#Writers vs. #Readers and #Goodbooks…What’s in a Great Read?

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.  – Edgar Rice Burroughs

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.  – Stephen King

I think of myself… as a troubadour, a village storyteller, the guy in the shadows of the campfire.  – Louis L’Amour

My first book, “Return to Freedom, Voices in the Wind”, inspired by a late Native American friend and mentor.

What’s in a good book? What distinguishes a really great read from all the others? What is it that makes the really good ones stand out?

Of course, we as writers all know, first of all, we need to have a really great cover that tells the reader what to expect. (I admit I am still working to improve mine. Hey, we are all learning here). Then, we have to have a back cover blurb, or description that makes it sound interesting enough to make them want to read it. Those are just for starters. These are just the factors that will make your book actually stand out from the rest and make people want to read it.

Then too, we all know we need to have a good, thorough and professional editing job on the inside, although some of us cannot afford that, especially if you are just starting out, as I am. If you can’t, that’s okay, if you can get a fresh pair of eyes to help you, maybe a teacher or other professional you know. Bottom line, it’s just going to look a whole lot better if it’s edited professionally, as I know Joanna Penn, as well as others, have said. For now, I happen to have an advantage on that since I have had text editing and formatting classes, which were a part of my curriculum when I was pursuing my Associate’s Degree in Office Systems Technology. Yet, even still, you can tend to miss something, especially if you have been looking at it for (insert however long you have been working on your book here). Meanwhile, for now, we just do the best we can and keep learning from other authors and look forward to eventually climbing our way up the “best sellers’ ladder”.

For more tips on writing, self-publishing, and marketing our books, there are plenty of experienced authors, artists, and others out there who offer a lot of tips and helpful resources, like these that I subscribe to, Joanna Penn at http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ and Shelley Hitz at http://www.shelleyhitz.com/. Joel Friedlander at http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ also offers a lot of helpful advice, and he has some very affordable interior design templates for self-publishing authors you can check out at http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/.

Another great website that some of you old die hard dinosaurs like me who still like to work in MS Word might find helpful is Derek Murphy’s DIY Book Covers, http://diybookcovers.com/. Derek has packed it full of tutorials, freebies and lots of other goodies for the “do it yourselfers” like us. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. Click here to read what Joanna Penn and others have to say. You can also download some free sample book covers to try it yourself or become a member for a very affordable price and have access to hundreds of other templates, and of course, Derek’s help along the way.

Both of my book covers were done using one of his templates (although he wouldn’t recognize it, but hey, I’m still learning)! If it’s not working, then I work to improve it and go back and get some more advice and maybe even some hands on training using Derek’s tutorials, and keep going until I get that best selling cover that will hopefully eventually get that coveted NYTBS phrase that we all want to see on our books. Meanwhile, like all of us writers, I keep writing, and improving as I go, and hoping that I will finally write that one great book, that will climb up the ranks, and eventually win me a place in the best seller lists.

Then, of course, there is one accomplished author, whom I met at one of his book signings a few years ago, who is certainly more qualified than I am to give writers’ advice: Nicholas Sparks. Yes, he has an actual section of his website for writers, and I think it’s safe to say, his advice is well worth listening to.

Of course, this post would not be complete without my mention of a lady who is a much more experienced writer than I am and has taught me a lot, my friend and mentor, Beverly Nault. I have to say, hats off to Bev for the help she has given me so far. You can stop by her page for a visit and check out her books at http://beverlynault.com/. She also has a writers’ group on Facebook which I am a part of, called the Fresh Starts Writing Room. It goes without saying that we help each other. We post helpful links to share with the others, we ask advice, and we share things, we critique each other’s work, all under Bev’s helpful guidance. Bev also worked with Mary McDonough on her book, “Lessons From The Mountain, What I Learned From Erin Walton”. For those of you who remember “The Waltons”, you will remember Mary as “Erin”, the middle daughter.

For those who are already traditionally published, my hat is off to you, and you are certainly welcome to comment here and give us all some advice! For the rest of us “Indie Authors”, we write, we edit and re-write, and work to improve, we learn from our mistakes and help each other as we hone our craft, and hope that one day, we will achieve that best seller status, and hopefully, eventually be able to attract a traditional publisher. If you know of some resources or links that I haven’t listed here, please comment and share!

Now, back to my question: What’s in a really great read? What makes it a “must read” that everyone will be talking about? That is probably a question I am not qualified to answer as much as some of those I have referenced above. Perhaps, to me at least, it evokes one more question: What is the one thing that helps propel a really great book forward and make it a success? If we do all of these things I mentioned above to the best of our ability and produce that really great book that readers will want to read, and we market it through every channel possible to those that will read it, then it will stand out, and it will earn that one thing that truly makes it a success–REVIEWS!

I had the wonderful experience of meeting Mary at one of her book signings for “Lessons From The Mountain, What I Learned From Erin Walton”. You can read my (blog) review of her book here. My customer (Amazon) review of the book is somewhere amongst the others on the Amazon page. I will also be posting reviews of other books in the near future to help my fellow authors. In the meantime, if you have purchased either of my books, “Return to Freedom, Voices in the Wind”, or “River of Secrets, Summer of the Rose”, I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop by the Amazon page for them and leave a customer review!

WRITERS vs. READERS? I should think not. If you think about it, there is really no contest, because at one point or other, we are all readers and writers. At some point, we all write. Even if you are just writing your thoughts in a journal, that makes you a writer! My husband, has degrees in Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, and Paralegal, yet he cannot work at the job he would love to have because of his kidney disease and having to go to dialysis three days a week. So, I told him why not put all of his training and knowledge to work writing–what else—murder mysteries! He’s already started on his first one, and so far, it looks pretty intriguing to me! Who knows? Maybe there is a future New York Times Best Seller trapped inside of you! In reality, there is no contest of readers vs. writers, but all of us, helping each other. So, the one thing that is in a great best selling book is going to be in the number of reviews it gets. No matter how hard we work at what we as writers do, without our readers, we have nothing.

So, why not sit down and write a review on Amazon or Barnes (and) Noble for your favorite author? It doesn’t have to even be long, just your honest opinion, good or bad, just a few sentences. Even better, write one for a self-publishing author. When you do, you will be helping us all as writers, and perhaps yourself as a future writer. Then, don’t stop there, keep writing. No use walking around with that future best selling novel trapped inside you.

So, what’s in a really great read? Maybe that is for you to decide.

KIMG0503With the Librarians at the Johnston Community College Library

Me with the JCC Librarian receiving my books for addition to the library
Me with the JCC Librarian receiving my books for addition to the library

On Love and Good Books…

Hi and welcome! If you are visiting my page for the first time, I am a writer and author of 2 books, with more in the works. I come by my writing honestly, as my mother has been one of my greatest teachers, and my dad got me into reading at an early age. You can click on the tabs above to learn more about my books and preview and purchase them, and read sneak previews of some of my upcoming books I am working on.

This one will be short and sweet. I just wanted to share something with you that I thought was really inspiring. It’s just never ceases to amaze me how these things happen. This morning for our devotion, my husband and I were led to a page in our devotion book that talked about love, and the fact that if you cannot love yourself, then you will not be able to love others. I know that for too long, I could not love myself, so I had trouble showing love to others. I have now begun making a point to show more love to others, my husband, my family, and friends.

So, of course, it capped it all off nicely when I had a message in my inbox from my oldest daughter, with the link to this video, which I thought I would share here with you. And now, a few words of wisdom from our dear friend, the late Dr. Maya Angelou, on love…

When you have finished viewing the video, you can click on the “Buy Books” tab above to preview my books and read sneak previews for them. I have redone things a little so that it is easier to preview them and click on the links to purchase them from the same page. Then you can click on the “Reader Reviews” tab, also under the “Buy Books” tab to see reviews I have gotten for these books. Hopefully, there will be more reviews in the near future. Maybe yours will be one of them!

My latest, of which I have not settled on an exact title, is a heartwarming story set in Big Sky, Montana, about a Siberian husky named Sadie, and her journey to becoming a Seizure Alert dog. For now, I am calling it “Sadie’s Love”, although it might just end up being a 2 book series. We shall see! Click here to read a sneak preview of “Sadie’s Love”.

Check back for more on this, or book reading events and other good stuff. For reviews of other good books that have inspired me on my own journey as a writer, check out my “Flo’s Reading Room: Book Reviews” section. This is something new I am doing, and of course, I will be adding new selections to my little “virtual library” from time to time. Oh, and be sure to subscribe to my email via the tab above so you don’t miss anything!

Meanwhile, if you’ve got Love and Good Books, then you’ve got a good thing going!

Something For Your Daughter… From a Mother of 2 Daughters

In my “Book Reviews” section, I have something new I’m doing that I wanted to let you know about. The name of the “Book Reviews” tab has changed to “Flo’s Reading Room: Book Reviews”. My approach here is something a little different that I wanted to try. As time goes by, I will be featuring reviews of books I have read that I thought were very good reads or that have had a positive or inspiring impact on my life. As I add more of these, this will be sort of a “Reading Room” type thing, or my own little “virtual library”, if you will.

You may have already read my review of Mary McDonough’s book, “Lessons From the Mountain, What I Learned From Erin Walton”. (Mary also has a new book coming out, called “One Year”. You can visit her at www.marymcdonough.com to learn more and preorder your copy. My newest addition is one that I ran across a few years ago while browsing through a local bookstore. Written by Robin McGraw, who is Dr. Phil’s wife, it’s called “Inside My Heart” (Choosing to Live with Passion and Purpose). This is a very powerful and encouraging book which is geared especially toward women who want to learn how they can choose the fulfilling, satisfying, and rewarding life they want to live and pursue it. After I flipped it over and read what it is about, I immediately purchased it and gave it to my youngest daughter as a gift, and then told her that when she finished reading it, to give it to her older sister and let her read it. I later went back and bought myself a copy. I decided to review it here on my blog and add it to my “Reading Room” for anyone who has daughters and wants the best for them, as I want for my daughters. You can read my review of it here:

My review of Robin McGraw’s book, “Inside My Heart, Choosing to Live with Passion and Purpose”.

Part of what we do as writers is help other authors, which is really only a small part of why I am doing this. My goal, in addition to promoting my own books, is also sharing books with you that I have found helpful in my own life, either as a writer, a wife, or a mother, or even as a grandmother. So, from time to time, I will be adding to this collection, and eventually have my own little “virtual library”. As for my own books, my first two, “Return to Freedom, Voices in the Wind” and “River of Secrets, Summer of the Rose”, are now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (online) in print and ebook versions. You can click on my “Books Available Now” tab to learn more. You can also visit the “Books Coming Soon” section to read sneak preview excerpts of other books I am working on, including one my husband and I are very excited about, “Sadie’s Love”,  which is a heart warming story set in Big Sky, Montana, about a Siberian husky, Sadie, and her journey to becoming a Seizure Alert dog. This one is nearly finished and coming soon, although the title may change, as it will likely end up being two books. However, I have decided to hold off on self publishing it, as I did the first two, and send out some query letters and hopefully attract a traditional publisher. I will, of course, keep you posted with new updates on this, so be sure to subscribe to my email by clicking that tab above so you won’t miss out! This way, you will receive an email when it comes out.

In the meantime, while you’re waiting, you can check out my other two books and let me know what you think, or even stop by either the Amazon or Barnes & Noble online pages and leave a nice 1 to 5 star (hopefully 5) customer review! Or, grab a cup of coffee and visit the “Reading Room” and see what’s new in “Flo’s Library”.

These are the books by the authors who have inspired me on my own path to becoming an author, and who have been my greatest teachers. Check back as I will be adding more books to my little “library” from time to time. As for the newest addition, Robin McGraw’s book, I thought it made a great gift for my own daughters. By the way, while we are on the subject of gifts for our daughters, here is some valuable insight written by a father of four daughters: 10 Men Christian Women Should Never Marry.

The greatest gifts we can give our daughters comes from our own experiences, and the life lessons we have learned on our own journeys. Those are the lessons and experiences we will one day pass on to those precious grandchildren when they come along. Those life lessons are the important treasures that our daughters carry forward with them, and eventually become a part of who they will be as young women in a tough and changing world.

The books written by some of the great authors who have gone before me, such as Louis L’Amour, who was one of my Dad’s favorites, just happen to have been a significant part of my journey. May they be a part of yours as well!


Easter Reflections: Through a Grandmother’s Eyes


I am taking a moment to venture from the usual fare, of books and writing and so forth, to share my reflections of this past Easter. After all, without our risen Savior as my guide, I most certainly would not be where I am now. I have been many things, but I share this with you, through my eyes as a grandmother.

At first glance, when you look at this picture, you might think of it merely as a nice picture of a buttercup. (Yes, I am a flower and nature lover). But then, look closer. There he is, in the background, a simply adorable little boy who was also enjoying the park with his parents, and a photographer.

The park I am referring to is more of a beautiful garden that was created by the owner in memory of his wife as a tribute to her. It is located in Lillington, NC. At the stop light, instead of turning right onto Main St, turn left and it will be down on the left. I am quite certain weddings have been held there as well as other family celebrations. I recently spoke with the lady who is now caring for it. If I remember correctly, he was her father in law. He has now passed on, but the beauty of this lovely place, that few seem to know about, remains to be enjoyed by anyone who desires to stop by. It is where my husband, Keith, and I had our engagement pictures taken, and has long been sort of my “secret place” to go to. It was also part of the inspiration for another of my books I am working on, “Love’s Timeless Garden”, which will be coming sometime in the near future.

After we got out of church on this beautiful Easter Sunday, my husband, Keith, and I prepared to go to visit my daughter and her husband, and my other daughter and my grandsons. We hid Easter eggs and enjoyed watching my young grandsons hunt for them. It was also one of my grandsons’ birthday, so we brought him his birthday gifts as well. We grilled out and took time to visit with them and talk with the children about school and other things. It was a good visit, and we drove back home feeling tired but blessed.

We were also blessed with a wonderful Easter Service at our church. We enjoyed singing with the choir and celebrating our Risen Savior! In addition to the other songs we sang, I sang one that I have always wanted to sing. With the choir joining in with me at the end, once again, the morning of the first Easter came to life with this song, one of my favorites, that has been performed by Dolly Parton as well as others…

Then, as the Pastor brought the message, we took the children back into the fellowship hall for Children’s Church. Although we didn’t actually count them, I am certain we had around twenty or so. As we both have had experience as substitute teachers, our experience came in handy. We did some fun things with them to help them learn what Easter is all about. All in all, it was something we enjoyed doing, and we emerged more confident because of how much easier it is to work with them considering our experience. Here’s where my grandmother radar kicks in.

As a grandmother, I have had many “teaching moments” with my grandsons. We as grandparents look for those little moments to take advantage of. Whether your grandchildren call you “Mamaw”, as my grandsons call me, or “Memaw”, “Nana”, or “Nanny” as we all called my grandmothers, or “Papa”, “Pawpaw”, or “Grandpa”, our greatest treasures in life are in looking back and treasuring these times with our grandchildren as they grow older, and in knowing that those little “life lessons” we have taught them will go with them throughout their adult lives. It is in knowing that we have taken every opportunity we could find to teach them, and to do it in a fun way that will stick with them, and one day become the treasured memories that they in turn will hand down to their children and grandchildren, that we can truly know we have served that name well, whatever it is they call you. It’s in knowing we have done this to the best of our ability that we can be blessed in seeing the smiles that come to their faces when they get to come and see you. Some of my fondest memories are of going on “dinosaur walks” with my grandsons. The sticks were the “dinosaur” bones. Other favorite times I have enjoyed as “Mamaw” are in reading them stories, especially some of the same ones I read to their mothers when they were little, and in sharing fun memories of their mothers and their uncle as they were growing up. Other times, I have taken a moment to take one of them aside and sit and talk with them about their feelings, when they needed to learn self control. I have enjoyed watching their individual personalities and intellectual abilities develop as they grow older.

We could go on all day sharing these memories, but the one thing we know for sure is, once you are a grandparent, you never see children the same way again. Perhaps that is why I have now begun to have a new attitude towards all children. Just like with my own grandchildren, I find myself wanting all children to have those priceless “grandma” or “grandpa” moments. You may not be a grandma or grandpa yet, and your own children may still be small, or maybe even teenagers, but the memories you are creating today are the “grandpa” or “grandma” moments you will one day share with your own grandchildren. Make them great ones, and make them count.

Perhaps that is why the picture above is priceless to me. Sure my husband knows I am quite the “shutterbug” when it comes to taking pictures. He even stopped for me to take photos of some beautiful pink dogwoods I happened to notice for the first time on that lovely Easter afternoon before we got ready to go and visit my daughters and grandsons. Call it one of those priceless moments. The family that was with the little boy, there at the lovely and timeless garden of love that was created out of a man’s love for his wife, seemed to be totally immersed into the moments with this adorable little boy, who looked almost angelic in his Easter outfit and the hat he wore.

Being the “picture taking nut” that I am, I was just itching to ask if it would be alright with them if I took a picture of him. Yet, in respect of their privacy and not wanting to disturb the peacefulness of their moments, I refrained. Yet there he is, in the background of this timeless photo, unintentionally preserved forever in a picture I was merely taking of a buttercup.

Like I said, being a grandparent changes you…forever.