: Reading

Meet Me in Milwaukee, by Katy Lee

Hello Readers!  On April 26, 2014 I am heading to Milwaukee for a fun day out with romanceVey logo readers.  The event is put on by the fabulous and beautiful Barbara Vey, a blogger for Publishers Weekly.  Each year she holds an event called Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Luncheon, and boy, do readers get appreciated!  If you love romance of any and all sub-genres, you don’t want to miss this day made just for you.  There will be gifts and favors and books and conversations and books and…well you get the idea.  But if you want the details, click on Barbara’s site here.

There will be 40+ awesome and talented authors, each with their own table, and readers get to choose the author they want to hang with for lunch.  Seats are limited on a first come first serve basis, which is why I am getting this message out to you now.  I don’t want you to miss your opportunity to sit with your favorite author…or perhaps, you want to meet new-to-you authors.  Go for it!  Head to Barbara’s website to check the author list and scroll down to sign up.

Me and Barbara at RWA
Me and Barbara at RWA

And if you’re still not sure, let me tell you about the Keynote Speaker.  Perhaps you’ve heard of her?  She’s goes by the name of Debbie Macomber.

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 170 million copies of her books in print worldwide. Macomber brings to life the compelling relationships that embrace family, community and enduring friendships, filling her readers with a sense of love and hope.

Macomber is the author of more than 100 novels, most recently the instant #1 New York Times bestseller Starting Now, and The Inn at Rose Harbor; two bestselling cookbooks; numerous inspirational and nonfiction works; two acclaimed children’s books and the Mrs. Miracle Christmas novels.  She is also the author of beloved and bestselling series of novels set in Cedar Cove, Washington on which Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, Hallmark Channel’s first dramatic scripted television series, is based. She is the recipient of a RITA® award; an RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award, and is a multiple winner of both the Holt Medallion and the B. Dalton Award. In 2010, the Romance Writers of America presented Macomber with their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

And she taught me how to knit!  Seriously.  I owe all this fine handy work to her.

Katy Lee Books' Sock Monkeys
Katy Lee Books’ Sock Monkeys

She is a wealth of knowledge.  You will be so glad you came to hear her, and I will be so glad to meet you, either at my table or during the meet and greet!  Start planning today!  And stay tuned to see what my table favors will look like.  Oh, the possibilities!  And if you have any questions, feel free to ask. 

Pete the Katniss or One Book, One School

Hi there!   J Monkeys coming to you from a Monday morning.  Woot!   For any who don’t know,  I’m a parent who studied literature in college and writes children’s books.  I’m excited to put those experiences together as a member of the One Book One School selection committee for my children’s school.

One Book One School is a program where a school selects one book and assigns it to every student with projects and activities that cover a variety of disciplines.   Now depending on the age range of students at the school, selecting a title can be tough.  Is there a book that is appropriate to both a kindergartener and a sixth grader?   Even in my children’s primary school (kindergarten to 2nd grade) it’s wicked hard. 

Kindergartners are only just learning to read.  They are memorizing sight words and beginning to understand phonetic pronunciation.  By the end of second grade, most students can read pretty well.  Finding a book that is challenging, interesting and appropriate for these disparate needs is tough.  

pete the catTrust me.  I’ve read a dozen books over the past week looking for something to recommend.  I’m calling it my quest for Pete the Katniss. 

Pete the Cat is a series of picture books that follow the antics of a cat named Pete.  His stories are simple, repetitive and often set to music.  

Katniss (in case you live under a rock) is katnissthe oft-violent heroine of The Hunger Games, a young adult distopian political thriller type romance.

For my school’s One Book One School program, I need to find a title that is as interesting as The Hunger Games, but has material that is age appropriate for five year old kids.   And, of course, it’s top secret.  I can’t disclose the titles I’ve been reading.

“But J, there are thousands of books to choose from,  how hard can it be to pick one?” you ask.   Surprisingly difficult.  After the committee’s first meeting, I stopped at the library to get the five books we had selected.  I read them, all children’s books that I had read decades ago, assuming that they would be good choices.  WRONG!

I read those five, and seven more, looking for books to recommend.  It turns out that books published before 1955, as three of them were, are often sexist, racist, xenophobic, use outdated language that can be considered inappropriate now, and/or often have a heavy handed sentence structure that would be completely over the heads of my kindergartners. 

One was too anti-school.  A couple of others were too short – the committee is looking for a chapter book in the neighborhood of 200 pages long.  Obviously, it’s an assignment for the parents as well as the students. 

Another betrayed the truth about a certain holiday gift-giver in such a way that I’m concerned the parents would set the building on fire.   There was a trio of books that are intended for a slightly older audience (really all of these are for an audience older than our students) and might just be a bit over the heads of these 5-8 years olds. 

I did find two that I wholeheartedly recommend, although one of them is a pretty popular series and might be disqualified for that reason.  The committee is looking for something that would be new to most everybody. 

I’m left with one; one book to recommend out of a dozen Middle Grade books read. 

What would you recommend?  I’m looking for something that would appeal to both boys and girls, is a chapter book, and is not likely to offend the parents with subject matter that they would deem inappropriate for a young child.  Bring ‘em on.  I’ve got a follow up meeting this week.   I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Thinking Random Thoughts

Happy Friday! Casey here.

So here it is, the day before I’m scheduled to blog and I’m twiddling my thumbs. Normally, I’d be panicked. I like to get blogs done on Sunday night. But with Downton Abbey and Sherlock premiering in the US – what sane fan can think of blogging? Not me.

Blame the Monday holiday. Or maybe the fact that on Tuesday, hubby came home sick and promptly infected me. Thanks dear.

Or it could be that, while I’m in the final throes of Lachlan’s Curse (should be subtitled – Why, oh, Why Isn’t This Book Done Yet?) I can’t summon any ideas other than those related to the book. I did take comfort in reading Chuck Wendig’s blog post – It Takes the Time it Takes. Thank you, sir. I needed that!

Instead, I will leave you with my thoughts in pictures.

I am so glad you’re back. Don’t make me wait another two years.

I miss you, O’Brien.

Got an ARC from Jess, can’t wait to dig in.

Can’t wait to meet you.

But you’re still my favorite Doctor.

And finally, when the heck is spring coming?!!

IMG_2845

Review of Katy Lee’s WARNING SIGNS

After the lovely Indian Summer day we had yesterday, this morning’s chill here in the Berkshires and the skeletal trees are a reminder that summer is long gone and winter is just around the corner. Time to stock up, settle in, and spend some time with a few good books.

My fellow Scribes pals, Susannah Hardy and J. Monkeys have been talking a lot about what they’ve been reading lately. Since I always appreciate book recommendations, I thought I would share one of my own. I recently finished WARNING SIGNS by our very own Katy Lee. Yes, I do try to read books written by my friends, but I only write reviews for books I truly enjoy.

Review of WARNING SIGNS by Katy Lee

Warning Signs CoverLee’s main character, Miriam, is first and foremost a formidable heroine. A deaf Principal in a hearing school, Miriam has her work cut out for her. But when it seems that the town has it in for her, she doubts the wisdom of returning to the little town of Stepping Stones where she visited her grandmother as a child. The town is hiding a secret and Miriam may be the key to unlocking it. Enter Owen, a handsome DEA agent sent to infiltrate a drug smuggling operation on the island, and Miriam is forced not only to prove her innocence, but to protect her heart as well. This fast paced romantic suspense had heartwarming moments, action-packed adventure, and a mystery that kept me guessing right through to the end. Great job, Ms. Lee!

If you’re looking for a suspenseful, sweet romance, with a strong heroine and a wounded but worthy hero, this book is for you! 

What about you? Do you have a good book recommendation? I’m currently reading Kristan Higgins’ recent release, THE PERFECT MATCH. If it’s like her other books, I’m sure I’ll be laughing, crying, and wishing it wouldn’t end.

Damn That Kristan Higgins! by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho Scribblers.  J Monkeys here.  It’s a poorly kept secret that we writers like to read.  I mean honestly, one of my top three things to do in this entire world is to read a good book.  Whenever I’m stressed or overwhelmed, all I really want to do is to bury myself in a good story and escape.  My overwhelmed-ness is pretty high right now.  My To Do list is WAY longer than will possibly be able to be done in the foreseeable future.  I finally had a few hours today to make some progress.  How did I spend my time?  You guessed it – reading.

I got a copy of a new-ish Kristan Higgins book this summer and it’s been languishing on my To-Be-Read shelf for a few months.  While I like Kristan very much personally, I don’t generally love contemporary romance and I hadn’t gotten to it yet.  Then this happened.

giggly-boo reading higginsMy son, Giggly-Boo, got a hold of the book.  He’s two months into kindergarten.  His reading ability is limited to ten words at this point.  But he seemed to be enjoying The Best Man. The book was handy (after I brought it in from the car) and I stuck it on my nightstand.  I started it last night – got 15 pages in and fell asleep.  That happens most nights, no matter what I’m reading ~ it’s certainly no reflection on Ms. Higgins!  I woke up early this am and since it was cold in my house, I didn’t want to get out of bed.  So I used that excuse to read.

Here it is, 1:30 in the afternoon, I’m unshowered, the kids will be home in a few minutes, I have accomplished absolutely NOTHING today.  Except finish this wonderful book!  So again, I say, Damn You Kristan Higgins!  Now I can’t wait to read the other Blue Heron novels, at least one of which is currently available. 

the best manThis was a WONDERFUL romance.  If you like to watch realistic, relate-able characters fall in love, fighting it all the way, then The Best Man is totally for you.  It was laugh-out-loud funny at times while other bits put tears in my eyes.  I’m seriously hoping that my buddy Kristan turns her talents to Jeremy.  I’m pretty sure his is a man/man romance that I’d love to read.  

So, now I’m sucked in to a contemporary romance series set in the vineyards of upstate NY.  There are a ton of characters who will need their own story some day.  That’s two contemporary romance authors on my must read list.  Madame Higgins and that wonderful Sugar/Ginger Jamison.  Thanks ladies.

While I didn’t get anything crossed off my to do list today, I did get a much-needed break.  Now, back to the grindstone.

Whatcha Reading?

Hey, Scribesters! Suze here, coming to you from deep in the cave (the writer’s cave and its next-door neighbor, the editor’s cave).

Whatcha reading these days? Me, I’ve got a couple of books going.

Doctor_Sleep[1]Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. Ever wonder what happened to Danny Torrance, the little Red-rum kid from The Shining? Well, he’s ba-a-a-ack! (I know, I’m mixing movies here) And honestly things are not so great for him. This is classic Stephen King–beautiful writing about horrifying stuff. I don’t want to put this down. I wish I had a couple days of uninterrupted reading time, but, like a fine wine, I need to sip, not guzzle this book. So far, I adore it!

9780062192356_p0_v1_s260x420[1]I’m also reading a YA book, Slither, Book 11 in The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. This is scary stuff! Think Grimm’s fairy tales with every myth and monster you can think of (and some new ones too) putting our hero, Tom Ward, and the rest of the world into ever-increasing danger. While the prose reads like a middle grade book, in my opinion these stories are not for anyone younger than 6th grade. And the illustrations are gorgeous–done in the style of old woodcut drawings. There’s one more book in the series coming out next year, and while I can’t wait to see if Tom defeats The Fiend once and for all and if Alice can save herself, I’ll be sad to see this series end.

How about you? Are you on a horror kick like I am? What are you reading these days?  

Audiobooks

Good day, PJ Sharon here, coming to you from the snow-carpeted Berkshires. The first snow fall is always so pretty.  First snow picI have a couple of questions for all of you. Do you listen to audiobooks? How do you listen to them? And where do you find them? Best seller’s lists? Specific authors/narrators you love to read/hear? Let’s chat.

I’ll confess that I’ve only listened to a few audiobooks–and always in the car with a tangible CD (or 29 CD’s as is the case for OUTLANDER  which I’ve listened to five times). I’m afraid I haven’t made the leap to the next technological step in the evolution of how we read books and hear stories–digital audiobooks. As in–downloaded them onto my i-pod touch or my android phone, or listened to them directly from my computer. As hard as I try, I’m still resistant to learning/using new technology.

I often feel as if I’m being dragged forcibly into the future. I’m trying not to scream too loudly about it since I know that many people are having great success with audiobook sales. According to the world of publishing, audiobooks are in. Bob Mayer admits to having spent over $35,000 having all of his books turned into audiobooks, and I know Bella Andre thinks they are as untapped a market as the foreign marketplace. I’m pretty sure their audiobooks are selling…I’d love to ask them.

Personally, I’m not seeing it. Maybe because I’m not on any best sellers lists or because I’m not out “finding my audience” as diligently as is needed, but I don’t see my readers buying audiobooks. Whenever I mention that my book is available on audio, I’m asked where they can buy the CD so they can listen to it in their car. Um…sorry…no CD. These are friends and family I’m talking to, however–the folks like me who are always one step behind the latest tech trend. No problem, you say. You write books for teens, and teens in general are glued to the latest and greatest electronic devices. Surley, they must be listening to audiobooks. But once again, they don’t have the buying power of adults. And let’s face it, none of them is likely to spend $17.95 on a digital download of a book unless it’s someone they really want to read/hear.

When I decided to dabble in the realm of audiobooks, I figured I would start with a book that had universal appeal. Many adult readers loved HEAVEN IS FOR  HEROES for it’s sweet military romance, family drama and Thanksgiving theme. It seemed like the right story for an audiobook audience.HeavenisforHeroes_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

You can hear a sample of Erin Mallon’s awesome narration of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES here. Just click on the little “listen” arrow beneath the cover picture on the sales page.

With companies like ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), it’s much easier for authors to have professionally produced and fabulously narrated audiobooks. ACX offers two plans. You can either pay up front, which will likely cost you between $1,500-2,000, depending on the length of your book (mine was 78,000 words and would have cost me $1,000). Or you can do a 50/50 royalty share, where you pay an upfront cost (usually half) and then split the royalties until the complete cost of production is paid and I’ve sold a certain number of copies, at which time, my royalty rate increases.. Basically, I paid $500 for an awesome narrator who I found on the ACX site, and I split the royalties. It comes out to a nice little chunk of the $17.95 per copy price through Amazon, Audible, or i-tunes. If you want to read more about ACX and how it all works, the WG2E has several excellent posts here.

On the consumer’s side, If you’re an avid audiobook fan and decide to become an Audible Member, which is around $14.95/month, you’d get the $17.95 price point OR you can use the 1 Credit you get each month and download the book for FREE–or even gift it to someone else. You can also purchase the file from Amazon and get it FREE with a 30-day Audible Trial Membership.

Now, the other difficulty I find with audiobooks is getting people to review them. I don’t know if people who have bought the book have downloaded it and simply haven’t listened to it yet, or if they aren’t inclined to leave reviews on audiobooks. Either way, I can’t even give a copy away to get an honest review. ACX provides five free download codes to give out to reviewers or as giveaways, but finding reviewers for audiobooks seems to be a bit of a challenge. It’s a market that is getting increasingly flooded and some reviewers are backlogged for months. If anyone is willing to listen and review the book, I’d be happy to gift you a copy along with instructions on how to download from Audible, Amazon, or i-tunes. All I ask in return is that you give it an honest review.

If anyone has any suggestions on where’s a good place to market audiobooks or how I can get some reviews, I’m wide open! I’ve even tried to join a Goodreads group of romance audiobook reviewers, but those groups are pretty persnickety about authors promoting themselves. If you aren’t part of the discussion every day, it’s not really cool to just jump in and ask for reviews. And since I hang around mostly with the characters in my head and not the characters on Goodreads, I haven’t found an “in”.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on audiobooks. Questions are cool too–if you’re wondering about the process or have questions about working with ACX. I’d be happy to answer them. Have a lovely day!