Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Reviews

by Carlene Havel
Re-posted from Prism Book Group Blog

Posted: 28 Jan 2014 08:48 AM PST
The rating systems of retail giants such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble have popularized a “five star” scale. “My book just got five stars!!” no longer needs any explanation. This is Amazon’s breakdown of star equivalencies:

One Star = I hate it
Two = I don’t like it
Three = It’s okay
Four = I like it
Five = I love it

I have no statistics, but my sense is that ones and twos are rare. Book descriptions include genre, length, and a “blurb” about the contents. These allow readers to select according to their tastes, steering customers away from choices not to their liking. However, even the classics collect a smattering of hate or don’t like reviews – often mentioning homework assignment as the purpose for reading the book.

The stars do not stand alone. Most review sites request or require a few words to clarify the basis for a rating. Here’s a sampling that may spark your interest:

A one star review calls a well-known classic often read in high school “…dull and uninteresting.”

A reader gave one star to another classic, noting “I read maybe the first three pages and got bored.” It’s not clear whether this dear soul soldiered on through the whole book or wrote the one star review on the basis of the first three pages!

How about this three-star justification? “I didn't read this. I just want this off my non-reviewed list. I went over my head getting books that I didn't really had the time to read. I may get it again who knows, but I doubt it. I gave it a middle rating so it won’t alter good nor bad this book as I don’t know if it deserves bad or good review. Sorry and thanks for understanding.” Wow – never read the book, probably never will, but writing a review??

I wonder if someone had the rating scale backwards, when this text showed up with a one star rating: “…an amazing book off u like the old west than you’ll love this book it has everything an amazing gun fighter by the way I’m12.”

Why bother writing a review? One reason is to help other readers decide whether or not a book is for them. Another is to encourage (or, if necessary, chastise) the author.

What a thrill it is to wake up on a dreary winter morning, open up a website, and spot a few pleasant words from a satisfied reader. Don’t writers get paid? Yes, though much less than most readers might think–only a few top authors make their living writing. It’s similar to the situation with athletes. Professional superstars make a bundle, but most folks play as amateurs because they love the game. Both groups crave the crowd’s cheers, whether they come from a packed stadium or a sprinkle of determined parents huddled on bleachers in the snow.

From kindergarteners collecting stickers to performers on the stage, we all enjoy a pat on the back for a job well done. If you've read a book recently and loved it, please take a few minutes to write a review and make those stars twinkle!

Monday, January 27, 2014

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
                        Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

In the well-known Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet, we find a couple whose families are at war with each other. In the famous quote above, Juliet tells Romeo she loves him—not his name nor his family—only him.  He could be called something else and it wouldn’t matter to her.

How did you receive your name?  Most of us were given one at birth by someone, and we had no choice in the matter.

Others come to this country with unusual designations and choose one more suitable for English language.  My daughter once interviewed a woman from Vietnam.  When Christy introduced herself, the lady responded with, “Theresa. “ The two laugh about it today.  Theresa chose her alias at the job interview. Her birth name from her country was unpronounceable by most of us in the USA.   When Christy asked for her name, Theresa came to mind and it popped out. 

Many authors chose a pseudonym. Perhaps they feel another name is more marketable.  I considered a penname when I began writing, but in the end, I kept the one my mother gave me as a tribute to her.

I’ve never cared much for my middle name, so I choose to use the initial as an author.  Now that I’m older, I actually enjoy hearing my long-time friends call me Gay Nell.  The nomenclature depicts deep roots and gives me a happy feeling.

A friend of mine met his life partner twenty-four years ago.  After she told him her name was Gay, their conversation went something like this. 

He said, “I bet I know your middle name.”

“You’ll never guess in a million years.”

“It’s Gay Nell.”

“No way could you know that.”

The four of us get together quite often, and when someone says, “Hey Gay," we both respond.

When our daughter married a man with the last name of Day, I jokingly offered my name if she ever had a baby girl.  She didn't think a baby named Gay Day would work.  Wonder why?  Seemed like a good idea to me.  She also rejected Wendy and Stormy.

I find it difficult to name a character in my books.  I don’t want to use names of people I know. Often I go to the internet or magazines looking for solid or romantic names.

How about you?  How did you get your name?  If you are a writer, how do you choose character’s names?  Do you have a penname?  If so, how did you choose it?  If you could legally change your name, what would it be? 

Do you agree with Shakespeare when he said, "What's in a name?"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Goals and Challenges for the PBG Sarah Series in 2014

My goals for my Sarah series is to entertain, inspire and enlighten.

I try to amuse the reader by telling the story of a bumbling angel’s efforts to help the humans.  Sarah constantly makes one goof after another, but she is lovable and laugh out loud funny. 

God gifted me with a sharp sense of humor, and I enjoy using it in my writing.  The crazy stunts Sarah pulls can appeal to all ages.  Who hasn’t been guilty of doing something nutty?  Most of us can relate to Sarah’s goofs and bumbles. You know the old adage.  “Laughter is the best medicine.”

A fan wrote recently about a silly thing she’d done, and her response to herself was. “I just had a Sarah moment.”  I thought that was cool, and it gave me an idea.  Now when I pull some crazy stunt, I tell my family, “I’m having a Sarah moment.”

My second goal as a writer is to enlighten the reader.  Although the Sarah books are not theological, many themes in the series are Scripturally sound and factual.  A reader recently said that she’d learned a few Biblical concepts from Sarah.

Two difficulties plague me when I write Christian, romance stories. The most problematic part of writing for me is making sure I don’t preach too much.  If I turn the reader away, I haven’t done my job.
And then there the love scenes. I face a dilemma when I write the romantic sections.  Christian readers don’t want explicit details, so making the booklover aware of the attraction between a man and woman is a challenge.  Should they kiss?  Is it okay if he touches her shoulder?  Can they waltz at a wedding reception? Or share a glass of wine? The scenes that work for some might not be okay for another. I find myself walking a fine line as I write the amorous paragraphs. 

My first Sarah book, Sarah: A Mission of Love was released in 2012.  Two books followed in 2013:  Sarah: Laney’s Angel and Sarah and the Widow’s Mate.  I’m under contract for three more Sarah books and I’ve turned in book four: Sarah and the Internet Dating Service.

I’m blessed.  All three current Sarah books have been on Amazon’s best seller’s list. 

It brings me great joy when a reader writes that they can hardly wait for more Sarah books.  They can read a lot faster than I can write!

Everyone who participates in the Blog Hop can enter to win a print book of Sarah: A Mission of Love. Click on the rafflecopter code for the blog gifts.  The Blog Hop begins January 20 and lasts 48 hours.  Don’t miss out!  To catch the other blogs, use the linky link in the upper right hand corner of this blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Clean Up Time

A New Year and it’s clean up time.

After two days of taking down Christmas decorations and returning them to their place, I needed a reward. Maybe a day off would be nice--considering I had already vacuumed the floor, dusted and sanitized all surfaces—even straightened a few cabinets. I'd also turned in my fourth Sarah book to Prism Book Group, my publisher.  Sarah and the Internet Dating Service will soon be available.  All these accomplishment made me feel fantastic.

Oh wait!

I’d cleaned up the Christmas chaos, and turned in my Sarah book, but my office remained a shambles.  As I now sit at my desk, I see debris—mail piled up, magazines needing attention, a mound of books waiting to be sorted.  And how about the odds and ends of information I need to keep, but have no clue as to where to file it so I will remember where it is?

So much for my day away.  Back to work.

I can’t escape it.  My daily life demands constant attention.

The task will never be finished. And that's a wonderful thing.  If I'm finished, I'm in heaven--an experience to anticipate, but I like it down here. 

As I drank my first cup of coffee this morning, I read my Bible and prayed.  Okay, started the day with a clean mind.  That’s good, but I’m sure my mentality will require additional work as the afternoon and night approach.  I’ll need to pause along the way as the hours go by to brush away the ugliness that can creep into my thoughts.

I showered and dressed.  That’s a cleaning I look forward to each sunrise.  Start the day with a clean mind and body—good motto, right?

Okay—I’m doing well at the moment—except for the office area.


I’m going to do better this year with organization, and that means a re-dedication to good work habits.
Staying on top of life requires constant effort.  Some area constantly demands attention.

A lady phoned a few minutes ago with a voice filled with excitement.  With the New Year dawning, she and her husband made the decision to remove alcohol from their home and find a church to attend.  They begin each day with prayer and Bible study. Clean up time for them is underway. With tears, she described how happy she was to sweep away the obstacles keeping them from a healthy life.

What project have you decided to clean this year?  Diet?  Exercise? Dedication to God? Clean home? Positive attitude? Fresh work place?  Stay challenged to keep up the good fight.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31.

I can do it!

So can you!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Two books on Amazon's best seller's list

A sense of awe came over me today when I saw Amazon's ranking for
 Sarah: Laney's Angel.
This is the second book in the Sarah Series, but they all stand alone.
This one may be my favorite.  It's difficult to choose.  The mystery and suspense in this one caused me to plot and plan a great deal.  Laney is a designer, and so was I in real life at one time.  One or two of the experiences in this book actually happened to me.
And of course, Sarah is Sarah.
She is just plain funny.
Sarah: Laney's Angel
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,603 Paid in Kindle Store
This is the first book in the Sarah Series.  It is on Amazon's best seller list today too.
I cried a bit as I wrote this one.  There is an adorable child in here. She is five years old and her name is Hope.  Her dad was killed in Afghanistan and she wants a daddy.  Of course Hope is fictional, but I know several who have served in our military who face such losses.
Sarah brings love and laughter in this book.  I think you will like it.


Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,442 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

PBG Insider: Gay N. Lewis Introduces her "Sarah" series

Sarah at Christmas