Upon Review: Heaven’s Mountain by Jacalyn Wilson

February 1st, 2012

I love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to two review sites: Book Crash and Book Rooster, but sometimes I have the privilege to review a book by an author I know or one who is brave enough to contact me for a review.

Jacalyn Wilson emailed me recently asking if I’d would review her Christian romance/mystery book Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy), part of a trilogy she has self-published through KDP. I was intrigued by the idea of a Christian murder mystery, though I’m not fond of romances. Still, as with In The Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner, I do my best to read the book in light of what a romance reader might enjoy.

Here is the description of Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy):

On the possibility that an innocent man remains imprisoned for a murder committed thirty years ago, newspaper reporter Grace Turner embarks on a dangerous pursuit of the real killer. Her journey to the idyllic setting of Heaven’s Mountain turns out to be a quest not only for the story of a lifetime, but also for the emotional and spiritual healing of old wounds. Though attracted to handsome Ethan MacEwen, Grace subdues her desire for the young preacher, knowing that her animosity for the church precludes the possibility of anything more than friendship. Still, by the caprice of circumstance, when she finds herself obliged to work closely with him to uncover the truth, Grace discovers that her carefully constructed walls of protection cannot withstand the all-encompassing love of God.

***Spoiler Alert***

If you don’t want to know about anything specific that happens in the book, please skip to The Overall… section.

The Good…

There were two really good things about this book: 1) a thought-provoking Christian message on living a Christian life of forgiveness, and 2) a smart heroine.

If you’ve read my bio, you know I’m a former minister. Jackie’s message of how and why to forgive the church hit home for me, as I’m sure it can for many others who have left congregations because of things Christians have said or done. I found myself often pausing and considering the questions posed in the book on who is hurt by someone carrying a grudge.

Even through Grace’s unintended spiritual quest, she does a great job keeping her head on straight when faced with questionable circumstances. For instance, when a young friend calls to tell her he’ll give her the murder weapon if she will meet him at an abandoned mine at night, she immediately says no. He manages to change her mind, but she makes sure people know where she’s going. That’s smart. A lot of times in books, movies, and TV shows the heroine doesn’t bother, leaving me yelling at the woman and wanting to quit reading/watching right there.

The Not-So-Good…

Writers are always hearing the mantra “show, don’t tell.” While there’s plenty of showing in Heaven’s Mountain, there’s also a lot of telling. At times the reader is left outside the story, watching what’s going on, but not feeling it with the character. An example would be during the characters’ passage across a dangerous old bridge. Although I knew the scene would have been a terrifying experience, nothing in the characters’ actions made it seem so. If anything, it seemed as if this was nothing more than a Sunday picnic to them.

There’s also a bit of head-hopping during scenes. Sometimes a scene will begin with one character’s point of view and then will, within a sentence or two, jump to another’s POV. This can be a bit jarring, but it’s not a deal breaker.

I also felt the romance part took longer than necessary to tie up. There are several chapters after Grace and Ethan are rescued from the mine in which we see them on a date, speaking with family and friends regarding their feelings toward each other, etc. before the book ends with an epilogue. These were unnecessary chapters. I understand the need to show the two characters didn’t just jump into a heavy relationship the next day, but I think readers can figure that out on their own.

The Overall…

If you’re looking for a good, clean romance with a few thrilling scenes and with characters who make reasonably good decisions, I think you will enjoy Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy).

Ebook Buyers: Can You Afford To Lose Them?

January 29th, 2012

ereader photoI recently read a guest post by Chris Keys, author of The Fishing Trip – A Ghost Story and Reprisal!: The Eagle Rises!, about the difficulties of selling self-published books.  According to Chris, he’s only sold about a dozen books.  It seems typical of independent authors, but here’s the catch: I looked for Chris’ book The Fishing Trip – A Ghost Story on Amazon and found that he only had it in print. (Update: Chris has now jumped on board and has his books in multiple formats, as well as taking advantage of the Kindle Unlimited program)

What really bothers me about this is that he used CreateSpace to publish his book.  I would think putting out a Kindle edition as well as a print edition would have been a no brainer.  It’s really too bad Chris didn’t go with both because I was poised to purchase an eBook edition, provided the price was right, on the spot.  I wishlisted the book, but that doesn’t mean I’ll remember to go back and buy it later.

I’m left wondering how many indie author sales are lost because of this kind of shortsightedness.  Between earning higher profits on lower prices and the immediate delivery (aka immediate gratification) of eBooks, how can anyone afford not to publish in electronic format?  That’s especially true now that epublishing is free on major bookseller sites like Barnes & Noble and Amazon and through 3rd party distributors like Draft2Digital and BookBaby.

I suppose many authors cringe at the idea of formatting their manuscript into eBook format. It’s not as difficult as you might think, though it does take some time. There are numerous articles on the web on how to do this, including “How to Format Ebooks” by Jamie Wilson and “Smashwords Style Guide” by Mark Coker. If you use Adobe InDesign, check out EPUB Straight to the Point by Elizabeth Castro. For basics on Kindle formatting browse Joshua Tallent’s Kindle Formatting web site.

If you still don’t want to try formatting your own book (or find you just can’t wrap your mind around it) then find someone who can. Indie Author April L. Hamilton of Publetariat warns us of taking the cheap route and simply converting a manuscript rather than having it formatted properly. It’s better to spend a little money on putting out a great book, than lose readers due to poor formatting.

Formatting is different from conversion in that formatting standardizes the manuscript and creates any companion files needed for the eBook while conversion is simply loading the work into a program and clicking a button. Conversion is easy. Formatting takes more time and effort.

Regardless of whether you choose to do it yourself or have someone else do it for you, if you want to get your book into the hands of more readers, don’t neglect the eBook format.

How important are multiple formats, especially ebooks, to you?

Photo by The Daring Librarian

5 Self-Publishing Lessons From A Toddler’s Perspective

July 23rd, 2011

It’s amazing, being a mother of a toddler, how much this little girl has taught me in just the 2 1/2 years she’s been with us. What’s even more amazing is that many of those lessons can be applied to self-publishing.

Lesson #1: Anything worth doing takes time. My daughter has been a little slow in using “big people” words, until recently. In fact, up until she turned 1 1/2, she would refuse to say words we knew she knew how to say. I can only guess the reason behind it was she wanted to be sure she could say it right before putting it out there for everyone to hear. In self-publishing,  throwing our work out to the general public before we’ve refined it to its best is a very bad decision. It’s bad for sales, bad for our reputation and bad for other self-publishers’ reputations. If we think it’s worth publishing, then we need to take the time to do it well.

Lesson #2: Learn to have patience, with yourself and those around you. Tiny Tot, as we affectionately call her, can throw some of the best tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants when she wants it. However, she’s also learned that sometimes we just have to wait. We often hear her say “Patience!” as she reminds herself that it’ll be a short wait before she can have some ice cream or that toy she really wants. As a self-publisher, we want to make it all happen right now, but that’s not the way it works. It takes time to build a fan base, time to connect through social media. Everything takes time and that’s okay.

Lesson #3: Sometimes it helps to explain what you’re doing. Refilling a sippy cup of milk used to cause a melt-down. She was getting what she wanted, more milk, but she didn’t understand what had to happen to get it. Since we began explaining each step as we do it we’ve managed to avoid those tantrums. I’ve found gathering support for my self-publishing venture easier to gain when I explain exactly what it is I’m doing along the way.

Lesson #4: If you’re having a hard time making anything do what you want, take a nap (or at least a break). When my little girl starts throwing tantrums over the smallest things, like putting in a video instead of CD or vice versa, I know it’s time for some downtime be it a nap or just a drink and some quiet rocking time with Mama. I understand where she’s coming from because when I get tired and/or frustrated with a project I know it’s time for a break — or to go to bed when I’m burning the midnight oil. Coming back to a project refreshed means being able to look at it from other angles and maybe finding a solution I didn’t see before.

Lesson #5: You can do anything you set your mind to so long as you don’t believe you can’t. Tiny Tot has done some things I didn’t think she’d be able to. For example, at eleven months old she said her first complete sentence. She asked her Grandma, “Can I do that?”, meaning she wanted to help Grandma re-load the dishwasher. If her Grandma and one of her aunt’s hadn’t also heard her say it, I would have believed my mind was playing tricks on me. She didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be able to do that, but she did it. Self-publishing can be like that. There are a lot of experts who say you can’t do better than break even by self-publishing; however there are people doing just that. In fact, it’s said that self-published fiction books (especially in eBook form) are the least likely to be purchased and yet Independent Authors like Joe Konrath are doing quite well. These people have been told they “can’t” do what they’re doing. They just don’t accept that they “can’t.”

I’m glad I’ve taken the time to get to know my little girl because she’s given me some wonderful tips. Listening to what my toddler teaches has made my life, and my self-publishing career, a richer experience.

What have you learned from your child(ren) — including the furry ones?

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If you’re interested in learning about prayer (what it is, why we do it, some ways to pray and how to know your prayer was answered), then check out my book Simply Prayer, available in print, for Kindle and NookAudio book version coming soon.