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Introductions — From Cave Walls

Originally posted on From Cave Walls: Day 98 One of my writing lessons today was all about getting the reader interested in the story you have to tell. It made me think about what makes me want to continue reading. Of course, the first line is key. I found this great infographic from Scribendi.com which…

Introductions — From Cave Walls
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Open Book Blog Hop – February 22

Welcome to this week’s blog hop. Today the topic is:

What does it take to impress you when you are reading someone else’s book?

I think that I am a picky reader. I have my favorite genres, but I do venture to try others. A book must intrigue me in the first few pages. It’s like the “elevator pitch” of reading. I don’t want to be bored or confused right off the bat. I like when an author adds humor to their writing.

I have to care about the characters. Either by wanting them to survive or prevail, or for them to get what’s coming to them (good or bad). Two examples: I read The Martian quicker than I had read many books before. I wanted to know how the heck he was going to get out of this mess. On the other hand, I started a Robert Jordan trilogy (which turned out to be nine books), but as I was getting to the end of the 3rd book, I realized that they were not going to have time to do everything. I wasn’t that interested in the fate of the characters and I never continued.

I think thatit is easier to talk about why I stop reading a book. As I said before, I don’t like being confused. I’ll also stop if there is sexual or disturbing content. Not my thing.

I’ll often skim long descriptions of characters and places. It has to be relevant to the story—which probably explains why I usually write short stories. Some authors will make me want to read the descriptions. I suppose that is the mark of a great author.

With so many books out there to choose from, I should be able to find something, right?  

Rules:

  1. Link your blog to this hop.
  2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
  3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
  4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
  5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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Thursday Thoughts: Reviews

I am always looking for new ways to reach readers and gain reviews, so when I found Sandra through a Goodreads group I decided to add her to my list of “To Try”. Here’s her story. Stay tuned for a review on the service!

Q: First, tell us how you came to be a published author and how you came up with the idea to provide services to authors.
A: I wrote my first novel, Esperanza: A Latina Story, WHILE I was still in college. The book follows the story of a 14-year old Mexican-American girl trying to get out of the barrio and make something of her life. Full of humor and refreshing dialogue, this book was voted as an inspirational favorite by teen readers. Shortly after that, I wrote the sequel entitled Beyond the Gardens, published in October 2009. In the second book, the lead heroine gains new confidence and strength as she learns the hard way that “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.”
I write stories with strong and independent female characters that I, myself, would like to read about. When I’m not writing, I get my fill on reading for the enjoyment as well as to improve my craft.
Like every published author, I was emailing book bloggers, asking them to please review my book. But, like querying to a publisher, most of them were unresponsive and some weren’t interested. And, of course, I used paid services that would list my book in their newsletters, reaching potential readers that may or may not review my book. That worked out okay. But let’s face it: getting reviews is tough. It’s hard when your book isn’t well publicized and no one is willing to give it chance. That’s what started my book blog. Initially, it started as just a blog for my own personal reviews on books that I read. At that point, I started taking requests from authors and publishers. My own personal review would be free, but, of course, like every other blogger, I only chose the ones that I wanted and rejected those that I didn’t. Yes, my readings tastes are pretty open in a wide variety of genres, but there are some that just don’t really interest me (i.e. westerns, politics sports, etc.) So how do I help those rejected authors get reviews? After all, I couldn’t possibly review them all. That’s when I came up with the idea of starting a book club of readers and a review program to supply authors with more reviews besides the one that I give them. Readers can sign up to get free books from authors, and authors can get reviews for their books. It’s a simple, easy, and convenient program. And it’s working!

Q: How can this review program benefit writers?
A: The review program allows authors to list their books and reach a wide range of readers. It’s been a hit so far! About 85% of participating authors get at least 1 – 2 reviews on Amazon, and we receive over 75 reviews a month from readers. And the best part about it is that we offer free ways for authors to list their book in our program. As an author, I totally understand that budgets can be tight, which makes it harder (maybe even impossible) to promote your books. Most authors shy away to any promo service when there’s a price. What better price is there than FREE?

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of a book to make it sell?
A: The story itself along with a fabulous cover is definitely important. But probably the most important would have to be reviews. Let’s face it: reviews are the life blood of any book. More reviews equal a greater online exposure and a higher sales ranking, which, could result in sales. My book, Single Chicas, has over 70 reviews, and that has given me more royalties on Kindle sales. The reviews made the difference because before I got no royalties, and now I’m surprised to actually see one come through knowing that I didn’t do any promotion. Book reviews are definitely the key thing here.

Q: How is your author review program unique?
A: My review program is unique because I offer a free option for authors, and I do that because I want authors of all kinds to get a fair chance at getting reviews for their books. Every book deserves a review. These are HONEST and LEGIT reviews. There is no buying reviews here. Readers are free to choose any book and reserve the right in whether or not a review gets posted. It’s all strictly voluntary and 100% honest.

Q: I see on your website that you also do graphics. Would you mind telling us a little more about that end of your service?
A: As a graphic designer, I help authors with book covers, bookmarks, flyers, social media graphics, headers, and so on. I often try to offer clients bundle packages that include graphic design, book promotion, AND an opportunity to get listed in my review program to reach potential reviewers daily. I definitely know what authors want and I try to give that to them in a bulk deal.

Q: How can authors and readers sign up?
For authors interested in submitting their book to get reviews, please go to: https://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com/2020/08/submit-your-book.html

For readers interested in signing up to read free books, please go to:
https://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com/2019/09/read-review-program.html


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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Book Reviews

“Hey, Leon. You often talk about the importance of book reviews. Why don’t you post your reviews?”
“I do.”
“You do?”
“I just said I did, didn’t I?”
“I haven’t seen any here.”
“I don’t post them here.”
“Where are they?”
“On my Goodreads page.”
“Oh. OK. Where’s that then?”
“I just told you.”
“Gotcha.”

I usually write something about the books I have read or at least give it a rating. Here are a sampling of some of my favorites. Reviews that is.

Read the follow up: The Zombie Survival Guide. No action, but lots of handy tips!
Sometimes books just don’t do it.
I’m pretty sure I had read this as a child.
I saw the movie (well, part of it) on one of the classic movie channels. I was disappointed.
I don’t think that my 2-star review will have a negative affect on Child’s book sales.

I usually read at night. I would be able to read more books if I didn’t keep falling asleep. Zzzzz…

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Thursday Thoughts: Do we need another plague story?

The Andromeda Strain, No Blade of Grass, The Stand, Twelve Monkeys, Oryx and Crake, World War Z. Need I go on? When the pandemic was in it’s infancy, the most streamed movie – ‘cuz what else are you going to do when everything was getting shut down? – was Contagion.

Now I had watched it within the last year before the proverbial s#@% hit the fan, so I didn’t feel a need to partake in the trend, but what I do remember was that it was quite accurate in how it depicted the spread. Something like this was going to happen eventually. Superbugs in hospitals, antibiotic resistant strains, the increasing population combined with the ease of travel anywhere in the world – yeah, it was going to happen.

I mentioned a few of my favorite pandemic stories. People like to read about disastrous events, both fictional or true, and as writers, we want to entertain our readers. So, when an event like Covid-19 occurs, interest increases, readers read, and writers write.

Now, I wish I was a faster writer. By the time I finish my plague book/story…What? You didn’t figure out where this was all going?

Back to the question:

Do I need to work on my photoshop skills? – Most definitely.


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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Meet Guest Author, Leon Stevens…

Thanks to Chris @thestoryreadingape for giving me the opportunity to do another interview with myself! Originally posted on January 12 / 2021

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Leon Stevens Interviews Leon Stevens

Hello. I’m Leon Stevens, and I’m sitting here with author Leon Stevens who has written two books, Lines by Leon-Poems, Prose and Pictures, and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

Well, here we are again.

It seems that way.

You wrote down a list of questions for the guest post on thestoryreadingapeblog.com. Where did you come across that site?

Through my WordPress blog. I was reading a re-post of a book marketing article.

How is your blog coming along?

Better than I thought. I’ve been writing something almost daily.

Nice. Shall we get to the questions?

Fire away.

Now bear in mind I do know all these answers, so try to forget who I am.

I wish I could.

[silence]

I’ll let that pass. Question 1: Have you always been a writer?

Not until…

View original post 723 more words

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Weird Wednesday: New Year and More Cartoons

Here’s a question: When does your new year start? Do you follow the Gregorian calendar -or what most people think of it as, the calendar that hangs on your wall or is displayed on your phone/computer, or have you held on to that antiquated Julian system for the last 500 years? Probably the Gregorian…so that means January 1, right? Not necessarily. You might be like me and consider that the real new year should start on your birthday. Doesn’t that make sense? It does make for a logistics nightmare if you want to attend a New Year’s Eve party though. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up late on December 31st.

What about the winter solstice? Shortest day of the year. Things can only get brighter-and eventually warmer. Here’s another thought: If we didn’t have leap years to adjust the calendar, wouldn’t the shortest day of the year eventually occur in the summer? That’s why. I get it.  

While we are tossing around potential new year start ideas, why not the World Junior Hockey Championships? They start December 2020 but are called  the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship. So, we are in 2021 already. 

Enough rambling, Leon. Get to the cartoons… (If you need to get caught up: Weird Wednesday Dec 23)

This is still one of my favorites, but when I inked over it the waiter’s expression changed-I liked the original better.

People asked me who The Miniscules really are, so I granted the request:

Thanks for reading!

-Leon

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The Importance of Reviews

(The Ongoing Journey of a Writer)

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” What’s going to make you pick it up?

How do people choose the books they read? Some will stick to the authors they like to read, an interesting cover can make you choose a book-or at least read the blurb before deciding “Meh.” But the driving force behind the success of books are positive reviews.

How do you get reviews? Get your books in the hands of readers. How do you get readers to want to read your book? Get reviews. Hey, wait a minute! That’s a Catch-22. You bet. I think of it like a new restaurant. You might be wary to give it a try until someone says that the food is good/amazing.

Here’s another restaurant analogy: If you don’t know about it, you are not going to go, are you? So, businesses advertise. It is important for new authors to advertise. to say, “Here I am! Check me out!” (I don’t know why I’m shouting…no one likes to be yelled at.)

Word of mouth is the least expensive form of advertising. If someone likes your book they will probably tell one of their friends, because we all get asked the question, “Read any good books lately?” And if we have, we will reply, “Yeah, you have to read [insert name of awesome book here]!” There was a commercial in the 80’s that had the line: I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on. Want to do the math? You should, its pretty cool. (I might do a math post in the future)

There are many sites that feature reviews of books, each having its merits and loyal followers. It’s easy to picture readers scrolling through books and not stopping on books with no reviews, but those 4 and 5 stars really catch your eye, don’t they?

Reviews will drive sales, which is what authors want. But reviews also give affirmation that what we are doing as writers has merit and makes a difference in the lives of our readers. I want to share some of the words that have made me proud of what I have done:

Thank you so much for the beautiful poem, it was very touching and your words have a healing effect.”  

I have loved reading this book. It has given me what I needed the most. It is a very charming book!

A very charming, witty and entertaining book of short poems and pictures about… everything in life. It was fun to read and I believe it would make a great gift for poetry lovers.

I know I will reread this book as I do most of my poem collection because the simple act of reading poetry makes me grow and change as a person, so each reading is an unique experience.

This book of poems was very intriguing. It made me stop and think—and, sometimes, stop and laugh

To be honest, I found it a breath of fresh air and it was a joy to read.

And reviews also confirm that everything is subjective:

I thought the pieces in this collection were mostly okay. I’ve read much better but there are much worse collections out there.” (Well I’m glad I’m not the worst.)

I didn’t get it.” (OK, a little out of context, but kinda funny.)

Overall, I have neutral feelings about this poetry collection… Perhaps it just wasn’t for me.” (Exactly, I can’t make someone like my books.)

IF you have been following my writing, you know that I enjoy humor, so when I put together my free eBook with selected works, I decided to have some fun with it and put this on the first page:

There’s fake news, then there’s fake testimonials…
What people are saying about “Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures”

“Opening this book is like looking into the head of Leon. It’s a little odd…”
 -Noel Snevets

“It kept my interest and it keeps my coffee mug off the table.”
– Elon Ven Sets

“Just when you think you’ve had enough, you haven’t!”
 -Lone Vessnet

“I had to ask myself, where has this book been? I then realized it had slipped under the sofa.”
  – Olen Nessvet

“Wow. Just, wow. Wait, what was the question?”
 -Anon

“Thirty-one.”
  –  A. Prime

In conclusion (What? Am I writing a thesis?), as a reader, please don’t underestimate the power of your words. Reviews don’t have to to be long-just honest.

-Leon

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Funny Fridays – Is Science Fiction Funny?

Growing up, I was fascinated with space and science fiction (if you need a recap: Returning to Roots).

Isaac Asimov had several short stories that had humorous endings or situations. But for sci-fi humor writing, Douglas Adams has to be the benchmark-although I do admit, the Hitchhiker series could have ended sooner than it did. John Scalzi seems to have taken the reins for this. Kurt Vonnegut has written many science fiction stories, and his writing always has elements of humor.

There has been many sci-fi based T.V. shows and movies that either had some elements of humor (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who), while others went straight for the funny-bone, some more successful than others. I’ll list the ones that I think missed the mark, in no particular order-cuz’ they are both bad: Avenue 5 and Moonbase 8. Similar titles, similar bombs.

Now the hits. In my opinion, BBC’s Red Dwarf takes the top spot-hands down. Brilliant writing and hilarious characters made this a must see for my friends each week (in re-runs). It may have have gone on a bit to long, but it continued to make us laugh.

Galaxy Quest: Because I grew up with Star Trek, I could relate to everything they were poking fun at.

The Orville: I find much of Seth MacFarlane’s humor on Family Guy hard to watch, but he is a funny guy. Like Galaxy Quest, he is able to pick out the situations that lend itself to humor.

When I began to write short story science fiction, I knew that humor was going to be involved at some point. The story even made my editor laugh out loud. Now that’s a good sign! I posted it on my Medium.com page, so here is a free reading link: Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile

I hope you find it as entertaining as she (my editor) did.

-Leon

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Moderation

How much is too much? Anything is ok in moderation, I’ve heard. Think about that. Anything? Of course, we don’t take that saying literally. If we did, there would be a lot less of us around.

There are somethings that I enjoy, that if I enjoyed them too much, wouldn’t be enjoyable anymore.

  • The first big of a Big Mac. Each bite gets exponentially less pleasant. It’s also better if you wait at least a year between attempts (having one, not bites)
  • Chips (potato). So good, but not the whole bag. Well, maybe sometimes…and Pringles don’t count, you have to finish them. You can put the top back on all you want.
  • Exercise. Yes, you can overdo it-and it hurts when you do.
  • Alcohol. Here are a few of may favorites (in no particular order): Beer, wine (red, white, cava), tequila, whiskey, rum. Now that may seem like a lot, but never all at once. And I know that many people struggle with addiction and in no way want to make light of that. Can I have only one drink? Yup. Does two taste better than one? Sometimes…
  • Cigars. Yes-smoking is bad for you. But I do enjoy the occasional cigar-usually once/year- especially around a campfire, with one of the above beverages-usually rum or tequila.
  • Food. All types. How can I support this activity? See point #3.
  • Laughing. Hard to get too much of this.
  • Punctuation. What is the rule for commas? Oh yes, there are 634 different rules, so here are a bunch just to be safe: ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  • Coffee. In college, I once sat with friends and took advantage of the unlimited refill policy at the local hangout. Twenty cups too much? Want to stay up for 24 hours? (By the way, that aforementioned policy? Yeah, we got that revoked…for everyone.)

Enjoy things that you like, as long as it doesn’t have detrimental effects on your life or the lives of others.

-Leon