B is for Brand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came across this great article on Writer’s Digest, entitled Alpha-Blog Soup, by Gabriela Pereira, published this month and can be found Writer’s Digest on:  https://www.writersdigestshop.com/writer-s-digest-magazine-may-june-2-wd0618

I was totally engaged with the content. It appears there are levels to conquer before I can reach B for Brand! Great article, I thought. “But, I don’t have a brand!” I said aloud. I am a mix-match of a bit of everything,

Starting with A for Audience. Audience? I was hoping for everyone. It turns out my posts are meaningless without a Brand? So, 4 years of meaningless?  Well, I am not one to give up on having a Brand!

Now, taking my lessons from the author, I must find out the following:

  1. What themes come across in my novels?
  2. What emotions do my stories evoke?
  3. Why would readers want to read my novels in the first place?

I am told I must get into my readers heads and to do so, I must consider using The Breadcrumb Technique!

Step 1. Choose a ‘Comp Title’ and find one that is in my same genre. A competitive title is a book that is in the same genre and would draw the same kind of reader. But, but….my three novels are all in different genres. My current manuscript that I am writing is a mix of paranormal and a historical fiction. Hmmm….

Step 2. Browse the Reviews on Amazon in my chosen genre and look for only 3 stars and 4 stars (5 stars are not reliable, and 2 stars are by people with an axe to grind). Well, I thought, good to know!  Study a few of them and pick out phrases and specific word choices.  I can do that, I suppose.

Step 3. Examine the Reviewer by clicking the reviewers name and go to their profile (do all reviewers have profiles?).  Hmmm…that seems a little too crafty for me, but I will try.

Step 4. Choose a New Comp. This means to view genre books that have been reviewed by the same reviewer. If that doesn’t work out, then go to “Customers who bought this item also bought…” and continue following the breadcrumbs about readers who might like my books too. Okay…I can do that!

Step 5. Stop and Implement, because it is easy to get sucked into a research rabbit hole.  Oh, of course, and considering I am a clinical researcher by career, I would end up with dozens of pages and a hypothesis!  I would give up writing fiction and write a non-fiction about the psychology of reviewers! Well, that is not such a bad idea!  I will put that on my New Project List forthwith!

Now, I thought, for the real “red meat of the article”. B is for Brand!  Yes!!

Step 1. Look up my name on Google.  Find out what is being said about me? Someone is talking about me?? Good Grief! Well…I was shocked. I should have used a pseudonym. I am strongly considering it, but it may be too late for that now, I guess.

How can they list my email address, my old address, my writing on WordPress and even Facebook, as well as my daughters names and more! Much of it is completely wrong…and is about another person(s) named Karen Dowdall. I was surprised to see how many have my name too!  Is this legal, I thought, However, I could use my maiden name and maybe from this point forward I will. But, then again, I would have to start all over, from scratch.

Step 2.  Imagine. I must use imagery for my blog writes the author.  Well, I do that in spades!  I am good to go for imagery!  I have my photo on my blog too, and that is important, as the author writes, “for making that human to human connection.”

Step 3. Voice.  “This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of branding to quantify or explain.”, writes the author. I must be approachable, have a presence for my readers and how they feel when they interact with me or my blog.  Hmmm…. I guess I need to do a survey?

The author continues with C is for Content and Conversions and then D, E, F.

It is an excellent article and the author of this article, Gabriela Pereira, has been down this road herself, obviously.  I am now going to Google her!

by K. DeMers formally Karen Dowdall …just kidding!

Critical Thinking: The 5 Factors that Earn 5 Star Reviews!

An excerpt from: Paul Goat Allen | March 12, 2018, Writer’s Digest. Paul Goat Allen has worked as a genre fiction book critic and written thousands of reviews for companies like BarnesandNoble.com, Publishers Weekly, the Chicago Tribune and Kirkus Reviews.

Novelists live and die by reviews yet uncovering what garners a gushing ovation or blistering takedown is often a mystery. A professional critic lays out what it takes to earn five-star book reviews. For two decades I’d been working as a freelance genre fiction book critic for outlets such as BarnesandNoble.com, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and the Chicago Tribune. After sharing my credentials with the group, some of the writers began telling stories about mediocre or bad reviews they’d received at different points in their careers from one or more of the companies I’d listed.

As a reviewer, not much has changed since then. I enjoy all genres and have reviewed thousands of titles in hundreds of sub-genres ranging from apocalyptic fiction to zombie erotica. (Yes, there’s such thing as zombie erotica.) In the end, genre categorization matters little to me—it’s all about the story. With that in mind, I decided to formalize a universal framework through which I process and analyze my various reading experiences. While there are undoubtedly specific narrative elements I look for in-particular-genres (pacing and tension level in thrillers, for example), there’s a pyramid of qualities—a Hierarchy of Needs, if you will—that I seek in every story. While highly simplified, it’s this structure that dictates whether I give a book a positive or negative review.

These five criteria will not only provide a glimpse into how a veteran book reviewer dissects and evaluates a novel but, hopefully, make you look at your writing in a different light. See for yourself: Does your work-in-progress have what it takes to earn a positive review?

The Book Reviewer’s Hierarchy of Needs: How to Earn Five-Star Book Reviews

  1. Readability

A book’s degree of readability is the base layer of my reviewer’s pyramid, and the foundation for any good story. The quality of a novel—narrative clarity, narrative fluidity, having a coherent storyline—is directly related to the number of times I put that book down. Some are so bad, so poorly written, that I struggle to get through a single paragraph without wanting to walk away. Others have such a fl uid plot that I find it virtually impossible to stop reading—Tad Williams’ The Witchwood Crown and Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass being two such examples of utterly readable, page-turning novels.

I’ve read a lot of “unputdownable” books over the last few decades, and the vast majority of these all have something in common beyond a clear and fluid narrative: The stories have noticeably strong chapter beginnings and endings. It’s a small thing, but a great way to compel readers to keep reading. How can you put a book down when every chapter begins and ends with a cliffhanger sequence, bombshell plot twist or powerful statement? When I consistently find these elements in a novel, I know the author fully understands the significance of readability.

Conversely, novels that aren’t as readable—that are poorly written with awkward sentence structure, a confusing storyline, weak chapter beginnings and endings—are almost asking to be tossed aside. This may sound obvious, but if you can’t compel a reader to read your story, then you need to focus more on your craft before penning another book.

  1. Immersion

I define immersion as the ability for me, the reader, to not only lose myself in a novel (I call these “stay-up-all-night-till-your-eyes-bleed” reads) but to experience the story intimately, living vicariously through the characters. This trick is accomplished through a continued focus on setting, rich description and atmospherics. I don’t want to experience the story as a detached viewer looking down at what’s happening—I want to feel like I’m in the story.

The litmus test for this is easy. If I become so engaged with a book that I lose track of time—if I glance at the clock and hours have passed by—you’ve succeeded in drawing me fully into your read. Writers who are absolute immersion masters (think Cherie Priest, Justin Cronin, Charlaine Harris) are so good at captivating description that weeks, months and oftentimes years after reading their novels I can still vividly recall specific scenes.

This layer is where many writers stumble, and here’s why: While they may excel at world-building and meticulous description at the beginning of a novel, once the action and adventure ramps up, they not only lose focus but completely ignore description altogether. I’ve seen this happen countless times in every genre: rich description for the first 100 pages or so, then almost nothing in the final 200. It’s called literary escapism for a reason. If I can’t lose myself in a read—from beginning to end—then I haven’t fully escaped. Writing the Intimate Character: Create Unique, Compelling Characters Through Mastery of Point of View

  1. Character Depth and/or Plot Intricacy

Three-dimensional, interesting and identifiable characters bring emotional connectivity and intensity to the read. If your readers aren’t emotionally invested in your characters, then the narrative impact of your story is inevitably going to be negatively impacted. Emotions wield power. If you can bring your readers to tears, make them laugh out loud or scare them to the point of checking under the bed, then you’ve succeeded on some level.

Creating authentic characters to whom readers can relate is a solid achievement—but an obvious word of warning: Stay clear of clichés and stereotypes. Overused conventions—like the Chosen One in fantasy who is consistently a white male, or the emotionally damaged billionaire entrepreneur in erotic fiction who needs to sexually dominate his love interest—even if brilliantly rendered, will underwhelm and disappoint more than a few readers (and reviewers).

Now, the reason I include an “and/or” between character development and plot intricacy is because, in some rare cases (particularly in mainstream thrillers), a novel with an impressively knotty storyline can still succeed with relatively cardboard characters.

Which is why plot intricacy is key: Why read a novel where you can accurately predict what’s going to happen after a few chapters? (I do that quite often. After reading the first chapter or two, I’ll jot down a prediction in my notes. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve guessed the ending correctly.) I just finished reviewing a brilliant historical mystery for Publishers Weekly that was filled with so many plot twists I was left guessing until the last few pages. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a fantasy or a thriller or a romance—the plot has to be intricate enough to keep your reader simultaneously engaged and a bit off balance.

  1. Originality and Innovation

This one ties in with embracing originality, be it atypical characters or unconventional story structure. So many books out there today are built upon unoriginal, rehashed, derivative storylines. I read a lot. And I get bored easily, especially when reading the same basic story arc again and again. My advice? Don’t play it safe. Write a story that you’ve never read before. In a 2016 Goodreads interview I conducted with fantasy novelist Michael J. Sullivan, author of Age of Myth, he said,

“It doesn’t matter if it’s been done before. It just matters if it’s being done well now.”

I love that quote. Just because something has been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be re-envisioned or reimagined but be innovative—put a new twist on an old mythos, turn a stereotype on its head. Have the courage to be creative!

  1. Thematic Profundity

In the introduction to the 2006 reissue of Walter M. Miller Jr.’s 1960 Hugo Award–winning classic, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Mary Doria Russell writes, “You’ll be different when you finish it.” That’s my hope for every novel I pick up—that within the story there will be a kind of spiritual and/or existential wisdom, a kind of revelation or insight that will change the way I look at myself and the world around me.

A novel that holds this kind of thematic power—as well as the other elements in the Hierarchy of Needs—will get a starred review from me every time. Stories, no matter the genre, have the power to change lives. Novels like Andreas Eschbach’s The Carpet Makers, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We have irrevocably changed who I am. After all, that’s the ultimate goal, right? To write a commercially successful and critically acclaimed novel that is both entertaining and enlightening.

Evaluating a novel is a cumulative process. Those with masterful character development but zero immersion will still receive a poor review, for example, while a thematically profound read with excruciatingly bad readability will receive a terrible review.

May this Hierarchy of Needs not only make you more aware of how your writing is experienced by readers—and jaded book reviewers like myself—but also offer up a few invaluable insights that can be used to improve your craft. Who knows, maybe my next starred review will be yours.

Paul Goat Allen has worked as a genre fiction book critic and written thousands of reviews for companies like BarnesandNoble.com, Publishers Weekly, the Chicago Tribune and Kirkus Reviews.

 

 

A Good Review is Hard to Find – Part 2

Part 2 of A Good Review is Hard to Find reveals the truth about who decides whether a book is good or not and I agree. This is a great overall depiction of the importance of getting critiques and reviews prior to publication of a book.

 https://journieswithliz.com/2018/01/12/a-good-review-is-hard-to-find-part-2/

 

Liz Leighton Writing Adventures

Who decides if a book is good? I’ll give you 3 guesses and the first two don’t count. I’m certain you don’t need 3 guesses. Just in case you’re exhausted, running a high fever and the walls are talking to you, or you just woke up from surgery and you’re still groggy from the anesthesia, I’ll go ahead and say it very clearly. The readers. The readers ultimately make that decision.

You can write that first book that you think is great. You can market the hell out of it. You can learn all the tricks to get that book to top ranking on Amazon and you can even use all the ways to manipulate that book to the NYT Bestseller list. In the end, if readers that love the genre(s) of your book don’t like your book, that may be the only one you ever sell.

What does any of…

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A Good Review is Hard to Find – Part 1

This post, by Liz Leighton, part 1 of 2, is excellent and very important, because many beginning writers, like myself, need to feel confident when putting their book on display for good and not so good reviews. However, what I have learned is that in reality, there are no bad reviews. Each review or critique plays an important role in helping the writer be a better writer. I will blog part 2 tomorrow. Thank you Liz! You are awesome. And, I give this post 5 stars! 🙂   https://journieswithliz.com/2018/01/03/a-good-review-is-hard-to-find-part-1/
K. D. Dowdall

Liz Leighton Writing Adventures

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and so it is once again time for the ISWG Blog Hop. I would like to thank Alex Cavanaugh and also the other members of this wonderful group for making this possible and for the support they provide. Special thanks to the co-hosts of the January 3, 2018, posting of the ISWG:  Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!

One of the most challenging steps for an insecure writer is putting your writing out there for reviews and critiques but it is also one of the best things you can do to help your growth as a writer. Conversely, giving reviews and critiques to other writers is also one of the best things you can do for your own writing skills. Giving reviews can help you develop your analytical skills and apply those…

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The Little Match Girl

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At this time of year, I think of The Little Match Girl fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. “It was terribly cold. It had snowed that day and it was almost dark”, begins the story of The Little Match Girl who carried with her a little box of matches to sell, but no passerby had stopped to give her even a penny as she walked along, hoping for someone to buy her matches for a penny, but no one even glanced her way.

The Little Match Girl was so terribly cold and her thin little body ached with the cold. She had no coat or shoes. Her old hand-me-down sweater was soaked through from the snow that had fallen earlier in the day.  She shivered uncontrollably as the snow started falling again. She saw a place between two houses where she could sit down and look across the street.

There she saw warm yellow lights from windows. She thought she could even smell the holiday goose that was headed for the dining table.  She was so weak from the freezing cold and so hungry she could no longer stand again, so she took one of the matches and lit it and she began to feel warm and then she lit another one. She knew she dared not go home, her father would beat her.

She began to dream of her grandmother and lit another match, but this time all the matches came aflame. To her it was like heaven with the sky ablaze and she saw her beloved grandmother as she watched as a star fall from the sky. She remembered what her grandmother told her, when a star falls a soul goes to heaven. “Take me with you Grandmother” she cried, and her grandmother picked her up and flew to heaven with the tiny Match Girl in her arms. The next morning, the little Match Girl was found frozen to death on the street corner where no one had stopped to give her even a penny.

This is more than a fairy tale, it is real because around the world there are many little Match Girls and Boys and they are dying for want of a little kindness from those of us who have shoes, warm coats and Christmas dinner waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

In the story of The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach, we see the overall story as fascinating and rich in details that excite our need for fantasy and storytelling.  At first glimpse, it is a story about dragons, courage, adventure, war, soul-thieves, and the good verses the bad in people.

The story is really two stories, that in the end, become one where fantasy and reality merge.  The main characters, Madlyn, Cody, Dustin, and Lillian, each have different world views that conflict with each other, but all are necessary for everyone to cope with the approaching sense of loss that is meaningful to each one, a natural human response to things out of our control.

Yet, if one draws back the curtain of this story, it is a unique telling of how fantasy interplays with tragedy, grief, and loss, in the real world.  We are often changed by the realization that we live both in the real world and our perceptions of that world are often a fantasy from a deep psychological need to believe that things are better or worse, than they are.

The author, in my opinion, is telling us something about ourselves and that makes this story so much more than what it first appears to be.  The Sorcerer’s Garden is a study of human behavior and how to fight human urges of greed, scarcity, power, war, and cruelty that must be continually fought to create a more caring world through the realization that there is no need for greed, power, and cruelty, because there is no scarcity. There is only a perception of scarcity that steals our souls, formed out of our human fears. In the end, it is fear itself that leads to all the pain and suffering in the world.  I highly recommend this truly unique and powerful story. 5 stars

A Review: MY BARSETSHIRE DIARY by Lord David Prosser

Lord David Prosser writes about his daily life in the lovely Welsh countryside with his Lady, Julia Prosser, in the most delightful way.  Lord Prosser has a natural ability to write about common elements of daily life in the most comedic monologues. Especially, about Oscar, a very spoiled cat, with a taste for blood, human blood. Meaning, that the cat bites and scratches his owners at will. Then there is the bird. Well, you can imagine the jealousy and the Oscar tricks to get his way.  How Lord and Lady Prosser handle this situation is utterly charming and funny.

Lord Prosser manages life at the manor with aplomb, forbearance, and laughter. Although, even for his jaunty style for helping daily life run smoothly – more or less, there are occasions when even he sneaks away into the woods, for a quick cigarette. However, rarely does he succumb to the frustrating moments that life offers all of us. There are so many incredible moments throughout this novel that incited my laugher and giggles throughout the reading of this insightful and charming novel.

For instance, I never knew that being a pallbearer could be an unexpected danger to one and all, as well as hysterically funny. It is the unexpected, even the most exasperating comedic situations in life, that bring laughter and joy. Lord David Prosser presents them to us in the most delightful way.  When I asked David about the bird, Joey the third, he said, “If I gave him a female he’d stop speaking and just squawk all the time. I spent ages letting him teach me his name.” When Lord David wrote this, I laughed so hard, I came down with the hiccups!

By the way, if I didn’t send everyone, HUGS XXX, I would be remiss, because David always sends everyone hugs!  A very hysterically funny and happy read. I highly recommend this book for everyone!