Sunday, April 15, 2012

2nd Edition, April 15, 2012

Ask an Author
by Marie Higgins

This month's question comes from Breanna Larson. "Do authors write about what happens in their real lives?"

Breanna - and anyone else who wonders this - my answer is HEAVENS NO! Over the years, I've met many authors, and none of us have written anything close to what happens in our real lives. Then again, I only know fiction authors. Wikipedia says this - "Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author." If writers wrote about every day - real - situations, I'd think there would be a lot of boring books out there. Don't you? There would be no fantasy - no room to dream. There would be no paranormal, that's for sure!

I've learned a lot of things in the many years I've been writing, and authors hear this saying a lot - "write what you know". This doesn't mean in any way that we write what are children are doing - or our husband, or what happens at work. And for those sensual writers out there, they are probably not writing about what's happening in their own bedrooms. (heehee)

"Write what you know" means that we write feelings. Were we once scared? How did we feel at that time? Well...write your character to feel how you felt. Was our heart broken at one time? If so, then display that feeling on paper and through your characters. If we have been to England and know what the countryside looks like - write it!

I hope this has answered your question, Breanna...and anyone else interested. Thanks for asking!
Judging a Book by its Cover
by Anna Sugg

Do you judge a book by its cover? I do at one time or another. I’m probably guessing most of us do. If I liked the book cover, then I tend to read the blurb on the back; otherwise, my eyes keep on wandering.

In 1944 it was written in the American Journal American Speech as “you can't judge a book by its binding". Then, in 1946 a murder mystery novel, Murder in the Glass Room by Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller wrote what is considered the first phrase, “you can never tell a book by its cover."
According to Wikipedia encyclopedia, “don’t judge a book by its cover” is a metaphorical phrase meaning “don’t prejudge an exterior.” But, we do – in everything.

I’m sure I’ve missed out on some good books by passing them over when I didn’t like the cover, or it didn’t draw me in enough to read the blurb. Now that e-books are on the rage, do you take a look at the book cover first? Again, I usually do. After the cover, I check the price, and then read the blurb. A book without a cover! Oh, my gosh. Well, as you can guess, I barely glance at them, much less read the blurb. The first time I downloaded a book to my Kindle and the book cover didn’t show up, I was upset.

If you ignored a book because you didn’t like the cover, you will never know whether or not the book was more interesting than the one you just read with a beautiful, enticing cover. There are many good authors out there that have fallen prey to low sales because of poor book covers. Did you know that many of the covers are not the author’s design? Have you ever thought, “Hey, wait a minute, the woman in the story is a blue-eyed blonde and not a brown eyed, dark haired women as portrayed on the book cover.” It happens.

Did judging a book by its cover meet your expectation when you read the story? What about other things? For example, have you ever looked for a house to buy, and without thinking, you actually judged a house by the exterior. But, the moment you stepped inside it didn’t meet your expectation, or vice versa. We can relate that to a book cover as well.

Maybe, it would be a good idea to read a few blurbs, the first couple of pages, and some reviews before we rely strictly on the book cover.

Take a tour through Canyonland Press, and let me know what you think of the book covers. Are they eye-catching for you or did you have to take a second look? What do you think?

What’s inside, matters.
What's your genre?
by Mary Martinez
Are you up to a challenge? Okay then read on!

Are you a one genre kind of person? Or do you go wild and crazy a do them all? First I guess I ought to define genre. And this will also help me, I'm always a little blurry on the exact definition when it comes to literature. So I've done a little research.

Let's start with the word origin and history:
1770, from Fr. genre "kind, sort, style," from O.Fr. (see gender). Used especially in Fr. for "independent style," as compared to "landscape, historical," etc.

Then I found three different definitions, here is the best two that fit novels:

World English Dictionary
genre — n
1.     a. kind, category, or sort, esp of literary or artistic work
     b. ( as modifier ): genre fiction
2.     a category of painting in which domestic scenes or incidents from everyday life are depicted 

Cultural Dictionary
The kind or type of a work of art, from the French, meaning “kind” or “ genus.” Literary genres include the novel and the sonnet. Musical genres include the concerto and the symphony. Film genres include Westerns and horror movies.

So according to this--if I understand it properly--a novel is a genre, a poem is a genre, and a short story would also be a genre of literature.  So we all have an idea of what the genre is, and in the case of the novel, genre has been broken down into:
  1. Types or kinds
    1. Fiction
      1. Contemporary
      2. Historical
      3. Western
      4. Horror, thriller
      5. Suspense, Mystery
    2. Non-Fiction
      1. Health
      2. Financial
      3. Education
And those are only a few. As a reader, do you only read one of the above? Do you walk into a bookstore and head to your favorite section that holds a specific genre? Or do you browse, look at covers, as Anna has asked in the previous article?

What I would like to do is challenge all of Canyonland's readers to try a new genre. Then email me with your feedback. Tell me these five things: 1. How did you pick your new genre? 2. Did you pick by the cover? 3. Did you read the blurb? 4. Did you pick by a  combination of cover and blurb? 5. Were you happy with your choice?
In June I will post what your answers were and we'll discuss them.  We all get into a rut in almost everything we do in our daily lives. Things become routine. So when you think of your reading material, think; Have I gotten into a genre rut? Do I continuously read the same thing?

Maybe you like your rut, but how do you know what you're missing if you don't try something new. So I've thrown down the gauntlet--go to your local bookstore, library or your online bookstore and browse something new and exciting.

Then SHARE with us, remember to email me! (editor (at) canyonland press dot com)

REMINDER: Our Reader's Choice awards will be here soon. On the Side bar our first two nominations are listed. We will have a new one May 1st. Read them so you can vote for your favorite!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1st Edition - April 1, 2012

Author Spotlight --Carla Buckley
I have always wanted to be a writer. It wasn't until my first child was born, however, and I decided to stay home and raise her, that I allowed myself to pursue my dream. Over the course of a dozen years, I wrote eight novels. Along the way, I signed with a literary agent, and although we came close several times to selling one of my books, we remained unsuccessful.

I almost gave up. We had three children, college tuition was looming, and we’d been on one income all this time. Then my husband got a job offer and we moved our family to central Ohio, where we knew no one. At this time, the news was filled with dire warnings about how scientists were worried that the H5N1 flu strain in China would turn into a pandemic--which meant that the flu would spread quickly and certainly across the entire globe. This particular strain was killing half of everyone it infected, and I began to worry: what would I do if a pandemic broke out? How would I protect my children in a city where I had no family, no friends, and barely knew my neighbors?

One night, I had a nightmare. The flu had broken out, people were dying all around me, and my neighbor knocked on my door to beg for a favor. My decision in my dream was a terrible one, and when I woke the next day, I was haunted by it. I decided to set aside the novel I was about to embark on and instead, take up the story of an average American family in an average American city, confronted by a devastating flu pandemic. The nightmare I’d had became the midpoint of my story.

Because it was important that the science in my novel be as accurate as possible, I did a great of research, interviewing scientists, preparedness experts, and food industry specialists, and reading everything I could find on the 1918 Great Influenza Pandemic. The story poured out of me, and a few months later, I signed a two-book contract with Random House. The story I had written, The Things That Keep Us Here, has been nominated for awards, sold to a number of countries, and selected as a Random House Reader’s Circle book club pick.

My next book, Invisible, will be released this December. It’s about a sister who returns home after a long absence to find her sister dying and others in her hometown stricken by the same mysterious illness. And, I recently went back to contract with Random House for my third book, which I am currently writing.

One of the things I like to tell aspiring writers is to never give up!

I love connecting with readers, and regularly attend ThrillerFest in New York and Bouchercon (held this year in Cleveland.) I do plan to tour when Invisible releases, although my plans have not been finalized. Otherwise, readers can contact me through my Facebook fan page, Twitter, and my website:

The Things that Keep us Here is our April Nomination for the Canyonland Reader's Choice Awards in September. Remember everyone will need to vote for their favorite in the poll in September!

Fun Ideas for Finding Fabulous Books       
By: Amy Durham

If you’re like me, most of the time you have no trouble finding books to read.  But there are those occasions when I find myself at a loss. The to-be-read pile has dwindled to nothing; my Kindle is full of books I’ve already finished, and I just don’t know what to look for next.  If you’ve ever found yourself in that situation, or if you’ve just wanted to look for something different from your regular reading material, I have a few suggestions for you.
  1. Amazon “also boughts” – Think of a book you loved… one that you thought about long after you’d finished reading it. Find that book on and scroll down until you see the phrase customers that bought this book also bought. Here you’ll find various books purchased by other readers who also bought the book you loved. Many times I’ve discovered a new author or a book I hadn’t heard of while browsing this way.
  2. Goodreads – If you haven’t joined, it’s a great way to discover new reading material.  The process is pretty simple.  Add books that you’ve read and enjoyed to your virtual shelf. Rate and/or review them. Goodreads will recommend books to you based on the books you have on your shelf. Additionally, you can ask other Goodreads members to recommend a book to you by simply asking. With such a huge number of readers gathered in one place, you’re bound to find something great to read.
  3. Genre-hop on the bestseller lists – This is one of my favorites!  Head over to or and choose a genre you don’t normally read. Find the bestseller lists in that genre and take a look at the top sellers. This is a great way to venture into a new genre with some quality assurance. This is how I discovered “The Hunger Games”. Need I say more?
  4. Ask for recommendations – When all else fails, or you just don’t want to go searching on the internet, ask someone for a recommendation. It could be a friend who’s also an avid reader. It could be a librarian or local bookseller. It could be a coworker, or even someone standing in line with you at the grocery store. Sharing information about books you love is a great way to get to know someone, and word-of-mouth is the most powerful tool readers and writers have.
In today’s market, with the prevalence and ease of digital reading, the opportunity for free digital books through various sellers, and the internet at our fingertips for browsing, there’s never a reason for today’s reader to be without a book to read. The next time you’re book-shopping, try one of the suggestions above, and let us know if you find something great using one of these ideas!

What is a Muse?
by Sarah Baker
Hi, my name is Sarah Baker. I make my living as a writer. When my daughter was born, I listed my occupation on her birth certificate as “author.” I get paid by people to write every day. So, my choice of occupation is pretty set, and has been verified by others.
And I have a terrible confession to make. I don’t have a muse. Some of you are probably asking yourself right now... WHAT IS A MUSE? If you are friends with any writer or have tried your hand at writing, you might recognize the word. The dictionary's definition is: A poet's inspiration or genius. But most writers I know consider a muse their best friend.
I read my writer friends’ blogs with envy, as they discuss how their muses whispered into their ears. Muses supply snappy dialogue. They help you work through a difficult plot point. They offer an inspired ending. Often, they speak to my friends without warning, at the worst possible moment.
Muses are fickle. They go on vacation without so much as a by-your-leave. Muses are capricious. They kidnap plot lines and take them in entirely new directions. Muses can be snobby. They won’t speak when spoken to. My writer friends are slaves to their muses’ whims, often unable to write a scene for days until “the muse speaks.”
I must admit, I feel a little left out. And, perhaps, the teeniest bit inauthentic as a writer.
The first “big” project I wrote was in college, a paper on one of my favorite books, Jane Eyre.  I so loved the source material, and so admired and feared the professor that I came up against a brick wall in my writing. I could not even type a title page, I was so blocked. In fact, I was so stuck that I finally visited the professor to confess—I didn’t think I could complete the assignment.
She sat back in her chair, eyed me carefully, and said, “When I grade this paper, I am not grading Sarah Baker. I am grading something that Sarah Baker wrote. There’s a difference.”
With that, my writer’s block vanished, and I was able to write the paper. I think I ended up with a B+. Not my best effort, but better than turning in nothing at all. Then I went on to write more, and better, papers. After graduation, I began freelancing as a ghost writer. I wrote for doctors, dentists, insurance salespeople, lawyers—anyone who wanted web content and had neither the time nor the inclination to write it themselves.
When it came to ghostwriting, I had no time to rely on a muse. People were paying me money to write, and to write fast. So any thoughts of living the stereotypical writer’s lifestyle (brandy on the desk, crumpled sheets of paper, an antique typewriter) fled as I wrote thousands of words per day, to specification and on time.
With that training under my belt, and my professor’s words echoing in my head, I branched out and started writing fiction and non-fiction. Always on time. Never delayed, not even by cross-country moves or miscarriages. Sure, if I had trouble with a chapter and needed a break, I would take one. But I never depending on someone or something else to goose me into producing a story.
Since I’ve been published, I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances tell me that they, too, want to write. But then they smile apologetically and shrug, saying “I guess I don’t have a muse.” My answer to that is—that’s OK. Sometimes writing isn’t about inspiration. Sometimes, it’s about sitting down for some period of time, every day, and writing. The artistic life doesn’t have to rely on whims, but it does thrive on practice.