Judy’s Bumpy Road to Publication….

Hi, all!  Sue has been a blogging/writing friend of mine for a while now.  I admire her work, so when she asked me to write a guest blog about my publishing journey, I squirmed, because I’m sure NO ONE has taken more detours and taken as long as I have along the way.  But then again, maybe some of you have war stories, too.  So here it is—my long and twisting road to publishing.

 

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My Bumpy Road to Publishing

I started writing long enough ago that a writer could put a finished manuscript in a BIG envelope, add an SASE and a cover letter, and send it off to an editor.  That was in the days of smaller publishing houses, before they were gobbled up by bigger companies.  You didn’t have to have an agent to submit.  And if an editor saw any promise in you, he/she would make a comment on your rejection slip.  More magazines/editors bought short stories, too, so an author could gain some name recognition writing those.  Things have changed since then.

In some ways, it’s easier to get published these days.  A writer can self-publish if he’s willing to put in the time and effort to write, edit, buy covers, and market.  The trick is getting readers to find you in the vast sea of other writers.  You can’t submit to a big publisher without an agent, and agents are hard to get, but authors can reach them through pitch wars on twitter and get feedback faster than before.  They can find writing advice at the click of a key. If they don’t want to bother with agents, some authors choose small publishers.  In truth, though, writing has never been easy.  No art is. 

I started by writing short stories.  At first, I sold to small magazines and often was paid in copies.  Each sale—even if it was to a magazine no one had ever heard of—boosted my morale.  They kept my dream afloat.  Eventually, I sold to magazines who offered me 1 cent a word, and then I started selling to bigger markets.  I was in two WomanSleuth anthologies and a few Barnes & Noble anthologies, and then made it into Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines—no easy feat.

I decided to try to write longer fiction.  I sold my first novella GOURMET KILLINGS (20,000 words) to a small publisher that bought a second one, and then went out of business.  I wrote three cozy novels that editors loved, but wouldn’t buy, explaining that they loved my writing and the stories, but that no one was buying cozies—they were considered “dead.”   Markets do that.  When a “trend” takes off, every publisher scrambles to find similar books, and then the market gets glutted and dies for a while.  One editor asked if I’d send her a serial killer mystery, so I wrote one—it took me a year—and sent it, and by then, the market was dead.  She apologized, but the word had come down—no more serial killers.  Lesson:  Beware of writing to trends. 

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I sort of liked writing darker, though, so wrote a YA dark fantasy and sent it to Zebra (I think.  It was a long time ago).  They’d started publishing YA horror back then, and the editor was excited about my book and asked to hold it for a year, because if the horror line went over well, they were going to start dark fantasy next.  I waited and waited.  A year and a half later, I asked about my manuscript, and she’d lost it.  The horror line fizzled, and she’d moved on to something else.  Lesson:  Don’t take rejections, etc. personally.  You can write a great book, but there are so many things outside your control, part of getting published is just luck.

I wrote one more dark fantasy (adult this time) just for the fun of it.  It was so off-beat, editors passed it around in their offices for others to read, but wrote me back that they’d have NO idea how to market it.  And that’s the next big Lesson:  Marketing matters.  If a publisher doesn’t know where to put your book on the shelves, it’s a problem.

 

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One editor who really liked it, though, asked if I’d be willing to send her an urban fantasy.  I had no idea what urban fantasy was.  I told her I’d try it if she defined it for me.  She sent a list of what she wanted, and I sent her a novel.  That first try was a miss, so she sent me lots of notes, and I tried again.  That was close, so I sent a third—and she loved it.  She took it to the table to pitch and told me to keep my fingers crossed, BUT it got shot down.  Another editor had recently bought a novel that used Tarot cards for the supernatural element, and the sales team didn’t think they could pitch two Tarot novels at the same time.  Just goes to show you.  Lesson Reinforced:  Success or rejection often doesn’t have a thing to do with your writing. 

 

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A week after that, my editor left Tor to pursue something else.  And that’s when real life interfered with my writing.  So many things happened at home, writing was the last thing on my mind.  I threw manuscripts and lists of places I wanted to send to in a drawer for a few years.  Lesson:  Life can interfere.  And that’s all right.

When the dust finally settled, I sat at my computer again.  And guess what?  Writing is sort of like riding a bicycle.  You remember the basics.  I wrote a “soft” paranormal because that’s what had been bouncing around in my head for a while, and sent it to agents because I’d lost track of what was going on in publishing.  And an agent wanted it.  Not just any agent, but a really good one.  Now, I’d had two agents before, and that was a Lesson, too:  A bad agent is worse than no agent.  Just because you have an agent doesn’t mean you’ll get a contract.  Agents only know so many editors, and when they send your manuscript to the ones they know, and none of them want it, your manuscript is done.

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Book 4

Even my top agent couldn’t sell my paranormal.  The market was shrinking.  Urban fantasy and paranormal had hit big, and it was on the downswing.  I wanted to try them online, and she wasn’t happy about it, but let me.  Dystel and Goderich formatted them and put them up.  I did everything else.  But my agent really wanted me to find a traditional publisher, so asked if I could write romance.  I’d never tried.  I pretty much thought I’d suck at it.  But she asked me to give it a try, so I did.  And Kensington bought it for their e-books line.  I had a three-book contract for my Mill Pond romances under a pseudonym: Judi Lynn.  Then I signed for three more.  My editor liked my books and thought I’d be good at mysteries😊  He asked if I’d like to write three more romances for him or try my hand at mysteries.  I’d started in mysteries, so that’s what I’m working on now.  I’d taken an up-and-down path full circle.

 

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Book 5

If you’ve counted all of the books that I’ve written that didn’t sell, all the years I sold just enough to help me hang in there, it’s been a LONG journey.  Frustrating over and over again, but I’m hooked on writing.  And I kept coming close over and over again—always a tease to keep hitting the keys.  I think I’m good at it.  I’ve listened to lots and lots of people tell new writers, “Write a good book, and eventually, you’ll sell.”  I don’t completely agree.  I’ve written books that were good enough to find agents and editors, that didn’t go anywhere.  BUT I was never smart about marketing.  I only thought I was.  I concentrated on the writing, the words, making them better.  That’s not always enough.

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If you want to write just to write. DO IT.  If you want to put your book on Amazon and look at it and smile, DO THAT, TOO.  And enjoy it.  If you want to sell and have a career, BE SMART.  You can do it, but the stars only shine on a few people to make them overnight sensations.  The rest of us have to work at it.

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Thanks for visiting, Judy/Judi! If you’d like to learn more about her books, here is her contact information. I encourage you all to support a fellow writer. She’s amazing and her books offer a great read!

Twitter:  @judypost
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giving a shout out and a little love…

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My dear friend and fellow blogger AshiAkira is publishing a book of his wonderful haiku poems. I met him seven years ago when I was a baby blogger. All those years and he’s never stopped writing and sharing his amazing gift. And now I’m happy to give a shout-out and highlight his upcoming launch. Please look for purchasing details at the end of this post.

And now, let me introduce AshiAkira, using his own words. Because, well, he says it best!

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I became interested in writing haiku poems originally in English after I turned seventy.

Born in Tokyo in 1938, I went to the United States for study after graduating from a Tokyo metropolitan senior high school in 1957.

After returning to Japan from the United States in 1963, I worked for a news agency as an English reporter, thus continuing the use of the English language I had learned in the previous years in America. After reaching the mandatory retirement age of sixty with the news agency in 1998, I continued to work for its subsidiaries taking charge of correspondence and translation, thus further continuing to make use of my English skills.

When I reached the age of seventy, I fully retired from all the chores of work to make a living and decided to live on a pension alone. My income then drastically went down, but in return, I gained enough leisure to do whatever I wanted, and I chose to spend the remaining years of my life in writing novels, short stories, poems, or anything I found myself interested in.

I then noticed on the internet that haiku writing was gaining considerable popularity in many countries outside Japan. I didn’t have much knowledge of haiku writing above the common sense level of a person born and raised in Japan, where saying things in the haiku rhythm penetrates through people’s lives. But I felt something amiss about many of the haikus written by non-Japanese writers, and I thought it would be interesting to write haikus directly in English.

When I told a friend of mine that I’d try to write haikus in English, he introduced me to a member of the haiku-writing club of a famous university in Tokyo. The haiku writer apparently discussed my plan with other members of the club, and he told me it was utterly impossible to write haikus in English or in any other language than Japanese. He said that I should first train myself to write in Japanese until I became familiar with traditional haiku writing. He said he resented so many non-Japanese poems that are claimed to be haikus simply because they are short and broken into three lines. He said many Japanese haiku writers feel the word haiku should not be used for the non-Japanese three-line poems.

I know it’s said that “poetry is what gets lost in translation,” but I also believe that the prosody is not all there is to poetry. Having been born into and grown up in the haiku-writing culture, I feel there is something in the core of haiku that can be retained in whatever language it is written.

I decided to call what I would write haiku poems, meaning haiku-style poems, instead of haiku to avoid hurting the feeling of the haiku experts as much as possible. I also decided to throw away all rules and tradition about the haiku writing except two basic ones, namely the five-seven-five syllables—rhythm—and its connection with nature, without which a haiku cannot be a haiku.

The Japanese language, when it’s spoken in five and seven syllables, gives to the Japanese ear a pleasant rhythm. I believe this stems from the fact that Japanese is always pronounced in combination of a consonant and a vowel or in a vowel independent of consonant clusters. It is also because Japanese is pronounced with the tone accent rather than the stress accent, like that of English.

For hundreds of years, saying things in the five-seven-five syllables was popular among the Japanese people, and it was called haikai. Several people might get together for a party where they would compose the haikai, mainly jokes to throw at each other or allusive sarcasm against corrupt or oppressive officials of the feudal rule that lasted until nineteenth century.

It was Matsuo Basho who made the revolutionary achievement of writing poems of artistic value in the haikai form in the seventeenth century. There was no such a word as haiku in Basho’s days. It was not until about two hundred years after his death that the writers of artistic haikai began to call their works haiku to distinguish them as an art from jokes or allusively ironic pieces which then began to be called senryu or kyoka, respectively.

The counting of syllables in an English word varies from speaker to speaker. The word poem pronounced by some English speakers, for instance, sounds like a one-syllable word or by others as a two syllable word. The word poet, however, is pronounced almost always as a two-syllable word. Thus, the haiku poems I write in English often follow the five-seven-five syllable rule loosely.

Connection with nature is another basic core tradition in the haiku writing. The reason for this would no doubt call for heated discussion by experts. But as a full-blooded Japanese who received more education outside Japan than at home, I must ask for others’ permission to say that the haiku artists feel that nature is the ultimate ruler of all living things deserving our due respect. We all came into this world by the natural power in disregard of our own will. And in most of the cases, we leave this world when the time for each individual to do so comes. Before nature we are powerless. We don’t know what nature is as we don’t know what life is. But we can have a glimpse of what happens in nature as its work. For example, the blooming of flowers and birds flying and chirping are works of nature. By catching a glimpse of nature’s work, only a momentary spark, and jotting it down in words as a reflection of our mind, we may get closer to knowing it. The five-seven-five-syllable poem, or close to it in any language, is a handy form of poetry to capture the works of nature when noticed. Doing so could be a way to bring the unseen power of nature into the human consciousness.

I have written around two thousand haiku poems in nearly a decade, and I have randomly selected and edited 496 of them for this publication. I plan to publish all the rest of them, in addition to other forms of poems I have also written, in the future.

Finally, since so much must be squeezed into the seventeen syllables, I take full advantage of poetic license to disregard grammar or any rule of the language. Since I intend my haiku poems to appeal directly to the imagination of the readers through words only, the use of pictures or illustrations is avoided. And like any other form of poetry, each haiku poem, although it’s so short, is meant to be independent. I would be honored if the readers read them as such.

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AshiAkira’s book will go into full global distribution networks, including Amazon.com and BN.com in the next 6-8 weeks. For the time being the book can be purchased directly from Lulu, and the link to the page for the purchase is:  http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/haiku-poems/20836642

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

can a nice person make a great villain?

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Can this woman make a note-worthy villain?

I’m a lover of all things YA, from fantasy to contemporary romance to dystopian–pretty much everything but horror. I like my sleep waaaay to much to tap into all that nasty.

I digress.

Most antagonists follow a pretty similar formula. For the sake of this post, let’s assume they are human, and not some force of nature or psychological element opposing the protagonist.

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If its a fantasy, the sky is the limit for what type of villain rules those worlds. A dystopia–piece of cake. It’s society and/or the powers that be against the hero. And romance? How about that obnoxious young girl at school who’s trying to keep the love interests apart?

Villains come in every variation, from epically bad, with a touch of sadness, to the quintessential grim reaper. But can they simply be a nice person?

I’ve been mulling over this since this weekend. Family gatherings tend to mess with my head, and the one I attended on Sunday left me contemplating this conundrum. Because, well, let’s face it. It sucks when one of the nicest people hates your guts…

 

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She smiled her greeting and offered a warm hug. I felt the embrace to be genuine, though I knew it wouldn’t last. Soon, I would be invisible to her, and not worth indulging in conversation, or worse, the object of her scornful reproach when I overstepped and tried for humor and a gentle good-nature ribbing. Then the smile would tighten and the light would leave her charming blue eyes. A hot summer breeze couldn’t melt that ice once ignited.

It hadn’t always been this way. I recognize the nice person she endeavored to be. It’s just, the nice only went so far and it never included me.

I sipped some water, watching her interact and smile and ask all kinds of questions to the other party-goers. She reserved that interest in only those who mattered. I wasn’t on her a-list. And as she hung on every word, so intent, so fully absorbed in the one speaking, the writer in me sorted through the questions batting around in my head.

What was beneath that collected exterior? Why was she trying so hard to be sweet and effervescent with everyone she met? If it wasn’t real, what was she hiding? And could it be so dark, so twisted that she could be classified as a villain in a novel?

The words came to me…

Brittle. Something clashed with her warm smile. I saw it in the way she held onto the conversations too tightly. She had to be in control.

Ulterior motives. Not to leave others feeling loved or comforted, the niceness was for her sake. She needed to believe the best about herself and would go to any length to protect that image.

Absolute rigidity.  Any strength taken too far can become a weakness.

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And so, I stood in my little corner of the room and allowed the word “villain” to swirl through my thoughts. It only took a few tweaks to turn her into a potential novel’s antagonist. For though I believed she was truly a nice person, darkness lurked behind her smile. She was wound too tightly, grasping for control, manipulating others to believe what she wanted them to believe. Intent on control whatever the costs…  

I swallowed. Perhaps it was a good day to be invisible.

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What do you think? Care to share?

Happy writing!

Sue 

 

 

 

I’m back…

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So, I haven’t been around for a while. Sorry. But it seemed a good idea to launch an author page and claim ownership of this crazy thing called a social platform.

Some of you know, I moved over to Weebly. Which worked out pretty well for the first year or so. And then Weebly was hacked and off went my private contact information into that vast expanse of internet, all for sale to any blackheart with a few bucks in their wallet.

I know this because a) Weebly sent me an email notifying me of the hack and would I please change my password? and b) I received a call from a complete stranger about a month ago who wanted to know if I’d like to go into business with him. The call went something like this:

“Hi, Sue. This is Chris. I’m reaching out to see if you’re interested in looking into a business venture.”

Me, sucking in a breath so I don’t explode. I need to keep this creep on the phone long enough to glean some info. “Wow. A cold call,” I say through gritted teeth. “You’re pretty brave. But, um, how do you know me?”

“I don’t, actually…” The guy chuckles. “You must’ve had a website, right? I kind of used a service that scrapes the internet.”

I won’t bore you with the details. The conversation lingered long enough for me to learn he not only had my name, my cell number and where I lived, but he mentioned he saw me on Facebook.

We rang off, but not before I got his full name, which I then used to scope him out on Facebook. Unbelievable. There he was, all smiles, with pics of his wife and kids hanging out like it was no big deal.

No big deal to buy hacked information, then have the nerve to call those people and ask if they’re interested in going into business? Really. People can be that stupid?

The short of it is this: I let my website idle. Tumbleweeds roll across the screen as the date of my last post grows more and more distant. And what of this website? What did it do for me over the past year except expose me to the world, and not in a good way? I got views, often hundreds in one day, but not one comment, except… and this is important… from friends I’d made on WordPress. 

WordPress was my original home and here I’ll stay. I’ve missed you guys. I can’t wait to read and follow and like and comment… ah well.

It’s nice to be back.

hugs,

Sue

On book blogging expectations vs. reality

A great perspective on the joys and heartaches of blogging!

When I started blogging, I expected so many things to happen. Some did. Some others didn’t. I thought of the way blogging was supposed to be, when I was just a young blogger having created this little corner of the internet a couple days ago and trying to figure out just how I was supposed to do this thing. And now here I am, two years later, wondering just what the f*** happened to these expectations. Blogging is, in our minds, a lot of different things. It takes loads of different shapes, but one thing is for sure: now that I’ve seen and experimented blogging from the inside, I can say with certainty, oh, boy, was I wrong about blogging.

What changed? Maybe we should make a list.

I thought book blogging would be easy.

Ha.Ha.Ha. Book blogging is everything but easy. There are so many different…

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Sue’s new home…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on WordPress, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been slacking! I’m still enjoying your wonderful posts. I’m still active, and I plan to keep on reading!

WordPress was my first home. Some of my dearest friends were made here, and I will always be grateful for their support, loyalty and kindness as I pressed through the past few difficult years.

I have, however, created a new home, a new author’s site, where I share guest posts and writerly-stuff.  You can find me at www.suebahr.com Although you don’t “follow” this blog the way you do on WordPress, you can sign up to receive my posts via email. It’s a lovely way to stay in touch!

And so, I’d like to invite you to grab a cup of tea and head on over. We’ll catch up on all the good stuff there!

Cheers to all of you!

Sue

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It’s been a busy summer, but I’m not complaining. The Hermit Thrush haven’t scooted south yet, the sun still warms my skin. Maybe I wish I had a little more time, but who doesn’t?

I’ve been hard at work on final edits on my YA fantasy “Fairless.”  I participated on a Twitter pitch fest a few weeks ago and now I have an editor over at Entangled Publishing waiting to read it. Yay, me!

If you have a finished story, whether it’s YA, MG or Adult in any genre ready to pitch, you really need to head over to brenda-drake.com. She’s hosting a Pitch Wars. Here’s the deets:

“What is Pitch Wars? Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better. Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to the four mentors that best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for the next two months. Then we hold an agent round with over a dozen agents making requests.”

Pretty cool, right? And once the Pitch Wars are done, they have an agent round to be held November 3-4 where you can pitch that polished, dandy manuscript to an agent/editor and maybe, hopefully, find publication! Yay, us!

In the meantime, I’m also working on shifting blogs from wordpress to my author site at  www.suebahr.com.  Time to make more time.  It looks like this site, but to “follow” my blog and receive my posts, you need to enter your email and subscribe.

I hope you are all enjoying these wonderful days of Summer. I hope you are smiling, reading, swimming, writing and loving on your families.

I wish you all the best!

Sue

16 Query Tips From Literary Agents

All good advice…

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When your manuscript is polished, your query letter honed to perfection and you’re ready to contact agents about representing your baby, you still aren’t done. Each agent you contact will have unique requirements, personal favorites as to how to oil your manuscript so it slips smoothly through the gears of their application process.

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A Rebel with a Cause…

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I’ve always approached editing as a linear progression. Roll up my sleeves and start at page one, word one and sweep through the manuscript, cleaning up chapter by chapter as I go.

And it works, for the most part. Until I reach the middle of the story, then fatigue sets in. The words drag together, the plot blurs. I let weak sentence structures slide by, thinking I’ll fix the mess on the next sweep through.

And I do, for the most part. Round two usually proceeds much like round one: start at the beginning and work forward, leaving the middle to sag much like my sad, sad waistline.

I know I’m not alone. I read it every day when I pick up a published book. Few, so precious few authors, hold onto tension in the middle. The story often drags, the scenes are lackluster. My stories certainly follow this course.

Enough I say! Who writes the rules governing editing? Who says an author must start at chapter one, word one? Maybe it’s the rebel in little Ol’Sue, but the last time I began editing my Irish story, Summoned, I decided to start in the middle. It was time to skip those over-polished first chapters and give the middle section a much-needed workout. Seem silly? Maybe, but let me share 4 things this achieved:

1) Fresh perspective. It’s a bit like taking a scene out of context and viewing it from a different vantage point. It’s astounding how much I cut from chapters after realizing the scenes or sections are dragging the pacing or killing tension.

2) Enjoyment. Really, I love attacking these middle chapters guilt free. It’s like being the second or third runner in a relay race. I’m fresh, aggressive. I don’t have the start or the finish line in sight, just these pesky, fat chapters in desperate need of trimming.

3) Edge. I push characters. I strip away their defenses. I remove light banter or chitter-chatter. I think some of this exists in books from shear author fatigue.

4) Bliss. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but there’s something about the insurmountable task of plowing through an entire manuscript, screening for grammar, plot, character and pacing issues that wear me down. Focusing on the middle section seems so… doable.

I’ve completed edits on the mid-section of Summoned and loving it. The characters are stronger, the pacing is tighter, and though I still have a ton of work to go on this bad-boy, at least I’m confident the middle is no longer the weakest section.

What do you think? Care to give it a go?

Happy writing!

Sue

 

An open letter from a reader to an author…

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Dear author,

Books are words in motion. Stories vividly told take me to worlds unknown. They let me fall in love, make me hate, sweep my emotions to the highest heights or darkest places.

I read to lose myself. To shove my daily worries aside so I can breathe again. No more family worries. No more teenager stress or financial woes. For the time that book is cracked open and sometimes long after it’s closed, I’m free.

Each story is unique. Each one has potential. I root for every book I endeavor to read.

Nothing disappoints me more than a story that doesn’t reach that potential. Sometimes I press ahead, determined to discover the golden nuggets buried within. I act as an invisible editor, sweeping all those “murmured, mumbles” confusing POV shifts away so I can continue. So I can finish what I’ve begun.

Sad when a story suddenly deflates, leaving me with no choice but to close the book for good. Tragic when a decent editor could’ve helped that author keep that story on track.

So, as a reader, I beg you… move mountains for me. Cast characters that my heart absorbs right off the page. Give me imagery so compelling it lingers long after I’m done. But please, please don’t bore me.

I promise I’m on your side.

love,

A reader